Friday, November 20, 2015

Stitch Fix Review II

Lately, every time I see my mother or my sister, they are so stylish and every time I say so, they always reply, "Oh, its from Stitch Fix!"

Now,  I've tried Stitch Fix before with okay results. However,with not one but two ladies in my life getting such fantastic results, I kept thinking I should give the company another go too. Luckily, The Boy seemed to have been listening when I said this, because he gave me Stitch Fix credit for my birthday. All that was left was for me was to get a Fix ordered! But what is Stitch Fix, for those uninitiated?

Think of Stitch Fix as a stylist-by-mail. When you sign up for their services, you fill out a style survey, which includes both words and visuals, to help a stylist get an idea of your tastes. You also provide measurements, information about what parts of your body you would want to highlight or have covered, and what your lifestyle is like (as a teacher, for example, my life does not require an overabundance of cocktail dresses. My sister, who lives in LA, might want more fancy dresses). You also specify what type of price brackets you are looking for for any given type of garment. You can also share your social media (they especially encourage you to link to any Pinterest pages you have!), and there is a comment section where you can write to your stylist about things you are looking for, want/don't want, or even about special upcoming events in your life etc.  They can even style you if you need petite clothing; they also have a maternity clothes styling option, if you are pregnant! The stylists use all this information to pick out items they feel you would like and mail it out to you.

There is a twenty dollar styling fee for the services the stylist provides, and you are charged for any clothes you decide to buy. Any items you decide not to keep can be returned to Stitch Fix via a prepaid ad labelled mailing bag. The advantages of Stitch Fix is that the dressing room is your own room. You can try on the clothes at your connivence, see how items work (or don't!) with clothes already in your closet etc. A few days after you receive your clothes, the company emails you with a reminder to check out. At this point, you let them know which items you are keeping or returning. They also provide you with an opportunity to rate clothing for style and fit, which can help stylists with any future clothing picks for you. You also have the opportunity to leave detailed feedback about the box. The first two times I tried Stitch Fix, this feedback seemed like it had the most impact in influencing future boxes.  At checkout, the cost of the items you kept is charged to your account. The twenty dollar styling fee will go towards any item you buy, if you choose to purchase items, and you also get a discount of twenty percent, if you choose to buy all the items in your Stitch Fix.

Getting my box- my first Stitch Fix in over a year- I was incredibly impressed to see they clearly had looked at social media, in addition to looking at the styling survey. This was reflected in both the letter written to me personally from my stylist, Brenda, and in the choices she made and her reasons behind each pick (which were reiterated in the letter). This level of personalization was impressive, even considering the service is getting a stylist. As for Brenda's picks- three were well done and two were sort of puzzling, but overall, it was a great experience.
I was sent a purse, coat, pants, sweater and a dress. I'm not sure why a coat or purse were sent. They were expensive, and not items I needed, nor had ever indicated needing. With how cold is gets here, I need to pick out coats myself (and they are likely to be heavy-duty ski coats because negative temps are Not Fun), and the purse was large- which isn't bad, just not my taste. The dress was an adorable striped number, chosen for its "vintage vibe." It ultimately went back because of a very low back. I would mostly likely wear a dress like that to work, and am just not sure such a low back would be appropriate for my work place. This is my fault; the survey specifies if there are any body areas that you'd prefer to have covered, and I didn't think to say "back" as one of them. Stitch Fix always seems to require a bit of a learning curve for you and the stylist to figure out what the information shared means to the other person. I'll be adjusting my style survey to reflect that! The last two items were ones I ultimately kept, and am pleased to say they'll work for both work and casual wear. I love stripes so the top was great, and the cut of the pants definitely fit my style. Both items were in the forty to sixty dollar range, which, while not cheap, did not seem unreasonable for a sweater or a pair of pants. Stitch Fix also tends to stock items bought wholesale, meaning they aren't for sale to individuals in an online store. This means you are getting more unique items, but it can also mean its harder to get information about the clothing companies, which may be problematic if you are trying for ethical clothing. In my case, I was able to find out, with some internet research, that my striped top from Market & Spruce, was made in America. Kut from the Kloth, the company that made the cropped pants, does have a social responsibility policy, though their items are not made in the US. To be quite frank, their policy could, in essence, boil down to following local laws, but I felt in reading the policy over, a commitment to keep to the spirit of more ethical sourcing. While I cannot be sure all clothing companies Stitch Fix works with are  socially responsible, it was nice to know at least these two do.

Overall, while not as wildly successful as my mother and sister's experiences with the company seem to be, I did enjoy using Stitch Fix. It felt personalized and I have a feeling that the success will only grow the more Fixes I get, as both I and the stylists better understand how to share what I'm looking for. To keep things from getting too dangerous for any checkbooks though, you can schedule when you are getting your "Fixes", rather than getting them monthly, or on some predetermined schedule. If you've used Stitch Fix, what's it been like for you? If you haven't but want to take the plunge, you can try signing up right here!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dog Eared Page: Alice in Wonderland

 Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head though the doorway; `and even if my head would go through,' thought poor Alice, `it would be of very little use without my shoulders. Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only know how to begin.' For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. 

-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Living With Type I Diabetes

Almost three years ago now, I wrote a post letting any of you reading know that I had been diagnosed with Type I Diabetes.... and I haven't ever really written anything more on the subject since. But, November is National Diabetes Month and tomorrow is International Diabetes Day, so I wanted to take a post and just... revisit, give an update.

Because, the thing is, being diabetic is something life altering, which, yeah, sounds pretty dramatic and hard- and some days it does feel hard- but mostly what I mean, is there was a New Normal. I think a lot of people with chronic diseases or illnesses can relate to that. It can be hard, but mostly it just is- you have to adjust.

A lot of the things I think that freak most people out are what became routine the quickest- mainly giving myself shots of insulin, and pricking myself to test my blood sugar levels. For a Type One diabetic, what has happened is your body has stopped producing insulin, the thing that helps your body handle glucose, the form of energy your body needs. Consequently, your body A) doesn't get any of the energy it needs and B) your body gets filled up with unused glucose. Your blood gets super high amounts of sugar. It is hard to have high blood sugar, though it has to be very, very high to actually kill you. But it gets unpleasant- you're tired and you ache and your emotions go all over. And you start to lose weight because your body isn't getting what it needs from what you eat, so it is converting stores of energy. You are starving to death, even when there is food to "eat." So, you have to inject insulin into your body in order to process food and get your body energy. Yay for the science that allows us to do that with synthesized insulin! However, the pancreas in a person is able to monitor your blood sugar levels in a way medicine can't yet, so once a diabetic starts taking insulin there is another possible problem- low blood sugar levels.   We aren't talking the every day "hangery" feelings some people get when they don't eat. When blood sugar levels get low a person can start acting abnormally (No joke, my doctor gave me a card for emergencies that tells people I'm diabetic. It starts off by telling people  if I'm acting weird it is not because I'm drunk. Lovely.), be  uncommunicative, get the shakes and not think clearly. If it is low enough you can lose consciousness and a whole other host of unpleasantness follows. All this up and down in your blood sugar levels is hard on your body and leaves you with a low immune system and over time, heightens your risk for a lot of things such a blindness, and infections in limbs that might even result in limb loss!
So, as a Type I diabetic, you are in charge of monitoring all this and making sure you don't do a bad job of it because- well. Consequences. And it takes time, diligence, a lot of medical supplies,  a lot of needles, and a lot of support to make things work. But you know- I'm very lucky to have a good team of people who help and I think many other diabetics would concur. And, as I said, you adjust. Still, here are some thoughts diabetes (and how you can help the diabetics in your life, by, well, being a good person).

Number One Thing: How people react to knowing you have diabetes. I mean, sure, there probably isn't a great way to react to hearing about someone's medical issues beyond, well, listening and acknowledging the fact. But in general, I always think of that card for people with cancer. It says, "When life gives you lemons, I won't tell you a story about my friend's cousin who died of lemons." Pretty much true for any illness or accident- chronic or not.  This seems very obvious, but, dude. It is apparently Not. Obvious. to most people. The number of times someone has told me about their cousin/friend/dad/dog who also has/had diabetes (and 90% of the time it is Type II which is NOT the same thing) and how some strange herbal remedy fixed them up/or they ate cake till they died/or whatever.... Not really what I need to know.  Also, telling me you wished you had this disease because it made me lose weight and you'd like to lose weight?  Not cool.  Likewise, saying "hope you don't lose a foot" is just downright passive-aggressive.

People also feel, once they know, that it gives them a right to comment on how and what I eat.  Don't do that. First off-  A diabetic basically just needs to eat healthily and with good portions yadda yadda yadda, in order to carb count. Still, there are some foods I really miss eating because they just take too long for my body to process and do a number on me. Most days its fine, but some days I hate having a complicated relationship with food, and even though your words about the food the diabetics in your life are eating may come from a place of concern and caring, that can get lost and seem judgemental instead.  Second- well.  My husband -and maybe my parents because they are my parents-  can comment on my food habits. My doctor and the people he works with on my case can comment on my food habits. Joe Shmoe off the street? Frankly?  Not his business.  

The positive thing though is- you do adjust and it Just Is. And most people I know with Type I Diabetes are these amazing people who just go, go, go and don't let things stop them. They are fighters who don't let the exhaustion, the highs and lows, and all the shots get them down.  But- it is still a real presence in their and many others' lives- today, this month, all the time. So,  the TL;DR take away from all this is- please take time today to support the research to help and cure diabetes. And in your day to day lives be willing to listen to, rather than just advise, those who are dealing with any sort of chronic disease. Listening is a form of generosity that never goes out of style. For all that sort of support- thank you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What to Wear to a Confrence

I'm heading off to a conference this weekend and, just like everyone else when packing, wondered, "what do a I wear?" This answer actually gets answered a lot on blogs- if you are going to a bloggers' conference. Cool as that would be though, that's not my actual destination, though I'm just as stoked for the conference we are seeing- its the NAGC's annual conference. Its for my job though so- what do I wear?

One wants to be comfortable, and also professional- but that can be tricky to decide what that means for teachers anyway. Not quite business casual but definitely not real-world casual either... So- here is what I came up with for travel and two jam-packed days of learning.

1)  Layers. The conference is in Phoenix, which can get hot, and rooms with many people makes things even more toasty. But sometimes Aggressive Air-Conditioning happens, so- two outer layers and a light coat.
2) Different colors. Pro-tip: If you pack same type of  clothing item in the same color, it looks like you are re-wearing, instead of donning something new. Nothing wrong with wearing items more than once on a trip, but no one has space in their suitcase for redundant items.
3) I also made sure one was a skirt. This could (theoretically) be dressed up, if needed to do something special in the evening.
4) More casual clothes for travel and to change into "off-duty." 

What sort of things do you wear to work? Ever travelled to a conference?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Film Flick: My Fair Lady

Picture Audrey Hepburn bedecked in frills and ribbons - and a hat. A very, very large hat. For while Hepburn may be a movie icon in any number of  costumes, surely her black and white Ascot Race attire for My Fair Lady stands out among even the most gorgeous of clothing. But it is not merely for the clothing this film stands as a classic today. Perhaps Alan Jay Lerner and Fredrick Lowe's best remembered musical, My Fair Lady  tells the story of a misogynist languages professor and his experiment to turn a gutter snipe into the cream of society by merely altering her accent. The story itself is based off of the Broadway show of the same name, which in turn was based off of an earlier (music-less) film, which was based off of Bernard Shaw's turn-of-the-century play Pygmalion.  

Musical films were experiencing something of a comeback in the early 1960s, where filmmakers were choosing expansive sets, period costumes, and an overall far more epic take on the genre than the movie musicals of the 1930s and 40s had done.Along with stunning sets and costumes, was a much longer running time. This film clocks in at nearly three hours and almost every song came with at least two bridges and a long dance sequence. Though beautifully done, this film is not for those with short attention spans!  As a result of all this, at the time it was produced, My Fair Lady was Warner Bros. Studios most expensive film to create, costing some seventeen million dollars, but it paid off, with the film being one of the top five of 1964. (Almost) no expense was spared. Watching the film it soon becomes clear that much of the choreography and film work was done to show off the expansive sets as people danced down streets, around corners and into other set pieces in long, flowing sequences.  The period costumes too were prolific, with many extras milling in the background. There were a few limits though. When director George Cukor was unhappy with the famous Ascot Race sequence, Jack Warner literally destroyed the set to prevent Cuckor's expensive plan for retakes.

The casting of the film had been highly controversial at the time. Julie Andrews had originated the part of Eliza Dolittle on London's West End and New York's Broadway stages, to great acclaim. But studio execs wanted a famous film star in the main role, so went with Audrey Hepburn. This was a bitter disappointment to Andrews, though the two actresses remained friends. Ironically, Julie Andrews was awarded the Best Actress Academy Award that year for her role in Disney's competing film Mary Poppins, and Hepburn failed to receive even a nomination for her part. During Andrew's acceptance speech, she thanked Jack Warner "for making this possible," a subtle dig that if she had taken the role of Eliza for the film, she would have been unable to play the world's most famous nanny. Hepburn herself ended up being less than satisfied with role, as she was dubbed for almost all the songs. She had even walked out of the set in protest for a day- but returned the next politely asking forgiveness for her "wicked behavior." Still, she vowed that she would never do another musical, unless she could sing the songs herself. Rex Harrison, who played the second lead, Professor Higgins in both the stage and movie version, fared slightly better. He too had nearly been rejected for the role for the film, as movie moguls thought he looked too old. Luckily, Harrison sending more flattering head shots changed the execs' minds. Harrison too was not a strong singer; luckily Learner and Lowe, the two-man team behind the musical book of the play, had known this and created Higgins' songs so that he could talk through the lyrics. In fact, Harrison won the Oscar for Best Actor that year, and My Fair Lady also took home Best Picture, and Best Director (George Cukor's only Oscar in his fifty-year career). 

In My Fair Lady, a language expert deplore's the quality of English people's ability to speak their own language correctly, and makes a bet with a colleague that he could turn a rough talking girl into someone welcome in high society by altering her accent. The woman in question, Eliza Dolittle, seizes on the chance for something more out of life, and agrees to be part of the experiment. As the lessons progress, viewers see how she becomes part of the household, how she picks up an admirer, and her own struggles to see where she fits within London's various classes. All this leads to a battle of wills between the self-absorbed Higgins and Eliza's stubborn temper, but the ending is left somewhat vague. In Shaw's original play, Eliza leaves to marry her somewhat foolish admirer, Freddy, and Higgins is meant to be a bit of a stand-in for Shaw, including his sexual orientation. Shaw felt that Eliza leaving showed her independence, and symbolized that she was her own creature, rather than Higgins' creation. The movie is much less clear with all this, leaving some possibility that their might be romantic feelings between the two, or there might be familial ones, or even that the movie's end signals no more than a pause in their battle of wills rather than a true cease-fire. 

Still, an opening ending allows the audience to decide what the ultimate fate of the characters are, and no matter where Eliza ends up, you can see for yourself that she is My Fair Lady!  So roll the tapes and start watching! 

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