Category Archives: Anecdotal

Who knew?

This week my husband and I attended the Parent Teacher Conferences of both of our sons. Of course, we basked in the triumph of hearing about:

  • How respectful and well-behaved, albeit sometimes chatty, that they both are.
  • How talented and gifted they both are (the words of the educators and the results of arbitrary testing).
  • How both of our sons truly give 120% to everything.
  • How foreign it is for parents that have no giant issues to communicate to the teacher about (or vice versa) are actually engaged enough to make a conference appointment and still believe that the education of their children is ultimately their responsibility. Sorry world, their education is not a throne I’m willing to abdicate.

(Please don’t run away, this will not be a post filled with shameless parenting braggadocio.)

The above moment of Mom pride was brought to you just as an appetizer for my observations from modern middle school:

  • Who knew that it was off-limits in the United States of America to discuss the American political system and process during social studies and civics? Who knew that the inauguration ceremony was such a terrible thing to expose our children to?

As an advocate of personal responsibility, we discuss the election cycle, politics, the constitution and the structure of our government at home with our children. Sure, we shelter them from the extremes of  the current harsh realities, as they are not fully equipped to process this information right now, but I am teaching them critical thinking, logic, and how to handle people who have opinions and views different from the opinions and views that they are personally currently forming, and that their parents hold.

Differences do not have to divide.

We have taught our children that politics are just that. They are politics. They are part of our lives, but they are not the sum total of our lives. We love and respect people regardless of how they vote and how they see the world. People are people. Politics are politics. It is possible to do life with everyone in our community, not just those that share every single random opinion that we do. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed for me to agree blindly with any one leader. I’m able to logically see faults and favor in every administration.

Like any educated person would, we inquired as to why there was no mention of the inauguration at school. No discussion on the constitution. No celebration of what makes America unique to all the other high functioning, beautiful western nations in the world. No evidence as to the peaceful transition of power that occurred and the displays of respect that happened between the former and current president, even though their leadership and politics are diametrically opposed to each other.

It is my belief that what is observed every 4 years is a sacred ceremony.  I have watched every inauguration since the 1988 elections regardless of whether the victor was the choice of my parents, and later myself.

Who knew being informed was such a terrible thing?

If you look hard enough, my second observation is right along the lines of this “forbidden” inauguration:

Who knew that the hardest scientific concept for middle school aged humans to grasp is the subject of Mass, Volume, and Density?

This factoid came up in discussion and so I immediately tried to recall when I was taught these scientific principles and instead, came up with how I have currently been working with these ideas and just didn’t know it. I spent my whole life thinking I had thin hair until some wonderful stylist actually showed me looks that were good for me and how to actually do my hair. (I will sadly admit to you that I was in my 30’s before I knew how to fix my hair like a well functioning working woman). The stylist told me that my hair wasn’t thin, but that it was in fact just fine. It wasn’t the mass, or amount of my hair, it was the density of my hair that was causing the volume to look low. powder-play

Armed with this newfound information, I still wasn’t satisfied until one angel friend mentioned to me, in passing this past summer, that they know someone with my same “problem” who told her that “Powder Play” was a game changer. So, I went and bought powder play and my life was forever changed. (Unfortunately I wasn’t offered any free product of sponsorship to say that, I’m just a good American citizen that wants to see the rights of women to have volume and “Texas Sized” hair fulfilled.)

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Now, I’m no scientist, and I’m certainly not a middle school teacher, but wouldn’t the most famous hair on the planet right now have been a good object lesson?

Perhaps in the future, instead of writing off times of political unrest and pretending that they don’t exist, we can highlight the diversity of this country, learn to laugh when you want to cry, and maybe even add a little humor to the middle school classroom.

 

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A marathon is much more than 26.2 miles

If you ask a person how long a marathon is, you will get an extremely wide variety of answers. Of those answers, it is absolutely maddening to a full marathoner when someone tells you that they themselves have run a marathon, or their cousin has run a marathon, only to find out that they were referring to a random 5K that they did once. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but a 5K is only 3.1 miles. The “marathon” that these people supposedly ran can range anywhere from a friendly 1 mile charity run to an actual full marathon. I wish that when co-workers, family, friends, and strangers shared with me the tales of their tragedy and triumph, knee pain, and shin splints which resulted from their “marathon” that I could just smile and celebrate with them, but, in fact, I seethe inside. I arrogantly wonder how your 3 mile walk can compare to the 1700 miles I logged in the past 12 months, as if the marathon was my lover and you offended him.

You see, a true full marathon is 26.2 miles in distance, but it is, in fact, much more than that. The marathon is the story of a full season of dedication and preparation, discipline and dedication, fun and labor.

A marathon tells a deeply personal story.

I feel sorry for the people who have signed up for a marathon on a whim, and are just lucky enough to have youth on their side, so they finish this majestic event without giving it the proper training and respect that it deserves. Sure, if you are youthful and you haven’t let your muscles atrophy with disuse, you can stumble your way through this event. You might not be able to walk the next day, and you might curse the moment you were born, but you will receive a medal nonetheless.

To truly appreciate the marathon though, one should get a training plan, set a goal, and persevere through the entire season. The marathon won’t change you unless you fully invite it in. I would venture to assume finishing a marathon without embracing its essence is like the difference between a one night stand and a monogamous blissful marriage. They are incomparable.

As I train this season for my 10th full marathon, I am reminded to respect the distance, lean into process, and know that this journey to the finish line has very little to do with the actual event and everything to do with putting the work in day in and day out. This year, at least for the Pittsburgh Marathon, I am freeing myself from a time goal at the actual event and attempting  to run each training run with the respect that it deserves. My daily and weekly mileage exists for more than an arbitrarily set time by my ego and my comparisons of myself to others, it exists to make me stronger. I have no control over many of the conditions that I will face on race day, but I can determine the degree to which I allow myself to celebrate my trip to the starting line. Even a bad run for me is a good run because I am becoming the person I never dreamed I could be and yet always wanted to be.

I am alive. I am healthy. I am strong. I am fit. I am fierce. I am free.

The marathon, with all of its agony and beauty, has made me a better leader and person, but most importantly it gave birth to my identity as an athlete.

Marathon, you might be 26.2 miles on race day, but my journey has no finish line.

I get asked a lot about my training plans, nutrition, weight loss and maintenance, and running journey. I look forward to sharing with you about this and encouraging you on your path.

 

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Here is Jessica, with her amazing cousin Paul, before she and running hooked up. This photo was taken exactly 1 week before I began my nutrition and fitness journey, and about 4 months before I started run/walking to speed up my fitness journey. The rest is a beautiful love story because running spoke to my soul and no long was about weight.

Monday Musings: Do streaking and productivity hacking have validity?

“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

Steven Pressfield

Today, January 30, 2017, I kick off a writing streak. Notice, I said writing, not necessarily posting. You may or may not be privy to the musings of my mind during the next 30 days as I attempt to improve upon, and even solidify, my calling as a writer. It is possible that what I put on paper will not be fit for human consumption, and that is ok. Not every basket that Lebron gloriously puts in is seen.

They, the powers that be, say that in order to be an author, blogger, or writer (individual that puts words on paper), you must actually be engaged in the practice of regularly writing. This sounds like common sense, except that it is not entirely true. I have long been a self-proclaimed wordsmith and dabbler into all mediums communication related, except that my writing has yet to be read by many people. Sure, I’ve actually been published on a few websites and in a smattering of periodicals. I’m also positive my Master’s thesis was perused by at least 4 people, of whom I have no doubts lined up with eager anticipation to devour it. (We will pretend that payment to do so did not effect their decision to read my work.)

However, to be a writer, in my opinion, you actually need more than words on paper, but an audience with which to share, mothers and spouses not included.

This is where the 21st century has been simultaneously kind and cruel. The kind part is that the internet, blogs, and social media has given everyone the opportunity for an audience. The cruel part is just a repeat of the kind part.

I do not know what it is that holds me back from doing some of the very things that:

  1. I feel called to
  2. People tell me I’m good at
  3. I actually enjoy once I get started

Steven Pressfield, author of many international bestsellers, would say that I’m just a victim of the “resistance”. Resistance is the unseen powerful force that holds us back and tells us lies. Steven may have popularized the concept of “resistance” in his completely life changing and worthwhile read “The War of Art”, but the apostle Paul seems to be the OG because he so eloquently stated in the bible that he was battling it every day.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. …..19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

.Romans 7:15 and 19 New International Version (NIV)

 Alas, here is where the Monday Musings come into play:

  1. When I don’t do something I’m compelled and called to do is it a sin even if the very act itself is not a sin? (IE: I love to write. Feel called to write. Entertain and inform people when I write but, outside of work, past academic achievements, leadership responsibilities, friendly communications, and public speech development, I rarely write).

    Wow! I’d just rather not think about it.  Or, better yet, is the very thing I so expertly push aside the exact thing God is wanting me to think about in 2017?

  2.  Do I have things to say that people actually care about? Well, I guess that remains to be seen. I know one thing, I’m going to try my best not to let imposter syndrome or fixating on “results” hold me back. What good is chasing results if you’re not even putting in the work worthy of a result?
  3. So called experts tell you to have a specific audience in mind and narrow the interest window of those you’re writing to achieve maximum success, but I want to write about all the things that currently are the sum of my life. The good news is that other experts say to write about what you know about and that real life stories and experiences are the most fascinating things one can share. I guess I’ll figure out which expert is correct, the one who tells me to exclusively focus on food, fitness, leadership, theology, women’s issues, family issues, or any topic I chose so long as I choose just one of the above topics, or the expert that says to write about what you know about and love?I can’t let my “fear” of covering the various topics that fuel me hold me back. At some juncture I will maybe settle into a cohesive pattern and rhythm of what is the best for me to share and say, however, until then, the resistance can keep lying, but I’m not listening.
  4.  I will test the “productivity” hack who shared with me that streaking is the best way to start and solidify a habit. The truth is a “productivity” hack is kind of an oxy-moron. Sure you can hack your brain and your life systems some, but at the end of the day success, productivity, time management, financial success, a hot body, and emotional wellness can only be “hacked” if you regularly use 4 letter words, well, at least one 4 letter word WORK.

What, if any, topics would you like my rabbit chasing brain to cover on this blog?

As a prequel, be prepared to hear about my marathon training, what I’m eating (or not eating), coffee, books I’m reading and reviewing, my family, my friends, my public speaking and communication endeavors, my church, leadership, and anything else I’m compelled to share.

Do not worry, I am confident that by February 28, the final day of my streak, daily writing will be such a habit for me that you will have me around for a very long time, thus, will have ample occasion to hear/read it all.

Change is not a 4 Letter Word

People love a good weight loss story. Since it is still technically January, I’m assuming many people are still at least attempting to maintain some semblance of resolve with their goals for 2017, and research shows a good portion of the US determines to lose weight every January. In that vein, I want to just share with you a few tidbits from my weight loss and running journey so that you have a better framework of where I’m coming from.

Lately, I’m always accused of having a fast metabolism and of being a skinny girl. This brings me equal parts satisfaction and frustration. The satisfaction portion is obvious, but the frustration portion is that I work like my life literally depends on it to maintain my current physical state.

As an individual that recognizes that one’s mind, body, and spirit must be in alignment for passion and purpose to fully collide, I reassessed where I was at in my life when I was staring down the barrel of turning the big 3-0 in 2010. I was out of shape, 60 pounds larger than I should’ve been, fat, flabby, and apparently a willing accomplice to this physical state of being. I was the perfect martyr, complaining that genetics dealt me this hand.

I had always struggled with weight and body image to a degree, but after I became a mom to my two boys, I had somewhat settled into it and felt it was my destiny. I’m never going to be tiny and one pearl of old age is self-acceptance. I have always been confident in everything, except my physical appearance, and I had decided I was done feeling bad about myself for how I looked.

Something, however, flipped in me as my waist bands grew tighter and my scale kept creeping upwards. I was never a lethargic individual, but I knew as I got older that would become my new norm if my pant size continued to grow in proportion to my age. I don’t mind adding chronological years, at least it means I’m still alive, but I decided I didn’t have to grow old and I certainly didn’t have to be old and fat. There were more reasons to lose weight than to try to look like a super model and for the first time in my life, true balance, health, vitality, and wellness were my physical quest.

I’m now fit, semi addicted to running (of which I never dreamed would occur. I couldn’t’ even run one mile when I first ventured out), energized, and more passionate about every area of my life than ever before. I am learning to celebrate the highs and lows of my life while gaining wisdom, knowledge, and experience, and I love sharing that spirit of celebration with others.

Regularly running marathons is now my current hobby of choice, and at one point was on a run steak, running every single day with no breaks, from November 17, 2011- May (well I blocked the exact date because it felt like a divorce) 2013.

I know I haven’t shared the who, what, when, where, and how’s of this journey in this post, but if you read the archives, you’ll find some information, and I will periodically revisit this topic.

Everyone needs someone they can identify with, learn from, and live in relationship with and I’m putting myself out there to hopefully be that person for someone and in the process, let you peer into my home, head, and heart and glean from you.

The truth is, YOU CAN DO IT!

I’m a multifaceted person.  I vacillate from fitness guru to theologian to mom to foodie to psychologist to marriage counselor to motivational speaker to wife and back. I’m not an elite athlete. I’m just a girl who was born into an overweight family with terrible genetics that decided to rewrite her health and fitness story.

The greatness realization of this journey is that people aren’t kidding when they tell you the mind, body, and Spirit must all be aligned and working together for wholeness and wellness.

Do you have any body and fitness transformation stories to share in the comments and discussion portion?

 

Simple, but grand

A healthy relationship is one where two whole people make a commitment to help make the other person the best version of themselves.-Wendy Treat

Today my husband asked me if I needed any help. I had worked all day to get several projects finished and was in the post school, cook and scarf down dinner, clean it up, wrap up loose ends and run frantically out the door for a church function whirlwind. That morning between packing lunches, dressing boys, doing my daily devotionals, hiking in a blizzard to the bus stop, and working out at the YMCA, I had stripped all of the beds, washed the sheets, and somehow also managed to wash my sweaty run streak clothes.

(Full Disclosure: I’m a gross person and in the winter will often wear the same outfit 2 days in a row on my runs. In the summer I don’t do this because I start smelling like a zombie, but in the winter I bend the rules of polite social conduct.)

I asked my husband if he was sure he wanted to ask that, and he assured me he was. Do you know that wonderful man not only asked me if I needed help, but then followed through? He put the clean sheets on the boys bunk beds and made their beds. For sure it benefited him to do this, otherwise the boys would be up all night waiting for me to finish after we got home from our event, but it was an unnecessary act of kindness.

The life lesson in all this is that any wonderful relationship is made up of a series of these unseen, untouted, simple grand gestures. A phenomenal marriage is usually the outcome of a daily choice to carry the weight of life, responsibility, family, and fun with each other. Although he’s always good at speaking my love languages, it’s the unexpected extra mile in a frantic moment that keeps a girlish smile on my face. Yes. It is possible to have the rush of an adolescent crush in a mature, seasoned relationship. I’m racking my brain to see what I can do to one up him. Let the games begin.

What simple, unexpected thing can you do today as a grand gesture of love, commitment, and relationship?

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10 NLT)

At the finish line of the 2013 Akron Marathon together after running 26.2 miles side by side. He’s the best pacer.

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Step by Step

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. (3 John 1:2 NLT)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA picture I stumbled across yesterday of myself with my cousin Paul 2 weeks before I started my mind, body, spirit transformational journey.
 

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Versus a picture of me this past summer (2013) with my beautiful aunt (You caught me looking at family photos yesterday!)

Today I had a reminder of how powerful habit is in our life. Besides celebrating Day 807 of my runstreak (which means for that length of time I’ve run everyday with no breaks), I had an interesting conversation with my husband. I don’t like to talk about our fasting a lot on the blog because I feel like that is a personal decision that we make to honor God in our lives, however, I feel that in the interest of exposing how I achieve my mind, body, spirit balance and how I am going about my “one word” for 2014, alignment, I thought I could let you in a little bit.

We begin each year with a 21 day Daniel Fast. I have spoken about it before in previous blogs, but you can also google it if you are unfamiliar with what it entails. We also fast at least one day a week, and in addition, kick off each month by fasting 3 days at the start of said month. The purpose of our fast is multi faceted, but one of the benefits of it is increased health and vitality.  It is not a magical spiritual, mental, or physical bullet, but step by step you grow in every area of your life and start to see God’s blessing increase with each new season of fasting and prayer.

Physically, there is no doubt that when you eliminate grains and animal products, your body isn’t using as much energy in the food/digestion area which releases it to execute more exciting uses of energy. I will be dabbling more into different food choices and detox strategies later this year that I will write about and keep you informed on, but for now, I just want to encourage you on the power of habit. The Daniel Fast is much more spiritual for us than it is physical, but you can’t separate the two. Some of my food detox journeys and research undertakings have little spiritual focus. They are just me pursuing the best physical and mental me I can be, but without a doubt, every time I’m my best physically and mentally, I’m also my best spiritually. It is a circle.

We ended our 21 days at the end of last week, and yet when faced with what to eat for lunch today, my mind only gave me the options that were “Daniel” approved. It was like I had forgotten that my typical egg sandwich was even an option or that pretzels weren’t “forbidden” foods. Am I cured from my cravings? I doubt it. When my mileage amps up the closer to the marathon we get, you better believe I’ll be elbow deep in all natural ice cream and other treats, but for now my new and reset habit system will allow me to further my health goals with little to no effort on my part.

Because I’ve been making good choices, good choices have become automatic. One decision for a cheeseburger won’t derail my life, because my habits are set. One busy day will not keep me from a life of bible reading and devotions because my  habits are set. There will be occasional steps out of the healthy habit train and that is fine with me. I’m in this for life. I’m not an ethical vegan or vegetarian and I have no known food allergies, therefore I have no real deep and meaningful reason to “deprive” myself.

The cool thing about habits is that once the correct ones are cemented, you don’t feel deprived, ever. Habit makes the automatic wise choice for you 96% of the time and that makes it possible to be “bad” the other times. See, there is no black and white. Gray is where the party is at, but your brain and body won’t let you “party” too much because it will desire to return to its setpoint or habit structure.

God created us for far more than we give ourselves credit for. We are generally so busy fighting our human nature with its impulses and temptations that we forget to lean into the momentum that God has stored up for us. God created our brains and bodies to embrace habit and instead of utilizing this amazing computer program he downloaded into us, we are constantly trying to uninstall the very thing that could take us to the next level.  We stop celebrating how far we’ve come and start seeing how far we have to go.

We label segments of our life into categories:

  • Black and white. Good and bad. Wrong and right. Cold and hot. Pessimism and optimism.

Could it be that many things we weigh ourselves down with mentally, physically, and spiritually were never meant to be categorized? Could it be that we have never embraced gray areas?

We stunt ourselves by not embracing the gray areas. There really is no good or bad. Something is better than nothing. Take it step by step. The reason this lifestyle change has stuck is because I approached it with the lens of legacy and the long journey.

Never stop celebrating how far you’ve come. Always build an altar of memories poised for praise (photos in this blog are to jog my memory and celebrate the journey). Sure there is still a long way to go. Sure there are still mental, emotional, spiritual and physical demons to slay, but what if instead of worrying about the unseen, we just baby step our way to the legacy we want to leave.

One day at a time your habits will change to match your dreams and decisions that once stressed you out will become automatic no brain choices. How would it feel to  use your willpower for greater things than survival mode? What if instead of fighting food cravings and a lack of desire to exercise you could use your energy and will power to fight for social justice? Seem like a leap? It isn’t. You can do it. I did it.

My brain and my body were created for more than considering what to eat and what to wear. God put greatness in me and I’m going to live a long healthy life pursuing his promises, living out my purpose, and declaring hope.

When negative thoughts bombard your mind, say, “I am strong. I am well able. I have what it takes. I can do this.”-Joel Osteen

A Big Deal

Exercise in the morning before your brain figures out what you’re doing.

(Thought in my head every time I run in pitch black darkness. Do I love a 5 AM alarm? No. Is it magical to run when the rest of society is asleep and you can still see the moon? Absolutely. Is being done with your run before you even take a sip of coffee rewarding? For some strange reason, yes!)  Full Disclosure: I prefer about 7 pots of coffee before my run and an additional 2-3 after my run, but you can’t always have it how you want it. 🙂

Basically I’m kind of a big deal. The evidence is below. Some of you may already be aware of this, but for those of you that aren’t, brace yourselves. I, Jessica Buckland, was a supermodel for the Akron Marathon race guide in 2013 (bottom left photo). I’m a little late in reporting this news to you because, frankly, I forgot about it, but I didn’t want one additional moment to pass without informing the world that Andy Warhol knew what he was talking about. I’m living my “15” minutes and I’m capitalizing on it, taking my existing celebrity and turning up the volume. (All jokes aside Jonathan and I were interviewed on race day for the Akron Marathon commercial. Be on the lookout. He said we were so good that he thought we worked for the Chamber of Commerce.)

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In 2014 my “word” is alignment. For peak performance in body, soul, and spirit, I am instituting more frequent tune ups in my life. Alignment is a game changer, although its quest can include pain. If you have ever been to a massage therapist for deep tissue work or a chiropractor to get cracked, you understand that small things can be hindering an otherwise healthy person from achieving their personal best.

In my quest for “self actualization/living God’s absolute best for this one life I have”, I have hit up many friends, mentors, and confidants to speak into my life. This week, two such people said some things about areas of my life that could have been difficult to receive, but instead left me inspired to do more, try harder, and go all in. It is a blessing, not a curse, to surround yourself with people committed to seeing you succeed. Success is conceived in the “dark room” before it ever born for everyone to admire.

About 24 hours after one of the conversations, I saw this tweet from Donald Miller that resonated with me. I don’t know about you, but at the end of my life I don’t want saddled with regret. I want to have lived out my purpose.

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If you really want to be a big deal, surround yourself with encourager’s, yes. However, and most importantly, surround yourself with people who can talk about the tough stuff with you and make you leave believing that you are a big deal and that you are worth the effort and valiance of honesty.

It is imperative to know which people have your ideal destiny in mind rather than their own motives, distorted philosophies, and intentions. If the truths being spoken over you aren’t wrapped in love and pom poms, run from such people.

Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Some people aren’t healthy enough to have a front row seat in your story. Know which seat at the table of your life to put everyone in, and then just pursue your vision of an ideal future knowing that God has already gone before you and that goodness and mercy are chasing behind you. Everyone has an opinion, but not every opinion counts. You are a BIG DEAL, now just surround yourself with people that believe that with you and will help you maximize your potential.