Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"It looked like what you’d imagine if you put a house into a blender"

It’s the smell that hits first, dank and permeable, the kind of smell that unsettles you, that seeps into your clothes and your pores, warning that things aren’t right. At least that’s what it was for my friend Germaine and I on Monday as we turned the corner from Santa Fe Avenue onto SW 15th street, in Moore, Oklahoma, our Zone 1 assignment where we’d spend the next few hours helping with tornado clean-up. Not that there’s much to clean up, although there is, blocks upon infinite blocks of debris, the remnants of lives shattered as just one week prior an F5 tornado waged its wrath upon a 17-mile swath of now-barren landscape.

Visually, I’d become inured to it, at least from a distance. Photos from friends and in the newspaper, eye-witness accounts in the media and on the internet helped brace me for the enormity of it all. But then stepping off that bus and smelling it; smelling made it real.

I didn’t expect the smell, a fetid cocktail of rotting drywall, rain-soaked carpet and churned-up plywood. It was deep and heady, laden with the musk of dampened dust, both sour and earthy in one inhale --  like scavenging through grandma’s attic where years of neglect have settled, caking every surface.

When we got to the site at 1017 SW 15th, this band of twenty or so strangers, we really didn’t know what to do. We had no individual assignments, just shovels, gloves, dust masks and a willingness to dig in and make what progress we could. But somehow the rubble told us what to do, and we fell into an instinctive rhythm: big pieces first, then medium-sized things like shingles and chunks of insulation. Pieces then turned into morsels, which we dug up by the shovelful, hoping that with each layer uncovered, we might find something the family valued. We were ants on a hill, marching, digging, clearing, moving, never really stopping to talk or rest, as piece-by-piece and shovel-by-shovel we slowly dug down to the floor.

Large debris, such as walls and portions of house frames, were carried out with quiet precision, flanked on each side by volunteers. Like pallbearers at a funeral, they moved with purpose, striding gingerly from where the house once stood to the growing mound of detritus along the curb.

We identified rooms based on what was found there: the kitchen (tupperware and a Bundt pan), a bedroom (a comforter, pillow and waterbed still in tact), the living room (a maroon faux velvet La-Z-Boy and TV), the bathroom (toilet, still bolted to the floor and buried under several feet of debris). As we dug, the family’s story emerged. Cards from two versions of Trivial Pursuit  - 80s and Silver Screen - were strewn about almost every corner of the site. There were cancelled checks from 1980 from when the family lived in Hawaii. We found random rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, a Barbie Doll, its hair still attached to the original packaging, a cut glass dish, dirty but undamaged, men’s 36” x 30” trousers still with the tags on, a Harry Potter book (Half-Blood Prince, to be exact), toiletries, and a Woman’s Day magazine from 1992.

Our conversations were minimal, “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” “Thank you,” “Do we have any wire-cutters?” For the most part we worked quietly, lost in a reverent silence, creating our own syncopated cadence of scraping shovels and the clatter-clap of wood being thrown onto the pile. From time to time, our song was punctuated by the squelching beep of a tow truck as it removed damaged cars from the street. But there were no other sounds: no birds singing or dogs barking at squirrels, no radios blaring as cars passed by, no children playing in yards. No life.
What personal items we found were amassed onto what turned out to be the garage floor, awaiting their owners’ return.  All other debris was thrown atop mountainous piles along the curb where it will remain until hauled off by front-end loaders a few weeks from now. We celebrated minor victories: finding a box of new clothing virtually untouched, ladies’ jewelry found deep amid crumbled drywall near the bedroom area, a torn photo or two and silverware, mud-caked but still intact. We had no idea if the items we were collecting even belonged to the family, or to those from the family next door, or the next street over, or from a half a mile away. The monster tornado, which churned through the area with wind speeds topping 200 MPH, pulverized everything in its path, mixing and blending houses and their belongings into a dense soup of hardwood and brick.

One reporter on the ground, upon first seeing the damage after the storm passed, said it looked like what you’d imagine if you put a house into a blender, turned it on high, and let it go. Homes and businesses were ground into crumbs, cars shred to ribbons of steel that were then wrapped around trees like some macabre holiday tinsel. The few trees remaining were stripped of their canopies and bark, and now stand naked but no less proud, their sharpened branches reaching heavenward like ghostly cathedral spires, monuments to the power of nature and the unknown.

Our goal, such as we had one, was to unearth a shadow box of military medals belonging to the homeowners. Fitting that on Memorial Day we would focus our efforts on the home of a veteran. Whether by happenstance or design, it gave more meaning to our task knowing that we were serving someone who had once served us. Unfortunately, by the time we left, we hadn’t found the beloved box. We’re hoping it may still be unearthed somewhere, and that whoever finds it will post photos of the medals to one of the online communities for mementos of its kind.

The task ahead seems daunting at best and recovery will take months if not years. The house we worked on was but one of thousands, and while we felt our progress was mighty, its contribution to the overall effort seemed miniscule.

After turning onto my own street to arrive home that afternoon, I drove around the block, absorbing everything I saw. I wondered if SW 15th Street, before the killer storm, bloomed with the same idyllic air as my own street a mere twenty-five miles away. Were its lawns freshly mowed? Did spring annuals dot the flower beds with pink and purple? Were children playing out front, guarded by the houses that stood brick-and-mortar tall? It dawned on me that with a shift in the jet stream, or a break in the dry line, the house that brought together this band of twenty or so strangers - not just Oklahomans, but people from Austin and Denton and Kansas and Oregon - could have been my own. And then I wondered, would it have smelled the same?(copyright - jlmcommunications)

Jennifer Lindsey McClintock, Alpha Iota-Oklahoma is a member of the Oklahoma City alumnae chapter. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

With Sisterhood, from Sea to Shining Sea

For some of us, Delta Gamma may be the biggest commitment of our college career, but since freshman year, two of my sisters of Zeta Alpha-Villanova have been committed to something much larger.  Rachel Mannix and Elise Fink participate in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program where they prepare to become commissioned officers of the US Armed Forces upon graduation this month.  I am beyond proud to call Rachel, Air Force ROTC and Elise, Army ROTC two of my wonderful sisters and friends. 
My sister, friend, and classmate Rachel Mannix effortlessly juggles her civil engineering curriculum with an Air Force ROTC program, two club sports, a close-knit family and countless friendships- while being an active member of Zeta Alpha each and every day.  On any given Tuesday or Thursday morning, Rachel’s iPhone alarm starts beeping at 3:45 a.m. so she can get out the door by 4:30 and arrive at her ROTC training by 5 a.m.  She is currently serving as the Cadet Wing Commander of Air Force ROTC Detachment 750 at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA, where she is responsible for training and guiding 60 younger cadets through the program.
During the summer of 2011, Rachel was chosen from a highly selective pool of 6,000 candidates to complete a four week field training program in Alabama and Mississippi where she endured long days of boot camp to prepare for her future in the Air Force.  After receiving an award based on excellent participation, Rachel was asked to return the following summer to train the younger cadets.  She has been recognized and honored with the Air Warfare and Tankers Association scholarship in 2011, the Wenzel scholarship in 2012, and just recently, the Society of American Military Engineers scholarship.  In October, Rachel will begin her four years of active service at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
I have been fortunate enough to serve as a team member on projects, lab reports, and class presentations with Rachel, and I can honestly say that I couldn't have gotten through my rigorous engineering curriculum without her by my side.  Her apartment is decked out in a proportional mix of American flags and DG memorabilia, and she can often be seen throwing up her gamma.  Rachel is one of the most responsible, generous, intelligent and driven people I have ever met, and I am so lucky to call her not only my peer, but my sister for life.
Elise Fink is another dedicated member of not only our Zeta Alpha chapter but Villanova’s Army ROTC program.  Elise is a Communication Major with a minor in Criminal Justice.  She currently serves as the Executive Officer of her Army ROTC battalion at Villanova, and has assessed the Adjutant General, Active Duty.  Last summer, Elise completed a Cadet Troop Leader Training program at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where she shadowed a Second Lieutenant of the 225 Brigade Support Battalion.  Elise’s ROTC achievements include the Physical Fitness of Excellence award after receiving a perfect score on her Army Physical Fitness Test at the Leadership Development Assessment Course. 
Just a few weeks ago, Elise found that she will be stationed in South Korea this upcoming September, and, judging by the massive smile she wore on that day, looks forward to serving our country from thirteen time zones away!
Last year, I had the privilege of spending spring break alongside Elise as we worked on Habitat for Humanity homes in Americus, Georgia.  I have known Elise since joining DG our freshman year, but our spring break service trip brought out characteristics I never had the opportunity to see.  Throughout the week, I recognized her strength, determination, wholeheartedness, and authenticity, characteristics that not only make her an amazing Delta Gamma sister, but an outstanding member of the US Military.
As Rachel and Elise graduate this month and leave Villanova to serve our great nation in new and far off places, we want to thank them for their dedication to our chapter and let them know that they are forever anchored in the bonds of Delta Gamma.  We love them and are so thankful and proud of their service to our country.
Diana Chiavetta, Zeta Alpha-Villanova, is a Civil and Environmental Engineering major who is so proud of her sisters and wanted to share the GOOD they are about to DO in our world. If you have a sister about to enter the armed forces, Delta Gamma wants to know about her. Contact our communications department at EO at You can reach Diana at 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Power of Communication

Words have power. Use yours wisely.

Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can destroy. Words can build. Words can sting. Words can excite. Words can sooth. Words can bite.

But words can’t be deleted. They live forever in the memory of someone you spoke to, the cache of someone’s computer, in a Google search, in an inbox or on a Facebook page.
Every day, men and women use thousands of words to communicate their thoughts, actions and feelings. But do we think about the impact those words could have on those we direct them towards? If you are being honest with yourself, the answer is probably, no.

I felt the power of positive words today. A simple email, from an unexpected source, brightened my entire day. Three little words; “Thanks, you rock.” It left me with a smile on my face. That same person earlier in the day had emailed me and had some bad news, but even in the way she worded it, I knew that it would be OK. We won’t always agree and we won’t always have a positive message, but bringing up negative points in a positive way can move everyone forward together.

We might say, life is busy and we don’t have time for niceties or you might say, I was angry and they needed to know it. But if you think about it, in the time it took for you to say something negative and elicit a likely negative response, you could have said something positive and gotten a positive response.

Another email today set me on the war path. I couldn’t believe the tone that was taken, the back-handed compliment, the condescension that oozed from every word of the author. It would have been easy to reply with an equally snarky and passive aggressive tone, but I took the advice of a wise woman. I counted to 10, OK, I counted to 50, then I took a walk, then I got a coffee and then I responded to the email. I decided the high road was the path less taken and I took it. I thanked this person for their insight, I assured them that the proper steps were being taken and I welcomed further comments. You know what happened next? I got an apology. 

Sometimes in our need to “be heard” we are heard in a way we’d never want to be.
Dr. Susanne Gaddis, CEO of "The Communications Doctor," says that life is about creating better moments. (see YouTube link here: )
Those moments are created every three to six seconds and can either enhance your life, detract from it or leave you no worse for the wear. Your interactions with people, your words and your non-verbal communications are what determine, what kind of moment you will create.
Delta Gamma is about “Do Good;” two simple words that can create layers and layers of hope, education, courage, commitment and strength. Two words that can go further than you think. Two words that if lived day in and day out, can create a sisterhood that everyone will want to emulate.

When the bombs went off in Boston, we learned that a Delta Gamma sister was among those hurt. She and her newly-wed husband both lost limbs in the explosion that shook our entire nation. In the hours and days following the explosion, this sister’s friends started a fund that has grown to nearly $1 million. Delta Gammas from around the country wrote messages of Hope and Courage to her while she recovers and collegiate and alumnae chapters in Boston reached out to this sister during her time of need. The power to "Do Good" will always triumph over the power of evil, just like the power of positive words will always triumph over negative.

I offer you this challenge. The next time you speak to a friend, sister, colleague or family member, think about the words that you want to use. What outcome will your words get you? Words have power. Use yours wisely.

A Crash Course in Communications:

Mary Ellen Hardies is the Director of Communications for Delta Gamma Fraternity. She is a sister of Phi Mu's Ohio University chapter. You can reach her at

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Socially Savvy DG Story

After graduating from the Epsilon Zeta chapter at Loyola Marymount University in 2007, I was ready to conquer the “real world”.  After graduation, I moved back home to San Diego and got an internship with The Upper Deck Company, where I was quickly given the reigns to tackle the new marketing buzz term, social media.

Facebook had just rolled out Pages for companies, YouTube and Twitter were just born, and blogging was about to take off. The marketing world as we knew it was going social. And who better than a communicative sorority girl to take the lead? I worked at Upper Deck for two and a half years before moving into the hospitality space to create social media strategies for high-end resorts. In 2011, I started my own business, Carrie Elizabeth Consulting, and was hired a year and a half later by Internet Marketing Inc., a full-service digital marketing agency in San Diego, to build out the social media department.

On my first day at IMI in October of 2012, I had one client. Four months later, I had eight clients and needed some help. I connected with a friend in the industry who connected me with what looked like the perfect candidate to help me build the social media team, Devon DeMars. I clicked on her LinkedIn profile and saw that we had ten mutual connections – two of which were my roommates at the time, and another who is my sister! It turns out that Devon was a DG at USC! We hit it off instantly, and I’m so happy to have her on the team.

On Devon’s first day of work, I introduced her to the other employees, and ended the tour with her meeting our new social media intern at the time, Kelsey Powell. After a few days Devon realized she was carrying a DG gym bag with her to work! Kelsey graduated from San Diego State University last May and is now one of our social media project managers… Yet another DG added to the social team!
Our social team only continued to grow, and so did the need for another team member. I was given a resume from a co-worker who spoke highly of a candidate named Sara Rogers. “She’s even a Delta Gamma”, he said, “which means she will be a great fit”. Sara had graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder and in fact is a perfect fit with our team.

Now four DGs strong in our department, word has gotten out that IMI has a soft spot for Delta Gammas. We now have two interns who are also DGs and who are seniors currently at San Diego State University, Julia White and Hallie Jacobs.

What can we say, even our mission statement has “Do Good” in it.

Carrie Peterson was the chapter president of Epsilon Zeta-Loyola Marymount in 2006 and is currently the social media director at IMI, where she currently works with five fellow DGs on a team of seven. You can email her at or visit if you’d like to work with fellow Delta Gammas on your social media, or simply to say hello. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tips for Graduating Delta Gammas

This is the time of year when many students graduate from college. The purpose of school is to prepare students for the real world. There are many things that you may not have learned in college, or even through the Fraternity. This post is to supplement what you've learned. Getting a job is one thing, but keeping it and excelling at it are another. Here are some tips to help you get ahead:

My doctoral dissertation focused on success factors of female Fortune 1000 board members. These tips helped them, as well as other women leaders, get ahead. Follow their footsteps and you could be the next woman to break through the glass ceiling!

Make a good first impression.
When you first meet someone, look them in the eye and give them a firm handshake. You don’t want it to be limp like a fish and you don’t want to make it seem like you’re breaking their hand either. Introduce yourself with your first and last name. Be sure to hand out your business card, and get theirs too. Ask to keep in touch through LinkedIn. You never know what staying in touch this way will bring. I’ve gotten jobs just by being connected with people through LinkedIn.

Unlearn what you might have learned.
At a young age, women are often socialized in a way that is counterproductive to their success. Some examples of this are being taught to be demure and told that math is for boys. Both of these things can hinder women from success. Being assertive and learning math are things that anyone can do and can help anyone to succeed. Of course, being aggressive is not valued in the workplace, but being assertive is essential to success.

Dress to get ahead.
What women wear is important to success. Studies show that dressing seductively in the workplace keeps women from excelling. If women want to be treated as equal in the workplace and valued, they need to act accordingly. One good example of proper dress was actually taught to me as a Delta Gamma in college. If you’re going to wear a dress, test the appropriateness of its length by putting your hands on your sides with your hands flat. If the dress goes below your middle finger, you’re okay, if it’s above, it’s too short. Don’t show cleavage or a midriff. These are two things that detract from great work. You want to be known for the excellent work you produce, not how tight your clothes are!

Communicate well.
The way you speak is extremely important. Be confident. Lowering the tone of your voice and speaking up are two things that can help you be seen as more credible. Do not end sentences with questions, this detracts from the importance of what you are saying. Also, filler words such as like and um take away from important things you have to say as well.

Dr. Margaret Moodian, Zeta Iota-Chapman, and her husband, Dr. Michael Moodian, live in Orange County, California with their rescue dog, Manny, and chinchilla, Marshall. You can reach Margaret at or follow her on Twitter @mminni100.