Sunday, June 11, 2017

Adulting at Prom and Surviving the End of the Year Chaos

Being a high school teacher has plenty of funny moments. One of them is attending your 7th prom. The perks of being a high school teacher often come from being able to enjoy high school events without the angst you felt as a teenager.

These are the things I love about going to prom as an adult:
1. It takes me about 20 minutes to get ready.
2. I get to spend the whole night telling students how lovely their dresses are/how dapper their suits are.
3. I am typically back in the comfort of my own apartment before 11:00.

I'm lucky to have a fun group of "prom friends." We typically go to dinner and then get to prom on the early side. We stay for an hour or two and then head out. I love being able to see my students looking so grown-up, and I love being able to share their special night with them.

I always overhear conversations about dresses and hairstyles and dinner plans all throughout the second semester, so it's really fun to see the final product of all of their planning. I even have a prom "soapbox" speech that I give some time mid-second semester. These are the things I tell them:
1. Go to prom. Anything in life that you only get to do once (graduations, proms, final tours by your favorite bands), go. Don't tell yourself you don't care so you won't go. What's one Friday night of your life? What will you be doing instead that is a once-in-a-lifetime thing? If you get there and it's terrible, take some pictures, laugh about it, and leave. Go to IHOP, and eat some pancakes. Whatever. Just don't miss things you can't do again later.
2. Make good choices that night. You have spent countless hours and no telling how much money to make that night special. Don't ruin it by consuming things that will make you unable to remember the night, get you in trouble/kicked out of prom, or leave you with the contents of your dinner revisited on your dress.
3. Don't overplan. Every year some friend group has a complete meltdown over paying for the limo or dinner reservations. You'll see EVERYONE at prom. Just keep the group you go to dinner with small and keep the transportation plans simple--heck--get an Uber.

When I first started going to prom, I had a hard time figuring out what to wear, but as I've built up a collection (and by collection I mean 3 or 4) of wedding dresses (Not in the Runaway Bride sense. In the "I've gone to so many weddings that I grab every little black dress that Banana puts on sale" kind of sense.), I now have some options for what I wear.  This year I went with a silk dress I bought over 5 years ago. The other ladies in our group were rocking some pretty amazing dresses, so I felt like I had awesome prom dates. :)

Break for a random prom story:
On the walk over to prom (we don't need to discuss what "5 blocks" means to some people...not that I'm holding a grudge...just sayin'), we hit several stop lights. Some in our group decided to jaywalk, but since I was wearing heels and couldn't make a run for it very easily, I stayed behind. At one point, I saw a car coming, and stayed on the sidewalk. I yelled, "I'm a law abiding citizen. I'm staying here until I'm told to walk." The guy in the oncoming car rolled down his window and said, "I would marry you." This might have made my night.

I say might because we also found the prom king and queen gear and definitely made sure they were ready. My only regret from the evening is that we didn't reenact a classic teen movie scene when we tried on the crown/tiara.

I have a few tips for prom dressing before I give a bit of a soapbox speech about surviving the end of the year.
1. If you're like me, and you don't attend that many fancy events, use prom as a night to be fancy. Wear that dress you love but never get a chance to wear, go eat somewhere tasty, and then enjoy seeing your students in a setting that isn't about grades, late assignments or tardy bells. I know that if you are chaperoning you have some obligations, and I know that students sometimes make bad choices on prom night, so you don't always get to be completely free of adult responsibilities, but as much as possible, enjoy the experience.
2. Try your dress on a few days ahead of time. Once again, if you're like me, those dresses hang in the back of your closet until prom--or some friends recommend a fancy night out--so make sure it still works well for you.

Okay--now on to my second soapbox of this post.

A very kind friend, a few years ago, told me that she was praying for people to come along and take over some of the things I was, at the time, in charge of. At the time, I just kind of said, "Thanks!" and went along my way. But as the year went on, and I noticed how tired and impatient I became, I thought, "Maybe my friend is right. Maybe I have too much on my plate. Maybe I could do fewer things with more grace." I looked at my calendar and made a "must", "would like to", and "just can't" chart. I put things like my summer time in Arkansas on the "must" list and put things like going to school plays in the "like to" column. After looking over my chart, I decided that the only way I could survive a somewhat busy schedule was to faithfully do the "must" list things and allow the "like to" things to be decided on a case-by-case basis with no judgment if I opted not to attend/participate in them. If, the week of the school play I thought it would be fun to go, I'd go. But I wouldn't make myself go, and I never promised my students I would go. If they asked me if I was going, I would be honest with them. I would tell them that things were pretty busy at the time, so I would probably need the weekend to recover. They understood, most of the time. And if they didn't, that was okay. They are teenagers. While most are really compassionate and understand that their teachers have a lot on their plates, the ones who don't understand can't be the ones I answer to. Making them happy isn't my job--teaching them is.

Some time over the summer, I'll write all my thoughts about teacher guilt and how movies like Freedom Writers give students, parents, community members and teachers a false hope for what a teacher can/should do for his/her students, but for now, just know that prom is on my "would like to" list, and, luckily, most years I make it. But, the key to enjoying prom (for me) is it being something optional that I choose to attend, not something I feel forced to attend. When I grab dinner with my friends, stop by prom for an hour or so, and then go home, I leave with fond memories, and I can genuinely tell my students how nice it is to see them and how fabulous their dresses/suits are. It has to be from a place of joy, not a place of guilt.

Okay--I hope this post might inspire you to feel free to say "No!", even to good things, if they leave you with an out of control schedule, and I hope it might make you decide to put on your fancy dress and go enjoy yourself for a night.

Quick Arrested Development reference: When we were walking to the staff lounge, we came across this never nude. I had to document it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Another Week Closer to Summer Break

Image result for miranda such funSince we were testing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I kept my outfits pretty comfort-focused, and I avoided wearing anything other than sandals or flats so I wouldn't be super noisy as I actively proctored. Such fun! 

I didn't take a picture of my outfit for Tuesday because it wasn't "of note", shall we say. I helped out with a debate tournament over the weekend, and my flight back on Monday was a bit late, so Tuesday I was in survival mode. 

On Wednesday, I based my outfit on wanting pants that wouldn't be confining and any shirt that matched. I do have a bit of a lesson about online shopping and sleeves. 

I love the way this shirt looks--it looks really cute with a pencil skirt and also works well with jeans, but it's a funky fit. The arm holes are weird. I'm not sure I've ever typed that sentence before in my life, but it's true. They are tight around my arms (let's say that's because I've been lifting weights and am now SUPER STRONG...yeah...let's go with that) and they attach to the shirt so low that it's hard to really use your arms for any dramatic movements. If you know me, you know that dramatic movements are some of my favorite movements, so I feel restricted in this shirt. Here are a few, very random, tips about shirts:
1. I'm coming to find that I tend to stick with sleeveless shirts or shirts made of pretty forgiving fabric because I hate to have my arms feel like they are stuck in a paper towel roll all day. 
2. As a result of my hatred for feeling confined, when I try a shirt on, I try to make sure I can go about my usual routines in it. 
3. And take a lesson from me, don't tell yourself it won't bother you simply because the shirt is cute. Much like with dating, something/one can start off seeming really cute, but if it/they annoy you all day long, by the end of the day, the cute factor is gone. 

On another note, you might ask how I came to buy a shirt that isn't that comfortable. The first reason is stated above--I thought it was really cute, so I thought I wouldn't mind if it wasn't super teaching-friendly. It's such a loose style, that it never occurred to me that I needed to make sure I could successfully put my hair in a ponytail or wave dramatically to get someone's attention down the hall. Turns out, I do those things more than I would have thought. 

I also kept this shirt because I bought it online, and I'm a lazy online shopper. I'm getting better, but there are more than a few pieces in my closet that, if I'm totally honest, I probably just kept because they were an okay fit and returning them would require packaging them and dropping them off somewhere. So, here is my mini-lesson about online shopping, as a recovered over-keeper:
A few years ago, my former roommate and I were both StitchFix regulars. I love Stitch Fix, and I only stopped getting a regular shipment because my closet was pretty full at the time. We both loved that we got rather unique pieces and that we often got things that challenged us to break up our routines. But my roommate and I both noted how tempted we were to keep things that didn't fit perfectly or were pretty similar to things we already had simply because, "Hey! They're already in my house." So, here were the questions I had to answer before I kept something I ordered online or got from StitchFix:
1. Would I have purchased this if I had found it in a store?
2. Would I  have spent this much on this piece if I had to actually pay for it in cash? (Was it unique enough to justify the cost?) 
3. Does this work well with my body type or am I just keeping it because it looks cute on the hanger or because it's what everyone else is wearing?

I think these rules saved me from filling my closet with things that were almost right, but not quite. 

I've also had to start being less lazy about returning things that aren't working for me when I hit up a J Crew Factory online sale, etc. I no longer tell myself that I'll lose a few pounds and the skirt will fit perfectly, and I no longer tell myself that something is stylish enough to make up for how unflattering it is on me. If I wouldn't take it to the counter and swipe my card to purchase it in a store, it goes back to its home at the warehouse so that someone whose body is built differently can enjoy it. And my bank account thanks me. 

Here's the truth about buying clothes that are almost right--it costs you twice. You pay the price of the item that doesn't fit right and then you EITHER pay the metaphorical price of feeling crummy every time you wear that item and know it isn't the right fit OR you actually end up buying another item to replace the poorly-fitting thing you just couldn't send back. 

I also feel the need to note here that there is no such thing as something being cheap enough to justify buying it if it isn't right for you. If you wouldn't buy it at full price, don't buy it just because it's on sale. I often think of this scene from Pride and Prejudice.

Either way, here's the outfit from Wednesday. These jeans are probably my least frustrating blue jeans, but I still wouldn't really recommend them. They have stretch in them though, so they do make the day more comfortable. 

The necklace is a J Crew Factory purchase that has come in handy plenty of times. It's nice to have a statement necklace that is a neutral so I can throw it on with any rather average outfit to fancy it up. Here's an option::
Crystal ovals necklace

I am also a big fan of these flats. They are super basic, but that's what I love about them. As often as I need a basic brown flat, it's nice to have a pair that I know will be comfortable and go with whatever I'm wearing. Lucky Brand is quickly becoming a brand that I search out any time I go to DSW's or Off Broadway's website. Their shoes are normally just a little bit different than the average ones and have been pretty durable so far. They don't seem to have this pair, but these are an even cuter option.

Eaviee Ballet Flat

On Thursday I went a totally different route in my effort to find comfort. I went to the dry cleaners on Tuesday night to pick up my winter clothes (I'll explain in a minute.) and found that I had a few spring items in there as well. The thought of wearing a dress that was stretchy and not restrictive was, of course, appealing, and not having to iron it was a huge plus. I actually didn't realize this dress was dry clean only until AFTER I bought it and wore it. As I was about to throw it in the washing machine, I looked at the label and realized that I had been deceived by its appearance. It looked like the other cotton dresses I owned, but it was being sneaky. So now I have a casual summer dress that must be taken to the dry cleaners. This annoys me, but I'm slowly getting over it...these things just take time...

In case someone wants to know, here is my approach to dry cleaning:
At the end of every season, I take all of my dry clean only items (from that season) to be cleaned. Yes--this costs a fortune, but wait. I'll explain how I justify it. 
I then put everything away clean, so at the start of each season, I know everything from the dry cleaners is ready to go.
I then wear my dry clean only things, following Real Simple's guide for how many times you can wear something before taking it to the dry cleaners. Here's the winter guide.
As things hit their final pre-dry cleaning wear, I put them in a bag I keep in my room. Maybe this is a sad comment on how infrequently I wear my dry clean only clothes, or maybe it's a comment on how overly stuffed my closet is, but I can typically make it the whole season without being completely without work clothes. I do, occasionally, have a favorite skirt that I take on its own to get cleaned or take a specific dress for a specific occasion, but I've found that by waiting until the end of the season, I force myself to wear everything in my closet before returning to my old favorites. Think about it. If you can wear a skirt five times before needing to have it cleaned, and you have 4 or 5 dry clean only skirts, even if you were ONLY wearing those, you'd go a whole month before you'd run out of skirts. And that's assuming you have no 4-day weeks and you don't wear jeans on Friday and that your favorite dresses aren't ones you can throw in the washing machine. And if you really think about it, you're only in winter (at least in this part of the country) for four months. And, that time includes a winter break, possible snow days, etc. What I'm saying is, I totally get by with this because I'm not wearing a dry clean only suit to work every day, so I can mix in my dry clean only skirts/dresses with other things and stretch out my trips to the dry cleaner. 

All that to say, even though this dress makes me sad with its fancy ways, I love it, but you won't see it in heavy rotation. 

As for why I wore this on a testing day, aside from not needing to be ironed, and being super comfortable...well...that was about it. I did pair it with significantly less fancy shoes than might have worn on a normal day. I would normally wear this with some sandals with a bit of a heel, but since I knew I would be walking up and down aisles of desks during the test, I didn't want to run the risk of disturbing testers or losing feeling in my toes when I took the 1,000th student to the bathroom. 
I'm not sure I would pair these shoes with this dress again, but at least for today, it was a fairly practical choice. 

I bought this dress in the fall, but here are a few similar options:

This one looks pretty comfy!

 Main style image

Okay--I'm off for a weekend of grading and berry picking. Obviously not at the same time.