Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

This End Up

Mile Marker 262:

Coming home hasn’t felt this good since November 8, 2010.

On that evening, I arrived home in the dark, pulled my bike through the alley to its backyard parking spot, unloaded my binders from school, and hung up my coat and helmet inside the house.

While I don't remember the specifics of that night,  I do know that the very next morning my world turned upside down. 

My bike and I were lying in the street – APART. 

In the time that’s elapsed since that morning, figuring out which way is UP has become very, very difficult.

PT Julie says goodbye  -- to my bike!
(She'll see me next week!)

But last night I rode my bike 3 blocks home from the rehab gym.




See the dramatic, departing video here :)
video


I wasn’t alone.  My cousin Tracy trailed me like an athletic trainer and protective mom all rolled into one. I stayed on the sidewalk, and waited at each corner like any dutiful toddler!

When we approached a cracked, bumpy patch of pavement, Tray advised me – take weight off, keep your wheel straight –  things my body instinctively knows but now struggles to execute.  I bounced lightly.  I positioned my feet.  I held tight to the handlebars.  I focused with every ounce of my body weight.

But after a confusing, topsy-turvy year, I can tell you this:

Being on my bike is THE RIGHT WAY!



Near home, I rode a victory lap around the block because... well, I COULD.  

As I bumped over the crooked, slanted sidewalks, I shouted, “I'M RIDING MY BIKE!   I'M RIDING MY BIKE!"

I couldn't help it.  It was 50 degrees, I was jacketless, and the sun was setting in pink and purple stripes across the South Philly sky.

My right leg pushed its pedal, and my left leg pulled, and I knew this what my body was meant to do.   I just had to tell everyone!

Of course, my neighbors had their windows closed.  After all, it is December.

But Eleanor happened to lean out her front door as I rode past her house.  Her mouth rounded into a surprised “O,” and her right hand came dramatically to her heart.

Her words came out in a breathless flurry.

“I saw someone riding up the street, and I thought it was you, but then I thought NO, IT COULDN’T BE!!!” 

“It’s me,” I said.

And it was absolutely, positively true.

Yes, I still can’t ride alone.  My balance isn’t strong or practiced enough to support me among street traffic.  And truly, getting my Genium’s foot onto the pedal is challenge enough for now.

But as 2011 rolls to a close, I've discovered a new slice of life that feels very much like home.

This End Up.  

Happy New Year!

video

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some Get Rained Out

Mile Marker 255:

My ex-boyfriend "Darren" was a fan of motivational proverbs.  

He memorized quotes from Vince Lombardi to Leo Buscaglia.  It was cute and quirky at first, but it quickly turned tedious -- and especially irksome during spats.

We parted ways almost 20 years ago, but from time to time one of his adages still pops into my head and just won't leave.

Mile 255 was one of those times.

You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.

Pitter, patter.  I heard it from the moment I woke up this morning.  It was supposed to rain later in the day.  That’s probably what planted the seed.

I wouldn't be able to walk outside this afternoon, so I planned to load up on miles early.  While my energy was high and the terrain was dry.

At 8 a.m., I debated walking to the rehab gym.  

It’s only three blocks.  But one of them is shadowed and lonely, with a highway overpass above and parking lots all around.  It's deserted in the early morning.

I dread walking there.  If someone were to sneak up on me, I couldn’t run to escape.  When I wear shorts, my Genium's exposed for all to see.  

I am a (slowly) moving target.

This is what I think about.

But as I stepped out of the house, car keys in hand, something caught my eye.

A man in a motorized wheelchair passed my corner, cruising through the crosswalk toward the rehab gym.  Maybe he'd just gotten off the bus.  Or maybe he lived nearby.

Either way, his passage pumped me up.

I wanted to tell him.   But by the time I'd turned that corner, he was motoring a block ahead.  I wished I had the speed to catch him!

Under the shadow of the highway, I walked as quickly as I could.  Glancing from side to side, checking the pavement for ruts, looking purposefully straight ahead. 

Near the end of the block, I almost tripped over a red lump on the ground.  A Santa hat.  Loosely knit, tasseled, and trimmed in white.  They’d gotten Santa, but they weren’t going to get me!

Finally inside the gym, I hopped onto the treadmill for my routine 20 minute walk.

You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.  You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.

With each step, that rhythm beat under my sneakers.

Afterward during mat exercises, a young, soft-spoken woman told me she was going to the hospital.  She’d fallen over the weekend and needed her doctor's approval before continuing therapy.  I felt for her.  She'd gotten herself up and dressed this morning.  She'd gotten her body into her wheelchair and her wheelchair into the car.  She'd looked forward to her therapy session and other activities of the day.

It was only nine a.m., and already her day was rained out.

You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.

In these circles, it just takes ONE event.  One false move and the game's called off.


When I got home, I researched that famous line.  Turns out, it goes like this:

You win a few, you lose a few.  Some get rained out.  But you got to dress for all of them.

It's a quote by “Satchel” Paige, a long-time player in baseball’s Negro leagues, and the oldest player to be signed to the major leagues -- at age 42.

In 2010, Sports Illustrated called Paige the “hardest thrower in the history of baseball.”   Apparently, for 15 years he threw nothing but “ludicrously hard” fastballs.  He pitched complete games -- hundreds of innings -- day after day.  Some believe he was the most precise pitcher ever.

And from what I read, he PITCHED HARD off the field, too.   He fought for racial equality in baseball.  When Jackie Robinson was the first black player signed to the major leagues, Paige had laid much of the groundwork.

I liked his hard-headedness.  I liked his strength, especially on this rainy day.


I felt for my friend at the gym as she wiped away a few tears and tried for a hopeful smile. 

“See you later in the week," she said to me.

You win a few, you lose a few.  Some get rained out

For all those times Darren approximated that line, he forgot the last part :  But you got to dress for all of them.

That's the key, I think.  Especially on days we don't get a chance to play.


I made it home before the rain started.  And now this rainy day has a lot going for it.  It's Winter Break, so there's no school.  There's good music on the radio.  And water's boiling for tea.

Like my friend at the gym, I'm looking forward to sunnier days later in the week.


But it's definitely not a rain-out when INSPIRATION is pitched so hard before 9 a.m.



Thanks to Life Magazine for the photo :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

BELIEVE

Mile Marker 242:

This time last year, Center City was a swirling snow globe.

Through my window at the rehab hospital, I watched commuters and shoppers wading carefully over the ice, huddled deep into their wool scarves, their mittens clutching steaming cups of coffee.  At night, streetlamps ignited the snowflakes into a yellow mist. 

I spent that week learning to drive.

A wheelchair, I mean.

Even 20 degrees is
invigorating when you've
got your own wheels!
I was not the greatest driver.  I rubbed walls and bumped table legs.  I apologized to hallway pedestrians, joking that I’d just received my learner’s permit.

But my wheelchair’s green tag granted me access to the entire hospital.  So my arms propelled those wheels frantically!  My first taste of independence in almost two months!
  
One year ago, a visit from
my favorite Skatin' Santas

Through the year, I became reacquainted with other modes of travel.  Using crutches, driving my car, getting back on my skates and bike, and of course, WALKING.

One skill led to another.

It's no coincidence that the motto of my rehab hospital is BELIEVE.

After all, BELIEVING transported me to Delaware last weekend to see my good friend Bosco.  Even with all my progress this year, driving that 35 mile trip seemed daunting.  

Last year at this time, the thought of going anywhere – even climbing into my parents’ car -- sent me into a full-blown panic.  Exposing myself to the dangerous, precarious world outside the hospital was too much to bear.

Yet, there we were.  Walking the streets of Trolley Square.  Dining at our favorite pub.  I'd made it to Wilmington!




How can you NOT
believe when your gym's
decorated like this??
Then, at the rehab gym on Friday morning, I put in a mile on the treadmill --my longest distance yet.  Sure, I had to BELIEVE for 26 minutes straight, but it was worth it!


BELIEVING also took me to an annual Hanukkah party with caring families from school.

Last December, that party was just a photo.  It hung on the wall of my hospital room for weeks.  Returning to that warm holiday tradition seemed miles away.  (Turns out, it was!)

And yesterday, my brother Mark and his trusty dog Jack joined me for a brisk walk around South Philly.  As the sun set on Christmas Eve, we passed dolled-up families loading their cars with red and green gifts.

We strayed blocks from my house.  The cement sidewalk sent reverberations through my socket. 

But, BELIEVE!  I thought. 

Cold hands in my pockets, I wished the neighbors “Merry Christmas” and kept walking.

And behold, Termini’s Bakery was still open at 5 p.m!  We basked in the light of those dancing cannolis.  
Then we turned around to walk 3/4 mile back home!


This week, I also received a long, skinny box in the mail.  Inside was a Snow Broom, a curious tool with a 5-foot handle and a huge Styrofoam blade. 

The card read:  Ideally, it won’t snow.  But just in case....
 
It was signed by my tiny niece, Riley.  At age 21 months, it seemed she'd miraculously gotten hold of her parents'  Visa card :)

BELIEVE, I wanted to tell them!

They know I'm wishing against snowdays this year.  As a teacher, it contradicts my instincts.  I am choosing to believe in a WINTER WITHOUT SNOW.

Of course, Riley is wise beyond her years.  
And also from Vermont.


We all know the chance of a snow-free winter in Philly is slim.   But whether a belief is true or false doesn't really matter.  As long as it gets you through to the NEXT STEP. 

And if that next step just happens to be icy.... Well, luckily I've got a Snow Broom to pave the way!

Wishing everyone a year of JOY, LOVE, and PEACE!  BELIEVE!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Get Smart

Mile Marker 230:

The Top 10 Clever Contraptions I'd add to my Genium:


10. Shoe phone (of course!)
9.  Spy camera
8.  Remote starter for my car
7.  Netflix movie stream
6.  Flashlight (and emergency darts) for dark sidewalks
5.  Citronella spray for ankle-biting mosquitoes
4.  Mini-ATM machine (or at least a stash of quarters for parking meters)
3.  Programmable "Massage Mode"  -- Ahhhh!
2.  A pedometer…. (logical right??)

And the NUMBER ONE Clever Contraption I'd add to my Genium…

A one-touch “OnStar” link to my prosthetist!


So I’m feeling a little creative.  

It happens when I hang around the team at Prosthetic Innovations.

My mom calls them the Three Wise Men – Prosthetists Mike, Tim, and Chris.  And justifiably so. 

To every problem, there is a solution.  They work together, and there's no stopping them.

I’ve spent two full days at PI this week.  I'll probably be there tomorrow, too.  A new socket requires time, patience, and many, many IDEAS.   Luckily, they're all in large supply here.

We're working on the "test socket."  Expanding and shrinking it to fit my leg.

The tools are high tech and low tech.  
Walking the tin foil carpet!

Laser beams and Sharpie markers.  Heat and hard plastic.   “Pull bags” and spray alcohol.   Even tin foil.

Partway through the afternoon, they load up a squirt bottle with liquid plaster and then release it into my test-socket like bakers shooting cream into a donut.  Hey, whatever works.

PI might as well stand for Private Investigators. 

Coincidentally, I pass Mile Marker 230 around 2:30 p.m.  I’m pacing circles around the open office, trying to figure out – with Tim – how to ease the pain from the newest “hotspot” in my prosthesis.

Tim presses here and there, simulating a socket around my leg.  He taps along the edge of my femur.   We’ve narrowed it down to one distal spot where the bone pokes against the skin.

Back in the workshop, he expands the socket to give the bone more space to move.  No dice. 

He adds padding to “catch” my leg higher up – to reduce the pressure on the bony area.  Nope.

With each change, I walk more circles on the carpeting.  I go up and down the ramp.  I try the stairs.

“Better?” he says.

I shake my head no.

“I want to try one more thing,” Tim says.  Incredibly, he’s still cheerful and optimistic even though it’s nearing 4:00.

We’ve been at this since noon.

He takes out his Allen wrench (which I call a “skate-tool”) and gets down on the floor.   With a twist, he tweaks a bolt at the top of my knee.  I feel like the Tin Man getting topped off with oil.

“Ok, now walk.”

Suddenly, it feels better.  Pressure’s temporarily off.  There’s no burning pain.  I go up the ramp and down, trying to trigger it.

Ahhh, relief is mine!

“So, what did you do?”  

I always ask this.  I fear the Allen wrench might have a placebo effect.

But Tim would NOT fake me out!  

He explains that by adjusting the alignment 5 degrees, my bone rests toward the front of the socket instead of the back.  

The laws of physics, biology, and kinesthesiology all apply here.  These guys whip them out and toss them around like a Nerf football.   

In the air, there’s feedback – and challenges -- from all sides.   

From the clients, too.  We’re all instant friends.  For a few hours, it’s perfectly normal to have a prosthetic leg, or arm, or both. 

Posters, newspapers, and magazine clippings decorate the walls, showing all of us, and how far we’ve come.  

At PI, there’s more than innovation, there’s acceptance.

No one here believes their limb is going to get better.  In fact, a man I met yesterday spent years seeing doctors and specialists, trying to save his crushed ankle.  Finally, he made the excruciating decision to amputate.

Here, KNOWLEDGE and TECHNOLOGY are saving us.  So we believe in them.  And we believe in our team.

We believe in any "Maxwell Smart" contraption that'll get us moving again.  

I leave around 4:30 with a newly aligned socket, 2 cookie recipes, and a ridiculous urge to attend an amputee ski clinic.

When I arrive home, I'm renewed.  My pain has eased, for the evening at least.

As I'm dragging the trash and recycling out, I devise a way to make the job easier.  I’ll use wheels and a pulley system to move it “coal-car style" from the backyard to the street!  Why didn't I think of this before?

Mile 230 did not tire me out.  It was a day of trial and error.  Of searching for solutions.  Of invention, and success in small steps.  

When you GET SMART, anything seems possible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

____-er Than I Thought

Mile Marker 215:

There's nothing more tempting than heading out for a walk in the middle of a workday.  Plus, my colleagues and I agreed -- Shopping in the name of school support is about as good as it gets! 

And if shopping weren't lure enough,
there were free café drinks for all
book buyers!
Our students were hosting a “book fair” at Barnes and Noble to raise money and buy books for their classrooms.

The bookstore sat squarely off Rittenhouse, just blocks away from our school.  The weather was sunny, cool, and perfect for walking.

So where had this endless uphill climb come from?

Mile 215 was LONGER than I thought.


Stopping for rest (and fun)
on the way back
What I’ve discovered from walking with a prosthesis is that the city is HILLIER than I ever noticed before.  

And in case I haven’t mentioned it, the sidewalks are also SLANTIER;  the curb cuts, STEEPER;  the potholes, DEEPER;  and the many construction sites, just plain CRUMBLIER.


What’s more -- Traffic lights blink FASTER, while streets spread out WIDER. 

All that adds up to a 6 block walk that feels MUCH, MUCH FARTHER.

Last Friday, I ventured north from my house along a route that’s the bravest in my independent repertoire.  Round trip’s at least a mile, I thought.  Turns out it was barely half.  Actually SHORTER than I’d ever guessed.

Close to the half-way point – which I reluctantly admit was only about 3 city blocks -- a middle-aged man stopped to tell me he’d bought a Tiffany’s bracelet for his girlfriend.  “If this doesn’t get her, nothing will!” he said.   Is it my imagination, or are people FRIENDLIER and FUNNIER than I'd ever noticed before, too?
  
Toward the end of that walk, I rewarded myself with a stop at Strange Brew, a coffee shop that’s both SWEETER and QUIRKIER than any other place in the area.  And its Pumpkin Latté is TASTIER, too.

Back in the days when 6 blocks still felt like 6 blocks, Strange Brew wasn't around.  

And if it were, would I have walked slow enough to stop there?

(Nostalgia:  It's my old bike
parking rack!)
Mile Marker 222:

These last few miles have also carried me HIGHER and LOWER than I could have ever anticipated.

In the tiny, tinsel-trimmed town of Phoenixville, PA, I "triple" stumbled.  The sidewalks slanted toward the street.  The street sloped downward toward the water.  And the bumpy bricks rose and fell to their own concrete tune. 

Mom in the Phoenixville lights
If it weren’t for Mom, friends Polly and Jen, and a certain sturdy railing, I would have tumbled my way through the town. 

Last week, someone asked me if I often fall.  “No,” I replied.  “But it’s only because I’m very good at catching myself.”  

Phoenixville proved that.  Again and again....

Later in the weekend, Bosco and I twisted through a yoga clinic at Prosthetic Innovations.  Then tasted our way through a gourmet market in Swarthmore.  

The next day, Prosthetist Tim and I taught students at Neumann University about my Genium.

Rocco and Susan -- is this
really December in Philly?
It was a tri-county weekend, topped off by a walk near the Art Museum with brunchin’ buddies Susan and Rocco.

But despite all the travel, leg pain dragged me LOWER than you’d think.  For the last few days, I’ve had to take off my prosthesis mid-afternoon to relieve the redness and burning.  Tim has faith in a newly molded socket, and I definitely have faith in Tim.   But constructing a new socket takes time.  Stay tuned.

Yet also through these miles, some amazing people have boosted me HIGHER.

A quick mile rolled by with the lunch trays as I spent my first day volunteering in the rehab hospital’s dining room.  One remarkable patient was learning to walk with her brand new C-Leg.  But what she wore on her wrist surprised me most – a little green bracelet with the words A THOUSAND MILES! -- passed on to her by those amazing surgeons we shared!

She told me how much she'd enjoyed this blog, and yet, at that moment, it was her smile, her encouragement, and her vigor that inspired me!

See, I knew what she was facing.  And I knew it loomed BIGGER and SCARIER than what either of us had ever bargained for.  In the midst of my own pain and worry that I might not make it through my volunteer shift, her courage made me BRAVER.

After all, it's only been a year since I sat at that very table.


When 6 blocks feel like 6 MILES, it’s easy to forget how far you've come.  

I measure this journey in miles (and half-miles and quarter-miles….) because any GREATER step is too difficult to venture. 

The distance between destinations is always LARGER than I think.  Footsteps must fall STEADIER and GENTLER than my instinct tells me.

I work HARDER and get STRONGER, but some days even that does not make walking EASIER.

Every aspect of this journey has been _____-ER than I thought.

But those little steps are adding up.  Walking me FARTHER than the streets of Phoenixville.  FARTHER than the market in Swarthmore.  FARTHER than the steps of the Art Museum.

Farther than I ever thought possible one year ago. 

Farther -- even -- than a Barnes and Noble that lies at the top of a hill.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Back in the Saddle... Again!

Mile Marker 211:

I’d better keep moving.   

I did the math this week.  To reach my goal, I need to walk 2.6 miles per day – that’s 18 miles per week.  Gotta pick up the PACE to reach Mile 1000 by next November!


“Am I winning the race for Most Annoying Client?” I asked my prosthetist Tim on Monday.

He just smiled and reminded me (yet again) that it’s normal for your leg to get smaller during the first year in a prosthesis.

“Maybe I should eat more BACON?”

He laughed and took my socket back into the workshop for some major padding.


If there’s anything I’ve learned from the last 10 miles, it’s that happiness is a snug-fitting socket!  Limping around with a loose leg is disconcerting – and quite painful!

Now, after a tune-up, I’m back in the saddle – er, socket.  A tightly padded one at that.   

Yesterday at work, Mile 211 saw me through two meetings.   Two "usuals" of my old life.   

I sat around the table with colleagues.  I listened.  I tossed out ideas.  I took notes.   I made it to the end of each meeting without thinking (too much) about my leg.  It was GOOD to be back!

Like other daily occurrences, I used to take those meetings for granted.  Once in a while, I even complained about them.  But yesterday, they felt like a privilege.  A quiet sanctuary.  An hour when my thoughts returned to where they used to be.


Arriving home at dusk -- tired, but bolstered with confidence -- I decided to finish off Mile 211.

Slippery sidewalks?  Check.
Drizzly rain? Check.
Scattered leaves?  Check.
Impending darkness?  Check.

All my rehab training told me not to go.


But it's a rare moment when my FEAR recedes.   I had to take advantage. 

I will be careful.  I will walk slowly.  I will make it around the block.

And off I went.  I mean off MY FRONT STEP. 

My left foot touched the pavement gingerly.   

With weight on my prosthesis, I only feel pressure.  I don’t feel the surface of the ground.   I can’t detect if it’s smooth or rough, wet or icy.

So I walked stiffly.   My muscles tightened and ached.  I stopped to rest.

I pretended I was taking a photography class.  I snapped the reds, golds, and greens hanging in my neighbors' windows.

Halfway down the street, a man passed on my left side, and I felt a tug around my right ankle.   His Yorkie had wrapped its flexi-leash around both of my legs. 

“Uh-oh!”  I stood stock still on two feet.

The man turned around.  “Oh, sorry!”   With one quick motion, he freed me.

We both proceeded down the sidewalk.  They faded into the distance as I took my first few steps. 

Going slowly doesn’t keep you dry.   But it does reveal your reflection deep in puddles.  Your shadow flung against brick walls.   

It lets you see the latticework on gates and the amber lighting of warm living rooms.

A half-hour later, I unlocked my front door.  I’d walked four blocks.  My hair looked like I’d gone swimming, and the cuffs of my pants were soaked.  

But I was back.


Last weekend,  I figured I’d need to set up a RELAY to finish my 1000 miles in time.   I’d line up family, friends, doctors, nurses, and therapists so we could hand off the pedometer like a baton!

Well, the saddle's fixed.  For the time being, anyway....

And it’s good to be BACK.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Small Wonders

Mile Marker 205:

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…
Can you believe that’s how I planned to begin this post??? 

Can you believe after all that’s happened this year, I almost implied that things were THAT BAD?

But I’m only human, stymied by whatever obstacle looms largest in front of me.  Leg irritations, phantom pain, the fiasco of getting dressed in the morning....

You'd think that after such a tumultuous year, things would be different.  I’d let the little stuff slide

But the last few miles have been uncomfortable.  And when you're bearing discomfort, those little annoyances seem even LESS bearable.

I stayed close to home this weekend.  Logged a few local miles.   Afraid to stray too far from a safe haven where I could re-fit my leg.

Click to enlarge me...
Yet somehow, magically, for every DISCOMFORT of the last few miles, an equal and opposite REDEEMING COMFORT appeared. 

Law of physics?  Maybe.
Small Wonder?  Definitely.


Take the tiny marigold poking proudly out of its cold, cracked sidewalk.

The tremendous ramp inside Fante’s kitchen store,  providing endless challenge (and FUN) for me and my Genium!


In fact, YOUR COMMENTS from the last blog post gave me a much-needed boost, too.   A kindred spirit from San Diego!   Inspiration from best friends and teaching buddies!   And a monumental statistic from Shelley.... We’ve already journeyed TO MANHATTAN AND BEYOND!  

Small sentences, big impact.

Speaking of comments, my brother Mark did stop by this morning to taste the Angry Cookies.  And small wonder, his arrival coincided perfectly with a light bulb blow-out on my bedroom ceiling!   Up the stepladder he went!

But that’s not all.

Mom chipped in with household chores. 

My friend Mary took a break to wander the Italian Market with me.  
Even the Genuim loves
HOLIDAY SOCKS!


Friends Heidi and Carl served holiday treats laced with truffle oil.  Alayne drove with me to the party, and Kindle walked me back to my car in the dark. 


And this morning, in the midst of my 4-hour leg-fitting ordeal, friends Susan and Rocco called.  They insisted on brunch at the Oregon Diner even though I SWORE I’d be miserable.   (I wasn’t.)

I’ve heard the devil’s in the details, but isn't it true that GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES, too?


Almost one year ago, my days were filled with pain and uncertainty a thousand times worse than what I experienced this weekend.

Wheelchair-bound, my phantom sensations roamed restlessly.  My toes felt squished underneath me; my leg was on fire.  Stomach pains clenched at any moment.  Anxiety reigned supreme. 

PT Patrice found me in my room at the tail-end of a meltdown.   I was late for “group,” and she’d come to fetch me.   As she pushed my wheelchair toward the gym, we passed a lounge where another group of patients was involved in gardening therapy.  We both glanced inside the doorway.

“Want to plant something?” Patrice asked.

All I could do was nod.

Someone handed me a dish with snowflakes.   Someone else handed me a cactus.  I started planting.

Before I knew it, I’d joined in the conversation.  Fellow patients Val and Zach offered ideas for decorating my mini-landscape.  My hands got busy.

And in their smallness, the soil and pine-cones and roots soothed my pain.

Now on my windowsill at Mile 205, that small wonder cactus is still working its magic.  Look carefully.   It's about to BLOOM.





Tonight on the way to buy groceries, my mom and I passed what I can only believe was one last SIGN:

Really, it was just posted there.  At a street corner near my house.  It had never been there before.  And who knows if it’ll ever be there again.

An equal and opposite reaction?   Perhaps.  But I’ll take it.

That's how small wonders work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Still

Mile Marker 200**

Still??

That was my first thought of the day.   Probably not a strong beginning.

Yet each morning it happens.  Fresh from dreamland, I open my eyes and see them.

Crutches. 

Stacked against the bedroom wall.   Waiting for me.

Believe it or not, they surprise me.  I mean the fact that they're still there.  Almost every morning I have a true GROUNDHOG DAY moment.

Again?  I think.  Still??

It hardly seems possible.


Last weekend as I stumbled and slipped along the hiking trail, I had this inner dialogue going:  Why am I doing this?  A person with a broken leg wouldn’t go hiking.  A person on crutches wouldn’t go hiking.

And then the response:   But this is FOREVER.

So I made a decision.

I took the next step on that rocky trail.  I hung onto my friend Bosco’s backpack and to my brother’s hand.  I braced myself when canine Jack plowed by me.

I tried not to fall.


I’m learning to control my new leg.  Getting my gait down, at least when the ground is smooth.

And I strive every day -- every moment -- to look even BETTER.

Still, the paradox of looking better is that people FORGET.

They forget the energy it takes for 9 inches of leg to lift 9 pounds of prosthesis. 

They forget how hard it is to hold a conversation while you're trying not to trip on the sidewalk.  Or walk into traffic....

And they forget what it’s like in the evening.  When the laundry piles up and the groceries never quite get unpacked.   When you're too exhausted to even return a phone call.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be.   I don’t like to dwell there either.

So I work to improve.  Try to make things look EASY.  I even convince myself sometimes!

But many mornings, like yesterday, there’s no convincing anyone.  

I couldn’t get the socket fit right.  I took my leg on and off five times.  I tripped so often in my own living room that I changed my shoes…twice.  And then I moved the car closer to the house just so I could carry out my belongings.

It’s small stuff,  I told myself, relieved to be on my way to work.  Finally.

A kindergartner passed me in the school hallway.   He glanced down at my black pants.  “Do you still have your robot leg?”

“Yep,” I replied.  “I ALWAYS have it.”

Sometimes the small stuff piles up. 
Sometimes it's hard to take even one more step.

That's the thing about always.  It means forever.
In a way, it makes my choice easy.

Another step.   Another mile.

But still….


**(You guessed it – more Angry Cookies at Mile 200)