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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Thanks St. Joe's!


That's what I see as I stand in front of all these physical therapy students at St. Joseph's University today.

A group of PT students with me in the front.
They're going to change lives!

To this amazing group...

Thank you for listening to my story and asking such thoughtful questions. 

But thanks, most of all, for setting your goals to become physical therapists.

It's impossible to put into words all the ways my own PTs supported me along this journey.  They changed my life.  And they were truly my guides -- every step of the way.

(Including an awesome PT student
named Colleen!)

I could never have done it without them!

When I look out at all of you, I envision ALL the future patients who'll achieve their goals because you achieved yours.

Best of luck with your classes and clinicals.  

I can't wait to see the difference you'll make!

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Spring Signs (a little poem)

In Old City
spring lights up the trees
and fire escapes.

A city sidewalk, and an iron fire escape the distance, silhouetted by the rising sun.

And construction zones.  
And moving vans too.
So watch your step.

It's in the hats and gloves
and the morning chill
as café owners set tables on the sidewalk.

In spring it seems
everyone smiles more.
Even this early.
Even on a Tuesday.

And at OCC (my favorite stop), there's a special drink in the air --
a violet tea latte,
which I'll sample sometime soon
on a warm afternoon.

When you walk the same path every day, 
you notice the smallest changes.

A tree with white buds lit by the early morning sun shining through it.
These are mine.

What subtle signs of spring are on your well-traveled route?

Friday, March 17, 2023

A Garden and A Library

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

-- Marcus Tullius Cicero

A garden of pink, yellow, and purple flowers with a page from a book as the background wall.  On the page, it says, "She lost herself within the pages of the story and discovered a garden filled with possibilities."
This week, I had both!

The Philadelphia Flower Show and the Free Library of Philadelphia -- a perfect combination to kick-off the season.

A shower of plants and colored lights hanging from the ceiling like a huge waterfall chandelier.

Here in Philly, the Flower Show curtails the end of winter.  

A display of mannequins made of flowers, with heads of disco balls.  Disco balls also hang in the air above.
(Even if disco lives on!)

Stepping from the blustery March sidewalk into the warmth of the Convention Center is a sure sign of greener days to come.

A lavender colored daisy-like flower with a yellow middle, leaning over a stone wall.
It's a rainbow of scent,

A garden with a painter's easel in the foreground, which holds a painting of the same garden.
and color,

A display of plants and round mirrors in shades of blue and green.
and inspiration!

But a library -- isn't that for all-seasons?

Technically yes.  But our local branch is only open limited hours these days.  So when I step out of a doctor's appointment which happens to be across the street... 

I'm standing outside the library, holding up a DVD to return!
...I hit the "open-hours' jackpot!

I wander through the library stacks the same way I wandered through the Flower Show just days earlier -- awed by the creativity, the variety, and the pure potential in so many volumes (and so many stems!) all in one place.  

I check out a French documentary called Louvre City.  Anything about France, like reading in general, transports me to a place of hope and renewal!

Winter into spring is always a tough transition. 

I recently began working with a specialized PT to help with digestive issues.  And just today, I started the long process of breaking in a new prosthetic liner.  

I'm trying to walk more.  
Improve my stamina.  
Get back into shape.

It's like pushing up through the frozen soil or -- if you're more of a reader than a gardener -- it's like trying to write a novel, one keystroke at a time.

I finish off the week with a quiche of spring flavors.  Fresh herbs?  A trip to France?

A quiche with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella.
It's like a garden + library in one!

Happy Spring -- and Happy "St. Patti's" Day (as we say in our family)!

May your garden be healthy.
May your library be open and full.
May you have everything you need.

And may you walk safely -- even on the windiest of days!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Art Walk

Walk 2 blocks.

That's what we did.

We simply walked east instead of west, as we usually do.

Of course, like always, it's not quite as simple as it sounds.  To venture off the beaten path -- to walk those 2 blocks east -- involves a downhill slope, a kind of shadowy underpass, and a stretch of sidewalk that's a bit more isolated than I like.

An underpass with a botanical mural along the wall, featuring a white flower in the center surrounded by large green leaves.
The city has tried to make it more palatable.
(And safer!)

Technically it's well-lit and filled with car traffic, but for an above-knee amputee like me, walking down here alone still feels vulnerable.  I'm more comfortable sticking to my usual route around the neighborhood.

Everything's easier with a friend though.  (Thanks walking buddy, Jasmine!)

Before we know it, we emerge onto the sidewalk along the Delaware River.  

A sculpture of metallic spheres against the blue sky.  Jasmine and I are mirrored (very tiny) in each sphere.
Can you see us??

There, we're embraced by all kinds of ART!

A colorful mural called "Trends of Change" which features a rainbow of colors, banners, and sayings about changes Philadelphians want to see.  A few include "Acceptance of everyone," "No guns," "Less homelessness," and "More listening."
I'm especially taken with this piece by
Becky McIntyre  -- and the Philly community!

Cherry Street Pier is a century-old industrial pier that juts out into the river.

It's been rehabbed into a public art space with studios and workshops,

The back wall of a deep industrial space, on which is a yellow and orange painting of a man and woman locked in embrace.
 rotating exhibits
like this one by Athena Astraea,

A stark industrial pier, that has a tower halfway down, painted with a colorful abstract mural.
and murals by local artists.

The bottom of a bench which is painted with an eye, a heart, and the word YOUS.
Philly style --
"Yous" know what I mean :)

I've been to events here before, but it's my first time wandering around for no reason at all.

On this Sunday afternoon, it's quiet and open -- an array of colors, metal, and glass.   Art is EVERYWHERE.

The roof of an old stone pier, which is open with metal beams criss-crossing in front of a cloud-filled blue sky.
It's in the structure and shapes,
the well-worn stone, 
and the deep cerulean sky.

I recently read this quote by author Gretchen Rubin:

We can walk into any room and call it a museum.

I couldn't agree more, but I'd take it one step further...

We can walk out of any room too.

To sidewalks
and waterfronts
and cityscapes
and community spaces.

A close up of a light post, with a sticker that reads "You are not alone."
You never know what you'll find.

About a year into the pandemic, I wrote a post called Walk Until Your Day Becomes Interesting, inspired by one of my favorite travel writers, Rolf Potts.

Back then, I was trying to conjure up a new adventure.  And though I never quite reached the goal I set out for in that particular post, I still love -- and live by -- this philosophy.

Walks are interesting.  Exploration can be its own reward.   

Go ahead.  Walk 2 blocks.  

You don't have to wander far.  (I rarely do!)

Just keep your eyes...or ears...or mind... open to whatever you find.

Me, arms extended, standing in front of a heart on a stone wall that says "You made it."
And then, stop and enjoy the view!

(Jodie, I thought of you a thousand times on this walk!  Can't wait till we can walk together. xo)

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Happy 13th Riley!

If you want to measure time and distance, just watch a child grow up.

In November 2010, when my sister Sam got the call that I'd been critically injured in an accident, she plopped my then 8-month-old niece, Riley, into a car seat and embarked on an unplanned 400-mile road trip from Vermont to Philly.  

In the months that followed, they retraced that trip together many times.  

Riley became quite the seasoned traveler.  She even sneaked into the hospital to keep my spirits up.

My sister Sam holding Riley by my hospital bed.  I'm sitting up smiling.

Back then, she was nowhere near the minimum visitor age of 13.  

My sister holding baby Riley in front of a sign that says visitors must be 13 or older.  Below, my brother wrote a caption "Breaking the law."
What a rebel!

As I made progress, we wondered who'd walk first -- me or Riley.

I'm holding 15 month old Riley's hand, walking along the sidewalk with my prosthetic.
At Mile 15, it was too close to call.

Riley grew up with me as an amputee.  

She was perceptive.  No one had to tell her.  She just figured it out on her own.

In preschool, her class learned about the human body.  You know how that lesson goes...

Everyone has two eyes,
two ears,
two arms,
two hands...

But when the teacher got to the part about "two legs," Riley piped up.

"Not everyone has two legs," she announced.  "My aunt only has one."

The teacher was a bit embarrassed.  

Me and 3 year old Riley, standing in a parking lot, wearing matching bicycle dresses.
I was thrilled. :)

Today is Riley's birthday.  She's 13!

She is smart and sarcastic and all the things a brand new teenager should be.

She plays basketball.  Wears makeup.  Loves hanging out with her friends.  

Shopping is her favorite pastime.  (She gets that part from me!)

At 13, Riley is way cooler than I ever was.

A selfie of me and my niece, using a mustache filter from Snapchat.
And I'm just fine with that!

We've crossed a lot of time and distance together. 

I don't think about it everyday.  Usually I'm just her aunt.  And she's my niece.  But once in a while -- on milestone days like today -- I stop and take a look around.

Watching Riley grow up has been like a measuring stick for my own journey.

It's amazing to look back at where we've been.  

But it's even more fun to look ahead -- and imagine where we might go.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Steppin' Out -- NYC

To seek renewal, maybe you'd go to the spa.

A view of a busy NY sidewalk from under scaffolding, with lights from the buildings including Radio City Music Hall ahead.
I'm in New York City!

Really, this is better than a massage table, where I'd be lying with my eyes closed, dwelling on health issues and uncertainties, and all the things I should be doing (but can't quite manage) to keep pace with "normal" life.  

Better to be stepping out here -- onto this crazy-busy sidewalk -- nearly galloping to keep pace with my good friend Elaine, who's surprisingly city-wise for someone from Idaho!

We dodge traffic and people,
step on and off curbs, 
and in and out of elevators.

We catch the lights
as we catch up on conversation.

It's invigorating
and exciting
and exhilarating
and exhausting (in all the best ways!).

The Museum of Modern Art, with a rainbow painting hanging on a white wall, people in bright colors scattered below, and a stairwell above, with a single woman ascending.

At MoMA, we hunt down the original Starry Night.

My friend Elaine, smiling with excitement, next to the painting of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

At Chelsea Market, we stalk an Israeli food stand till it opens.

Me, sitting at a wooden table, holding a coffee cup, with an Israeli food spread (pita, cauliflower) in front of me.

At the Strand, we get lost in the stacks.

A selfie of me and Elaine, smiling, outside the red awning of Strand Bookstore.

Then, on the way back to the train station, we stumble onto this spot...

A patch of sidewalk that says in chalk, "Screaming Spot."
...Oh YES, we do!

New York City is only 2 hours from Philly.  

But for me, it doesn't feel like an easy journey.  It's been years since I've traveled anywhere, especially on my own.

The night before, I reduce what I'll have to carry -- discarding extra clothes in favor of crutches and emergency items for any "body breakdown" I can imagine.  (And then, in imagining those breakdowns, I almost cancel the trip!)

On the way there, I obsess about sitting on metal benches at the train station and climbing in and out of cabs, obstacles that can disrupt even the best of leg days.

A selfie of me, wearing a mask, looking anxious on a metal bench at the Hamilton NJ train station.
With the weight of worry,
it's a wonder I go anywhere at all!

But when I finally meet up with Elaine, those concerns fade into the backdrop of city noise.

Elaine keeps me in the moment.  She approaches challenge with curiosity.  She takes travel adventures (and mishaps!) in stride.  We've known each other a long time, and it's just so FUN to be together again.

I can't keep this pace forever, but for 24 hours, it's worth a try!

At the Strand, we both find books that call to us.

For me, it's a book of photography by Vivienne Gucwa, a NYC resident who, back in 2009, began walking the city as a way to deal with stress, and along the way, found renewal through the lens of her camera.   

The bookcover of "NY through the Lens" above a bag from the Strand, sitting on my lap on the train.
On the train ride home, 
her words and images resonate with me.

This little trip helps me dust off some of my own "lenses" too -- ones I'd almost forgotten I had.

The harnessing of courage.  
The joy of taking risks.
The irreplaceable comfort of friendship.

A selfie of me and Elaine holding coffee cups with a funny cartoon "grumpy" face on the wall behind us.

And the pure, life-changing power of steppin' out.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Walking Day 2023

My leg feels heavy this morning.

It happens sometimes. We had a winter warm-up these last few days, so I switched from boots to lighter shoes.  This morning, the temp dips back to 39.

And I'm in boots again.

My legs and feet in blue jeans and boots with fur lining.
They're heavy!

For an amputee, a little thing like changing shoes can make or break your day.  

It's simple physics:  when you lift a long prosthesis with a short lever (a.k.a. 10-inch residual limb), any additional weight can be challenging.

I'm an "experienced walker" now, so I try to roll with it.

Today marks 12 years since I took my first steps on a prosthesis.  Woo-hoo!

Here's the video of those steps back in February 2011.  

I called it Walking Day.

I used to take baby steps.  But it's been 12 years, so I guess now I walk like a "tween."  (This would explain my leg's moodiness!)

Some days I walk easily, almost like my old self.  
Other days, I can't walk at all.  
Most days fall somewhere in between.

For all the advances in medicine and technology, walking is an inexact science that depends on a thousand factors... 

muscle strength and skin,
efficiency and energy,
comfort and pain,
prosthetic fit,
priceless "leg time."

Still, it's good to get out there.

Movement, no matter how slow, usually empowers me.  Fresh air, no matter how cold, usually resets my mind.  

I don't have to go far or fast.

A planter on someone's front step with green winter flowers and pinecones.
To notice small changes along the path.

A narrow alley of cobblestones with colonial houses and a patch of blue sky.
A glimpse of sky,
no matter how small,
helps put problems in perspective.

Walking (or not) has helped me process life as an amputee.  It gives me a frame on which to hang "good leg days" and not-so-good ones.  

Over time, I've tried to get comfortable in both spaces.

This morning I heard a quote by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.  He said it more than 40 years ago to describe the phenomenon of China's gradual growth and expansion:

Crossing the river by feeling the stones.

Today, these words capture my journey. 

You'd think by now I could cross that river in leaps and bounds, my eyes steadily fixed on the other side.

But really, I still feel each stone.

I lean into the walk -- each walk -- with all its weight and varied terrain.

Even now, after 12 years, learning as I go.  

Tall shadows of me and my mom along the sidewalk, side by side like twins, waving with opposite hands.
Happy Walking Day 2023!

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Ever have a moment when you look out the window and everything feels right in the world?

In this case, it's a car window.
In a CVS parking lot.
With a surprisingly good sky.

A late afternoon sky with the shining through clouds over a flat field with a few scattered tall trees.

Little known fact:  I often find good skies here.  

Another little known fact (or widely known if you live in the area):  That field below the sky?  It used to be densely forested land -- before an unexpected tornado swept through it in September 2021.

Maybe that's why the sky is so surprisingly good.

I learned a new word recently:  Gluggavedur

It's an Icelandic concept that translates to "window weather."  

Gluggavedur brings to mind cozy moments curled up by a warmly lit window, looking outside when you're grateful and happy to be inside.

I know, I know.  I'm sitting in a Prius.  In a parking lot.

Stay with me here.  

It's been a challenging couple of days.  My little leg's nerves are buzzing incessantly, and I've got a new skin irritation from the prosthetic socket.  Also, my digestive system seems to be on mid-winter break.  (These may or may not be related -- who really knows?)

Today, sitting is better than standing, so I've chosen to wait in the car while my mom runs into CVS pharmacy for a quick errand.  I've got a podcast playing on the radio and the seat heater is on.  It's not a bad gig.  

Plus, when I look out the window, there it is.  

That surprisingly good sky.


When I came home from the hospital 12+ years ago, my parents came to this CVS to pick up my many prescriptions.  

When I could finally get around again, I accompanied them on crutches.

Me, standing in the aisle of CVS, on crutches with one short leg and one long leg.
It was a big outing!

And later, when I started PT for prosthetic training, we came here again -- to this CVS -- to pick out a shiny brand new metallic blue cane.  

None of that is happening today.

No tornadoes.  
No medical emergencies.  
Nothing out of the ordinary at all.

Everything isn't right in the world.  Not even in my world.  I totally get that. 

And yet, in this one small moment...

Through this car window,
In this CVS parking lot,
With this surprisingly good sky,

It feels like everything is.

Nature, beauty, peace, gratitude.