Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

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I need to start out admitting I missed New York. There are 3 reasons why. First, I ran out of time. Second, I ran out of money half way through New Hampshire. Third, I was traveling with not one but TWO preschoolers. This leads me to the first revelation of this particular run journey:

If you have the opportunity to travel the country with 2 children under the age of 6, go ahead and stab yourself in the ear with a paring knife. It will be less painful.

My traveling companions for this adventure were my dear friend Cherie who I have known for a decade, her  5 year old and my 4 year old daughter. There is something spiritual about 2 preschoolers together. And by spiritual I mean you get to know Jesus real quick because you spend and exorbitant amount of time in the fetal position singing “Jesus Take The Wheel.”

I learned a lot of new things. I heard a lot of obnoxiously loud apps. I learned that my daughter is really a crotchety 70 year old woman who thinks I am ridiculously overrated. It comes from me being the youngest child of older parents and her being the only child of older parents. She doesn’t have any friends under 30. One afternoon our five year old guest was hungry just after lunch. My 4 year old with all the authority of a tiny evil dictator said, “suck it up. it’s not even happy hour yet.” I’m raising a tiny Joan Rivers.

I leaned more important lessons like how incredibly resilient children are. I experienced one of the most beautiful parts of the country through their curious eyes. I saw them struggle to climb rocky gorges and trip over thick roots stretched across pine needle covered paths. I watched their eyes widen as the steep mountain seemed to continue forever into the sky. I witnessed their awe at peaks so high they felt they could touch the clouds. We packed the car like the Von Trap Family Singers on a world tour. All they really needed was a fist full of cheerios and a hand to hold over the mud flats. How often we get so focused on our goals we forget to appreciate the journey. And isn’t it on the journey where we find the most growth? We build spiritual muscle so we are strong enough to keep our footing though rocks and roots cover the path.

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Our adventure started in Connecticut then Rhode Island. For the more northern states, we stayed at a central location near Peterborough, New Hampshire. It was a beautiful house – home to a couple in their 60’s. He was a math professor from Germany, she an artist from New England. Part hippies, part community organizers, part artists in residence, they were truly unique and incredibly hospitable. My toddler liked him instantly; taking his hand around the old farmhouse to look for the cats. Let’s take a moment to talk about the cats. They don’t like me, I don’t like them and a farm house in New England will most certainly have cats. And they will find me. And they did.

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The lady of the house came home late in the evening on our first night to share with me that her father had suffered from Parkinsons Disease. (After the experiences I have had this past year running for Parkinsons, I can assure you there are no coincidences in life.) The next few mornings we spent sharing stories of strength and survivial through perseverence. Her father had led Seder dinners for Jews in Germany during WWII. She has hosted people in her home every night for over 30 years. Sacrifice, selflessness, compassion…. I realized how fear of rejection and failure has hindered my ability to be truly gracious like our hosts.

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There were certainly other highlights. The girls provided comic relief in an otherwise stressful situation. We were traveling to 5 states in 4 days (or was it 6 states in 3 days? Bueller? Bueller?) running, hiking, sleeping in new places and living off of granola bars and boxed juice. They complained on the big hikes but did it. They were perpetually hungry even though we had enough snacks to feed a third world country but the kept going. They craved technology amongst some of the most majestic scenery in the country but they rallied. They cheered me on every time. They hugged me even in my sweat and woke up refreshed and excited for the day even when the air mattress had gone flat and the night air chilled us to the bone.

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They reminded me that attitude is everything.

Laugh and you’ll feel happy. Be enthusiastic and you will accomplish great things. Don’t worry about looking silly – be silly. Don’t worry about what people think. Be who you were meant to be. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Know who you are and be it proudly.

20 states down. Run to win.top of NH (2)

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I never expected to have kids.   No, I don’t want to hold your baby. Please remove your small child from my Prada purse. Smell it? You want me to smell it? Smells like sour milk and crackers. There’s a scene from the movie Overboard where the mother says to Goldie Hawn’s character:

“But darling, if you have a baby, you won’t be the baby anymore.”

Let’s be clear – I’m still very much the baby of the family.

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I’m just not kid friendly. Kids are messy. They leak. They require a tremendous amount of sleep but only when you’re wide awake. Truth is I’m slightly afraid of kids. They’re breakable. They’re teachable and thats REALLY scary. Kids have one volume – loud. Their internal clock is set to “sleep”, “awake” and “kill mom”.

And then I had a daughter.

And all my fears were confirmed.

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This is where I tell you she’s wonderful – I’m wonderful – it’s all wonderful. Lies. All Lies. I haven’t slept in 4 years. I haven’t had control of my own body in 4 years. There are days we’re both in bed, sick, not knowing whose snot is whose and “did I just take the kids elderberry syrup? Does that mean she just had the codeine?” But I’m lucky. My kid is a trooper. She gets up at unholy hours to run races with me in our very weathered jogging stroller.

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I have a great kid and I’m a fairly decent mom. But I’ve had some amazing role models. Mothers can come in a lot of packages. They can be sisters, sisters in law, grandmothers, foster mothers, your best friend’s mother, your mothers best friend…. I’ve been mothered by some incredible women – women whose voices I still hear in my head when I’m scared or sad or struggling.

Sometimes, the best mothers are girlfriends – people that love you unconditionally – the friends that will hold you when you’re sad or hold your hair when you’ve drowned yourself in tequila. Sometimes our motherly comforters are the friends that were there when you needed them most like when you miscarry, when the doctor said, “we need to biopsy” or when the divorce is final.

One of my favorite movies is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. I love the relationships between mother and daughter, siblings, family, friends and family friends. I’m not Greek, I’m Dutch. While I love my heritage, I doubt the next blockbuster will be “My Big, Blonde, Emotionally Stoic Reunion”. So I’ll share my favorite line from the Greek flick:

“The man may be the head of the household. But the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she pleases.”

Virjean, Virjean the Vitamin Queen. My mother. Our family neck. She was the one who came to all our basketball, football, hockey, tennis games when my father was busy saving cadets from themselves. She ran a (fairly illegal) all-natural-crunchy-holistic-grind-your-own-nut-butter food co op in our basement years before it was cool to veto velveeta. She cooked multiple meals every day, feeding the 5,000 on Sundays. She really would feed any cadet who came over. We never had less than 10 and often had more than 20 for Sunday brunch. To this day I have no idea how she fed so many people so effortlessly. (Last week I hosted 7 people for dinner and I almost stroked out.)

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She’s my daughters favorite person. There are about 76 years between them but you’d never know it. They are the best of friends. I see my mother in my daughter every day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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My mother has this laugh – once you hear it, it fills you with this  happiness  that I’ve never experienced in anything else. She’s a nurturer, a comforter, a fierce protector.  (Rumor has it she may have gotten a basketball coach fired because of the way he treated “her boys.”) Most importantly, she is a woman who believed in all of us and still does to this day. As W.H. Auden penned,

She is “my North, my South, my East and West, my working week and my Sunday rest…”

I believe we were made for relationships – with one another and with our Creator.

I believe we need to love harder. Not just on Mothers Day but every day.

To all the mothers, grandmothers, sister-mothers, friend-mothers out there,

Thank you.

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