Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. … To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis from The Four Loves

In the month of January, the number one questions is “what is your resolution?” or “what are you goals for the New Year?”

I’m a huge fan of resolutions. I make my weekly fitness goals every Monday. (Is this a hot yoga week? A crossfit week? A Fitness Blender on Youtube week? A plank challenge week? Beer pong? I like routine but I don’t like to be bored.)

This year is bringing a lot of changes but some things remain the same. I’m back in the USA! GOD BLESS TARGET! My first day home I just sat in the middle of aisle 5 taking in the best of American disposable goods and our desire to over consume. Next up – Costco. (I’m going to buy 4,000 rolls of toilet paper and 12 gallons of boxed wine JUST BECAUSE I CAN.)

In keeping with resolutions, I’m also resuming my running the USA. I had a mission a few years back to run every state but I was sidetracked in Europe – an experience with extreme highs and lows. God definitely was pruning me and I’ve learned that God is there in the wilderness even when you don’t feel Him. (If YOU are in the wilderness right now, you’re not alone.) I’ve run about half the states so I’ve got a lot yet to do. Stay tuned Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee – you’re in the queue!

Saturday I ran my first race in the warm Florida sun. It was my first time running in sand in a year and by mile 2 my calves were burning.

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My goal for this year, besides running races in as many states as possible, is to over-love. In the “wilderness” this past year, I’ve realized how much fear I have developed around really loving whole-heartedly. I put these walls up to protect my heart. I have some good friends but I don’t have many intimate, kindred spirits because that requires loving without fear – loving without holding back. I’ve loved and lost some real loves and that’s also because of fear – fear of being hurt. All that fear – it just gets in the way. We’re made to love, even when it hurts. That’s scary!

Then there’s self-love. Every single person reading this needs to work on self love – loving yourself as you are right now, not 20 lbs ago or 20 years ago but right now with all the wrinkles and dimples and heart scars. Imagine what life would look like if we loved ourselves without fear? If we accepted ourselves just as we are? Can you look in the mirror right now and say, “YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL BEAST! You are my best friend, my perfect partner, the love of my life. You are perfect right now in this moment. I see your flaws and I love you because of them!”  Can you say that right now and mean it?

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For those who follow my antics on social media, you know I am a model. (KathyCamp1)

There are few people in this world more insecure than models.

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I’ve been stuck in this loop of reinforcing negative thoughts about my body while trying to put forth perfection in photos.  It makes me feel like a fraud. Sound familiar? What negative loops are you stuck in? How can you get out of the loop and get back on the path in front of you?

Here are three things I have done to get out of the loop:

  1. Seek wise council. Maybe that’s a licensed therapist. Perhaps a pastor or a respected confidant. Whoever it is, know you don’t know it all. Find people who do.
  2. Give it up to God. I don’t know where you are in your faith journey but here’s what I know to be true: We were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who wants a relationship with us every single day. Give it to God and let it go. 
  3. Make friends with fear.  You know that cranky old neighbor that no one likes? Sometimes when you acknowledge them, you realize they’re not that bad – you can handle them. Make friends with your fear. Acknowledge it. Talk to it. Name it. Whatever you need to do. Don’t ignore it or that ugly neighbor becomes a monster that keeps you from taking out the garbage in the daylight for fear of confrontation. Step up to your fears and watch them back down.

Examples:

You say, I have a modeling/PR/job interview tomorrow.

Fear says, “You can’t do it. You’re not thin enough/young enough/smart enough. You’re not qualified for that job. They’ll see right through you.

You say, “Oh Hey There Fear! – I see you Fear Fred you big fat shit head. I’m actually all over this thing and I don’t need you to join me tomorrow. I’ve got this.”

Or

You say, I love this person.

Fear says, “Yeah, he’s going to break you heart. He’s going to leave you – everyone leaves. Guard yourself. Put up walls – bigger walls – BIGGER WALLS – now RUN”

You say, “Isn’t there a fat cherub with a bow and arrow somewhere that you can mess with? I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am worthy of loving and of being loved. I have been given a heart with an extraordinarily large capacity to love, forgive, accept and nurture. See yourself out.”

Make friends with Fear. Then get on with your life.

Go big. Lukewarm is no good.

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This year, I’m going to love myself without fear.

This year I’m going to love others without fear.

This year I’m going to love hard, completely, relentlessly, fearlessly!

“If you want to tap into what life has to offer, let love be your primary mode of being, not fear. Fear closes us down and makes us retreat. It locks doors and limits opportunities. Love is about opening to possibilities. Seeing the world with new eyes. It widens our heart and mind. Fear incarcerates but love liberates.”  ~ John Mark Green

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My favorite bible verse is 1 Corinthians 9:24. The next verse, 26-27 says this:

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.”

And 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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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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My parents are in town for a week. Parkinson’s makes it difficult for my father to travel and he doesn’t do well out of his routine but I needed them and they came.

Life Lesson #1: Ask for what you need. Don’t expect to get what you want but ask for what you need.

I wanted to do something special for them while they’re here so I asked them if there is anyone in particular they would like to see in the DC area. They gave me a few names of people – intimate friends – people who feel like home.  Some of them joined us for a few hours last night.

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Life Lesson #2: “Home” is not places but people. The comfort of your childhood living room can be revisited in the embrace of an old friend.

We assembled in the lounge of a hotel nearby. The first to arrive was a wrestler from the class of 1991. A product of my father’s high school in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, though over 30 years a part. President of FCA at West Point, a constant presence in our home. Two more couples came. First, leaders in their life and in their faith. He a strong, calm presence. She an effervescent joy that heals the soul.

The second family are generational friends – parents, children, grandchildren… Our families bound together by faith, hope, service and sacrifice. For years, their Thayer Road home was our family base when we’d return to the Academy for visits. They feel like home.

Life Lesson #3: Relationships rooted in Faith are like a house built on a rock.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

The last guest was a grad from the early 1980’s that my father had craved a reunion with for over 20 years. He was a surprise guest – a gift I could give thanks to my stalking abilities and social media presence. 20 years but as a day….

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Life Lesson #4: Stalking works. (oh, wait. Don’t do that, kids.)

Life Lesson #4.5: Reach out.

Don’t be afraid of rejection. If it happens, you’ll use the spiritual muscle you’ve been honing to deal with it.

A recent study said the only regret people have is NOT taking a chance. What are you waiting for? What are you afraid of? You’ve been through worse. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Life is too short. You can handle whatever comes. Reach out. Be brave. Be Bold. Love hard.

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We had other reunions. A former cadet from the class of 1988 – one of my first “big brothers” that I haven’t seen in 20 years stopped in while passing through town.

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And a few weeks ago we reunited with a super special couple (whose son was one of my favorite guys growing up) – people that are more than family. (is there such a thing?) Sometimes family is the what we’re born into. Sometimes family is what we put together ourselves. Love them both.

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Life Lesson #5: Love more. Love harder.

Like an athlete playing his last game of the last season, lay it all on the field. Like the last quarter mile of a race, sprint to the finish. Run to win.

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Over the river and through the woods
To Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

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I grew up in New York. Every Monday we would leave our Rock Bound Highland Home and head over the river and through the woods for dinner with my Grandmother Camp in New Jersey. My Grandparents were Dutch – a housewife and a minister who had been a Chaplain in WWII. My father was the eldest of 5 children who all gathered for Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas with our grandmother for the 20+ years she lived after my grandfather died. The New Jersey homestead was in our family for generations although it has since moved on to other families and other Thanksgivings. They say you can never go home again and for me that is true. But the buildings remain and the memories are firmly rooted in my mind.

I’m running all 50 states but not just to accomplish that lofty goal. I’m doing it for my father, for Parkinson’s and especially for the reunions; reminiscing about old times and making new memories. I’ve had the luxury of running alongside some pretty awesome people these past few years but there’s something special about running with family. My cousin Adrienne – an elite athlete, former Cornell soccer star, a PhD AND a mother to 4 girls (Four. FOUR girls) has run with me multiple times. She ran a few races with me last year and joined me on our now famous Army 10 Miler run this past Autumn.

She called me a few weeks ago and said, “We need to run together. What states are left?” (Quite a few, actually. Sigh.) I find races via either active.com or runningintheusa.com. It takes the logistical navigation of an elite Army Pathfinder to plan out my runs. We settled on New Jersey as it’s close to her Pennsylvania home and one of the few northern states I had left. When I looked up a run, there was a 5k in Hawthorne – the town where we spent our youth visiting Gram and feeding the ducks in the park across the street. But there’s more. This run had a turn around point RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR GRANDMOTHERS HOUSE. (You can’t make this stuff up.)  We put the word out and people came – half of my cousins, both of my father’s brothers and one of his sisters.

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We ran together like a roedel honden (Dutch for pack of dogs.) Half way through we stopped, ran across the street and took a picture on the stoop of our late Grandmothers homestead.

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The run itself was a good effort – there were only about 3 other runners besides our pack and our family made up the cheerleading squad. It was cold and snowy (in April. It snowed in April!) but we did it. We came together crossing state lines and logistical boundaries to honor our heritage. Family is special. Sometimes, family doesn’t live up to our standards. Sometimes family fails us. Sometimes, the greatest family is what you assemble yourself out of friends, neighbors, coworkers, my cadets. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be given it. Both take work – like the garden they need to be watered, pruned and fertilized. But like the pine trees anchoring Grams front door, if the roots are deep, the trees will continue to grow.

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We all gathered together to share coffee and companionship (sweat and sacrifice? snacks and sentiment?) post run. I’m proud of my family. Proud of the people they are and the things they’ve accomplished. My cousin Matthew is the Director of Government Relations at Teachers College, Columbia University. But more than that, he’s kind. He fell back in the run when I fell back. He joined me for a 5k in NYC last year in sub 30 degree weather on a moments notice. I’m humbled by my family. This group has eight college degrees, seven masters and four PhD’s. (That baby is six weeks old and i’m pretty sure she has at least one AP class under her belt.)

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But it’s not the accomplishments or accoutrements that makes this group unique. It’s Faith – faithfulness to God as the creator of the earth and sustainer of life. It’s Hope – hope that we’re using the talents passed on to us to do good things. It’s Love – love, affection and appreciation for the generation before us and the future we’re creating.

Over the river and through the woods,
Now Grandma’s house I spy.
Hurrah for fun; the reunion’s done;
Hurrah for our family tie.