To Tone in Private: A Personal Weight Loss Journey

In August of 2012, I had a realization.

It was one of those epiphany moments where music played, the camera zoomed in, and someone with an incredibly deep voice began narrating in my head. “It is time.”

It was the start of my journey to lose weight.

We had just returned home from a Vegas vacation with our amazing friends, and we had celebrated my upcoming 40th birthday there.  I wasn’t turning 40 until September, but it seemed like a perfect “excuse” to go to Vegas and have some fun.

My friends came over bringing photos – printed out ones (amazing, right?!) – documenting our trip.  I was ecstatic to see the pictures.  We had had such a wonderful time, and the pictures were actually printed! Rock on!

I wasn’t prepared for the shock of seeing myself in photos.  Now, understand me when I say that I see myself daily, but it is easy to “hide” from my appearance in the mirror.  It is easy to “see” exactly what I wanted to see when I put on make-up.  It is easy to “convince” myself that I looked fine.

But photos tell another story.

I looked on them in horror.  After our friends left, I said to The Captain, “Why didn’t you tell me I looked just plain awful and disgusting?!”

“I think you look fine,” he said.

Fine. Hmph.

About a week later, my oldest, then ten years old, gave me a bear hug and proceeded to say, “Mom, maybe you should go on a diet. I can’t get my arms around you.”

The Captain, trying to spare my feelings, said, “Apologize to your mother right now.  That isn’t nice.”

String Bean looked at me and said, “Sorry, Mom, but really, maybe you would like to exercise sometime. You may feel better, ya know?”

He was right.  I had avoided being healthy.  I had avoided looking – really looking – at myself.  I had avoided it all.

I made a decision.  I didn’t share it with anyone.  Not my husband, my kids or my friends.

I made an appointment with a dietician.  And it has changed my life.

Walking into a new atmosphere can be daunting.  Walking in knowing that I was more than 80 pounds was downright frightening.

It took some time, but the weight began to come off.  And the new habits of eating right and exercising became commonplace to me.

It took a lot of time.

But now, two years later, I can safely say I have changed (and I am still changing), not only in body, but in spirit and mind.

I will write more about the transformation process soon, but, for now, I will end with this:

No one can decide what time is right, it is personal; a personal journey.  I had to make the decision to make a change, others could not make it for me. And I am still on the journey…

It literally makes me cringe posting this picture.  The left is 2012 and the right is this fall, exactly two years later. Wow.

It literally makes me cringe posting this picture. The left is 2012 and the right is this fall, exactly two years later. Wow.



Ropeclimbing: An Elementary School Torture Technique

In elementary school in the late 70s and early 80s, we were required to climb the rope that was hanging from the rafters in the gym.

Rope-climbing day was my own particular nightmare.

Some students could fly up to the top.  I, however, couldn’t make it five inches off of the ground.

I remember walking into the gym and seeing that bastardly rope trailing out of the sky like a giant, evil, hand-cutting snake.

I remember wishing I would’ve known so I could have stayed home that day.

I remember hating the gym teacher who was constantly swinging their whistle around and around. Swish, swish.

I remember praying for a fire drill, a tornado drill, or even an earthquake.

I remember pretending to listen to the vague directions from the wind-pants teacher.

I remember waiting in the line while each and every kid attempted the rope nightmare.

I remember perspiring so much that my hands felt clammy, much like rubber cement.

I remember staring up to the top wondering what this proved to the world.

I remember getting on the monster rope and not moving up an inch.

And, I remember walking away from the horrible rope with my head held down.

Sadly, this was how one was judged.  Gym class was it’s own sort of hell on Earth.  And, quite possibly, a hideous, horrible rite of passage.

Recently, I asked my now fourth-grader what his favorite class was this year.

His answer? Gym class.

I do so hope he is better at rope-climbing than I was.

Even the picture makes me feel a little nauseous.

Even the picture makes me feel a little nauseous.

Many Drafts, Many Possibilities

Currently, I have 47 drafts.  Most are only halfway written, some are waiting on endings and a few are events I can’t even remember.  My dear friend, Valleygirl96 over at Views From the Valley, and I were discussing blogs and drafts, and she ended up actually writing AND posting a blog about drafts.  She rocks.

Check out her post here:

While you are visiting her, be sure to read some of her “Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge” posts.  They are hilarious and are all happening directly outside our classrooms.

As for me, I hope to get a post up this week.  Maybe even one of my many drafts!  😉

Computer and coffee time needed to write!

Computer and coffee time needed to write!

Airplanes and Truth Serum

A little while ago, The Captain, the dudes and I flew to Houston to visit my dad and my stepmother.

It may seem strange, but The Captain refused to sit next to me on the plane.

There is a back story here.  I have a strange “power.”  It is the ability to talk to anyone and they will share some of their deepest, darkest secrets with me without being prompted to do so.  I don’t know where this gift (or curse) may have come from.  I do know this: With great power, comes great responsibility.  So, I am now letting my secret out.  I am human truth serum.

It started many years ago when I was traveling with business.  Flying alone can get lonely, but I love the quiet time to get absorbed in a book or take a quick nap on a plane.  However, this does not happen for me.  Ever.  People talk to me.  I smile.  I nod.  I show interest.  And then they spill it.  All of it.

I never really thought much about my days of flying until The Captain and I flew on an earlier journey to Houston many moons ago.  It was one of the few times he would meet my dad before our wedding, and to suggest this trip was a big deal is putting it mildly.  We ended up in a three-seat row.  I put The Captain by the window and sat in the middle.  A Mrs. Frizzle look-a-like sat down next to me.  She began knitting what looked like socks.  I smiled at her as I opened my novel.  She started asking me about my career, where I was going, etc.  By the end of the flight, I found out that she was divorced three times and was on her way to meet (for the first time) “a nice, solidly built man from the Internet.”  I don’t know why it was important to add the “solidly built,” but whatever works I guess.

The Captain rolled his eyes.  “I am not sitting next to you on a plane again.”

And so here we are.

On one occasion, my brother and I flew to Mississippi for the funeral of our grandfather.  On the first leg of the flight, what looked like a college student sat next to me.  I was annotating To Kill a Mockingbird for Monday’s lesson plan.  She leaned over and told me it was one of her favorite books.  She proceeded to tell me about her upcoming graduation from college, her job search, her cheating boyfriend and her impulsive interview for an out of state job.  By the end of the flight, and to my brother’s amazement, she hugged me and thanked me for the support.

On the second leg of our flight, I was sitting next to a twenty-something who seemed very busy.  She was organizing her airplane space, and had a book on her lap.  I was ready to snooze.  Five minutes into the flight, I passed a piece of gum to my brother and offered one to her (to not offer it would be rude, right?!).  She took the piece of gum and then proceeded to tell me her life story.  By the end of the flight, I learned she had survived a horribly abusive marriage and finally had won custody over her two-year-old daughter.  She was flying to pick her up and bring her to her new home where she had made a fresh start.  We were both in tears by the end of the flight and exchanged email information (and she, to this day, is doing very well).

IMG_4384Flying back home on a different flight than my brother, I thought there would be no way to top the truth serum from the first two flights.  I was wrong.

The first leg of the flight, I had an aisle seat.  One woman crossed over me to the window seat and opened her gigantic purse to reveal some KFC.  She pulled it out and began eating.  Boarding continued, and the person who was in the center stopped and asked me if I could move to the middle seat because she “couldn’t stand the b**** at the window.”  I was speechless.  I grabbed my things, almost afraid to say no, and moved over.  The woman at the window muttered some foul language toward the other woman.  Then, amazingly, they realized they could use me as a middle-man for their argument.  It began innocently enough when Window said, “Tell Aisle I can’t believe she did that to me.”  Aisle responded by stating, “You can relay to Window that she is a complete _____ and ______ and should have slept with my husband.”  Now it was beginning to get awkward.  Let me just conclude this by saying the flight attendant had to come over three times to ask them to stop yelling at each other.  Each time, she would throw me a look of sheer pity.  A stiff drink would have helped, too!

After we landed, I knew it couldn’t get any worse.  I boarded the last leg of the plane and had the horror pleasure of being seated in the front.  I thought I was alone in the row.  I began to relax, look out the window and prepare myself for a nice little nap on my flight home.  So wrong.  A guy sat next to me.  He had his shirt unbuttoned like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  His name was Glenn and he was a genuine gigolo.  Glenn had on three very thick gold chains and two gold bracelets.  I secretly wondered if he had attacked Mr. T. earlier that day in the Atlanta airport.  He informed me that I was a “lovely woman” and he was “lucky to sit by such a jewel.”  I must say I am neither lovely or a jewel.  Glenn told me he was on his way to Ohio to “check his investments” before returning to his villa in Mexico where he “painted naked pictures of willing subjects and sometimes got lucky.”  After downing three Glenlivits, Glenn told me about this magical villa and his thankfulness to Pfizer for inventing Viagra.  I have never wanted to use a plane’s barf bag before this day.

And to all of the lovely jewels out there – stay far, far away from anyone named Glenn that owns a villa in Mexico.

“You Old Hag” and other not-so-nice sayings

I knew that I had a wild child when he told my dear grandmother, Charlotte, that she was “nice stupid.”

My youngest, Squishy, has a way with words.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

When he was just a little dude at the tender age of three, he vocalized his feelings.  He didn’t hold back; he just said whatever was on his mind.

My dear grandmother, who was in her early 80s at the time, was talking to him asking him what he wanted to eat (she always wanted to feed all of us – all of the time).  He kept telling her that he wanted ice cream, but she had trouble decifering the toddler-speak.

Finally, when she asked him for the third time, he stood up, put his hand on his hips, and blurted out, “Mam-ma, you’re stupid.”

Enter epic parenting fail.

She, however, didn’t miss a beat, and, this time, she perfectly understood what he just said to her. No decoding needed.

“Luke, Mam-ma is not stupid.  Mam-ma is nice,” she calmly retorted.

He turned as if he was about to leave the room, and then turned back, dropping his arms to his side and tilting his head ever so slightly.  The wheels were turning in that three-year-old brain of his.

And I was petrified by what he would say next.

“You’re right, Mam-ma.  You are not stupid… You are nice stupid,” and he did an about face and left the room.

This is when I knew I was in trouble.

At school, Squishy was (and is) the perfect angel.  It is just at home where his filter is lacking.

A few summers ago, when Squishy was six, he called my mother-in-law an old hag…in front of her bridge club.  (Yes, I am a proud parent – cough, cough).  Apparently he was “just kidding” and “only wanted some snacks.”  When she asked where he learned that phrase, he said “my mom.” I don’t recall ever in my life uttering the words “you old hag,” but in his mind, it was a free pass out of trouble.

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

More recently, he has been caught saying “shut your pie hole.”  Now I do know where this reference came from.  It is from the movie “The Sandlot” and The Captain was very excited the dudes liked the film.  Very excited, indeed, especially when Squishy not-so-subtly said this to my mother-in-law.

I found out about this gem of a phrase when I walked in on my mother-in-law discussing my “poor parenting choices” with a friend of hers.  She went on to tell the friend, “and she just laughs at what he says instead of disciplines him.”  Later I found that, once again, he blamed me for teaching him the phrase.  Hmmm.  Is there a trend going on?

When I addressed the behavior, he justified it by saying, “She wouldn’t stop talking, Mom.”

Touche, Squishy, touche.

Autumn and the Zombie Archives

In Ohio, the autumn weather can be tricky.  Usually there are some pretty days of glorious color followed by overcast and drizzly days.  This past weekend, we were lucky enough to have one of those gorgeous fall days when I want to spin on a hilltop singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”  Wait, that is another fantasy.  I digress.  Of course, there are only a few pretty days left on the calendar, and this was one of them.

With a beautiful weekend day comes the classic question: “Mom, can we go outside and play?”

Of course, my answer is, “Yes, please, do, go, bye!”

On Saturday, the sun was shining, and I received the question I knew was first thing on their minds when they woke up that morning.

“Mom,” said Squishy, “It is nice outside! Can we go outside and play?”

“Of course you can,” I said, looking up from the waffles I was making. (Actually, Eggo made them. I put them in the toaster. For me, this is domestic bliss.)

“Well, when can we go? We have some business in the woods to take care of,” he said sounding like he was about to audition for The Sopranos.

“What ‘business’ do you have in the woods?” I asked.

“Oh, Mom, all you need to know is that it is for your protection. OK?”

“What, in fact, are you protecting me from?” I questioned him as I sprinkled cinnamon on the waffles (see, I am a domestic diva!)

Zombies are the thing.

Zombies are the thing.

“We are saving the neighborhood from the upcoming zombie attack,” he said with sheer seriousness.

I turned to him in horror thinking maybe he had seen an episode of The Walking Dead or something?!

“What would make you believe there is an upcoming zombie attack,” I asked, praying he didn’t access my Netflix account on the iPad (darn you, zombie shows that pull me in, darn you!)

“Mom, it is just a matter of time when someone makes a vaccine that will take out the human race and turn everyone into a zombie.  Seriously, you should know this. You are a teacher.  Gosh,” he stated as he rolled his eyes, disgusted with me.

Now I am wondering if he was scoping out my Kindle and came across my latest read, The Passage.  Or maybe I Am Legend.  Was there some zombie thing on TBS or something?  Darn you, TBS, darn you!

“I highly doubt that will happen, Squishy, but if it does…”

“If it does, Mom, you will probably make us have the shot at the doctors, and you really won’t be prepared when we turn into zombies. So, we must prepare now,” he said interrupting me.

What the heck is he watching on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel?

“OK,” I said, knowing full well he was getting antsy to get outside and save the world.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

After a while, I went outside to check on the progress of thwarting the impending zombie apocalypse.  I found Nerf guns, sticks and a mountain of leaves ready to protect the innocent.  I also found the neighborhood posse in the middle of the street strategic planning their next move.

“What are you all working on?” I said to the group of defenders.

“Mom, I already told you. We are making sure the neighborhood is safe,” Squishy answered.  The rest of the posse nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, in that case,” I said, “carry on.”

And they did.

So, a message to all zombies: Beware, zombies, beware of our street.  We have protection in the form of elementary students.  Scary, right?

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

Coffee Mug Crusade

When it comes to travel coffee mugs, I have horrible luck.

Now I know this isn’t a deep topic, but I realized this morning as I stared into the cupboard that I only have three travel mugs left in existence.  There is an eight to ten extinction rate with my travel mugs.

This is a problem for it seems I can never find the perfect mug.

Or, it seems that no mug will ever fulfill its sacred duty: traveling day to day with me to school and back and living to tell about it.

For some reason, I have incredibly bad luck when it comes to travel mugs.

I blame my husband, The Captain, for part of it.  He does not heed to the warnings imprinted on the bottom of the coffee mugs.  Many say, “Not dishwasher safe.”  He believes they say, “Put in dishwasher. Hope they last.”

The Disney one is the first one, followed by the rest that are now long gone.

The Disney one is the first one, followed by the rest that are now long gone.

One of my favorites came out of the dishwasher in the shape of a lava lamp.  Another ended up with so much condensation inside it looked like it came straight out of the rainforest.

And then the worst of all.  My Disney Finding Nemo mug began to leak.  From the bottom.  Leaking water, not coffee.  I do not understand how this is possible, but, alas, it is.

Darn.  I love that mug.

So, now, I am in a quest to find quality travel mugs that can a.) withstand being useful each and every day of the school year, and b.) withstand The Captain’s insatiable desire to put anything and everything into the dishwasher.

Wish me luck!

Today is Jean Day Friday

One of my favorite bloggers, Tales from the Motherland, nominated me for a Liebster Award.  She is a wonderful writer, and I am truly honored for the nomination.

She made me laugh, however, with this comment: “…You’ve gotta tell me: why JeanDayFriday, when your name is Allison. Gotta know. ;-)

Surprisingly this is a question I get a lot. Sadly, the story is not too interesting.  But, I will share anyway, especially at the request of the amazing Dawn from Tales from the Motherland.

I wish this was a quirky tale, a fascinating one dealing with how the name of my blog arrived at me like a beacon of light.  I wish I could simply explain that my middle name is Jean, but, alas, it is not.  Truthfully, my blog name is nothing more than sheer desire to wear jeans to school each and every Friday. Oh yes.  That’s it.  Nothing more than honest vanity (or comfort).

A few years ago, my district began having jean days every Friday.  There was a dollar charge weekly, and those who paid, would get to wear jeans.  The dollars would go to something good for students – scholarships, fundraisers, etc.

At first, only a few people “bought” into the Friday jean-wearing craze.  But now, most participate and love it like I do.

So, each and every Thursday evening, my pal, Views from the Valley, and I would text something like this to each other: Tomorrow is jean day Friday!  Hooray!

This became a saying we used often.  If our Friday wasn’t going too well, we would say, “Hey, you know, it is Jean Day Friday!” Or if Thursday was less than desirable we would say, “At least tomorrow is Jean Day Friday!”

There are so many reasons this fit as my blog title.  For one, Fridays are just plain ol’ good days.  They signal the end of the work week, and the anticipation of the weekend.  Secondly, I dress professionally every day of the week, but Friday is a day where I can whip out the jeans and a school shirt and viola! I am ready for Friday!  Also, it is almost freeing in a strange, silly rebellious way.  I’m sporting jeans today and it’s Friday – Ha!  And most of all, it is something to look forward to, a glimmer of optimism/quirkiness and comfort.

So, I wanted my blog to give a similar mood, tone and feeling that I have when it is Jean Day Friday:  a quick, little smile in the week, and a reminder that it’s the little things that can make the days a bit brighter.

I wanted my blog to be fun and comfortable.  I wanted it to be a place where I could just be myself, close to the way I feel every Friday when I have my jeans on. I wanted it to be happy.  I hope it is some of those things.

Because it is Jean Day Friday after all.

Suz and I sporting on jeans on Friday.

Suz and I sporting on jeans on Friday.

The Birds, the Bees and Puppies

You never know when you may have to explain the birds and the bees to your children.

I did not think this would come into play at their tender ages of 11 and eight, but thanks to my mother-in-law, I had the horror opportunity to tell them a little bit about how babies are made.

One Tuesday night as I was in the middle of teaching a tap class, I received a frantic voice mail from my mother-in-law, Salt.

It went a little like this:  “Allison, hey. We have a problem here. The dogs are stuck together and I don’t know what to do! They have been stuck for over 20 minutes and I can’t get a hold of anyone.  You must call me back as soon as you get this because I just don’t know what to do!”

Reluctantly I returned the call.

“Hi there.  I only have a minute because I am in between classes,” I said.

“Chewie and Maisy got stuck together!  It has been over 30 minutes!  I didn’t know what to do!” she wailed.

“Are they still stuck together?” I asked in a calm voice so I could try and assess the situation.

“No. Finally they got themselves unstuck.  I called the vet because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone,” she exclaimed, her voice revealing how stressful it had been for her. “And the boys wanted to watch it the entire time!  I had to close the curtains!”

After hanging up with her and finishing teaching my dance classes, I ran my dudes to the store.

It would be an understatement to say there were a few questions that were asked.

“Mom, why were the dogs stuck together?”

“Mom, grandma said that Chewie’s penis had to shrink before they could be unstuck.  Why?”

“Mom, what does amorous mean?”

“Mom, why did grandma tell the vet the dogs were ‘getting it on’?  What does ‘getting it on’ mean and where were they getting it on to?”

“Mom, did you know that Chewie looked like he was doing the Harlem Shake on Maisy’s back?”

“Mom, Grandma kept trying to close the curtains so we couldn’t see the dogs. Why was she doing that?”

and the biggest question of all:

“Mom, is that how people make babies?”


By this time, I am standing in front of the cashier at Kohl’s.  She is staring at me like I have lost my marbles (which, at that second, I wished was true).  Both boys were staring at me, too, waiting for answers.

Surely this should have been the exact moment I could’ve said, “Ask your father.”  But, alas, I am not that lucky.

I started lightly.  “Amorous means really, really lovey.”  Yes, I took the easiest question first.  Can you blame me?

Next answer: “Chewie probably doesn’t know the Harlem Shake,” but then I asked the stupidest question, “How exactly did this start?

Both dudes jumped at the chance to answer, speaking over each other.  The cashier looked at me like I had horns.

“Well, you see Mom, Chewie came inside and started following Maisy around. I mean, literally, (he uses this word a lot – he is 8) Chewie would not leave her alone,” Squishy chimed in.

“Yeah, and then he started to jump on her and stuff,” said 11-year-old String Bean with a wide-eyed grin, “And he wouldn’t stop, don’t be mad if I say this next part, Mom, OK?  Grandma said it wasn’t a bad word.”

“Ummm, OK, I guess?!” Fear bubbled up inside of me.

“Chewie started humping her.  That is what Grandma called it,” he said, looking at me to gauge my reaction.

Squishy interjects, “Yeah, Mom, it was crazy! It looked like this,” as he begins a vivid demonstration even Elvis would not have attempted on national TV.

“OK. You can stop showing me now,” I said as I pushed them out of Kohl’s.

“And Grandma said Maisy was a hussy.  What exactly is a hussy, Mom?  I’ve never heard of that word before.”

And so it goes.

As I tucked the dudes into bed that night, they were still buzzing about the events of the evening. They were hoping puppies would arrive soon (I did have to break down and explain how puppies are made), and they were bouncing off of the walls about the entire situation.

Squishy did have an ace up his sleeve.  “Mom, look at this!” he said, shoving his iPod in my face, “Here they are stuck together!”

Photographic proof of the event taken by an eight-year-old.  Amorous, indeed.

Stuck together.

Stuck together.