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.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Remember This Moment

January 26, 2023.
5:02 PM
.

This moment, I'll remember.

The tail lights of the car ahead of me, sitting at a red light in the city, surrounded by brick buildings.  The sky, facing east near sunset, with puffy clouds in shades of blue, pink, and purple.
The first sign of more daylight,
later sunsets, and longer days to come!

It's the first time since late November that I notice the sky is still light when I get out of work.  

I head east as usual, driving the 14 city blocks home because (1) it's too far for me to walk, and (2) after working all day, my leg isn't predictable enough to take the bus.

I snap a photo so I'll remember this moment.

(No worries, Mom. I'm at a red light.)

This pic might be forgotten by the time I get home, buried 20,000 deep in the "recent photos" album on my phone, like so many others. 

So instead of just snapping it and moving on -- as I usually would -- I deliberately decide... 

To remember this moment.

It's January 26, the (many years') anniversary of my brother Mark's Bar Mitzvah.

At 5:02,

Me, age 7, in a Brownie uniform with number 502 on the shoulder, eating a cupcake, standing next to my red-haired friend Missy, also eating a cupcake.
the number of my 2nd grade Brownie troop,
of which my mom was the leader. :)

There are lots of ways to engrave things in our memory.  Even normal, everyday moments like that one.

Or a typical Sunday afternoon...

My parents and I are in the den watching New Amsterdam, Season 4, Episode 22.  (Yes, we're a little behind.)

In my hands is a mug of hot cinnamon spice tea, a gift from our friend Becca.  And I'm nibbling a piece of dark chocolate from my friend Cécile.  

My mom is curled up in the corner of the couch closest to the television.  She's eating a mini-scone that I baked a while ago, then froze, then defrosted.  

My dad is in his big recliner next to us, commenting back and forth with me on the unlikely scenarios of our show, while simultaneously watching the Flyers game on his Kindle.

It's just a regular weekend.  There is nothing photo-worthy about it.

And yet, I'll remember this moment too.

Recently, one of my favorite podcasts, By the Book, did an interview with Meik Wiking.  

He's the founder and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, and author of The Art of Making Memories and The Little Book of Hygge. 

In the interview, he talks about this exact thing -- how to turn ordinary moments into memories we won't forget, simply by noticing them. 

And how that makes us happy.  

Even on a very small scale.

If -- like me -- you're on a journey that often stays within 14 blocks of home, it's a good skill to take along!

What will you remember?


P.S.  When "real travel" isn't possible, I often escape into podcasts and books. If you're interested, you can listen to the By the Book interview here or learn more about Meik Wiking's books here.



Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Cookie Bar

When you see a sign like this, you just have to go in!

A white building with light blue shutters and a rainbow colored mural of a rising sun, with the slogan, "All you need is love, and cookie bars!"
I mean, right??

An errand this week takes me to Doylestown.  It's ridiculously far from the city, so once I'm there, I have to at least take a little stroll.

That's when I see the Cookie Bar.  

I take in the vibrant mural, the sky blue shutters, and the little white building that houses this delicious idea.  My mind goes wild with the potential of it all.

What is a Cookie Bar?
Is it a bar that serves cookies?
Or a design-your-own-cookie assembly line?

I imagine a bartender in a baker's cap, a rainbow-tiled bar top, and of course, an array of "top shelf" milks and syrups that would line the wall behind it.

But wait, maybe it's not that kind of bar at all...

Maybe it's like a salad bar -- for cookies!  Yes, that makes more sense!!

Just picture it.  

A self-serve counter lined with neat scoops of cookie dough.  Chips, candy, nuts, and berries in bright little bowls.  And at the end of the bar, the pièce de résistance: a bake-your-own-cookie machine -- a cross between an Easy Bake Oven and that "conveyer belt toaster thingy" at the Comfort Inn! 

I'd be fine either way.  With a Cookie Bar, you can't go wrong!

Finally I venture inside and...

Well... there are cookies.  And they are cut into bars.  There are some regular ones too, just freshly made.  They look good. They smell good.

I take a few home to try.  My dad samples one, and he likes it. 

Yet I can't help feeling a tad let down.  

It's a good bakery.  I'm glad I didn't pass it by.

It just couldn't quite compete with all the hype... in my head. :)

Years ago, my cousin Brett and my friend Kym would talk together about starting a business.  

An IDEA business.

They'd start a company whose sole purpose was to produce ideas for other people.  (I believe they were planning to sell them, but they never got that far!)

As they talked about it, their inventory of ideas grew.  Creativity is contagious.  I was excited just listening to them!

Brett and Kym aren't here anymore.  I miss them both -- and their energy.

And I think of them in moments like this.

They would have loved the idea of a Cookie Bar!

So... 

If you agree, I've got an offer for you:

One idea.  A Cookie Bar.  Re-imagine it as you will.

I have enough on my plate.  

Go ahead.  Run with it.

You can have it for FREE.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Got Vision?

A work-in-progress collage of magazine pictures and words.

Yesterday our amputee support group created "vision boards" for 2023.  

Of course, I had to overthink mine.  (This goes without saying.)

So I carted the pieces home in a Ziploc bag.  

And later, over a mug of dark cocoa from Brazil -- thanks to my traveling friend Monica! -- I trimmed, and arranged, and almost glued them down.  

But not quite.

Even today I'm not yet ready to commit.  Every time I step away from the board, I come up with a new idea.

I have TOO MUCH vision.  There are so many paths I want to follow.  So many things I want to do!

There are have-to-do's.
And want-to-do's.
And can't-wait-to-do's....

I consider myself lucky.  This is good problem to have.  It means my health is okay.  It means I have support and all my basic needs are met.

My board is still a work in progress, but when I zoom out to view it on a yearly scale, I'm awed by the designs that emerge.  

Themes. Words. Images.
Hopes and dreams.  
Priorities and patterns.

I work to pin them down in a way that's motivating, harmonizing, and inclusive of all the things I love.  To create a picture that's inspiring, but also...maybe...possible??

Assorted cut outs of pictures and words against a wooden coffee table.
Uh-oh.
Where do I put the pieces that won't fit?

Time and energy are precious resources for all of us, but especially for those with health issues or disability.

Each day I wake up hopeful that I'll find balance between the have-to-do's and want-to-do's.  I try to pace myself and take steps toward those can't-wait-to-do's and "big picture" goals.

This year will wear me down, I know.

But right now -- in January -- the vision shines brightest.

I look forward to gluing down the pieces, but I think it's the process of creating them I love most of all.

What's your vision for 2023??


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Acts of Resilience


Even from bed, I can hear that the streets are wet.

My apartment is cozy.  My socks are dry.  And (eventually) I'm dressed for work.

My phone says 100% chance of rain.  

I don't want to get soaked, so I decide it's too wet to walk.

There's always a tiny sense of failure in this decision.  While I want to stay dry, I know my leg will fit better -- and my body will FEEL better -- if I get out there.

To walk or not to walk??  

Final test:  I peer down from the living room window at the cars driving by below.

Wipers are... OFF!


My red boots and navy blue raincoat against the wet bricks of the sidewalk.
Walk is ON!

Superhero boots?  Check.
Long raincoat?  Check.
Umbrella?  Check.  (Awkward to carry, but good to have just in case!)  

Truth -- By the time I reach the sidewalk, it isn't raining much at all.  It's not even that puddle-y.

And the best surprise:  I'm not the only one out!

Mike the artist sits on his usual bench with a big red umbrella.  Friends Richard, John and Carol are at their regular perch in the window of Starbucks.  (I knock and wave as I pass.  We see each other everyday!)

I've been thinking lately about acts of resistance and rebellion.  How, by pushing my own limits, I seem to push back on society's idea of what it means to be "disabled" -- or "able."

Morning miles are one example.  On a very tiny scale.

For an above-knee amputee, walking takes 60-100% more energy than it does for a person with 2 legs.  That means by the end (or even the middle) of the day, I might not have enough left in the tank.

But at 7 AM?  I'm game!

On the way back, the message in this shop window catches my eye.  And I realize what I'm doing isn't quite an act of resistance -- or rebellion.

The view in a store window:  Two statue heads blowing pink bubbles of gum, with the caption, "Art of Resilience."
It's an act of RESILIENCE.

We all need a few short minutes each day to fill our superhero boots -- and take on the world.

These are mine.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Small Walk. Big View.

It's one of my best kept secrets...

Morning Miles are just a slow stroll around the block.

My closest friends know this.  So does my family.  But outside that circle, it might appear different.  Now you know too. 

A grassy corner with an iron fence and a colonial lamp post in the foreground, with a pink horizontal line of clouds in the sky above.
Small walk. Big view.
(And if I'm lucky -- coffee!)

That's how I roll.

Today a ribbon of pink arches across the OC sky.  I watch it from all angles as I circle the same sidewalk as yesterday.

A pink stream of clouds floating in the just lightening sky over a brown city building.  The silhouette of trees are in the foreground.

Sure, I dream of venturing farther.

Reaching different neighborhoods,
trying new cafés,
really getting a morning workout...

But that's not how it usually happens.  

Here's the real story:

Each morning -- body permitting -- I wake up, get ready, and get my leg on.  (Some days, this is a bigger project than others.)

Then I head out.

I don't have to go far.  There are no expectations.  Still, there's something special about traveling the same path each day, no matter how small.  

Sometimes it's the friends I meet.  
Sometimes it's the coffee. 
Sometimes it's the sky.

Before I know it, I'm back home for breakfast.  

A yellow and orange sunrise down an Old City cobblestone alley.

Fueled by the views along the way.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Protected

12 years later, I am here...

The intersection of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly.  A traffic light hangs overhead and there are green stripes through the crosswalk, indicating a bike lane.
Happy Alive Day!

Each year on the anniversary of my accident, I find myself standing on the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly. 

I watch the traffic go by, breathe in the autumn air, and stare wistfully (or perhaps lovingly) at a little patch of blacktop that's so familiar I consider it mine.

Today the blacktop is different.

(And I've never been more excited to write a blog post in my life!)

This intersection -- which has felt to me like the most vulnerable place in the world -- is now PROTECTED.

A view of Washington Avenue from the other side of 5th Street with the green stripes of the bike lane up the center.
With a brand new
PROTECTED BIKE LANE!

It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.  

The best "Alive Day" gift I could have asked for. 

(Seriously, my eyes tear up with joy!)

A biker in a gold helmet approaches, following the same route I rode on this exact day 12 years ago.  I snap a pic as she passes by. 

A back view of a lone biker with a gold helmet riding in the bike lane.
It feels like the whole street
should be paved with gold!

I look both ways and then step carefully onto the green lines myself.  The paint is still fresh; the colors, impossibly bright.  

My feet with a green stripe on the street underneath them.

My eyes follow the smooth curve of white strokes on the ground.

An empty bike lane with white stripes running parallel to the curb, white posts, and a parking lane to the left.

I admire the row of perfectly placed posts, dividing the roadway between traffic and bicycles.

Another photo of the same bike lane, with posts separating parking and traffic from the bike lane.

I knew this was in process.  It's been years in the making.  But I drove by just weeks ago -- and none of this was here! 

A posting on a telephone pole, that reads "New parking and loading layout," and has picture diagrams showing bikers, cars, and pedestrians.
(It's so new, it comes with instructions!)

I step back on the sidewalk to take it all in.  An ambulance passes.  Then a few trucks.  Then some kick-scooters.  Then another bike. 

Washington Ave. is busy as always, but it feels different somehow.  Changed.

I have to tell you... I almost didn't go back this year.  

I've changed too, and I felt a strong pull to do this day differently.  To turn a new page.  Get a fresh start.

I wondered if it was time.  But how would I know?

Is 12 years too soon to move on?
Or is it too late?

Turns out, 12 years is just right.

This isn't the end of the journey, really.  Just the end of a certain chapter.  There'll be many more milestones, I'm sure.

Maybe I'll write about them. 
Or maybe I'll move on to something new.   

Whatever happens next, this little patch of blacktop will always be with me.  It's a cherished, sacred part of who I am.

My shoes and the shadow of my legs on the sidewalk, with a small heart-shaped stone placed against a lampost.
Today, like always,
I leave a little something behind.

But today, leaving feels different.  Better.  Less unfinished.  More secure.  

Wherever I go, I'll know this place is taken care of. 

Its markings will be there to protect all who pass through.  Bikers on their way to work, like I was.  Kids on their way to school.  Skaters, scooters, strollers, and so many more.

A selfie of me, smiling huge, with the newly-protected intersection of 5th and Washington behind me.
What could be better than that?

Thank you Philly!

Be safe, everyone.  Buckle your helmet.  Pedal on.

And, as a wise PT once taught me, don't forget to enjoy the ride!

xo,
Rebecca

Vision Zero's goal is to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030.  For more on Vision Zero Philly and protected bike lanes, click here.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Lost and Found

Leaves in red, gold, brown, and green spread over the bricks.

Hello from Mile Marker 11,050...

Where I've lost my grandmother's bracelet.

I don't know why I'm surprised.  

It's November.  The season of lost and found.

When I got dressed this morning, the bracelet's catch was loose, but I pressed it closed and headed out the door.

One lap around the block, and I noticed it was gone.

I retrace my steps, stopping back at Old City Coffee to ask the staff to keep an eye out.

"It's a small gold ID bracelet inscribed with my grandmother's name," I tell them.  They know my regular coffee order -- "small with almond milk" -- but now they take down my phone number too.  

It's a new level of intimacy, this shared loss.  

We've all lost things we love.  We all understand.

I circle around the block again, this time in reverse, trying to unwind time, as if the fragile bracelet would leap off the leaf-strewn sidewalk and back onto my wrist.  

It's hard to walk in this direction.  The slant of the sidewalk is wrong for my gait.  I hike my prosthetic over the incline, trying not to trip, scanning my eyes back and forth thorough the confetti of red and gold leaves.  I tell myself it's OK.  It's only a bracelet.  An object that belonged to my grandmother.  It's not her.

A brick sidewalk with a smattering of fall leaves and a brick wall.
Still, I keep searching.

Just a glimmer.  A tiny spark.  That's all I need to find.

It is just a bracelet.  I know that.  But I'm sensitive to losing things.  It has always unsettled me, but even more so since the accident.  

And especially at this time of year.

Two mornings from now -- on November 9 -- as the sun rises over Washington Avenue, it will be exactly 12 years since I was hit by a truck at this intersection.

The intersection of 5th St. and Washington Avenue, showing blacktop in the street, two manhole covers, and the sun streaming down from above.

I still remember what I lost in that early morning sunlight -- my leg, my health, my life BEFORE -- and the many losses that unfolded in the days and years that followed.

But as time passes, I find that I'm more and more focused on what I've found AFTER.

A selfie of me with found family and friends.
And all that's found me, too :)

Family.  Friends. Community.  A whole team of helpers and healers.  (You know who you are!)  And this life we've built together.

Celebrating my "Alive Day" reminds me to pause, look back, and give thanks for the distance we've covered.

To embrace where I am now,
Even in the struggle.
To find gratitude and hope,
Even in the smallest steps.

At Mile 11,051 -- give or take a few of those steps -- I arrive home, eyes still cast downward, feeling this newest loss like a small hole in my heart.  

I've swept over every inch of sidewalk.  The bracelet is nowhere, seemingly vanished into the autumn air.

Then, I reach down to adjust the waistband of my pants.  

And something shiny falls into my fingers.  The unlatched bracelet.  Lost and found!

My gold bracelet on the table surrounded by a green Thousand Miles wristband
Sometimes, miraculously, things find their way back.

Every year is a privilege.  I hope I never lose that perspective.

My feet (one real, one prosthetic) on the sidewalk below a chalk-drawn heart.
Happy Year 12.
Thank you for walking with me!
Rebecca

(P.S.  Most of these photos were taken after the bracelet was found.  Some feelings are too intense to capture on film. xo)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Are You on Volume Two?

 Greetings from Mile Marker 10,960...

I'm in CVS Pharmacy, masked, holding up two vaccine cards, with a bandaid on my left arm.
...where HOPE never gets old!

It's the season of cooler nights, fallen leaves, and vaccine boosters.

Flu shot?  Check.
Covid shot?  Check.

Not sure why, but I'm feeling especially hopeful this time around.  

It starts when the CVS pharmacist hands me a brand new Covid card.  There's no more space on my first one. 

Onward to VOLUME TWO!

For some reason, this triggers a good feeling.

A sense of legitimacy, 
and expertise, 
and entering the home stretch.

I accept the new card proudly, like a medal of honor.

This isn't my first rodeo.

Once upon a time -- before hospitals used electronic records like EPIC -- medical charts and test results were stored in giant hardcover binders.  (Yes, really!)

And some patients, like me, had so much information in theirs, they filled up more than one binder.

I'm in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown, holding up a drink in a Styrofoam cup.

During my time as a patient, I earned not one, but TWO super-sized, mega-stuffed medical binders! 

Those two binders traveled with me wherever I went.  

To ultrasounds,
and x-rays,
and CT scans,
and surgeries...

Each time I left my hospital room, those two heavy binders were loaded onto the gurney with me.  Volume One and Volume Two. 

They creaked against the metal bedrails.  Tugged tightly at the sheets.  Rode shotgun at my left hip.  

Good thing I was small.  

And missing a leg. :)

I haven't thought about those binders in more than a decade.

But when the pharmacist hands me my 2nd vaccine card, I get a wave of deja-vu...

VOLUME TWO.  

It's nothing bad.  Sort of the opposite, really.

It feels familiar.  Symbolic.  Hopeful, even.

Like I've put in my time.

Like maybe these tentative, directionless, up-in-the-air years might finally be coming to a close. 

Like maybe, just maybe, a New Normal might come next.


A few miles later -- a.k.a. the next morning -- I force myself out of bed, despite feeling a bit achy from the vaccine.

It's minutes before sunrise.  The moon is high over Arch Street as Donna leads me on a new route.  It's still dark, so I didn't want to walk alone.

I'm determined to meet my long-time PT, Julie, for an early morning coffee.  Julie helped me recover from those volumes of care.  And today, by chance, she happens to be at Jefferson for an EPIC training.  (Kind of ironic, huh?)

As Donna and I cross Independence Mall, we catch this stunning view.

A view of the Liberty Bell, glowing gold through a glass building, with burgundy and yellow mums and leaves in the foreground.
Volume Two looks promising so far!

Have you found a New Normal?
Are you on Volume Two... too?

Wishing everyone a HEALTHY and HOPEFUL season ahead!

I'm pretty sure we've earned it.

Walk on,
Rebecca