How do we move forward?

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.

I was critically injured in the accident. A team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my left leg. I had a long road ahead of me, physically and emotionally, yet I was grateful to be alive.

An ending can be a beginning too. I started over.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Gradually I learned to walk again. So I began counting steps. Then miles.

Over time, that journey turned a corner. It became less about my own recovery and more about resilience -- the connection we all share.

Ten years later, I still take one step at a time. Yes, there are bumps in the road, but each step means rising to new challenges, adapting to change, and moving forward with hope.

Are you on your own journey?


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hyvaa Joulua

Mile Marker 1490:

"Hyvaa Joulua, everyone!  Hyvaa Joulua!"

My workout pal Greg, in a Scandinavian sweater and red felt hat, looks downright Finnish.  Today he is the Mayor of Turku, reading the Declaration of Christmas Peace.

A sea of townspeople -- therapists, judges, and patients -- all wearing red, respond enthusiastically, "Hyvaa Joulua!"  Merry Christmas!

Of course, we have no idea if we’re pronouncing it correctly.  But today in the rehab gym anything goes.  What happens in Finland stays in Finland!

Each year, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital has a holiday decorating contest in which the campuses and floors compete against each other.  This year’s theme is “Holidays around the World.”  At the Riverfront Center, my rehab gym, we've adopted Finland.

Ignore the linoleum floors and exercise gear.  Turn on your imagination.  You're on a winter street in a charming Finnish town, walking among wooden street signs and drifting snow. 

with her less famous
therapy dog  :)
The hallways are lined with silhouettes of reindeer.  The therapists serve plates of sweet bread.  PT Colleen illuminates the room as St. Lucia.

There's even a makeshift sauna.  Mischievous elves add cold spray to a tank of heating pads, and the room fills up with a thick cloud of steam!

Elves know all the tricks!

In the Locomotor Training room, there’s a life-size cottage.

And the Day Therapy room becomes a busy toy workshop.

Every Finnish kid knows
Santa lives in the mountains of Lapland

But the best part of this year's festivities  -- in my opinion -- happens in the Wellness Center.  

At one end of the room, my work-out buddies are ice fishing.
At the other end, Trainer Ian has taped off a hockey rink, complete with blue lines, face-off circles, and goals.

  Go Team Finland!!

PT Jeff and I lace up our skates for a shoot-out

Even Santa takes a shot.

it's not me!

One of us wipes out....

For someone who doesn't really celebrate Christmas, I get way into the spirit.

I love wearing skates.  I love hanging with my team.  

And I love saying Hyvaa Joulua.  Even if I'm mispronouncing it!

When we were kids, my parents wrapped Hanukkah gifts late into the night, carefully numbering them for nights 1-8.  They stacked them into a huge pile in the corner of the living room.  We lit the candles and sang prayers with GUSTO.  We chipped away at that pile of presents one night at a time!

But unlike Christmas, Hanukkah is a moving target.  Businesses don't close.  Schools don't let out.  As we got older, our traditions faded behind busy work schedules and cross-country distances.   We still celebrated, but we had to be flexible and creative about it.

Today our tradition is a lot less... well, traditional.  

In early February, as football season wraps up, you'll find our family gathering for our annual HANUKKAH-SUPERBOWL PARTY.

Gifts are the halftime show.

Halftime snacks, anyone?
As far as I can tell, it's a one-of-a-kind event.  But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense: cheaper airline tickets, post-holiday sales, and much better food.  Who says burgers and latkes don't go together?

Over the years, we realized that it's not when, or even what you celebrate that matters.  It's HOW.  It's about pushing limits and innovation until you find a way for everyone to participate.  

No one understands this better than the therapists, staff, and patients at Magee!

So I hope this holiday season fills you with...
the PEACE of a Finnish sauna, 
the HAPPINESS of a miniature ice rink, 
the COMMUNITY of friends and family,
the EXCITEMENT of Superbowl Sunday,

and the MAGIC of resilience!

Hyvaa Joulua, everybody!  
However you choose to celebrate!

(Thanks to "Hockey Jim" for the early Xmas gift -- a hockey stick cut down to my size!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow Daze

Mile Marker 1460 (Snowstorm #1):

When the first flakes come tumbling down, I look up.

But what I see isn't the gray sky; it's a concrete wall spotted with rocks and tape.  I'm at the climbing gym, learning to belay.

It may be cold outside, but here at Go Vertical, things are HEATING UP  -- which might explain why half a foot of snow piles up before I even notice!

Through the fogged-up glass doors, I see my brother Mark drive up.  I wish he could get out and help me walk to the car, but there's nowhere to park.  So he idles in the street, engine running, waiting for me.  I cautiously step out into the new white blanket.

Gripping the metal railing, I descend 4 stairs from the gym to the sidewalk.  Then, I've got no choice but to let go.

One small step at a time, I insert each foot into the snow.  Nervously, I put gentle weight on my Genium.  But the fresh powder gives unexpected traction.  It isn't nearly slippery as I feared!

In fact, the drive home turns out to be much worse!  The roads are terrible, traffic is crawling, and we skid at nearly every stoplight.

But the whole way, I'm warmed by a strange new energy --  I'd rather be WALKING in the snow!

Mile Marker 1461 (Snowstorm #2):

"This is great guys!  Isn't this great?!"   I call out.

Ian and Dave trudge ahead of me.  With each step, their footprints fill up like little ponds.

It is Storm #2 -- two days later -- and the snow is TWICE as wet.

Luckily when I arrived at the rehab gym, I caught Trainer Ian heading out to lunch.

"Can I walk with you?" I asked excitedly.  "I want to practice walking in the snow!"

"Of course," he said.  Ian is always up for a challenge.  (Just last week, he taught me T.O.'s touchdown dance, but that's another story....)

My usual workout goes on hold, and we set out on the 2-block journey to Wawa.  Dave, a co-worker, catches up with us.  He's getting lunch, too.

In hiking boots, I follow Ian and Dave as they step off curbs into slush-filled puddles.  In soccer and boat shoes, they're not quite as enthralled with the weather as I am.

I step into snow banks as deep as my ankle.  I practice sliding down curb cuts, holding the sleeve of Ian's coat.  With Ian and Dave along, I'm not afraid to take chances.  If I happen to fall, we'd just laugh anyway.  It'd be nothing like falling alone.

The cold, moist air smells like an ice skating rink.  I breathe it in deep.  Slippery or not, this is FREEDOM.

In the last storm, I learned the rule:  Where there's snow, there's traction.  On this walk, I add a corollary:  Where there's slush, there's slippage.
... wet floors!
When we arrive at Wawa, a sign warns me of the worst danger of all...

Ian and Dave order their sandwiches.  I'm tempted to celebrate with the season's newest beverage -- peppermint hot chocolate -- but I hold off.  Really, I haven't even worked out yet!

On the way back, the guys are anxious to dry out their shoes and eat their lunches before they have to return to work.  But they're also excellent sports.  They stand by patiently while I try big steps and small steps, spot the tracks of a baby bird, and bury my boots in yet another pile of snow.

They even pose for a selfie  :)

By the time we reach the rehab parking lot, there's only one thing left to do...

The wind-up...
...Direct hit!

First snowball in 3 years -- and I'm just WARMING UP!

Mile Marker 1471 (Snowstorm #3):

When the third snowstorm hits, I don't set foot outside.  (In fact, I don't even put on my shoes!)

My upstairs neighbors and I gather for the biggest cookie event of the season...


Six friends.  Two ovens.  A ridiculous number of ingredients.

Nine hours of measuring and stirring and rolling.

TEN amazingly different cookies!

Donna sets up an ingredient station, a work station, and a cooling station.  She somehow keeps the sink from piling up with dishes.  And through it all, she bakes chocolate chip walnut, chocolate chip peanut butter, and chocolate mint chip cookies.

Rupesh bakes 4 huge loaves of almond biscotti.

Jasmine bakes thumbprint cookies with four kinds of jam.  Then she stirs up pecan tassies, which look and taste like mini-pecan pies.

Helen goes hi-tech with online recipes for gingerbread and sugar cookies.

I try 2 recipes I picked up in France:  palmiers aux noisettes and alumettes aux fromage.  (Anything French reminds me of summer!)  Then I add some oatmeal heath bar cookies for good measure.

Ready for a true apocalypse!

We even have a coffee bar, thanks to Mike, our official "taster."

Little Sahil is a big help, too.  And why not?  He loves cookies!

Mark stops by for a taste

Apparently the aroma reaches all the way to Northern Liberties!

When the flakes settle, Snowstorm #3 produces nearly A THOUSAND COOKIES.

And what's more?  Walking from apartment to apartment, from bowl to oven, I log more than TWO MILES -- in socks!

Go team!
In case you can't tell, there's not an Angry Cookie in the house.

Three snowstorms in one week??  Whew!

Philly's in a SNOW DAZE, all right.

Summer may be miles away, but with the right mixture of friends, flakes, and footprints to follow, there are lots of ways to keep WARM!

Sunday, December 8, 2013


 Winter is definitely here.  Today, they predicted 1/2 inch of snow after 4 p.m.  We got 6 inches before lunchtime.

All the more reason to GO GREEN.

Mile Marker 1453:

I am on the floor, glittering the edges of pine-cones from my parents' sidewalk.

In white ceramic flowerpots, I plant 2 Christmas Cacti rich with red blooms.   Next, I burrow two more reddish-green leafy stems -- clippings donated by friends Ruth and Asa.  I don't know what they're called, but they go great with the arrangement!

Then there are the chalkboard pots -- sent all the way from Florida by my sister's in-laws, Consuelo and Alan.  I place an assortment of spider plants inside them, green and white like spearmint gum.  But the real decision becomes what to write on the outside.   Here's what I come up with:

A message for the season...
Jen, Mary, and Mom
helped with the installation!

I started the Healing Garden at Jefferson Hospital in May this year to celebrate the completion of Mile Marker 1000.   I wanted a way to give back to the hospital.  To thank the people who nurtured me for so long.

If you've ever been in the hospital, or have had a loved one there, you know how the days blend into each other.  How -- between those walls -- the weekends, and holidays, and even winter storms lose their meaning.  I thought a garden would give the families there a place for peace and healing during their own tough times.

Since the garden's first planting, I return to Jefferson every few days to pour water -- and heart -- into it.   I clip dead leaves and neaten the soil.   I make friends with Crystal and Tanya, and the many volunteers in the waiting area.

Sometimes, while I'm watering, people tell me their stories.  Sometimes I tell them mine.

The fairy garden gets
a dusting of snow!
When the seasons change, I redecorate with new plants and a new theme.  Friend (and former nurse) Deb helps me find patients who need cheering up.  We use the extra plants to brighten their hospital rooms.

On the surface, the Healing Garden is just a tiny counter space in the Surgical Waiting Room.   But really, it's a place that keeps growing -- an ongoing harvest.

A little green goes a long way!

The Healing Garden's new winter look :)

Mile Marker 1459:  

Two days after I set up the winter garden at Jefferson, my friend Jen and I are wandering the green aisles of Home Depot.

We love it, but
we can't lift it!
This one’s too big, that one’s too small; this one’s too skinny, that one’s too heavy…. This is unfamiliar territory for me and my Genium.  Who knew Christmas Tree shopping could be so complicated??

I trail along behind Jen, stepping over power cords and dodging fallen branches.  I'm a novice tree shopper, but I notice the trees are arranged by height.  I notice three different types of Firs:  Douglas, Balsam, and Fraser.   I notice how NICE everyone is.

Finally, Jen and I find the one we’re looking for.  She's forest green and nearly 6 feet tall.  Sturdy and full, with a dense coat of needles.  She smells like the woods.

We name her Queen La-Tree-fah!

Jen hauls our treasure to the check-out area.  I'm great at snapping photos, but not much help with carrying!

A guy named Neal lifts our tree onto a long table.  He saws off the bottom of her stump.  (Ouch!  Hate that word...)  I wince, and watch as he feeds her through a wide red tube that looks something like a holiday-colored MRI machine.

She comes out dressed in orange plastic netting.  Neal asks us if we’d like twine to tie her to the roof of our car.

“Yes,” we answer.  "And someone to do the tying for us, please!"

We get our wish.  Neal signals to a buddy who joins us on the freezing sidewalk outside.   Jen and I shove our hands in our pockets while this guy secures the tree to the roof.  He winds the twine like ribbon on a present.

I’m amazed at this whole production, as streamlined as Santa’s workshop.  Choosing, buying, and tying down a Christmas tree are foreign concepts to me.  But Hanukkah passed by in a flurry this year, and it's good to share Jen's celebration.  

Besides, I'm into GREEN.

With Queen La-Tree-fah on the roof, we hit up Wawa for some celebratory peppermint hot chocolate.

When we get home, Jen lugs the Queen up the steep cement stairs.  I play the part of cheerleader and door holder.  Inside, we set her firmly in the tree stand.  She waits patiently while we unwrap 2 boxes of ornaments.  

Finally, we free her branches from the net, and adorn her with lights and snowflakes, nutcrackers and sparkles.  By the time we're finished, the house smells like a forest and feels warm like the holidays.

I'm in love with winter's newest trend in greenery!

Ok, so winter really is here.

Gone are the days of snow shoveling and scraping ice off the car... for me, anyway.  But I can live with that.  This year, I'm armed with an indoor parking space and a winter agenda that'll keep me active and dry.

Yet as the forecast turns to WHITE, I know I'll keep turning to GREEN.  After all, it's the color of nature.  It reminds us that spring's just around the corner.

And it definitely beats the winter BLUES!

What's on your winter agenda??
To see my "Winter Warm-Up" planclick here.