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!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What exactly is a Hoosier?

Some things I've learned about the Hoosier State:

1.      Lack of Pepsi:  C’mon, Indiana.  Where is your love for Pepsi?  It’s literally nowhere in this state, except in our hotel. (Yay for Drury Inn!) If I were in Georgia, I would understand. If I were in Kentucky, I would understand. If I were somewhere just a hair below the Mason-Dixon line, I could even accept the fact. But Indiana? Please. Just because you take claim to the Indianaplis Motor Speedway does not give you the right to become a pseudo-southern state by indulging in Coca Cola at every restaurant, bar and vendor. 

2.       Hoosiers:  Natives of Indiana do not refer to themselves as Indianans, but rather Hoosiers. There is no definite derivation of the word, but many theories are running around out there. One hypothesis is the term originated from a frontier greeting, “Who’s here?”  Another theory—and a less folklore one perhaps— is “hoosier” was a term frequently used in the South in the 19th century for woodsmen and hill people.  Supposedly, it is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “hoo,” meaning “high” or “hill.”  One more theory is the term was used in the 19th century to describe followers of the preacher Harry Hoosier.  Harry Hoosier was a black Methodist minister who stood up for morality and the common man, rejected slavery, and was thought to be one of the greatest preachers of his day. This may be a good term for the natives of Indiana, but it’s actually a derogatory term in some places, like St. Louis, MO, where supposedly, it is used interchangeably with “white trash” or “hick.”

3.       David Letterman’s hometown:  Emily, Megan and I went to the Broad Ripple farmers market last weekend, and it was located at the Broad Ripple High School.  Little did I know until we got there that this town used to be David Letterman’s stomping ground!  Letterman had originally wanted to attend Indiana University, but attended Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana, where he joined Sigma Chi fraternity. Letterman. A fraternity man. From this cute town in Indiana. Where I happened to be one weekend. How neat!

4.       Some cool little facts about “the crossroads of America” include:

·         Santa Claus, Indiana receives more than one-half million letters and requests at Christmas time.

·         The first successful goldfish farm in the United States was opened in Martinsville, IN, in 1899.

·         During Prohibition, the Al Brady and John Dillinger gangs were patrons of the Slippery Noodle Inn, one of Indiana’s oldest bars.  Established in 1850, the Inn considered itself Indiana’s oldest bar.  The gangs used the building in the rear (originally a horse stable for the Inn) for target practice.  Today, several bullets remain embedded in the lower east wall.

·         There have been five men from Indiana who have been elected vice president and earned Indiana the nickname “Mother of Vice Presidents.”

·         In a typical year, almost half of all cropland in Indiana is planted in corn.

That last bullet was shocking, I’m sure. I still can’t wrap my mind around the very interesting fact that Indiana had the first goldfish farm, but these are just some fun things I learned about Indiana during my stay here.  Being somewhere new keeps me engaged to learn a little more about things I would normally not have much of an interest in—for instance, learning Indiana has high vice presidential fecundity. Who knew?

Wikipedia and Indiana's state page were helpful in my learning. And now yours.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travel Plans Released!

Chapters were assigned to the consultants on Monday. Yes, this has been the moment we’ve been waiting for this entire time!  Since we’ve accepted the position, the first question anyone would ask would be, “so where will you be going?”  It will be nice to give a definite answer now!  It was overwhelming not to know to which chapters we would be assigned since there are so many possibilities!

 Alpha Sigma Tau chapter locations nationwide

Even though we were very impatient and eager to hear where we were placed, Headquarters staff didn’t tell us until the third week of our 3-week training session.  Looking back, it was a wise and considerate decision. At our first session at the Fraternity Executive Association Conference, we learned the Who of the business. Our first training week at Headquarters, we learned the What.  Last week, we learned the How and Why. And this week, we learned the Where and When.  Though we so desperately wanted to find out the Where and When before any of the Who, What, How and Why, it’s helpful we were prepared with some tools before feeling the hefty pressure of travel plans.

So here are my Fall 2011 travel plans in chronological order of the chapter’s visit:  (drumroll, please)

Epsilon Mu Colony at SUNY University of Buffalo in Buffalo, NY
Iota Chapter at Emporia University in Emporia, KS
Delta Psi Chapter at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, CO
Epsilon Alpha Chapter at Embry Riddle Aeronautic University in Prescott, AZ
Gamma Upsilon Chapter at California State University- Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA
Delta Chi Chapter at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN
Epsilon Eta Chapter at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX
Beta Theta Chapter at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX
Epsilon Beta Chapter at University of Texas- Pan American in Edinburg, TX
Beta Phi Chapter at California University of Pennsylvania in California, PA

 To follow me on my travels, follow the rainbow beginning in Buffalo, NY

These locations made quite the travel schedule, and I am traveling on the road for about five or six weeks straight with one day off in Arizona.  Right now, my plan for that day off is to see the Grand Canyon, but who knows—I might be so exhausted all I will want to do is sleep!

Now that we all have our locations assigned to us, we have been contacting chapter presidents this week and reading past chapter reports to see what topics and goals we will be following up with the members.  I’m looking forward to these visits and am equally excited for each. My reasons for wanting to go to the chapters may vary, but I am eager to see what great women are at these schools.  I am sure they are the movers and shakers of the modern world and the next leaders of tomorrow.  It will be an honor to work with them.

P.S. Props to anyone who makes travel plans on a regular basis. It’s definitely not as easy as it seems!