Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tamara's Trip to AOII Convention!

After 5 days with over 650 ΑΟΠ sisters from across the US and Canada whom attended the 2011 ΑΟΠ Expanding Your Horizons Convention in Tucson Arizona; I can say I am bringing a bit of excitement back to Las Vegas.  As many of you know, I have NEVER been to convention before and thus being my first, I had no idea what to expect other than pure bliss.  Convention has certainly lived up to that and more.  Let me give you a run-down of what my experience over these past few days has been like.
 I left about 7am on Wednesday morning to drive with the AP from San Fernando Valley, Lisa.  I met Lisa last year at Leadership Institute and while we were from the same collegiate chapter, I had gone alum before she initiated.  We thought this road trip would be a great bonding experience and indeed it was.  Not even out of the Las Vegas metro area and we were caught in a speed trap.  I guess my ΑΟΠ t-shirt wasn't low cut enough to get me out of that ticket as he proceeded to also write me a fix a ticket for my license plate frame. 

Now instead of 7 hours, it will take us 8 hours... oh well, more sisterly bonding along the way. Once we arrived at the wonderful JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, (if you ever get the chance to vacation here, do so), we were informed we missed the wonderful welcome sign at the airport.  Although Tucson did welcome ΑΟΠ's graciously, they also proceeded to turn up the heat wave even for a Vegas girl.  115 is a little much.  Good thing we had 2-3 outfit changes per day!

We kicked off convention with a reception, an opening speaker Dr. Lori Hart, Candle Lightening and our Network Meetings.  Although the food was just so-so at the reception I was able to find those I knew (or had talked with on conference calls) to put faces to names.  Everyone walks around with this wonderful name badges that tell you their name, chapter of initiation, current position, awards they have won, how many people love them (rose tributes), etc.  It's almost like a who's who in the ΑΟΠ world and you feel lost without your name badge.  Plus you must wear it to get into any session or meal so it's basically required at all times.  Lori is an ΑΟΠ from Auburn and a motivating speaker.  It was nice to have a fellow ΑΟΠ speak at convention.  I was selected to participate in the Candle Lighting Ceremony which they held outside (in robes - kill me now with heat).  The experience was unforgettable and I cannot wait to see pictures from the event.  Our Network 8 meetings was quite interesting as we discussed how our ritual ties into our daily lives and how each of us can use it to interact with our fellow sisters.  Let's just say I was a "straight line" and see if you can figure out what figure I represent??  The other choices were steps, pointy object, and light.  We have a great group of Network 8 collegiate and alumnae sisters and I anticipate further expansion in the West coming shortly.
Thursday morning started early for me as I was in the "A" group to perform ritual.  The A group consists of Alumnae groups Aca-Lex.  Didn't you think they had some special formula to this but no, alphabetical it is.  Opening ritual is the short one and personally, didn't really impact me as much.  It was great to see the herd of sisters walking through the resort in all white.  I was surprised that more sisters didn't have the same outfits.  After ritual, quick run - and I mean run as my room was on the other side of the resort and on the top floor - and change into my red and white attire for the day.  Opening Brunch - note to self: do not eat the hard waffles, eat the brownies that were made for me by an NS-A!! Someone even suggested this food choice for next conventions brunch.  After stuffing myself full of brownies (and sharing with fellow sisters at my table), they decided to have us take a picture out in the parking structure.  Lined up OUTSIDE IN 115 degree heat by height and the last row to be placed is 5'2 and under (ME!).  When the picture came out, I had to do a double take as there is no remnants of the parking structure let alone that we are located in AZ.  There is no green grass or any grass for that matter in AZ.  Let's see if you can find your Las Vegas AP amongst 650 other ΑΟΠ's.

Next up, first business session.  Introduction of Roll Call (109 collegiate chapters with advisors and presidents and 149 alumnae chapters plus all the network personnel and board members), introduction of the ΑΟΠ Foundation Board candidates, adoption of budget and the Biennial Report.  Let's just say, this was the most boring of all the business sessions.  The use of computer and phone is prohibited and they allow us to communicate with each other through the old school method of passing notes!!  After a short break, long enough to change my shirt and shoes and enjoy the free mango tequila shots the resort gives out at 5:30pm nightly, it was time for dinner. 

Chicken dinner at the Marriott - don't bother - its either under done or over done.  And I called it before walking into the dinner session.  Good thing this was the only time they served chicken.  The speaker was Ginny Carroll.  I don't remember much from her presentation so I guess she was my 3rd favorite out of 3.  This dinner included PIP storytelling - MY FAVORITE PART OF THIS WEEKEND.  I have never laughed and cried so hard in my entire life.  To see the generations of sisters up on the stage sharing stories, some of about our glorious founders, some about each other; made me realize, no matter how young or old you are, ΑΟΠ runs deep inside each of us.  If you ever make it to a convention, PIP storytelling would be the most important event to attend as a sister wanting to hear about the past and how it can affect the future. 

Friday started off with another great note from my roommate - the Tucson AP.  A fellow LV alumna was in town and I was invited to join them for breakfast.  While I knew I had other breakfast plans already, I made sure to stop by, just to meet this fabulous sister, Carrie (whom will hopefully join us in the future).  After my Network 8 AP breakfast, I made use of my remaining "free time" at the resorts lazy river.  I am trying to figure out how to design this invention into my backyard for future use by all.  I could have spent all day in this river not just 2 hours. 

Now back to business - well kind of - more note passing then anything.  This business session include introduction of the executive board candidates, discussion and voting of all amendments (7 constitution amendments, 72 bylaw amendments, plus the amendments from the floor - OMG, democracy at work).  After all the great work in business session, the awards dinner was great.  This meal proved to be one of the better ones and Network 8 dominated the rose awards earning 8 out of 21 within our network.  Convention is also used as a place to have quick impromptu meetings to conduct business I realized on the fly.  So dressed in my semi-formal attire, I proceeded to an AAC/Network meeting.  You never know what you are going to get or at what time of day!  
Late to bed, early to rise and off we go for the last business session.  Elections of our new executive and foundation board and resolutions, plus a few fun games thrown in the mix.  Can you imagine 650 ΑΟΠ's playing Heads Up 7-Up?!?!  How else are we going to occupy our time while we wait on the results of our new International President - Allison Allgier (ΕΩ) and the remaining board members. 

After all business sessions have been completed, we welcomed representatives from a wide range of NPC organizations.  As a strong support this past year of our SNAP group, I was proud of this luncheon.  It was great to see other NPC groups supporting our ΑΟΠ convention.  During lunch, I really wasn't paying much attention to the speaking that was going on.  They usually give a bunch of announcements; which are quite repetitive; then all of a sudden, Susan Danko started reciting verbiage which sounded vaguely familiar - considering I had written it!!  When I realized what was going on, Las Vegas Alumnae was the proud recipient of the Philos Award at the 2011 ΑΟΠ Convention.  So this makes it the second time I have cried at convention while being so happy with joy.  (Sorry for the finger prints on our award - I will take care of that)  Las Vegas Alumnae also earned the Ruby Award for Standards of Excellence, Sheaf Performance Award from the ΑΟΠ Foundation, and Alumnae Chapter Membership Recruitment.
Dr. Mari Ann Callais was the speaker for the luncheon and she was fab-u-lous.  I hope one day to bring her to LV to speak because not only does she leave you with great pride in your own organization but a sense of renewed strength for the future of greek women.

A quick run across the resort to change for closing ritual - which I personally was excited about because although I love to participate in ritual, I really wanted to see ritual in such a large setting.  With over 100 ΑΟΠ's performing ritual in each ceremony, the joy it brings to watch what binds us all together has got to have some impact.  And I was correct in my thinking.   

With convention coming to a close and this day being the best of all, my spirits were high and ready for Rose Banquet.  Another change of clothes - formal attire.  Random people started coming out of the woodworks.  I even ran into my old chapter advisor when she showed up at my hotel room looking for my roommate.  I wasn't the only LV alumnae member to attend Rose Banquet either.  Our co-philanthropy chair, Liz came to Tucson with her legacy daughter.  A great way to cap off a wonderful 5 days of events.

Since it was my last night, I decided to spend my evening with collegiates from Sigma (UC Berkeley).  I loved to hear their perspective on convention.  I knew my world had opened up to a whole new ΑΟΠ but to see how much bigger their world has now grown is a blessing.

To read the comments and responses all over Facebook and see the pictures posted, friends requested and ideas shared across all collegiate and alumnae is proving that convention not only provides us with a network of sisters but a network of friends.  I have a new love for ΑΟΠ.  I hope that each one of you can someday experience what I feel. 

As I leave convention, I come home with quite a bit more than I went with both in my suitcase and in my heart.  While the materialhome with quite a bit more than I went with both in my suitcase and in my heart.  While the material items are those things that show me the places I have been what is truly in my heart are the places ΑΟΠ takes me.