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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.
Though living in rural Germany often feels like guest starring in an episode of Green Acres, I also feel it is a privilege to live, laugh, and run in this quirky little village.
Now that spring is reappearing on various days, I am rediscovering the joy of running through the German countryside.
I have also remembered a few good reasons to start my run before the church bells ring at 6:00 am.
Lightweight shoes. The farm roads here generate the type of mud that makes you feel as if you’ve dipped your running shoes in cement. And the mud does NOT fling off as you run: it agglomerates to the point where you look as if you have balls of rock on your feet instead of shoes.
However, if you run while the ground is still sparkling with frost, you can take the loveliest trails without turning your shoes into a modern art masterpiece.
No Dogs! I often see the village dogs cheerfully romping with their owners, but if I run past, the dogs are forced to sit and watch, snarling at me. Maybe they hate me because they are put in time-out when I run by.
Whatever the reason for the growls, I like to avoid the morning dog-walk, which begins at 7:30 am, every day, rain or shine. I also avoid the 14:00 dog walk and the 18:00 dog walk. (Walking your dog thrice a day must be German law).
No Bugs! The wet dark ditches of the German countryside are a breeding ground for hordes of flying pests, which only arise to feed when the ground thaws.
No Tractors! Even though the entire village awakes to the church bells chiming at 6:00 am, the farmers don’t actually hop into their tractors until 10:00. They are probably busy doing glamorous things like milking cows, feeding critters, and cleaning stalls all morning. But when the tractors roll, they like to play practical jokes on runners, like coating them in dust, or barreling alongside while spraying swine manure.
An early run avoids husbandry humor.
Quiet time. With the absence of tractors, vicious dogs, and gaping neighbors, the countryside is a delight in the morning. Birds, rabbits, and deer are often my companions on early morning runs.
Surrounded by the sounds of nature, this is my time for prayer and reflection.
Air You Can Breathe. When the sun begins to warm the fields, you can see a visible mist lifting off them. This mist, to give it a proper name, is manure stank.
It is ALWAYS best to run while the fields are frozen, because once the sun begins to warm things up, you will use your neck gator for smell control rather than warmth.
A big, bucket dump. Running gives you a sense of calmness and energy to face your day. So what if the internet isn’t working? Or all four of the kids have homework questions at the same time and you STILL have not mopped the floors and laundry is overflowing in the basement and the chimney sweep shows up unexpectedly to clean the furnace and you HOPE he can get into the attic because of all the boxes of junk you tossed up there yesterday?!!!
Exercising first thing empties your stress bucket, so you have plenty of room for anything that gets poured in during the day.
Running early isn’t always possible, but when the earth is frozen and the sun shines on this black hole of technology in which I live, this strange little land, with its rolling hills, stands of budding trees, and winding, solitary trails is a runner’s paradise for the early bird.
Weather: It has been gray, rainy, foggy on some days, sunny and warm-ish on others. Temps in the 40s. Perfect.
Wildlife: A few deer and a few rabbits, but not the usual abundance. I’m hoping they survived the village hunter over the winter!
Knee Braces: While I hate these new neoprene knee-binders because they feel awkward and uncomfortable, I love them because they keep my knees from hurting. I feel like I am REALLY running now. I don’t know what I was doing last year.
Supplements: I am leery of dietary supplements, because I don’t think they actually work. However, I have been taking L-Lysine, and it HAS been alleviating the pain in my knees.
Goo: I recently realized that last year when training, I consumed a goo packet every 3 miles. But if I burn 100 calories in ten minutes, why would I consume 100 calories every 30 (or less…okay, I admit it). When I ran the marathon, I remember feeling a great boost from the apple slices at the water stations. Therefore, I am putting away the goo, and I will be experimenting with bringing apple slices with me.
Can nature actually trump technology? We will see! I may need some goo for electrolyte balance on long runs, but I’m going to try and go natural if I can. This will require a little more research.
Marathon training: I have not signed up for a marathon, but I am starting a training program. This is my first week ‘officially.’ We’ll see how long I can stick with it without having registered for something.