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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There are three things I want you to know:

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

Or call me. Message me.

I’ll be your tribe.

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

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

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

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

Run to Win.

 

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“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

 

 

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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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10:07 PM

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10:08 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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Nussdorf, Germany

2pm on a Sunday.

The last race before I turn 40 years old.

It’s cold here in Europe. Road races still happen but they are few and far between this time of year. (Far-between in Europe means I may have to run in Germany or France or Italy. First world problems, I realize. Thankfully France is as far from southern Germany as NYC is from northern New Jersey.)

I have had a chest cold for a solid month so the thought of running far or fast spooked my lethargic lungs. Luckily I found a 5k “nordic walk” which seems like a cop out until you meet the competitors. Get in their way and they will stab you with their poles.

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It was a beautiful winter day. The bright sun made the air feel much warmer then its 35 degrees. The race was in a beautiful sprawling field in a gorgeous nordic-bavarian village miles and miles away from big cities or the horrific traffic I’ve become all to familiar with.

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There was an enormous crowd of both competitors and spectators, multiple teams, age ranges and abilities represented. So I was surprised when, upon registering, I learned the walking portion wasn’t available – the reason for which I couldn’t discern with my limited German – and my only option was to run the very competitive 10k field.

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Crap.

The runners were lined up in their compression pants and competitive weather-wicking shirts. I was in yoga pants, a windbreaker and an old Bruins hat from college.

I did not fit in.

Everyone goes through times when they feel they don’t fit in. For most of us it’s the early years – braces, acne, big plastic glasses, frizzy hair. We experience it again and again when we move to new towns, start new jobs, try new things that take us out of our comfort zones. The important part is to face it and push through. (Just not with fashion. Overalls weren’t a good look back in 1990, either.)

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I’m turning 40 in two weeks. If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me how old I am I’d probably say 28. It’s how I feel. However when I spend any significant time with someone in their twenties I quickly realize I am indeed middle aged.

My body felt good on the run, though by the end of the first few kilometers I felt the aches and pains that come from relentless physical exertion. I feel pretty good overall but be clear – my body knows I’m approaching 40. If I smell pizza, I gain a pants size by dinner. If I stay up past 9pm, I wake up looking like I’ve been at an all-night rave doing jello shots when actually I had just run downstairs realizing the laundry had been in the washer for two straight days.

I used to be the life of the party with my sharp wit and stellar conversation skills. Now my stories lead with, “you know… that guy… from the thing… with the girl…”

People say exercise is the fountain of youth. My lower back didn’t get the memo. Nor did my high-heel induced bunions, cellulite, that one chin hair that won’t die….

I slowed down a bit on the run and allowed the reflection that comes from solitude. To those in my peer group or those looking to us to ease the fear of transition from youth to middle age, grab your wine and settle in.

5 Reflections on 40

#1: Love where your body is now.

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Don’t wish you were 20. You can’t turn back time. Don’t pin hopes on the future “I’ll buy it in a size 4 for motivation…” We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so be present in your thoughts and actions, even if that means the granny bra when you realize you can belt your boobs. Gravity is not our friend. Embrace it. Love yourself as you are right now. That doesn’t mean we can get lazy. If you listen to the world’s top athletes discuss what drives them, it’s not beating the competition – it’s beating themselves. Be your best for yourself. 

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#2:  The only opinion that ultimately matters is your own.

Not his. Not hers. Not the guy you like, not the girl you admire, not the parent who never said “good job” or your celebrity hero. The only opinion that ultimately matters is the opinion you have of yourself.

Sit with that for a moment while I return to the road race.

I get in the chute and off we go for a six mile run up and down rolling hills – big hills – where the only spectators where the local sheep who came to the edge, cheering on each runner passing by.

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It was a three lap loop up and down hills. I was behind the lead group but in front of the casual joggers – a spot that was lonely but I can’t understand what anyone is saying anyway. Being behind the fast group gave me someone to chase (and the opportunity to see these incredible vistas on my way up the hill.)

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5 Reflections on 40 #3:

#3:  We’re all encouraged to be leaders. Be a leader. But also “practice playing second fiddle.”

 “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” Romans 12:10 the Message

After the second lap, while heading up the hill to begin my third and final, the clouds rolled in, the piercing cold followed, culminating in rain. Then, as punishment for lying to my friend in the 5th grade, the hail came. Even the sheep said screw it and headed for an abandoned train car.

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(Runners are perpetual observers of #NoMakeupSelfie.)

5 Reflections on 40 #4:

#4:  Learn Resilience.

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Like this little band that played along the run route. They packed in their instruments during the most extreme moments of the hail storm but they were resilient in their dedication to cheer us on.

 

The difference between the people I choose to hang out with and those I don’t is their capacity for resilience. Successful people don’t stay down for too long. Happy people don’t dwell on what didn’t work or live a life of regret and remorse. Learn. Grow. Adapt. Evolve. Then we can be friends.

I finished the race, got my cup of carbonated water (the least refreshing post run drink ever) and headed to the farm fields that were now mud fields to dig my car out and head home.

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5 Reflections on 40 #5:

#5:  Find your Joy.

“Awesome things will happen today if you choose not to be a miserable cow.” This is true even on the eve of your 30th or 40th or 80th birthday.

Choose Happiness. It spreads. It’s addictive. It makes people like you. It makes you like yourself.

And didn’t we learn our opinion of ourselves is the most important? 

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There you go. Now go be sparkly unicorns.

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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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.

 

 

 

 

I’m on a mission to run in every European country to raise awareness for Parkinson’s Disease which has sidelined my super athletic father. In the process, I’ve found my mission isn’t just to support PD sideliners but to encourage everyone to Run to Win – to lace up your sneakers and go for it – whatever that is, whatever the obstacles. And this blog is where I share my adventures along the way.

Czechia – the Czech Republic, formerly Czechoslovakia. Ancestral home of Ivana Trump and Madeleine Albright. (Take a moment to process that…)

There are three distinct take-aways from my time in the Czech Republic.

  1. Everyone smokes. The lady bagging her fresh vegetables at the market, the man opening his store front on the street corner, the woman walking her dog. It’s like a giant Marlboro commercial.
  2. Everyone wears fur. The lady bagging her fresh vegetables at the market, the man opening his store front on the street corner, the woman walking her dog. It’s like a giant PETA protest.
  3. It’s cold. It’s the kind of cold that makes you want to light up a Virginia Slim, pour yourself a glass of Bozkov Vodka and surround yourself in the warm embrace of the neighbors golden retriever.

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Prague is a magnificent city. If you haven’t been there yet, put it on your “to do” list.

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The architecture is inspiring, the history harrowing, the beer overflowing. Friends traveling with me went to a “beer spa” where they literally soaked, nude, in a barrel full of beer.

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I left my friends to marinate in their Michelob and I went for a run.

Large cities like Prague, Vegas, NYC, have an active, vibrant nightlife. I enjoy running early in the morning when you see men doing the walk-of-shame from red light districts across town and woman closing up shop for a well deserved rest. The streets are dirty and smelly – a filth you don’t see late at night with the bright overhead lights holding your gaze. The city looked different in the morning, littered with remnants of fireworks, butts of cigarettes and broken bottles from a previous night’s celebration. The tourists hauling cameras with tri pods and massive North Face coats outnumbered those of us running that morning. I was passed by a few men, lean and fast, running over the Charles River Bridge on the way up the massive hill to the iconic castle overlooking all of Prague. The view at the top worth the agony of the climb, as it always is, in life and in sport.

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The Czech people are very unique. I read someone’s list of three ways to be Czech:

  1. To be a Czech you must smoke cigarettes, especially as you walk down the street so all other pedestrians have to keep you in their sights at all times so as to not burn their coats.
  2. To be a true Czech, have “I am Sceptical” as your default facial expression.
  3. To be a true Czech, don’t be too optimistic. It means you haven’t done all of your research.

I found the people of Prague to be kind, though not terribly warm. They did however take pride in themselves. The ladies were always well dressed – though the skirt hems were significantly shorter than a Vegas strip club. The men were stern and confident. I blinked first every time.

In the morning I went for a run. Then I went to the spa.

Baden Baden in Germany hosts my favorite spa – a series of Roman Baths and saunas. Karlovy Vary is a med-spa town in the Czech Republic with a series of these ancient mineral therms as well as clinics and recovery hotels where the world’s rich and famous go for a nip, tuck and recovery. There is something intimidating and liberating about being completely naked with a group of very large, very confident Eastern European men soaking in an ancient mineral bath. First, you’re so glad to be thawing out from the freezing cold, you don’t care that you haven’t shaved in a day, or two, or that last nights make up is sweating down to your knees. Second, as you find yourself mere inches from a gaggle of Russian senior citizens, you start to have a real appreciation for American’s obsession with circumcision.

The bath houses are filled with old Roman statues, tiles and art. Nearby was the location of the oldest ceramic piece in the world, the Venus of Dolni Vestonice.

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Now we know why the Czech’s created a med spa town known for breast implants and tummy tucks. No need to belt your boobs, ladies. There’s a spa for that.

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The first bath house I went to had a series of steps that you had to follow in order. First, the shower. Second, a warm room. Third, a very hot room. Then you had the choice to sit in a steam spa or get a scrub down from a young pool boy named Petr. I chose the scrub down. It’s a mix of insane insecurity, a tad bit of arousal mixed with more insecurity. Nudity + warm steam + warm gentle pools + hot tiled aroma therapy + LARGE, HAIRY RUSSIAN MEN.

I’ve since returned to the mineral baths in various parts of central europe and I am a believer. Europeans know how to relax. My skin is cleaner, my mind is clearer and I care just a little bit less about what people think of me.

Body image is tough. I’ve modeled on and off for years and one thing remains true – everyone is insecure about something. Dimples on the thighs, the roll over your skinny jeans, a receding hair-line, wrinkles that seem to multiply overnight…. everyone has something. It’s a great equalizer, actually.

Like the confident Czechs and the men strutting their stuff in the Roman Bath houses, we all need to stand up straight and own it. Own where we are right now. Embrace the dimples and folds. That doesn’t mean we get complacent. We can’t get lazy. There’s too much at stake. We have to keep pushing – keep working towards something – faster, stronger, fitter, healthier, smarter, better at our craft, better as a partner, parent, friend. But love where you are in this moment.

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Run to win. Fur optional.