Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kansas: It's about the People

I’m prefacing this post with the fact that about half of it was typed with one hand, so please excuse the lack of normal excessive details and possible typos.

In the beginning of October, I had the privilege of traveling to Emporia, Kansas to work with a chapter who was recently installed in December.  I flew from PIT to MCO (the code for the Kansas City airport, which is strangely enough not in Kansas but is rather in Missouri) with a connection in Cincinnati, OH (CVG).  Ohio is not my favorite state, and CVG is surely not my favorite airport – it’s going to be placed low on my list of favorites.  When I got to MCO, the chapter women came to pick me up. From there, we had about a 1.5 hour ride back to Emporia, Kansas. Our ride was pretty long, so for our first time meeting each other, we had to really think of some conversation starters. Luckily, all three of the women who came to pick me up were really great people so conversation was very easy. For the week, one of the chapter women gave up her room, which included a full sized bed and a private bathroom. They were so accommodating and I’m so grateful for their hospitality.

Emporia State University – an institution known for is education program – was very comforting as it reminded me of my alma mater in the sense that it was a small, close-knit community where everyone knew everyone else.  Two members gave me a tour, and it made me happy that the women who were giving me a tour knew some history about their college and some of the traditions it had. 

For example, the school mascot, Corky the hornet, was designed by Paul Edwards in the 1930s, then a freshman art student and cheerleader.   ESU’s mascot has undergone several changes through the years; however, Corky retains what Edwards calls that “determined, but happy” look on its face.  The women informed me that Edwards is still involved with the school and is the only person who is allowed to change anything about Corky. Since I like alumni things, this was delightful to learn.

Another thing they shared with me was the tradition of people becoming engaged or, in cases of Greeks, lavaliered. The bridge is over a little pond with a fountain and during Greek Week, the have a canoe competition.  It’s a very nice touch to campus.

Below is one more tradition the school has. The students, as incoming first-years, walk through this arch during their academic convocation and are to find it bad luck to walk the opposite way through the arch until their commencement. I guess many students don't take it seriously except for the art and theatre students.  Just another interesting thing about ESU.

I must admit it was a little scary being in Kansas – a state notorious for deadly tornadoes. The weather for most of my visit was fairly nice, though while I slept one night, it was severely thundering and lightning. In a half-sleep as I feared for my life, I somehow managed to not only check my phone’s weather application, but also set it to the nearest National Weather Service station since it was still set to Buffalo weather.  Obviously the fear carried deep into my mind.
Something very interesting -- and something I somewhat expected -- was its lack of dining choices.  Emporia's "hot spot" is Applebee's, which I frequented at least three times during my week-long visit.  Although during one of the Applebee's trips, Allison (a colleague based in Indianapolis who was visiting for the chapter's alumnae reunion) and I met a staff member of a fraternity.  It was neat talking to a new friend who has some similar and also some different experiences.  Anyway -- back to food. We dined locally twice and ate in a few times.  One of the places we ate at was Bobby D's BBQ. I'm not much into BBQ, but the turkey open-faced sandwich and sweet potato fries were muy delicioso! It was definitely my favorite place we dined.

The visit with the women was great.  The chapter was re-installed last December, so they are still learning some things and it was nice to be there help with some things.  I was also there for their initiation, so that is always a special time.  The school’s fraternity/sorority adviser actually came to introduce herself to the entire chapter and do a small activity with them – which I added to my activity toolbox. It’s an activity where each member has an envelope with her name on it and all members had a stack of sticky notes.  Then everyone passes each other’s envelope to one direction in sync and wrote something nice about one another and put it in their envelope as that person’s envelope came around to them.  And these nice messages are not “she’s so cute – I love her shoe collection!” things, but deeper things about what they appreciate, admire, like or love about one another.  Once each member has written in everyone else’s and has hers returned to her, (my favorite part) they seal their own envelopes and save the nice messages for a lousy day pick-me-up. Telling them they cannot read the messages right then and there is definitely the highlight of the activity. Muah-ha-ha-haa.
Kansas really surprised me.  At first, I was judging it by it's geography and lack of things to do.  But then one of the chapter alumnae (who owns an ostrich farm!) said the secret to Kansas:  It's not about the area; it's about the people.  It's so true, too.  Any memory made wasn't revolving around where we were or what we were doing, but it was mostly about the people.  And having Allison's familiar face there for a short amount of time was very comforting. It's nice to be around colleagues every now and then!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Buffalo Wrap Up -- Finally!

Okay, so. I guess it has been a long, long time since I’ve last updated. Updating is difficult to remember and just sit down and write. Since the last post, I have left the Buffalo, NY area and have moved on to Kansas. But before I get into what’s happening in Kansas, I first have to finish up with some fun things I did in Buffalo.

Before I departed from the Queen City, I was fortunate enough to have visited the American side of Niagara Falls.  Even though it was dark out, it was still a pretty neat experience.  We walked on trails that were so close to the river that goes over the falls; we were so surprised that no boundary or protection of any sort was there.  After we walked around the falls, we had some Indian food for a late-night dinner. It was delicious and a much needed evening out with some college friends and sorority alumnae.

Something else fun that I had the luxury of doing while in Buffalo was dining at Pizza Junction, as seen on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  My mom saw it on there and immediately told me about it.  Apparently they were featured on the Food Network for their pulled pork pizza, rueben pizza, and beef on weck pizza.  I had none of these; I think I just had a regular pizza with mushrooms and some chicken wings. But it was just as delicious, if not more, than the fancy specialty, loaded-up-on-meat pizzas. My only complaint is that when I ordered, my meal was supposed to cost around $8.00; however, when I received my check, the price was $10.00. When I addressed the waitress, she went to the server's area and compared menus. She then informed me that she must have given me the outdated menu because they raised some prices. But me being myself, I just paid the extra two dollars and didn't put up a fight. But seriously -- not my problem you don't update you entire stock of menus at once and misinform customers of meal prices. It was still a good experience despite this.

The day I left Buffalo, some friends and I stopped and ate at Duff’s.  Duff’s is apparently has the best wings, not the original- but the best. Established in 1969, it has taken over the world of wings – or at least Buffalo and Southern Canada.  The wing flavor selection was mildly disappointing, because they only really had mild, medium mild, medium hot, etc. There were no fun flavors like Cajun, ranch, or parmesan.  And it took a very long time for us to get our checks, so that didn’t impress me much either. But it was good to experience.

On my last night in Buffalo, the women took me out to dinner at El Palenque, the Mexican restaurant we went to on my first night in Buffalo.  It was kind of neat to see it all come full circle. Only with this dining experience, it wasn’t awkward because we had known each other for a month and not just a half-hour. So the conversation was a lot more casual and more relaxed. One of the women studied abroad in Spain in the spring and is fairly fluent in the language. It was delightful to hear her speak to the restaurant waitstaff in Spanish and to see her continue to practice the language.

Now that my first visit is over, I feel like some mistakes have been made on my end and some things have been learned. There are things I would have done differently, but you live and learn. I’m glad my first visit was stationary for a few weeks, rather than on the road constantly. It was a good transition after being so situated and stable in  my itsy-bitsy apartment.

I’m happy to say that when I left the group of women, things were looking good. The visit definitely went quickly—a lot faster than I was expecting.  But I think that I left them with the tools and resources they need to do good things, and I’ll be talking with the president every week, if not more than once a week, and other officers to see how things are progressing.  During my five week visit, we definitely had our ups and downs, but I think it made us all stronger in the end—them as a group and me as a consultant. There were probably times where they wanted to kill me, and I also got frustrated at times, but I hope they learned a lot and that they do good things.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Profile: University at Buffalo

Established in 1846, University at Buffalo, which is often referred to as UB, is a public research university and a flagship university of the State University of New York (SUNY) system.  Having multiple campuses and offering 84 bachelor’s, 184 masters, and 78 doctoral degrees, it is the largest of the four comprehensive university centers within the SUNY system.  UB is also considered the largest public university in the northeastern United States (comprising New York and the New England region).

The campuses are broken into North Campus and South Campus.  South Campus is much smaller than North Campus and is generally a medical campus.  The South Campus is also home of the WBFO radio station.  Even though most of the classes and activity occurs on the North Campus, about 20% of UB’s resident population continues to live in the original complexes located on the South Campus.
In 2004, President John B. Simpson created a massive strategic planning initiative called 2020.  Some of the goals are to add approximately 10,000 more students, 750 faculty members, and 600 staff members.  The strategic plan also recognizes the university’s contribution to the surrounding region, since most recent estimates report UB brings $1.5 billion into the local economy.
After having only been here a little over a week, I’m quickly learning how to get around the area.  The campus is very large! I’m not very impressed with it in terms of infrastructure or parking. Actually, the parking situation is nuts! I guess it’s not that much crazier than when I was in school, but I often times didn’t have to drive to campus and find parking in the middle of prime class hours—so maybe that has something to do with it. I was tempted to pull out my Penn State Faculty/Staff parking permit, hang it from my rear view mirror, and park in the faculty/staff lot, as if I were a special visitor. I would take the risk of getting a ticket if I believed even faculty and staff members have good parking available. It’s just crazy. 
In my opinion, the student culture here is much different than what I have been privileged to experience as an undergraduate.  One major way that it differs is that student organizations don’t seem to work together much; it seems more like one against the world.  I don’t think that was the case at Penn State Behrend -- most groups had members in other organizations and those in fraternity/sorority life were involved in many other groups.  The student life was pretty good at Behrend; it was -- and felt like -- an actual community. Perhaps the disconnect at UB stems from the large size of the school and the two campuses. Or maybe it is because they don't share a common pride for something.  From what I’ve heard, football games aren’t that big of a deal (and when you have a Division 1 team, they should be). I can’t put my finger on it, but I just thought I would see more happenings around campus considering the large amount of students here and the start of an exciting school year. Who knows... different folks, different strokes.
Like I said, Buffalo does have a Division 1 football team, which is exciting!  The Buffalo Bulls played (and lost to) the Pitt Panthers this past weekend, unfortunately at Heinz Field, but they will be hosting the UConn Huskies while I’m still here. I think it would be fun to go to a football game, even though the students say that football isn’t really taken seriously here.  But I would still like to experience it and see what all the fuss isn't about. So we’ll see what will shake out.
Oh, and University at Buffalo’s colors are blue and white. Awe.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Alumni on the Fly -- University at Buffalo

Notable alumni from University at Buffalo (starting with my favorite!):

Alan Zweibel ’72 is a comedy writer and one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live.
Wolf Blitzer ’70 is an award-winning journalist for CNN.
John Walsh ’65 is the host of America’s Most Wanted.
Ira Flatow ’71 is a science journalist and the current host of NPR’s Science Friday.
Abbe Raven ’74 is the CEO and President of A&E Television Networks and founder of the History Channel.
Nancy Nielsen ’76 was president of the American Medical Association.
John Alm ’73 is a former CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, while UB is currently a Pepsi campus.
Gregory Jarvis ’67 was an astronaut in the Challenger space shuttle.
Jeremy Jacobs is the owner of the NHL hockey team Boston Bruins and CEO of Delaware North Companies.
Mark Huddleston ’72 is the president of the University of New Hampshire.
John Hewitt is the co-founder of Jackson Hewitt and founder of Liberty Tax service.
Brad Grey ’79 is an American television and film producer and CEO of Paramount.
Millard Drexler is the CEO of J. Crew and former CEO of Gap Inc.

I had to narrow down the original list to the most interesting and noteworthy, but even on the original list, there were not many women. I’m sure all of these guys are doing good things in the world. But where are the ladies?!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekend Update!

This weekend was a great one in Buffalo, NY.  On Friday night, Alanna picked me up and we went to a local restaurant in Buffalo, the Shadow Lounge.  The food was delicious! I got the buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese, a key lime martini, and we shared a chocolate fondue. The walls and tablecloths were red while the accents were black. The waitresses were all tattooed up and had piercings—it was a pretty bold place. There was a band playing some awesome tunes too.  It wasn’t your typical rock and roll band though; this group had a saxophone and a trombone (I think?) and they were playing Santana and some other oldies.  People were dancing and having a great time! It felt so good to catch up with Alanna and to just chat about things.  We also discussed the advisory board positions for the colony I’m working with, and I was happy to hear she was interested in looking into it! I told her that if she didn’t introduce me (aka force me to look into) the sorority, I wouldn’t have the job I do now. It’s funny how things work out. 

After dinner, we went downtown and drove past the Peace Bridge (which connects  Canada to the United States).  It was lit up in red and blue colors for Labor Day weekend.  Downtown, we visited the memorial for President McKinnley.  He was shot on September 6, 1901 at the Pan-americ Exposition, a world’s fair held in Buffalo. He died on September 14 due to gangrene from the bullet.
McKinnley Memorial

City Hall

Peace Bridge
There were bugs all over this!!
On Saturday, two of the colony members invited me out to the 10th Annual National Buffalo Wing Festival at Coca-Cola Field.  The festival celebrates “Buffalo Wings”, which have become a national food icon.  Invented in 1964 at the world famous Anchor Bar by Frank and Teresa Bellisimo, Buffalo, NY is the official “Home of the Chicken Wing.” Last year alone, over 13.5 billion wings were consumed by Americans, with 1.25 billion consumed on Super Bowl weekend alone.

In 2001, actor Bill Murray playing Frank Detorre starred in one of his notoriously eclectic movies entitled, “Osmosis Jones.” In this film, Murray played the part of an average Joe addicted to fried food and other arter-clogging fare, who was heading to Buffalo, NY for a chicken wing festival.  As everyone knew, there was no chicken wing festival in Buffalo at the time… well, at least not yet. 
Buffalo News columnist Donn Esmonde heard about the Murray movie and wondered why there wasn’t a festival.  Esmonde wrote a column suggesting there should be a festival and then Drew Cerza, festival founder and “Wing King,” made a plan and asked the community for support.  The past ten years for the festival was filled with 575,000 people, almost 3 million wings weighing more than 150 tons, 191 participating restaurants, $200,000 in charitable contributions and even a wedding ceremony.  Last year, the festival tracked visitors from all 50 states and 34 different countries. I was the first person this year to inform them they had a visitor for Pittsburgh! So they added a little pushpin to the map.

The Wingfest has drawn the attention of media throughout the world, including many appearances on CNN, the Travel Channel, the View, Regis and Kelly, the Food Network, and the Today Show.  It was also the subject for a PBS documentary.
The benefiting charities for 2011 are the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Meals on Wheels for Western New York.
It was a very neat experience. They opened up the Coca-Cola field, which is used for the NY Mets’ minor league baseball team, the Buffalo Bison. The tents were set up down on the field and people were allowed to sit up in the seating area.  They had a stage where they were hosting sauce-offs, eating contests, bake-offs, and more.  Duff Goldman for Food Network’s Ace of Cakes was also hosting something late in the day on Saturday.  They even have a Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant and a Jimmy Buffet tribute band. Sadly, no one I was with knew who Jimmy Buffet is. That troubled me.
With the exception of Timmy Ho’s cookies and coffee, there unfortunately wasn’t much to eat for people who don’t eat wings (but that is a given for a wing fest.)  Until Saturday, I hadn’t had wings in about a year. Then I caved. There were so many vendors from across the United States and so many different types of sauces, and I just got caught up in the moment and the “living the culture” attitude. Oh well, decision made.  Two of my favorite sauces were Mango BBQ from Hurricane Grill & Wings (AZ, FL, IN, MI, NY, OH) and Jamaican Jerk from Fire on the Mountain Buffalo Wings (Portland, OR).
I did a load of laundry yesterday, and realized that within about a month’s time, I have done laundry in three different states. Woo. I tried for the first time the detergent/dryer sheets, and my clothes weren’t very fresh-smelling. AND I only had a $10 bill on me, so I ended up getting $10 in quarters for one load of laundry. That was a good time.
This morning, some of the women and I went shopping for recruitment and publicity supplies.  We have an event tonight where we will be making “save the dates” for recruitment events and talking about how recruitment has been going thus far.  I am looking forward to a little more relaxed event with the women. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

90 East to Bu-, Bu-, Buffalo

Last week was my last week at home and last weekend was my last in Erie for a bit.  My last week at home was filled with some quality time with Faith and family, and then I headed up to Buffalo, while staying in Erie for two nights to see some friends before it seems like I fall off the face of the earth. The weekend in Erie was wonderful! It was exactly what I needed to begin this string of chapter visits, and I wouldn’t have traded any minute of it. Except my favorite place downtown was not living up to the high standard it set for itself over the past two years. Who cares if I got tackled and didn’t hear Sweet Caroline or Living on a Prayer (as usual)? When the company is good, what you’re doing and where you are matters less. It was probably one of the best weekends I've ever had.

Before I left Erie for Buffalo on Sunday, I stopped by my collegiate chapter’s car wash fundraiser for some support, but mostly for a car wash ;-)  Then realized my car’s left turn signal was broken! So after a trip to the auto shop (and being told it would be an hour’s wait to get it fixed), I met a nice man at Auto Zone who showed me which bulb I needed and even installed it for me. Now that I know what to do, I won’t freak out as much next time. It’s definitely less complicated as I thought it would have been, but there was no way I was driving to Buffalo without a turn signal.
When I arrived in Buffalo, five of the women gave me a delightful tour of their campus, went with me to grab some supplies for the upcoming events, and took me to dinner at El Palenque Mexican Grill – which was very similar to El Canelo, minus the gaudy d├ęcor. After I got back to the hotel, I put on SNL and ironed just about every article of clothing I brought (which was a massive amount since I had the ability to drive and the luxury of what seems like limitless space). The hotel staff has been nice and accomodating; however, I think they are tired of continuously providing me more hangers.

Megan, another of the three consultants, arrived on Monday, and we got some more supplies and lunch.  We then prepared for the evening’s program—where we met the women as a whole, introduced ourselves, set expectations for both parties, and began with the first education lesson. It was a good meeting, but I recognized some things I can do better for the upcoming education lessons.

Since Megan was leaving Thursday, we decided to take a few hours and visit Niagara Falls on Tuesday. Megan had never been there before and the women were mostly in class all day, so we took a few hours off to sightsee. I never realized how close Buffalo was to the falls!

The rest of Tuesday was spent meeting with women and planning for Wednesday’s recruitment workshop.  It was fun and I think the women had a good time and learned some valuable skills! Megan ran a lot of the program, since she’s great with motivating others to recruit. I chimed in and facilitated the portion about examining the values the women are looking for in potential new members and if those align with what our organization stands for. They hit it spot on and it seems like they had a good time reminding themselves about the type of women they’re seeking for the organization.
Last night we had a sisterhood program.  During the event, I threw in some things I picked up along the way, both from training and from being a collegian.  I had the women send me an email stating something they like about each and every member, and then I compiled them all on a pretty piece of letterhead and distributed them at the end of the night.  Unfortunately, in the commotion of working the printer and MS Word 2003 in the hotel’s “business room,” I accidentally printed them upside down! I don’t think anyone will really notice, but that’s just a great example with my attention to detail some (most) times.  This was something we did in our chapter, and as I was packing up to move out of my old apartment, I found mine. It brought a huge smile to my face and almost brought tears to my eyes to read again what nice things everyone had to say about me.  I told the women I want them to have these memories and feelings flood back to them as they stumble upon this paper when they're packing up to move onto another chapter in their lives. Along with that, we also did a Post Secret activity where everyone got a notecard and anonymously wrote down a secret, either funny or serious, and I read them aloud.  That's a neat activity to do, even in a group where members think they know everyone extremely well.  There is always someone who catches you off guard and throws a curveball secret.  Everyone seemed positive after the event; in my opinion, anything ending with a power clap and a group hug is a good thing!

After a little under a week on the job, I'm liking it and can already see some good things happening.  I'm looking forward to the coming weeks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My New Travel Companions

In preparation for next weekend’s departure for my first visit, I have been stocking up with some things that will hopefully make traveling a little bit easier, and in some cases, a little cuter and/or more put together.  So here is a list of some things I will be trying out on the road in an attempt to keep me more organized and sane.

Emily had this Downy Wrinkle Release for the first three weeks we were in Indianapolis, and at the end of the visit, it became a necessity.  I’m not sure about toting around this large bottle in my trip out west and such, but it will definitely come in handy.  Even though I’ll have an iron for my first trip, it’s good to have this while on-the-go. Who knows what kind of extreme circumstance can and will occur and when I’ll need a fresh, wrinkle free outfit!

And speaking of keeping clothes fresh… doing laundry on the road is going to be tricky, but luckily the former consultants passed down a nice trick of the trade: Purex 3-in-1 sheets. It’s detergent, softener, and anti-static all in one. While we were in Indy, Emily did a trial run with these and noted that they didn’t leave her clothes smelling as fresh as she would have liked. Knowing that, I will still bring some dryer sheets to keep my clothes smelling fresh and not like shoes. But what a handy-dandy invention! This will be much better than carrying around detergent or worrying about purchasing it in laundry facilities across the country.

When packing for being on the road for weeks at a time, it’s difficult to remember some little things—like nail polish remover.  So I found these travel-sized nail polish remover pads.  I used one while we were in Indy, and they were convenient. I wasn’t wearing both finger and toe polish, but I’m fairly confident one pad would have been able to remove the polish from all 20 digits.

When we were at Headquarters, Holly got all of us Dr. Scholls Fast Flats.  These bendable, foldable, squishable shoes are perfect for us because we’ll be traveling in business attire, but heels just aren’t that comfortable to roam through airports and up escalators and our other flats may be packed away.  I’m eager to test them out!

So the last time I was traveling through an airport, I was having difficulties. Not because all of my bags were over-packed and I had no hands for anything, but all of the items I needed in the airport were in different places. My identification was in my wallet, which was in the bottom of my jam-packed bag. My boarding pass was in my hands, or pocket, or purse, or somewhere. It was just chaotic making sure I had everything I was supposed to! So hopefully this cute investment-- a Vera Bradley travel wallet-- will be able to keep me sane while catching flights. Oh, and this is my first Vera purchase ever.

As I had mentioned before, I was a bit dehydrated while in Indy because tasty water just wasn’t easily accessible without purchasing bottles of water.  But thanks to a wise friend’s suggestion, I got a water bottle with a built-in filter! It seems just the right size to take onto campus, into meetings, etc. and I will be able to refill it from anywhere and still be at ease knowing that it is filtered. The filters, which last 40 gallons or two months, are about $7 each. But each bottle of Aquafina or Dasani water is about $1.50. Even though this potentially saves many plastic bottles from being purchased and will eventually end up as a plastic layer of the earth, I am still having a hard time with it because the filter piece is made up mostly of plastic. I guess they’re smaller and recyclable, but it’s still a bothersome complex.

The ceramic tea cup is what Olivia got me for my 23rd birthday (along with some tea from Vermont)! I love it! It has a silicon lid and holder around the circumference and is perfect for on the go.  I can say confidently that I will be taking it to chapters to which I will be driving. But as for flying… as much as I’d love to see it come with me, we’ll have to see what extra space is available in the bags!
Since we got our work computers, I was reminded that I don’t have a true laptop bag. And since I will be carrying the computer around, along with a padfolio and some papers, it would be a good idea to get a laptop bag—a nice timeless bag that I can take to meetings and on planes.  I went to T.J. Maxx and found this Tommy tote bag for a pretty good deal! Let’s just say it was probably less than my trip to the Vera Bradley store. I’m very excited to use it!

My last item, which was not purchased entirely because I’ll be traveling (though it’s a factor) but more because it’s time to be a big girl, is health insurance. For the first time in my life, I will have health insurance! Yay! I don’t have to worry about breaking a leg and simultaneously becoming homeless. Or catching an awful cold in a city I’m not familiar with and being worried out of my mind.  And with my eye sight getting worse (must be this old age), I’m looking forward to the visit to the optometrist! Highmark is not the most exciting of my purchases, but probably the most necessary.  And it’s the only one I don’t have to save room for in the suitcase!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Grease Luggage

My new luggage set—the one my former co-workers so thoughtfully got me as a going away gift—was put to the test for this past trip to Indianapolis for three weeks of training.  And the pieces did really well! As mentioned before, I had a feeling that I over-packed a little, so I had to use the carry-on for more than just carry-on items.  During the weeks of training, I acquired, well, some things.  A few blouses. Quite possibly a pair of pants and some cute Papyrus note cards. Maybe even a new pair of shoes (Julie, it was an accident, I swear).  It’s a good thing Nine West was able to ship the other pair I bought in Indy, or I would have had to make some sacrifices!  Packing for the return trip to Pittsburgh was stressful; it took a few hours too!  Between the things I bought and the supplies that were given to us at work, everything fit—a tight fit.  This tested my physical strength and my mental logic, but I successfully squeezed every last thing into this luggage set.

When I went into the very thorough security at Indianapolis International Airport, the density of my box of business cards triggered the security device, and the TSA attendant had to pull my bag aside and search it.  I attentively watched—aching in defeat—as he removed shoe after shoe, folder after folder from my thoughtfully packed carry-on.  After identifying the box of business cards as the culprit of a false alarm, he brought my things over to me and asked if I wanted him to repack my luggage or if I wanted to do it myself. “Thank you, sir, for the thoughtful offer. But after the countless trial and errors I went through to pack it in the first place, I will take it from here. It’s a system.”  It’s a good thing I was able to take my time with repacking the carry-on; I sure needed it.
After arriving in Pittsburgh International Airport, I went directly to baggage claim.  Having just made that journey by myself, successfully, with no problem whatsoever, I was feeling a sense of pride—a sense of accomplishment. That was until I claimed my bag. As I hoisted it up and over the rotating belt, I felt something wet, something slippery, something greasy.  Yes, my new and dear-to-my-heart luggage had airplane grease on it! I was furious, steaming, angry, disappointed, and sad; unbeknownst to me, apparently this is somewhat common for fliers.  But I had no idea, so you could imagine the shock when my luggage looked like this.

The next day, Kristen, the wonderful researcher she is, found some at-home remedies for this sort of problem.  This tip (for nylon bags) is what I tried:

1.       For nylon or other soft bags affected by grease, DesChamps recommends dry cornstarch. "Rub the cornstarch into the fabric, let it sit for as long as it takes to absorb the grease, and then brush it off, repeating as necessary," she says. She recommends getting as "much of the grease off as possible this way before you try to clean the suitcase with detergent."

2.       After you've done all you can with cornstarch it's time to break out the soap. Horst recommends mixing Ivory Snow with water—a good option because it won't bleach out the color or degrade the fabric of your suitcase. Fill a pan half-full with warm water and add just enough powder or liquid to make suds with gentle splashing, he says.

3.       Next step: apply the suds to the bag (again, using a soft rag or sponge). Heavy soiling may require a minute or two of scrubbing and repeated applications.

I strayed from these directions, but the cornstarch was a good tip. Messy, but effective.

Then I used a degreaser, Goof Off. I tested it on the fabric before spraying it on, but I’m not sure how effective this was by the time it was all done. 
Lastly, I used some good ole Dawn dish liquid. If they can use it to clean oil off the penguins and ducks, it can surely clean a suitcase. After this whole ordeal, it’s sadly still apparent that an accident occurred on my suitcase, but it’s not AS apparent.  I guess it’s an improvement.

Note to anyone who passes a luggage plastic wrap station in the airport and thinks to herself,
“Hm. I’ve never seen one of those before. Why would I need that? I will take the chance, because I've never heard of such a thing.”
…use it. Because you thought that thought, you’ll need it. That’s how it—like anything in life—works.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Last Days in Indianapolis

On Saturday, we finished up our last day at Headquarters and wow, what an experience this all has been!  It’s sad to leave the office staff after finally just getting to know them, and I foresee it being difficult to continue to feel a part of the office while not maintaining a presence there.  The days will be long and sometimes the travel will be not-so-pretty, but this job will be a great experience.  I can confidently say that because I trust the Headquarters staff has us under their wing.  Not that we are completely and hopelessly dependent, but it is clear that while we are on the road, we’ll need support from those in the office.  And over the past few weeks, I’ve gained complete trust and feel the backing from those at Headquarters.

I’ve also gained a sense of confidence in my ability to perform the duties of the job, which I sometimes (ha, if you know me, you know which adverb to insert here) lack.  But now that we’ve gone through three weeks of training, I am able to own it.  Having this confirmation of things I knew and, in many cases, correction of things I thought I knew about Alpha Sigma Tau make it a whole lot easier for me to move forward confidently.  Sometimes all it takes is affirmation.  

Friday, our last weekday in the office, was a wrap-up day.  A portion of the day was spent having a photo shoot with the consultants for pictures and videos for the website, Facebook page, and correspondence with our chapters.  When I was an active member, I think it would have been nice to see and hear the visiting consultant before the visit; it might have made it a little less overwhelming.  Emily and Megan were wonderful when it was action time! Emily is so poised and Megan is so personable—these traits are truly conveyed across the video.  My video? Well, it took probably five shots and one much needed brief escape to become calm and collected.  Once the videos were made and posted, the chats around the office sounded like, “Megan looks eager to meet the chapters!” “Emily sounds so nice!” “Justina looks like she’s going to throw up!” Not exactly true, but a fair assumption and good observation. I bet Tina Fey felt the same way at some point in time. Being in front of a recording camera in a serious way is almost foreign to me… maybe that’s why this task was such a challenge! I’m just glad it’s over. Phew, now I can sleep at night knowing this has already been filmed.

On Saturday, we alumnae affiliated a woman who was looking into joining a sorority for over a year.  She never joined a National Panhellenic Conference sorority while she was in school but felt Alpha Sigma Tau was a perfect fit for her.  She did her research and then reached out to us-- what an honor!  It was really delightful getting to know her and being someone to help welcome her into the organization.

Before Saturday I hadn’t attended a Ritual since December, and I have to say, I've missed it. I try my hardest to live it every day, and I know what goes on in the ceremony, but it's just not the same.  I missed having it all out in the open to see. Ritual is the most special part of a values-based organization. It’s what separates us from the others, and it’s what brings together our chapters with different dynamics.  Our personalities might not mesh, but we’re all built upon the same values. Our Ritual connects us together. It's what our founding members created and agreed upon when forming this organization, and it's what is still alive and running through every chapter 100+ years later. Ah, I'm getting goosebumps... love it! 

Saturday night was a good time. We all got to know each other a little more before parting ways on Sunday. Many thanks to Allison from Headquarters who drove Megan and me to the airport at 5:10 a.m. after we all went to sleep at 2:00 a.m. (yay for bonding time!) and to my friend Faith for picking me up in Pittsburgh in the afternoon.  Now it’s time to get my stuff together and then hit the road!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Indy's Children's Museum = Amazing!

On Thursday, August 4, the other consultants and I paid a visit to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—the world’s largest children’s museum.  It was amazing!! The 472,900 square foot museum with five floors of exhibit halls receives more than one million visitors annually.  The museum was founded in 1925 by Mary Stewart Carey with the help of Indianapolis civic leaders and organizers, and it is the fourth oldest such institution in the world.  The museum was amazing—much more tailored to older children and adults than other children’s museums I’ve visited.

On our way there, we had to take Route 31—Meridian Avenue—where there are huge houses and mansions with perfectly manicured lawns that looked like golf course and hugely tall cast iron fencing. It was amazing just to see so many huge houses along the way to the museum.  But right after we hit a stop sign and crossed over a street, it’s like we were in a different world.  We were in what seemed to be (an what probably was, I just don’t know any better) downtown Indianapolis.  We partook in the museum’s free night, which is sponsored by Target.  This occurs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first Thursday of every month.  Essentially, we saved a value of $16.50—woot! 

When we walked in, we first saw a rotating exhibit of Bumblebee from Transformers. 

The exhibits were wonderful.  Each made us smile or enlightened us in some way.  Here is a brief tour through our museum experience:
We entered the dinosaur exhibit.  Who doesn’t love dinos? These were really neat because they had life-sized dinosaurs with a backdrop of a purple and blue night sky.  There were little children running around everywhere (which is good! Parents should always take their children to museum free night so said children aren’t deprived of out-of-the-classroom learning), so we didn’t get to read much of the information posted about the exhibits.  They also had a place where children could “conduct” an archeological dig for dinosaur fossils.  What a great hands-on learning tool for those future archeologists! 

Upstairs, the museum had an exhibit highlighting dragons, and the mythical creature’s tie to dinosaurs.  It was interesting, and even though dragons can be a little scary sometimes, it was neat to see. Oh, and this exhibit was referencing Harry Potter!

Then we drastically switched gears.  The next exhibit was Barbie, which I can confidently say we all thoroughly enjoyed.  The first part of the exhibit had displays of Barbie over the decade and asked, “Which was your Barbie?”






It was neat to see generations of such a beloved timeless children’s toy in one place at the same time.  Also in the exhibit, the museum had the different facets of Barbie’s life and how she has grown as a woman over the past 50+ years.

Sports Star
Career Girl
Fashion Mirror and Muse

All Doll’d Up

They even had a little runway where children could pretend to be models (eh, yes—this did make me a little nauseous), but it was a neat setup.  There was even a place for photographers if the children were too shy to work the runway. I think I can safely say the Barbie exhibit was the favorite of the evening, not because we give are submissive to typical girly things (mostly) but more so because we grew up with her and Barbie was often times a little girl’s friend when she had no one else.  Just think, where would the female population be without Barbie’s positive body image encouragement?

The Barbie exhibit was interesting though, because on the far wall, it had interviews and pictures of those folks most involved in the design, production, and progress of the Barbie doll.  They even had some displays recognizing some lady’s grandmother who used to hand sew clothes for her granddaughter’s Barbie doll; this proves how much more than a toy Barbie was to the young girls of many generations.

Here is Barbie, so nicely portrayed by artist Andy Warhol, a Pittsburgh native.

Besides Barbie, many other neat things were happening at the Museum. Like the exhibit, “The Power of Children Making a Difference.”  This exhibit focused on the brave efforts of three children—Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White.  Let me be completely honest, even if that means I will sound uneducated.  Before this trip to the museum, I had no idea who both Ruby Bridges and Ryan White were.  I was completely oblivious to two out of the three children who were brave enough for the Indianapolis Children’s Museum to deem “world-changing.” As ashamed as I am, I’m glad I was able to learn something more about each of them.

The first was Ryan White.  I’m ashamed to admit that before this exhibit, I was completely unaware of who Ryan White was, but I hear he was a popular topic of conversation.  The Kokamo, Indiana native was a national poster child for the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s after he was expelled from his middle school because of his infection.  He became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and was given six months to live after his diagnosis.  He is admired by many because he was treated differently in schools due to his contraction of HIV yet persevered through it to become one of the country’s best human rights activists.  The museum had on display his childhood bedroom and video testimonial from his friends and family.

Ruby Bridges was a civil rights activist at an early age.  When she was six years of age, Ruby’s parents responded to a call from NAACP and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans school system.  She is known as the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the south.  On display there was a photo of Ruby walking to school immersed in a crowd of white students, and one young woman in particular was literally screaming at her.  They showed that later on, the woman apologized for her behavior and now the two of them speak against racism across the country.

The last exhibit they had was featuring Anne Frank, the child who was a victim of Hitler’s Holocaust.  The diary she kept gave the public knowledge of what she—and countless others—experienced to avoid being killed by the Nazis.  This one made me very emotional; all I could think about was Schindler’s List and the truth behind the graphic scenes in that movie.  It’s sick to think this all happened—in the timeline of the world and civilization—fairy recently.  In the Anne Frank exhibit, there were things from prisoner uniforms, video adaptations of her story, and many other resources to educate people of the nonsense.  It was interesting to revisit Anne Frank’s story after not hearing it since eighth grade.

One more neat area of the museum was the section devoted to Egypt.  The exhibit had different displays and interactive learning opportunities for anybody of any age.  We learned about how Egyptians retrieve their water, how they write, what a typical home and clothes look like, what music is popular in Egypt, what is the common religion, etc.  Each of these were displayed in a fun and interesting way.  We all enjoyed how this was teaching our youth to be more open-minded to other cultures.

In other areas of the museum were different exhibits geared toward different age groups.  There was a Dora the Explorer area (which we did not explore), preschool area, and a National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit focused more on the more mature crowd.  We didn’t explore much of Treasures of the Earth either because we were hungry, overwhelmed by the massive amount of children running around, and tired adults encroaching on our personal space. 

In the middle of the museum, they have a huge glass piece running from ground to ceiling.  People can walk below the bottom of the piece and see the colorful glass pieces.

What a great children’s museum—it was really delightful! Highly recommended the next time you’re in Indy. And if you choose to go on free night, consider yourself warned.  And for the record, my Barbies defnitiely had the pink convertable. Loved it!