At least once per day I receive a note or text that says,

“Your life is SO Glamorous!”

I just landed in Paris. It is the most glamorous city.

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I signed a new modeling contract – I can leave at any time and they can kick me to the curb if I decide to eat all the hazelnut chocolate filled croissants in Paris. And I might.

(insert desperate plea for you to hire me for your next marketing or ad campaign here. I’m not getting any younger…)

So today we’re going to discuss my Oh So Glamorous Life.

My flight to France was 7 hours so the first thing I did was take a hefty dose of melatonin so I could sleep. (It might have been NyQuil but whatever.) Then I saw they had some really good movies that I haven’t seen and 6.5 hours later I was exhausted and drugged  but my adrenaline was pumping faster than a turbine because I had just watched every single new release in the “action/adventure” section. My legs were stiff from inactivity, I didn’t have a drop of makeup/moisturizer/illuminating glow on my face, my hair was in a bun (or was before the seat compressed it into a rat’s nest) and my deodorant expired an hour ago.

Truth is, there are days and times when my life IS quite amazing. I’m in Europe for crap sake. That’s pretty glamorous. I get fawned over for hours with hair and makeup. I get to wear beautiful clothes and carry Gucci and Prada accessories that I DIDN’T HAVE TO PAY FOR. I get to meet incredibly talented photographers from all over the world that inspire me with their art and talent. I have worked with some magnificently beautiful human beings. I’ve met up-and-coming designers who design clothes that, one day,  you might wear. I have a portfolio of lovely photos that I’ll have forever. (You can follow my musings on Instagram @KathyCamp1.)

HOWEVER, IN BETWEEN, my life can SUCK ASS. Let me break it down for you.

1. I still have to interview for jobs. Yes, everyone knows what I look like. But you still have to go on “calls” and see if the designer or rep likes the way you look for their clothes or their campaign. It’s a competition against incredibly beautiful people. I face rejection daily. Yes, daily.

2. I am 5’10”. I have to maintain a size 0-2 with measurements of 34-24-34. At 40 years old, that’s defying most laws of gravity.  I work out a LOT. (This is an exercise and edification blog after all.) I spend a solid hour every morning thinking about what I need to do – cardio, lifting, yoga, Pilates or a combo of them – and then where in my day it’s going to fit in. Currently I’m in a dress with a sports bra on because I know the second I get home from a meeting, I need to do a 40 minute HIIT workout (Fitness Blender on YouTube is my go-to) and then get a quick jog in before the rain comes. Because oh yeah I’m in Europe and today it’s sunny but tomorrow it may snow because God is punishing me for something I did in the 8th grade.

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3. When I’m not working out or thinking about working out or planning to work out or stressing about working out, I’m thinking about eating. I think about food 400x a day. I practice intermittent fasting which is not for the weak. I don’t eat between 8pm and 2pm the following day. Why? Because I’m a masochist and I like pain. No, because there are health benefits to fasting and it means I have a smaller window to eat which naturally limits my calories. I follow the KETO diet. But I don’t really like meat, I’m super sensitive to dairy and I have to watch my nut/seed caloric load so I’m kind of Vegan-esque Keto which is really hard and not really a thing. I eat a lot of cauliflower, spinach, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olives, nuts and seeds. (Last week I was so stressed out I ate half a jar of sunflower seed butter with a spoon.) Winning.

So when I’m not thinking about exercising, I’m thinking about food. I don’t have it all figured out. And what works for me may not work for you – you have to find what balances out your particular issues and hormones. And we all have issues.

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I use an app called Cronometer where I track every single thing I eat and drink. You will see supermodels in magazines tell you they eat whatever they want. They preach moderation. It’s just not true. Or it is and by “moderation” they mean they weighed their one sugar-free breath mint for the day.

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Last week I flew to New York. Since you now know I obsess about food, I can’t possibly eat airplane food.

HOW WOULD I TRACK MY MACROS? HOW DO I ENTER “MYSTERY MEAT” IN MY APP? IS THAT SAUCE? IS IT OIL? COCONUT? GRASS FED GHEE? RAPESEED OIL FROM RAPE FIELDS OF EUROPE? WHATS A RAPE FIELD AND WHY CAN’T THEY RENAME THAT BY NOW?

I had two planes and a total 18 hour trip in front of me so the evening before I prepared my food for the day. Since I was going across multiple time zones, I didn’t worry about an eating window and just portioned out enough to eat every few hours. I knew I’d sleep a little but mostly I’d be watching an endless loop of movies since I’m too cheap to have cable. And as you know, screen time leads to snack time so I needed to be prepared.

I measured and prepackaged in clear zip lock baggies 8 individual servings of: cucumber and celery sliced and portioned, pumpkin seeds, pecans and turkey pepperoni. (I know it’s processed but dude – airplane.)

Upon entering the mighty United States Of America, my country of birth, the Stars and Stripes that raised me under the banner of freedom, I passed through security…

and was immediately detained by a United States Department of Agriculture Customs Officer. 

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“Brunhilda”, as we will lovingly refer to her, was not a chipper woman. Standing roughly 5 feet tall in both directions, she had seen better days. Her hair was in a bun so tight her eyelids struggled to blink. She smelled of day old cigarettes and pork rinds. For the record, I love pork rinds. This was more “ode to swine anus” and she lacked a basic understanding of personal boundaries.

My passport was confiscated and put into a clear pouch with a green border.  This is apparently important because the color of your pouch will dictate what level of threat you are or how far up the body cavity they will search. I was assigned multiple tax-paid handlers. One was for my luggage that was pulled off my connecting plane for inspection and another to stay beside me at all times as apparently I looked like some sort of soccer mom flight risk in my yoga pants and knock off pashmina.

I was taken to a secured room where my belongings and my body were carefully inspected as if I might be hiding Russian spy codes between my fallopian tubes. While touching places that haven’t been touched since the doctor pulled me from the womb, “Brunhilda” informed me that I was a new breed of terrorist – the kind that brings foreign agriculture into our beloved homeland. The kind that can spread disease and introduce pests and germs to the New World.

Apparently, I hadn’t finished off the last bag of pre measured and sliced cucumbers. And now said cucumbers and I were the suspects of potential mass agricultural and human genocide.

In the holding cell next to me (ok it was a room but stay with me) was a tiny, elderly hispanic woman who had a half eaten apple from Spain. She was crying and shaking in fear. I gave her a raised hand in compassionate understanding.

Solidarity, Eve. Solidarity.

Two hours and a missed connection to New York, my half eaten zip lock bag of sliced cucumbers were ceremoniously dropped into a garbage can of other food soccer moms and yogis have tried to sneak into the country in the relentless pursuit of health.

Eventually, I made it to New York.

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I haven’t eaten a cucumber since.

Body searches aside, my day-to-day life is not all that glamorous. It’s full of stress and emails and meetings and kettle bells and rejection and fake eye lashes.

How we carry ourselves through the stress, the bouts of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, failure, success, and half-glued eyelashes is what people see.

I had someone call me narcissistic recently. And not in love. (Is that ever said in love?) Here’s the truth – we all need a streak of self love. I get told on a daily basis that I’m too fat, my feet are too big, I’m too old, that I need botox or a thread lift, definitely a breast lift, or this and that. Every Single Day. It can be exhausting but the way I look doesn’t define me. And it shouldn’t define you. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. No matter where you are in your personal journey – and we’re all on a journey – you have to first know and believe that you were made perfect for a purpose. Perfect just as you are right now – not when you were in college or where you want to be next year – right now in this moment as you read these words you are beautifully made in the image of God. May that be a freedom for you, as it is for me. 

Glamour is appearance, not lifestyle. And inner joy – the kind that radiates from your soul – is more beautiful than any physical thing could ever be.

Hold your head up high. Pull your shoulders back. Let your light shine.

Live your most glamorous life.

Cucumbers optional.

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and Run to Win.

 

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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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While running the European Union (what’s left of it) for EU Parkinsons Foundation, I’ve been based out of a small village in southern Germany. My little town is great for a lot of things like bakeries, wine stores and biergartens. I’ve consumed so much beer and brats I’ll need a large, Hungarian electrolysis to keep me from turning into a middle aged man. We have farms, horses and goats. (So many goats.)

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Eight months later, it’s time to go home. I need to check on my little Florida flop house, replenish my resources, (working remotely is not for the weak) hug my friends and eat my mother’s casseroles. I’m thankful for my little village and the good Germans who have embraced me. It’s been an amazing but often difficult few months. There is only so much planning you can do before the kid gets sick, the plane gets canceled and you find yourself, out of cash, on a city bus in the middle of Italy with a box of bread sticks and day old fake eyelashes.

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I haven’t stopped running! I’ll share my race experiences in the States over the next few months. Keep running with me. We’re in this together. Exercise isn’t just necessary for my physical well being, it’s important for my emotional and spiritual self. It’s where I emote, process the day, lament that I don’t work hard enough, try hard enough, don’t measure up to who I want to be. By the end of the run, with my well empty, I talk to my creator. You may not hear God but I do. It’s the gentle nudge that says, “you’ve got this.”

Today, during a brief respite from the rain, I grabbed the dog, launched my kid in the jogger and we went for a 5 mile run up through rocky trails and over pine needle strewn paths.

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At the top of an intense hill was an incredible vista – the sweet reward for the upward climb.

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Then I had the satisfaction of the downward slope, reveling in the exhausted joy of having completed a long, tough run.

At the bottom of the steep hill, I came to a sign:

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DANGER! I couldn’t continue into town. There was construction or an accident or I was being punished for past sins.

I had to turn around AND GO BACK UP the mountain and down the OTHER SIDE.

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I had just climbed the hill. I hadn’t prepared for having to climb it again. I didn’t have the motivation. I didn’t have the physical muscle to do it all over.

I’ve talked a lot about spiritual muscle. It’s how we deal with peaks and valleys of rugged terrain in life and in sport – how we engage our muscles of hope and faith to get up the hill when we’re stuck in a rut. But what happens when you don’t reach the top? Or when you crest the hill only to find another, bigger climb? We’ve all felt that depression. Sometimes, even when we do all the right things, we don’t reach the summit. Or if we do, it’s not what we’d hoped. The promotion you didn’t get. The job that isn’t fulfilling. A crumbling marriage, a troubled teen, sickness, adversity, hopelessness. That’s when spiritual muscle becomes crucial. We need help from friends, neighbors, family, church, music, reading, respite, running…  to start the climb back up the hill. Running Europe has been amazing. We’ve seen so much. But my tiny tot and I need to plant our feet on American soil. We need Green Tea Smoothies and Whole Foods. And Target! Oh how I’ve missed one-stop shopping for needless things, endless waste and American’s propensity for hoarding consumable goods.

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I need a break from the constant math of converting kilometers to miles. I need a break from all the speeding tickets because I suck at math. This story isn’t over. We’re just on to the next chapter – Run South America! Kidding, kidding. My Spanish is worse than my math.

Keep running with me. Keep running to win. God’s not through with us yet.

I offer up my favorite poem, abbreviated, by Annie J. Flint. I memorized it at a young age before I really understood what it meant. The language is dated but the message is clear – we’re not alone. There’s water in the well – an eternal supply! Read it, then read it again. Print it out. Put it in your desk drawer at work and your sock drawer at home. We all have “multiplied trials,” and we all need His “multiplied peace”.

He gives more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sends more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He adds His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun!

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

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And 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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Ah, Paris! The city of love and lust, home of fashion, art and culture. I went to the famous French city to run La Parisienne – a 40,000 woman only road race under the Eiffel Tower and around the ancient city.

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I took the train from Germany – a very fast, very cool, very comfortable multi-hour train ride through the countryside. I read French Vogue to get me in the mood for my big city adventure. I packed leather pants, cropped jackets and my favorite black heels. The Parisian ladies did not disappoint. I rarely saw locals in pants or shorts. They were decked out in summer dresses, sandals, kitten heels and wide-brimmed hats. On the subway in every direction were lovely ladies who looked like they walked right out off the runway with Chanel bags and red soled heels. The cafe lined streets had well positioned chairs to take in the sights and smells of the French women walking by – their floral perfumes lingering just for a minute behind their freshly combed hair. In the morning I had an espresso (in the worlds tiniest cup) among handsome men with pressed shirts and women with cigarettes dangling from their thin, manicured hands.

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And then there was me. Those poor leather pants never saw the light of day. It was hot and walking a large city with my 4-year-old side kick meant two things: shorts with pockets stuffed with crayons and very comfortable shoes. While the locals pulled out jewel encrusted mirrors from their Chloé handbags, I pulled out day-old juice boxes and antibacterial wipes out of my TJ Maxx travelers pouch. Sexy.

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Sunday morning was the big event – the road race. Everyone runs for a different reason. Some for time, for cancer, for spite, for revenge, for health, for camaraderie. I run for Parkinson’s and for my dad so he knows (right around mile 4) that he’s not suffering alone – I’m pretty miserable too.

The race was advertised as beginning at 945am. That might have been true, had you gone through security at 5am. I woke up at 7, got ready, walked the 2.5 miles to the race site and proceeded to spend 30 minutes in the security line only to be escorted to the chute – a half mile long gated area where we were corralled like cows to the slaughter. They released a few hundred women across the starting line every 7 minutes which meant they’d get to my group around Christmas. As luck would have it, my heat went at about 12:15pm. I had been walking, jogging or standing for over four hours and the race hadn’t even begun yet.

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Around 11am, with my phone about to die and the 1pm apartment check-out looming in front of me, I started to panic. I legitimately tried to bail and leave the corral but I could not. There was no exit, no gate I could sneak through and no personnel to recruit for my great escape. I had no way out. I thought of two things in that moment. First, I thought of yelling “BOMB!” and the ensuing stampede but I had blown my budget the day before and didn’t have enough left to post bail. My next thought was of was my father. I know there are times in his battle with Parkinson’s where he wants to escape his body but there’s no place to go. There are plenty of people who have illnesses, depression, jobs they don’t like, marriages they don’t like, with no escape. So I kept going. I ran for them.

The race itself was really fantastic – probably the greatest display of pageantry of any race to date – and I’ve run a lot of races. About every 500 meters there was entertainment of some kind. Several amazing percussion groups, singers, dancers, I’m pretty sure the entire cast of La Cage aux Folles and a drag queen or two. (or six.) My favorite was a small orchestra dressed as chickens playing the theme song to The Muppet Show. It was fantastic.

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Around mile three, my left foot started to ache, my phone’s battery died and my tampon reached max capacity. (Did I make you wince? It gets worse.) I finish the race at around 1245. (I’m sure someone kept time but it was a giant party so no one seemed to care.) I made it back to the apartment 30 minutes late and my host (though I’d rather not call him something so inviting) had already cleaned the bathroom and would not allow me to shower. So here I am, having walked a collective five miles, ran five miles and was probably covered in more blood than an amateur boxing ring. And I had to ride on a train like this for the next five hours.

Paris has a motto – Fluctuat Nec Mergitur – Latin for

“She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.”

I thought about bailing on the run but I didn’t. I thought about bailing on this entire expensive, exhausting, navigationally insane endeavor to run Europe for EU Parkinson’s but I can’t quit. You can’t quit. We have to keep going – keep being intentional in our lives and relationships – keep going no matter the obstacles – keeping encouraging each other to Run to Win.

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It’s been a while, race fans. Pour yourself a cold glass of Chardonnay and let’s recap.

I’m a hiker, skier, drinker, runner, ENFP on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I’m running road races around the world – All 50 states (for me) and Europe (for EU Parkinsons) to raise awareness for the disease which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/08/21/daughter-honors-former-west-point-chaplain-father-after-parkinsons.html

I’ve been in Europe now for exactly 8 weeks today. They were rough weeks. Hotels, laundry at friends houses, walking in a jet-lagged induced haze from scary-as-hell German playground to Biergartens featuring… scary-as-hell German playgrounds. Here are a few unique things I’ve learned about Germany (and most of southern Europe in general.)

German Fact #1: Everyone drinks. Want to give your 9 year old their first taste of beer? The waiter will bring you a sippy cup. Want to take your glass of Hefeweisen for a walk downtown? Go for it! And pass some around to others. Just don’t try to drink water – it’s all bubbly and sometimes so packed with magnesium it takes your colon a week to adjust.

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German Fact #2: Everyone smokes. Non-smoking section? There isn’t such a thing. From the kids sand pit to the ladies bathroom someone is smoking. And there are cigarette vending machines all around to enable your desire to smoke with every breath. Everywhere. From the gates of an 11th century castle to the edge of the black forrest – a dozen kilometers from civilization – you will find a cigarette vending machine.

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Germany Fact #3: Sunday is a day of rest. You can not shop – everything is closed. You can not go out to eat – they’re resting too. You can not mow the lawn, paint the house, wash your car or blink. And the old folks around you will call the cops if you do. So best you get your food the day before, hunker down and light up a pack of Marlboros. Because it’s Sunday. It took me a few weeks to adjust. I’m an all-american consumer and I can’t comprehend not being able to buy milk or eggs or zip ties anytime I want. But it’s a good discipline. We should go to church! Read, rest, stop and smell the roses.

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It’s hard to slow down. Hard to switch gears. This adventure has forced me to completely change course. I’ve felt depressed a few times in my life. First, during those awkward teenage years when your hormones are raging and you feel like THE SKY IS FALLING EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE SOMEBODY HUG ME! The second time was right after my daughter was born and suddenly I was responsible for keeping another human being alive. None of that prepared me for putting my entire DC life on hold and uprooting myself and my 4 year old sidekick to another part of the world where we didn’t speak the language and hadn’t prepared our colons for the perpetual onslaught of sparkling beverages. But we survived. How? Because part of this journey is about building spiritual muscle so when the hard times come – and they always come – we can not just handle it but conquer it. I spent a lot of time in prayer. I highly encourage it, whatever you believe. Have a conversation with your creator. Tell him you love him, you believe him, you’re mad at him – doubting him – tell him you feel abandoned or lost or scared. Just like in our everyday relationships, communication is key. And He will respond. It’s not always with the answer we want or when we want. He’s not into instant gratification and he’s not our cosmic cash machine. But prayer works. Try it. God is good, even when the sky is falling.

I’ve run two races here. The first run is always the hardest. I haven’t been training much and the hills are are no joke.  The first one was at the tip of the black forrest with magnificent mountain views. I didn’t do well. It was hard and I wasn’t motivated. But I did it.

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Lesson from Germany: Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump. For some of us, especially perfectionists, people who never fail or people who are afraid of failing, that fear will keep us from doing it. DO IT. Engage that muscle of faith and go. Jump. Run. Failing sucks but character is developed in the struggle.

The second run was a lot more fun. A dirndl 5k. I learned two things about dirndls. First, they are hot as balls. Second, only touristing Americans wear them. My German neighbors thought I had been sniffing schnitzel when I walked out the door.  I didn’t win but my time improved. I came in 3rd place… of the women wearing outfits… had there been such a category…

I’ve referenced before one of my favorite sermons my father would preach at the Academy, around graduation time, about life’s mountain peaks and valleys. The mountain peaks are joyful, celebrations of accomplishments. Life’s BIG DEALS. Graduations, weddings, births, reunions, promotions. But we don’t live on the mountain top. We live in the valley. And to get to the top we have to climb, fall back, get up and keep going. The struggle makes the top more gratifying; the view more satisfying. These first few months represented my climb up and having two races and one country down is my mountain top. It’s all down here from here.

Until the next mountain: France.

Good news, that mountain has wine.

Run to win.

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Memorial Day is not Veteran’s Day. Confusing the two is like eulogizing Grandpa when he’s going in for a dental cleaning. Right audience, wrong occasion.

For the most part, holidays are joyful. (Enter tacky reindeer theme sweater here.) Living near DC is especially fun during major holidays like Veteran’s Day, Forth of July, and when Congress is in recess. I took my tiny tot to the parade to cheer for the men and women marching in the humidity, sweating shoulder to shoulder with thousands of strangers eating mysterious meat on a stick from the rows of food trucks nearby.

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But first I went for a run. It was a 5k in Baltimore. I came in third in my age group. Not bad for having to wake up at 5am and drive 75 minutes in the humidity. (I hate being hot.)

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I always run for my dad – for Parkinson’s – for people struggling so in the 26, 27, 28 minutes it takes me to run a 5k, I’m carrying their burden. This run was my 22 push up challenge. I get it. A bucket of ice water, 22 push ups for 22 days, posting a cancer awareness post on social media. They’re all ways that we can feel like we’re doing something. And it is something. I’m not sure people covered in ice water saved a life from ALS but I’m sure it made them feel – however briefly – lifted up. I don’t think a veteran will seek help with PTSD because they saw their neighbor in his yard doing 22 push ups. But perhaps it reminds us to look out for one another, to put others before ourselves, to sacrifice a little bit of our time and talents for our community.

Nate Self, USMA ’98 wrote a book called “Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts – Abroad and Within”. (grab a copy on Amazon). The book is an interesting first hand account of a battle in the Afghan mountains and Nate’s internal struggle back home with PTSD. I have never been to war. I have struggled with depression from time to time like the typical teenage angst, going through a divorce, my father’s disease. We can all relate to anxiety, depression, fear.

On the 9th of July 1990 one of my all time favorite people died. West Point class of 1988, the biggest person at the Camp Thanksgiving kids table, my quiet champion. My daughter is learning to play the piano on the same baby grand he taught me. I have boxes of music – some he has played, some he wrote – that I can’t bring myself to open.

On the 4th of July he left a message on our answering machine. He said, “I can’t reconcile the person I am with the person I want to be.” A few days later he took his life. I was 12 years old.

I don’t think running a road race or doing push ups or dunking myself in cold water would have saved him. He was a thousand miles away in Texas and we were all busy doing our things – unaware of the extent that he was suffering.

16 years later I still think about him every time I play our baby grand. There have been other people I’ve lost – other friends that have died in the decade of war our nation has endured.  Their loss is a reminder to be vigilant and intentional in our relationships with one another. In this age of social media and video chat, we don’t have any excuses not to stay connected. Friends, colleagues and classmates have the ability to know what is going on in each others’ lives and have the resources to meet needs in real-time.

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So do the push ups. Run the road race. Come alongside someone. Lace up your sneakers and run with me, virtually, even if we’re thousands of miles apart. And if you’re struggling, reach out. Have hope. God isn’t through with me and He isn’t through with you yet. Run to Win.

Appropriately, for our John,  John 15: 12-13 (from The Message)

“This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends”