Today is Global Running Day. I don’t know what that means. Is this another Hallmark card day? Is there an appropriate flower or edible that is assigned to this? Does Nike give out free shoe laces?

For me, every day is Global Running Day. If you’re just tuning in, I’m a New Yorker living part time in Europe running for Parkinson’s Disease which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father. I started running later in life and haven’t stopped. There are three reasons I’ve continued to make running a part of my (almost) daily life.

  1. It keeps me fit. I’m a professional model and that means having to stay slim enough that someone wants to photograph me in their clothes. A good playlist, a pair of sneakers and a supportive sports bra is all the equipment I need. I can run in any city, any country, and part of the world I happen to be in.AirBrush_20180606134946
  2. I run to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease. My father taught me to run competitively at a young age, although I resisted for 2 decades. He would have me run a lamp post, walk a lamp post or run a mailbox, walk a mailbox. When I’m recovering from an injury or getting back after a break, I still do this to get my stride back. Before Parkinson’s took away his balance, he taught my daughter.img_5008.jpg
  3. Running has balanced my hormones, forced me to eat cleaner for energy, helped my emotional and mental health. It clears my mind. I can forget whatever problems I have. For 20 or 30 minutes nothing else matters. It keeps the dark clouds from taking over.

Someone close to me asked me how I maintain this transatlantic lifestyle without losing myself. It takes a lot of work to stay connected to myself when my personality is to be all things to all people. I feel darkness. No matter where I am, the person I love – the people I love – are somewhere else. Have you felt that intense darkness? Fear and doubt and heartache? Do question if you’re doing enough – if you’re good enough – if it’s all enough? It’s a dark, lonely place to be and I’ve been there. I suspect you’ve been there too.

In the early 1980’s my parents brought home a tall, thin, awkward high school kid from the midwest. He was going to be my family – he didn’t have parents and Aunt Rosa, who raised him, was too old to be involved in his life anymore. So he joined our family.

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He entered the Academy and graduated four years later. He went into the “real” Army and the darkness set in. The clouds were too much for him to take and on the 9th of July 1990 he took his life. He didn’t leave a note. He left a voicemail message. I can still hear it in my head. I was 12 years old.

He left me all his music – he was a prolific composer. I still can’t bring myself to open the box.

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There are three things I want you to know:

  1. Some of us are more prone to the “darkness” than others. I don’t know why and it really doesn’t matter. I’ve heard artistic types like actors and designers are the most prone. Maybe. Maybe their deaths just make the evening news. The soldiers death, the one who just couldn’t get the wounds of war out of his head, certainly doesn’t trend on twitter. Be aware of those around you. Maybe your greatest contribution is to come alongside someone else.
  2. We need to identify the darkness when it comes and engage our spiritual muscle. Your prayer life needs to hit an all time high – the kind that brings you to your emotional knees. God made you to be in a relationship with Him and He doesn’t make mistakes.
  3. You need to call on your tribe – the people in your life that regardless of location or time or circumstance will step up every single time. Maybe its a family member or an old roommate or teammate. Maybe it’s someone you served with once or met on an airplane over Topeka, Kansas. Whatever, whoever, find your people. 

Or call me. Message me.

I’ll be your tribe.

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Whatever you do, don’t stop. Brush off the clouds and keep going.

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There doesn’t need to be a special day to exercise. We need to move our bodies every day. There doesn’t need to be a special day to be a friend. We need to connect with people every day. There doesn’t need to be a special day for mental health awareness. We need to keep the dark clouds away every single day. There doesn’t need to be a special day for presenting our best selves before God – we should be bringing our best every day. Our families deserve our best. Our friends and coworkers and children and parents and partners deserve our best. WE deserve our best. So lace up and get out there.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep running.

Around the lamp post, from mail box to mail box, around the block or around the world, wherever you are,

Run to Win.

 

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“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.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

 

 

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Do you ever wake up and think,

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?

6pm on a Friday.

Somewhere in Germany.

I found a gem – a Friday night 5k. Cream of the crop – you get it over with before the weekend, don’t have to wake up at 4am on a Saturday and there’s usually a beer reward at the end. Trifecta. 

Wifi, spotty. Cell range, murky. My 5’10” co-Amazon friend came with me. (Intimidation factor.) We arrived at the GPS coordinated location 30 minutes before race time.

No one was there.

Seriously. This was it.

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Let me tell you something about Germans in Bavaria. They don’t work out. They do, of course, but they don’t advertise it. They don’t walk around in yoga pants or running shoes. You won’t see a Nike symbol for miles.

Insert 2 giant women in head to toe spandex walking through the streets at 5pm on a Friday. We might as well had blinking lights surrounding us saying, “AMERICANS HERE.”

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Despite the fact that my friend was ready to cut and run, we stayed, walking around the block like two Draconian Drag Queens.

A kindly (or curious) bar keeper, leaning on his stoop puffing on his menthol, nodded his head in either approval or disgust. “Lost?” he asked. We showed him the web listing for the event and he pointed us to the city center 400 meters ahead.

We passed teenagers sneering at us in our lycra and headed to the center square. There, we were approached by a lady in lederhosen and a man… with a bagpipe. “Here for the hike?” he said. I showed him the advert for the 5k. “Right-O!” he said.

5k Bagpipe tour of the city. Party of 4.

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The tour was lovely. The history, thorough. The music, plentiful.

It was a good lesson in expectation vs. reality.

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Afterwards, we stopped in the local (and only) Irish pub for a celebratory (or mockery) beer. I abstained, both because I was the driver and because I don’t drink beer. The owner of the bar, a nice enough chap, was a Romanian born half Palestinian Jew with an Irish grandmother and a propensity for flaming whiskey shots.

Take a moment to let that settle in.

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Things are rarely what they seem.

I’ve always struggled with the expectations of being a Pastor’s kid. Does that mean I CAN rebel? Or I’m expected to? Or I shouldn’t because of my father’s chosen line of work?

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My five year old looks up to her father who is a Military Officer. Does that mean she’s not allowed to protest the National Anthem? Or does that mean she has more right to? Do any of us have it all figured out?

Thankfully, God isn’t through with me yet. I’m reminded every day that I’m not in charge. I can’t see what’s around the corner, the storm and/or rainbow on the horizon. None of us know what’s next. That’s where our spiritual muscle comes in to play – so we’re ready for whatever is ahead.

Bonus points if it’s a bagpipe.

Run to win.

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“Maybe you don’t realize the dangers of being by yourself out here in this wilderness. There are loonies and crazies running around all over the place…. and we’re all on a first – name basis.” Erma Bombeck

I just returned from a few days in the swamps of Georgia where the water tastes like sulfur, teeth are optional and Cracker Barrel is fine dining. I came away with a renewed sense of service, friendship and appreciation for good dental care.(I’ve already run Georgia. Stay tuned for my “chase the turtles” or something 5k this weekend in Sarasota. It’s hot and i’m still on European time aka perpetual happy hour.)

The event, the impetus for my early return from Europe, was to support my dear friends of over 17 years who are at the pinnacle of their careers – he is taking command of a nuclear submarine.

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It was a marvelous occasion and people came from all over the country to support this fine officer and his family, culminating in a back yard BBQ with a hundred of their dearest friends and family, an emergency plummer and a backhoe. God Bless the Georgia Burbs.

The best part of family reunions, weddings, funerals, Change of Command’s… is gathering together everyone you love in one place. For me, the chance to break bread with my closest girlfriends was worth the effort of the journey – 36 hours, 2 airports and an international plane ride with my five year old and 100 service members returning from a year in Kuwait who smelled like Axe body spray and day old lamb curry.

These friends are worth it. These are the friends that loved me when I was my most un-lovable. You know what I mean – we’ve all been there. The friends that stand by your side when a parent dies, a spouse leaves, when we lose a job, lose a fortune, when we do the ugly cry. Friends that are there to strengthen us when our spiritual muscle is weak, that encourage us to get back up, put on our big-girl spanx err panties and grow up. The friends that stand by you at the happy times, cry with you in the dark times and hold your hair in the basement bathroom of a New York City dive bar at 2am on a Thursday.

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The best of friends aren’t the ones who give the good gifts, throw the best parties or always say the right things. The best of friends are the ones who show up – in the celebrations, in the darkness and when the septic tank overflows.

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My favorite author, Erma Bombeck, wrote about friendship, “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.”

Keep watering, pruning and nurturing the seeds of friendship planted years ago. Keep showing up for those most important to you – backhoe optional.

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Venice, Italy

Tuesday.

I was supposed to go to London for fashion week. But I can’t seem to say “no” to beer, brats and bread. Actually, I’m gluten free – like the trendy hipster I am – so more likely it’s wine, veal sausages and Italian olive oil. Either way, the closest I was getting to a cat walk was the carpet runner from the sofa to the wine fridge. To keep myself in the game, I took a small modeling job in Venice, Italy. I convinced one of my besties and her two tiny tots to join me and mine on a 48 hour adventure to the amazing world of canals and bridges and masks because it’s

VENICE DURING CARNIVAL!

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Let me admit that I had never heard of Venice Carnival. Thanks to wikipedia, my image of it was much more Mardi Gras than 19th century masquerade ball. In truth it was somewhere in between. People were dressed in outlandish costumes that ran in the thousands of dollars, being followed by flocks of hungry pigeons eyeing the feathers and camera totting tourists with the same enthusiasm. We liked the birds better.

One of the advantages of living in Europe is it’s very economical to fly from city to city. We found flights for less than 50 Euro per person round trip for our quick stay. However, everything is extra. Luggage, for instance, can easily cost twice the ticket value. So we packed light. It was only 48 hours after all. How much do we really need?

Upon landing, I received the following email…..

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SHIT.

We immediately squatted in the baggage terminal logging on to book a return ticket before the other 100+ passengers realized their predicament only to find out the next flight off the island wasn’t until Saturday. It’s Tuesday. We were screwed.

We gathered our gaggle of children, bundled up and headed for the 50 minute water taxi. Water taxi = boat. Of course because we’re traveling to a city half under water. This is the part of the story where I tell you I get seasick in the shower.

It gets worse.

Wednesday morning, our only full day in the city (before the baggage strike that stranded us and our 2 pair of underwear for an additional 3 days), my 5 year old wakes up with a fever. In a hotel. In Italy. We hunkered down in bed in our only pair of pajamas for 24 teary, traumatic hours. My friend and her kids dressed up in their fasching finest and headed out to see the sights. I’ll share their photos as mine were of the hotel ceiling and black out drapes.

The next morning everyone was healthy and I had a photo shoot to rush to. Not having an Italian make up artist, my dear friend watched a herculean amount of Youtube videos and was able to transform me from soccer mom to Carnival Queen.

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To my dear friend who turned me into a Kardashian with half a suitcase of make up and false eyelashes, thank you.  To the creator of photo editing, God bless you. You make my eye bags less depressing. To the photographer and the male model on the gondola, thank you for not making us actually leave the pier. It’s hard to maintain a classic red lip while hurling over the side of a canoe.

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Venice itself is an amazing city. You’ll need your weight in gold to afford a cup of coffee but that coffee, with its delicate notes of expresso, will taste like it was poured by Sofia Lauren in a silk neglige at sunset.

Of course we couldn’t afford said coffee because Venice during Carnival is 100x more expensive than Venice in May and by Friday at noon, our budget was blown.

We checked out of our luxurious fabric walled hotel (I became intimately involved in the details of the room as I spent my first 24 full hours in its loving care) and headed for the pier.

Not having the combined cash to take a $150 taxi off the island, we took a water taxi to the main side then hauled our children and luggage on to the city bus.  Our “luggage” now included grocery store bags of juice boxes, restaurant bread sticks and every bit of hotel shampoo which, thanks to desperate ingenuity, made great sink laundry soap. We sat among local Italians, immigrants and the occasional chicken for the 50km ride to the countryside where we’d spend our final romanesque nights.

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Agriturismo.

There’s an amazing movement across Europe – giving families, millenials and busy city dwellers the opportunity to participate in working farms – milk the cows, feed the goats, churn the butter – in exchange for a less expensive stay on the property. There’s something humbling about feeding the birds in Louboutin heels because you couldn’t spring for an international credit card.

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We made it home hungry and humbled.

I have three takeaways from my grand Italian adventure:

  1. Shit happens. Sometimes the plane gets canceled. Sometime people get sick. Sometimes the pigeon poops on your head. You can’t prepare for everything. You’ve got to learn to roll with it.
  2. If anyone tells you to “roll with it” when you’re vomiting over the side of a boat, punch them in the face.
  3. Travel with friends. Good friends. Friends that will help you when your kid gets sick, will paint your eyebrows on when you over pluck, will delete the pictures from their phone when you’re laying on the floor of the city bus singing “Amazing Grace” while Giuseppe chain smokes and tries to grab your ass.

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And, wherever you go, Run to Win.

 

 

 

 

What does a motivational running blog have to do with an election?

Regardless of what side you fall on, a new era is before us. I, in my 30’s, can not think of another time when we have been so hopeless about our future and each other. Like the last quarter of a 5k or the 22nd mile of a marathon, when our muscles have depleted their resources and our motivation is waning, we have to engage that spiritual muscle of hope in our training and faith in our body to cross the finish line. It’s the muscles we need to reach the end of the race, finish the match, to compete when the game is on the line.

Cliff McCrath, 1978 NSCAA Coach of the Year who retired second on the all time collegiate coaching wins list, talked about the political protesting of the inauguration almost like a game. He said, “But, just as I felt bad about other losses, I buckled down and threw myself into the process…” Imagine if he had let his players walk off the field, game half over. Imagine if the striker or point guard or quarterback decided not to play the game because he didn’t like the opponent. Would we support them?

As for me, I don’t see this election as a game-ender. If you have deleted friends over this or they have deleted you, well, then they weren’t very good friends. The sun will still rise in the morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that. But the world seems pretty pissed off.

Good friends, spouses, roommates, teammates, should always come ready to play, ready to win.

Election Day 2017.

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Screw the stick figures. Be like LaToya and Kathy….

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Two Americans in Europe.

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One of us is a registered Republican, one a Democrat. One of us was active duty, one of us opposed the second gulf war. One of us experienced the raw hatred of racism, one of us has only known the white bubble of privilege. Despite it all we have laughed together, wept together, shared our hopes for the future as our young daughters braided each others hair.

You can decide to disappear when things get tough.

We’ve decided to show up.

Be the change you want in your leaders.

It’s our right to show up and protest. Protest cyber bullies by supporting each other on social media. Protest loneliness by getting to know your neighbors. Protest hatred by practicing empathy. Protest extremism by seeing another’s point of view.

Play fair. Be humble. Practice equality. Above all, be kind! Kindness has a ripple effect that will have more impact on the world than any protest, law or lawmaker.

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Get in the game! It’s not over yet. In fact, it’s not even half time.

Play hard – give it everything you’ve got. Don’t get lazy with your body, mind, spirit. Athletes exercise their bodies to stay fit, stay competitive, stay in top form. It’s how we win the game. We have to exercise our spiritual muscles to be competitive in our every day lives so when the hard times come – and they always come – we’re in top shape! Strengthen the muscles of kindness, empathy, compassion.

You’ve all gone to the inauguration, um, stadium to see the runners race. Everyone runs, one wins. Run to win. They’re after a personal fortune, err, prize that tarnishes and fades. You’re after a gold that’s eternal. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (kind of…)

Exercise the spiritual muscle of HOPE. Run to win.

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It’s fashion week in Milan, Italy. That means 3 things for me.

  1. I wish I was still young and thin and wrinkle free enough to walk a runway or pose outside Jimmy Choo with a pair of shoes three times my income.
  2. I wish I were wealthy enough to buy said pair of shoes
  3. I wish I had picked a different week to visit the city – because at this time in this city, I had to stay…

IN A YOUTH HOSTEL.

For those of you who have never back packed across Europe, visited NYC on NYE or ran out of money a week before pay day, let me enlighten you to the realities of hostels.

  1. You’re sharing a kitchen, living area, bathroom and sometimes bedroom with complete strangers who sometimes lack the finances (and possibly hygiene) to stay at the Four Seasons or even the local HOJO.
  2. Strangers can be a gift from God. They can also be s&m dungeon masters who rock the bed from 11pm – 12am, 2:15 – 3am, 4 – 5am? pausing for a smoke break on the shared terrace 2 feet from your bunk bed.
  3. see “bunk bed.”

Thankfully, I was traveling with a good friend and 3 children so we had a private room and I had someone to commiserate with at 1130pm, 230am, 430am….

Italian drivers are insane. Mopeds will hit a pedestrian for sport. But I take my hat off to this local. Because the birthplace of modern fashion means getting home from the runway …. on a bike …. at night … in 3 inch pink heels.

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Italy is beautiful. The architecture on the main roads is lovely but most captivating are the tiny archways tucked between store fronts that expose incredibly beautiful courtyards – hidden gems that are mostly missed by the greedy millennials racing around looking for the best bargain Prada to impress their friends back home.

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The expresso was invigorating but the cup so small I felt less glam drinking it and more like I had taken the blue pill and gone down the wrong rabbit hole. The food was incredible. Smoked meats, artesian cheeses, crisp, local vegetables soaked in home grown olive oil plucked by Sophia Lauren. Heaven.

I didn’t run in Italy. Partly because I couldn’t find a race in the area and partly because I was so sleep deprived I would have finished some time the following day.

Enter Switzerland.

First, I have been shocked by how close the countries are. I drove from Germany to Italy in less than 5 hours and went back to Germany via Switzerland in the same amount of time. The Alps are incredible. St. Moritz is probably the most beautiful part of the world I’ve seen thus far. The mountains climb so high they disappear into the soft, fluffy clouds. The alpine water below is the most captivating color of blue/green I’ve ever seen up close.

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The villages are full of stone and plaster cottages heavily adorned with detailed mosaics harking a time of skilled artists and craftsmen. Every mile was a chapter from a fairy tale and the children were awe struck at every mountain switchback turn.

On Sunday I ran. It was less than 3k but it felt like a marathon. Partly because I was exhausted, partly because it was all hills – IN THE ALPS. My friend and I were trying to find any excuse why it was so difficult. Altitude? Only 5,000 feet. Distance? Ridiculously short. Sometimes I run and finish first, other times my legs feel like lead and I think back to all my past sins for fear of an impending stroke. I do it all to raise awareness for Parkinsons Disease but sometimes it sucks.

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I was completely alone after the first 400 meters. The cobblestone hurt my knees and I was grateful when I got onto the trail up the mountain. Then the fear set in. The fog was thick and the rain started to fall. Mist – Rain – Huge mountains – Quiet – Hillside… Lions? Tigers? Bears? Loch-Ness Monster? SHIT. I’m totally going to die up here.

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Then a thin elderly man wearing a grey hat with a green feather (can’t make this stuff up) ran past me. THANK YOU JESUS! As soon as he appeared he was gone into the mist but I instantly felt better. Sometimes a good friend calls just when we needed to hear their voice. Sometimes it’s the break we need at work or the cash you find in an old pair of jeans. Sometimes the serial killer runs past you with a stupid feather in his hat because it’s just not your day today.

Sometimes, God shows himself right when we need a reminder that we’re not alone. Maybe it’s a friend that grabs her kids and sleeping bags and says, “hell yes i’ll road trip with you!” Maybe it’s the accolade that comes when you were feeling unappreciated at home, a hug from a partner you felt drifted, a note from an old friend. We all need to be reminded to keep the faith, keep on keeping on, Run to Win.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121.

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There is something magical about New England. Home to Norman Rockwell, the Kennedys, quaint towns like Hingham, MA where my father had a church for several years when my siblings were young… It’s warm and inviting even on the coldest days. And there are some very cold days. Like last week in Vermont – May in Vermont – when I ran in 1/4 inch of snow. My friend and adventure co-pilot Cherie said,

“I think it’s snowing but perhaps if we don’t talk about it, it will go away…”

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Thankfully our New Hampshire hosts had the things big old farm houses have – wool. (Hats, gloves, scarves and enough down feathers to fly south for the winter). We looked like Wookiees but we survived the impromptu snow storm and our girls learned to suck it up.

I had no idea why my friend would want to go on this trip with us. Grueling schedule, erratic temperatures and my budget was so tight we were rolling pennies for gas by state 5. (Rhode Island had the wind chill of the North Pole.)

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But she came. She made 2 very powerful statements.

  1. “I wanted my daughter to see what sacrifice looks like – your running for a cause, the dedication to what you’re doing…. I wanted her to experience that.”
  2. “I don’t really remember my mother having close girlfriends when I was growing up. I want my daughter to see what adult girlfriend relationships look like.”

There is something significant about girlfriends, boyfriends, old friends, best friends. It changes over time but it never loses its significance. When we’re kids, our friends teach us sharing, conflict resolution and behavior modification. When we get to college our friends are our conscience and our guides. They’re our support system when we fail, succeed, when we change paths, change boyfriends or girlfriends, when our hearts get broken or when the pregnancy test comes back positive. I’ve held the product of someone who chose life and the hand of someone who didn’t.

I’m working hard at relationships so my daughter knows the importance of investing in others.  I have an incredible group of ladies who I’ve gotten to know over the past few years here in Maryland – women who have rallied around me and each other in celebration and heart break. Loss of jobs, homes, dreams, pregnancies… They’re all women of faith which makes our bond even stronger. We believe God has a plan for us and for our children. There is great power in that.

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People ask me why I’m running for Parkinson’s all over the country. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. It usually involves arranging child care or hauling a stroller around Des Moines. For me, there are three benefits. First, I’m honoring my father and lifting him up in his battle against Parkinsons. Second, it’s a great way to keep myself motivated to stay in shape and make my health a priority. Third, I’m able to connect and reconnect with people who have held a significant place in my life over the years.

New England was significant because it brough back memories of childhood vacations, college road trips and crisp autumn evenings. The coziness of weather beaten shingled homes with candy apple red doors warms the spirit even when it snows in May. Like a Nantucket landscape, a Norman Rockwell painting or an old friend, it gets better with time.

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