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, May 21, 2023

The Slow Down

T-minus 2 months...

I'm planning a trip.  

A real trip. 

It wasn't an easy decision.  It's been in the works since late December, and I've been thinking about it since way before that.

(No details yet.  From my very first steps, I learned not to jinx future plans!)

But today -- May 21st -- departure is exactly 2 months away.

So I've been "in training."

Walking more steps.  (Or trying!)
Eating more foods in more places.

And in an effort and to get both feet in working order...

Yep - the dreaded shoe shopping!

But earlier this week, all that training hits a wall.

At first, it feels like a good day.  I'm walking comfortably, full of energy.  

I'm out on the sidewalk. 
I'm at work.
I'm headed to an appointment.  

But as the afternoon wears on, my stomach gets tight.

Note to self:  This is always a sign I should slow down.  

Note to you:  I ignore the sign.  

It's good training, I tell myself instead.  Keep going.

(I'm a hopeless optimist, in case you haven't figured that out yet.)

That "seat belt" feeling across my abdomen intensifies as the evening goes on.  We've been here before, so I'll spare you the details. 

By 9 PM, I'm doubled over with all the hallmarks of a bowel obstruction.  

By 10 PM, I text my brother and friends to be on alert for a possible midnight trip to the ER.

(Not quite the trip I was training for.)

Bit by bit... 
The symptoms subside.  

(Not quite peacefully, but at least manageably.) 

It leaves me drained.

I move through the rest of the week in slow motion, scaling back my training to the smallest tasks:

Make a to-do list while sitting on the balcony.
Test new shoes on the hardwood floor.
Do PT exercises on my bed.

It's productive in its own way, but my confidence has taken a hit.

How can I keep pace with travel when I can't even do it at home??

I've faced this question often in various forms.  

As much as I try to evade the "slow down," it seems to be an inevitable part of the process.

It's frustrating.  But it's part of who I am.

Yet another part of me (that hopelessly optimistic part!) craves a bigger, wider, more energetic and adventurous life.  

I wish the answer were as clear as a countdown,
or walking an extra mile,
or finding the perfect pair of shoes.

But what if it's not about keeping pace at all?  

What if it's about... accepting it?

Accepting my pace -- with all its setbacks, and speed ups, and slow downs.

Accepting that uncertainty -- owning it -- even as I wish and work to make things different.

Now there's something to train for!

May 21 is a good day (so far).  

My feet and digestion are bouncing back.  It's early to judge, but I'm hopeful.

Plus it's a Sunday.  So there's time to go slow.

To mark the day, I pop into our local French bakery ICI for a "training treat."

T-minus 2 months...

...and counting.

Friday, May 12, 2023

A Better Place to Be

Newport, Rhode Island could be the set of a Hallmark movie.

From our table at the Corner Café, Natalie and I get a peek behind the scenes.

The interior of the Corner Café, a sunny restaurant with lots of windows, wood trim, hanging lamps, and wooden tables and chairs.

Just off camera:  Three middle school moms sneaking out early while their teens are still in bed.  A young bearded guy on a barstool.  A woman with 2 little girls in ribbons and party dresses.  And a wrinkle-clothed regular who shuffles out for a smoke while his breakfast is cooking. 

It's Sunday, 7:30 AM, and we're surrounded by locals.

What are their lives like here?  
Why are they out so early on a weekend? 

As we wait for our eggs, Nat and I write the script.  We imagine who they are, why they're here today -- and what brings them together at this little breakfast spot across from the local school.

It's fun.  Relaxing.  And I'm happy to be here among them.

Travel is tricky for me, especially in the mornings.  Which makes this moment -- the mug of coffee, the sticky jam, the thick multigrain toast -- an extra special treat. 

It's the end of our weekend in Newport and, like any good Hallmark movie, the town has pulled us in for a hug.

Last night we met a student from the yacht-building academy, who happened to be our waiter at Knot Norm's.

A wooden bowl with brightly colored pickled-veggies, over rice, with a huge serving of lobster and a lemon on top.
He introduced us to the "lobster bowl."
(Not roll!)

Before that, we met Lew, a science teacher from Northeast Philly, who has settled in Newport for his retirement.   

Natalie and I standing in the colonial-era synagogue with the "bima" and ark behind us.
He gave us a history lesson
at the 
Touro Synagogue!  

And because we're us, we also took ourselves on a tour of the library

Natalie is making herself comfortable in a reading chair by a window, pretending to read a book by Louise Erdrich.
It's the Redwood --
I'm sitting in the children's room of the Redwood Library, holding up two books I read as a kid: "A Wrinkle in Time" and "What's Happening to Me."
one of the oldest in the country!

In 2 short days, we've made ourselves at home here -- mansions and all.

I'm standing inside an opulent mansion, on an upstairs balcony, pretending I own the place (LOL).
I could get used to this. :)

And why not?

The air smells like seafood and campfires. 
Church bells chime on the hour.

Cars come to a stop at every crosswalk. 
And there's water anywhere we wander.  

We give up trying to figure out which waves are which...

Sunset on the water with sailboats on a dock in the foreground.
...and just enjoy the splash of sunset.

Days flow better here.  

Sunrise is 20 minutes earlier.  (Really!)

And red leaves abound, making spring feel like fall.  

A bright red leafed maple tree against a blue sky.
We call them "Newport Maples."

We can't get enough.  It's like a show we want to binge-watch, yet savor at the same time.

We shop at a local bookstore.  
Meet a local artist.  
Become regulars at the local coffee place.

I'm standing in Empire Coffee and Tea, holding a medium coffee to-go cup, first thing in the morning.
Where we sample the local drink, of course --
Natalie holding up a refrigerated bottle of Coffee Milk.
Coffee Milk!

We even learn what the local pineapple symbol means...

A selfie of Natalie and me, smiling, in front of the painting of a pineapple wearing sunglasses on a store sign.

Newport is not perfect -- or easy.   Nowhere is.  

Even with trekking poles, I can only manage a small portion of the Cliffwalk.  I get too hot too fast.  I nearly sweat out of my leg and die of thirst along the way. 

I'm standing on a paved path by a railing, with trekking poles in hand, looking hot and frazzled.  The water is behind me on one side, and grassland is on the other.
(Ok, exaggerating a bit...
but it's not my finest moment!)

That's just one example.  

I feel slow and "stumbly" a lot of the time.  Throughout the weekend, we stop so I can tend to leg adjustments and other physical needs.

In that way, it reminds me of a different road trip many miles ago -- back at Mile 21 -- my first time traveling after my amputation.  

Back then, I had the idea that if I just practiced enough, I'd somehow find my way to a better place -- to where I was before the accident.

My gait (and feelings) have evolved over time, but I still grapple with similar challenges.  

Now, I've realized, they're just part of the journey.

In an instant, we're back home, and that harbor breeze is just a memory.  

Philly turns hot and sticky. 
My right foot doesn't feel right.

And at 10 PM, the city launches a new construction project, sending a monsoon of dust and gravel into my beloved balcony garden.

I lie in bed and imagine moving to Newport.

I know, I know.  I'm sure reality would catch up with me there too.

Natalie and I standing on a grassy patch in front of blue water, with clouds above us.

Maybe Nat and I will put our heads together and write that screenplay.  Or maybe the Corner Café will be the setting for my next novel.

I like to think of our characters back there in Newport, still living their lives.  Kinda wish I could join them.

Who wouldn't want to step inside a Hallmark movie?

I'm standing on the edge of a dock, trying to "catch" the setting sun in my hands.
It's just a better place to be.

P.S.  Writing this postcard made me think of this song by Harry Chapin.  It's not about Rhode Island, but it's a sweet story - and one of my faves.  If you need an 8-minute vacation, give it a listen. :)  

The last light of sunset down a small town Newport street.
Happy travels!

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

News from the Balcony

-- Newsflash --

My "June-blooming strawberry" has a jumpstart on the season!

A close-up of a strawberry, just turning red, surrounded by a few that are still green, in a red flower box on a balcony rail with city buildings and sky in the background.

As a late-bloomer myself, I'm impressed I even planted it before June!

Squished into a flower box 4 inches wide, hanging 3 stories above the city street, I wasn't even sure it would survive.  

Add to that...
swinging spring temps, 
soggy soil, 
rain for days.

Yet against all odds, it's thriving.  And early!!

Maybe it's a sign -- Should I turn over a new leaf too?  Maybe I'll too be an "early bird" from now on!

(If you know me, you're probably laughing.)

Truth is, I exist in time differently.

This spring, I've been searching for my body's own rhythms.  

Trying to accept them. Work with them.
Move in harmony with the way things are.
And discover my own pace along the way.

So for now, I'll just bloom where I'm planted.  

Consider the sweetness to come.

And enjoy the view!

A selfie of me on the balcony at night.  I have my hood up and am holding a mug that looks like an owl.  Behind me is the red flower box, lit with twinkle lights against the dark sky..
Happy May!

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Taste is Travel

Café Tolia is the newest spot in our Philly neighborhood.  

It's spacious and warm with exposed brick and white-washed walls.  The owners are friendly and welcoming.  Elbe bakes the pastries.  (I'm not sure how.  She must get up at 2 AM!)  

The walls are covered with black and white photos, also by Elbe, of their family's travels and transitions through Europe.

I'm with my friend and walking buddy Mark.  We arrive just minutes after they open.

When we walk together, Mark always gets a cappuccino and I always get a coffee.  We always take them to go, and we always keep walking.   I always eat fruit and yogurt when I get home.

But today, Mark suggests trying a pastry.  We haven't planned for this, but I have to admit I'm curious.  

As if to convince me, Elbe emerges from the kitchen with a wooden platter of buns fresh from the oven.  

Turkish pastries, but with French and Mediterranean flavors.

Beautiful round buns sprinkled with sesame seeds on a large platter in front of a pot of lavender, with a croissant and pastry case in the background.
(Come on, you'd be tempted too!)

"They're savory, with lavender and herbs de Provence inside," she tells us, "and also some cheese and olives."

She had me at lavender.

But the thing is, I have certain routines, especially to start the day.  It's one way I manage my digestive issues.

Eating outside that comfort zone can feel, well... uncomfortable.

On the other hand, I've been working on my "flexibility muscles" for both mind and body.  

Why?  Being flexible is necessary for travel.

I want to travel.  
I love to travel.  
I want to love traveling!
(It's just uncomfortable sometimes.)

So I'm practicing...

I give into the buns.

As we unexpectedly take a seat -- instead of taking our coffees to go -- I relax into the pastry.  

Feel the butter on my fingertips. 
Taste the tangy olives, the subtle herbs. 
Watch crumbles of feta fall onto my plate.

Mark and I talk about how taste creates experience.  How it can define a place as much as, or more than, our other senses.

How taste and travel go together.

I tell him about a trip I took to Bordeaux in 2010, the summer before my accident.  

I was braver back then.  Fearlessly independent.  More flexible.  Less clingy to routines.

I biked everywhere.  Hiked everywhere.

A photo of me (before amputation) eating something at a French market.
Ate everything!

Each morning I set out to discover what the locals were eating for petit-dejeuner, and that's what I'd order too.

But even back then, I was just one person -- and a petite 90-pounder at that.  Although I wanted to taste everything, I just didn't have room to put it!  

One morning I sat in the window of a local café watching some teenagers seated outside.

As I savored my own chausson aux pommes, I observed their fantastic spread:

du jus d'orange
du chocolat chaud
du thé
du café
du gateau
des pains
du jambon
des fromages
des oeufs!

"It was all so spectacular," I tell Mark, "I recorded their entire meal in my journal!" 

When I get home, I search out that very page...

A page from my journal, covered in text -- both French and English
A second page, with a continued description of the teenager's food! turns out to be 2 pages!!

Thirteen years later, I can still taste that morning.  I still remember that meal like it was yesterday.

Maybe it's because of my own challenges that eating something new feels so special.

It's like freedom.  Like setting worry aside, just for the moment.  Like making room for uncertainty and welcoming it in.  

Mark and I finish our pastries.  And before I know it, I'm back home again.  

But taste is travel.  

And this morning's adventure made an old route feel new again.  

Like we left our neighborhood -- and ventured much, much further.

A photo of a café in Bordeaux called Le Chouquet's, with colorful tables outside and 4 teens seated at the one under the window.
Bordeaux 2010 :)

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Maintenance Required

At the end of a busy week, my car's maintenance light comes on.

Oh no!  Not now!  I don't have time for this!

Maybe you've experienced this yourself.  

Or maybe you sense some foreshadowing here.  Remember the Green Goblin

I had a strange symbiosis with my old car. Whenever it got a flat tire, it was a sure sign that my body was headed for a breakdown too.

But this week, that maintenance light takes me by surprise.  

After a pink-ish start, I was moving at a pretty good clip.  By Friday, I even caught up with friends Cécile and Mark for a délicieux déjeuner and petite promenade through the spring blooms of their neighborhood.

A selfie of me, David, Cécile, and Mark in a suburban yard with trees behind us.
And bonus, I met their friend David --
 who's been "walking" with me (via this blog) 
for quite a while!

It was a good week -- a good "normal" kind of busy.

When things are going well, I sometimes forget that traveling with a disability uses a bit more fuel. 

At times, it drains fast and unpredictably.  My body is more sensitive to weather and schedule changes, dehydration, and overuse.  Every activity has a cost attached.

So when I suddenly feel tired and overwhelmed (a.k.a my body's maintenance light comes on), I shouldn't be surprised. 

A plaque that says "Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting."
Yep, it's that.

Even a "normal" week requires careful curating -- and maintenance breaks.  

A photo of the exam table at the doctor's office with all my prosthetic gear strewn about.
It's a skill I'm still working on. 

I want to do everything, but I have to give my body what it needs.  Refuel it with short pauses.  

It's frustrating sometimes, but I try to think of them as small doses of self-care.  

It might mean canceling plans.  
Or prioritizing.  
Or scaling back a day to its most essential parts.
It might mean taking a breather -- like lying down to do my PT exercises.

The sunlit city sidewalk, with the sun bursting through the leaves of a tree.
Or feeling the sun on my face
first thing in the morning.

My 2 feet (prosthetic and real) on a stone path between two bushes of white flowers.
Or stopping to smell the flowers -- literally!

Or taking time out to write a "postcard" for this blog.  (Because that's refilling too.)

The challenge, like always, is finding a balance I can maintain.

I drive a different car now.  A hybrid. 

It's small and cute and gets about a thousand miles to the gallon.  (Kidding, of course -- but it goes pretty far on a single tank of gas!)

I wish my body had the same endurance...

As an amputee I'm grateful to be able to drive.  I depend on my car much more than I did when I had 2 legs. 

But that also means paying attention when the maintenance light comes on.  

Even if life is busy.  
Even if it's inconvenient.  
Even if it's just an oil change.
(which I hope it is!)

I know people say there's a time for everything.

I just haven't found it yet. :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


This day needs a reboot, and it's only 6 AM.

I work harder to get into my prosthesis.

I stamp the foot, pressing down as hard as I can.  Shift my weight onto the right side.  Then back again to the left.  I do this over and over (and over and over and over) again.  

10 times...
12 times...
24 times...

Today, even more times....

It's a workout.

You'd laugh if you watched.  It's like a clumsy Irish dance.  Or an elephant stamping out a herd of ants.

"My downstairs neighbors love it," I sometimes joke. "Especially early in the morning."  

But today I don't feel like laughing.  Today it's just exhausting.

My abdomen isn't great either.  Digestive issues woke me throughout the night, and now it feels like there's a rock ricocheting around my belly as I jump up and down.  

And then... my phone tings on the nightstand.  A text.

Come on.  This early??

It feels like the whole world has its act together, and I've already fallen behind.

From my very first miles as an amputee, I learned it was better to step out than to stay in.  So I grab my jacket and coffee cup, and close the door behind me.

It's a small victory.

Halfway down the street, I run into Donna.  (Actually she's the runner, so she runs into me.)  

I greet her with a litany of complaints about the day so far. 

But by the time we round the next corner, the conversation changes course.

The sun throws shadows down Market Street, and Donna tells me about a new pizza place she and Mike tried.  They got pepperoni.  With a coupon.  Win-win.

Our chat jumps around as much as I jumped around to get my leg on.

We steer clear of sidewalk hazards.  Stop for coffee.  

And eventually, we end up here...

A sidewalk and grassy patch covered in fallen pink blossoms and a tree above filled with them. the pink!

As we pause with wonder underneath, something inside me shifts ever so slightly.

Maybe it's that color pink -- a mix of pale and hot -- which I always envisioned as my "power color" when I climbed.

Or maybe it's the parallel between my body and nature.  (Nothing's permanent... this too shall pass!)

Or maybe it's the vibe that comes from running into a friend on a morning when you need one.

Donna standing on the path under the pink tree. She's facing away from me, but turning to look back.
Yes, yes, it's definitely that :)

Or maybe it's just getting out of the house -- and out of my head!

I don't understand it anymore than I understand why my leg and my abdomen picked this particular morning to act up at the same time.  Oh well.

Whatever it is -- like other signs from other morning walks -- those blossoms shout out a message to me.

When life gives you a reboot, run with it.  

Or in my case...

A selfie of me holding up a pink-trimmed coffee cup under a tree of pink blossoms.  I'm smiling.
walk with it!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

To Market, To Market...

These peppers deserve their own postcard!

A jar of roasted red peppers, held in my hand in my kitchen at home.  It says "Ventia, Sicilian-style peperonata."

On an unexpected early morning, I spot them in the crowded aisle of a little Italian grocery shop called Claudio.  

"Claudio's" (as the locals say) is at the northern end of South Philly's Italian Market.  It's across from Gleaner's Café, a longtime favorite coffee stop.

After coffee, Ellen wants to pop inside for "one thing."

(It's been years since I've been in Claudio's.  So... why not?)

What starts out as a quick errand turns into a full-fledged field trip.

Me standing in Claudio's next to a cheese, suspended from the ceiling,  that's as tall as I am.
Don't you just love when that happens??

See, peppers aren't really the point of this postcard -- MARKETS are!

In the years of the pandemic and not traveling, I forgot the way a local market can be a travel adventure in itself.

When we step inside, all those memories come rushing back.

Take Copenhagen -- my last trip before the world shut down.

Natalie and I arrived in Copenhagen in the evening dusk.  Granted, sunset was at 3:45 PM, but after an overnight flight, a connection in London, a train from the airport, and dragging our luggage along the drizzly sidewalk, we were too exhausted to search for a restaurant. 

Instead, we were lured by the fluorescent lights of our neighborhood Lidl...

Smoked salmon!  
Dark rye!  
Local yogurt!
Bars of chocolate!  

Our eyes widened.  

Every shelf was exciting!  
Seeing Danish shoppers was exciting!  
Counting our kroner at check-out was exciting!

A selfie of Natalie and me under the Lidl sign in Copenhagen. The sky is dark and the sign is lit in blue and yellow.
"The Lidl" became our regular stop
on the way home each night!

If you have mobility or health issues like I do, local markets SCORE BIG.  They're a relief  -- and a necessity -- when traveling.

They offer flat terrain,
climate control (sometimes), 
and a welcome reprieve from heavy restaurant food.

Marla and me outside of a cafe in Austria with a plate of pastries in front of us.
One can't subsist on pastries alone --
or at least I can't!

In Austria, where "Gluten" Morgen was a daily greeting, Marla and I (and my tender digestive system) took refuge in local shops where we could pick up fresh fruit, salads...

Me standing in front of a bulk food bin at an all-natural food store in Innsbruck, Austria
...and my personal fave,
homemade Austrian muesli!

And in Nice, on my very first trip overseas as an amputee, Mary and I discovered the famous and colorful outdoor market, Cours Saleya.  

A vegetable stall at the Cours Saleya, with a black and white striped awning overhead and wicker bistro chairs stacked in the background.
A perfect place for early morning walks!

Our dining table at our Airbnb, with plates of fresh fruits, salad, veggies, and cheeses from the market.
Shopping à la francaise (aka "French style")
was even better than eating out!

Our food vocabulary blossomed.  We progressed from pointing and pantomiming to actually talking our way through transactions.  

A cheese vendor in the Cours Saleya, with a striped awning overhead, and Mary (from the back) ordering cheese at the counter.
By the end of the week, we even asked a fromagière
to wrap cheese for our airline trip home!

Today's stop at Claudio's reminds me how a market is a glimpse into local life -- wherever you are.  

We stand in line behind a South Philly dad.

He orders fresh mozzarella balls,
a log of soppressata longer than my forearm, 
and a super-sized container of marinated octopus, complete with suckers.  

His wife and kids stand patiently beside him cradling bags of hand-shaped pasta.  

As they reach the check-out counter, his daughter points to a four-pack of fancy Italian lemon spritzers.  She looks hopefully at her dad.  

He nods.  And she adds it to their purchase.

"I'd like to go to his house for dinner," Ellen whispers.

By the time we step outside, it's like we just returned from Italy...

a selfie of Ellen and me standing outside under the Claudio sign
via South Philly!

No plane fare, packing, or planning.  Just minutes from home.

My souvenir -- a $6.99 jar of Sicilian-style roasted peppers with pine nuts and golden raisins. :)

Pretty good bang for the buck.

Shop on!

Happy travels,

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!