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My mother used to tell me, “I hope when you have children, you have one JUST. LIKE. YOU!” and she didn’t seem to mean it as a compliment.
How unfair! I couldn’t help it that I was a stubborn, self-willed, independent child—it’s just how I was born, or maybe it was my parents’ fault for not raising me better. Right?
Fast forward to my second born.
She was the first little princess born to me, and subsequently she got her way a lot. She was opinionated from birth, whimsical, and when she was old enough, she loved to bend the rules in order to torment her legalistic older brother.
People who know my lovely eldest daughter can’t quite believe some of the stories about her early years, which include many temper tantrums. She was strong-willed, independent and…well…a lot like me.
I won’t say she’s just like me—her strengths, such as mathematics and music—were always my weaknesses. She bakes and cooks and sews. And every friend is a sister to her. She also has the most tender heart I’ve ever seen, and she wears it right on her sleeve.
And yet, she has a toughness about her that allows her to do things like dissect cow organs and pick up dead moles in the garden without cringing. Of all the kids in the world who want to grow up to be veterinarians, I see in her the type of person who can actually accomplish it.
Yet despite our differences, we are incredibly similar, which means my own behavior reverberates in her life. While there are things that crop up which make me wonder, “Where did THAT come from?” there are also things I can pinpoint the origin exactly—and it’s a little too close for comfort.
The difficult part of having a child who has your temperament is that you are quicker to lose patience. It seems like it should be the opposite: that because you have felt similar things, you should be MORE patient.
But what actually happens is that because you have a good gauge of what’s going on inside that child’s head, you want to ‘encourage’ her to get over it more quickly. It’s almost as if you expect that child to have come preprogrammed with the trials you went through by fire.
Now, I find myself looking eye-to-eye with my daughter, who also borrows my shoes. She is a young lady—beautiful inside and out, which is kind of a scary thing (especially when I catch guys looking at her–which makes me want to check for loopholes in that whole “thou shalt not kill” commandment). And I constantly have to be on guard to keep our relationship safe. It is a valuable thing.
Katie and I recently went to a Christmas market together by ourselves. It was drizzling with the kind of rain that leaves you with a chill you can’t shake. Yet, we were both cheerful—happy just to be together doing something fun.
And sometimes the drizzly cold days make the memories warmer.
It was Katie’s year to pick out the Christmas tree. So we went through the aisles, discussing the varieties available. In the end, Katie chose a ‘surprise’ tree: meaning one that was already wrapped up (as most of them are here), so we didn’t know exactly what it would look like.
It was by far the heaviest tree I’ve ever crammed into the Honda, and I was afraid it wouldn’t quite fit. But we wedged it between the seats (bending the top branch like an uppercase ‘C’) and eventually managed to get it set up at home without breaking the tree stand. It turns out, Katie had picked the biggest, fattest tree I’ve ever seen in Franconia. It is gorgeous.
I love making these kinds of memories. When it’s just Kate and I, I can more easily catch glimpses of the woman she will become.
Once, she was my little princess, but someday, I know I will count her as one of my very best friends.
I can already envision her texting me between appointments with her furry patients, writing: “Meet me at Starbucks!” God willing, I’ll be there, chatting with her over coffee.
Germany is foggy.
If you did not know that, then you have never lingered here long after Octoberfest.
I have become intimately aquainted with the many varieties of Franconian fog due to my early-morning jaunts into the countryside.
Running later in the day really isn’t feasible at the moment, as the daylight hours have become filled with activities, extra schoolwork, writing projects, and occasionally, cleaning the grime off things in the house. (If I could mine the deposits on my shower door, I’d be a rich woman).
The only other option, as far as running time is concerned, would be to NOT run at all, which would put my children and husband in the high risk category for emotional damage, as I would quickly burst like the button on my skinny jeans.
Which all brings me back to fog.
There is the thick, soupy fog that covers everything, making it impossible to see anything beyond the scope of the light from one’s head lamp. This blots out even the wide, dark sky, and makes you truly question your sanity, as you double-check the blinking lights on your reflective vest.
The misty fog, comprised of tiny ice crystals, makes you feel as if you’re a Gulliver, running through a snow storm of Lilliputian proportions.
There is also the fog that only becomes visible once you turn on your headlamp. At that point, you feel as if you’re in a sci-fi movie, moving at hyper speed, as bright stars (in this case, chunks of light, floating ice) rush past in white streaks.
The neatest type of fog is the kind that billows, like clouds at ground level. This kind of fog makes you feel as if you’re flying through the sky, rather than stumbling along a gravel path.
Occasionally, the clouds will part, or your head will bob out of the mist, and you can see the entire night sky stretching out all around you.
Except for the occasional gray day, the fog is mostly confined to ground level, and when it burns off later, I find myself longing for the familiar feel of the UV rays (however weak they may be) on my face.
But running in the fog has its advantages. For one thing, I always get to run as long as I like without guilt. I ran 8 miles this morning, and not even the dog, who was happily snoozing on the dirty laundry pile, noticed I was gone.
I also have the entire countryside to myself, which means I don’t have to worry about the manure trucks or gigantic harvesters, churning unbreathable things into the air.
While I do miss spying the deer, I get to experience the thrill and sudden increased heart rate when huge hawks swoop over my head.
I can also wear whatever I want, even if I look like I’m dressed for a space walk, because even if there were other humans around, it’s too dark, or foggy, to actually see any more than the lights strapped to my body.
Though it may be foggy, or cold, or dark, or all of the above, I never regret my early morning runs. In fact, they may be part of the reason I can embrace the day with a happy heart.
Contrary to popular belief, there are enough hours in the day; you just have to know where to find them.
A while back, a friend of mine encouraged me to get up before the sunrise, chickens and children to run. The theory is that you can have glorious alone time before anyone needs anything from you.
This is also the same friend who got me into long-distance running, so I know her advice (while it usually sounds outrageous to most people) pretty much always helps me in my metamorphosis into
SuperMom a decent sort of woman.
Thus, when my electronic birds gently began chirping last week at 5 am, I got up and immediately made the decision to crawl back under my cozy down comforter ASAP.
But when I actually stumbled into the bathroom, I looked through the window on our slanted ceiling/wall and noticed the moon illuminating my running trail and billions of stars all around.
The Franconian countryside had become a strange, new world.
I quietly laced up my shoes and snuck out the door.
The trail was the same (the same tractor ruts, chunky rocks, looming trees, and fields in various stages of growth and harvest), but the entire experience was exhilarating.
Everything looks different; and every scary story you’ve ever heard comes flitting through your mind as you run in the dark (especially past corn fields).
Sounds are amplified and sometimes terrifying (such as the lone car that came barreling over the hill or the hawks that swooped over my head as I ran down the lane of plum trees).
There are creatures slinking around in the fields at night, and they all sound BIG and FAST—at least, bigger and faster than you. Those could be deer, or dinosaurs, or bunny rabbits out there—you have no way of telling!
The good thing about running in the dark: scary sounds make you run faster.
One problem with running with the stars is that you tend to look skyward a lot, which isn’t actually that safe to do on a darkened path.
And instead of hill repeats, you find yourself stopping at the top of the hill, tipping your head back as far as it will go.
In fact, you may consider lying down in the grass to soak in the view, until you remember how wet and muddy it is.
Though running in the dark is seductive, it’s also a hard habit to establish.
The October issue of “Runner’s World” has a good article on becoming an early morning runner. So, armed with sure-fire strategies and inspiration to run before sunrise, I set my alarm for 6:00 am.
The problem with this noble act was that I knew it was not enough time for a good run. I ignored this tidbit of knowledge and justified my action by reminding myself that I need 7 hours of sleep a night.
However, at 5 am, I felt three distinct taps on my shoulder.
I started awake, sputtering, “What is it, Libby?” before my eyes even opened. I expected to see the dark little shadow hovering over me, explaining about hypothetical mosquitos or phantom spiders, but there was no one. My husband appeared to be sleeping, and even the dog was silent in his kennel.
It must’ve been some kind of muscle spasm, but I could not get back to sleep. I tried to ignore the clock, but by 5:15, I knew I had to get up and at least look out the window.
There were stars.
Billions of them.
I added a headlamp and a blinky tail light to my ensemble.
It was another glorious pre-dawn morning. The countryside belonged to me (and to one other person, again barreling over the hill, who must drive to work AWFULLY early every day).
I made my way off the main road and turned off my lamp to let my eyes take in the ambient light that transforms the familiar landscape into a mysterious new place.