Thursday, October 27, 2016

14 days of outfits: a reflection

I was trying out my idea of wearing blazers more often. Despite liking a vintage look, I don't accentuate my natural waist much in these outfits. 
 For two weeks I took a picture of my outfits, including when I headed out for a work out. This is part of The Curated Closet book (and work book!) that I'm using to further fine tune my wardrobe and sense of style.
I really love a few of these pieces. It's strange that I ended up using pink so much though. I don't think of myself as much of a pink wearer. 
In some ways there's a lot of variety in color, pieces, silhouettes and style. In other ways my 'uniforms' certainly start to stand out. It's also interesting which looks I like best when I see the picture in contrast with when I was wearing it. The outfit with the orange sweater under the brown cardigan and a purple patterned skirt was one I really liked to wear, but I don't like the way it looks in this photo as much. But maybe it's the crappy lighting.

I'm looking forward to using this reflecting to hone my wardrobe and create a cohesive sense of my style besides 'eclectic and colorful'.

You have to have a reason.

I have come to the decision that after my term as Kingdom Lists is finished, I'm intend to step away from the SCA. I feel like I've been searching for a spark and a draw for the last three years. I feel like I LIKE the SCA, I have fun when I go, and I enjoy the company, the history, the special culture of the SCA. I like being in the know and being involved in activities, tournaments, events, retinue etc. But... I only like it. Lately, while I have a good time participating, I am finding that I do SCA things and go to SCA events because it's what I do, and I feel like I should less then a drive and excitement about the event.
Company of squid hats

I see my friends excited about their new research, or taking on an office, or running an event, or learning a new skill, or improving their fighting. None of that excites me. I have a plan for an Anglo Saxon outfit, I've bought some of the fabric, I've purchased the book to use for research. And it sits there.

I have virtually no drive to go out and learn period music, or do research on period performance styles. I like the idea of sewing outfits, building garb, but I only seem to like the idea. I have a passing interest in the lifestyle of the average medieval person, and learning about what life was like, but the drive has cooled since it's height around 2011 or 12.

I recognize the challenge that the SCA faces as an organization with retention and recruitment. I feel guilty about not being interested. I feel like I am betraying an organization I love if I quit. I'm the sort of driven, organized, talented person that the SCA needs. But I don't know what I'm getting out of it.

If I lacked a sense of social connection or engagement, I have no doubt I could find it in the SCA. But I have lots of stimulus for social engagement. If I lacked intellectual stimulus or challenge, I could absolutely find that in the SCA, but I have my work, my band and many other things that provide challenge and intellectual stimulus. If I lacked creative outlet, I would use the SCA as a medium for creative expression, but I am expressing my art in a multitude of ways now, some of which I feel I don't have time to pursue to the degree that I would like.

I think I need to step away, without any sort of contingencies or time limits, and then see if I feel the loss in my life. If I miss it. If there's one thing I've learned recently, it's that the sentiment 'If you love something, let it go" is incredibly true. Perhaps when I don't have SCA events every few months, I'll feel the loss and recognize what exactly it is I'm draw from the SCA. Then I can reengage in a mindful, purposeful way.

In the meantime, I'll  finish out my term, and continue to dabble as I have been, perhaps I'll find that spark some time in the next year before my term is finished. But if not, that's ok.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Culling the 'Hoard'

One week ago I did a massive culling of my huge collection of clothing.  I've always been a bit of a clothes horse. My family past time is second hand shopping. We pride ourselves on finding unique, high quality items at very small costs. This has led to quite the 'hoard' of items, each awesome and unique in their own way.

Home made skirt, vintage look
thrifted shirt, scarf, coat, shorts...
thrifted boots, skirt I've had
since the 90s, shirt bought in
 Paris, hand made hat
I am highly invested in fashion too. I definitely use my clothing as a way to express my identity. I take great pleasure in matching outfits in eclectic ways, and mixing aesthetics to make an impact when I enter a room.

Vintage wool skirt,
 thrifted belt and top.
Thrifted tights, shoes, scarf,
Hot Topic skirt
With Elena at Oregon Country Fair.
Jolie Coquette Playsuit,
thrifted accessories,
hand made hat (not by me)

But over the years my collection has burgeoned to the point of a horde, where on laundry day, I don't have room to put everything away. I couldn't make outfits or utilize the awesome pieces I had because I could barely find anything in my overflowing drawers and closet.

I've been through the purge and grow stage many times before, and this time I am taking a somewhat different approach.  Awhile back I read the Life Changing Magic of Tiding Up book that so many people are crazy about. I loved it, and did a major culling. It jump-started me to the idea that perhaps I need to keep things in their space more. My ex-husband is the sort of person who keeps anything that may be useful, and anything that he's remotely sentimental about. I tend towards these qualities as well, but especially when I established my own apartment, without him, once we split up, the urge to push back against the urge to keep everything hit me really hard. But sparks of joy weren't enough to control the coursing river of my fashion binging.

More recently I've been reading and watching a number of videos about minimalism. In particular I've been enjoying Break the Twitch, which focuses more on minimalism as a filter or frame of mind, rather then a specific system of rules. I also discovered Into Mind, a blog and book about applying the ideas of minimalism to your closet and creating a curated closet that fits your needs and lifestyle that is purposeful and purpose-driven.

I purchased Anushka (of Into Mind)'s book, and am utilizing it some as a guide curate my clothing.  I'm currently focusing tracking what I actually wear each day, and getting rid of things that don't fit my body, my lifestyle, my fashion sense, or my standards for construction and materials. While I distill what it is I currently wear and like, I will develop a sense of what I want to move towards, if I decide I need to make changes to the status quo. (The answer there will probably be yes!)
Two tubs for storage on the top, 5 bags gone on the bottom.
With the help of my dear friend Elena, I managed to rid myself of 5 bags of clothing. I also had a tub for off season clothes, and a tub of sentimental clothing to be stored.  Here is what worked this time.

  • Don't think too long on any one item. I found if I could decide right away, I wouldn't talk myself into keeping something I didn't really want. 
  • Don't force yourself to be binary! Have multiple bags for multiple purposes. I sorted clothes into: keep, toss (aka bring to clothing swap or give to charity shop), off season (summer), sentimental, and Oregon Country Fair memorabilia. I eventually lumped the sentimental and OCF clothing together in one place to be stored and eventually made into a quilt. 
  • If in doubt, put it on! Sometimes just seeing a piece of clothing on my body that I hadn't worn in awhile was enough to remind me why I either did or didn't want to keep it. Maybe it's itchy in a weird way, or has a funny length. Maybe it feels cozy, or looks amazing on, even though it's not much to look at on the hanger. 
  • Go through it all! I dumped out every drawer and removed every single hanger. I had to look at every single piece, and then really react to how much I really had. Seeing how massive my clothing collection was really helped me to let go of items. 
  • Clump similar pieces. Put button ups, sweaters, long work pants, etc. all in piles by similarity. You may have repeats of things you don't realize. It's ok to have more then one of something (I have multiples of black and white striped shirts, red/orange pull over sweaters, dark skinny jeans, and khakis), but you should KNOW you have multiples. If you have several of the same item, it's also a good indicator that it's a mainstay of your current wardrobe. 
  • We looked for items I didn't own, but that would allow me use more of my wardrobe. For example we brainstormed, and realized that part of why I don't wear many of my t-shirts is that I don't like the look of t-shirt & jeans, but if you add a classy blazer, or put it with a skirt and tights, I like it better. So I decided I needed to add some blazers to my wardrobe and see if that helps me wear my t-shirts more. I also decided to get a turtleneck to wear under a beige wool dress that I loved, but was both itchy and too close to my skin shade!
    Burgundy tights and turtleneck under wool dress.
What's my next step? 
  1. Plan a time to go through other elements of my 'Look'. We did clothing, but not hats, shoes or scarves. I also need to go through socks and underwear and dump anything that's falling apart. Since the weekend of the great culling I also made time to go through my toiletries, make up and beauty products. 
  2. Continue to document my daily outfits. I'll do a summation post at the end of my two week experiment. 
  3. Continue to collect images of outfits that inspire me from Instagram, Look Book and other fashion sources. These should be truly wearable outfits, not high fashion. 
  4. Boil all these elements down into a style that is absolutely me. 
    Newly organized and cleaned out closet
What other places could I look for inspiration either for the crafting of my curated look, or to continue to apply the attitudes and ideas of mindful minimalism to my life? 

What other rules should I consider as I continue culling the horde/hoard of possessions?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sometimes Change Changes

One of the massive changes that I anticipated navigating this fall was that of being single. (It's been more then a decade since I was really truly single for more then just a few weeks) In particular, I was faced with being close friends with an ex, that I still wanted to be with.

This weekend that changed. My partner has decided that it's more important for us to be together, and so we will continue our committed romantic relationship.

Now instead of the change of single-dom, I get to navigate the change of the long distance relationship.

I am beyond thrilled, and in many ways feel closer to my partner then I ever have. He's not only one of my closest friends, but he's my creative inspiration, and creates in me the drive to better myself.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Reflecting on the ECLF Kick Off

I didn't know what to expect when I headed to DC for the Early Career Leadership Fellow kick-off. It started with a long day of travel, and we were all a bit punchy by the time re rolled up to the Hilton. We're quite a mix of teachers. Balanced between the levels, and subject matters, from quite the variety of schools, and about a decade of age range. I am not the oldest person in the group!

Lily, SKEA VP Tyler, our cohort and coach Maraline
That aside, we had just a few minutes to change and walk over to the NEA building for dinner. The energy was high, and the welcome was excellent. Several people spoke including representatives from the NEA, and the Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), who are co-sponsoring this program. The highlight was definitely a short speech from NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia. She has a contagious, joyful verve about her. She also had a sweet bluntness that I somewhat associate with southerners. She seems the type that will tell you where to stick it with an unwavering authentic smile.

Her speech centered around how grateful she was for early educators like us, reflecting on her experiences as an early educator, and her frustration with the 'old guard' at the time that didn't want to encourage her leadership or new ideas. She emphasized that the NEA values the leadership and ideas of new, young teachers like us, and encouraged us to be vocal and active, even if not everyone in our immediate circles likes what we have to say. If nothing else, hearing her speak energized me, and made me feel valued by the nation wide organization that supports teachers.

The rest of the conference was focused on education about the union, both in general and at a local level, and familiarizing ourselves with out own leadership styles and those of our cohort. We networked, and had conversations. We talked about the different forms leadership can take, and we discussed the different types of unionism.

The discussions on unionism provided the most new information for me. As a child of a teacher that once went on strike over Just Cause, I'm familiar with what they referred to as the 'Industrial' frame of unionism. Protection for pay, working hours, fair policies. This is a very important element of unionism, and something that the OEA, and local associations do pretty well. Oregon is comparatively a pretty great place to be a teacher. I'm also familiar with the political side of unionism. The NEA and other Education Associations spend millions each year on political campaigns supporting school-friendly ballot measures such as Measure 97 in Oregon this year, as well as candidates that are in line with the NEA's goals around education and social justice. The political side of unions seems to fall into both the other two frames; Professional Unionism and Social Justice Unionism. Candidates and laws can have massive effects of those areas, but I hadn't really considered just how much the union works, through research, advocacy, funding and lobbying, to emphasize professionalism and social justice.

Many people who are skeptical of unions perceive them to protect 'bad' employees. However, it makes sense that the union would have a vested interest in ensuring that members are the highest quality of professionals that they can be. Likewise, a social justice focus on trauma informed teaching, addressing lagging skills created by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), informing educational practices with an eye towards equity and democracy. These too are within the realm of influence of the union. In particular, learning about how organizations like the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) and the CEC help facilitate constructive conversations between districts, administration, lawmakers and teachers opened my eyes up to elements of the union that I find much more engaging then simply the protective and political elements.

At the end of the conference, we walked away looking ahead to find opportunities to engage with other early career teachers, for the purpose of hearing what they have to say and where they are at. I look forward to speaking with my fellow alt-ed teachers about what their experience had been, and where they perceive deficits. Through these sounding board conversations the other fellows and I will develop a Leadership Engagement & Action Project  (LEAP) that addresses the opportunities we find.

I hope I don't sound too much like a walking NEA ad, though I have no doubt that part of their goal, understandably, is to engage and excite young members for the benefit of the strength of the union. I don't begrudge them that because it was also very clear that our skepticism, challenges and questions were also very welcome. The leaders I encountered will thrilled to address and deal with our pointed questions and are ready to do the hard sell for us. This should be a really fantastic journey.