WOW! Whoever would have thought we would begin our Alabama State Chapter 2020-2021 year watching Kay Ebert, Representative of International Chapter, conduct the installation of our new state officers by ZOOM? Yet here we are, the first Alabama State Chapter Executive Board to be ZOOMED into office. Hopefully by this time next year, we all will be ensconced at convention and this horrific COVID-19 disease will have a cure, a method of prevention and be nothing more than faded memories that we share with our sisters in unmasked faces while catching up on scores of missed P.E.O. hugs.
But right now, we find ourselves in the throes of COVID-19. International Executive Board’s foresight to cancel all S/P/D 2020 conventions has kept us out of harm’s way. Their exemplary leadership charting an unprecedented path that complies with the Constitution Bylaws and Standing Rules of the P.E.O. Sisterhood has kept our Sisterhood moving forward. We give them our heartfelt thanks, in addition to whom we give Kay Ebert our never-ending gratitude for patiently guiding us along this new path, sharing her wisdom and vast knowledge of P.E.O., and for tossing in a much-needed healthy dose of humor.
Janice Alcorn, you led us through the year’s challenges with your unflappable nature and calming demeanor. You accepted with grace and peace the disappointment of not having convention this year. United we say to you now, be assured your five years of service on the board will be celebrated as soon as we are permitted to gather to do so, and you will make that official walk into the Alabama State Chapter PSP Daisy Patch at 2021’s convention.
Sisters of Chapter AM, your genuine love, encouraging words and continuous support are just a few of the things that make it possible for me to serve our state each year. Thank you for always being there.
Here with me today is my BIL, John, whom many of you know. Honey, you are the heart of my heart. Thank you for supporting me and all P.E.O.’s endeavors to celebrate, educate and motivate women, and for not complaining all those nights you only had cereal for dinner.
PSPs, your influence, and sisterly gestures toward me now span seven decades of my life. They began several years before my mom, Thelma Crawford “T.C.” Wilkins, N, PSP., was appointed to the 1967-1968 Alabama State Chapter Board. Every one of you knew Mom, her owls, and how much I have missed her since she joined Chapter Eternal the year before I was elected to state board. Thank you all for sending the plant, flowers, owls, and cards filled with words of wisdom, encouragement and P.E.O. hugs. Through you, I feel Mom’s presence with me today.
Now, before the big reveal of this year’s theme and how it chose me, I feel compelled to put an end to three rumors that are going around:
#1. Contrary to popular belief, I was NOT born a P.E.O.
#2. I was NOT reaching for the star when I took my first steps.
#3. And the Objects and Aims were NOT the first words I spoke.
I was eleven when my P.E.O. indoctrination began immediately after Mom’s initiation into Chapter F, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, just five months prior to our family’s 1961 move to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Six years prior to that move, my older brother, Chuck, joined O.B.A., Older Brothers’ Anonymous, an infamous boys’ club where older brothers bully younger siblings; create opportunities to get younger siblings into trouble, while they themselves remain the ever-angelic anonymous instigators. During our final years up north, Chuck became a full-fledged, card carrying member of O.B.A., perfecting his patented fool-proof baby-sister-entrapment-system: “I bet you can’t _____,” filling in the blank with his latest creative trouble-making opportunity. Barely waiting for my insistent “Bet I can!” he would throw down the gauntlet challenge, “Prove it. I DARE you!”. Much to my chagrin, I was suckered into trying to prove I was big enough, strong enough, brave enough, tough enough, smart enough, or whatever enough to accomplish that DARE. For example, “I bet you can’t shinny up that 20 foot rope swing and touch the crossbar at the top.” “Bet I can!” “Prove it. I DARE you!” Or, “I bet you can’t put your handprints in the wet cement up at the church and get away with it.” “Bet I can!” “Prove it. I DARE you!”
Those are just two of the dozens of dangerous, mischievous, or stupid things I DARED to do as a little kid growing up in the sparsely populated western Pennsylvania countryside where there were few eyewitnesses to attest to whom the DARER had been. However, on those occasions when Mom did discover that the DARER had been me, and depending on the degree of embarrassment I had caused, I became the recipient of a thorough ear blistering for my lesser offenses, and for my worst? I could not sit down for a week.
Well, of course this DARE thing with my brother continued after we moved to Tuscaloosa. But a bigtime game changer occurred six months after we arrived: Mom dimitted into the only chapter in town and became its president three years later. Chapter I’s members, including the wife of Dad’s boss, were connected to the University of Alabama; attended our church; taught at my junior and senior high schools; led my Girl Scout troop; coached swimming at the University’s Natatorium, and so on. Everywhere I went, I was surrounded and observed by dozens of P.E.O. sisters, their BILs and their offspring, who of course, all knew my mother. It seemed to me that everything I did, good, bad, or in between, found its way back to Mom’s ears. I felt doomed.
Christmas my senior year of high school 1966, there occurred the DARE that topped Mom’s list as “Linda’s Most Mother-Embarrassing DARE Ever”. Home from Marion Institute, Chuck said, “Hey, Dad called and wants us to meet him at the Natatorium for a swim before he goes to pick up Grandma.” It was not unusual for us to arrive before Dad, the Nat’s lights on inside and door locked. No problem, Coach had given Dad a key. “Hey look, that window’s open. I’ll boost you up. You go through and unlock the door.” “No, let’s wait for Dad.” “Come on, it’s cold out here. What are you? Chicken?” “No, I’m not chicken!” “Prove it. I DARE you!” So, it was up, over, and in for me. Opening the door, I saw Chuck heading for the car. “Hey Chuck, where are you going?” “Forgot my towel. See you in the pool.” “Okay,” I shrugged and off I went.
Counting laps, my mind wondered to Grandma Wilkins…The Honorable Edness Kimball Wilkins, flying in from Casper, Wyoming, to spend the Holidays. We lived over 1400 miles apart, rarely had chances to talk, and had met face-to-face less than a dozen times in seventeen years. Yet we shared an inexplicable bond and telepathic connection. I found every aspect of her life, from her childhood on, fascinating: native of Casper, born in 1896, daughter of the mayor, pioneer, rancher, historian. In 1954, at age 58, she added politician to that list, winning her first election to Wyoming’s House of Representatives. I clearly remembered the celebration, even though at age five I had no clue what a Democrat or Republican was. She served consecutive terms from 1955-1967. Early in 1966, she became Wyoming’s first female Speaker of the House, though she never presided over an active session. That fall, she had been elected to Wyoming’s State Senate. She was 70. Thinking about our upcoming celebration, my attention was drawn to the end of my swimming lane and an arm signaling me out of the pool. Hoisting myself out, removing goggles, swim cap, and earplugs, I expected to see Dad. Instead I found myself confronted by Head Swim Coach John Foster and Colonel Bev Leigh, Chief of Campus Police. Blanching, I choked out a panicked, “Coach, where’s Dad?” “Picking up your grandmother at the airport. Her flight came in early. How’d you get in here?” “Through the open window,” as if it was my normal everyday means of building entry. An all-knowing, eye-rolling, slow head-shaking look passed between Colonel and Coach. Then Colonel said, “Your mother asked me to drive you home.” While my mouth said, “Oh, okay,” my mind asked, “Where the heck is Chuck?” Halfway home, I was gripped with my first-ever panic attack as I realized that upon my arrival in the back of a police car Mom’s illusion of her perfect family would shatter right in front of Grandma Wilkins… The Honorable Edness Kimball Wilkins. Mom was not going to be embarrassed. She was going to be mortified, and I was going to be grounded for life.
As we pulled into the driveway, Dad came out to thank Colonel Leigh for bringing me home and to ask him a few pertinent questions: “What was her time? Distance? Speed or endurance laps? Any idea who boosted her up to that window?” And Mom? Well, she simply waved her thanks from the door as I scooted past seeking sanctuary in my room or Grandma, which ever came first. But before I cleared the den there came the full-four-namer command, “Linda Ann Tully Wilkins! Stop right where you are. Don’t you DARE open your mouth or move a muscle until I’m finished with you.” While she took a deep breath to continue the harangue, all I DARED do was stop, breath and brace. “How DARE you pull another one of those lame brained stunts of yours? What on earth were you thinking? When will you ever learn? You can’t go on…” and on and on she ranted. But as she started to say, “I forbid you to ever…” Grandma Wilkins appeared out of thin air and said in her calm clear precise most authoritative voice reserved for bringing down the opposition in Wyoming’s Legislature, “T.C., before you finish that statement, let’s reexamine one simple fact. Women who don’t DARE!!!, rarely make history!”
This was not permission to DARE, far from it. This was expectation to DARE!!!: I was expected to be big enough, strong enough, brave enough, tough enough, smart enough, or whatever enough to think for myself, elevate my standards, set high goals, stretch to achieve them, fail fearlessly, and doggedly seek new approaches until success was achieved. To DARE!!! was to GROW. And DARE!!! I did. I DARED!!! to go away to college, change majors twice and colleges once; graduate with a degree in design, my life’s passion; and fly off to Norway for my first job. I DARED!!! become a 1972 P.E.O. initiate of Chapter N, Tuscaloosa; move to Birmingham for work; and become a 1973 Charter member of Chapter P, Birmingham. I DARED!!! leave a secure job; become an ELF girl; move to Tennessee; achieve my master’s degree; marry; pursue my Ph.D.; and establish my design business. I DARED!!! uproot my endeavors; reestablish in Birmingham; put my husband through law school, and then divorce. I DARED!!! become a 1980 Charter member of Chapter T, Birmingham; marry and divorce a second time; relocate five more times to achieve my career goals; and run my design business for another 30 years while I DARED!!! gather professional accolades; serve on state and national boards; consult; teach at multiple universities and give back to my profession.
I also accidentally DARED!!! become an unintentional 1996 P.E.O. inactive member. Say what? Whoever would have thought T.C.’s daughter would become an inactive member of P.E.O.! Fortunately, five years later Chapter T DARED!!! say “Yes” when asked to reinstate me. Since that day, I have DARED!!! say “Yes” to serve P.E.O. in many ways: 2004-2006 Chapter T president, on state committees, start Chapter AM, Birmingham, be its president throughout Organization and first year of Charter, followed one year later, with my “Yes” to start five years of service on the Alabama State Chapter Executive Board.
FOUR THINGS ALIGN OVER TWO YEARS PLUS A LIFETIME…
While State Organizer attending LEAD 2018, International challenged S/P/D chapters to increase P.E.O. membership by retaining existing members, initiating new members, and reinstating inactive members.
That challenge, combined with information about our upcoming 2019 Sesquicentennial Celebration and our P.E.O. legacy not only became the message presented during all 2018 Organizer visits, but also State Convention 2019’s “Let’s GROW P.E.O.!” POI and subsequent workshops.
Five months later at CIC 2019, Brenda Atchison announced the new biennium’s theme: BUILD Your Legacy Make HISTORY
One month later, our state membership committee and board participated in International’s Membership Development Program during which Laura Parris, our P.E.O. International Regional Membership Representative, led us to develop a lofty five-year plan to GROW P.E.O. in Alabama.
Those four things added to the Theme of My Life and my life’s passion for design created a clear visual in my mind’s eye for this year’s Alabama State Chapter theme, one that seemed to choose me.
” Every successful design begins with a vision, a blueprint, a buy-in, and a diverse team of designers, builders and subs who turn that vision into reality. No one does it alone.”
Winter board meeting we drafted our State Cascading Goals, which align with International’s Cascading Goals, to turn that vision into reality. On March 9, 2020, Janice emailed our approved Cascading Goals along with instructions from International to all local chapter presidents to be shared with their members and begin writing their Chapter Cascading Goals to align with ours.
State board was on target to complete the first of its goals by the end of State Chapter Convention 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and International’s policy banning all meetings until August 1, 2020, put us behind schedule and forced us to postpone the Alabama State Membership Workshop, which had been scheduled for July 25, 2020. Undeterred, the State Membership Committee literally ZOOMED into action to secure a new workshop date and location. Watch for email updates with P.E.O. NEWSFLASH in the subject line for the announcement.
International’s ban on meetings also impacted this year’s first face-to-face Executive Board meeting. But we have worked out a way to move forward and get back on schedule and help our Board Buddy Chapters with their Chapter Cascading Goals.
STATE STAR GOALS…
A key component in achieving any goal is accurate, open, and frequent communication between everyone involved. P.E.O.’s everyone includes: International, PSPs, S/P/D boards and committees, local chapter officers, committees and members, prospective members, project candidates, and our communities at large. Expanding our means and methods of that accurate, open, and frequent communication is at the core of the six 2020-2021 State Star Goals. You will receive additional information shortly after our first board meeting on how your Board Buddy will help you meet those goals.
Members of the Alabama State Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, you may think you elected five women to the 2020-2021 State Executive Board. You did NOT. You elected one cohesive team that just happens to be made up of five women. Five women who are united on a singularly focused mission: to GROW P.E.O. in Alabama. One team whose members have chosen to:
DARE!!! Build Alabama’s Legacy Make P.E.O. History
One team whose members say to you in one united voice, “Join the team. Help GROW Alabama P.E.O. Together we will Build Alabama’s Legacy Make P.E.O. History.”
WE DARE!!! YOU!
I did not put my handprints in that wet cement at the church. Yet strangely, a big heart with Chuck’s and his 2nd grade girl crush’s initials did appear. Something Chuck got into trouble for not doing. Well that was back in 1953 when no four-year-old country girl was expected to DARE!!! learn her alphabet or how to write.