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?

WALK WITH ME.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Robot Mom

Mile Marker 6,100:

Yep, that's me.

A lot has happened since my last blog post.

On an unsuspecting Monday at the end of November, I got a phone call.  And 90 minutes later, I became a mom.Specifically, a foster mom.

That was Mile 5,708.

For nearly 4 months and 400 miles, I've been debating how to write this post.  How to find the time to write it, of course.  But also how to share one of the most intimate (and mile-worthy) experiences of my life in a way that maintains the privacy of an 8-year-old girl.  A child who never asked to be part of this journey.

No small feat (or feet!) for a Robot Mom.


She is small but strong.  Her khakis have been shortened with scissors, her bangs are overgrown, and her eyebrows don't yet reach the desktop in the school office.

"It's my first foster mom with a robot leg!" she announces loudly, and proudly, to the school secretary.

"It's true," I add.  She has a reputation for telling stories, so I make it clear this isn't one of them.

We've gotten up, dressed, and out of the apartment.  We've even located her school, which was unexpectedly 9 blocks away from the address I'd received.  And now we're in the office, updating her emergency contact forms.  8 AM and all is well.

We have known each other for 18 hours.



In the next 40 miles, leg talk turns to Legos.  Homework gets done.  Chicken nuggets sizzle in the toaster oven.  Disney lyrics lodge in my brain.

A hundred miles later, we celebrate Christmas together.  Then Valentine's Day.  Then St. Patty's Day.

Along the way, we take walks.  In the mornings, I get coffee and she gets a banana.  In the evenings, we stop for pizza.

She meets my family and friends, awarding nicknames to those she loves best.  My dad is "Pops."  Uncle Mark is "Funcle." (Get it?  Fun + Uncle!)   Neighbors Donna and Mike are "Peaches and Manny," Jasmine is "JJ," and Jen is "Sparkle."

Over time I become "Mom."

And she even chooses the perfect nickname for herself: "Rainbow."

(This makes blogging easier!)

After the first few miles, the novelty of a robot leg wears off.  Rainbow grows accustomed to the thump of my Genium when I kneel to lace her high-tops.  At night, she sleeps through the clicking of my crutches on the hardwood floor.  At the rock gym, she barely blinks when I screw on my climbing leg.  I admire her ability to adapt, not only to a new mom, but to a Robot Mom at that.

As for me, the miles carry small accomplishments.  Like stepping across a carpet littered with Barbies or changing the sheets on her bunk bed.  (Putting sheets on a bunk bed could be a blog post all its own!)

There are times I feel inadequate, though.  Like when my knee collapsed as she jumped into my arms, pulling us both to the floor with her enthusiasm and weight.  Or on a snow day when I'm not steady enough to take her outside to play.

We built a "day after" snowman instead!

I'm not the first amputee to be a parent or even a single parent.  It's just the first time for me.  And I'm learning as I go.  For all the demands of motherhood (temporary or not), amputee rules still apply:

Safety first.
Plan ahead.
Pacing is everything.
Hope for good leg days.


At Mile 5,971, I get a new prosthetic socket.

The inner liner is made of a material called SiOCX.  It's softer, with customized padding on pressure spots, allowing for an easier break-in period.


Good thing.

Because in the life of a Robot Mom, a new socket is a minor event.

Rainbow wants to walk to the toy store, "Pleeeeaazzze!"  She's earned 10 stickers for sleeping through the night and has saved up a pocketful of quarters from making her bed.  An errand of this importance should not be left up to socket design.  Even a second grader knows that.

I wear my leg for 16 hours each day, and fall into bed exhausted each night.  By 9 PM, I am not sure I can do this again tomorrow.  But the next morning, when my alarm goes off at 5:15, I do it anyway.

Getting out of bed is anything but robotic.


My goal as a writer has always been to share the story honestly.   Yet I worried about how to share this part of it, balancing the openness it deserves with the confidentiality it demands.

And then I realized, it's not about her.  (Although everything else is!)  This post is about me.

It's about accepting this next chapter -- and all its ups and downs -- with love, grit, and maybe even grace.  Do we ever do anything perfectly?  Do we ever know if we made the right choices?  Can we ever predict what the next few miles will hold?


On a recent Sunday afternoon, Rainbow perches on a dining room chair.  She's barefoot, in pink patterned leggings and a shirt that doesn't match.  Pencil and notepad in hand, she's composing a newscast.


When she has a full page of notes, she calls me over.  An aspiring YouTuber, she wants to make a video.  So I cue up my phone.  She sits, prim and proper, at the table and begins reporting the day's news.

"It is raining today," she starts.  "It is not good to go for a walk."

No argument there.

She pauses authentically, makes eye contact with the camera.  Or maybe with me.   Then, in her best newscaster voice, she presents the next story.

"My mom likes to write." 

It comes out of nowhere and takes me by surprise.  Partly because it's an unlikely segue from the weather, but mostly because she is eerily perceptive.

In our time together, she has never seen me write more than a shopping list or a note to her teacher.  So why include this in her newscast?  Why now?

Maybe it's just a coincidence.  She knows how to spell "mom," and "write" is a word from last week's spelling list.

Or maybe it's a sign.

I've spent the last 400 miles trying to be a good mom.   Maybe she knows me better than I think.

Rainbow and Robot Mom.

I'm not sure how long we'll be together, but I know there will be more adventures ahead!

20 comments:

  1. Filled with an amazing amount of love and affection from the moment we met. One of my most favorite peoples, you are extraordinary (how's that for a new vocabulary word?!). You are loved Rainbow & RM. XO...sparkle

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    1. Sparkle, Thanks for being there for both of us these past few months! We love ya! xoxo... R & RM

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  2. Amazing Grace....that’s you for sure.......that is who you are.

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    1. It's a lofty goal, as most days are more clumsy than graceful!! Thanks for your never-ending encouragement, Becca!

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  3. I recently wondered if I had been missing your posts, since I hadn't seen them in months. I can't tell you how happy this makes me! It sounds like two are having an (exhausting) blast together. I hope it lasts a long time! Little known fact - I was a foster child. I am sure you will both benefit greatly from this experience.

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    1. Lisa, I had no idea. Thanks for sharing, as it reinforces my hope that Rainbow's strength and energy will pull her through! I am definitely learning as much (if not more) from her as she is from me!

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  4. You are so amazing Rebecca. Rebecca and Rainbow has a nice ring to it. This young lady is so fortunate to have you in her life. I am sure you will be quite a difference maker for her and positive influence in her future no matter how longer you are together.

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    1. Thanks so much!! I am so fortunate to have her in my life too. We are influencing each other on a daily basis -- for better or worse :)

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  5. Wildly in LOVE with you both!!
    Tell Rainbow she won the roommate lottery just like I did all those years ago :)

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    1. Awww, thanks Keats!! She would like nothing better than for me to sleep on her top bunk, but I told her it's a bit tricky without my leg on :) xoxo

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  6. I loved watching you be Mom. No matter how long Rainbow is blessed to be in your care, I can already tell that your time together will never be forgotten. You are teaching her valuable lessons while also allowing her to be a kid. You are amazing!

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    1. She is easily teaching me as much as I'm teaching her! Thanks, Mar, for all your support and for letting me learn "Mom skills" from you all these years :)

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  7. Rebecca,
    Reading this brought tears of joy to my eyes! You have waited so long for this wonderful event to happen. I am so happy for you and Rainbow. Keep writing and sharing news of your adventures with Rainbow. Hope to see you and meet Rainbow someday when I am back in Philly. Sending hugs and kisses to both of you. Carol

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    1. Thanks Carol! We'll keep you posted and would love to see you next time you're back east!

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  8. Rebecca, this is a wonderful post. Rainbow is right: her mom likes to write! When she is a bit older, she will also realize that her mom is a wonderful writer on top of being a smart, loving, courageous mom! Cécile

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    1. Thanks Cécile! Rainbow is intent on learning French, so perhaps we can have a tete à tete sometime :)

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    2. Bien sûr! En avril quand tu veux! Joyeuse Pâque!

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  9. Even though I haven't known you that long and we haven't caught up in forever, I remember how you talked about wanting to be a mom—and I know you're an excellent writer—so I do know how much this must mean to you. Congrats seems like such a small word in this situation, but like everything else you set out to do, I also know you will rock at motherhood!

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