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8 Reasons Why I Love Lyres, Red Carnations and Lyrebirds (and why you should too)

By Liz Ragland, Gamma Tau

I can’t pretend that it’s not true. It’s not a dirty secret or anything to be embarrassed about so I’m just going to put it out there: I’m kind of obsessed with all of the things that remind me of Alpha Chi.

I’m taking a detour from the typical ritual-themed post and borrowing a trick from Buzzfeed- a list! There is no sensational title or pictures of boy bands, or cats (or boy bands with cats) just an honest list of why our symbols, rituals, traditions, and history remind me of our common bond as sisters. Next time you see a red carnation, lyre, or a lyrebird out in the wild I hope you’ll think of our sisterhood!

  1. Red carnations are everywhere – If you have ever been tasked with buying red carnations for bid day or any Alpha Chi ceremony you may think that they are hard to find but really, they are almost always available! It’s kind of awkward to get sentimental standing in the floral section at Trader Joe’s, but every time I spot a red carnation it reminds me of the important events in my life as an Alpha Chi.  It takes me back to many times I was handed a red carnation: Bid Day, after Initiation, after Hall of Commitment, and after my last formal meeting.
  2. Lyre spotting makes me smile – Next time you are in museum, go lyre spotting. Our beloved symbol was used in many styles of art and architecture and it’s always fun to count how many times you can find our symbol in art, or even at Walt Disney World. Next time you do spot a lyre, snap a picture be sure to send it to Coffeewithcelia@gmail.com so we can feature it on Facebook!Lyre spotting
  3. Stars are always present (and so are your sisters) – Look up. You may not see the stars right now but they are there. Just like your sisters, stars are always present even when it’s daylight. In good times and in bad, remind yourself that your sisters are always there to help you along your journey even when they might not be totally visible, they are there. Perhaps it’s time you get away from the pollution of light and a busy life and seek them out.
  4. Fall, full of olive greens and scarlet reds, reminds me of a fresh start – Our sisterhood was founded during the season of olive green and scarlet red. To me, Fall is a fresh start. This is most likely because it’s the beginning of the school year but there is something in the crisp air that reminds me to refocus and reorganize.  Do you know what I mean? Perhaps this Fall you can use the season as an opportunity to reboot your attitude, your studies (or your work’s to do list), and your commitment to help your sisters seek the heights.
  5. Hera Day makes you a better you – Part of being a Real. Stong. Woman. Is donating your time and skills to make someone else’s life better. Every March 1, in honor of our patron goddess Hera,  we are called to do work that brings  happiness and well-being to others by engaging in projects in our own communities. When was the last time you donated an hour or two of your time to make someone else’s life better? If it’s been too long, find an opportunity! Visit serve.org for some ideas.
  6. Life would be dull without the arts – Music, dance, theatre, and visual art bring joy to our lives and help us explore new ideas or shine a light on an old idea. Our founders were bonded by their mutual love for music and I think any sister who has experienced a piece of music that gives you goose bumps or brings a tear to your eye understands why their passion for music was so strong and why it’s important to our heritage.
  7. MusicWho doesn’t want to “seek the heights”? – Our open motto was just as relevant in the late 1800s as it is now. Together, as sisters, we are called to support and inspire each other to seek the heights in every way possible. We seek the heights in our professional and personal lives.  We seek the heights so we can continue to grow emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Next time you’re faced with a challenge or stuck in a rut, remember our open motto and reach out for help if you need some support so you can reach your own “height” whatever that may be.
  8.  Because doing a lyrebird impression is awesome – need I say more?
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    Seeing Ritual in the Starz

    Ally and Teamby Ally Hirst
    (Theta Sigma, University of North Florida)

    “G-O LET’S GO STARZ, G-O LET’S GO!” are some of my favorite words to hear each week. They may be in hushed tones from some of our more shy cheerleaders, or not as fully articulated as some of the teams we compete against, but they sound even more beautiful to me. Did I mention the Starz is the cheerleading team for the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville? Working with the Starz over this past year has brought new meaning to living our Ritual, specifically that of achievement.

    Bragging about our two first place titles is definitely fun, but regardless of their awards, these girls have created a new place in my heart. Seeing them achieve so much throughout the season is inspiring: at the beginning of the season they barely make the steps in the right order, and forget about being in sync! But eventually, they perform like pros in front of crowds, smiling from ear to ear. Performing like they have practiced every night brings new light to achievement. We do many more performances than just our two competitions. In fact, we did one almost every week of the season. No matter the stakes, these girls rock the crowd every time.

    Don’t let my bubbly post mislead you to think that it’s easy coaching 15 young women with Down Syndrome. They are just like any other kid. They have their moments of not wanting to practice, not wanting to listen, but we work through it, just like any other coach would. I spend a decent amount of practice bringing our wanderers back to the floor, helping up the “wet noodles” (as I like to playfully call them when they decide to melt to the floor and no longer want to dance), and supervising bathroom runs. However, getting hugs over and over from each and every smiling face has me anxiously awaiting practice every Tuesday night.

    Whether we’re in a special teams category, or competing against the most decorated teams in the state, these cheerleaders truly embody achievement. They work hard every day to prove that they can do anything anyone else can do. They show me that putting your mind to something can definitely make your dreams come true. And most importantly, they prove to me just how real our Ritual is. Seeing these girls work hard towards achievements, both big and small, is inspiring. Thanks to the Starz for reminding me of Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual and challenging me to live it every day.

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    Convention Time!

    Maree_Magliocchettiby Maree Magliocchetti
    (Alpha Tau, University of New Hampshire)

    The month of May in an even numbered year can only mean one thing… Alpha Chi Omega’s national convention is just around the corner! Yes, in just a couple short months, July 11-14, Alpha Chi Omega women from across the country will gather in Palm Desert, California, to celebrate our heritage and future.

    I, for one, am incredibly excited to attend this “Symphony in the Desert.” This will be my second time at a convention. As chapter president of the Alpha Tau Chapter at the University of New Hampshire, I was lucky enough to serve as a delegate in St. Louis at the 2012 National Convention. I can remember feeling excited, anxious and nervous as I boarded the plane for a trip for the furthest west I had ever been. I had no idea what to expect, the only conventions I knew of were hosted by political parties, and I knew that we were definitely not electing the next candidate for United States President (although, that would have been awesome). What I found would change my Alpha Chi Omega experience forever.

    During the 2012 National Convention, Diane Blackwelder, Alpha Chi Omega’s National President, said, It is my wish that every member of Alpha Chi Omega might attend at least one national convention during her lifetime.” I could not agree more. So, what is all the hype about, and what should you expect to experience during the 2014 National Convention?

    Ritual like you have never experienced it. Imagine the excitement of the first chapter meeting of the school year, then multiply it by a thousand, and you get Ritual convention style. I witnessed Alpha Chi Omega women from across the nation circle up to embark in the largest performance of our Ritual I had ever seen. Everything you love about our Ritual is exaggerated when at convention. You are linked hand-in-hand with sisters of all ages from all parts of our country. Not to mention, I was able to witness 50- and 75-year pinning ceremonies! I know that myself and many of my sisters would love to receive a 75-year pin from the Alpha Chi Omega National President someday!

    A time to learn. The keynote speakers featured at convention are inspirational, entertaining and empowering. In St. Louis, I absolutely loved listening to incredible Alpha Chi Omega alumnae, such as Melissa d’Arabian, speak about her fascinating career and experience on Food Network Star. Luckily, she will be back again this year! In addition, I loved seeing the film Miss Representation. Not only was the film inspiring, but the discussion afterward was as well. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn from all the keynote speakers, as well as the breakout sessions. I still remember the session I saw regarding recruitment. It was lovely to discuss, brainstorm and engage in recruitment conversations with other collegiate representatives and headquarters staff.  I could not wait to bring home to all of my Alpha Tau sisters the incredible knowledge I had learned.

    A chance to give back.  I’d say it is safe to say that Alpha Chi Omega women love to give back to the world in anyway possible. At the 2012 National Convention, I noticed many ways sisters could give back. One way was through the Star booth.

    Quoting fellow chapter consultant Kristen Donnell, “I love that whether or not you are physically present [at convention], the Star Booth provides the opportunity to honor sisters that have made an impact in each of our lives, all the while contributing to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation!”

    Another way sisters were able to give back was through the Domestic Violence Awareness (DVA) walk. Sisters of all ages from different chapters and states around the country gathered the Sunday morning of convention weekend to walk for our national philanthropy. I cannot think of a better way to bond with sisters than through a philanthropic initiative such as the DVA walk.

    Amazing meals. It is not just the delicious food that makes a meal at convention so amazing. Along with dessert served at every meal, I fondly remember engaging in conversation and laughter with collegiate and alumnae members alike! A favorite of many attendees is the reunion night, where collegiate and alumnae members from the same chapter of initiation gather for dinner.

    Quoting fellow chapter consultant Alaina Cardwell, “I loved the reunion night dinner! My favorite part of convention was just spending time with alumnae from my chapter! Looking back on it now, convention was one of the few times as a collegiate member where I was able to spend quality time with alumnae for several days at a time.”

    Many of the friendships I made, to which I still hold dear, started while passing the salad dressing around the dinner table.

    Souvenirs. No, I’m not just talking about the swanky toiletries provided by the JW Marriott (although, who can complain about those, right?). It was a good thing I left space in my suitcase, as I flew back to Boston with my bags a bit heavier than when I left. One of my favorite souvenirs was the beautiful tote bag with a lyre on the side that all attendees got to use during convention, and, of course, got to bring home. I still use mine every time I go to the beach! I know what you are thinking, “That bag sounds great, but what about my big and little sisters? I promised I would bring them back some Alpha Chi Omega swag!” In addition, there were so many venders selling everything any Alpha Chi Omega woman could ever want. So, not to fret, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pick out the perfect gift for your big or little sister.

    Some of my fondest memories during my Alpha Chi Omega collegiate career were from my time “under the arch” at the 2012 National Convention. I expect this and so much more from the 2014 Alpha Chi Omega National Convention! May 9 is the registration deadline, so sign up if you have not already. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest computer/smartphone/tablet to register for an experience like no other!

    I look forward to seeing you in the desert! California, here we come!

    Learn more about the 2014 National Convention >

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    Finding Ritual Can Inspire the Choices We Make

    ChristiTennysonHeadshotby Christi Tennyson
    (Delta Chi, William Woods University)

    We talk a lot about living our Ritual in Alpha Chi Omega. Yet, for all of our talk about living our Ritual, I doubt very many of our sisters have consciously drawn a connection between living the Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega and how that relates to risk management and chapter relations and standards. Perhaps you’re even wondering now as you read this—what on earth is she talking about? What is this connection between our Ritual, risk management and CRS?

    For starters, effective risk management utilizes the backstops of Alpha Chi Omega. The backstops recognize that in any given situation, we have a choice to make. When we make that choice, we simply have to ask ourselves, “Is there dignity in what I am doing?” If the answer is no, we should reassess the situation and make another choice. If the answer is yes, and we find ourselves consistently in situations in which we can say there is indeed dignity in what we’re doing, chances are the decisions we are making will lead to wisdom, devotion and achievement—the embodiment of our Ritual. So, living the Ritual and risk management are absolutely interconnected.

    Likewise, CRS and Ritual are similarly interconnected. As a values-based organization, there is a need to ensure our values are being upheld. There is a need for accountability when we fail to uphold the values of Alpha Chi Omega; for example, when we ask ourselves, “Is there dignity in what I’m doing right now?” and the answer is, “NO!” We had a choice, we made our choice, and chances are, we’re going to wind up being held accountable for that choice. I’m not going to sugarcoat things here—accountability is hard. Nobody likes to be held accountable. Having our personal failures pointed out to us doesn’t exactly rank on anyone’s favorite things to do list. Because of that, there is a very natural and human tendency to want to “shoot the messenger” when we find ourselves being held accountable for something. Yet, despite that tendency, we still have sisters in our collegiate chapters willing to serve on the CRS board—women who understand that they are needed to do something that is absolutely necessary in day-to-day chapter management but is really, really hard sometimes.

    Our CRS boards and the women serving on those boards demonstrate wisdom when they reflect upon the actions of individual members and how those individual actions have affected the chapter as a whole. Our CRS board members are the living embodiment of devotion in our Ritual. Through their willingness to risk the ire of their individual sisters for the greater good, they demonstrate devotion to both their chapter sisters and the fraternity at large. This wisdom and devotion bring achievement to our individual members and our collegiate chapters as a whole. From the grade contracts that improve members’ grade point averages and academic success to recognizing and celebrating the individual achievements of their chapter sisters, our chapter CRS boards achieve much while occasionally nudging their chapter sisters along on their journey as they seek the heights. Thus, the connections between living our Ritual, risk management, and chapter relations and standards, while perhaps not immediately obvious, are in fact utterly inseparable from one another.

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    Are You Leaving A Positive Legacy?

    Emeline_Hansenby Emeline Hansen
    (Alpha, DePauw University)

    Earlier this month, when National Ritual Celebration Week was celebrated across the country, I thought back to my first experience with our Ritual. It’s hard to believe that just four years ago, I was initiated into our wonderful sisterhood. At my initiation, I learned the meaning behind our core values and standards. I learned what our founders saw and hoped our fraternity would become. And at that moment, where I was welcomed into lifetime membership in Alpha Chi Omega, all I knew was that I was ready to become the best member I could be.

    Throughout my collegiate experience, I had some of the greatest opportunities thanks to my membership. I was able to serve in leadership positions on both the Alpha Chi and Panhellenic executive boards. I saw my chapter celebrate 125 years of sisterhood. I watched my chapter grow and flourish. And as I look back now, as an alumna, I stop and think maybe I had something to do with that—maybe we had something to do with that. Did I leave a positive legacy? Did we?

    As a chapter consultant, I constantly think about the best ways to motivate and improve a chapter. Ideas of improving sisterhood, or working on retention, or being more competitive at recruitment are always quick to jump out at me. But under all of those specific areas, for chapters to make improvements, is one general goal—leave a positive legacy.

    We’ve always been told to leave something better than when we found out, but do we ever follow through?

    When chapters face tough decisions or are at a crossroad to direct the chapter one way or another, members and officers should stop and think how their decisions will affect the legacy of the chapter. Officers can remember our BACKSTOPS while planning safe events. Seniors can commit to remaining active and supportive. The chapter can strategically plan to improve overall chapter academics or sisterhood. The crucial aspect is that we always have the opportunity to leave a positive legacy, and we should follow through with that commitment.

    The majority of your time as an Alpha Chi Omega is as an alumna member. It is not just a four-year commitment. Your experience as a collegian is just a small part of the long journey in membership. Alumnae are vital to our chapters and to our organization. Another way to leave a positive legacy at your chapter, and with the organization, is to volunteer as an alumna. For graduating seniors, there is no better way to set a good example of leaving a positive legacy than by volunteering for Alpha Chi at the chapter and/or national level.

    Remember your initiation and the legacy passed on to us in Ritual, and now look at the legacy you are leaving or have left with your chapter. Is it one you are proud of?

    Standing in our chapter room four years ago at initiation, I heard the legacy of Alpha Chi Omega and the expectations our founders set for my chapter and our organization to follow. As we are charged to live our Ritual every day, as individual members and chapters, we are expected to leave a positive legacy for Alpha Chi. Continually, as I work with chapters, and volunteer in the future, I look forward to being able to ask myself, am I leaving a positive legacy?

    So, I pose the same question to all of our chapters and members. Are you leaving a positive legacy?

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    Living the Ritual as Alumnae

    Amanda_Rich_croppedBy Amanda Rich
    (Beta Chi, Willamette University)

    As collegians, Alpha Chi Omega’s founders sought friendship, artistic society and advancement of the “principles of true womanhood.” Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that? As Alpha Chi Omega members, both collegiate and alumnae, our Ritual goes beyond the actual ceremony. It is what bonds us and links us “heart to heart.” It is our why. The Ritual is the relationship we have to Alpha Chi Omega and to each other.

    During National Ritual Celebration Week, the focus can easily fall on our collegiate chapters, but alumnae can participate in a meaningful ritual experience, too.

    Review your promises

    Read our Ritual and reflect on what you pledged when you joined Alpha Chi Omega. Ask yourself: Are you seeking the heights? As members we promised to practice tolerance and open-mindedness and to strive to distinguish true from false. We pledged to keep a proper balance between the head and the heart and to live to benefit others. We stand for harmony between the member, chapter, and fraternity. And we promised to uphold standards of character, academic interest, financial responsibility, personal development, and leadership.

    Put it out there

    Wear your badge. Displaying your badge easily opens up natural conversation about Alpha Chi Omega and ties us to our Ritual. You can also post a photo of your badge on a favorite social media platform and use social media to talk about Alpha Chi Omega’s heritage. Talking about our Ritual shares it with others. Write about what our open motto, “together let us seek the heights,” means to you or share a favorite passage of the Symphony of Alpha Chi Omega.

    Participate in service

    You don’t have to be a member of a collegiate chapter to dedicate yourself to others. Volunteer or participate in a fundraiser or domestic violence awareness activity. Buy a stranger in line behind you their morning coffee, donate to a local shelter or to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, or choose another service activity that reminds you of our Ritual.

    Gather with sisters

    Plan a gathering and incorporate ritual appreciation into your event. Choose red carnations for your centerpiece, display the Symphony, and maybe read a little bit of our Ritual or history with your guests.

    Celebrate as part of the interfraternal community

    Reach out to another sorority woman you know or go out of your way to make friends with a woman from another organization. Just because a woman isn’t an Alpha Chi Omega, doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand what it means to live by a ritual. We don’t all have the same ritual, but most organizations share the themes of loyalty, friendship, citizenship, and leadership.

    Sign off with the Ritual

    Incorporate Alpha Chi Omega into your email closing with sisters. Try one of these: Love in the Bond, Loyally in the bond, In the bond, LITB, ITB, or just Loyally.

    Do something personal

    Recognize our Ritual by doing something that is meaningful to you. You can remember our Ritual in daily life by respecting it and participating in it any way you choose.

    Even after the transition to alumnae life, the Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega is very relevant. It is why we are members of Alpha Chi Omega and how we are connected, heart to heart, across the world. As alumnae leaders we are responsible for upholding the sanctity and importance of our Ritual and serve as role models for the collegiate women who will become active, engaged alumnae members who live the Ritual in the future.

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    Journey to the Heights

    JamieBodeJaime McNutt Bode
    (Gamma Tau chapter, Oklahoma City University)

    Achieving the heights looks different for each of us. For one woman, it could be landing the perfect job right out of college. For another, it might be traveling the world and helping others. Some may reach the heights when they are blessed with a family of their own, or when they finally discover the thing they want to do most, that thing that fills their lives with purpose and meaning.

    For others, the road to the heights is bumpy. Some of us aren’t even sure what our heights will look like; we’re just trying to stay on the journey. Occasionally, we stumble. And sometimes, we think we’re on the right path, only to find later we need to try a different direction.

    When you graduate college, it feels like the world expects you to have everything figured out. When I graduated, I definitely felt that pressure. I searched for the perfect job for months, finally securing a coveted position editing books. My wedding was three months away. My fiancé and I had already set up house. Everything was going according to plan.

    But where’s the lesson in life if things go perfectly? My job was incredibly stressful; I was working 60- to 80-hour weeks, spending most of my spare time worried about emails, phone calls, edits that needed to be made. And marriage became difficult, to say the least. My husband had been laid off from a job he really wanted, and he wasn’t sure where to go from there. I was stressed and angry all the time, and so was he.

    My husband, who has a history of ADD, was later diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder. I was officially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s not surprising there was trouble in paradise.

    Luckily for me, throughout this time, I had stayed active with my local alumnae chapter and worked with my collegiate chapter of initiation as an advisor. This gave me the opportunity to help out with initiation ceremonies, and nothing could have been better for me. The story of our beloved red carnation remains my favorite part of our Ritual because of its beautiful message—that many stumble on their way to the heights, but we have the power to help those we meet along the way. Together, we reach the heights. This message was a balm to my hurting soul. This message gave me the courage to keep going and try something new.

    My husband had stumbled on his journey. Storms had raged, and he lost his way. I too had stumbled. I was no longer on the right path, and I wasn’t sure where to go. My best friends, who also happen to be my sisters, supported us both, offering listening ears, sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, and encouragement that we could make it. Together, we began seeking our way.

    We haven’t achieved the heights yet. But we’re on the path. I left my job, and we moved to New York City so I could attend graduate school and get the career I really wanted. With my husband’s and sisters’ support, I began therapy for my OCD and discovered I have a passion for mental health awareness. The more I talk openly about my disorder and experiences, the more I find that everyone is affected by mental health in some way. I started a blog about my OCD experience to help others, which my sisters have been kind enough to share with others. I can’t even describe how amazing that feels—knowing that my sisters support me and are helping in whatever way they can to help me reach the heights. At an OCD conference, I met another sister who shared in my experiences, and we’ve been able to stay connected and support each other, even from a distance. It’s so beautiful, realizing that sisters I know and sisters I don’t are all in this together, that our bond and our promise unite us and lead us to help one another on the journey of life.

    Together, we will reach the heights. I’ll see you on the mountain.

    Read more about Jaime’s journey with OCD at www.ocdforreal.wordpress.com. Follow Coffee with Celia on Facebook and Twitter.

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    Living Our Ritual: Helping Others Along the Way

    shallen_gormanby Shallen Gorman
    (Delta Rho chapter, University of Arkansas)

    As a recent alumna initiate of Alpha Chi Omega, I find the Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega deeply meaningful. What I have found to be most profound is that the message of our beautiful Ritual has come full circle for me. More specifically, the message that while we strive for achievement in our own lives, our paramount purpose is to help others along the way. I’ve been touched by this message, albeit in a way I never expected.

    Last October, I reached out to Alpha Chi Omega headquarters. Domestic violence has been an issue that has touched my own life and as an adult I have volunteered in various ways with domestic violence issues. Most of my volunteer work has been in obtaining orders of protections for battered women through pro bono legal representation. I wanted to continue my volunteerism to end domestic violence and looked for more opportunities to reach out in my community. That is how I found Alpha Chi Omega. I learned that Alpha Chi Omega was colonizing at my alma mater, the University of Arkansas, and I also learned that Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy was working with victims of domestic violence. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the organization.

    I sincerely hoped to continue my work to alleviate domestic violence, but the idea of serving as an example and mentor to collegiate women also appealed to me. What I have discovered instead is that the collegiate women and alumnae chapters associated with the University of Arkansas have mentored me.

    Prior to my initiation into Alpha Chi Omega, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local battered women’s shelter with the Delta Rho chapter as well as the Pi Upsilon Pi and Kappa Sigma Kappa alumnae chapters for Hera Day. The enthusiasm that the collegiate women demonstrated for our philanthropy was remarkable. Working shoulder to shoulder with these young women, I was impressed with their knowledge about domestic violence issues and their explanation of what Hera Day is and means to them.

    I am also impressed by the passion the alumnae chapters continue to exhibit for Alpha Chi Omega and helping others. These women truly exemplify our organization’s tagline: Real. Strong. Women. I am honored to be included among them and will do my best to follow their example.

    While I was working with these real, strong women on Hera Day, a moment from my initiation came to mind. During initiation, each sister learns that we are all striving to seek the heights in our lives. I love this idea from our Ritual because it helped me realize that even when we are seeking the heights for ourselves, we ultimately reach out and help others along the way, often receiving rewards we never expected.

    I have seen the women of Alpha Chi Omega truly live our Ritual when they are mindful and openly giving to others, and I am so proud to be a part of this organization that is truly making a difference in people’s lives.

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    Lessons Learned, Thanks to Alpha Chi

    malenalottby Malena Lott
    (Psi chapter, University of Oklahoma)

    Ritual, for me, is strong coffee with a splash of cream, the car pool line at exactly 3:10 p.m., and making PBJ pockets for my 8-year-old. But it’s also something deeper, coursing through my veins, filling my scrapbooks and going generations back to the women who created the Symphony.

    I got so much more than letters on my backside (those shorts were popular in the ’90s!) or cheesy party pics when I joined Alpha Chi Omega. Without realizing it at the time, the Symphony became my beacon and my compass.

    What did I learn from my experience at Psi?

    • To learn to live with people with varied backgrounds, interests, personalities and goals. Yet we rallied and supported each other.
    • Leadership lessons through clubs, charity work and sponsored events. Someone I could talk into going to Huston Huffman to work out with me. (Step aerobics, anyone?)
    • A group of girls to watch Days of Our Lives and 90210 with in the TV room. Loneliness wasn’t a problem.
    • Study partners. Suffering, support, Classic 50s happy hours.
    • Mentorship, direct and indirect. Lots of osmosis happening in a house full of girls.
    • Deep, abiding friendships with bonds that last forever, even if there are years that pass in between communication. (And how they fly by!)
    • Friendships with sisters across the country, spanning from new members from the 1940s until today. The connections you make are amazing and can help you when you least expect it.
    • Etiquette lessons. Really, I had no idea.
    • The importance of tradition, meaning, purpose, leadership and service.
    • Social skills that you carry with you through bad bosses, cranky co-workers and “grown up” friendships and parenthood. It’s a nice skill to be able to talk to a guy or girl you don’t know and be able to leave the conversation enriched instead of embarrassed. Okay, at least not embarrassed.
    • Organization skills. Though my roommates would beg to differ.
    • Empathy. Not only through the charity work, but the tough stuff your sisters go through. Parents’ divorcing, death, financial hardships. I shared at our reunion one of my most special memories was seeing my big sis and grand big sis at my grandmother’s funeral. They’d driven for hours to make it to the small town of Shattuck, Oklahoma, in the “armpit” of the state. It touched my heart then and still does. Without saying a word, a sister’s presence says, “I’ve got your back. You’re not alone.” (Thank you Tanya and Michelle!)
    • Free counseling. From romance to friendships to learning from bad choices, having a home and sisterhood seems to soften the blow. If I hadn’t had the support of my sisters when my grandmother who raised me died just before I moved into the house my sophomore year, I would’ve likely gone into a deep depression.
    • Learned when to keep my mouth shut, when to hold out a helping hand and when to let someone else shine.
    • How to plan a party or event. You don’t realize it then, but those skills will help you in business, managing your home life, in the PTA and in philanthropy. You learn how to budget, how to rally the troops (let’s roll out!), and how to get stuff done.
    • Keeping you in line. From making your grades to following the rules, there are standards to uphold and you will get in trouble if you become reckless.

    My belief is it’s better to have and keep an open mind so everything is an adventure. I made wonderful memories and was able to cope with the stress of college, working, extra curricular activities and dating. The house is special to me for so many reasons—and yes, I was ready to move on when I was a senior—but one day you realize your home is calling you home  and a whole new generation could use your support, in big ways and small.

    The sisters I know live up to the Real. Strong. Women. tagline of our sorority.

    We are called to respect and love each other, “be her badge what it may.” We all have something to bring to life and it’s our duty to bring our best.

    Now, pass the cream, please.

    Malena Lott is an author, brand strategist and married mother of three in Oklahoma. Connect with her at malenalott.com and on Twitter @malenalott. She is an initiate of Psi chapter at the University of Oklahoma when her big hair was even bigger.

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    Taking the Leap

    Kelsey Mooreby Kelsey Moore
    (Epsilon Phi chapter, Georgia Institute of Technology)

    It was 12:55 p.m. as I was finally dismissed from my last class of the day on my second day of college. I remember being in such a hurry that I badly cut my foot on the door of the furthest building on West campus in a mad sprint to the Student Center in the dead center of Georgia Tech’s campus. As I reached the steps to the upstairs ballroom, I was praying that my bid card would read “Alpha Chi Omega.” I had a tough decision to make the night before; I stood in the same ballroom making what I would soon realize was the biggest decision of my college career. After writing “Alpha Chi Omega” beside number 1 on my preferential card, I realized how badly I wanted to be a member of this esteemed chapter. This was the only thing running through my mind as I happily read “Alpha Chi Omega” on my bid card, changed into my first Alpha Chi Omega t-shirt, and raced down the stairs of Tech’s campanile and into the embrace of my Alpha Chi sisters. They were just as excited to see me join them as I was to be a part of their sisterhood. As they hugged and welcomed me, I thought, “College can’t get much better than this.”

    Fast-forward nearly four years, and my time as a collegiate member of Alpha Chi Omega has come to an end. With Hall of Commitment complete, my last chapter and social event behind me, and graduation in the books, I find myself looking back on my four years and trying to fathom the incredible impact being a sister of Alpha Chi Omega has had on my life. I have met my best friends, learned to be a better leader, and have grown into the person I am today. While reflecting on my time as a collegiate member, I’ve realized that everything about Alpha Chi that I value goes back to our Ritual.

    During college, I was a member of our chapter’s Ritual study group, Council of Honor.  I joined this group my second year of college, and while I had appreciated our Ritual before, I truly began to understand its significance in our lives as sisters after I began to study it. I find it fascinating that thousands of women from all over the country in a span of 128 years have heard and lived by the same words that I first heard on November 13, 2009. These are the same words and ideals upon which seven women founded our Fraternity in 1885. These are the same words and ideals that thousands of women will hear for years to come.

    Through Council of Honor, I have memorized almost our entire Ritual, thoroughly discussed it with other members of the group, and gained a better comprehension of what it truly means to be an Alpha Chi Omega. For me, spending so much time learning our Ritual allowed me to understand each word, which in turn made our Ritual come alive for me.

    What I will always remember and try to live is my promise to give of myself through service to others. No matter how many obstacles are thrown at me, how fast-paced life gets, or how insurmountable a goal seems, it is always most important to extend a helping hand to a loved one or someone in need. By showing someone love and devotion, we are able to reach the heights in a noble way. This promise I made when I was initiated has guided me throughout the past four years, and I know it will help me throughout the rest of my life. Giving of myself in service to others has helped me be a better sister and friend throughout my time at Georgia Tech, and I know it will have the same effect on me in “the real world.” I’m moving to a new city for my job, and I know I’ll be busy.  This promise will keep me grounded and always seeking the heights.

    I am proud to be an Alpha Chi Omega for many reasons. I have found friends that I know will be by my side for the rest of my life. I have learned from the most selfless women I have ever met and whom I have the privilege of calling my sisters. I have developed into a real, strong woman.  But on that hot day in August 2009 as I ran down the stairs to my new sisters, I had no idea what was in store for me. While we learn our Ritual as 18- to 22-year-old girls, it guides us at any time during our lives. I realize now that it applies not just in college, but follows us onto the many phases thereafter. It stays with us forever. The Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega is truly something to live by, and as I take this step from collegiate to alumnae member, I intend to do just that.

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