I Have Become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principal

First, let me get it out of the way in saying that I have the utmost respect for Mr. (Matt?) Mitchell and in this piece I mean him no harm. If there is any “shade” being thrown here it is all internally focused. You, dear reader, will also note that I am unsure of Mr. Mitchell’s first name. These are recollections from more than 30 years ago. All the more interesting that I have now become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principle some 30 years on.

I have talked about Scioto County before; my birthplace in the Appalachian foothills in the Ohio River Valley. I love my home, so it is with perfect clarity that I see it for what it is: steeped in tradition, conservative, protestant, hard-working but not ambitious, provincial, suspicious of outsiders, rural, local, and individualistic. With two feet in the Midwest, but leaning hard to the American South, our people put practicality about 30 feet higher on the priority list than presentation.

My wife and I noted this on our last trip to Europe in which we sailed up and down the Douro River in Portugal. Even Europe’s squalor is classy. Old homes lay in ruin along the Douro, but all that is left is the timeless stonework. It looks like a Led Zeppelin album cover, mystical and legendary. No plastic flapping in the wind, no garbage strewn about. That cruise could never happen on the mighty Ohio River. Both the Douro and the Ohio are working rivers, but the scenery is not comparable. On the Ohio, manufactured homes with blue tarp serving as replacement shingles and plastic flapping from windows mar the otherwise picturesque greenery. I have digressed.

However, this practicality-over-presentation is exactly the point I want to illustrate. Mr. Mitchell held the position of Assistant Assistant Principal. Yes I know that sounds weird. This was the time when corporal punishment was still common in public schools. I am pretty sure that Assistant Assistant Principal was the school’s way of not calling Mr. Mitchell the “Corporal Punisher.” Mr. Mitchell was a HUGE man. A former football player, it was clear that he lived for the former glory. He was a coach on the all-important middle school football team. The only thing more important in the community than this team was the high school football team. Mr. Mitchell dressed like a coach. Every day. Polyester coach’s pants, white socks, all black training shoes that could be used for refereeing, coaching, or – in many cases around Scioto County – comfortable office shoes. On hot days, he would swap out the coach’s pants for coach’s shorts: same polyester cut with double snaps at the waist, just cut above the knee to display calf muscles that could (and probably did) move automobiles.

As I dressed for work this morning, I slipped into my pro-golfer branded “Traveling Pants.” It was my wife and better half who pointed out that these are essentially the same as the 1980’s polyester coach’s pants. And yes of course, to help protect my feet from the day-to-day pounding I give them while running, climbing, biking, etc. I have paired my Traveling Pants with all black trainers. I don’t wear my all-black athletic shoes all day at the office, but I wear them to- and from- the office for comfort and to protect my office shoes from the often harsh Ohio elements. Practical. So this morning, I paused in front of the full length mirror to offer one last check before heading out the door and confirmed it. I have become my middle school Assistant Assistant Principal, only much less imposing.

August Detox Check-in

Well, folks – I’m not perfect, so these posts will NOT result in me checking off goals easy peasy and successfully. You will see below, I didn’t do too bad for the week, but it’s a constant struggle.

The week flew by.  It just gets so busy at the end of the week, it’s hard to keep up.  We had an amazing weekend.  We were able to do all the sports.  

Friday – we went to the Columbus Clippers game after work

Saturday – Jackson had a soccer game, then we all went to Chambers to boulder.  I felt so tired.  I’ve been completely crashing at 2pm everyday.  I drank coffee and kept going.  I started an orange level climb, got 2 yellows and a really tough black.  It was nice.  We then came home and had pizza on the deck with a fire.  The pizza was not nice for my weight though, but delicious!

Sunday – We ran in the morning.  I ran about 60 minutes, showered and got the boys ready to go.  Troy loaded the kayaks and I packed lunch. We went to Alum Creek for our maiden kayaking voyage.  It was AMAZING.  I need to work on my rowing, but it was a beautiful day to be out on the lake.  We came home, took a nap (cause you know, i shut down at 2pm).  We were up and going at 3pm, stopped by to get running shoes on sale and then went to the Hill’s market to ride bikes to Clintonville for dinner.  We chose Northstar but it’s so expensive, we’ll have to figure something else out next time.  All in all we ran for an hour, kayaked for an hour, and biked for an hour.  Pretty awesome Sunday!

So, let’s check in with the goals:

Spending through 12/31/19: 

1) Can buy house hold items that need replaced or are non-existent now – purchased another blind this week, probably for the family room.  Our doors were installed on Friday.  The front door and storm door look awesome!  The sliding glass door looks great but was made wrong, so we are working with Lowes to fix that.

2) Can buy items to finish decorating the boys rooms – no purchase

3) At the beginning of each month, thoughtfully determine the 3 wardrobe items that make the most sense – get rid of what they replace if they replace items

Current items I want to buy:

1) Black blazer for work – thinking I will wait for a labor day sale at WHBM – still waiting for sale, although JCrew started advertising to me and maybe their jacket would be more affordable?

2) Climbing shorts – because the ones I have are too big and I climb ~ 3 times a week – purchased from Athleta on sale, hopefully delivered this week.

3) Running shorts – because I have 2 pairs now and would like a 3rd for a whole weeks worth of running shorts with pockets – on hold, i think i found a solution that would not require more investment

4) A traditional jean skirt – because I think it’s cute – added to wish list 

4) Determine a plan for Christmas – Troy is not ready for this discussion 🙂

5) Can buy items for the boys that they need, such as sports gear – bought Jackson cleats, gloves, and 2nd practice gear for soccer

What I bought that was not on the list 😦

1) 2 sports bras because they were on sale and I wanted to get to free shipping at Athleta.  I may take them back after checking fit.  I also still run out of sports bras when we do 3 sports a day, SO maybe it’s a better investment than running shorts.  I haven’t broke the 3 items rule just yet. 

2) Running shoes that weren’t on the list, so my goal is to not buy any more for the rest of the month.  We’ll count the blazer in the September goal.  (good vibes my way)

Weight management for the month of August:

Goal weight = 140, current weight 152.5 (after some amazing pizza on Saturday night) down 2.5lbs in August

1) Drink alcohol only once a week (usually, Monday night climb and wine) – uh, down to 3 nights this week, so no, no I did not achieve this goal

2) Go to Conci regularly to check in and progress off the Optifast diet – went on Monday and they said I was right on track

3) Plan a meal strategy at the beginning of every week – this week I will be finishing the Fresh ’n Lean meals for lunch and veggies for dinner

4) Track calories using My Fitness Pal – did this all days, but did not stay within calorie goals on Saturday

5) Weigh myself daily – completed and was down to 151, but again, the delicious PIZZA!

6) Continue with the Garmin running plan, climbing for fun, and add to the fitness routine Ab workouts – haven’t worked in the Ab routine but knocked the rest out of the park this week!

Overall, I feel very good about the week.  I enjoyed my life and lost a couple pounds.  I so far have cut back on buying items, let’s hope the next 2 weeks go just as great.  We have plans for more outdoor adventures.

Louisville Travel Review

We decided to take our two youngest boys to Louisville, KY this year for a long weekend as their vacation over the summer.  Our older two have scheduled their own adventures and my husband and I went on an amazing trip to Portugal earlier this summer.  Earlier this year, the boys and I went to Williamsburg, VA for spring break, so this was a bonus trip.  I selected Louisville because I am super interested in the National Parks right now, which I have only visited one starting last year.  Also, I think they (13 and 11) are at the right ages for history and National Park style vacations.  Also, Louisville is only 4 hours away by car.  This is an easy drive but still feels different than home.

Thursday: Louisville Slugger Day

The adventure begins with leaving at about 9:30 am.  If you know me, the old me would be through the roof with frustration trying to get my family on the road by 7am so we can maximize our time in the location.  But, I have learned over the course of being a mommy, my tweens and teens don’t want to move at my pace and they don’t want to get up early on summer vacation.  Since this vacation is for the boys, we started at a leisurely pace and planned only 1 activity per day.  I joke that kids don’t really change.  You are limited by their ability to take in new.  When they are toddlers and babies they need naps.  When they are tweens and teens they need electronics time to not be grumpy.

We arrive at stop #1 Cincinnati, OH around 11:30 am.  We needed to get lunch and gas.  I also did my research and found an awesome climbing gym (mosaic climbing) to break up the drive and get in a workout.  We climbed until about 2:00 and then hit the road.

We arrived in Louisville to stay at the Galt Hotel (eh, i wouldn’t recommend) around 4:00.  We settled in and headed over to the Louisville Slugger Museum (a must see).  We learned that after 6pm the cost is 1/2 price, so we chose to wait until 6:00 to take the factory tour and see the museum.  Jackson, my baseball player was in heaven.  We bought him a personalized bat and went to dinner while it was engraved.  We ate at Proof on Main.  This is the second time Troy and I have been here and we have loved the food both times.  They also have children’s menus making it simple for the kids.

After a little stroll along the Ohio river, we took the boys back to the hotel and let them have their veg time.  We slipped downstairs for a drink at one of the many speakeasy’s for a nice relaxing “we” time before bed.

Friday: Mammoth Cave Day!

On the drive to Cincinnati, I did research to determine which tour we wanted to take at Mammoth Cave.  I figured out how to purchase tour tickets online.  It seems this is the way to go because there were no tours available when we arrived on Friday.  I selected the Domes and Drips tour.  There are a TON of tours, but this seemed about the attention span of the kids at 2 hours total.  Plus, I personally wanted to see some stalactites and stalagmites.  Troy and I woke up early and ran.  Louisville has a great pedestrian bridge across the Ohio that is an old rail road bridge that has been paved.  It’s perfect for a nice view of the city while running.  The boys slowly woke up and were ready to go around 10am.  Our tour time was for 12:45, so no stress.  A couple things about Mammoth Caves:

1. It’s in central time zone – this is an hour later than Louisville

2. It’s really busy in the summer – about 100 people were on our tour

3. Unlike other national parks, it is very “danger free” … meaning there are hand rails and concrete walking paths within the cave

My impression of the whole experience is, I didn’t realize how crowded it would be.  I was disappointed at the safety rails and man made walking path.  I was expecting more of a hike.  At least on the tour we took, it’s just like walking on a sidewalk and looking at the cave.  The cave was impressive, but I was hoping for a bit more interaction, wilderness, need-hiking-boots, type experience.  I’m going with, it was just alright and I plan to go back at a less busy time.  However, my 13 year old, leaned over and said “Mom, this was totally worth it” during the tour.  So, at least his expectations were exceeded.

On the way back from Mammoth Cave we stopped at the World’s Largest go-kart track to let the boys have some fun practice driving.  They also chose to have a quick dinner and veg the rest of the night versus going out to dinner with us.  Once we got back to the hotel, Troy and I let the boys reconnect to the outside world via electronics while we had a nice dinner.  Although, I don’t recommend the place we chose, so no endorsement there.

Saturday: Headed home

After discussing with the boys if they had anything else they would like to see, we decided to head back to Ohio.  It was a nice trip and everyone wanted to get organized for the upcoming week.  But first! Climbing 🙂  We visit NuLu Climbing in Louisville as soon as they opened.  Troy requested a late checkout so we could climb then shower before getting on the road.  The gym was amazing.  It is 100% bouldering and huge!  Jackson, Troy, and I had a great time and felt ready to sit in a car for 4 hours.

August seems like a great time to detox!

Hello! Blogging world.  It’s Troy’s wife, Melanie.  He’s mentioned me in a few blogs and I’ve always PLANNED to join in the fun, but alas never took the time to write down my thoughts.  So here goes, my first blog… please be gentle 🙂

Troy and I just took one of our amazing trips.  This time with the 2 younger boys for their vacation before they go back to school.  Jackson has been playing baseball all summer making it difficult to go on a vacation.  This year, I thought we could just keep it simple and go to Louisville, KY, about 4 hours from our home.  I hope to make time to write a review of Louisville, but this blog is about getting back to a normal / sustainable routine.  When Troy and I travel, we enjoy a little bit extra most places.  We eat desert, have the coffee, try the new item on the menu and all that fun stuff.  We buy the kids ice cream and let them eat fast food more than usual.  And usually, I come home with the attitude that I need to get my life and decision under control.  While it’s fun to relax and enjoy, those unhealthy decisions wake me up in the middle of the night, make me cranky, and sluggish all around.  We try to keep active by hiking, climbing, and running, but I can’t keep up with the extreme schedule in either direction.

Also, I’ve been listening to Cait Flanders book a “A Year of Less” which is my second time listening.  She makes great points and the book reviews what we all know which is if you want to lose weight, eat less, if you want to save money, spend less, and so on.  Cait explains how she personally tackles spending less for a whole year.  She holds herself accountable by writing a blog and sharing with the world her successes and her opportunities to improve.  Ugh, and man do I HATE holding myself accountable publicly or honestly even formally.  I won’t even write it in a journal so there’s always a way to wiggle out of a goal.  With that being said, I reach my goals usually.  Over the past 9 months, I’ve lost 30 pounds.  I’ve started running consistently again planning for a 1/2 marathon in November.  I’ve started consistently climbing (something that was never a goal, but satisfies weight training).  i reach goals for the most part, but I don’t make big vision boards and document the progress.  I guess until now.

I have 10 more pounds I want to lose.  I want to do that while training for a 1/2 marathon and not being so reliant on Optifast to get there.  I want to move into the phase of eating that is my new normal and that I can control myself.  I would also like to reduce my spending.  I previously listened to Cait’s book and really curbed my spending on clothing and small, impulse buys, but when I lost weight, I opened my budget to replace my closet and well, that needs to get back under control.  I haven’t re-filled my closet completely, but I wanted to keep it minimal and it’s kinda not.

So, starting today, I am coming up with my rules of engagement for the rest of 2019 for spending.  I am also coming up with my healthy plan for the month of August to be renewed in September.  I have some travel happening in September that will take some special consideration.

Spending through 12/31/19:

  1. Can buy house hold items that need replaced or are non-existent now
  2. Can buy items to finish decorating the boys rooms
  3. At the beginning of each month, thoughtfully determine the 3 wardrobe items that make the most sense – get rid of what they replace if they replace items
  4. Determine a plan for Christmas
  5. Can buy items for the boys that they need, such as sports gear

Current items I want to buy:

  • Black blazer for work – thinking I will wait for a labor day sale at WHBM
  • Climbing shorts – because the ones I have are too big and I climb ~ 3 times a week
  • Running shorts – because I have 2 pairs now and would like a 3rd for a whole weeks worth of running shorts with pockets
  • A traditional jean skirt – because I think it’s cute

This list can be updated, because I’m sure I did not think about everything…. Also, I want to review my spending history to make sure my gut feeling is right that I’m spending most of my money on clothing.

Weight management for the month of August:
Goal weight = 140, current weight 155 (Louisville weekend was super fun, and wow! I just published my freaking weight, uh, that hurts 😉

  1. Drink alcohol only once a week (usually, Monday night climb and wine)
  2. Go to Conci regularly to check in and progress off the Optifast diet
  3. Plan a meal strategy at the beginning of every week – this week I will be finishing the Fresh ’n Lean meals for lunch and salads for dinner
  4. Track calories using My Fitness Pal
  5. Weigh myself daily
  6. Continue with the Garmin running plan, climbing for fun, and add to the fitness routine Ab workouts

I will check back in next week for an update on my progress.

Why I Hate Home Improvement

You read that right. I hate home improvement. Yes, yes, I enjoy watching The Property Brothers and Chip & Joanna just like everyone else. But when it comes to actually doing home improvement, I find that every project takes twice as long and costs twice as much as the most conservative estimates. Not only that, this latest “simple” repair nearly broke me.

The Role Model

My father-in-law is my role model. In his early 70’s, he is fitter than most through brute force of effort. His goal is to walk 10 miles a day, and unless he’s got some project going on, he does it. Jimmy, as he is known by those close to him, also goes to the gym. He has perhaps the calmest demeanor I’ve ever seen, and this from a man who survived the front lines as an infantryman in Vietnam. He is also quite handy. A now retired electrician, Jimmy makes short work of plenty of home improvement projects. I can only aspire to such great heights.

The Problem

This past weekend, Jimmy came to visit to watch our youngest play in his baseball tournament. He got to our house while we weren’t home and discovered the half-bath ceiling vent had stopped working. I had heard the motor begin to whine over the past few weeks but I figured I’d let it completely die before replacing it. Springing into action, Jimmy quickly disassembled the offending fan and performed some diagnostics. He reported, “I got the fan spinning again, but the motor is fried. Just take it to Lowe’s and tell them you need a replacement motor.” Simple, right?

The Project

Not even close. I went to Lowe’s and found the “right” motor. Only it didn’t turn out that way. It was the exact opposite of everything that I needed. Mounting screws on the wrong side, shaft spinning the wrong way, it was made to be right side up and I needed upside down. I could take it back, but this was all they had. Then I’m off searching for another motor on the internet and the experts at the hardware store knew this one was right for me. What would Jimmy do? Jimmy would take it and the previous motor apart, change the mounting screws and make other minor adjustments to make it work. So let’s get started!

The Complication

I don’t have the tools to change the mounting screws. The previous motor’s mounting screws were simple hex heads, whereas the new one requires a star head driver. The drivers are cheap and I will probably need them in the future so I decided to go get them. It was the weekend and traffic was bad. The hardware store is on the bike path, so I decided to mount up and ride over to pick up the tools. Why not channel my inner Jimmy and get some exercise while home improving? This decision would prove painful.

The Crash

I made it to the service road without incident. Checking behind me for traffic as I turned into the parking lot, I started to crank down on my pedals to get up to the building and find a spot to put my bike. Right then I hit a bump. I hit it with my front tire which caused me to lurch forward and when my back tire hit, it lifted my back wheel off the ground. The next few split seconds played out in slow, teeth-gnashing motion as I attempted to shift my body weight backwards and pull on the back brake handle to slow down. Best I can tell, shifting my hand on the grip caused me to lose control of the front because the front wheel turned and I went toppling over the handle bars in a heap. I lay on the hot asphalt for a moment taking stock. Bruised and a little bloody, nothing seemed to be broken at the moment, so I got up to finish the job. I’m sure I looked a mess as I limped around the hardware store with a road-scarred shirt and shorts grimacing from the new aches and pains.

The Conclusion

The new exact-opposite vent fan motor cost me about $20. The new tools cost me $14. However, when I add in the new bicycle seat since mine was busted in the crash, my additional cost goes up to $32 – more than double the cost. Had the motor been correct, I could have replaced it in about 25 minutes. After changing the mounting screws, reversing the armature, having to use the bushings from the old fan motor because of the upside down mount, and three attempts before getting it right, I had nearly 3 hours of labor in this “simple” project – more than 6X the time. As I write this, I am still finding new bruises from the bike crash. I hate home improvement.

In Pursuit of Zero

We have two kids in college at the moment. One is finishing up, the other is taking off from her first year like a rocket, jumping from Freshman to Junior by way of a full load and a summer semester abroad in Ireland. Having had children early in life by modern metropolitan standards, I didn’t have time or the extra funds to save for college. However, I hold firm to the commitment that my children should not come out of college saddled with debt, so… yours truly is paying for college. As I watch the student debt totals climb, I begin to get uneasy. I know I can pay it off in a reasonable time, but I do not like owing money. The only logical conclusion is to reduce spending in order to funnel more money towards the debt. Hence, “in pursuit of zero.”

Having read up, watched movies, and listened to podcasts on the topic of minimalism, I am wise in the ways. There is a mental shift that has to take place in order to buy less. We get settled into our routines like morning coffee at Dunkin Donuts (yes, this part of America runs on Dunkin), grabbing a bite at the cafe for lunch, or closing out a long work week at happy hour with friends. All of a sudden not doing those things when your income level hasn’t changed feels a bit like punishment. I also find that I tend to buy things whimsically – especially when life isn’t going as expected. Frustrations at work? Oh, I think I’ll work on my upper body and core strength with a new set of gymnastic rings for the garage. To be fair, I do use my new toys. But in reality, I don’t need them.

So it is with essentially no fanfare that this weekend I kick off a fresh pursuit of zero. I’ll start with some analysis of where I’ve been spending my money – this is always a hoot. From there I’ll look for opportunities to reduce subscriptions and then set ground rules for spending like: “No takeout coffee.” Even if I can free up an extra $50 a month to redirect toward paying down debt, I’ll call it a win. While I won’t post exact dollar figures here, I’ll check back in in a future post to report any progress.

On a related note, I find that Cait Flanders’ The Year of Less is the best book on moving toward frugal living. What I thought would be an exercise in throwing stuff out and setting rules about shopping a la Marie Kondo turned into a deep analysis of the factors that drove Cait’s consumerist behavior. While I don’t have much in common with Cait, I applauded her candor and honesty, which inspired me to get out of some of my own mental ruts associated with spending.

Cheers!