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!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feb Five

Mile Marker 2525:

I'm not sure anyone likes February.

We even beat Chicago!
Yesterday, temps dipped to 3 degrees.  Today, we got 3 inches of snow.   That adds up to 6 more reasons to stay inside!

This weather makes it difficult to walk on my own.  The pavement is icy and unpredictable.  Wind gusts whip around the corners of buildings.  This month alone, I've racked up more money in parking garages than I care to admit, just to avoid city sidewalks!

Ironically, at the heart of February is my WALKING ANNIVERSARY:  February 11th.

From that moment on,
I had 2 feet again!
February 11, 2011 was the day I put on my prosthesis, gripped the parallel bars, and took those life-changing "second" first steps.

"Small step with the left.  Big step with the right."  Prosthetist's Tim's guiding words became my version of Neil Armstrong's message from the moon.  They marked the edge of a new frontier.

The race was on.

You've seen the replay before, but I never get tired of showing it...


Happy Walking Day!  

Balcony Cam
I'm celebrating 4 years of being back on my feet!   February 11th means freedom, but each year it falls inside the season that's most limiting.  The time when I feel least free to move about as I please.

So what are February's redeeming factors?  In the midst of this dismal, gray, windy, snowy, will-winter-ever-end month, I'm making a list:

I call it the FEB FIVE.

To kick off my 5th year of walking, I've compiled the Top 5 Reasons for Setting Foot (or Feet) Outside in February...

Reason #1:  FOOD.   Like any scavenger during the long, cold months, we're all in need of some comfort.  For me, that's found in Philly's shoveled-out corner cafés.  When my friend Jen lands unexpectedly in the city, I ford the dicey sidewalks and slushy tire tracks to meet her at Café L'Aube.  As I tiptoe through slippery remnants of the last snow, a tiny lady plows by, pushing a walker as big as she is.  (What was I complaining about again??)   We exchange smiles, resigned to be 2 fall risks who should have probably stayed home.  But inside, hot chocolate awaits.  Jen and I warm up and catch up.  I'm refueled!

Happy Whatever!
Reason #2:  FAMILY.   If you haven't yet heard of our family tradition, we celebrate Hanukkah during the Superbowl.   We're liberal with the religious stuff -- bypassing latkes in favor of pizza, meatballs, and spinach dip -- but still, every February we TRY to get together as a family.  This year, I'm not the only one held back by the winter doldrums.  The flu runs rampant through my sister's house in Vermont, so they're unable to make the trip.  We swear that next year we'll move our celebration closer to spring.   Phillies Opening Day?  Passover?  I'll keep you posted....

Reason #3:  FITNESS.  No, I'm not quite in training for an Icy Ironman.  But I am working on some new skills this winter, and they're worth leaving the house for.  At the rock climbing gym, I just got certified to belay, so that's a prime destination on my February map.  I can now pull my own weight -- and yours! -- to keep you safe while you climb.  Plus, I've found my water leg to be quite versatile on the wall.  It's flexible and easy to maneuver, and locks straight for sturdy belaying.  Let me know if you want to climb sometime!

Worth the walk!
Reason #4:  FUN.   How about a two-mile walk in 15 degrees and 40 m.p.h. winds??  Apparently I have an odd concept of fun, but when I'm with friends even the most challenging goals seem attainable!  My friend Chris and I embark on a brisk jaunt -- somewhere between a Sunday stroll and an Arctic voyage.  Three frozen feet, 2 runny noses, and 1.83 miles later, we arrive at our destination, Morning Glory Diner.  Finally... brunch!  Was it worth it?  Yes.  (See Reason #1.)   It's too cold for even a selfie, but my mouth is frozen into a permanent smile :)

Reason #5:  FIRE (IN THE SKY).   Ok, so maybe that's a stretch.  It doesn't require stepping outside; you can view it from any west-facing window.  But February sunsets are like fresh icing on a stale cupcake.  No matter how bitter the days are, they often finish brilliantly.  I spy orange beyond the trees of the Swarthmore woods and lavender seeping out from behind the city skyscrapers.  Best of all, showtime moves one minute later each evening.  It's true, February fans, the days are getting longer!  Any way you look at it, those fiery skies bring hope.

For a short month of short days, February lingers long past its welcome.  But for me, it's also a time to be thankful and mindful of all I have.  Food to warm my belly.  Family to fill me with joy.  A fit set of legs to hold me up.  Fun adventures to keep me going.  And fantastic friends to guide me over the inevitable icy patches.

It's easy to be brave with these guys around!

So what if schools are closed today, or if I'm staying inside to write this blog post?  Warmer days are just around the next windy corner.

Take that, evil sidewalks!
Only 11 days till March...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sneaky Spring

Mile Marker 2486:

It's sneaky spring!

Today's one of those days that pops up in the dead center of winter.  Out of nowhere, the biting wind turns into a cool breeze.  The sky lifts up high, an airy blue with the thinnest layer of cotton clouds.

It's a perfect walking day.

There's only one problem -- this little blister on my leg.  Yesterday, I admit I ignored the warning signs.  But winter clothes and school bathrooms aren't the best combination for making leg adjustments.  Plus there's always Murphy's Law (the prosthetic version):  A readjustment might make it worse.

So today, I'm spending a legless afternoon at home.  Insert sigh here.  At least the windows are open!

It's been a long, heavy winter, and it's only half over.  Earlier this week, that darn groundhog somehow saw his shadow.  (It must have been from the TV spotlights because on that dark rainy day, I sure couldn't see mine!)

Last night, when I watched the national news, I texted my brother Andy in Chicago.  "How are you guys doing in the snow?"  I asked.
..."Not bad."

He sent me back this photo, with a side of sarcasm...

We should take a lesson from Chicagoans, who have a funny, sunny way of facing winter.

Snow lips!
My friend Wendy shoveled out her family's backyard hockey rink, leaving a Valentine "kiss" for her husband Jim to find -- and finish!

...Don't mess with the Bumble!

And the weather may be abominable, but my friend Annie makes the most of it too...

With all the heart in that windy city, you'd think the snow would just melt already!

Despite the weight of the season -- and all the dismal things it brings with it -- Mother Nature still delivers a few surprises.

Here in Philly, we had our own snow day last week.  They'd predicted up to 22 inches with blizzard conditions, high winds, and deep drifts.  Schools were closed.  Appointments were cancelled.  The trains went on a Saturday schedule.

So I headed out, of course :)
Yet when I woke up in the morning to peer out the window, there was no snow on the ground.

By amputee standards, it was the BEST SNOW DAY ever!

I found the best parking space on the street.  I trekked the city on dry, empty sidewalks.  I tutored at Starbucks instead of the school library.  (Turns out, math is much easier to swallow with a Frappuccino!)

The dusting of snow stayed on the grass, and the crowds stayed at home.  It wasn't exactly spring -- temps hovered around 25 -- but the openness of it all felt refreshing.  There was space to breathe.

Winter's a season of confinement.  I usually stand at my windows and look skeptically at the white sidewalks.  I grind my teeth when I hear the whistling wind.  I don't dare set foot outside alone.

And instead, on our first snow day, I got a brisk walk under a hopeful pink sky.  It was my own sneaky spring.


So today, at Mile Marker 2486,  I don't mind staying in.  The windows are open.  The sun is shining.  Like winter, this leg stuff too shall pass.

Anyway, there's more snow predicted for tomorrow.  And probably for this weekend as well.  Go ahead, meteorologists.  Bring on the doom and gloom.  Because behind those weather forecasts is just the tiniest sliver of doubt.

If a blizzard can drift pass Philly with barely a dusting...
If the groundhog only sees his shadow in the light of TV crews..
If we just keep looking toward the sun...

Can spring be far away?