Well, for some of us, especially in the Southeast and West Coast, the weather is beautiful! With beautiful weather comes day dreaming, spring break, picnics, runs along the river – you get the picture! Here is what I know – the world still wants us to be responsible, stay on task, and make things happen! My life has been crazy with some curves in the road, but I feel blessed to have great people to keep me focused and motivated! Here is to a productive and prosperous 2013!
Peace and Love,
Hello friends! I have wanted to post for some time but life kind of got very busy. This semester I have spoken on more than 20 campuses, have worked with more than 10 individual chapters of several organizations, have watched my family and friends celebrate life and struggle through some challenges, visited several countries, and seen beautiful parts of the United States. As I reflect on the past year and look forward to the future, I think of how I have been blessed. At the end of our lives, the most important part of what we were put on this earth for was to love and be loved. I know this is simple and not profound, but it is what I believe helps me do whatever it is I do. My wish for you this holiday season, is that you love and feel loved. It may be from someone special, a stranger, your pet(s) (certainly Brady and Buddy show me unconditional love each and everyday). No matter who the love is shared with, make it meaningful and make it count.
Happy Holidays and looking forward to the time when our paths cross on this journey we call LIFE!
Peace and Love,
Welcome Back! That seems to be the key sign on every campus I have visited so far this year. Students are coming to campus for the first time excited about what’s to come. Some will move on campus, others will join a student organization, and some will join fraternities and sororities. The fall is my favorite time on college campuses. As the summer comes to a close, the breeze begins to blow, and it feels like football season on many campuses. It is an exciting time for so many.
It is also a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. As we work with students whether as professionals, teachers, parents, staff, speakers, remember, they don’t have all the answers – they are not supposed to. Be patient with them, have conversations, ask them how they feel about something, and challenge them only if you are willing to support.
I hope I see you on the journey, and until then, have a great fall semester!
Peace and Love,
Happy Fest Y’all!
If you know anything about Louisiana, you might know that as soon as Mardi Gras is over, Festival Season begins. Every weekend you can find a plethora of Festivals to attend that center around themes such as strawberries, French Quarter, seafood, and whatever other theme comes along. It is what we call “culture or ritual.”
While walking around Jazz Fest, this sign was above the tent that housed the Mardi Gras Indians costume making, as well as Mardi Gras Dress makers, and Muse Parade shoes decorating. All of these are traditions in Louisiana.
Rituals come in many forms. No matter what the ritual or tradition might be, these acts continue to bind us to one another.
As we are ending the spring semester, there will be special ceremonies, rituals, happening in many of our institutions of learning. May the transitions from one phase to another happen wether it be initiations for fraternities and sororities, graduations, awards banquets, etc., may we celebrate the events that change our lives; may we thank the people who have helped to get us through these phases in our development, and may we all remember, that rituals do matter!
Do you ever think, what were they thinking? This is a question I often ask about our founders. Did they even have a clue as to what they were establishing for thousands of women who would follow after them? My logical answer is no way! They were courageous women who wanted a place to call home. Maybe they weren’t that different than the Theta Phi Alphas of today. Unlike us, they didn’t have certain rights and privileges. They could not vote in the Presidential Elections, they were not allowed to walk freely into U of M Student Union, and they certainly were not a part of the largest women’s organizations on campus. They were just women who were trying to get an education and find a group of women to support them.
As I drove onto the campus of the University of Michigan, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Although I had been to the campus previously, the sight of the blue flag with the yellow M still makes my heart race just a bit.
I am a professional campus speaker; I have spoken on more than 500 campuses. As much as these experiences have been amazing, speaking at the birthplace of Theta Phi Alpha made me quite nostalgic. As I stood on the stage in the Historic Rackham Auditorium, I looked out at approximately 1,100 sorority women. Sitting in the front row were four Theta Phi Alpha alumnae cheering me on – a true example of sisterhood. It was a moment I will not soon forget. I shared with the undergraduate women of the sororities at Michigan that Theta Phi Alpha and ultimately, my journey began at the University of Michigan and what an important part their campus has in our Fraternity’s history.
The night was one of laughter, tears, thoughtfulness, and yes, a little singing! Thank you to the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation and Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity for trusting me with delivering our gift to the Panhellenic at the University of Michigan.
At the end of the program, Mary Beth Seller, Director of Greek Life, presented me with a bag of gifts – a recruitment bag, a Michigan blanket, and a Stole of Gratitude. It was quite a special moment and I appreciated accepting the Stole of Gratitude on behalf of The Fraternity.
As I looked out at those women, I thought about the day that our Alpha Chapter could be back at the home of our founding. One day, but for now, one Theta Phi Alpha had a memorable experience at the place that we call Home!
Make A Promise to Live Your Rituals Everyday
The current world of fraternity and sorority life is seeking many of the same answers those of us were seeking twenty plus years ago. We continue to search for “the answers” when it comes to our members really “getting it”. As I have traveled the country speaking on college campuses, I have given away stickers to help participants remember my message or possibly contact me at a later date. The stickers have said “Ritual…. Just Live It”, “What Would Our Founders Think of Us Today?”, and most recently “Ritual=Values=You”. Each one of these messages are intended to challenge all of us to remember why we are members of fraternities and sororities to begin with—to become the best people we can with the support of people we call our brothers and sisters.
As advisors, leaders, and friends, it is our responsibility to get our members past the performance of the ritual ceremony, although that is important, to the action part of our rituals. What do I mean? Our ceremonies are just that unless we move those words and symbols and have them become action-oriented aspects of our members’ lives. Our members are NOT getting it for the most part. They do not make a connection between the values and promises in those ceremonies to their everyday behavior. For example: “Today, I think I will just put whatever comes to mind on my Facebook, Twitter, etc. and I don’t really care what anyone thinks about it. I am going to use inappropriate language, I am going to attach a picture of myself or others” doing something offensive just because it is funny, and I am going to ‘Tweet’ about it too.” Instead of saying to oneself, how will this represent me, my organization, my family, this person strictly ignores any consequences because they feel it is okay. Another example is that I am going to ignore hazing is happening in my chapter and as long I am not present when it happens, I am not responsible. Our rituals give us a road map as to how to be the best people we can be. They say in words how we should respect others and ourselves, they say how we should hold one another accountable, and how we should stand up for what is right.
When discussing values, I am intrigued by the various definitions and explanations that emerge. In my opinion, values are a comprehensive set of behaviors that guide how we live our lives. In fraternity and sorority life, values are what we describe as brotherhood and sisterhood—they are the way we love one another, hold one another accountable, and support one another to be the best people we can be. Our values as organizations lived out by our members really do matter. Today we are being judged by how we walk the talk of what we say we are about. People join fraternities and sororities for so many reasons. What it comes down to is that we join hopefully, to share our college and beyond experiences with people who share common values. We search for people who have similar beliefs as we do and live those beliefs through our actions whether it be working on community service projects, striving to do well academically, working for a common good, taking care of one another, making a difference, standing up for what you believe in, whatever the case may be.
Each one of us makes a promise to live the best life we can and to be the best members of our organization that we can be. Our fraternity and sorority experience has the ability to change our lives. As someone who has been initiated for almost 25 years, I know that joining a sorority was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My professional and personal journey has been enhanced because of all of the amazing experiences and people I have encounter along the way. It is each one of our responsibilities to step up and say, am I doing what I said I would do? Am I challenging myself and those around me to be the best people we can be? Am I passionate about the experiences and opportunities I have through my fraternity and sorority experiences? Do I try my best to live the values expressed through my ritual, creeds, mottos, and symbols to the best of my ability? These are questions I am faced with on a daily basis and I challenge each one of us to examine our fraternal experiences and to be our best!
As a professional speaker with CAMPUSPEAK, Mari Ann has several outstanding keynotes for fraternity and sorority life, and the college experience. To find about more about Mari Ann and her keynotes for college students, visit campuspeak.com/callais.
It has been a while since I have blogged. I wish that life did not just take off sometimes and that I had the time to write, think, share, learn, explore…
As I work with various constituents in all of my experiences, I continue to be amazed at the vast amount of passion and determination that so many have for what they do. Each and every day I appreciate more and more that God has truly blessed my life with great people and so many great encounters.
Remember, be intentional about all you do and put positive energy out into the world. I promise you, it will come back to you!
Happy Spring! Stop and Smell the flowers and enjoy some much needed Sunshine!
Love and Peace,
Wow, I can’t believe that we are in the middle of December! Where did this fall semester go?
I have had an amazing fall filled with reflection, great collaboration, love and success! My travels have been so rewarding meeting great students, volunteers, and professionals.
This past week I attended the Association of Fraternity Advisers Conference. There I visited with old friends and made new ones, learned some new and incredible happenings in Fraternity/Sorority Communities, and enjoyed being back in a place where I feel very much at home.
During that event, I was a part of a team of women who are working to help educate girls and women around the world called “The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.” The Foundation is an a special opportunity for those of us who are privileged to be educated to give to those who have not. If you interested in giving, please visit http://www.circleofsisterhood.org.
After AFA, I was able to take some time off to visit Sedona and The Grand Canyon. Sedona truly is one of the peaceful places I have ever been. From the mountains to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, I truly felt love, peace and spirituality.
As we celebrate the holiday season with friends and family, remember to take time to just be thankful for all the love in your life. I know that I will.
Love and Peace,
Hope your hot summer is coming to a close and if you are like me, you are looking forward to cooler weather. As you may or may not know, I am from Louisiana! This Sunday, August 29, 2010, is the 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I wanted to share with you a letter that I had written almost a month after the storm. It talks about what life was like for many in my world. I hope it challenges you to continue to help others, no matter what they need to lift them up and help them to have a better life.
September 21, 2005
Written by Mari Ann almost a month after
Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2005
Well, I am finally ready and able to give up an update you on the world as I know it in Louisiana. I finally got power back on last Tuesday September 6. We still don’t have cable, TV, internet and my land line box is duck taped to a palm tree that is barely hanging in there, and yet trust me, I do feel blessed. My family is working hard to get their home in Hammond back to some sense of normalcy, and we still cannot get to our homes and business in Buras in that it is still 8 feet underwater on day 16 after our friend Katrina.
I have thought a great deal about Katrina. After being told what the word Katrina means I looked up for myself to see that it means to purge or cleanse – interesting huh?! I have learned so much from this and have had conversation upon conversation about all of the theories that so many of us have.
I went out of town this weekend for a trip that had been planned long before Katrina hit. When I got to the Atlanta airport, it was the first time that I had actually seen all of the plethora of magazines and this time, the covers were all pictures of areas and people that were familiar to me. I could not believe it – it was very overwhelming. I bought copies of most of them, but on the next leg of my flight, realized that I was not yet ready to read all that those magazines had to offer. To date, I still have really only seen a few hours of TV which has been quite enough for me.
On my trip, I met up with 3 friends who live in other parts of the country now – all of us however, from the New Orleans area originally. It was quite surreal to see them and for all of us to share how this experience has impacted us. Saturday we actually watched TV but it was to see the beauty of the Louisiana people – to watch our LSU Tigers win their first season game! What a great gift for our State. Life is beginning to move forward for some of us, for others, the confusion and uncertainty of what happens next is really overwhelming. I wanted you to know that your prayers and thoughts have been wonderful but they are still needed and will be needed for a long time coming.
When I sit and think about this next year, I wonder about the people in my life- where they will be living, what they will be doing. We are spread all over the country at this point and that has been very challenging. Cell phones are still hit and miss and I have to go to a coffee shop in Hammond to check email (which most of you know is my way of working for all aspects of my work and volunteer life). I have never text messaged so much – ever. Communicating with one another is still very much a challenge. I am fortunate in that I work for two amazing companies who have been so supportive of my situation and me. Although the physical structure of my home was not harmed the way that many of my friends and family’s homes were, the daily challenges of getting life back on track are there for all of us.
The insurance adjuster is coming tomorrow to look at my rental property to tell me how much they will give me to rebuild the parts of the apartment that were damaged. I finally have gotten the tree out of my yard that hit the apartment so it has all just been complicated.
I wanted to update you again on some wonderful people and how much you all are making a difference: The Humane Society all over the country has been amazing!!!! I know how much I love my puppy Brady and could not imagine what it would be like to lose him – so thank you to any of you who that is your passion – they are reuniting owners with their animals. The out-pouring of love and support has been unbelievable even among our community – my parents had to pay $4,000 for a team of people to cut the trees out of their yard and to get the tree out of the roof of their new home – their neighbor came over and offered to help pay for the cost – he said he had seen them working hard and wanted to help. My sorority – Theta Phi Alpha has set up a fund (as have most of the National fraternities and sororities) to help our sisters. The donations have been coming in and will truly make a difference. My friend Michael Decker and I started a campaign called ‘Helping Hands for Louisians’ – a gift card campaign to help those in need – we just feels like we need to do our part too. An hour after I had sent out the email, I got an email within an hour from one of the NPC National Presidents for a $100 gift card for Target – I just started tearing up and realizing that every little bit helps. I talked with my friend Stephanie today who is having twins – they lost everything but her spirits are just so high – so positive – she is an inspiration to me! My cousin Rhett has been working in the New Orleans areas with the Army National Guard trying to help keep things in order. And the list goes on.
I have had a lot of time to think with no TV, limited email and phones. I got a call from a Theta Phi Alpha collegian on Tuesday and it was right after my landline began working. She said, I read your note on our website, I could have emailed but I thought that maybe you needed to hear a voice. I can’t express how much that meant to me. Thank you to all of you for being patient with me. I have truly learned the value of communication throughout this process. In the book Bowling Alone, it talks about how when air conditioning came along, people stopped sitting on their porches and walking their neighborhoods, and just visiting. I can tell you that this experience has taught me to sit on my porch, to walk my neighborhood, and to appreciate all that you have.
As part of programs this past year, I started playing a song by Tim McGraw called live Like You Were Dying. The words of this song have never been so clear to me; so as I close let me share this. The people of the Gulf Coast will rebuild. New Orleans will have Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest, great food and great music, and the world will one day visit and see why we love Louisiana so much. Some will leave because this has just been too much. I am a Cajun from South Louisiana and I love the people and the sense of family that I have known my whole life. I hope that through my writings, that I have been able to share a little bit of that with you. Please keep praying and doing whatever you can to help us. Although we are very proud people, we know that we cannot do this alone.
Thank you to the individuals and agencies that stepped in even before our government did – you made the difference! I will keep you updated.
Love and prayers,