ODP Summary (a.k.a My Manifesto)

I’ve successfully completed my October Dress Project and I couldn’t be happier. I got a little bored and frustrated at the end, but I stuck it out. I’m not sure if I will do it again, but I learned a few things about myself. It took a bit of bravery for me to participate in something that drew attention to my body and I have to say that I feel a more comfortable in my own skin now.one of my more funky looks While I did get comments on a few of my outfits- especially the last 4 days when I wore some wackier things- no one really noticed or cared what I wore or how I looked. This is something I need to have tattooed on my forehead or at the very least engraved on my mirror. I am the only one that cares how I look. My husband and my mom think I am beautiful and my friends often have compliments for me. But I am the one that makes a big deal out of my physical appearance. For years I have hated my body, my face, my shape, my height… and the only thing I have gained is depression and bad habits.

Stop the hate, Kate, it’s self-destructive and it benefits no one!

Besides some self-love, the best lesson I learned from my ODP was to stop waiting. In the immortal words of Sound Mound (watch until 3:30, worth every minute), “It’s never too late for now! “ Time to stop waiting and do it now, wear it now, have fun now. When I was a preteen I loved to go crazy with my clothes and accessories. I carried a hot pink Minnie Mouse lunch box, loved to mix and match bright colors and patterns, and always had at least two colors on my braces (usually corresponding to the month of the year: red and green Christmas braces, black and orange for Halloween). One time my teacher asked me in front of the class if I knew I was wearing two different earrings. “Of course,” I laughed! One was a hot pink crescent moon and the other was a blue star. Stars and moons match, right? (Gurl, my style was the bomb in the 90s. Side pony tail with a hot pink and turquoise scrunchie? Wicked! )

Somewhere along the way I stopped having fun and started feeling obligated to be beautiful to look at. I believed that I could be anything I wanted, I could do anything I set my mind to. But I should look good doing it. You can change the world, but there’s no need to look ugly while you go about it.  You can be president of the United States, but you better do it while wearing heels and lipstick. I bought into the objectification myth; the myth that being beautiful is the most important and the most POWERFUL thing a woman can be. So often as women we are told that our appearance is our currency. It may be true that you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but I’m hunting eagles and the flies are just a nuisance.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be beautiful or even wrong to take time to look good. But what is wrong is believing that our looks are the best thing we have to offer. For so long I’ve felt that because I am overweight or not the most beautiful girl in the room, I don’t have the right to say what I am thinking or to act on my ideas. I put myself in the place where fat and ugly girls “should” be- the sidekick, the funny friend, not the main character in my own life.

Here’s what I’m learning: when I focus less on my physical flaws I can appreciate everything else I can offer.

When I’m not estimating the weights of the other women in the room, I can brainstorm and share my ideas in a meeting at work. When I’m not making myself feel like I need to be feminine and delicate and not take take up too much space, I can make jokes and laugh loudly and have fun. I’m not here to be a pretty face for you to look at or a curvy body for you to desire. I am here to be myself, to have strong loves and overwhelming emotions that spur me to action, and to be missed when I leave the room.

Before: Good Morning!
After: Two hours of primping later

Renee Engeln says that you cannot chronically monitor your body’s appearance and also be fully present in the world. I’ve decided that participating in my life and the lives of those that I love is worth so much more than looking good all the time. I’m choosing to be present and to be real. And if my soul is so filled with love that joy shines from my eyes, my smile lights up my face, and compassion comes quick and often- I will be gorgeous.

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.

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.