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.

Monday, September 4, 2023


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. 


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.  
(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

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).

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.  


(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.


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?

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Perhaps... Paris

Bonjour from Mile 12,062!

A café table in Philly - with my red journal, plastic containers of tomato soup and a sandwich, and a silver water bottle.
Perhaps I'm in Paris...

Sure, I'm eating out of plastic containers, but I'm using real silverware!

Plus, the pesto is homemade, and I'm pretty sure the gazpacho is puréed with local tomatoes. 

Normally I'd just grab takeout.  But I'm determined to keep up the Paris vibe, which includes taking time out -- to eat, breathe, and write.

I open my pocket journal, which I found in a bin at Cést Deux Euros, the Parisian equivalent of a dollar store.

In the spirit of Paris, I start "perhapsing." 

Perhapsing is a technique I learned in my travel memoir class --  a method of filling in sketchy details and unknowns with our own speculations.  It's entirely "legal," as long as I tell you I'm perhapsing.  

So, I am. :)

It was one of my favorite exercises of the week.

Picture this:  One afternoon in the Jardin du Palais Royal, a blur of pink catches my eye.

A young girl in a pink sweat jacket, jumping off a pillar in the Jardin du Palais Royale.
At first, she's just a dramatic photo from afar!

But then I move in.  Park myself on a pillar nearby.

(Far enough to be discreet, close enough to be within earshot.)

She and her parents are positioned in the shape of a scalene triangle.  

Mom is closer to her, more engaged.  
Dad sits farther back, on his phone.

They're speaking in Spanish (I think), so perhapsing is my only option.  I observe -- and put the clues together.

"Mommy, watch!"

"One!" Cartwheel.  
"Two!" Cartwheel.  
"Three!" Cartwheel.

She cascades across the courtyard.  Mom laughs.

Dad looks up.  Smiles.  Goes back to his phone.

She scrambles onto a pillar, pink sweatshirt flapping behind.  

Mom poises her camera.

The girl shoots a peace sign.
Puts her hands on her hips.
Strikes a disco move -- Travolta-like -- pointing to the sky.

Mom snaps, and snaps, and snaps.

Dad looks up.  Smiles.  Goes back to his phone.

Mother and daughter huddle together -- a curtain of long hair -- as Mom flips through the photos.

Then the girl skips to her father.  Pokes her head between his face and his phone.

"Daddy, did you take a photo?"

He looks up.  Smiles.  Pecks her on the cheek.

I scribble in my journal so I won't forget this moment and this place, this perhapsed dialogue, and all the details I've perhapsed about this family.

It's just an exercise, but it's opened up a world to me.

A building and metal bubble-like sculpture in the Jardin du Palais Royale.
Au revoir, Palais Royal!

At Mile 12,062, I'm back in Philly -- and a world away.

The couple next to me is discussing Scandinavian cake, with a plastic bag of peanuts sitting between them on the table.  

It's odd on both counts.  

We're at Talula's Daily, which serves neither Scandinavian cake nor peanuts.

I listen in -- and start perhapsing.  (Perhaps the man's name is Herb...)

"I'm thinking of a simple dessert, like a Scandinavian cake," his wife says.

Herb nods, nudging the bag of peanuts with his finger.  

"Well, what do you think of that?"

He pauses.  "I just don't think you have to try so hard."

"She's young.  She's having health problems."


"So a Scandinavian cake isn't hard.  You can just serve it with some light cream or lemon.  She used to work at the hospital, you know."

Herb touches the knot on the bag.  He wants to open it, but now that she's shifted from cake to health problems, he isn't sure.  

"You mind?" he says.

She sighs.  "Whatever you want.  I'm very agreeable today."

Perhaps they're going to visit their daughter's friend, the one with health problems.  Perhaps their own daughter is traveling (perhaps in Paris!), and perhaps they feel guilty about that.  Perhaps Herb is missing the Phillies game, and the peanuts are as close as he can get. 

For perhaps a half hour, I am transported from this table in Philly to a graceful café in the center of Paris.

My lovely lunch at the Royal Opera Café - a salad with roasted potatoes, tomatoes, and walnuts, topped with goat cheese crepes.  Behind my plate is a red wine bottle filled with water and a glass of apricot juice.  Two bicycles are parked by the street beyond the table.
It's a good place to be.

I look up from my journal.

It's unseasonably cool for Philly, with a mask of clouds and a breeze that feels like rain.  

Perhaps I've brought this weather back from Paris.  

I get up to leave.  

Then, in a unwelcome burst of reality, my leg bumps the chair -- metal on metal -- and my elbow knocks the fork handle, the one that's balanced on the edge of the plastic container.  

And the whole thing -- sandwich and all -- nearly catapults to the ground.  

By some miracle, I catch it.

I'm not graceful, and this isn't Paris...

I'm standing on a concrete pillar in the Jardin du Palais Royale in a black dress and red jacket, with a palatial buiding and the French flag behind me.

Perhaps... I'm still me. :)

Walk on,

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Thank You Jefferson First-Years!

Mile Marker 12,050:

New students.
White coats.

I'm standing in the center of an auditorium full of medical students in white coats.
So much hope and promise in one room!

At Jefferson University, Medical School begins with listening to patient stories.  

It's hard to express how much this means to me.  

There's nothing quite like a doctor who listens.  (I learned this from my own medical team!)

It eases pain and anxiety.  
It builds relationships and trust.
It makes all the difference.

I've been a "patient speaker" in this class for several years, yet it always has an impact on me.

I admire the journey of these "first-year" students.  I'm amazed by the questions they ask.  I'm awed by their insight, not as doctors (just yet!), but as fellow humans with their own life experience that inspired them to take this path. 

It's a full auditorium today.  

Me being interviewed at a table by a doctor with a white coat.
Dr. McNett interviews me.

As I look out across that sea of white coats, I imagine my story landing gently -- like a small stone -- and rippling outward, as if the care I received from my own doctors could touch future patients and families.

It's an honor to share my story with these students.

Especially because they're listening

Thank you for the warm welcome, Class of 2027!  

I know you'll make a difference in the lives of your patients.

You've already made a difference in mine.

Walk on,

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

A Toast to Paris - and My Peloton!

Mile Marker 12,030:

When my plane lands, my iPhone automatically resets itself to Philadelphia time. 

The next morning, in a haze of jetlag and dreams, I manually reset my Swatch.  An hour later, I realize I've moved the clock's hands but accidentally set them on Paris time, again. 

It feels good to be home...

A selfie of me (in the foreground) and my parents and brother, with an American flag in the background.
...especially when my family surprises me
in the arrival hall of the airport!

But I'm not quite ready to let go of Paris.

In the next few postcards, I'll be sharing some work from my Travel Memoir class, as I learned to capture Paris on the page.

On our last day of class, we were assigned to write an ode, eulogy, or toast about our Paris experience, to be shared at a farewell party that evening.

A group of us at a long restaurant table, glasses raised in a toast.
Thanks to classmate Joe for this photo!

I chose to do a toast.  

Here it is (lightly edited)...

Bonsoir everyone!

On my first morning in Paris, I got lost for 3 hours -- just 5 minutes from the door of my apartment.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get oriented or find my way home.

On my second day in Paris -- which was Day 1 of our class -- I stopped to admire a single red rose petal, which someone had dropped on the top step of the Metro.

It had been a long, full day with more walking than I'm used to, and I was exhausted.  

While commuters rushed past me up the stairs, one after the other, I paused on every step to rest my legs. 

I felt like that rose petal, left behind in a city that moved too fast. 

Would I be able to keep up with the pace of Paris -- and my "able-bodied" classmates?  

I knew it wouldn't be easy for me.  I'd been preparing for this trip all year.

This included walking 16 blocks to and from work, which, I predicted, would be the distance from my Paris apartment to our classroom building.  It was the first time I'd walked to work since my amputation 12 years ago.

My friends joked that I was training for the Tour de France.  

(And they weren't far off!)

On Days 2 and 3, Paris picked up the pace. 

I nearly got trapped in a turn style at the Pyramides Metro.  I wrote about a Spanish family in the Jardin du Palais Royal.  I gave up my seat at a sidewalk café for a family of 11 from Boston -- and ended up next to a family of Japanese Youtubers, dramatically unboxing a cheesecake.

Along the way, I settled into our classroom space, aptly called a "Cocoon."

There, I was swept up by the momentum of all of YOU -- my classmates -- travelers, writers, and now friends.  Turns out, I didn't have to keep pace on my own.

You became my peloton.

By Day 4, I finally had the energy to join everyone for an evening out.  

As [new friend] Kim and I walked through the Parisian drizzle to the Metro together, I spied -- not just one petal -- but a whole bouquet of roses, scattered along the wet pavement.

A smattering of rose petals and stems on the wet sidewalk of Paris.
This time, I wasn't the only one
who stopped to admire it!

Tonight, on our last night together, this is a toast to MOVING ON.

Not toward a finish line or to writing "the end" -- but to new beginnings, new travels, and new friends.

To moving forward in whatever directions we choose, with creativity and companionship...

A photo of our writing class, standing shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other, in a bright classroom space with large windows.

À bientôt, Paris.

Je t'aime!

P.S.  Merci beaucoup to our leaders Rolf, Diane, & Kiki -- and my peloton -- for a Tour de France I'll never forget!

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Lost (and Found) in Paris

Bonjour from Mile Marker 12,000... and then some!

I had this vision of my first "morning mile" here.

A leisurely stroll in the sunshine.
A stop at the neighborhood boulangerie.
Un café, s'il vous plait.

I didn't picture that I'd wake up late, or get caught in a drizzle, or become lost in a web of cobblestone alleys whose names don't show up on my phone.

The Marais, I'm discovering, is a bit like my Old City home -- with its narrow passages and hip cafés -- but complicated by French accents, unfamiliar streets, and jet lag!

No worries at first.  

I just wander.  Window shop.  Walk whichever way I want.

I buy un croissant aux amandes.
Then that first café au lait.

C'est très joli!
Then I walk some more.  

Just taking in the views!

But when I'm ready to turn back... well, I'm not sure which way to turn.

I've never had a great sense of direction, but still this surprises me.  I've been studying my Paris map for months.  And I was only setting out for a short walk.

(Just steps past the grocery store we found yesterday!)

Because of the slant of the sidewalk, I usually keep my prosthesis on the curb side -- which means I turn right more often than left -- which should help in this case -- but somehow doesn't. 

After a while, I give up and check the map on my phone.  My blue dot is a "5 min walk" from the red dot of our apartment.  Not bad...

I walk a bit more.  
Still "5 min."

I get it down to "3 min" -- but no shorter.

So close and yet so far.

Travel writer Rolf Potts (who I'll meet tonight at our pre-class picnic!) introduced me to the word flâneur.  It's the French word for someone who strolls on foot without a real destination in mind. 

That's me, this morning.  Walking for the sake of walking. 

Taking in my surroundings without a schedule or plan.

It's the way I love to walk.  I do it a lot -- even at home.

But for an amputee, walking isn't simple.  

"Leg time" is limited and, in the back of my mind, I know I need to conserve it for the picnic tonight.  Also, my microprocessor knee shouldn't really get soaked in the rain.  

As much as I want to turn down the next street just to see where it takes me, I have a compelling -- and physical -- need to find my way home.

After a mile or so of unintended flânerie, my phone tings with a text from Mona, my traveling companion and apartment-mate.

She's at our apartment, leaving to head out for lunch. :)

A few seconds later we cross paths -- at the courtyard to our apartment building.

Je suis trouvé!

Turns out, I wasn't really lost at all.  

Bienvenue à Paris!

Bonne journée!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Twelve years ago this week, I wrote a little post called Go!

My brother Mark and me, and his dog Jack, standing on Kelly Drive on my very first mile on July 9, 2011.
July 9, 2011

See that look on my face?  

That cautious smile of joy and relief.  After 8 long months of recovery and rebuilding, I had finally reached the start of a new journey.

I thought those first steps would propel me full speed ahead.  I thought I already had the hang of it.

Little did I know, we don't face the starting line just once.  

We step up to it day after day after day... (x 12 years and counting!)

Now, as I pass Go for the dozenth time, I'm preparing for yet another change in direction. 

My friends joke that I'm in training for the Tour de France.  

And they're not far off.

Soon, I'll be embarking on a travel writing course -- in PARIS!

(Remember author Rolf Potts who inspired Mile 9,393?  He's teaching it!)  

It's true.  I have been training for this.  

Walking longer and farther.    
Adjusting my prosthetic socket.
Doing PT exercises to aid my digestion.

This whole year, I've been working to get my body (and hardware) in shape to keep up with "able-bodied" classmates while trekking around Paris in the summer heat.

Of course, as I near the finish line, plans unravel.

My body reacts terribly to a new medication.  My prosthesis clicks and beeps in all the wrong places.  Even my household appliances are on the fritz...

Help!  I need a sign.  (Or maybe fewer signs!)

Enter the Tour de France.

A selfie of me in front of my small TV, wearing a Tour de France shirt.
(The real one!)

I'm just a spectator, but I take its lessons to heart.

These riders are the best of the best.  They've dreamed and trained and, in many cases, crawled their way back from life-threatening injuries to qualify for this epic race -- 21 stages in 23 days -- the most challenging event in professional cycling.  

I see their steepest climbs and sharpest descents.  I cringe when they crash.  I watch with wonder as they get back on their bikes.

There are 22 teams.  
Which means 22+ strategies.  
Which means their plans unravel too,  
Often as they near the finish line. 

They just pedal harder.

Each stage ends in utter exhaustion.   

And then -- in the blazing sun of the next day -- the riders take their places at another starting line ALL OVER AGAIN.

They know nothing of me -- with my little Peacock subscription and my even smaller TV screen.  I'm just another fan watching from afar, a former biker, shouting Allez! from my couch in Philly.

And yet, I feel connected.  

It's their RESILIENCE that resonates most.

I'm amazed how they step up to that start line and embrace a new "stage" -- day after day after day.

It's been 12 years, and I'm approaching 12,000 MILES on a prosthetic leg. 

A spread of France books and maps on my coffee table, including a map of the Tour de France route.
Journey willing, that start line will be Paris!

And if I'm lucky, I'll watch those riders from the sidelines -- as they sprint toward the finish of their final stage -- and I'll be shouting Allez! in person.

I'll send you a postcard. 

My feet on the sidewalk with a spraypaint of the words "Take Risks."
P.S.  I found a sign :)

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Stand Here

Has it really been just 2 weeks since my last postcard?

I've been wanting to write, but there are times when direction is difficult to decipher.  So I'm returning to a lesson I learned way, way back in this journey:

When life feels too big, it helps to take small steps.

Standing in front of Ruby Tuesdays: my uncle Steve, me, and my dad.  I'm wearing my very first prosthetic leg.
Throwback to Mile 39 :)

Back then, small steps meant bacon -- and Ruby Tuesdays -- with my best pit crew.

(I'd still be up for that, of course!)  

But nowadays, it usually means taking time out for short, meandering walks that keep me on solid ground.

It doesn't matter how far I wander.  
It doesn't matter if I'm alone or with friends.  
It doesn't matter if I take photos or not.  

The bark of a tree and a rosebush in the foreground against a background of a yellow wall on which is cast an artistic shadow from leaves somewhere else.
There's always AWE to be found.

The smallest steps bring more clarity than any amount of thinking at home.

Tall stems of small purple flowers against a green field and a blue sky filled with clouds.
Colors bring peace.

A low morning sun, casting shadows down a city sidewalk.  There's a tree on the left and a metal garage door closed on the right.
Sunrise brings renewal.

And "found" signs bring an unexpected spark of HOPE.

A brick wall on which sits a painted, heart shaped stone which says, "Yes Stones.  Blue Butterfly on FB."
(Even if I don't quite know what they mean!)

Walking reminds me how we're all connected, like the wildfire sky that drifted into Philly from Canada.  Most of the time, connection brings comfort.

The view westward up Market Street under a smoky, pink sky.  The sun is an orange pink sphere at the top right, above a row of green trees.
Well, aside from implications
for climate change.

Sometimes on a walk, I just STOP.
Stand here.   
Feel the space of a small, single moment.

That gentle shift of focus from overwhelment...  
(Is that a word?) gratitude.  
(I know that is!)

When life feels too big, where do you stand?

My legs from the knees down in two chalk drawn footprints.  Behind me it's written in chalk: Stand Here.

I'll be right here.

Walk on,

(Chalk art found in Washington Square with my walking buddy, JJ.)