This week, my last week at my little flop house in Florida, I took a much needed break to rest my body and my mind (heavy emphasis on the mind.) But not running a USATF road race doesn’t mean I can watch the Bridget Jones trilogy eating Ben & Bernie & Jerrys. I had crap to do.

I decided to plant a garden. A few important facts about this:

  1. I kill silk plants.
  2. I do not know how to plant, what to plant or have the spacial awareness to know where to plant.
  3. Gardening is hard work. Hauling 30 bags of mulch from greenhouse to car, car to garage, garage to garden isn’t for wimps.

Exercise isn’t just running miles on the track or treadmill. Its being fit enough for every day life. I’m not a crossfitter, but I do see the need for functional fitness – having a core strength that enables you to do pretty much anything you need to do safely and quickly. Crossfitters are a rare breed. They train you to be able to run through the African jungle in 110 heat carrying a wounded rhino being chased by rabid hyenas. While a noble goal, I think functional fitness means having a core strength that allows you to lift your child often and easily, run up 3 flights of stairs with groceries (and not have to stop for a nap) and haul some mulch.

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A few notable things happened while I was knee deep in dirt, sand and fire ants:

  1. I met some neighbors. Turns out, gardening is quite communal.
  2. I felt the incredible satisfaction that gardeners must feel when their first tomato or turnip appears – though mine was just about laying mulch.
  3. The sexiest Rabbi in NYC was right

In 2003, New York Magazine named Rabbi Brickner the “Sexiest Rabbi in New York.” He was the long time love of my “spiritual well” Marcia Lawrence Soltes. He wrote a book called Finding God in the Garden. It is a wonderful book about God, love, life and coneflowers. I thought of him, of her, of their wonderful retreat in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where I have stayed many, many times since childhood. The property is lined with mature trees, flowering bushes and magnificent rhododendron.

Our relationship with Marcia started before I was born. Her first husband, Rabbi Soltes, was a handsome, talented and tender man from New York City who would volunteer to come up to West Point to lead the handful of Jewish cadets in services in the 1960’s and 70’s. When my father became Chaplain, they became fast friends. It was that friendship that laid the foundation for our life long relationship with Marcia and for building the Jewish Chapel at the Academy  (a project my father spearheaded but rarely gets enough credit for). After Rabbi Soltes died, our relationship with Marcia deepened.

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The seeds were planted, the soil was fertilized through shared experiences, the roots took hold and the flowers grew.

Gardening is a natural illustration of friendship. Planted, watered, fertilized, weeded out – all things we have to do to our “friends list.” Sometimes we have to weed out the bad seeds, the ones with shallow roots, the ones that attract bugs and disease. All our friends need fertilizing – phone calls, emails, text messages of “thinking of you…”, running a road race together or running out for coffee. Gardens and relationships (and our bodies!) take work. If we neglect them, they wither and die or get lost to the forrest.

Erma Bombeck, my favorite author of all time said,

“Friends are ‘annuals’ that need seasonal nurturing to bear blossoms. Family is a ‘perennial’ that comes up year after year, enduring the droughts of absence and neglect. There’s a place in the garden for both of them.”

I’m not sure i’ll be winning any Biggest Pumpkin awards or producing my own autumnal harvest. But I know I can do it. I know I can tackle the physical challenge of hoeing, churning yards and yards of earth, hauling, digging, and squatting. (Tabata squats anyone?)

I know, as Brickner’s book reminds us, God is in the garden. He put in place the life cycle – birth, growth and death. I know my friends, my fitness, my faith and my flowers need work to produce something. They all need regular care, time and attention to bloom.

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I have a Parlor Trick.

“I can name 5 of your classmates.”

Anytime I come upon a USMA grad, I start off with this game. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it freaks people out.  One time it got me a Yankee double header but that’s another story.

Having spent my first 18.5 years at West Point means I know a lot of people. And they know a lot of people. Between all of us we are close enough to reach out and touch Kevin Bacon.

As a teenager, being the Chaplains daughter was a protection (though I didn’t think that at the time.) Getting hit on in the area by a particularly attractive cadet was a thrill until his roommate grabbed his arm and said, “Dude get a clue that’s Chaplain Camps daughter.” sigh. Recently a grad contacted me on social media and said,

“I remember people mentioning the Chaplain had a teenage daughter. I also remember thinking, I like trouble. But that’s a LOT of trouble right there…..”

About 5 years ago, my friend and I hopped in a cab outside the Philadelphia Marriott headed downtown for dinner. A mid 40’s well dressed man wanted that cab to catch his plane. Being kind (but not that kind) we shared our ride. Since i’m Chatty Kathy and possibly armed with a little wine I said, “nice ring. i bet i can name 5 of your classmates.” Although he exhibited real fear and legitimately tried to jump out of the moving vehicle, I eventually assured him I’m not clairvoyant merely that I knew who he was. Former football player, (a really good running back from the 90s) and former guest at our Sunday brunch table. He eventually remembered me as an awkward 12 year old.

He blew off his flight and took us out on the town.

I named 5 of his classmates.

God bless the Long Gray Line.

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Jim Backlin ’66 and Chad Llewellyn ’14 taken a few months ago.

 

 

David Bowie died.

The day after, David Sime died. This post is about him.

My father has always been a good athlete. As a young kid in Fairlawn, New Jersey, my dad met David Sime. They played together. Motivating each other, they became great athletes. Co-captains of their high school football team, track, pick up basketball – whatever they did they did it well and together. Dad went off to be the star football player at Wheaton College. David went off to be a football, baseball and track star at Duke. Dad went into ministry, David into medicine.

Sports writer David D’Alessandro in a piece he did about David in 2012 said, “What if you were a world-class ophthalmologist who revolutionized the surgical technique for intraocular lens implants — someone who treated everyone from Dick Nixon to Mickey Mantle to the entire Miami Dolphins roster over 42 years of practicing medicine? Would these not be the bedrock achievements of a notable life?”

Olympics. 1960. Rome.

David came in second to Armin Hary in the Olympic 100 m. He anchored the U.S. to an apparent victory in the 4×100 m relay. However, the team was disqualified for passing out of the zone and Sime lost his chance at an Olympic gold. During his career, he held world records at 100 yards, 220 yards and the 220 yd low hurdles.

People say, ‘How could you not appreciate getting a silver?’ I understand that. But when you get to that level, believe me: You’re not there for silver. And those who say that doesn’t matter probably don’t know what it is to compete.” – David Sime

Dad said he ran in the Masters Track and Field circuit in his 60 and 70s because of David. Competition is a great motivator.

David’s youngest of 3 children, Lisa, married former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. My father married them. Their son Christian is a household name. The legacy of greatness continues.

My father’s heart hurts today. Life is a little bit lonelier –  a little bit sadder when you lose your person. David and Dad were best friends for over 70 years. Best men in each other’s weddings, the first phone calls made at births of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Their weekly phone calls were the most animated I’d seen my father. Talking about old friends, old plays on the field, old memories that bound them together for 50, 60, 70 years. Dad prayed that David would know Jesus. That he’d trust Him. That he’d offer his life to Him. I hope he did. I hope they will see each other again.

Are you Running to Win? What will your legacy be?

24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. 1 Corinthians 9:25 – 27

Dust to dust. In this case, Stardust.

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About 10 years ago, my super strong, super athletic, super handsome, super smart, super awesome father noticed a tremor. That tremor was the beginning of Parkinson’s Disease. Maybe from being a multi sport letterman in high school, or All-American football player in college, or his semi pro football years. Maybe from summers working on the family farm in upstate New York, maybe from pesticides pruning roses for estates while in Seminary. I suppose it doesn’t really matter how or why. It is our reality. I started to run to honor him. I run because he can’t. I didn’t run today. I feel bad about it but i’m tired.

Dad’s constant shaking is exhausting. Disease sucks. It’s depressing.

Attitude is everything.

Tell yourself the end is near and it will be. Tell yourself its not going to get better and it won’t. Surround yourself with negative people and you’ll become a negative person. This is not rocket science, people.

But it’s ok to be sad sometimes.

I can be a wallower. There’s something about feeling sorry for yourself that feels kind of good. So go ahead and watch a Friends marathon in your 1990 Gap sweats (like i’m doing right now) eating popcorn wondering if Joey could really be THAT good in the sack. (I think Ross would be better – did you see him in Band of Brothers??? and you know Phoebe is a freak.)

Netflix and chocolate were invented for these kinds of days.

Just don’t wallow for too long.

It’s not a good look.

Shake it off. Tomorrow is a new day.

October 10, 2014 I made a commitment to run for a year.

I am not a self motivated person. I don’t wake up every morning and say, “TODAY IS A NEW DAY LETS DO GREAT THINGS!” In fact, I dislike those people immensely. I’m more of a “CRAP. I have 7 minutes to walk the dog, feed my kid, shower, dress and get out the door…..” So when I decided to run a road race every weekend for 1 year, (52 consecutive races for the mathematically challenged) no one believed I could do it. But I did.

I ran for my Dad who has Parkinsons and all those struggling with the stuff life throws at us, for myself, for all the unmotivated, underachieving, yoga pants wearing, backwards baseball cap, flip flops in winter, kid in pajamas because i-don’t-care people out there.

My dad’s motto – my mantra this past year – comes from 1 Corinthians 9:24. Its applicable regardless of your beliefs or where you are on your faith journey:

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win.” 1 Cor 9:24

Now what?

The end of 1 Corinthians 9 talks about what to do next:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”

This is my road map for this next adventure.

I will keep running. Keep spreading the word about Parkinson’s so those who are being diagnosed at 60 or 40 or 25 know it’s ok – there’s hope. Maybe it’s something else. Cancer. Heart disease. A broken bone. A broken heart. My father tells a story from when he was Dean of Gordon Conwell Seminary. An international student came in distraught. His mother had died back in his home country. He needed someone to moan and wail with him as was his mourning tradition. “My mother was my rock. My spiritual well. Who will pray for me now?” I think about that exchange. About having someone that you can count on – someone that you know has your back. Someone who carries your burden, comes along side and will pray for you. The road has become my sanctuary – my quiet place to meditate, to reflect, to pray.

I can’t stop now. I’m going to keep running. And, because I want to keep connected to you, i’m going to run with you – in your state – in all 50 states over the next year +. (that plus sign is incredibly important. I have a job and a toddler – there is no way I can run in all 50 states in 1 year unless someone fantastically wealthy wants to bankroll me for a while – in which case, CALL ME!)

Plus, lets be real. I look fantastic in a cocktail dress. How else will North Dakota get to appreciate these glutes?

Dust off your shoes because i’m coming for you – i’m coming to run or walk or celebrate or moan and wail or pray or cheer or just high five you in your state.

Be excited! (and possibly afraid. I actually know where a lot of you live and I lack boundaries…)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27The Message (MSG)

24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

We are all on a journey. This blog is about My journey.

Exercise and Edification.

Run to Win.