My Best by Marissa Shriver

Fire has always been a positive and beautiful element in my life. I love the little dancing flame on a candle and was forever ruining my mom’s candles because the wax was so fun to play with. Growing up, a fireplace was our singular source of heat in our foothill home. Many winter days started and ended with cozying up to the fireplace. Going camping and getting to sit around the fire at night was the best way to spend a summer night. Fire is the perfect blend of useful and beautiful. Even after evacuating our home when I was 9 for a forest fire threatening our little mountain town, fire never scared me. I had respect for it, but not fear.

Last month I woke up early on Thursday, November 8th and drove my sick kitty to the vet across town. The sky was a bizarre dirty color and it looked like fire in the distance, but not too bad and certainly not close. I was more concerned about my little fluff ball than a distant burn. After settling my sick kitty at the vet, I came back outside and saw that the sky was starting to look apocalyptic and it was starting to worry me. When I returned home, a neighbor stopped me to chat and said that having been a wildland firefighter for decades, he was very concerned about what he was seeing. That jolted me out of my little world and I started making calls. My first call was to my friend M, who I knew had a great fear of fire which had only increased with the recent devastating Carr Fire in Redding, CA earlier this year. She was already packing to evacuate. She sounded frazzled but focused so I encouraged her to hurry up and only get the important stuff. M could see the sky changing and knew she would need to leave very soon. She was frightened because she was by herself as her husband was out of town. In talking about it later, I found out that she doesn’t even remember our conversation because her anxiety level was so high. When M and I hung up, I immediately called Gayle, our Chapter President, my long time treasured friend, and adopted extra mom figure. No answer. I called again, no answer. Eventually, we got to talk, and she had a plan and was already packing. I was satisfied that these 2 of my loved ones were going to be safe, so I returned to getting ready for the day and worrying about my sick kitty. I called my partner and we discussed the situation. Plenty of his coworkers were getting notices that their homes were in the rapidly expanding evacuation area and people all over were starting to get frantic.

As the fire burned my friends’ homes, and my sick kitty got worse over the next day, our whole town shut down. Businesses closed, people were trying to find places to stay and missing loved ones. Everyone was glued to the TV and social media trying to get new information and find out where their friends were. I was in constant contact with a friend who’s husband and young son were missing for too many hours. The next week is a little blurry in my memory as I grieved for my kitty who didn’t make it and all the other pets and people who were trapped by the fire. Concentrating on anything that wasn’t fire related seemed ridiculous. Did a world outside of what was happening in Butte County still exist? I saw the most incredible examples of generosity and kindness. People donated time, money, a HUGE amount of items, and opened up their homes to evacuees. My friend found her husband and son and their family came to stay at our house until they found out if they still had a home. Volunteers poured into our town and the surrounding areas to set up shelters, bring in equipment, crews, and supplies. My own parents still have people staying with them and on their property, and likely will continue to for some time. Now as I look around, I see people struggling. People who lost their homes struggling to find a new home or a temporary home until theirs can be repaired/rebuilt. People struggling to find jobs. People struggling to agree on how to best clean up and rebuild. People struggling to deal with the population increase and all that comes with it. People struggling to put on a brave face for work. I have seen people crying in the middle of the grocery store, people having meltdowns on the phone as their insurance adjuster gives them more bad news, parents struggling to calm their children who have lost all sense of stability. People struggling to feel “in the holiday spirit”. I see students struggling to deal with the class interruptions and worrying about being able to graduate this year. I have seen first responders struggling to help us in the best ways they know. So many people struggling to wrap their minds around what happened still. One day, I don’t recall which, I had been exhausted beyond all reason and was just sitting there crying because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing. Do you ever get so overwhelmed with all the work to be done that you struggle to find a place to even start? Well, that was me that day. Do I grocery shop? Do I clean the house? Do I try to reach out to more friends? Everything I picked up to do seemed so trivial. Who cares if my dishes are dirty, plenty of people don’t have a kitchen anymore! I kept asking myself, “What are you doing?” and I had no answer, so I sat down and cried. After I was all cried out, I remembered a particularly overwhelming day at the Bridal Store I used to work for. I was still learning my job and it was just crazy busy that day. I was sitting at the welcome desk trying to make sense of things and one of my coworkers walked by as I frustratedly muttered to myself, “This is a disaster! I don’t even know what I’m doing!” My coworker stopped, looked me dead in the eye and said in her Australian accent the most mind-blowing thing to me, “Your best, you are doing your best” and then walked away to help her bride. It was such a simple thing to say, but that moment stuck with me.

As I have been moving through the past month and a half in the aftermath of this disastrous fire, I have had to remind myself that I am just doing my best and that I can’t fix everything for everybody. We are all just doing our best. It is not the end of the world if this Christmas is different than usual. Life is going to be weird for quite some time and we are all adjusting to “the new normal”. It is perfectly acceptable to have hard days, as long as I do my best that day. So, as I prepare today to have a “Friend-mas” celebration, I will do my best to provide a fun day for my friends. I will do my best to make sure each of them feels loved in my home. I will do my best to not turn into a puddle of tears as each one arrives and I get to hug them. I will do my best because that is all I can do.

An Exciting Day in SPG History! By Linda Bullington, International Organizer

December 9, 2018, was an exciting day in SPG History!  It was on that day that our first Virtual Group became an Active Chapter!  Before today, they were a Petitioning Group.  They are now Omicron Epsilon Chapter!  They are 11 women scattered across the country, who come together via an electronic connection, to have monthly meetings and socials.  They work on community service projects, pay Per Capita, LFHF, and FP assessments just like the rest of us.
Coming together via electronic connection works for them.  They may have moved or simply reside in an area where we don’t currently have an Active Chapter.  Maybe they don’t have consistent transportation available.  Or perhaps find connecting online the best option for their lifestyle.  But each of them wants to be involved in service to their community and are looking for friendship.  SPG provides opportunities for both service and friendship.
The Installation of the new Chapter was the first ritual performed. Next came the Initiation Service for four ladies who have been learning about sorority and are now our newest Sisters!   After Initiation came the Installation of Chapter Officers and then it was all official!  Four beautiful new Sisters.  Three Sisters with their memberships reinstated.  Three Sisters transferred their memberships, one from an Alumna Chapter.   At least two members are hoping to maintain a dual membership with their previous Chapters – more on that later.
Omicron Epsilon Chapter members have been individually assigned to the Province closest to their address.  So while Omicron Epsilon is one Chapter, the 11 members currently belong to 8 Provinces.
Please welcome Omicron Epsilon Sisters to your Province Meetings.  Invite them to Roundtable and  Chapter socials.   Send them your Province newsletters.  Include them so they grow to feel a part of SPG by meeting other Sisters in their regions.
It was exciting to witness and participate in this event!  A big thank you to Girl Responsible, Sharon Hilton, for her diligent efforts in making Virtual Chapter a reality!
Have a GREAT first year Sisters of Omicron Epsilon!  Your 1,200 Sisters can’t wait to meet you in person!
Hugs in SPG,
Linda
International Organizer

Bylaws, bylaws, bylaws! by Sandy Morris, International Vice President

I have been busy reviewing and updated the International files with copies of your Chapter bylaws.  Sadly, I am missing quite a few Chapters and just want to remind everyone that International Bylaws say that revisions must be submitted to the International Vice President by December 1st.  If there are no changes, then you must still notify the International Vice President by that date.
So just email me at smorris.spg@gmail.com even if your Chapter has no changes in your bylaws.  If you retype your bylaws, please send the International Vice President a copy.
I hope all Sigma Phi Gamma Chapters and Sisters have wonderful Holiday Celebrations!

Zoom With Your Sisters by Sharon Hilton, Girl Responsible for Virtual Chapter / Omicron Epsilon

The invitations to attend the Installation of the first Virtual Chapter of Sigma Phi Gamma International Sorority have been emailed.  Sunday, December 9th will mark the official beginning of Omicron Epsilon Chapter.  It is fitting that the gathering for the traditional rituals will be conducted virtually.  All Sisters are welcome to attend.

Are you ready to Zoom?  Your virtual Sisters have found Zoom to be a handy web-based video conferencing tool, and a great way to bring us together, no matter the distance.  Just imagine, a tool that brings all of our Sisters together with the use of technology.  That’s Zoom!

So how does one Zoom?  Find the invitation in your email and click on the https://zoom.us secure link, or copy and paste the link in your web browser.  If this is the first time you are using Zoom on your device, you’ll be directed to install a small download or app (don’t be afraid).  Once the download is complete, follow the prompts.  If you’ve done this in advance, you may leave the site and come back a few minutes before the event starts by using the same invitation link.

If you have used Zoom in the past, you may join by opening the app and click Join a Meeting.  Enter the 9-digit webinar ID found at the end of the https://zoom.us link in the invitation and click Join.  Enter your name and email address if requested. Click Join Webinar.

That’s all.  More instructions than any one Sister will likely need.  You’re ready to Zoom.  I welcome you to join in and celebrate with the Sisters of Omicron Epsilon Chapter on Sunday, December 9th, 7pm Eastern, 6pm Central, 5pm Mountain, 4pm Pacific.

Feeling Stressed and Uncreative? by Sandy Morris, International Vice President

I must confess, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and burned out the last couple of months and I find it makes it very difficult to be creative.  It is just life, as it happens, sometimes for all of us.  It has nothing to do with Sorority or my duties as your Vice President, but sadly, that part of my life is affected as a result.  It is a debilitating issue that just causes me to become stagnant.  I was trying and trying to come up with something to share on the Blog that might be inspiring or helpful in some way and I ran across this article about how stress affects your ability to be creative.  I thought, absolutely!  I have fought that all my life.  So, I am sharing this with all of you and hopefully it will give you a boost too!
From the Harvard Business Review by Elizabeth Grace Saunders
You’re burned out, and the cumulative stress makes it hard to decide what to eat for dinner, let alone come up with innovative ideas.  But people are still expecting you to produce creative solutions despite your current mental state.  What do you do?
If you find yourself in this situation, I can’t offer any guarantees that epiphanies will come to you.  But I can offer ideas based on my experience as a time management coach and on the science of how our brains work that can give you the best possible odds of coming up with some decent new thoughts.
To start, you need to let go of trying to “make yourself” come up with something creative.  If you’re already struggling with stress, threatening yourself can further trigger the fight-or-flight mode.  This causes you to operate out of the primal, least creative part of your brain. So instead of saying to yourself, “I must be creative,” or “This has to happen now,” it’s better to tell yourself something like, “I’m going to see what happens,” “I’m going to explore this possibility,” or “I’m going to play around with some ideas.”
You want to create a sense of psychological safety, so you don’t experience debilitating performance pressure.
Once you’ve created psychological safety, then experiment with activities that can trigger the “diffuse-thinking” state.  This type of thinking is one in which your brain operates in a looser manner, searching to make connections between different parts of your brain versus operating in the established neuropaths followed in the “focused-thinking” state.  Activities like walking, napping, eating, or taking other sorts of breaks naturally put you into the diffuse state and open your mind up to new possibilities.
To maximize the benefits of these in-between times, avoid multi-tasking and let your mind explore a particular idea.  For example, you could feed your brain these kinds of prompts: What might be involved in making this promotion a success?  Or what might happen if we approached our customers in a different way?  An openness of mind and non-judgment toward the quality or quantity of your thoughts gives space for creativity to come forth.
In particular, I find that I am most creative when I not only am giving myself space from my computer but also positioning myself in a “happy place.”  In the warmer months, that’s somewhere outside preferably along a lake. In the cooler months, it’s likely a coffee shop with a fireplace.  Beautiful, peaceful surroundings lift my spirits and creative mental capacity.  Some of my coaching clients have found their happy, creative spaces in historic libraries, art museums, or even browsing through boutique shops.  Know which environments naturally give you pleasure and immerse yourself in them to allow positive thoughts to arise. 
If you still feel stuck and just can’t come up with something new, then you may want to give your brain more material to work with.  This could look like reading on the topic, taking a field trip to a place where you can see other people’s creative solutions to a similar problem, or talking to experts.  Sometimes by seeing what other people have done, you can come up with new ways to approach your own situation.
And then to even further increase your opportunity for breakthrough moments, collaborate with others.  Alternating between solo thinking and time in groups proves the most effective way to develop the most creative thoughts.  Have a brainstorming meeting with colleagues, get together for coffee with a friend, or do problem-solving with a consultant.  Two or more brains can work better than one.  The process of talking through ideas can stimulate new thoughts and challenge your thinking.
Finally, give yourself time.  When your brain operates at full capacity, you may have the ability to come up with creative thoughts on the fly.  But when you’re less than 100%, you’ll have a much better chance of success by giving your brain time to percolate on ideas for a few days.
When you’re mind feels blank and all you want to do is zone out, it’s more difficult but not impossible to experience your breakthrough.  By putting yourself in the right mental state and environments, you can find your creativity.
This may work!  Just by reading this article it inspired me to do this Blog and so I hope this helps some of you during the busy holiday season!
I wish all of you a wonderful Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with many blessings and good health.

Blessings by Debbie Henize, International Historian

This is the time of the year that many people think about blessings and blessing others.  I recently attended a Christmas dinner with my husband to the local fire department.  For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a twenty-year veteran of a local volunteer fire station where he is now an honorary member.  We listened to awards given to volunteers who gave countless hours to their community.  They said thank you to local heroes.

Sigma Phi’s do this too!  We may not be saving people from car wrecks or burning buildings, but we are providing meals, clothes, and hope in many ways to the communities in which we live.  I want to say thank you on behalf of everyone you serve.  You are a hero to the child who now has a coat.  You are a hero to the family who had a warm meal because you care.  You are a hero to cancer patients who were given wigs or hats because you care.  You are a hero because you supported senior citizens in your community.  You are a hero because you helped a veteran’s organization support those who served us.  You are a hero because you see the need in your community and met it.

May God bless you in everything you do.
Merry Christmas!