Boobs, Pods and a Road Race. THAT got your attention. Or at the very least you’re curious how this is going to end up. Me too….

A little about me – I’m an American model competing in the (HIGHLY) competitive European modeling scene for a bit. More importantly, I run. I run for fitness, I run for mental clarity. I run for Parkinson’s Disease which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father. I haven’t run a road race in a while. I’ve been doing a lot more high intensity (HIIT) workouts because I like the results. I highly recommend lifting heavy weights, often. You’ll thank me.

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I’m 40 years old. I’ve been modeling on and off for close to a decade and here’s what I’ve learned – this business is fickle, highly competitive, hard on the body and self-esteem. It’s also a LOT of fun. At my age, I’ve got one shot left before I get long in the tooth, the face and the boobs. Belting them is not fashion forward. 

I’ve had to cut weight to compete with the younger models, especially the Russians and the French. (An average casting call for a job is like an international gathering of United Nations for Anorexia and Adderall. (UNAA). I snapped this pic of a Russian model on the metro home from an open call in Berlin. I have no idea who got the job but it wasn’t either of us.

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While I get a text from my agency daily reminding me to “think thin!” or “tone and tighten!” or “starve for svelte!” (kidding. kind of…) We all get lectured regularly about eating disorders and the negative effects of low body weight. “Your hormones will shut down and you won’t be able to have children EVER!” (I have a kid. All good.) “Your hair will fall out and you’ll be BALD!” (Our hair is professionally done for every shoot. I’m covered.) “You’ll experience anal LEAKAGE!”

Um, what? Excuse me say that again? Anal WHAT? WTF is that?! Everyone is looking around the room with mixed expressions of fear and doubt and then some more fear. Bald can be beautiful but there’s nothing sexy about any leakage.

Ok, Edna, you win. I’ll eat the steak.

Thankfully, I have access to great resources, nutritionists and this week I discovered….the BOD POD.

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According to my Google search, “The BOD POD is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole body densitometry to determine body composition (fat vs. lean). Similar in principle to underwater weighing, the BOD POD measures bodymass (weight) using a very precise scale, and volume by sitting inside the BOD POD.”

A significant part of my job is keeping in shape – or being whatever shape they need me to be to land a campaign. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading nutrition blogs, books and podcasts. I get blood work done at regular intervals to make sure I’m not deficient in anything and I know what foods work for me. The information ascertained from the Bod Pod would be another level of info gathering for my personal nutritional science project.

I had to wear a bathing suit or running bra and underwear and a swim cap. I also had to show up in a fasted state.

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My appointment was at 9am and I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since 8pm the previous evening. I get up around 5am so by 9am I would have traded my left breast for an espresso. Thankfully, the paperwork took longer than the actual test. I was out of there in less than 15 minutes and raced immediately to the nearest Cup-O-Caffeine and ordered two of everything.

“Would you like that iced or hot?”

“Yes. Just yes.”

What did I learn? I learned I have 12% body fat and that’s just not enough for a functional female. I also learned that my fat-free mass – meaning my bones, internal organs, muscle – weights 113 lbs. BEST NEWS EVER! Why? Because when my 5’2″ friend is complaining about being 120 when she was 98 in high school or when Edna from the agency shakes her head at my weight I can tell her to SUCK IT because MY DUTCH AMAZONIAN SKELETON IS GIGANTIC AND HEAVY AND WEIGHS MORE THAN AT LEAST ONE OLSEN TWIN.

Suck it, Edna.

Then I ran a road race.

It was the Oktoberfest Dirndl 5k. Do you know what makes dirndls so awesome? Boobs. Those tiny white blouses, cinched in the middle so the cups overfloweth… hold a beer, throw in an apron and you’re instantly the star of every male fantasy.

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I, however, have seemingly sacrificed mine on the altar of Haute Couture modeling.

A moment of silence for my dirndl modeling career.

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The race itself was super fun. My tiny, 98 lb friend ran with me. We encouraged some people along the way and had a great chat about nutrition and exercise (and boobs. We also talked about boobs. When this modeling career reaches its finish line I’m going to want to get a set of those…)

We’re going to the actual Oktoberfest in Germany together this weekend to celebrate all things German. Stay tuned. Or post bail. Both.

Prost.

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Oktoberfest celebrates a new season.  I’m trying to celebrate something every single day. It’s a conscious exercise in thanksgiving that doesn’t involve the bird or a pilgrim. It takes work. Maybe you’re not where you want to be physically. Maybe you’re not where you want to be emotionally or spiritually. There are times I want to hop a plane to Florida, times I want to put down the weights and take a day off, eat the egg AND the yolk. But I’m going to celebrate the season I’m in right now – because every day is a gift. The leaves and the wind are changing but God doesn’t change and that’s something to celebrate too.

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The trees are celebrating with their fragrant fruit and jewel toned leaves. The Germans are celebrating with their pints of Pilsner. Army football fans everywhere are celebrating our team. LL Bean is celebrating sweater season. France is celebrating – actually the French tend to be pissed off quite a lot of the time. Don’t wait for a holiday or a Saturday to choose joy. Find something to celebrate in your life today.  Pumpkin and Pilsner? espresso and Prosecco? Soccer mom lattes and yoga pants? Dirndls and pods and boobs?

YES, just yes.

Celebrate where you are in your journey right now.

 

And Run to Win.

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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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R.P.P. The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. We have all known it at some point in our lives. As someone who gets paid to be photographed, it’s a hollow pursuit for cellulite cream, wrinkle erasers and frizz free hair.

Since I’ve started this blog, the most asked questions I get from both friends and followers is about my health and beauty routine. (Sometimes they ask about exercise but, considering this is a running blog, that’s fairly obvious.) I haven’t had any botox or fillers or injectables yet. Yet. (For the record, I don’t get paid to advertise these things and I bought them at my favorite store – the drug store – like everyone else. Suck it, Kardashians.)

1. I run. Some days I lift. Sometimes I do work out videos on youtube. I tried Cross fit… once….

I just ran. It was fine. Nothing special happened. It was a beautiful day, an easy jog. Sometimes it just matters that it gets done.

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2. I wash my face with L’oreal Revitalift cleanser. When I travel, I wash my face with hand soap because anything is better than sleeping in makeup. Hey, 20 year old with perfect skin – time is a bitch. Start now. Your 40 year old self will thank you.

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3. I slather on a heavy amount of Bio Oil. That’s right – the stuff for scars. I’m currently using the generic CVS brand because it was on sale. Deep, thought provoking stuff, I know.

4. I use Lancome Genifique. It’s really, freaking expensive but the entire line is worth it. They have an eye cream that is sublime but i’m currently out of it. “Dear Lancome…”

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That’s it. I don’t wear foundation unless a professional make up artist comes and paints the crap on me for three or four laborious hours. I always wear mascara and when I’m in Florida, sunscreen. Ultimately, and I mean this with all sincerity, it doesn’t matter what you do on the outside if you neglect what’s on the inside. That means your health and your heart. Learn what to feed your body for peak performance (life is a race and we’re running to win!) and what to feed your heart (faith, family, friends, etc.)

Now for the inside. First, I know you’ve read about “A” list, 20 year old models like Gigi and Bella eating McDonalds and pizza. That’s because they’re fetuses. All models know that, after 30, every calorie counts. Do you think Cindy or Elle eat pizza and fast food? No. They count every single calorie and they practice calorie restriction. I was at a shoot recently where the food table was carrot sticks and Marlboro lights. I’m not kidding. Models will go to all sorts of extremes to fit into society imposed images and a Gucci sample size 0.

Victoria’s little Secret is out – those girls haven’t eaten in fourteen years.

Here’ the big one that has changed my body in a real, healthy way:

I gave up all sugar. (That includes wine and most alcohol, too. But not you, Titos. Not you.)

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I follow a strict Ketogenic diet and I aim to drink an insane amount of water.

My modeling agency said I needed to lose weight before fashion week. I had to do some serious evaluating. This is my journey and “everything in moderation” doesn’t work for me because I’m an emotional eater. I had to separate my emotional response to food. It’s been a long process that won’t ever end. Being thin enough for sample size clothes is necessary for me to be in this business. Being a healthy weight is necessary for me to live a healthy life. I’m trying to find the balance.

When I was a child, my mother would bake. All The Time. (she still does!) She’s a fantastic baker. She’d show love by feeding half the Corps of Cadets her blueberry muffins. Pancakes. Birthday cake! Who doesn’t love birthday cake?! Brownies on your promotion, donuts on casual Friday. I had to remove the emotional component from food. Would your birthday be any less, err, sweet if you celebrated with a juicy steak? Or what if you didn’t use food to celebrate at all! What if your gift to yourself was a long hike in the woods? Take a mini vacation or try rock climbing. Would it make the accomplishment or milestone any less enjoyable?

Would removing food from a celebration make it less celebratory?

Think about that.

Some people are naturally lean. I am not one of those people. When I remove the emotional component to food, I can actually focus on my long term health goals. Food becomes a source of energy – of fuel – not of joy or comfort.

I’ve been thinking about my long-term goals. I’m traveling a lot between Europe and USA and that causes immense stress. I’m trying to support my aging parents, run races for my dad and for Parkinson’s disease, work from home, manage a long-distance relationship and care for a six year old child every day, wherever I go. Sometimes I really want to just eat the cake. Eat the bowl of pasta. Eat the bag of chips. Drink the box of wine. But I’d rather wear the skinny jeans, run AND FINISH the road race. I’d rather eat to live.

Sometimes (a lot lately) my stress causes me to create this unrealistic fantasy world where everything is fine and great and I don’t need to take time for self care. Read that sentence again because I know you do that, too. We focus on our kids or our job or our love lives or material things and stop doing the hard self work that ultimately brings peace.

AND WE ALL NEED SOME FREAKING PEACE THESE DAYS.

Whatever you do on the outside, what matters most is what we do on the inside. Beauty fades. Your soul is eternal. Trust that the Creator who made you can heal and sustain you.

For me, that means having friends and loved ones snap me out of my “fantasy fog” back to reality where things aren’t all high heels and cocktails and that’s ok! It means admitting when you need help. It means developing a prayer life that goes beyond a meal blessing and becomes a running dialog with God. It means mentally emptying your giant bucket of responsibility and only putting back in the things that are essential for that day. It means removing yourself emotionally from other people. This is a big one for me. Never search for other people to validate you – to make you feel loved, accepted, worthy. You have to get that from the deep well within you. Know your worth.

Inner peace is beautiful. Confidence through accomplishment is beautiful. Self love is beautiful. Self acceptance is beautiful. Knowing you are fearfully and wonderfully made is, indeed, beautiful.

NOW GO BE BEAUTIFUL.

and Run to Win.

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All the things that truly matter, beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace arise from beyond the mind.”  ~Eckhart Tolle

 

 

 

 

 

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London, England.

2am on a Sunday.

Thanks to my awesome modeling agency, I was given the opportunity to attend London Fashion Week this year, culminating in a community fashion festival weekend. I had gone to Milan Fashion Week last year and it was pretty fun. This was an entirely new level. First of all, I was excited to sit between Anna Wintour and the Queen at the Prada show until I remembered I’m a “D” list 40 year old model with cellulite so I’ll actually be waiting in line at the Gin bar in the back of a warehouse filled with size 0 sample clothes that cost more than Oprah’s house hoping I’d be lucky enough to sit on a chair stuck with gum that had once been chewed by Yasmin Le Bon.

 

 

My amazing friend and travel buddy came with me, as did her lovely daughter. As a perk, she did my makeup. Without her, I’d either look like a drag queen or homeless. I’m not skilled enough for anything in between.

We were living in London, feigning my greatest Patsy and Edina moments from the morally questionable British show AbFab. It was glorious. We lunched at Harvey Nich’s and took big black taxi’s whenever possible. “I thought a little mosey down Bond Street, a little sniff around Gucci, sidle up to Ralph Lauren, pass through Browns and on to Quags for a light lunch.” (Patsy on her kind of day out.)

 

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After being fabulous with all our fabulous clothes, fabulous friends and fabulous fake eyelashes, we headed home. Our plane was scheduled to leave Gatwick Airport at 5pm. We had read on our way in that there was going to be train track work and we’d need to give extra time to get to the airport. We gave ourselves 3 hours to go 26 miles.

WE WERE WRONG.

We took the subway half way with no problems. Then we were dumped at a tube station and told busses would shuttle everyone the rest of the way to Gatwick. 1 bus every 5 minutes. For about 5,000 people. In a parking lot. In sub freezing weather. With no taxi service.

 

MASS CHAOS.

Four hours later, we arrived at the airport and joined the line of all the other disgruntled travelers sidelined by the transit tragedy. Once we made it to the help desk, we were told there were no more flights to anywhere in Germany. We researched every option from renting a car and driving to Paris to taking a 30 hour bus. We settled on new tickets to Munich at 6am the following morning, the first flight off the island.

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Feeling Absolutely Fabulous and with no where to go, we found the airport bar.

Thankfully they decided to stay open all night to accommodate the hoard of displaced voyagers.

And so, being that our fake eyelashes weren’t yet between our toes (they soon would be…) we decided to drink. A bottle of wine and a few gin’s later (who knew Londoners loved gin?) We crashed for a long winters nap… err… 3 hours in a booth under electric glowing lights and insanely loud club music.

9 PM

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10 PM

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2 AM

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3:30 AM

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At day break we flew to Munich, then bought train tickets to Bavaria.

But first we had to ride the train for an hour from the airport to the Munich central city train station.

Half way there, our train broke down.

One more time for the Peanut Gallery –

THE TRAIN BROKE DOWN.

Short of riding a donkey out of the city, we were pretty desperate. When the conductor came on the PA system, I leaned to the well dressed business man next to me and, in an effort to learn more about the delay, asked, “sprechen sie englisch?” He said “I do speak English but I do not speak German.” We voted him our travel guide anyway and followed him through the city from metro to metro until we all arrived at the main train station for our varied trips home.

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We had missed our train but another soon followed and we had a few hours of respite on the final stretch home. We arrived home 24 hours after our initial return flight tired, puffy and poor.

We ran out of money days ago (have you seen the exchange rate lately?) and we hadn’t eaten in weeks preparing to compete with the anorexic tree branches walking down the catwalk. But all in all, it was a GREAT trip.

It was meant to be fun and frivolous and it was.

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While in London, after the fashion and before the travel catastrophe, I ran a race. I didn’t want to. I was hungry from perpetual starvation and it was very, very cold. However I had a plan to honor someone I cared for very much and keeping that commitment was a priority. He was a 4 year letterman on the Army Football Team, the coolest guy I knew, yet always kind to this awkward teenager. He was someone who never missed my birthday or a milestone. He called me just enough to keep us connected and we always tried to be at one football game a year together. He made the effort for me. And then he died. He was 46 years old.

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When I read all the posts and notes from people around the world after his death, I realized he made the effort with everyone he knew. Family, friends, classmates, colleagues of all walks of life. He led with kindness and commitment. He was cool AND kind. (Read more about him Here.) I couldn’t make it all the way to Southern California for the funeral but I could run, where I was, to show MY commitment to him and to our friendship. So I ran London, over the bridge, for James.

 

 

When you know someone who lives and loves big, their loss takes your breath away.

Be the kind of lover and friend that take people’s breath away.

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Like Patsy and Edina in my fictional London or my friend James in his commitment to kindness,

GO BIG.

BE BOLD.

LIVE HARD.

and Run to Win.

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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.