There have been two major ‘evangelical’ moments in my life when I was over-taken by an irresistible urge to speak out! The first is a long story about suing for Civil Rights, but this is the story of the second of such experiences that led to ‘the birth of the Latte Ladies’.
A folk singer of the ’60’s, I knew up close and personal about standing up for what one believes and usually ‘took my stand’ through composing songs about controversial topics then publicly performing the songs with purpose ‘tho not always were the topics welcome or supported by all members of my audience.
Nevertheless, children of the ’60’s have a certain confidence about ‘speaking out’ that has led to my developing a resolve that is the resource from which I draw courage today.
The back story
In 1993 as the parent of a high school freshman I thought participating in the school PTA would provide a perfect opportunity for me to connect with and get to know other parents and see how I could be of service to the school and students. I didn’t realise one could actually be ‘kicked out’ of PTA for having a difference of direction.
I was about 6 mos. out from radiation for head/neck cancer and speaking was labor intensive. Sounding as if I suffered a bad case of laryngitis, I arrived at the school filled with great expectation and anticipation and settled myself in a chair at the front of the room for my maiden PTA meeting of the year.
After introductions, the first order of business brought to member attention by the PTA President was announcing that it was the time to begin putting together details for the annual fund raiser and she was seeking someone to chair the event. I noticed that the entire room, as the saying goes, had gone quiet enough to hear a pin drop and no one was offering to ‘volunteer’ for the position.
Since I was new to the school, I raised my hand to inquire, “What is the annual fund raising event?” When I heard “Rummage Sale” my eyes crossed, my palms began to sweat and the next thing that came out of my mouth was a resolute, “I don’t do rummage.”
The cold steely look I got from the PTA President should have warned me off, but I plowed ahead and restated, “I don’t do rummage. There are plenty of cleaner, faster ways to raise money that generate better R.O.I. than “rummage.”
Whether anyone in the room knew me or not, they clearly understood by the tone in which I spit out the word ‘rummage’ that I was going to forever be labeled that rebellious mother.
“I don’t see anyone leaping to volunteer to be the chair of the event, so why not do something else instead?” I asked. The PTA President looked as if the question was more like a bullet between the eyes then stared at me aghast because clearly the upstart freshman parent wasn’t ‘getting the message’.
It was as if every woman in the room was holding her breath while what seemed an eternity of time passed before the PTA President said with obvious constraint, “Well, we have “done rummage”, spitting the phrase out as well as I, “as the school fund raiser for years”, and further implying that the ‘white elephant‘ could NOT be abandoned no matter how much I protested. She then ‘suggested’ that I should remove myself from the meeting and return when I had recommendations to offer.
“Fine”, I said while en route to the door, “who else would care to join me to figure out what project might be cleaner, faster and generate more funds than ‘rummage’?” and to my utter joy and relief, nine other women stood up and followed me across the street to order a latte, chat about how they too hated rummage and through guffaws of laughter were thoroughly relieved that I had refused to ‘do rummage’!
We spent several weeks researching the ‘cleaner, faster ways to generate funds with better R.O.I. then designated a less ‘controversial’ spokesperson among us to present the proposals to the PTA members at large.
I can happily report that the school’s PTA not only whole-heartedly embraced one of the ideas, but , as far as I know, the agreed upon ‘cleaner, faster fund generator’ continues to be the annual project of choice!….
Furthermore, this was the ‘evangelical moment’ that led to the birth of the LatteLadies! Women of plucky spirit and friendship forged through ‘rummage refusal’ who have grown into a force and continue to support one another through thick and thin.
Back row: MCatherine, Gale, Trudi, Leslie, Barbara, Gerri, Betsy Seated: Carol, Judy and Martha Drawn by Betsy from a photo taken during a ‘High Tea’ then I replicated the drawing into a ‘latte customized’ note cards.