October Dress Project Update

DSC_0254My ODP has been going well. I skipped a few days when I was working outside and when I was doing a service project at Friendly Chapel, so I worn the dress about 9 days total. My only issue I’ve run in to that since my dress is black and has a flared skirt, it looks a bit formal at times. I’m planning on trying to tuck it into jeans tomorrow for casual Friday, so maybe that will give me some new options. Even though I’m only on day 9, I’ve had lots of opportunities for self-reflection and evaluation. Here’s a few things that I’ve discovered.

1. It’s fun to break out of my (non)fashion rut. Outfits that seemed a little out of my comfort zone got lot lots of compliments and I found I enjoyed mixing it up a bit. After the first couple of days when I felt self conscious, I’ve really enjoyed wearing fun things and feeling put together at work.DSC_0272

2. No one notices that I am wearing the same thing. I’m going to get rid of some clothes that I don’t really like and repeat my outfits that I do like more often.

3. Being plus-sized doesn’t mean you have to be matronly or unattractive. Instead of waiting until I lose weight to wear fun clothes, I am doing it now and loving it. In fact showing a bit of leg and wearing simpler pieces that flatter parts of my body that I like has made me feel more attractive and confident.DSC_0243

4. It’s worth spending a small amount of time to look good. I feel like since I had Piper (5 years ago!), I’ve felt like everything else is more important than me. I don’t think I will ever go back to spending two hours getting primping like I did when I was a teenager, but if I take the time to pull an outfit together or throw on a few accessories I feel better all day.

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October Dress Project: Day 3

faceFeeling kinda ugly and depressed today, I decided I my bathroom selfies weren’t doing me any favors.  I planned to put on some make up and fix my hair and maybe add some accessories before taking my dress picture tonight. After all, I might have gone to work looking unattractive, but I didn’t want the whole internet to see me looking that way! But then I had a wonderful conversation about beauty, make-up, and how society sees women with my sister-in-law (and friend!), Julie. We talked about how we feel less than perfect without make-up and the unrealistic standard of beauty that is worshiped in our society. We talked about feeling so self-conscious when we were teenagers that we wouldn’t even go to the corner gas station without a hair and makeup session before hand. I’m glad I’m not like that anymore and I don’t want to ever feel like I am less than because of my physical appearance.

So my pictures today are what I really looked like after work. I straightened my clothes a bit and fluffed up my hair with my hands, but nothing else. I didn’t even edit the pictures. Hello, world! Judge me for being overweight, unfashionable, pale, or whatever you will. But my worth doesn’t lay in my looks or anything you can see with your eyes. My identity comes from He who is greater and who lives in me. It comes from my kind heart and my take charge attitude. It comes from 31 years of living, loving, and learning.  double selfie

Loving my body and October Dress Project

Have you heard of the October Dress Project? I’m very intrigued by the idea and I am going to try to participate this year. I had originally decided not to do it because I didn’t want to take pictures of myself looking ugly all the time and I don’t have enough time to look pretty. But I’ve decided that I want to just document my life as is. My life is not very glamorous, but it’s my life and being “real” is more important to me than trying to conform to someone else’s beauty standards.

Nope; I don’t wear make up everyday and I don’t wash my hair everyday. As long as I am covered and work appropriate no one needs to  judge me on how “good” or “bad” I look.

IODPday1 don’t owe it to anyone to look pretty.

I owe it to myself to love my body and to be thankful for it and all the amazing things it does.

So here’s to the October Dress Project- today’s feature includes a bloated belly courtesy  of Aunt Flo and a big lunch. I found a strip of leg hair that I my razor missed and I didn’t want to smash myself into control top panties, so my butt is lumpy.

But I also included a picture of my red toenails in my black patent and gold sandals that I love. And I have to say that my cat eye glasses and watercolor print scarf definitely up the hipster-factor today. I’m looking forward to this experiment and learning to love my body and my LBD.

Is it possible to die from fatigue?

What is it about being a working mom that makes you feel so tired all the time? Perhaps its because raising a kid demands physical and mental strength 24 hours a day. Not to mention the fact that you are shaping another person’s life and character and you really can’t afford to slack off when doing something so important. In addition to the “real” job that demands 40 hour weeks plus a 45 minute commute!   I am so tired I can’t even think straight, let alone try to keep my life in some sort of order. Lately my brain is so fried, that instead of thinking, “I could fall asleep right here” I just wonder if anyone has had “pure exhaustion” written on their death certificate.

mommy, Im sorry

But I am pressing on.  I am trying to live purposefully and to take time to be in the moment. Both of those sound like meaningless catchphrases, so let’s boil them down. To me, a good life is one where I am productive and peaceful and my little Pipe is nurtured and fulfilled. My husband feels respected and appreciated and there is a general atmosphere of love. It’s not as poetic but it’s equally true that we need to have clean socks, know where the car keys are, and have at least one roll of toilet paper in the house. I realize that not everyday will be perfect and that some tasks in life just have to be checked off the list. Grocery shopping, poopy diapers, cleaning the bathtub, etc- you have to take care of life in order to have time for the good stuff. But I want to make more time for the good stuff, not just count the hours until bedtime or try to escape by reading all day while Piper zones out in front of PBS Kids.

I love what John 10:10 says; Jesus came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. (my paraphrase and italics) I don’t want to just make it, I need to do more than just survive.  I want to have life and live abundantly. I want Piper to remember her childhood as a time of love, laughter, and discovery. A time of magical time of curiosity,  unexpected joys, and quick comfort from inevitable heart breaks.   I know my house isn’t the cleanest, I know I am not a perfect mom or wife, I will never be the world’s best employee, but if I can create a chaos-free, love-filled environment for my family I will be satisfied.

I am learning that perfectionism can be the enemy of wholeness and happiness. A few months ago, someone told me that I was a true perfectionist. I looked at her disbelievingly and said, “I am not a perfectionist. NOTHING I do is ever perfect.” Her shocking response? “Exactly.” I was hit by a mental thunderbolt! Textbook perfectionism. Can you believe it took me this long to realize this about myself?

Here’s the nitty gritty that is resonating with me lately; when I don’t behave perfectly or I fall short of my own unrealistically high expectations, I am full of remorse, guilt, shame, and anger. And since I can never be perfect – because I am human- I am full of these terrible and self-defeating feelings all the time. Talk about a vicious cycle!

How to break out of this loop? By living my real life, but not getting dragged down in the mundane mediocrity of everyday tasks. By being aware of what’s happening when it is happening and adjusting my expectations. To keep the cycle broken, I must stay connected to the Lord and tap into His power rather than my own.   It’s a work in progress as I daily struggle with my stubborn flesh. My well of love, peace, and  patience gets drained in the first half hour  I am awake. But if I tap into the aquifer that is  the Holy Spirit, I have enough to fill my cup and my family’s  until they spill over.

I struggle with wanting to be perfect and to record my life with Piper in a beautiful and meaningful way. Consequently, much of the time I don’t do anything because I can’t do it all perfectly. I read a silly quote today – it was actually referring to veganisim- but it works for me on many levels. “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything!”  This rings true for me (and also it sounds rather Dr. Suess-like.  Bonus!)

So here we are. I am not doing a perfect blog post. I am not living a perfect life. I am certainly not a perfect mom. But I am trying to do something. I’m loving on Piper, I’m striving to meet my deadlines at work. I am biting off small bites of projects and being satisfied when I can mark anything off my “want to do” list. I’m listening to Micah and editing his papers. A few things are getting done. Anything is better than nothing.

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Living the Dream

This was practically the mom-est thing I could be doing. Well, I could have been actually giving birth….that ranks pretty high. But I was exchanging some t-ball pants on the way to an OBGYN appointment. As I waited in line clutching the last pair of youth XS gray polyester pants, I had a mental flash back to my teenage self, waiting in a paper gown for my first pelvic exam. It was horrifying, but had I imagined my life now, I probably would have been equally dismayed. Surely there were bigger and better things in store for me than being just someone’s mom. You don’t even get to keep your own name! You are just forever known as “Piper’s mom” (or alternatively the room mom, team mom, special helper mom, snack mom, or volunteer coordinator mom.)

 

Fast forward to later that day and I am on my back wearing only a purple hospital gown and my own pink socks. In this pastel color scheme, sitting on an exam table surrounded by medical equipment emblazoned with drug logos, I feel like I could be in a feminine hygiene commercial. “I always wear Adora-Sorbant brand panty liners- just because I pee when I sneeze now, doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of style!” {Cue frozen smile to camera left}

 

Back to the socks; you fellow women’s clinic warriors know the importance of your own socks. They are almost literally your last scrap of warmth, comfort, and dignity during an exam or procedure. “Vaginal ultrasounds are the worst!” I think as I wince and try to practice mindful breathing to help me relax and ignore the pain. “It’s almost insulting that they hang a bird mobile over the table. I am 30! Not three years old!” I glare at the spinning birds and scoff at the idea of this being considered art. I hear the nurse. “Hmm…..you may feel some pressure….let me know if this is too uncomfortable.” I’m grimacing and breathe out a puff of air as a series of mild contractions start and then stop. I sigh.

“Pix or it didn’t happen!”

The diagnosis? A boggy uterus. I’ve never been boggy before… flaky, sure… but never boggy.

In another room my husband joins me and I smile tensely as he sits down. The doctor will see us soon. My mind is spinning; so many questions are swirling in my mind I can barely focus on one thing at a time. I try multiple times to start a discussion with Micah about future babies. “Will your life be incomplete without a son? If you talk me into one more kid, what’s to keep us from irresponsibility having dozens more?! Should I quit my job and think of nothing else but how I can serve my children?” I’m kinda freaking out and definitely feeling awkward in my cloth gown. I look over at Micah for support, imagining he’ll pat me comfortingly or say “I want to do what makes YOU happy….” But his eyes are closed. Hmmm….I eyeball him for a minute. His head slowly leans into his hand. “Is he asleep?” I think confusedly, “Of course not. I am naked, cold, and waiting for a man to come poke me in the vagina with a piece of metal and ask us about one of the biggest decisions our entire lives. I’m so keyed up that I woke up two hours early this morning. He can NOT be asleep.”

 

I continue watching as his head and hand tilt slightly forward and his mouth opens a bit. I fix a hard stare on him while shifting my butt on the crinkly exam table paper. He doesn’t even twitch. My left eye brow shoots to my hairline while my right one digs a permanent crease between my brows. I wiggle some more. Crinkle, crinKLE, CRINKLE!! Nary a flicker of his eyes. I let out an hearty  bird mobile-rustling sigh. I get nothin’  “Dammit to double HELL!” I think. “He’s asleep. ASLEEP! He’s waiting with me in the OBGYN’s office to hear about his beloved wife enduring extreme pain and to talk about fathering a child he will be responsible for for the rest of his entire life and HE.   FALLS.   ASLEEP.   WELL! I guess he isn’t worried about me. He better be worried about himself, now that I think about it, he might not GET the chance to father another child!”

 

I straighten up and smile as the doctor comes in. There’s a muffled half-snort as Micah wakes up and looks around slightly disoriented. The doctor and I begin talking over the options while I go on pretending Micah is no husband of mine, but just happened to wander in somehow.

 

Long story short (well, at least shorter), my doctor recommends moving up my pregnancy timeline and then having a hysterectomy. After everything is done, we exit through the waiting room, moving aside for more than a couple of baby bumps. I catch a glimpse of a dimpled arm snuggled around a new mom’s neck as she signs in. A blue-eyed man gently pats the knee of his pregnant wife; the diamond in her ring glints as she pushes back dark glossy hair and smiles at him.  I eye another gal’s hard belly and shiny coral pedicure and think, “She’s ready for her baby to come. She got her toes done.”

 

Micah and I hug in the parking lot. All is forgiven… I’m afraid and I need his support. I think I have more questions now than before we met with the doctor. Probably more than anything in my life, I feel that pregnancy timing is determined by God. My surprise birth control baby, Piper, is a testament to that. I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough, or just not afraid enough, to officially start trying to conceive. It seems so frightening. Not having a second baby would definitely be the safest and easiest option. But I don’t want to have any regrets at 75…honestly I feel like our family isn’t complete. But how do you know when you cross the magical line that divides carefree spontaneity and thoughtless, reckless actions? On the other hand, just because something is a challenge to me doesn’t mean I have to rise to it. It’s scary to think about either way.

 

How can I stand to be pregnant again and to puke at work and puke in the car and pee on the floor? How can I stand to never again have that singular intimacy that comes from “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” putting a tiny hand to my face when we’re alone in the night? What if I get pregnant and then just miscarry? What if there is something wrong with the baby? What if I have twins? What if I can’t carry the baby? What if? What if? What if?

 

I’m praying for direction; clear and specific direction. I am thinking of laying out a fleece. I’m praying, I’m thinking, I’m praying, I’m worrying, I’m praying, I’m praying, I’m praying…..

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Mayo Jar full of Jewels

jar of jewels

It sounds like it should be a metaphor for something, but in reality it’s just my favorite craft supply. Me and my mayo jar of jewels, making our way through life.

Finding Joy everyday

Cow Shoals on the Little Red RiverMost of the time I don’t think about being joyful. I think about making it through the work day or getting the kitchen cleaned and my daughter tucked in. The daily grind can really wear me down. That’s the thing about the daily grind- it’s daily and it’s grinding! I realized that joy is something that I have to actively seek; it doesn’t just happen. I have many happy moments during the day, but true joy from the Lord is hard to grasp and even harder to keep, at least for me.

In my life, happiness or enjoyment is more of a surface level feeling, fleeting and usually based on circumstances. But joy is deeper and much longer lasting. I imagine it to be like a deep well within me. Because the Lord dwells in my heart I have a limitless supply of joy that I can always draw from. Even in times of heartache or difficulty, I can have the joy of the Lord at my core.  The mental image of a deep well of joy reminds of the old song, “I’ve got a river of life”

Spring up, oh well
Within my soul
Spring up, oh well
And make me whole
Spring up, oh well
And give to me
That life abundantly!

I want to be whole, full of joy, and plugged into the joy of the Lord. Jesus said that is why he came, that I may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Sounds great- who doesn’t want to live a better life, right? But how do I get from the daily grind to joyful, abundant life? I prayed for an answer and the Lord brought a clear thought to my mind. “Seek my face.” For long lasting joy I need to take pleasure in what the Lord provides, not what our world offers. I need to let the things that make Him happy make me happy.

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” Psalm 92:4 (ESV)

My prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to be mindful of what you have created for my joy here on earth. Guide my focus to what you have said is good and away from the pleasures the world provides. Give me peace and fill my spirit with joy when I get caught up in the busyness of life. Thank you for giving me desires that cause me to seek out joy and the ability to be satisfied in you. Let your joy fill me and pour out to others as I interact with them today. Amen.

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I never thought it would happen to me

I resisted the idea of being a mom for many reasons; poop, snot, the alien pod-like idea of growing another being inside you, etc.  But I never worried about mom jeans because I planned to be a cool mom. I had a great example in my mom, even though I did spend most of my teenage years making her life almost unbearable.  She was always very fashion forward, even in her agony. For example, we shared a pair of lace up leather boots when I was in middle school and I have photographic evidence of her rocking many facets of the big hair that defined the 80s and 90s.  So you can imagine my surprise this morning when I realized I was wearing mom jeans. My mom doesn’t even wear mom jeans. And since I was at work, I couldn’t even change clothes.

I am sure you are frightened and worried that someone as cool as me (example 1: hipster glasses, example 2: I know what steampunk is) is wearing ill-fitting jeans. “But Kate”, you are saying, “how did this happen? Is it catching? And most importantly, why should I care?” You should care, my fellow moms, because it can happen to you. Let me guide you through the inevitable slide (or wiggle as it were) into mom jeans.

Step 1: Early pregnancy: “yeah, but I am not going to let myself go just because I am pregnant. I mean my jeans still look great, I’ll just wear a belly band and regular clothes.”

Step 2: Mid pregnancy: “Wow-these stretchy maternity panel jeans feel awesome. They are like yoga pants with jean legs! I’ll take two pairs; they’ll look great with tunics, right?”

Step 3: Late pregnancy: I can’t leave the house because I refuse to wear pants anymore. “Do you think I can snag some of those gowns from my OBs office at my next visit? Dr. Marks always makes me feel like I look beautiful in them.”

Step 4: Post birth: Still no pants, now no shirt from constant nursing and pumping. “You guys are lucky I have on underwear. Yes, they are my husband’s briefs. He’s just lucky I am letting him live.”

Step 5: Six week check-up: Terrified by the thought of a metal zipper being near my c-section incision, I gratefully slip into those stretchy maternity jeans. Strangely, they still fit quite well- no worries, “breast-feeding is even harder than being pregnant, so it has to burn like a million calories, right?”

Step 6: Night before one year birthday party: “Oh my freakin’ God! I cannot wear my maternity jeans to the party tomorrow!” I try on every pair of pants in my closet, most only make it to my upper thighs, I few pairs come within 3 to 4 inches of zipping. It’s 10 pm and no cool stores are open. I decide that K-mart is better than Wal-Mart (Jacqueline Smith!) and head to the jeans section. If a dark wash is slimming then black will be even better, right? I buy two sizes up from my pre-pregnancy size in the cheapest style available (no way am I paying any extra money for something this depressing) and head to the check out. I try them on at home; they fit on my body and are mostly comfortable. Done and done.

So I have been wearing these black denim mom jeans for a while now. How did I just realize that they look terrible? I have stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I look at my hair, or my teeth, a pimple, or a weird-shaped bruise on my butt that I don’t remember getting. But looking at my whole body in the mirror- post marriage, post baby, post 28? No thanks.

Today when leaving the toilet stall, I caught a glimpse of my mom jeaned butt in the mirror as I was leaving the restroom. Yikes- is that me!? Maybe I need to go one of those make over shows. Like the ones that say, “Let’s have a Mom-versation, ladies. You need to take make time for yourself. Have a mom playdate at the spa!” Sounds like fun, but  I have spent all my money buying clothes for Piper.  Seriously, if you have seen her in a pair of sparkly pink jeggings with a leopard print top, you know it was worth every penny.

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