Having been raised in a military environment, I’ve learned the importance of punctuality. Five minutes early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable. With very few exceptions (motherhood being one of them) I’ve kept to that rule. Having modeled for years I understand the complexity of a good winged eyeliner but it’s never worth being late. 

I ran a road race Saturday. It’s been a while – and I needed to get back out there. I run for Parkinson’s Disease – which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father and several other people I know. I run so they know – at least for a moment – they’re not alone. And usually around the half way point of long runs, we’re suffering together.

The race began at 7:30am and it was 3 miles away from my house. I woke up at 6:30 am, made a cup of coffee, got dressed and prepared to head out when my tiny tot woke up super early and despite a house full of visitors to watch her, she needed me. So I snuggled with her until the very last moment. I arrived at the parking lot at 7:20am and It Was PACKED. I had to park in the overflow lot and jog to the start line. I turned the corner and saw maybe a dozen people and another dozen children playing around.

Where was everyone? I went to the packet pick up table to grab my prepaid bib. “I’m here for my race packet for the 5k.”

“Ok! But the 5k started at 7am……”

I was late to the party.

“Good news”, said the peppy volunteer. “We have a 2k fun run at 7:30.”

Deal.

To the dozen or so parents I passed who were trotting along with their kids teaching them about pacing and breathing,

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Suckers.

The lesson was I was given a second chance to run, despite my being late to the main event.

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This weekend was significant for me for another reason – I was Baptized.

Let me back up. My father is a minister. However, he believed that we should make the choice as adults when we’re able to internalize what it means to make the commitment to follow Jesus. I decided, despite his struggles with mobility, my dad had one last baptism in him and I was going to be it! Even though I was late to the party at 40, now was as good a time as any.

First, I needed to build a village to make it happen. I was inspired by a photo of Marc Kapsalis, (West Point class of ’85). He was a big, strong, tough hockey player from Chicago who was baptized by dad as a cadet and he was coming to visit for the weekend. My daughter is about the same age I was when I first met Cadet Kapsalis and how amazing for her to see it all come full circle.

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Next, I asked Chaplain Funk if he and his wife Kathy Ann, (both WP ’80), would make the long drive from the east coast of Florida to help with the ceremony. Rick and Marc are on an advisory board with me and we’ve grown quite close over the past years. (Hence the shirts. Product placement at it’s best.)

We all gathered, with other close friends, around my parents pool and I was fully submerged into the Kingdom of God.

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There are so many times we’ve been late to things. Late to learning life lessons. Late to forgiving people. Late to dealing with the chip on our shoulders. Late to making peace with things. Late to healing past pain. Late to telling people how we feel about them. Late to love. Late to making our health a priority. Late to saying yes to God.

It’s not too late. It’s not too late to start working out. It’s not too late to make good food choices. It’s not too late to find your faith. It’s not too late to forgive, love, learn, grow, change. It’s not! Isn’t that the best thing you’ve heard all day??? IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO BE WHO YOU WERE MEANT TO BE. 

Surround yourself with your people – people who make you better. Find your support system. Plug in to your community. Join a church. A running club. A health club. A spa. Say yes to dinner invitations, to reunions, to old friends, to new possibilities.

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

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

IN A YOUTH HOSTEL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Switzerland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I like church. I like the buildings – giant gothic cathedrals, gargoyles, pipe organs, gold crosses that seem to glow even in the absence of light. I like passing through Little Italy by Canal Street and seeing all the Marys-in-the-half-shell.

I was raised in a church. Literally. My house was literally in a church. With a crypt. And gargoyles IN MY HOUSE.

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And bats. So many bats. You don’t appreciate real masculinity until you see a 300lb linebacker cover his head and scream like a school girl from a 14 inch bat. There were secret tunnels. Iron gates. Towers and secret rooms and underground chapels and did I mention the crypt? I explored every square inch. I know all the secrets. I’ve seen the most beautiful craftsmanship only accessible by ladders and rope.

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One time a cadet asked my father if he could spend the night in the chapel before graduation. Let me tell you a few things I learned living in a church:

  1. Gothic cathedrals are magnificent and really freaking scary.
  2. Everything, and I mean everything, is creepy in the dark. I don’t care how beautiful it is during the day. At 2 am even white fluffy kittens start to resemble gremlins – hungry, angry gremlins.
  3. I encourage everyone to try it. You really do get close to Jesus while the wind howls and moans through the belfry and you’re cowering in the corner of the choir vestibule in the fetal position singing “Nearer My God To Thee.”

I don’t remember the cadets name or what spiritual development he was looking for but I remember the look of panic marred with twitching exhaustion that comes from real, sleepless fear.

My father is a minister. One of my favorite Aunties is an Italian Catholic from Jersey with gorgeous skin and a hearty Long Island accent. My “spiritual well” is a Reformed Jew from NYC who outlived both her Rabbi husbands. I have a kid who thanks Jesus for her My Little Ponies.

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My spiritual journey has been rich and varied. Every year I host a Seder dinner. I have a 14th century menorah that is among my favorite possessions. I also think Jesus is real.

Religion can be really beautiful. It can also be really divisive. I know you’ve experienced it. My God is a God of LOVE. Don’t dismiss God because organized religion failed you. Don’t let the state of the church deter you from the phenomenon of Faith.

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“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about discovering who God wants you to be.”

Exercise and Edification. Running to Win. Wine and Wisdom –  (oh wait thats next year…..)