Thursday, July 31, 2014

Life with The OSUMB... and my support of Jon Waters

My name is Allison Pallard and I am a 1998 graduate with 3 degrees from The Ohio State University.  I am also a 5 year member of The Ohio State University Marching Band from 1993-1997.  I am writing today to not only express my support for Jonathan Waters, but to also share my very special experience in the OSUMB as well as in my friendship with Jon. 

Let me take you back to 1992.  I was a 17 year old naïve freshman at OSU who came from a very small town. I graduated with 63 people and played in a high school band of 30.  I was told I was too quiet, too anxious, too inexperienced and too overweight to even consider making The OSUMB by many people in my hometown.  I drove 3 hours one way every Tuesday and Thursday to attend summer sessions in order to learn the techniques necessary to make the band.  Tryouts came and went and I returned home cut from the band.  Much like every other experience in my life, I refused to give up and came back for a second time in 1993.  I again drove 3 hours one way every Tuesday and Thursday for summer sessions and again I was cut from the band.  A month later I was literally packing my things to return home and transfer to a new school as the ONLY reason I wanted to attend The Ohio State University was to fulfill my dream of becoming a member of The OSUMB.  On that same day I was packing, I received a phone call.  On the other end of the phone was a staff member of The OSUMB.  She informed me that someone had been released from the band and they would like me to join the band as his replacement.  I made one call to my mom and dad to inform them and then literally ran to the stadium as my dream had finally come true… I was a member of TBDBITL!  Reality set in very quickly though… I was in a room full of strangers, I had just replaced one of their friends, I was still quiet, naïve, anxious, and overweight.  Would these people even accept me for who I was?  The answer to that question is a resounding YES.  I was welcomed with open arms into a row of 11 men and 2 women.  Each person went out of his/her way to help me understand the new part I was playing, how to read charts, where to get my uniform, what I needed to buy to complete my uniform, where I needed to be and when, how to memorize my music, and many other little things I never would have considered as a naïve rookie.  It very quickly became apparent to me that for the first time in my life I wasn’t being judged by my peers because I was quiet and overweight.  For the first time in my life I was immediately accepted as one of them and they didn’t care where I was from or what I looked like… I was simply a member of their family.  My new family never made me feel like an outsider, they never made fun of me, and they always looked out for me. 


There are two very distinct experiences I remember where my new family made sure I felt supported, protected and cared about.  The first of which was my very first Michigan game which occurred in Michigan.  I remember as we marched into the stadium and down their ramp and a member of my row turned around and looked at me and said “hold on to your hat, and don’t let anyone touch you”.  With my eyes wide and fear in my chest I trudged down that ramp as my row mates kept an extra eye on me to ensure I was ok and untouched.  Fast forward to my very first bowl game trip which occurred at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.  I had the time of my life exploring the San Diego Zoo with my row, going out to dinner, laughing and joking in our hotel rooms and exploring Tijuana together.  Again, naïve Allison was about to enter Tijuana without a clue in the world what to expect.  Why were these band veterans even allowing me to hang out with them?  It just didn’t matter to them what class I was, they wanted me there.  One row member assisted me in buying a blanket and another one pulled me away from someone who was trying to take my money.  Such little things to most, but huge and meaningful to me.  These guys didn’t have to watch out for me, they didn’t have to care… but they did.  And with that I finished my first year of TBDBITL as a whole new person with hope in my heart.


I made the band the next 4 years after that.  With each new year came new friends, roommates, and memories that will last a lifetime.  That small town girl was eventually voted by her peers to be their squad leader for her final 2 years in band.  That overweight, quiet, naïve girl was accepted as a leader and no one cared about her past.  My personality blossomed, my self esteem raised to new levels, and most importantly I had friends I knew would be in my life forever.  One of those friends is Mr. Jonathan Waters.  Jon was a few years behind me in school and I didn’t even know him as he was trying out.  But one day he approached me and an instant friendship was formed.  Jon shared that he knew instantly that we would be friends forever simply by seeing the smile on my face and knowing it was meant to be.  We were inseparable from that day on.  Jon was someone I knew I could trust, someone I knew would always have my back, and someone I knew would always protect me and care about me as a person.  I can say without a doubt that Jon is a man of integrity, respect, honesty and amazing loyalty to his family, friends, students, etc.  Let me take you to a day in 1998 when I was preparing to graduate from The Ohio State University.  I planned to engage in a senior ritual (unrelated to anything marching band) and Jon made sure I knew that if I needed anything during that ritual that I was to call him and he’d be there to get me or to help me through it.  Unfortunately, on that night I did need Jon.  That night I became acquainted with a man who felt it was necessary to put me in an extremely uncomfortable and scary situation.  After being told “NO”, this man felt it necessary to push the issue and I found myself the near victim of a sexual assault.  Scared and feeling alone, I remembered the words of my friend who said “call me if you need me”.   Freeing myself from his hold I was able to lock myself in a bathroom and call my friend Jon Waters for help.  He was able to talk me through things, calm me down and assure me I would be ok.  The very next day there was a knock on my door and there stood Jon Waters with his arms stretched out ready to hug me and let me know I was ok.  We sat for a long time in silence that day, but I knew that I had someone to rely on and someone who came through on his promise that he would make sure I was safe.  Yet today that same man is being accused of allowing sexualized behaviors and assaults to occur in his band.  Anyone who knows this man, takes the time to know this man, or even hears stories about this man knows that this is a far cry from the truth. 


My life would not be what it is today had it not been for the acceptance, support, positive experiences, laughter, and friendships I gained while a member of The OSUMB.  Never once did I feel threatened, harassed, forced or degraded during my time with the marching band.  I can say this with confidence as I came from a place prior to college where those things did happen.  They happened on a daily basis.  The Ohio State University Marching Band was MY safe haven.  The band was my platform for growth, happiness, self esteem, and a collection of friendships that will never end.  I know that without a doubt if I ever need anything that a member of my band family is only a phone call away… we protect each other, we support each other, and we care about one another without reservation or hesitation.  Jonathan Waters is without a doubt the best person to build our band and to take it to higher levels.  His dedication, his passion, his loyalty, and his respect for The OSUMB is of the highest level possible.  He has my full support as a person, as a leader, as a friend and as a “family” member and I truly believe that not for one minute Jon ever tolerated anything negative, demeaning or illegal within OUR band. 

 The Ohio State University Marching Band is a place where dreams are fulfilled, personalities are developed, friendships are made and lives are changed.  My life changed the moment I walked into that band room as an official member of TBDBITL.  I experienced things I never would have had the chance to experience had I not been a member of the band.  I made friends of all cultures, religions, races and beliefs whom I would have never met had I not been a member of the band.  To say that The Ohio State University Marching Band changed my life is an understatement… The Ohio State University Marching Band is a place where growth is encouraged, demanded, and accepted.  I am a better person for being a member of The Ohio State University Marching Band.  I am a changed person, I am a confident person, and I am a person who is blessed with the largest “family” in the world.  The Ohio State University Marching Band MADE my life.


I Stand With Jon Waters

Allison “DOLT” Pallard
A-Row 1993-1997 (Assistant Squad Leader 1996 & 1997)

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Family

Meet my family!  My mom, my dad, and my brother... the 3 people who have never once left my side no matter what I've done!! 

Stephen is my "wittle brudder" and a best friend.  We fought like cats and dogs... he threw a pair of scissors at me and dumped mustard all over my white jeans (yes, white jeans) and I convinced him to paint mom's pumpkin pies with BBQ sauce and then told on him, and I burnt his face with the matches as I was lighting the candles on his birthday cake.  We rarely agreed as teens but as we grew into adults I couldn't imagine my life without him.  Stephen makes me smile and laugh.  He sat outside a testing center for 4 hours while I tested for my social work license... he sat waiting with a bag of Doritos and Mountain Dew and never left.  He knew I was scared and wanted to be there pass or fail.  I passed, so he took me out for steak.  The poor kid was dragged to every softball game and band concert I had and he never complained and always cheered me on.  I love the relationship I have with him.  We laugh together, tease each other, and love unconditionally.  I cherish the time we have together whether it's been at a NASCAR race, a sporting event, dumping buckets of water on each other on vacation, or just a friendly phone call to "check in".  I know for a fact that I'm the luckiest girl alive when it comes to the brother department. 

My daddy... the man who can do no wrong.  He bought me a pony at age 2, he taught me to play softball at age 4, he bought me a silver trumpet at age 9 because I wanted to be in the OSU Marching band.  He coached my softball teams, he drove my butt to trumpet lessons every week, he sold girl scout cookies for me and he sat through countless hours of choir concerts, plays and band concerts. He's the dad who drove 3 hours to sit on a hill to watch me tryout for the OSU marching band because I had called him the night before positive I was being cut. My dad has never once wavered in his support for me and I've always known he loves me unconditionally. I'm proud of him for the life changes he has made to become healthier and happier so he can be in our lives so much longer. I will forever be his "Alligator". 

And finally my mom. Growing up she was always the mom everyone wanted around. She gave unselfishly and was always the classroom mom or the mom who drove us all around for everything. Admittedly, we didn't have the best relationship growing up as I was a daddy's girl. But thank God that mom and I have grown closer. She's my travel partner, my concert partner and my partner in crime as well as my best friend. Seeing her transform herself into a stronger more confident woman this last month makes me swell with pride!  She still gives unselfishly and people still love her but it's awesome to see her loving herself as much as we all do!  

I would be nothing without these 3 people. They are the push behind me when I start to stall and they are the never ending love and support everyone wishes they had. I have an amazing family. We may not agree all the time but we always remember to love and live and forget the bad. Thank you mom, dad and Stephen for always loving me, supporting me, and showing me what life is all about!!  I love you!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Story

There comes a time in a person's life when you finally realize it's time... it's time to share who you really are, where you've come from, how you got there, and where you plan to go from here.  My life story isn't an easy one to share but I'm at a point now where I know I'm a better person and it's all in my past. 

I have always been a quiet person, even from a very young age.  I remember my report cards even from elementary school would say "Allison is a good student but she's very quiet".  Even as I became a trumpet player I was always asked to "play louder".  I've just never been one to stand out in a crowd so to speak.  I can first remember life becoming difficult in the 7th grade.  I was never really one to care about dressing up for school and often chose sweatpants for the sake of comfort.  I distinctly remember being called "sweatpants girl" and other kids laughing at me quite often.  It was also social suicide to be in the band yet there I was in the high school marching band as a 7th grader.  I now have a chipped front tooth thanks to a football player who so politely informed me I was on HIS field as he jammed my trumpet into my mouth as he ever not so nicely told me to get the F out of his way and off the field.  FYI, I was marching in the halftime show... I wasn't just hanging out.  Then there was the time, still in junior high, that I was tested for the gifted program.  We were informed that I definitely qualified for the program but they were not going to put me in it because I was "too emotional".  So now, even the school had me labeled as someone incapable of success.

Then it was on to high school... where the nightmares only worsened.  There I was, a straight A student who minded her own business, a dedicated band member, a member of several other clubs and groups, and a starter on the varsity softball team (and I can guarantee you hardly anyone knows about the awards I won as a softball player).  No one cared though... I wasn't one of the skinny girls, I didn't buy fancy clothes (I remember one birthday where I opened a present of clothing from my grandma and my friend reached in the box and checked the tags), and I was quiet and never really had much to say.  I had friends, don't get me wrong and some of them are still my friends to this day... but most of my high school years were spent walking with my head down through the halls doing my work and going home or to my after school activities.  I remember one day in gym class when I had done something rather well and a senior (who I thought was my friend) stopped in the middle of class and yelled "Hey Allison, can you do this?" as he sucked in his stomach to make himself even thinner.  I was mortified and knew that the next 3 years most likely weren't going to get any better.  They of course didn't as I heard daily how ugly, fat and useless I was day after day.  It wasn't out of the ordinary for me to cry on the way to school and on the way home.  One year during softball conditioning I nearly passed out while in the middle of a bench press because I had been starving myself for days.  I even went as far as wondering if I really needed to continue with life because life just sucked.  When your teachers tell you that despite your over 4.0 GPA you'll never make it in the big city at Ohio State and many just laughed when I even mentioned my dream of being in the Ohio State Marching Band.  So let's just say graduation day was one of the best days of my life because it meant I didn't ever have to be with those people ever again!

College life... my dream of making the band didn't happen... I was cut the first AND second time I tried out... but by the grace of God I received a phone call and was asked to join the band halfway through the season.  Well what was supposed to be a dream come true was a dream turned nightmare because I swear my row mates hated me because I replaced one of their good friends.  But I trudged on and came back year after year for 5 years and was voted squad leader for my final 2 years.  I made some of the best friends of my life in college through the dorms and band and they are still my best friends to this very day!

I am now 16 years out of college and still overweight.  I've tried more diets than I can imagine and had some progress but then plateaued and just gave up.  I came to the point that being overweight was just something I would have to deal with.  Depression and anxiety set in and then my health started to decline with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, back problems, knee and ankle surgeries and I pretty much was done with life.  Sure, I would succeed now in then especially when I ran an entire 5k, swam on a triathlon relay twice and then walked/jogged my first quarter marathon.  But I was still fat and I was still depressed.  I honestly didn't really think much would ever work to get me out of my funk and I certainly didn't think anything would ever make me like myself again. 

I began my journey toward a healthier lifestyle that not only included weight loss, but also learning to like myself, put myself first and just enjoy life.  I have a niece and nephew now and my cousin is isn't getting any younger... I need to learn to like myself in order to help them live happy lives.  I've taken more chances in the last 3 months than I've probably ever taken... I've quit a job of 12 years to try something new, I've posted more about myself publicly than I ever imagined I would, I've engaged in relationships (short and long term) and I've just plain taken the time to enjoy life.  This journey is taking me places I never imagined and I still don't know where it will end.  What I DO know is that I'm not going to stop... I have had and I will continue to have really rough days... but nothing is ever perfect and thanks to my friends and family I will get through each and every one of them every single time.  I started my journey at 310 pounds and I'm no longer at that weight.  My cholesterol and blood pressure are down and my asthma inhaler is barely used.  My doctor is even optimistic that I will no longer need my anxiety medications in a few months.  One day at a time though... one step at a time... and definitely a lot more ME moments are sure to come!!!

So there you have it... it's not complete and many moments are left out... but that's a snippet of me and why I'm headed where I'm headed.  Who knows where I'm going... but I'll get there a "Stronger" person!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Here we go...

I'm so excited to start this new blog and to share my thoughts, feelings and journey through the rest of my life publicly. I'm usually a private person but I am ready and excited to share my journey with everyone and anyone who will listen!