Marriage & Family


Church ladies.  The phrase makes me think of those ladies whose children have grown and moved out, they may have retired by now, and they most assuredly have gray hair.  The last is a requirement.

Garrison Keillor has immortalized them in loving memory. His Lake Woebegone tales have filled the airwaves and bookshelves for over 30 years now.  Saturday Night Live pilloried them unmercifully for several years.

Either way, my vision still works.  Older, perhaps a bit menopausal, and definitely gray hair.

But now I’ve been called a church lady.  I beg to differ!  I am a somewhat hip, forty something mother of two teens.  I can not be the church lady. I drive a minivan, Tweet, and still listen to the Violent Femmes (okay not often and not when the kids are in the car, but I could!) And while I have recently begun to do a bit of touch up hair coloring I am most definitely not going gray yet.

And who dumped this label on me?  The orthodontist.  I’m paying this man to adjust my kid’s teeth and he brands me with this.  Of course, it could have been because I was hitting him up at the same time for a donation to the annual church bazaar.

Of course, the bucket of Religious Education materials, or the bag of table linens needing to be washed that always seem to be in my car wouldn’t have a THING to do with it.  Perhaps it’s a look at my calendar that seems to fill every moment I’m not hauling children to dance or 4-H with a church item.

I think the topper was at the end of my father’s funeral a few weeks ago when the priest remarked that I had been ordered NOT to go into the kitchen and help.  I even got questioned by a 17 year old as to why I had stepped in there.  Really, I was just getting a glass of water for my mother.  Really, I wasn’t working!

I’m beginning a campaign to redefine this vision.  Church ladies can be fun.  Have you ever wondered why we’re all a little giggly in there? It’s because we occasionally have a bottle of wine just for us.  I mean it gets hot in there and we deserve a little treat.

So bring on the new, younger, hipper vision of the church lady.  Let’s live it up!  Now don’t forget the upcoming potluck I’ll have to check whether I’m on salad or main course, the First Communion reception is in May I need to get punch supplies and order the cake, oh I just remembered a bake sale is scheduled next weekend and I  really ought to bake something for that…..

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I spend a lot of time around teenage girls.  It all stems from a mistake I made about nine years ago. When Kid 1 turned 4, I thought it would be nice to put her into dance classes.  A little ballet, a little tap, giver her a little grace and coordination (sadly lacking in our family). In return for 45 minutes a week spent in the basement of the rec center we’d get some cute pictures of our little darling in a cute, fluffy costume.  What was a year of our life?  But then the tactical mistakes began to snowball.  Kid 2 wanted to be in dance, I suggested trying out for Nutcracker one fall and it all went downhill from there. Which leads me to today when our innocent 45 minutes once a week has turned into 7 1/2 hours spread over 5 days and why I spend a lot of time around teenage girls. It allows me a lot of time for observation, a lot.

Recently we have had very cold weather around here. I mean the hoping the daytime highs get into the double digits and overnight lows dipping down into the -20’s with the windchill kind of cold weather.  And we aren’t used to that.  I being the slightly psychotic mom always made my kids bundle up before leaving the house.  They fought me, I threatened to not take them to dance, they relented, and off we went. Whether I was dropping the girls at the front door or expecting them to walk in from the parking lot it made no difference.  Somehow this didn’t apply to the girls whose parents dropped them off at the door and picking them up there.  I don’t care how short your distance to walk you still need at least some semblance of pants and a jacket.  Am I crazy or just old fashioned?

The girls who had to walk to their cars  knew well enough to put on a jacket.  Well, maybe it wasn’t always their decision but they had a jacket on! It seemed to be an age thing.  The younger kids wore jackets, had a parent with them, and walked in from the lot.  I even noticed one of these girls wearing her adorable little pink knit hat during class.  Now that’s a kid who’s ready to go out in the cold!

The mid teen girls got dropped at the door and wore nothing to keep them warm.  Their mothers (and I’m in this group) have largely gotten over the thrill of watching classes and no longer stick around.  Most are doing the ditch-and-run method of dance class management.  Some never even come in to see a class anymore.  There is a certain joy in this.  You enjoy the awe of how much they’ve advanced over the course of a year along with the rest of the audience at the yearly recital. It has a lot of appeal.

But then there are the older girls – who are driving themselves – and seemed to have relearned how to wear a jacket. It’s a true sign of maturity that they aren’t being told to wear a jacket, they’re not avoiding the weather by hopping from car to door – and back again a few hours later. They’re just wearing a jacket because they know it’s the right thing to do.

It gives me a lot of hope for my kids future. Only five, six, or maybe seven more years and I should see jackets being willingly put on and then I’ll know they’ve truly grown up. It’s all I’ve got to hold on to at this point. Nine years in and the kid still trips up steps.

Being counter cultural has its benefits and its drawbacks. For my family as Catholics, Christmas starts on December 25. We then get to party hard until Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year that’s January 9. That’s 16 whole days! Even if I only push my chipper “Merry Christmas” until Epiphany that’s early January and still elicits slightly stunned looks from store clerks and restaurant wait staff.

Now I understand some of this, they’re burned out! I worked retail for more years than I’d like to count and have seen more than I’d like to admit. The utter grind of the Christmas season starts no later than Halloween and just seems to go on, and on, and on from there. For some customer to utter “Merry Christmas” just as these staff members are desperately trying to unload the clearance and grab few days off is almost obscene to their ears. Been there, done that and I get it. But that doesn’t change who I am. I’m just beginning my fun time and everyone else is ready to pack away their tree!

I say, give it one last fling and enjoy. The decorating is done, there are no more presents to buy, and everyone’s more relaxed. If you’re in school finals are probably done and at work hopefully the end of year statements are also.

I say let’s party like we’re happy God has come to us! Raise a toast to the newborn babe and celebrate the season because here comes Christmas and there are a whole lot of days to go!

Christmas in Colorado.  What does that make you think of?  Snow, the white stuff, piles of it in fact maybe even the ocassional   snow man. Just keep thinking it – but only in the mountains. In fact the storm this week was being described as “epic”.   Alas, for those of us on the front range – or “down in the valley” as some refer to us, there’s not a flake to be found.

One of my kids is grumpy (the other one hates snow) that we will have a brown Christmas.  At least we won’t have to skate to Mass tonight.