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    Posted July 13, 2014 by
    By a Lake, Minnesota
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Confessions from imperfect parents

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    Keeping Up Appearances


    How often have you wondered what someone is thinking of you? Have you ever assumed that people thought a certain way about you, only to be wrong? Does the car you drive and the house you own define you? Are your children excelling in school, which makes you feel superior to other families? Do the clothes you wear, the style you have, and the shoes you clomp around in make you ‘cooler’ than that person over there?


    We’ve all thought these ways. If you say you haven’t, then I would venture to say that you’re probably not telling the absolute truth.


    As I was getting ready for church this morning, I put on a really dark lipstick. My son saw me and said I looked ‘goth’. That was not a compliment in his book. I second-guessed if I should wear such a deep stain on my lips, but decided that I liked it and would risk others thinking me odd. But, how silly that I even thought such a thing. Who the heck CARES?! No one, I would guess.


    I’ve often liked to be ‘differently cool’ (is there such a thing?!), but have found that with age, my version of that has changed… and I also don’t seem to care about it as much as I did in my younger years.


    For example; I’ve always loved my German/Swedish cars, however after owning numerous ones (and having my Saab completely die on a family road trip across the country), I am now driving a mini-van which is the exact same one that everyone else drives. It’s even that dreaded blu-ish gray. Ugh. BUT, my kids love it and adore the fact that they can watch movies, while I adore that they can sit in the 3rd row and I don’t hear them heckling each other as much. It’s definitely not my Audi/Volvo/BMW/Saab (all of which I went broke in their upkeep), but I just don’t really care as much about how I look in it. Do I like it? No – not really. But am I going to pout every time I drive it? Nah. I can handle it. Plus, I can actually afford it! No need to break the bank with this one.


    Regarding my appearance, I’ve given up on the fact that I need everything that’s the ‘hottest thing ever’ before anyone else has it. I can easily dress from my local Goodwill and have a ‘cooler’ closet than I could have afforded had I shopped solely at Neiman’s. No, I’m not wearing Louboutin’s, but does it matter? Ummm, yeah –that would be a no.


    I’m a make-up artist by trade and work for a brand that is quite spendy. Do I like to pull a high-end lipstick out? Sure. But, I’m just as happy taking-out my drugstore one and showing that off, too.


    When I was a teenager – yes, a totally 80’s girl – I had a half-shaved head with part of it dyed blue. I wore my mom’s camera strap as a belt, vintage 60’s polyester shirts from the thrift store, and combat boots. Was truly a sight. I thought I was soooooooo cool. Seriously. Beyond cool, even. Others probably thought me a freak (or in 80's vernacular, a freakazoid). However, there was a flip-side to my coolness factor. I dressed that way to try to fit into a certain crowd and get a certain boy to like me. I altered my appearance because I thought that’s what I needed to do in order to fit in. I simply wasn’t myself.


    Yet, thinking back on what my actual self would have looked like, I still probably would have done some weird, artsy-fartsy things to myself, but would have tailored it more specifically for my own enjoyment. Not to gain approval and a boyfriend.


    I look around today and wonder just how much we strive daily to be like ‘something’ or ‘someone’. Did you get the latest iPhone? Are your kids supplied with customized iPads? Do they ride a name-brand bicycle – not one from Walmart or Craigslist? How big is your LCD/LED tv?


    Aging has definitely made me much more relaxed in all of those things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ‘bad’ to have that stuff….. it’s the motivation behind it that can make us stumble. My kids love going to thrift stores and finding gems like a t-shirt that says ‘Jedi for Jesus’. They can often find a toy or game that they had been looking at – but will pay about 1/8th of the price for it.


    I look around my home and think it’s beautiful. It was a custom home in 1984 (go 80’s!!!) – and many of those features are still intact today. Is the matching tan tub and toilet my favorite? Not really. But, am I content with making it my own? Absolutely. However, I choose to make it my own for me and my family. Not to impress someone else.


    Well, that’s not entirely true. If I look deeper, I do want my house to have a certain panache; a vibe that says ‘my owner knows what’s goin’ on!’. I want the furniture that I make (yes, I make some of our furniture – my poor husband) to appeal to others and thus receive accolades on my hard work. So, even saying I decorate our home just for me isn’t totally accurate.


    Why is it that we do this for others? Why do we need that approval? Why do I take a million selfies and only show off the best ones? Why do I turn-up Tupac in my car when at a stoplight next to youngsters, so I seem cool? (Don’t judge me, please. I don’t play Tupac while my kids are in the car [they listen to Lecrae], but think he was a brilliant poet. I even change the bad words to decent ones when I sing. Yes, I know every word. A mini-van driving, middle-aged mom who blasts gangsta rap. Oh – I cringe when typing this). Why do I try to hide that extra 30 lbs. by wearing black, when I could put on a bathing suit and go splash with my kids in the lake? Those things rob me of joy; they steal my contentment…..and I allow it to happen.


    These are the issues that I struggle with. I would gather that you probably struggle with some of them, too. How sad that we’ve become a society of ‘look at me, everyone!’, when in reality we need to turn our vision outward and be there for the ones around us.


    We are told to “love our neighbor as ourselves’. Can you imagine if we actually did just that? What a beautiful place we would live in….


    I admit these faults/inadequacies/temptations to you all because I feel that there are certain things we, as a society, don’t talk about for fear of how we would look. It’s time for us to get real. It’s time to wake-up and realize that life doesn’t revolve around my Mercedes (it was an old 1989 wagon, but, ya know.... and it died on a different family trip in the desert). I can drive my Chrysler and be happy (my mom will laugh to hear me say this! For years, she has tried to get me out of my snobby car phase).


    In stating these struggles, I hope to make them more glaringly real to myself. I hope to get my mind off my own shoes and put it in someone else’s. This is what I desire. I want to love others as I am called to do…. and it starts by putting down this computer and teaching my son to ride his bike.


    So, I’m off to create a milestone in my son’s life. Thanks for reading my ramblings…. and looking at the pics of my carpentry skills - no accolades needed. I'm happy with 'em enough for you all. :)


    ** I dedicate this essay to my mom. She has been my inspiration and has told me all my life to do things for myself and not to try to impress others. Thanks, mama! And thank you for sticking by your daughter through her shaved head and always stealing your camera strap. I love you.

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