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The Lyre, Winter 2010 / Confessions of a Flight Attendant: How You, Too, Can Travel Like a Pro

lifeby Christi Lawson Goodnuff
(Εpsilon Οmicron, Indiana State University)

Air travel isn’t as easy as it once was; it’s daunting even before boarding the aircraft! Buying tickets used to excite us. Now we just click lifeless buttons connected to an ambiguous world wide web of options that often overwhelm us, but are rarely the options needed. Planes are more crowded than ever, as airlines have reduced the number of flights and the seats and aisles are smaller to allow for even more passengers. They have increased fares and many now charge for sodas and flimsy blankets. This is good for the airlines’ fiscal health, but it’s having a significantly negative impact on passengers’ ability to get to that essential business meeting, too-important-to-miss family event, girls weekend, and more. Yet, we muddle through that web of options and offer up our credit cards. If that wasn’t enough, TSA frisks us as we sashay through metal detectors and tiptoe on dirty carpets. Gone are the days of glamour; jet-setters no longer gracefully stride down concourses in suits, white gloves or pillbox hats. Instead, we are treated to a myriad of fashion faux pas including pajamas, visible thongs and stained t-shirts. While we travel, we pray that we will not have a weather delay or cancelled connecting flight. Having arrived at our destination, we hope that our luggage was not lost or delayed. I should know; I’m a flight attendant! Let me share my confessions so that you, too, can travel like a pro.

I fly for free, but still maximize reward programs.

Compare all costs associated with fares, including luggage, food, beverage and blankets, to verify which is the best. Then, use every travel reward program available. This investment of precious time provides numerous benefits like free hotel rooms, car rentals, flights and paying less checked baggage fees. Don’t forget to use airport parking rewards programs. Sometimes it takes longer to park “off airport,” but the savings can be tremendous.

I, too, am annoyed by TSA.

Sisters, there isn’t much we can do about TSA. Frankly, I’m glad that this government agency isn’t going to evaporate anytime soon. I appreciate that they prevent dangerous items from invading the thin metal tubes that propel through the sky at 35,000 feet. I’ve noticed a significant improvement in TSA service and the time it takes to go through the process when travelers simply follow instructions. Be aware of and abide by the signage; do not just mimic the person in front of you. If one TSA checkpoint has you place shoes in a bin, then do it. If another wants shoes on the belt, then put your shoes on the belt. Wear slip on shoes to help expedite the process. By all means, dress comfortably for flights. We all have something that is fashion forward and comfortable.

Noisy and chaotic airports aggravate me.

In anticipation of long waits for connecting flights I purchase a Delta Sky Club day pass, which is available no matter which airline you fly. That $50 is money well spent for the quiet, personalized flight assistance, magazines, newspapers, drinks and nibbles!

I love to fly and it shows.

The key is being well-prepared. All we want to do is retreat into a tiny pocket of peace on the plane, but doesn’t it seem that there is always a crying baby or obnoxious businessman who loudly shares his unending litany of success stories nearby? And, why are airplanes so cold? With proper planning you, too, can enjoy a bubble of comfort.

In my carryon, besides my laptop, book and noise-canceling headset, I pack a few treasures that improve my onboard experience. In a one-gallon zip-top bag I keep a wrap for my shoulders, a blanket for my lap, socks so that I can slip off my shoes and cover chilly tootsies, earplugs, and an eye mask. I love my child size earplugs, which fit me better; those businessmen cannot interrupt my highly desired snooze while wearing earplugs and a headset. This may seem like a lot of stuff, but by shopping smart it all fits into one bag that, when squeezed flat, takes hardly any room in a carryon. I also keep my one-quart zip-top bag of liquids for TSA to scrutinize in my carryon. Inside of that bag, I pack a smaller zippie of lip balm, hand cream and eye drops to use on board. The air on board airplanes is dry, so take good care of yourselves!

If packing were a science I’d have a Nobel Prize.

In case of a cancelled flight or lost luggage, pack one change of clothes and all medicine in carryon luggage. Also, pack copies of itineraries and identification in your carryon. Did you know that liquid prescriptions (including contact lens solutions with prescription labels) do not have to go in your one-quart zip-top bag for TSA? You may have these in an additional zip- top bag for TSA scanning.

For a two-week trip, I carry one suitcase and tote onto the plane—both are black. I love brightly colored luggage, but it shows dirt easily and dirty luggage is not pretty. Most suitcases look alike. Mark yours so that it cannot be confused with someone else’s (this is a great PACE opportunity), but do not display your personal information. This is the same as advertising your address to strangers!

Only pack clothing that can be intermixed and don’t take anything that cannot be worn multiple times. Choose classic colors and pack sassy accessories for flair. To prevent creases in pants, lay slacks, waistbands at the wheels end, into luggage first, leaving the legs hanging out and over the top end of the suitcase. Then, pack everything else on top of them. Finally, fold the pant legs over the top. Use a travel size “Space Bag” to pack clothing that does not wrinkle (no vacuum cleaner needed, simply press the air out). Use a second “Space Bag” for dirty clothes, thus creating room for souvenirs! Pack heavy items at the wheel end of the suitcase so that they don’t shift and cause wrinkles. Wrap shoes in shower caps from hotel amenity kits. These freebies keep dirt off of clean clothes. Once at your destination, unpack everything. Repack items after they become dirty or are no longer needed.

I wish I never had to sit in seats that don’t recline!

There are numerous in flight inconveniences, many of which you can remedy yourself. Sure, a flight attendant should be able to assist. The reality is that since “9/11,” a flight attendant’s on board priority has shifted to safety and security. Just over a decade ago, a flight attendant’s main concern was how high they could coiffe their hair or that enough airplane chicken and blankets were boarded. Today’s flight attendants are analyzing security risks, being personal electronic device detectives and seatbelt cops.

Yes, we do want you to have a seat next to your travel companion; most flight attendants took to the skies because they love to serve. It is in your best interest to check in for flights on time and request seat changes immediately. Confirm that your seat reclines, and make sure it is either the aisle or window seat that you most prefer. Any seat in front of an emergency exit will not recline because a reclined seat blocks the exit. Not sure which seat meets your needs? Visit seatguru.com for information. While there, make sure that your seat is not next to the lavatory. Besides the odor, you will get bumped throughout the entire flight! And, if you find yourself seated next to a passenger who should have purchased two seats, you need to say something while the plane is still on the ground. Most airlines have agents trained to deal with this issue. Flight attendants just can’t do anything once airborne.

Take off and landing makes me nervous.

After all, they are the most dangerous phases of a flight. The safest thing anyone can do is to know where their two closest exits are located. Watching the safety demonstration on each flight may be the most worthwhile two minutes ever spent on a plane. In an emergency, it is essential to evacuate immediately; the impending fire injures or kills more passengers than the crash. When a flight attendant is buckled up, she is typically anticipating turbulence, so passengers really should be buckled up too. Also, it is smart to leave seatbelts fastened while seated, even when the seatbelt sign is off. Turbulence is a common, yet easily preventable flight injury. Finally, do you unbuckle your seat belt in the car before it is parked? Me either! Why do so many passengers do it on planes? Do not unbuckle your seat belt until the captain turns the sign off.

I never go into an airplane lavatory without shoes.

And, I will be forever amazed at the passengers who do. Sisters, a lavatory is a public bathroom! Never brush your teeth with the water from the lavatory faucet, instead use bottled water. Also, don’t use a blanket from the plane unless it is in its original packaging. However, I do not really worry about contagious diseases on board and have never worn a mask on a plane. I wash my hands often and have been fortunate to not get sick often.

I get airsick and my ears pop.

Oh yes, it is embarrassing to use an airsick bag while in uniform! Usually a little bit of ginger ale will settle queasiness. To relieve popping of the ears, chew gum, swallow or yawn. These actions activate the muscle that opens the Eustachian tube. Avoid sleeping during takeoff or decent because you may not be swallowing often enough to keep up with the changes in cabin air pressure. Many congested flight attendants use a decongestant pill or nasal spray one hour or so before decent, as decongestants can shrink swollen membranes allowing ears to pop easily.

I wish better food was offered (for free) on flights.

When a flight attendant says that she has run out of a preferred entrée, it is not the time to have a major meltdown. Friends, its chicken, not jet fuel! Keeping things in perspective and a positive attitude helps travel go much better. Pack nuts, dried fruits and berries, veggies (snow peas, radishes, cucumber, olives), peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, and cheese in your carryon. Avoid vending machines, they are expensive and the food is full of empty calories. Also, because of the dry cabin
air conditions, you need to drink extra water.

Canceled flights and delays frustrate me, a lot.

I book my itinerary so that I have time for issues. Avoid flights that are not direct, and allow at least one hour for connections. Remember, a flight may be direct but still have stops. Each time a plane lands, there is an opportunity for a delay. Even more frustrating is the lack of information while experiencing one of those delays. If the crew cannot give you or won’t give you information, then the information probably isn’t available. Always check gate assignments before running to your next flight, even if it’s printed on your boarding pass. Gates can and do change! You can text Google (466453) your airline and flight number for gate assignments.

Even while visiting my favorite destinations, I miss loved ones.

I set expectations before I leave and stay connected as often as possible. I say that I’ll call when I arrive, then maybe on that call, I’ll mention that I’ll e-mail the next day. This lets my loved ones know that I am safe. Calling home can get expensive, so I use PennyTalk.com or Skype, both save me oodles of cash. Many airlines offer wifi on board domestic flights and I try to stay at hotels with free internet access.

As I’m sure your safety is of priority to your loved ones, keep the address of your hotel with you at all times. You may not be able to converse with a taxi driver, but you can tell him where you need to go with a written address. Never carry a hotel room key card cover unless the room number is altered or blacked out. If my room number is 903 I might change it to 908. This obscures information that I would never want disclosed. If I use a hotel room safe, I always put one shoe into it. This way, I never leave valuables behind. And when traveling overseas, I always have the address and phone number of the U.S. embassy with me at all times.

Foreign currency and exchange rates confuse me.

Foreign currency might as well be Monopoly money! I print a “Traveler’s Cheat Sheet” from oanda.com. Not only does it note the exchange rate, but, for example, how much 1, 10, 20, 50, and 100 of an obscure currency is worth in the U.S. dollar, which is especially helpful while shopping in exotic markets.

Eating smart, without spending a fortune, is difficult.

My favorite easy and inexpensive breakfast on the go is a homemade wrap. Spread cream cheese onto a flavored tortilla, like spinach or sun dried tomato, and top with a beaten egg that was cooked (without scrambling) in a pan that is just slightly smaller than the wrap. Try adding sautéed spinach, but make sure it is not wet, or the tortilla will get soggy. Once all ingredients are laid out onto the wrap, roll it and cut it in half.

Pita style sandwiches and lentil or cous cous salads are my favorite travel-friendly lunches. Pitas seem to withstand the bumps and bruises of travel. To make the salad, prepare and drain the lentils or cous cous per the package instructions. While they are cooking, chop any standard salad vegetable. Mix a vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and toss with lentils. Then, add your chopped veggies. Season with fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

I enjoy homemade soup and salad for dinner. Double your favorite recipe and freeze some in single size serving zip-top bags. This frozen soup can also serve as the ice block for a lunch tote. Heat the soup in the hotel room microwave, add a salad and bon appetite! Spinach and radicchio seems to travel the best; it gets bruised less easily. I suggest spinach in one small container and toppings in another. Juicier toppings like chopped tomato do not travel well; however, jicama, peas, asparagus, edamame, bean sprouts, olives, corn, hearts of palm and cucumber all do. Grilled polenta spiked with herbs and cheese is a great accompaniment. I also make a salad by using a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of zucchini, carrot and yellow squash that I toss with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Most hotels have refrigerators in case guests need to store medication. Request one if your room does not come with a fridge.

I wish travel was still as glamorous as it once was. I wish flying was not as complicated as it has become. All we can do is make the most of our journey. Happy flying!

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The Lyre, Winter 2010 / Making Her Way

real strong women

(Photo courtesy of Western University of Health Sciences)

Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis is a proud sorority woman. She is a 1969 initiate of the Epsilon chapter at the University of Southern California. She has served for over 23 years on the Los Angeles Superior Court. The Los Angeles Superior Court is regarded as the largest single trial bench in the world. This award-winning court is located in a unique intersection of business and creative arts—interfacing daily with international business disputes to celebrity cases. Keeping motivated and persistent in the face of gender stereotypes in the academic and career worlds, Maureen has become a true inspiration for women aiming to succeed.

Amidst a nation in draft turmoil, a time of student activism, and America’s race to the moon, Maureen Duffy began her “summer of ’69” touring overseas with the USO. She and her entertainment partner, original Disney Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni, voluntarily traveled through Vietnam and Thailand entertaining the troops with song and dance. Being bombed off stage, having their hotel assaulted by members of the Vietcong, “…it was definitely eight weeks to remember.”

Following her USO tour, Maureen continued her collegiate career and professional ballet dancing. She also continued moonlighting as a television commercial actress, which included stints as the Ivory Soap Girl and fast food restaurant ads. Although she attended classes related to the arts as her electives, Maureen pursued Speech Communications as her major, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree and earning a California State Teaching Credential in 1971. “In 1971, you were either a dental hygienist or a teacher… It’s what people thought you were supposed to do,” she remembers.

Despite the social norms and with the full support of her family, Maureen applied to Loyola Law School-Los Angeles, where in 1974 she received her Juris Doctorate. She attended law school with her then boyfriend and now husband, Ronald J. Lewis, to whom she was pinned her senior year at the University of Southern California. Maureen worked her way through law school. On days that she was not making a television commercial or teaching dancing at her Mother’s dancing school, she taught elementary and special education classes as a substitute teacher.

Maureen always saw the opportunities in both the traditional and nontraditional female norms and occupations, pursuing a career as a lawyer and judge. Law was a traditional male environment and she worked hard to fit in, but not lose herself as a person of the arts. Maureen consciously did not discuss her professional ballet or acting careers with law colleagues and fellow students. She did not want to create any more distraction than what she was already dealing with—a barrier of stereotypes.

“When I was a trial lawyer in the [District Attorney’s] office, I was handling a serious kidnap for ransom case… the defense attorney stood up in front of the jury and said, ‘I wonder what she is doing in a courtroom rather than at the mall shopping.’ …you could feel the entire courtroom cringe, and I knew that my time had come. I was a trial lawyer and I was beating this male lawyer badly. He was desperately trying to attack me, since he was losing on the facts of the case. I completely ignored his remarks and convicted his client of a major felony. I was grateful and so were the victims. Justice was served by a trial lawyer who refused to play the gender game.”

As the 1980s progressed and Maureen was appointed to the bench by California Governor George Deukmejian, she still often confronted sexism on the bench. Male lawyers would call attention to her age and/or her youthful looks. Older lawyers would often take a fatherly approach and tell her how she should rule because “that is how it had always been done.” However, this behavior did not affect her confidence, instead, she strived to elevate the conversation and expectations. She always addressed the lawyers in a gender neutral term, calling all who appeared before her as “Counsel.” The quality of a lawyer has nothing to do with gender, so she looked for every opportunity to “level the playing field of justice.”

Looking back on her education and her teaching degree, Maureen pointed out that many successful trial lawyers were school teachers. “All the classes I took about ‘how’ to teach and student’s different learning modalities assisted me when I was presenting a case in court. I would always access the Jury and how they were receiving the information (evidence), and I would quickly change my delivery techniques and tone if I thought it was necessary. I found that a trial courtroom was just another classroom and the students understanding of the information and message was my responsibility. Your responsibility as a teacher is to bring the conversation to the student and with every conversation, you have another opportunity to rise above stereotypical expectations and be an example for others.”

The Women Who Came Before

Although Maureen has overcome gender stigma, she attributes her persistence and success to the women who came before her. She understands that without their life trials, her opportunities would never have been possible. In gratitude, Maureen has begun to collect the lost and abandoned keys of the Phi Beta Kappa Society—a honor society founded at the College of William & Mary in 1776—that have been awarded to women around the turn of the century. “I never earned one,” she states, “but I’m here today because a woman earned it when women did not [traditionally] go to college… her hard work gave me a voice.” And today, as she sits on a university Board of Trustees and a large University Advisory Board, she brings those women to important events by wearing one of their keys. “Recently I wore a key at the ground breaking for a new 300,000 square foot dental school and multidisciplinary practice building. I know she would have loved the event and she earned the right to be there along with me—a grateful beneficiary of her hard work and vision.”

Maureen stresses that our world has been enriched by generations of real women making real decisions that have impacted our day-to-day lives. Each woman, young and old, has a story and a lesson to teach. She encourages us that it is each of our responsibilities to “not take our stories with us as we graduate and move on with our lives, but stay and share with the women who will come after you.” Our daughters, nieces and grandchildren will be the beneficiaries.

Staying Connected

Alpha Chi Omega has always been held in high esteem to Maureen. Her cousin’s great aunt was a charter member of the Epsilon chapter, so she always thought of the chapter as having a family-tie. As a collegiate member she learned responsibility, leadership and the art of networking. As an alumna, she served as a Hera Day chairman, participated in alumna groups, and participated in Career Day activities for collegiate chapters.

One of Maureen’s fondest memories: Maureen had to put her sorority skills to work when she was in Vietnam, because her tour with the USO ended three days before the beginning of fall recruitment. Her USO group kept getting bumped from flights home, and she was supposed to be the house choreographer for a Theme Day presentation. Not wanting to let her sisters down or miss a moment of recruitment, she met a Navy Pilot in the military airport, who was a member of a fraternity at The Ohio State University, and informed him of her dilemma. He managed to squeeze her onto a full flight back to the States, just in the nick of time for recruitment.

Maureen thanks Alpha Chi Omega and all of her sisters for many life lessons. During her time as a collegiate member, she had instant friendships, a never-ending closet of clothes and she developed a keen sense of proper etiquette. Robert’s Rules of Order became a staple and, even to this day, she is often asked to chair committees because of her ability to run orderly and well timed meetings with purposeful agendas. Through her sorority, she learned to appreciate differing opinions and ideas, along with the art of brainstorming for solutions. Most importantly though, she acquired her first sense of leadership and the responsibility it carries because of Alpha Chi Omega.

Maureen feels that, Alpha Chi Omegas are “girls who know how to make things happen.” And she admits, “…the Fraternity is a lifetime commitment that I’ve gotten more out of than given.” It is comforting to know that no matter where I go in the world or what I do in the future, that I will never be without sisters in the bond, and there will always friends.

Alpha Chi Omega has also helped to start conversations and partnerships throughout her career. Even now, in her chambers, her Alpha Chi membership certificate proudly hangs below a picture of General Creighton Abrams, the father of the A1 Fighting Tank, giving her an award and her undergraduate and law school diplomas.

Continuing Justice

In 2009, Maureen was named a United States Fulbright Scholar and taught for a semester at the Law Program at Sofia University, Bulgaria. Not knowing the language and far away from home, Maureen welcomed the challenge. While serving in Bulgaria, she was requested by the United States Department of Justice to assist with the development of the Judicial Mentoring Initiative for the Bulgarian Court System. This groundbreaking initiative encouraged the courts to evaluate their case management system. Maureen also developed and assisted in implementing a National Mediation Program to assist in overall case management. She consulted with the Bulgarian Courts and its European Union partners on developing special courts to investigate organized crime and corruption cases. Maureen put her teaching skills to work developing curriculum and teaching Mediation and Judicial Ethics at Bulgaria’s National Institute for Judicial Education. And finally, while in Bulgaria, she was named a Visiting Fellow at the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives—a think tank devoted to transparent and democratic developments in the law. She has plans to return to Bulgaria, lecturing with the Fulbright International Summer Institute in the area of law and public policy.

A teacher, panelist, author, lawyer, judge, wife, and mother, the Honorable Maureen Duffy-Lewis is a humbling example of how women can succeed. In the face of negativity, her perseverance pushed through the female stereotypes of her generation, and she continues to display that force as she aids in creating justice around the world. Although she recognizes her success, she attributes her achievements to the ground-breaking women who came before her. In sharing her story and experiences, she hopes that it will motivate other sisters to stay connected, share their stories and remember the legacy that is Alpha Chi Omega.

Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis has been married to her Pi Kappa Alpha and college and law school classmate, Ronald J. Lewis, Esq., for 37 years. Together, they practiced law and raised a son and a daughter.

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The Consultant Chronicles: LITB

July 29th Photoshoot 026by Alli Badgero
(Delta Zeta, Central Michigan University)

I often am asked the question, “What is your favorite thing about being a chapter consultant?” I have to admit I struggle with answering this question in a 30 second spiel, because there are many layers and aspects to being a consultant. Every day presents a new challenge; time zone changes, fresh faces, different campuses and yet there remains a familiarity that connects each chapter and woman with one another and myself.

Being a consultant comes with its own challenges. We are constantly on the go, living out of suitcases, hopping airplanes and regularly adjusting our watch’s hour hand forward and backward. I have come to miss little things many of us take for granted in our daily routine lives. I miss picking my outfits out of a closet and drinking my morning coffee out of a ceramic coffee mug.  I miss my friends being just a walk down the hall or across the street and watching television shows at their regularly scheduled times.

However, I have learned I can still experience these small joys in my hectic life. I have mastered the art of packing all of my necessities into two 50 lb suitcases. I have realized my friends and family are just a Skype phone call away, and I can still catch the cast of Glee singing and dancing to current pop music on Hulu as I wait to board my flight.   Despite our unconventional lifestyles, I believe the combination of potential growth, enthusiasm and passion we are surrounded by everyday is what makes this job rewarding.

My life’s purpose statement is to live everyday to my potential, while inspiring and being inspired my others. My position as a consultant allows me to strive to fulfill this personal goal.  As I spend time at each chapter, I make connections that not only helps nourish their strengths but also allows me to assist them improve upon their weaknesses. I sincerely enjoy spending time with each and every member of Alpha Chi Omega.

During this experience I feel blessed to be able to give back to one of the most respected women’s organizations in the country. I am presented with amazing opportunities and lifelong friendships. It takes women of many different talents and experiences to make this organization run smoothly and advance forward. I have especially enjoyed getting to know previous chapter consultants, and although time and generations have passed I love hearing their stories and learning from their experience. 

Every chapter I visit I am continuously surprised and refreshed by the strong connections I establish in such a short amount of time. During our collegiate years we are lucky enough to be reminded of our bond each day, yet as an alumna it is becomes more difficult to find.

As a Consultant, I get to experience this underlying bond of sisterhood that is unique and exclusive to only those in our organization. So to answer the inevitable question, I would have to say the bond of Alpha Chi Omega is my favorite part of the job, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

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The Consultant Chronicles: Change

July 29th Photoshoot 128by Rachel LeGrand
(Gamma Epsilon, Oklahoma State University)

Change is not fun. Change is not comfortable. Change forces us out of our nice pretty bubble and into a world of uncertainty. Change is scary. However, change is inevitable. Nothing will ever stop changing no matter how much you drag your feet or run kicking and screaming in the opposite direction. Believe me I have tried.

During my time as a collegiate woman of Gamma Epsilon at Oklahoma State University my chapter went through many changes. It was hard work. I cried and I yelled. I won’t lie I almost gave up a few times but in the end it was worth it. My chapter wouldn’t be where it is today and I would not have learned the leadership skills I now use every day. Without that experience within Alpha Chi Omega I would not have been challenged to grow and mature into the woman I am today. I owe my chapter and my Gamma Epsilon sisters so much. They mean the world to me and I do not go a day without thinking about them and how they have enriched my life. 

I am not someone who deals well with change. I had a hard time adjusting to life after college. Nothing was going to be the same again and I scrambled to hold on to the last shreds of what I thought to be normality. After trying my best to avoid this change I realized I was simply holding myself back. The opportunities and experiences that would change me for the better were not available to me because of my resistance.

I now recognize that I will continue to change for the rest of my life. The change I have seen in myself over the past six months astounds me. This job has taught me skills I never knew I could learn and has opened my eyes to the vast opportunity for personal development.  I see changes in myself after every single chapter I visit on the road, and I appreciate each individual I have met for giving me so much. And like the lyrics of my favorite Wicked song of all time,

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

 Being a traveling consultant has been one of the most amazing changing experiences of my life. It has given me the strength and confidence I will need to manage the changes I will be faced with as I inevitably grow up.

During traveling I love listening to music. On my long flight between Oklahoma and Oregon I was enjoying my newest iTunes purchase, Taylor Swift’s new album, Speak Now.  “Never Grow Up” is one of my favorite songs on the album and it really hits home for me in a lot of ways.  In the song Taylor talks about the warm, feel good stuff that comes with being young and how she wishes she had never grown up.  Two lines in particular resounded for me:  

“Don’t lose the way that you dance around in your PJs getting ready for school.”
“Wish I’d never grown up, it could still be simple.”

I agree that we should “never grow up” by not taking ourselves too seriously and seeing the beauty even in the common things of life, like dancing around in your PJs. However we need to acknowledge and accept when it is time to grow up and change. How boring would life be if everything stayed simple?

What if our founders would have resisted change? What if they had decided to keep their lives simple? Starting a brand new women’s fraternity is not a simple undertaking. Our founders embraced change and were courageous enough to take that first step to create what we now enjoy as Alpha Chi Omega.  It was not easy, pretty, or comfortable. They had to work hard and overcome many challenges, but they did not quit or settle for mediocrity. As a real, strong woman of Alpha Chi Omega, personal development is one of our standards of membership which I feel is undervalued. What kind of example are we setting for our children, new members, and the people we encounter on a daily basis if we are not holding ourselves to this standard? By not changing we are discontinuing our personal development.

We have the power to become extraordinary.  We can embrace the necessary changes required to better ourselves, our families, our jobs, our community and Alpha Chi Omega. Together we can seek the heights.

“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually do.” 
~Unknown

Why do we refuse to give in to change? Are we afraid of failure? Are we too lazy? Are we content with the status quo? Is it ok to be mediocre? These are the questions I try to challenge myself with on a daily basis. We need to change our attitudes about change.

Change is not fun. Change is not comfortable. Change is scary. Change forces us out of our nice pretty bubble and into a world of uncertainty.

Change is exciting. Change is good. Change is positive. Change will make us better Alpha Chi Omegas but more importantly it will make us real, strong women.

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The Consultant Chronicles: Caring About Change

July 29th Photoshoot 012by Catherine Kearns
(Epsilon Phi, Georgia Tech)

I’ve always wanted to make a difference. I have always known I wanted to be a part of something that would help people, change people, and make the world a little bit better.

Yes, I am just like every other idealistic young college graduate with big thoughts and valiant dreams of how they are going to set out and change the world. The problem, however, comes after graduation when we suddenly realize that for all our good intentions and righteous indignation, we have no idea how to go about it. When you’re trying the change the world, where the heck do you start?

I’ll admit, working as a chapter consultant is the last place I thought to look.  I had assumptions about what it meant to be a chapter consultants. I could not have been more wrong. In the past few months on this job, I can bet I’ve learned more about what it means to make a difference than all my other idealistic classmates.

I’ve always been a subscriber to the theory “knowledge is power.” That having all the knowledge meant having all the answers. I’ve always thought that knowing everything was the answer to making a difference. My favorite childhood story revolves around my parents finding me at two years old on the floor of our playroom, toys cast aside, teaching myself the alphabet. Apparently, I’ve been a nerd since birth, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always equated, knowing the most with doing the most. To me, I’ve always believed he people with the most information were the people who made the most difference. This, in a nutshell, was my entire worldview.

When I took this job as a consultant, I brought this mindset with me.  If I could learn everything, if I could commit it all to memory, absorb all the facts, then I would have all the answers – then I could make a difference for these women.  In August, I set out, armed with my sharpened understanding of all-things-Alpha-Chi and ready to slay the dragons of complacency, strengthen by my belief that I had the knowledge I needed to be that force for change. I was met with a very different reality.

Knowing all the facts and having all the information does not give you all the answers.  Facts are important, numbers make a point, and rationale shows practicality, but that is not what my position is truly about. These are not the forces that create change in the lives of these women.

What I’ve learned from the chapter women is that the people who make the biggest difference are not the ones who know the most, but the ones who care the most. It’s not how many facts you can spew, how much policy you’ve memorized, how many officer handbooks you know by heart. It is how much you care that will make them stop and listen.

This idea, this seemingly small change, drove a spear right through the center of my entire worldview. It took some time, but with the help of the chapters across the Southeast, I’ve been able to redesign what it means to make a difference. Knowledge is a great tool, a very powerful tool not to be discounted, but still just one tool of many needed to make a difference in a person’s life.  Knowing everything does not make you wise, knowing the problem does not solve it, knowing you are right does not always make you helpful.  Information does not always lead to understanding and understanding does not always lead to change. Knowledge without emotion is just wording. Information without care is just data.

So I have a new philosophy now –  one part information, one part education, one part heart. This is what I take to my chapters now. I want the women to know that I come to them with all the information I have because I care. I want to help because I care. I want them to know that the reason behind being a consultant, staying up all night for recruitment, jumping time-zones like hopscotch, and eating non-stop take out, is because of how much I care about what they will experience with Alpha Chi Omega. I learn all the information I can because I care.

I still want to change to world. I still want to change lives and make a difference for not only Alpha Chi Omega’s but women worldwide. In the end, I am still the idealistic young graduate – I’m not sure if I will ever grow out of that. Yet it is because of what I learned from the women of Alpha Chi Omega – one part knowledge, one part heart –  that I know I am able to do more than hope for change: I can make it.

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The Consultant Chronicles: My Thank You Tour

July 29th Photoshoot 105by Nicole Botich
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)

If someone would have asked me four years ago, “Where will you be four years from now?,” I can honestly say that being on the road as a chapter consultant would not have been my answer. Four years ago I was standing in a room looking at a mysterious outfit scared of what I was about to go through, now that event is one of the most defining moments of my life, my initiation. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a brisk November Saturday morning, and I was standing in Elliott Hall on the campus of Ball State University. I walked in as a new member and out as an initiated sister of the Gamma Mu chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. I couldn’t have been happier.

The next three and a half years were filled with what will probably be some of the best memories of my life. The late night trips to get “IY” with my sisters, the countless laughs shared between my  Greek family and I (and the nicknames created), the debates about what type of shirt we should get for homecoming, seeing one of my dearest friends go through the ceremony of the “Order of the Red Carnation” to become a Brother of Hermes, among other events. Those were the moments that I thought defined me as an Alpha Chi Omega, I was wrong. Those moments were just glimpse into what Alpha Chi Omega can provide its members.

When I received the call in March to be offered the Chapter Consultant position the first words out of my mouth weren’t exactly what I had planned. None the less “Are you serious?” came out. The following moments of a quick call home to say I was taking my first job out of college, and a quick call back to Patty Russell to accept, became the kick off to what I like to call “My Thank You” tour.

Meet any Greek man or women who is currently or has traveled the road and they will tell you this is a thankless job. We go conferences, learn about interacting with collegians on a professional level, ones who months ago we were hanging out with. We learn how to give them support by teaching rather than doing. We learn about being the “go to” contact for our chapters, replacing the person whose months before we would’ve turned to for the answers. We learn about how to adapt to staying in a different city every four to five nights, and for that matter how to pack with a 50 pound maximum weight limit for a suitcase. And finally we learn that there will be few thank yous given to us while we are on the road. That final point I have to disagree with.

It’s amazing how many of us think that a thank you is two simple words. How hard could it be to say?  Yes, I know literally it’s two words, but a real thank you is more than this. How do I know this? I know this because being a on the road this year has shown me what a real thank you is.

A real thank you is working with a chapter during their pre-recruitment work week. Seeing them grow more confident each day and then leaving right before recruitment begins, only to find out that not only did they reach quota, but they also received 7 quota additions. A real thank you is that chapter member who is excited to see you at 8:00 a.m. at her spin class she is teaching because you took the time to listen to her crazy life schedule. A real thank you is sitting across from a chapter officer during a meeting and seeing the relief in her eyes that comes from you just listening.

To those who think this job is thankless I beg to differ. Yes the words thank and you rarely come together to form a phrase, but the key is find the hidden thank yous. (I will admit sometimes this is hard.)

These hidden thank yous are what keep some of us consultants going, though the hearing the phrase does help! It’s the signs that we are making a difference in some way shape or form. It’s knowing that we are giving back to an organization that we pledged to uphold the values of, defend its honor and love for the rest of our lives. It’s “My Thank You” Tour, which is not a tour for me to hear thank you for what I do. At the end of the day it’s a tour for me to say thank you through my job. Thank you to all my chapter sisters, who when I joined pushed me to be a better leader. Who when I applied for this job were my sideline cheerleaders. It’s a thank you to my Chapter Advisor who showed me how to truly give back and love Alpha Chi Omega, and who continues to support me even after my four years as a collegiate member. It’s a thank you to the women at Headquarters who granted me the opportunity to continue to grow and give back to this organization. And finally it’s a thank you to all the chapters I have and will work with. If it wasn’t for these chapters I wouldn’t be growing into the person I am today. A stronger more confident woman and Alpha Chi Omega than the one who just 4 short years ago entered Elliott Hall that Saturday morning.

As I continue this year on the road I will continue to look for those hidden thank yous, and continue to give my own through advice and support to my collegians. I challenge you to look for hidden thank yous in your life.  Once you notice them and take them in the phrase thank you has a whole new meaning.

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The Lyre, Fall 2010 / Member Assistance Funds

AnneHelliwellby Anne E. Helliwell
(Gamma Iota, University of Florida)

I have always loved The Symphony and have a framed copy on my desk. It serves as a daily reminder of not only what it means to be an Alpha Chi but also how to live life. “To shed the light of love and friendship round me…” These words capture the essence of how the Foundation helps our members with grants and scholarships. But perhaps these words are most meaningful when talking about Member Assistance Funds.

The first Member Assistance Fund was established in 1985, and its purpose was to provide financial assistance to Alpha Chis over the age of 60. Since then, donors have established five additional funds, and several are available to collegiate members, younger alumnae and for other situations, such as for the family of an Alpha Chi Omega. In 2004, using funds from the convention Star Booth, the Board of Trustees established the “Sisters Helping Sisters” Fund. This fund provides financial assistance to members regardless of age and without some of the requirements found in other funds.

Grants are need-based and are awarded to those facing unforeseen financial difficulties due to life changing circumstances. The Foundation’s tax status limits grants to those which are charitable and philanthropic; therefore, dues and fees are not covered. Grants have been used to pay medical expenses for members or their children. Rent was paid for an elderly member, and living expenses were covered for a collegiate member whose father passed away leaving the family with a very limited income. The husband of a member was able to take unpaid leave from his job to care for his terminally ill wife. Because of a Member Assistance Grant, a young mother had health insurance while in graduate school, and a single mom didn’t lose her home when she lost her job.

When asked why she established a Member Assistance Fund one donor replied, “Alpha Chi has been a lifetime commitment for me providing volunteer opportunities, joys and friendships throughout the years. Creating a fund to help sisters in need was another way for me to give back to Alpha Chi.” Another donor said it was a way for her to “live our Ritual” and help make a difference in someone’s life.

There is no deadline for applications as they are reviewed by the Foundation’s Member Assistance Grants Committee throughout the year. Grants are awarded on a case by case basis. All information pertaining to the grants is confidential. An application can be obtained on the website or by contacting the Foundation.

Member Assistance Funds… another way we are linked heart to heart.

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The Lyre, Fall 2010 / The Stereotypical Sorority Girl

collegiate cornerby April Ashland
(Beta Xi, Utah State University)

I joined Alpha Chi Omega because of Kristen Johnson. I’ve stayed, because of the women I’ve met.

Kristen and I met in the lunch line in the cafeteria at the beginning of my sophomore year. We started eating together and hanging out before lunch, quickly becoming good friends. We would sit outside the cafeteria before it opened and just talk. When fall recruitment rolled around, she told me she was going to participate. I just looked at her, and said the politically correct thing: cool. I didn’t understand why she would do something like that. To me, it was really dumb.

In my mind, sorority girls were like the characters on Greek, the ABC Family television show. They were rich daddy’s girls who liked to create drama and sleep around. I had never really had any close friends who were interested in being in a sorority, no matter the “sisterhood” promise. I’d heard that being a sorority girl meant you bought your friends because you didn’t have any of your own. So when Kristen told me a few days later that she was choosing to join Alpha Chi Omega, I was astounded. She started explaining to me what Alpha Chi Omega stood for and why she planned to join. I respected her decision, but still didn’t understand it.

Over the semester, I saw Kristen dress better and be happier in general. I saw her be involved with volunteer opportunities and was much more outgoing. She was changing, right in front of me, and once again, I didn’t really understand it.

Now, fast forward to the spring semester. I had been toying with the idea of joining the multicultural sorority on my campus, but hadn’t really committed. When recruitment came around Kristen told me that she had signed up to stand at the Alpha Chi Omega table in the student center. I went with her. After she was done at the table, I offered to help her take the stuff back to the house. I’ll admit, I was excited at the chance to walk inside.

Kristen gave me a tour and told me to come back for that night’s activity; it was Philanthropy Night. We made blankets for hospitalized kids and drank Cherry 7Up out of champagne glasses. It was a lot of fun. When the discussion turned to Alpha Chi Omega’s main philanthropy, domestic violence, and the scholarship the chapter donates to the Women’s Center on campus, I knew I belonged there.

Since joining Alpha Chi, not only have I truly met some of my best friends, but I have come to understand that I, and those around me, are real, strong women. And what’s more, that there is no such thing as a stereotypical sorority girl. The sorority experience is what we each, individually, decide it to be.