My road came to an unexpected halt on November 9, 2010.

That morning, I was bicycling to work when a garbage truck turned across a city bike lane. I was in that bike lane.

A team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my left leg. My body and life were forever changed.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

As I learned to walk again, I measured my recovery in steps and then miles. Over time that journey grew into something more -- a way of being in the world, wherever I go.

I am a person of ability and disability. I travel in the space between. These are my postcards.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Infinity in One Block

Elfreth's Alley -- brick and cobblestone path down the center, colonial rowhouses on either side -- with my black refillable coffee cup in the foreground.

Hello from Mile 12,480.

At 7:40 AM, the clouds hang low, but the heat stands on tiptoe, poised to soar.

It's summer in Old City.  I'm used to it.  

I get out early.  
Walk when I can.

It's a "good leg day" so far.

So on the way back from getting coffee, I don't go straight home.  Instead, I pass the doorway of my apartment building and cross the street onto Elfreth's Alley.

It's 100 (or maybe fewer) feet from my door, but when I step onto that cobblestone walkway, I travel.  

Not just because Philadelphians have been walking this block since colonial days, but because I've been walking this block.  For the dozen years I've lived across the street from it, Elfreth's Alley has always been there for me. 

It gives me a place to travel -- without going anywhere at all.

For a few summers, I volunteered at the museum here, meeting travelers from around the world.  I loved answering their questions:

"People still live here?" they'd ask, pointing to an Amazon package on a doorstep. 
(Yes, and they get deliveries.) 

"Women were really homeowners?" 
(Yep, and business owners too.)

And my favorite... 
"Where can we get ice cream?"  
(Franklin Fountain -- try the peach!)

During the pandemic, I wrote a middle grade novel set here.  To this day, each time I walk past the 2nd house on the left -- with its olive green gate and fanshaped flag on the door -- I think, "That's where the Mitternights live."  The Mitternights are an imaginary family who exist only on my pages.

On so many mornings like this one, I walked here with my foster daughter, "Rainbow."  She'd dart between the houses, beneath the canopy of trees that mark a narrow opening called Bladen's Court.  

Peering down Bladen's Court, a canopy of green leafy trees over a narrow brick path.  Part of a brick rowhouse is visible on the right side.

There, she'd hop along the stones till she reached the old water pump, where she'd hang from the handle, pretending to yank it.  I'd saunter behind, focusing my footwork and sipping my coffee.

To me, it was an easy place we could go for fresh air.  To her, the Alley was a playground.

On this block, I've "sweated out" of my prothesis. 
I've toured with out-of-town friends.
I've crowded with tourists under a tiny roof in a thunderstorm.

I've even fantasized about buying one of these houses, fixing it up, and opening an Airbnb.  I've told my neighborhood friends we should do it together.  They're not quite on board - yet. 

When you get to know a place -- really know it -- it holds unlimited possibility.  You see it up close.  It can encompass the past and future, a whole world in just a few steps.

(In my view, anyway.)

I've signed up for another travel writing class -- the "advanced" version of the one I took last year with Rolf Potts

I am super excited for the opportunity.  I'll be in Paris again -- to learn, observe, and write about the city in new ways!

But also... I'm a bit rusty.  

And sort of an imposter.

My classmates will be worldly and well-traveled.  (I've checked out their websites!)  Some have written books.  Some have made a life out of going to, living in, and writing about new places.  

They don't seem to walk the same few blocks day after day.

I wonder what I'll write about.  How my adventures will compare.

It's not a new question.  I expressed it to Rolf last year at my one-on-one writing conference.  

Is there a place for me as a travel writer -- one who takes small steps in small spaces?

He thought there was.  He encouraged me to go deep, to shape my experiences into stories only I could tell.  

I don't go everywhere and can't do everything, yet is there something special -- even unique -- about slowing down and zooming in?

Day to day, I may not travel far.  

But I can see infinity in one block.

My feet (one real, one prosthetic) in sneakers on a brick path with small American flags placed along the right side.

And maybe that's a perpective the world needs too.

Walk on,
Rebecca

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

There's No Ice in Florida

Summer greetings from Mile 12,445...

The Florida Panthers won the Stanley Cup.

(Stick with me...)

With the Flyers well into their summer break, I didn't even follow the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.  And anyway, it's mid-June.

In my mind, too hot for hockey.

In fact, if I hadn't heard that one-liner on the morning news, I wouldn't have even known who was playing.  

But it's true.  

The Florida Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers last night. 

And they didn't just win.  They did it in historic fashion.

The announcement comes on NPR as I'm putting in my contact lenses at the bathroom counter.

Wait, I think.  How could this happen?

There's no ice in Florida!

It's funny how things stick with us.  

My dad imparted this simple truth to me when, around age 7, I asked him why Florida didn't have a hockey team.  

It was the 1970's, and I was decked out in Flyers gear.

Orange and black yarn ties on my pigtails,
a pint-sized Bobby Clarke jersey,
and a hockey-sized gap between my front teeth.  

At the Flyers game that day, we stopped at the souvenir stand, and Dad bought me a sheet of shiny vinyl stickers with the emblems of every team in the NHL.  That's when I noticed Florida was missing.

I knew about Florida.  My grandparents lived there.   

It was hot down there.  Of course they couldn't play hockey.

(Even at home, we only went ice skating in the winter!)

There was no ice in Florida!


So when I hear the news about the Panthers, it stops me in my tracks.  

I mean, I knew they were a team now.  But in that one moment, I'm gobsmacked by the complexity of the world.  

If Florida beats Edmonton in hockey, does that mean anything is possible?

At Mile 12,445 I am walking again.  Pretty well, actually.  

To that end, I'm glad anything is possible.  I'm thankful for the life-saving advances that have carried me this far and the modern technology that encompasses each of my steps.

(When there was no ice in Florida, bionic legs weren't around either!)

But also... this complex world is overwhelming.

I could jump to catastrophe here.  I could talk about disappearing glaciers and climate change that's happening because of... well... everything... including ice rinks in Florida.

But I won't go there.

I'll just say that putting on my prosthesis, day after day, in a world where anything is possible -- for better or worse -- is equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.  

Sometimes, I yearn for those simpler days when I followed Dad's footsteps up a thousand concrete stairs and settled into his lap at the very top row of The Spectrum.  

It was the middle of winter (of course), and we were cheering on our favorite team.  

As an adult, I'm sure he carried the weight of a complicated world on his shoulders. 

But if he did, he never let on.

Instead, he kept it pint-sized.  My-sized.

And handed it to me in manageable pieces -- one simple truth at a time.

There's no ice in Florida.

Apologies to Panthers fans. :)

Walk on,
Rebecca

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

One Great Thing

Hello from Mile Marker 12,290...

Walking hasn't been so great.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm SO glad to be back on my feet again -- going anywhere at all.  Getting used to being in my prosthetic socket, with all its pressure points and pain, is just part of the process.  

Still, it's been wearing me down.

On Saturday night, I call my friend Beth.

We've just received the tragic news that our friend Gary has passed away. 

It is completely unexpected.  He was our age.  A physical therapist AND a firefighter.  Smart.  Caring.  Brave.  The kind of person our world needs more of.

A group of five friends sitting in a restaurant booth, in skate gear and smiling.  Bob, Beth and I are on the left, and Gary and Colm are on the right.   We all look much younger than we are now!
We'd been friends a long time -- 
all the way back to our skating days.

Beth and I feel the loss together.  Reminisce about our many years in the skate club and how much things have changed since then.  

I tell her I feel caught between wanting to do everything (because "life is short") and not wanting to do anything (because "life is hard"). 

How do we navigate a world like that?

Then Beth tells me about a man she knows from her hiking club. 

He's in his 70's and always upbeat, despite aches and pains and rough terrain.

She asked him once how he stays so positive.  

"Even on the worst days," he told her, "I try to find one thing that makes each day great."

He gave her some examples. (They were really small things!)

Beth and I laugh it off.  It's probably not that simple.  

But we start listing "great" things anyway -- things we usually take for granted...

Our health.
Electricity.
A warm bed.
Food in the fridge. 

We both know the truth:  These are really big things -- and they prove how great we have it. 


The next morning Beth texts me:  

It's a great day because the sun is shining.

I look out the window.  She's right.  

And when I open the window, the air outside smells like spring.

That's when I notice my grandmother's begonia has a new brand-new bloom.  

A begonia plant in a yellow-rimmed pot, with a stem of tiny pink flowers.
I snap a pic.  Text it to Beth.

That's THREE great things already -- and it's still early!

Without planning to, we start texting each other here and there, tossing small "great things" back and forth like a badminton game.

Moroccan maple nut mix from my brother in Chicago.
Mile 88,888 on her car's odometer.
A quote on a coffee board near my doctor's appointment.

A chalkboard outside of Passero's coffee on the sidewalk. There's a yellow happy face balloon attached.  The quote says, "Celebrate your friends.  Ignore the haters!"
Once you start noticing great things,
they're everywhere!


Yesterday marked six months since my dad died

There is nothing great about it.

But I remember my dad had this special way of navigating hard times.  A unique combination of humor and hope.

Even at the end of his life -- sitting in his recliner at home or lying in bed at the hospital -- he would light up when I walked in the door.

"Hey Dad, how's it going?" I would ask.

"Great!"  he'd always answer.  His voice rose into that exclamation point no matter how bad he really felt.

I think my Dad would have liked the "one great thing" idea.   

He was pragmatic though.  He'd know it wouldn't change the world.

I know that too.

But maybe it'll change my corner of it.

Walk on,
Rebecca

P.S.  Find one great thing? I'd love to hear it! :)

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Hope Walks In

 "We've got to get you walking again," Tim says.

And just like that, hope walks in.

My prosthetic leg standing in front of a shoe rack, leaning on a dresser, plugged into my bedroom wall.
Oh, how I've missed it!

After 2 months on crutches, I tried to get my prosthesis on.

The socket didn't fit.  At all.

Socket fit is finicky, I know.  I'd been struggling with it since my earliest miles as an amputee.   

Still, I'd been anticipating this moment -- easing my little leg gently into the prosthesis, standing on my own "two feet" again.  

Even if it wasn't quite perfect -- I knew it wouldn't be -- it would still be the first step to feeling like my old self.  (Well, my old "new" self anyway.)

When it didn't fit at all, I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.


Six days later -- somewhere around Mile 12,145 -- I arrive at Prosthetic Innovations

I crutch through the parking lot heavily, weighed down by all that has changed.

But Prosthetist Tim isn't deterred.  In fact, he seems happy to see me.  

I tell him about the fall, and how bruised my leg was afterward. 

"It probably looked like your shirt," he says.

I glance down at my tie-dye t-shirt, splotches of blue and purple and gold and green.  

Yep.  I laugh. 

It's good to be back.

Tim gets out his measuring tape and loops it around my leg.  

It's still swollen from the fall.  Or maybe its shape has just changed from the injury.  Whatever the cause, it measures 3 1/2 cm larger than it used to.  No wonder my prosthesis doesn't fit.

Tim brings out a pull-bag, a surefire method to get into an extra tight socket.  I slide it over my liner.  

We try again -- together -- to get my prosthesis on.

For a split second, I think it'll work.  (Things usually work here, even when they don't at home!)

But... Nope.

I feel the shadow of discouragement.

"We've got to get you walking again," Tim says.

And with those words, my insides light up. 

He has a plan.  

He'll make me a new socket.  Maybe temporary.  Maybe not.  One that will fit my leg now, not as it used to be.

The SOONER the BETTER, he says.

I am 100% in.

We go into the casting room.  
Wrap my leg in plastic.  
Don the funny shorts.  

Me, in the casting room, wearing a pair of off-white knitted casting shorts.
Flashback to Mile 2,015.
They're always in style!

The drill is familiar -- and filled with hope.

The cast will become a mold for a test-socket, which'll be modified as many times as necessary until it captures the new shape of my residual limb.

I loved my old socket, with its soft magenta interior and butterfly on the side.  It had carried me through a lot.

But maybe letting it go -- at least for now -- is the ticket to move forward.


Socket fit is a multi-step, patience-draining, fine-tuning process.  

In my earliest miles with a prosthesis, my dad drove me back and forth to Prosthetic Innovations for fittings and adjustments.  

I always felt down beforehand.  
And up afterward.

It became a joke between us --

I didn't just get a leg adjustment
I got an attitude adjustment too.

Me, standing in parallel bars, with my first prosthetic leg in February 2011.
Lucky for us,
they were buy one, get one free!

This time around I know what to expect.  

The journey back to "two feet" is not going to be simple.  It will likely be uncomfortable, maybe even painful at first.  I'll have to rebuild my strength and tolerance.  

It will require perseverance, flexibility, and adjustment -- in both leg and attitude. :)

A selfie of me, in tie-dye shirt, in front of a Christmas tree, a mannequin with a prosthetic arm and leg, and a banner than says "Welcome to the Next Level" at Prosthetic Innovations.
Casting is just the first step.

But I know about first steps too.

And this one feels like a HOPEFUL start.

Walk on,
Rebecca


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Keep Rising

Greetings from Mile 12,142 --

My kitchen is a mess, and I'm the happiest I've been in months.

A pile of pumpkin-cranberry muffins with a little figurine on top -- it's a cat baker holding a baguette on top of a "bakery" sandwich sign.

I'd almost forgotten the power -- and joy -- of baking!

Remember Angry Cookies?  
And Cookie Apocalypse?
And not knowing what to do, but wanting to do something?

Whenever I faced a tough patch, baking always helped get me through. 

I've been off-balance lately -- physically and emotionally -- hobbling around in a "boot" and on crutches.  

Everything is a multistep process these days:  getting ready for work, collecting the mail, traveling from Point A to Point B.  I've become better at planning, more practiced at problem-solving.  Steadier with a backpack.  

But still, it's exhausting.  And laced with loss.

I'm grateful to my body for rising to the challenge -- for doing what's required -- but that's usually all I can manage.

I had written off baking completely.  

It just wasn't worth the energy.


Two weeks after my dad's funeral, my mom and I travel to Vermont.  

I plan the trip and do the driving.
Mom is the Sherpa, lugging everything except my backpack.  
(She's small but mighty!) 

We're going to visit my sister Sam and her family, a trip we've made dozens of times over the years, usually with Dad in the driver's seat.

In Danbury, we pass his favorite stop, the Blue Colony Diner.  We start to text him a photo, and then realize we can't.  When we reach Springfield, we want to tell him we've arrived.  The car feels empty without him.  

This trip is different.  Everything is different.

Maybe for that reason, we divert from our usual path.

Instead of connecting to I-89 at White River Junction, we drive 20 more miles up I-91 to a place I've never been but have always aspired to go...

The King Arthur Baking Company sign with a blue, cloud-filled sky behind, and the greenery of mountains.
King Arthur Baking Company --
the headquarters!

To our surprise (and my delight) it's fully accessible. 

The parking spaces are close. 
The doors are automatic.  
The restrooms are roomy.  
The floors are smooth.

That's as close to effortless as it gets on crutches!

Me, on crutches and one leg, in front of the King Arthur doors, which bear the sign "WELCOME" above.
I feel absolutely welcome!!

The staff is friendly, helpful, and smiling. The café barista wears a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words...

KEEP RISING.

It's a fun diversion -- and exactly the message we "knead." :)  

We treat ourselves to true Vermont fare:  fig and brie on a homemade baguette, a fall salad with maple dressing, steaming cups of cider with biodegradable lids.  

The wood-trimmed cafe counter, with blackboards hanging behind, and various pastries in the cases.

Then we poke around the factory store.  It's full retail therapy wrapped in the aroma of baking bread.  

My little mom in front of the King Arthur logo on a gray wall, pushing a shopping cart with 3 bags inside.
Mom does all the carting and carrying!

I'm on my feet (well, foot) for quite a while.  We both are.  But it's not exhausting.  

It's renewing.

Two hours later, we meet up with our favorite Vermonters.  

A selfie of me, my 2 nieces, my nephew, and my sister.
They don't even notice the delay!


Back at home, I start counting miles again, picking up where I left off almost 2 months ago.

At Mile 12,142, I decide it's time to get back to baking.

I scoot around the kitchen on my wheelie stool.
Pivot on one foot to pull out the ingredients.  
Stand when I need more leverage.

I thought I couldn't bake without my prosthesis on, but it turns out I can...

It's just different. 

I plan out each step.  Try to be organized.  Stand up.  Sit down.  Stand up again.

It's a multistep process, but it's not exhausting.  

It's an exhilarating diversion -- one I want to do, not have to do.

The counter swirls with its messiest storm in months: canned pumpkin, bright red cranberries, granulated sugar, sifted flour, shakers of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.   

I reunite with my bowls and cups and wooden spoons like old friends.

My kitchen counter covered with bowls, measuring spoons, and many ingredients.
The kitchen fills with the warmth of fall.

I measure and stir and crack a few eggs.  
Drip oil down my sleeve.  
Drop wrappers on the floor.
Crush crumbs with the wheels of my stool.

My hands are busy.  My mind is focused.
Disorder becomes order.  

And that mess on the kitchen counter?  

It rises into something new, and nourishing, and beautiful.

A baked, golden pumpkin-cranberry bread on a metal cooling rack.
A pumpkin-cranberry bread
to share, gratefully, with friends.

Making time for who and what we love is always worth the trip.

Me, with crutches, standing next to a sign at King Arthur Baking Company that says, "We are Bakers."
KEEP RISING. 

Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Bake on,
Rebecca

P.S.  Recipe here:  Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread


Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Hardest Miles of All

I've lost track of the miles.

I haven't worn my prosthetic leg in a month.

But today I roll the liner on.  

Hey, it's a start.  One step closer to moving again. 

Confidence bolstered, I tuck a travel mug into my crutch bag.  Balance on one leg and lock the door behind me.  Take the elevator down.  

I open the first door to the lobby.  I've mastered a maneuver I call the "one-handed hop-thru."  A crutch dangles from my forearm.  

Then -- before I can change my mind -- I push through the second door too, and hop out onto the sidewalk.  Quick.  Like pulling off a band-aid. 

Here I go!

Crutch, step.  Crutch, step. 

One city block down Arch Street.  On my own.

With a ridiculous amount of courage, I make it to Starbucks.

A selfie of me and my friend Richard in Starbucks. Richard is waving.
Richard treats me to my first coffee in a long time.
And I am ridiculously proud of myself.

This is it, I think.  I'm moving again!

-----

Mile 12,141 was my last noticeable mileage. 

It happened toward the end of September.  Back then -- maybe you remember -- I was limping around on a stress-fractured right foot.  

I relied on my car to get around.  I wore a boot on my right leg and a prosthetic on my left.  My longest walk was in and out of the hospital, where my dad was a patient.

I ignored my own discomfort, minor in comparison.

----

On October 9, my dad passed away.  

And I haven't counted miles since.

My dad was my very first walking partner -- both before and after my accident.

A very young dad, in black rimmed glasses, holding me as an infant.

This blog is filled with our walks...

He's pushing me, a sleepless infant, in a baby carriage,
Or around the block, post-surgery, in a wheelchair.

He's with me on my earliest miles with a prosthesis

and behind the scenes
at Flyers games.
He guided me through easy days and hard ones.

He accompanied me on adventures...

to find prosthetics in the least likely places!

He taught me to drive, took me on road trips, and helped me buy cars

A selfie of Dad and me in the front seat of the car.
He drove me to
many (many!) appointments.

All along, he let me pave my own path -- and then he ran defense, removing every obstacle in my way. 

My dad standing over me, with my mom sitting next to me, as I lay in a bed in the ICU.
No matter what challenges our family faced,
my dad knew what steps to take.

And always -- even through his own long illness -- he held onto HOPE.

So did we.

----

The day he died, I lost my balance.

I was at my parents' house with the whole family.  At sunset, I went out to move my car into the driveway. 

It was the new car we'd picked out together
from his hospital room.

We stayed up all night by his bedside.  I took off my prosthesis at midnight.  

We lost him two hours later.

As the sun rose, I went downstairs on crutches to email my job and let them know I wouldn't be in.  I sat down at the laptop and typed:

My dad passed away early this morning.  

The words came out on autopilot, like when you walk without realizing how lucky you are. 

I hit send.  

Then, as I stood up and reached for my crutches, I lost my balance.

And fell.

I landed directly on my residual limb -- my little leg -- hitting it so hard the ceiling turned to stars.

I haven't been able to wear my prosthesis since.

I miss my dad.
I miss my leg.  
I miss walking.

I know these things aren't equal, but in the brokenness, they've become intertwined.  

----

I make it home safely with my coffee.  

Set the travel mug on the kitchen counter.
Crutch into the bedroom.

Gently, I roll off my prosthetic liner.  Phew!

I just can't tolerate it yet.  My little leg aches from the pressure and rubbing.  My femur is still so sore.  

I spray some alcohol on the liner to clean it.  And that's when it occurs to me:

The last time I did this was exactly one month ago -- at midnight.  

My dad was in the next room.  

Still alive.

I feel his fingers in mine.  
See his smile.
Hear his voice.  
Smell his aftershave.

The thoughts are both fragile and flooding.

This whole month, I've been struggling to keep moving, with or without my leg.  I've been pushing forward -- full speed ahead -- determined to get back to the way things were before. 

But in this moment, I realize that's not what I need.

I need to pause.  Where I am.  

To think about him. 
Remember him.
Write about him.

I need to take time to feel my dad's absence -- and miss him -- with all my body and heart.

It's been a long journey, but these are the hardest miles of all.

----

November 9 was my "Alive Day."  

It marked 13 years since the accident -- and one month without my dad.

In the days ahead, I'll think about our walks together, keep the memories close, and wish he were here.

I'll make time for what's important.  And give myself space to breathe.

I'll take small steps, slowly and slightly off-balance.  Mostly for coffee.  

And as I navigate the sidewalk, I will remember how lucky I am to be out.  Walking.  On one leg or two.

I don't know what this next year will bring. 

But I will hold onto HOPE.  Always.  

Just like he did.

My dad and I outside a football stadium.  He's wearing Penn State gear and I'm wearing Northwestern.
Love you, Dad.
Miss you, Dad.
xo,
Rebecca

Monday, September 4, 2023

Happy(er)

Beep beep! from Mile Marker 12,111...

On our first ride together, I can't find the odometer.  

Then I see this two-digit number at the bottom of the dash.

40 mi.

40 miles?  For this trip?  

Nope.  Just 40 miles. 

Total. 

That's the odometer -- haha!

It's the first smile we share. :)

Me standing in front of a red Hyundai Venue, a small SUV with a silver roof rack.
Happy new car!

Screech!  Reverse...

I did not want to get a new car.   

Or a new microwave.  Or a new toilet.  

I did not want my apartment's HVAC to clink and clank like there's a ping pong ball in the pipes. 

I did not want to send my prosthesis in for maintenance the week before I left for Paris.  And I definitely did not want to brew a stress fracture in my right foot (a.k.a. real foot) the week I returned.

I haven't walked in more than a month, aside from what's absolutely necessary.  Do I sound irritable?  I'm irritable.

Morning miles were a way to shape my day.  
Without them, I've lost some momentum.

In the world of illness and injury, these are all small things. 

I know.  I get it.

But they happen in the context of bigger things. 


A few weeks ago, I heard this line on a StoryCorps podcast:

Always look where you want to go, not where you want to avoid.

It was advice from a dad to his son, who was learning to drive.  

It made me realize how much I've been focusing on what I want to avoid these days -- pain, struggle, frustration, anger, fatigue -- all those sensations we feel when things (big or small) break down and pile up.  Some days, all I can think about is what's broken.

But dads are wise.  

Especially when it comes to cars.


At Mile 12,111, I wake up early, with fresh perspective and new energy.

It's Labor Day.  
September.  
(Old teaching habits live on.)

And I have this thought:

Not everything is happy, but could I make things a little... happier?

Instead of a sluggish start at home, I rush through my routine, get my leg on, and go out.

Walk (or limp) into the parking garage. 
Get in the car. 
Drive to CVS.

It's a mere 2 blocks from the apartment -- somewhere I used to walk -- but hey, who's counting?  

I hobble in for a quick errand.  And then, the magic happens.

My new car and I conjure up the tiniest little adventure. 

My car's dashboard, with the 100 mi. on the odometer circled in a heart.
'Cause we've gotta celebrate Mile 100! 

We drive to the Italian Market, where Gleaner's Café has just opened.  

It's my old favorite coffee spot -- one I can only reach on 4 wheels.

I pull out my coffee card and realize I've earned a free cup.  Better yet, I snag one of the last Hershey's Kisses in Gleaner's history!

A small coffee in a paper cup with a Hershey's Kiss next to it on the counter at Gleaner's Café
Woo-hoo!

It's a small happy thing -- which makes me think of other happy things, big and small.

Through all the obstacles this summer, I'm grateful for family and friends who've come to my rescue and supported me along the way.  

I picked up my new car on September 1.  

I chose her carefully with love and guidance from -- you guessed it -- my dad.

And maybe it sounds silly, but...

A selfie of me holding a coffee with a Hershey's Kiss on top in front of my new red car.
I think she's HAPPY to be mine!

Drive safe. Be happy(er).
Rebecca


Sunday, August 13, 2023

Where Would You Walk?

Mile Marker 12,072:

I'm grounded at home this weekend.

I was supposed to be visiting my favorite Vermonters. I'd bought an airline ticket and everything!

Then, out of nowhere, my right foot starts aching.  

My feet in Tevo sandals - one prosthetic, one real - toenails painted pink.
(Yes... the real one.)

Technically, it isn't out of nowhere.  

I often get right foot pain, especially at the end of the day.  Sometimes my knee swells, or my ankle, or both.  Like most unilateral amputees, I depend on my "sound side" for balance and performance.  A solid step with my right leg makes my prosthetic knee bend more fluently -- and my gait more natural.  Plus, you can't wear a prosthesis 24/7.  When I take my leg off, my sound side does 100% of the work. 

It's called "overuse."

At first, it's just a pang when I step down on the ball of my foot.  I ignore it and keep walking. 

But a few days later, I can barely bear weight.

Cue the alarms.  

I NEED TO PROTECT MY RIGHT FOOT.  
IT'S THE ONLY ONE I HAVE.

(This has happened before, but I don't want to think about it.  If you want, you can read about it here.) 

And so... 

Twenty-four hours before departure, I make the best -- and only -- decision for my body.  

I cancel the whole trip.  

At that very moment, an article lands in my inbox: 

The Most Walkable City on Each Continent.

Cruel joke?  Maybe.

I click on it anyway.

While I'm on hold with the airline, I open up Kayak and plug in the recommended cities.

  • Boston
  • Madrid
  • Marrakech
  • Buenos Aires
  • Wellington
  • Hoi An

Just for kicks, I set my travel dates for September.  (It's my fantasy, so why not celebrate my birthday in Spain?)

I imagine an epic, multi-city, around-the-world trip for the sole purpose (pun intended) of doing the one thing I cannot do at this very moment.

WALK.

A screenshot of a flight itinerary from Kayak - with the price $2,772.
Hey, it's cheaper than you'd think!

Dreaming of travel has always been a coping mechanism for me. 

Years ago, I'd spend lunchtimes at work scrolling through "E-saver" flights and "Travelzoo" discounts.  (Remember those?)

In the months after the accident, when I sat teary-eyed in my therapist's office -- certain I'd "never go anywhere ever again" -- she encouraged me to hop on over to Amazon and find books that would take me places.

A hardcover cookbook - Around my French Table, by Dorie Greenspan
I ordered this one first --
And it was too heavy to lift on my crutches!

Later, 400 miles into this journey -- recovering from yet another surgery -- I wrote my own Walking Wish List.  

All the places I'd walk IF or WHEN I could...

Click here to see it.

Me, in a wheelchair, after revision surgery on my leg, holding up Mile signs "416" and "417"
Now, I'm amazed at how many
of those boxes I've checked off!!

Eventually the American Airlines rep takes me off hold.  

She adjusts my flight plans without a penalty.  My Airbnb host is equally understanding.  It reminds me of the kindness I encounter whenever I travel.

Today, there will be no morning miles.  I'll conserve my limited "foot time" for basic activities at home.

I hobble around the kitchen like a robot crossed with a baby deer.  

I brew a pot of coffee my friend Priti brought back from India.

A bag of "Tulum" coffee from India.

I open up biscuits and jam from our neighborhood in Paris.

Two tiny containers of jam next to a box of biscuits that says "Bio" (organic), from Paris.

I spoon out granola from my favorite local coffee shop.

A brown bag of granola from Old City Coffee.

Then I gather up everything and limp out to the balcony,

A view of my feet resting on a balcony chair - the left prosthetic, the right in a sock with a sneaker sitting next to it.
where I gingerly remove my right shoe.

Less than 70 miles ago, I was exploring Paris on foot -- not quite easily, but filled with joie de vivre!  

And now... I'm HERE.

It's hard to reconcile these two truths.  

I have a disability that's both permanent and variable.  It's who I am as a traveler.  

Slow or fast.
Near or far.

Walking, like health, is the most fragile of privileges.

Of all the places to be grounded at Mile 12,072,

A view of the sky over Old City Philly from my balcony.  It is reflected in the windows of my building.
I am extra grateful for this
corner of the sky.

Fingers (and 5 toes) crossed, there'll be many miles ahead. 

I'm open to ideas.

Where would you walk?
Rebecca