Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Wholy Night

Rare are the moments when I feel in the presence of the Mystery, when I  feel completely whole, when I feel as if successive moments have been strung carefully on a string to create a masterpiece of a necklace.  Last Wednesday night was one of those moments.
I had the honor of reading my story that was recently published in The Story of a Woman, Stories to Empower and Inspire, edited by Terry Laszlo-Gopadze.  My story is about the reconciliation between myself and Harvey, the man who hit me in the accident which took my leg.
Harvey came to Bellingham, from Victoria, on Tuesday and had dinner with me and my family.  We reconnected after not seeing each other for nearly five years.  Harvey has a huge heart and an endearing soul.  He told silly jokes and held his own in the midst of my family's coming and goings. 
On Wednesday, some of my extended family came up from Seattle for the reading, but they came a few hours early.  We all went out to dinner with Harvey.  This was the first time my mother met Harvey.  Just like me, at the trial two years after the accident, she wasn't allowed to talk to the man who took her daughter's leg.
My family was welcoming, warm and inviting, as only my family can be.  I could tell this was difficult for Harvey, to face the possible enemy, and he did so with such grace.  My family worked their magic and put him at ease.  My brother gave a toast to the wonder of the moment.
And then it was time for me to read.  In the past when I've read my work, I was so nervous I sweat like a running faucet and then shook uncontrollably after I finished. Not Wednesday.  I had the good fortune to read with Christina Baldwin, a seasoned writer and speaker.  She held the space for us at the front of the room and was a grounding presence. 
I think that I am so integrated with  this part of my story that there was nothing to be nervous about.  I had given thought to what else I might want to say so I was prepared when questions were asked.  But mostly I  felt the Mystery of life run through me that night, allowing me to step into my wholeness.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It's not every day that I experience a drastic range of emotions in a matter of minutes as I did today. 

This past weekend I received a beautiful ring from my husband for our 15th anniversary.  This is the first time I've had a gemstone (we designed our matching wedding bands ourselves) and for ways to numerous and personal to mention, receiving this ring from my husband was about as touching and meaningful as it gets.  We took the ring to the jewelry store in the mall to have it re-sized.  The sales woman gushed over the beauty of the emerald and gave me a list of dos and don'ts related to ring care.  I had to actually give back this beautiful gift for three days so they can send it away  ("you insure it, right?") for the delicate operation.

This symbol of continued love and commitment means the world to me.  I was fighting back  tears of joy as we emerged from the store and back out into the mall.  Just a few stores away was a middle aged woman giving out fliers for a new massage store.  She stepped toward me, her arm outstretched, saying something about their promotion.  I already had my hand out in protest when her eyes scanned my body. I was wearing shorts and when she saw my prosthetic leg she recoiled.  Yes, she actually recoiled.  She stopped talking mid-sentence, her arm shot back to her torso, and she took a few steps away from me and  her eyes widened in, what, horror? distaste? disgust?

At first I laughed, so drastic was her change of attitude toward me.   Then I wondered aloud,  "How do I not have that affect me?" Mark quietly took my hand and his squeeze validated that the experience was nothing short of icky.  All I could think of was how disgusting she saw me.  She took away her offer to massage my body becuase of it's appearance.  My throat constricted painfully making it hard to breathe.  I fought back the tears. After all, we had to walk through Macy's to get to the car and I didn't want to cry as I walked through Macy's.  I had to fight back the feeling that I was disgusting.

And then I thought of the ring, the symbol of love and acceptance that it represents and the man holding my hand.  That silly, shallow woman wasn't going to ruin my joy or darken my day with her judgments. 

I think when I go back on Thursday to pick up my ring, I'll schedule a massage at the new place at the mall.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Pendulum Swings

I can only be super busy for so long and then I need a break.  That's what the past month has been about for me.  Since January I had been walking everyday, fitting in my 1/2 hour walk even when all I had between work and a night time commitment was 45 minutes.  And I blogged, daily at first for two months and then twice a week.

It's been a busy first half of the year and the most fulfilling 6 months I've had in a long time. I reminded myself how much I can accomplish when I really set my mind to it.  Making the daily choice to DO rather than BE was a dramatic shift for me and a state of mind I hadn't adopted for years.  I enjoyed checking so much off the personal To Do list.  I was a woman of accomplishment.

And now I just want to rest. I want to get up everyday and write my book. I want to go to coffee shops and sip on lattes. I want to have languid, expanded days of nothingness before me where spontaneity rules. I want to feel like I did as a child when days felt interminably long.  I actually had a day like that yesterday and I felt like a new woman.  After do-do-doing, I got back to center. I followed my heart in the moment. I read Autobiography of a Face and then googled the author and read more about her.  I actually shopped for and made dinner. I saw my niece for coffee and chatted with an old friend on the phone. My daughter and I figured out how to knit (again).  I even cleaned out my email inbox.  It wasn't a day of grand accomplishments, but I did accomplish taking it easy.

During the past month as I've allowed myself to slow my pace, I can't help but think about my next goal.  I'm talking with the Executive Director at the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation about how we can continue working together to raise money. How can I still support this organization?  How can my support continue to be equally beneficial to me?  How can I continue to take care of my body as it ages?  All these questions loom and percolate as I think about my next move. 

For those who haven't heard, part of my next move is to do a reading at Village Books on Wednesday, September 8 at 7 pm.  I'll be reading my essay, No Apologies Necessary, that is included in the anthology The Spirit of a Woman, Stories to Empower and Inspire, edited by Terry Laszlo-Gopadze.  I am honored to  be sharing the podium with Christina Baldwin, a local writer of journaling, story telling and leadership, who also has an essay in the anthology.  I invite you to join me. 

Until then, I'll keep percolating on my next goal.  And relaxing as much as I can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

100 Miles!

I did it. I walked my 100th mile!

The Prosthetics Outreach Foundation's Walk-a-thon on Saturday was a wonderful event. My team of family and friends joined me for my 100th mile.

As I've mentioned before, this whole experience of taking a daily mile walk has been a quiet one. There's no fanfare at the end of each day; walking is just what I do. But I have to say that at that 100th mile, I felt full. While my team and the POF staff and volunteers cheered for me, there was a party going on in my heart. Fireworks were flying, streamers were popping and a marching band oompahed it's way through my chest.

I took that moment to reflect back to January 10, exactly six months earlier. That was the day I took my first walk, my first attempt to regain my strength. I felt overwhelmed. In just six short months of taking a daily walk, I changed my life.

Sunday, the day after my 100th mile, was a busy day. I had a one hour window to take a walk, but I was exhausted. I was so tickled with myself. I took a walk anyway. It wasn't a full mile, but I got off the couch and I walked. I will continue to walk. Not because I have to. Not because I must. I walk because I want to.

It's so easy for me, in the midst of this success, to look at all the areas of my life that aren't working, where I am not excelling. I hold inside me an intense perfectionist. She expects a lot from me. I told her to just pipe down for a few days while I bask in my moment of personal glory. Right now I just want to be proud of myself, something I don't do very often.

I can't end this post without a huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported me, in so many ways. In the past 100 days I have received so much from family, friends, acquaintances and people I don't even know. I bow before you in gratitude.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Small Change

It's day 99 and I'm reflecting on the last 3+ months. One aspect of this campaign that blows me away is the power of the individual.

It's easy for me to think that my small part doesn't matter, so why bother doing something in the first place if I'll have such a small impact. I'm glad the 130 people who donated to my campaign didn't think like I do. That so many people have stepped forward to support other people around the world touches me deeply.

The world has become quite small. For as much as I can say that an amputee in a developing country matters, I can say that about any one of us. We all matter AND we can all make a difference. In this world of violence on the evening news, tabloids and Reality TV, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that people all around the world are doing their part, every day, to help make the world a better place, just like every person who donated to my campaign.

So, thank you for renewing my hope in the world. Thank you for your support. Truly, every little bit does help.

To see Evening Magazine's coverage of my campaign, click here

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Don't Blend In

Every year the day comes when I need to don my shorts. Today was that day.

I have mixed feelings about the first day I wear shorts. On the one hand it means the weather has finally warmed up enough to warrant shorts and I love warm weather. I simply hate being hot. A sweaty leg is icky to me. Really icky. The weather warmed up for my walk today and I knew my leg (yes, my long one) would overheat in jeans. So it was time to put on the shorts.

On the other hand, wearing shorts takes away all of my anonymity. I need to brace myself for the stares. It's human nature to be curious, especially now that I wear the techno C-Leg. All of my previous legs before this were shaped like my other calf and painted to resemble my skin color. Not the C-Leg. This thing is gray and looks like something from Star Wars. Yea, it's the kind of leg that draws attention. With my previous legs, they looked fake enough to make people stare, really stare until they figured out that, OH, it's fake. Now people take notice and look away more quickly. It's obvious I'm wearing a prosthetic leg.

I'm used to the looks and stares. I appreciate that, regardless of people's personal feelings about my body, they usually always smile at me. I just wish I could blend in. Since I was 17, I've never blended in. As a child I always considered myself a wall flower. After my accident the attention took a lot of getting used to. Every year on my first "shorts day" the little girl in me is still just as uncomfortable being noticed.

What's hardest about the looks and stares is that I assume with each one a judgment is attached. Anything from "Oh, isn't she amazing" to "Ew, icky." I'm not like just anyone walking down the street. I don't remember most people I walk by and, unless they are trying hard to get my attention by how they dress or pierce or tattoo, I don't notice most people who cross my path. But when I walk down the street in shorts, I see a lot of people look at me. I know I'll be forgotten soon, but I've been noticed.

They say the grass is always greener. I realize, now that I stick out like a sore thumb, how my anonymity has been taken from me. I'm grateful for the days when no one noticed me at all - or so I thought. I blended in with the crowd and didn't stick out.

Today wasn't so bad, really. Lots of people looked; I didn't notice anyone who stared.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quiet Success

Today was my 90th mile. I have just ten miles to go!

I am proud of myself for walking everyday. When I look back at myself and my abilities six months ago, I couldn't have imagined doing this.

But this success isn't like the physical successes I've had in the past. When I scaled a rock face or hiked five miles with a backpack on my back or kayaked in really rough waters, there was an exhilaration that came with those experiences. Not walking. I may produce a few endorphins to make my emotions perk up a bit, but I don't get a natural high from my daily walks.

My daily walks are my quiet successes. My walks don't deserve any fancy fanfare. They are more like a quiet nod to life.

When I was pregnant with Luke, my oldest, I was working at an AIDS hospice in Seattle. The residents were mostly people who were marginalized in our society and with them came a lot of drama to the house. After Luke was born, I felt caught in my own drama of my newly imposed disability - pregnancy wracked havoc on my leg, making me quite immobile. I decided that I couldn't have drama at work and drama at home. In order for me to quit working, Mark and I sold our beautiful north Seattle home and downsized to a smaller house in south Seattle. Over the years I've learned that I get to decide how much drama is in my life. Stuff happens in life, it always will. It's my reaction that creates drama or not. I've decided that I don't want to invite drama into my life anymore.

In a way, my adventures in my twenties were a way of ensuring that I had drama in my life. They gave me some really high highs and then the subsequent really low lows. Walking is like saying no to drama and yes to an average life. Without drama, my life is stable. I used to be so scared that stability would be boring. Not so. Without drama I have so much more energy. Without drama, I am able to be more creative. Without drama my life has expanded in ways unimaginable.

So I give a quiet nod to life, my perfectly ordinary, average life, every day when I take my mile walk.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Two Block Reminder

Yesterday, on the way home from my walk, the battery in my leg died. I must have forgotten to charge it the night before. When the battery dies, the leg walks stiff-legged. Thank goodness I was just two blocks from home and didn't have to walk stiff-legged for too long. Just those two blocks, though, reminded me how difficult it was when I was pregnant with my second child.

I learned from my first pregnancy that constantly adjusting the socket of my prosthetic leg was too time consuming and ineffective, so instead, for my second pregnancy, my prosthetist made me a big socket and we attached it to a peg leg, a long metal tube with a rubber foot at the end. This was a stiff-legged contraption, like Peg Leg Pete, the pirate. That's how I walked for over a year during and after my second pregnancy.

When I was seven months pregnant, Luke, my nearly three year old, and I went to swim lessons twice a week. Being in the water with him was so easy. The water displaced the weight of the baby inside me and allowed me to easily maneuver my body. I held Luke's chubby, soft body in my hands, face down so he could practice blowing bubbles and kicking. I threw him in the air and caught him as he hit the water. Belly laughs from both of us echoed around the pool.

One day, after we had showered and changed, we were walking to the car. I was weighed down by a bag full of wet towels and toiletries. Luke carried his pool toy. Suddenly, I crash landed onto the floor, scattering the bag's contents all over. My hands immediately rushed to my stomach. Everything felt okay with the baby. A gasp of air, a sob, abrupt tears assaulted me all at once. I looked down to realize that the metal pylon had broken off my socket. I was afraid Luke was scared, but he was still playing with his pool toy.

I hefted my body off the floor awkwardly, picked up the now filled-up tote and the remaining part of my leg. Taking a deep breath, I fought back the tears and scanned the area. Another mom, with her young child, was walking down the hall. With watery, pleading, embarrassed eyes, I asked her for help.

I showed her how to hold her arm so I could use it as a support as I hopped the hundred feet to my car. When we arrived home I had to hop twenty more feet to the house, using the fence for support. When I was younger, hopping up and down a flight of 13 stairs a few times in a row might make me breathless, but wasn’t difficult. After three years of inactivity and a six month baby in my belly, I fell onto the couch exhausted.

When I look back on my second pregnancy, I'm amazed that I made it through. I'm even more amazed that I've bounced back. Well, okay, bounced is a stretch. I've struggled to get back to walking a mile a day.

Even though I had to walk stiff-legged for a couple of blocks yesterday, I'm glad I did. It reminded me to be grateful for my imperfect body and how far it has come.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Days

This week I have been simmering in the energy of the Summer Solstice.

I prefer to follow the Celtic wheel of the year which claims Summer Solstice as not the beginning of summer, but the height of summer. The longest day of the year marks the time of year when the earth is resplendent in her glory. Many flowers have shown their true colors and those that are blooming now appear to be showing off.

This point on the wheel is directly opposite the Winter Solstice, the time when the earth is sleeping, gathering up her energy. The Summer Solstice is like the earth is having one big belly laugh.

I like to liken my life to the cycles of the earth. In winter I follow the earth's example and slow down, conserving my energy. In summer, especially this summer, I am completely groovin on what life has to offer. I have a job, The Spirit of a Woman (which contains my first published essay!) just came out, I am still soaking in the love I received on my birthday a few months ago (yes, it was that big!), I am on day 83 of my walk and am blown away by the many donations that have come in, my children are starting summer camps and it's even been sunny! My life couldn't be more full.

Mixed with my incredible joy, there's a tinge of sadness. We're still at neap tide with the sun, but soon the days will shorten, confirming that the apex has been passed and we are moving, as slowly as reluctant children, back to nap time.

But for now I'll keep simmering in the goodness of life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


It's Father's Day. My family spent the day together just being a family. I think that's what I love most about birthdays and Mother's Day and Father's Day. We reserve the day just for the four of us. Today we took a walk on Sehome hill and went and saw Toy Story 3. I cried and cried. Of course I did. Most things make me cry. I don't care anymore, nor do I apologize.

So it was a nice day just being us.

I've thought about my own Dad today. He died suddenly when I was thirteen, the age my son is now. I try to put Luke in my shoes and I can't begin to imagine what it would be like for Luke to lose his father at this age. I can't believe I did. As one of two children, Luke has had so much one on one time with his dad. I was the fourth of six children and I have maybe two memories of being alone with my father. I kept expecting that to happen. The memories I have of Dad are wonderful. He was simply an amazing guy. I know I would have really liked him if I had been fortunate enough to have been an adult and known him.

But I got lucky. Mom married another man ten years after Dad died, when I was 23 years old. Larry is one of the gentlest souls I'll ever know. This man can read a Pooh Bear story and make you weep from the tenderness in which he tells the story. He's smart, funny and doesn't think badly of anyone. He's taught me to give everyone a chance, no matter what my first impressions are. He's loyal and forgiving. Larry is fortunate in that he's now lived a long life and the tendrils of his love has reached through generations. He has a wide circle of friends and an even wider circle of family.

I haven't run to Larry in times of distress like I would have had he been my biological father. And the fact that I didn't has been even better. I have always known Larry is there for me, no matter what. I've had countless conversations with him over the years, all in my own head. What would Larry say? His wise council has given me advice over and over. He just never knew it. He's been a father in the truest sense of the word: I've learned how to figure it out for myself, often using him as my example.

I think what I treasure most about Larry and what I've learned most from him is that he's happy with who he is. He's comfortable in his own skin. He's been a family man, he's had great success working at the Seattle Times, and he's had a quiet impact on his world since he's retired. Through it all Larry is Larry. Just being who he is. I marvel at how easy he is with himself.

I've spent my adult life questioning who I really am, so shaken was my foundation at the vulnerable age of seventeen, an age when one's self-identity is developing. Now I'm fifty and it's time to forgo the angst. Now it's time to be like Larry, like Pooh Bear and just be who I am, in all my glory.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Whole Self

I'll never forget a party I went to about ten years ago, just after I stopped answering all those questions from the kids at the park. It was an evening party in late June and the weather was beautiful. I knew the beginning of the party would be warm, sitting on the west-facing deck, but that the air would cool down after the sun set.

But the weather wasn't the reason I chose to wear pants to the party. I was finally sick of my prosthetic leg defining me. I knew that other people looked at my prosthesis and couldn't help but immediately have a bunch of assumptions about me. Anything from "She must have been through hell. What a survivor" to "Oh, gross. Decent face, but I'd never date her." I know what it's like to see a piece of someone and assume that it's a huge part of their identity.

Trouble was, with me, I used that to my advantage. I didn't purposely flaunt my leg, but if it came up in normal conversation, I didn't hide it, either. I wore the shorts instead of the pants. I assumed that people would think more highly of me if they knew I was an amputee. If they didn't know about my leg, I didn't trust that they would like me, that I would be enough. Ironically, I felt more whole in other people's eyes if they knew a part of me was missing.

Once I stopped answering questions about my leg from strangers and realized I didn't have to be the Amputee Role Model of the Universe, I could see that there was probably more to who I was than just being an amputee. Fortunately for me, I had a fallback identity. I was a new mom, a stay-at-home mom, and I was relishing in this role.

Motherhood is an equalizer. I could easily keep up with the other moms at play groups, singing groups or just comparing notes about poop and teeth and first steps. That I was an amputee in those groups was a non-issue. We were all just being moms together. For the first time in my life I had acquaintances that didn't even know I was an amputee. At first this was very uncomfortable for me, so afraid was I that I wouldn't be accepted or liked. But I was. I was learning not only how to be myself with people, but who that self was.

Motherhood was a perfect segue for me to leave my Amputee identity behind. Now I am expanding, perhaps realizing for the first time, how much more there is to me than just an amputee or just a mom. I've even realized the past few months (I love being 50!) that I can be full of contradictions and paradox and even that's okay. Uncomfortable? Absolutely. But it's all good.

Now when I go to a party, I wear what I want and bring my whole self to the party, not just the piece of me that's missing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A full head and a grateful heart

Last Thursday I met Tim Shride who recently visited Sierra Leone with the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation. He is a prothetist who was there to provide service to the Sierra Leonians. I was amazed that in a town with hardly any running water or electricity they are able to do this work. He showed me pictures of the clinic and the accommodations they use to ensure that amputees in this country are able to become mobile again. I was amazed.

Then on Friday I visited Ray Pye, the Director of Programs at the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation. As an industrial designer, he explained his role in the production of the Seattle Foot which come onto the market in 1986. The Seattle Foot was revolutionary in its design in that a keel in embedded into the core of the rubber foot made of material that is able to store energy. This stored energy is then used as a spring when one walks off the toe of the prosthetic foot.
His experience working on the Seattle Foot laid a foundation for his work with the POF. Ray painted many visual pictures for me as he explained how the Vietnamese manufacture every piece of the prosthetic legs they make. I learned how rubber is made, how a mold is formed, what "vulcanized" means. He explained all the steps the POF has taken with the Vietnamese to ensure that every part of the legs made in Vietnam are made in Vietnam - down to the small hardware. I left with a full head.

I was barraged with the myriad of luxuries we have in America when I thought about all the basic needs that are so hard to access in developing countries. This lack requires dedication, ingenuity and tenacity by all the folks who produce prosthetic limbs these countries.

Each country is so different in its needs and cultures, but one fact seems to thread its way through each one: amputees are undervalued members of society unless they are mobile and able to contribute to the basic day to day functioning. All it takes is $300.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A New Leg

In my lifetime it feels like I've had more legs than a Broadway chorus line. Every four or five years I have a new leg made. People are often surprised that prosthetic legs are replaced this often, but our bodies change constantly, plastic and wood wear out and technology advances.

I don't like getting new legs made. The process is always challenging for me. Most prosthetic legs are made in about a month or two, but not mine. Making a leg for me takes about four to six months. I don't know why, but I've always been hard to fit - which requires that I keep going back to the prosthetist, usually weekly, to adjust the socket or the alignment to get it just right. I grow to dread these appointments and get sick of taking my leg on and off. Toward the end of the process I avoid them like the plague, so tired do I get of "wasting my time."

It's surprising how different each leg is. Everything is different, especially the small things from getting in and out of the car to sitting on the toilet to how my clothes fit. No two legs are alike and it takes time for my brain to make all the new pathways a new leg requires.

Each time I get a new leg, letting go of the previous one is hard. Even though it's time to retire the old leg, usually because it doesn't fit well anymore, saying goodbye is reminiscent of losing my real leg. Grief bubbles to the surface in its myriad of ways: sadness, anger, and finally acceptance.

After a particularly adventurous five years in my late twenties, before I tucked a retiring leg that carried me through those adventures into the back of my closet, I got out my markers and my calendar. I reviewed all the fun times I had with that leg and drew pictures all over it: kayak trips, backpacking trips, skiing, and all the other landmarks that punctuated my steps with that leg. The pictures eventually wore off, but the memories remained.

Getting my current leg made took two years because Tom, my prosthetist at Cornerstone Prosthetics, was sure that my hip and lower back pain would be alleviated if I changed to the new style of socket. In his attempt to make it fit correctly, Tom made two or three different sockets to fit my residual limb. He was so accommodating to my needs, always making adjustments, twice a week if he had to. Fitting a socket is an art, and for my residual limb any socket is a masterpiece. He waited for me to give up on the new socket before he made me a yet another(the fourth!)in the style of socket I am used to.

I went in for another adjustment today because my residual limb has changed even more because of my daily mile walks. As I rode the elevator up to his office, I thought of the folks in developing countries and how grateful they likely are to be fitted for a leg. A prosthetic limb makes the difference between going to school or not, having a job or not, being an active, contributing member of one's community or not. Today, when I went to see Tom, I didn't do filled with dread at the process; I went in grateful that he's there, he's present, and so incredibly accommodating.

Sometimes I just need perspective. Then I quit whining.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


When my firstborn Luke was a toddler I took him to the various wading pools in the Seattle area. I'd put on my bathing suit and peg leg (the leg I use in the water), pack a lunch and look forward to a day at the park with my son.

Inevitably we'd be swarmed by other young children. I was like a flower full of pollen and they were the bees. Questions galore were thrown at me: "What happened to your leg?" "Hey, what is that thing?" "Did it hurt?"

I felt compelled to answer their questions. I already felt like a freak to them. If I took the time to be a nice-kind-mommy lady, then I'd help break down any stereotypes of disabled people. I knew kids may not have developed those stereotypes yet, but if I ignored them or didn't answer their questions, then I was afraid that I, perhaps the first disabled person they had ever encountered, would lodge that stereotype deep into their psyche forever. Yea, I took on a lot of responsibility.

It didn't take me long to recognize that I was putting the needs of the children unknown to me ahead of the needs of my own child. This is how my son found out about how I lost my leg. Not a sweet mom-to-son chat, but by me telling strangers my story.

I also took on this duty with adults. At least children are naive, usually sweet and simply curious. With adults I knew I had a stereotype to break down, but the strangers I encountered were appalling. I didn't understand how it helped them to hear a 30 second sound bite of my story. And when they asked THE question, "Did it come off right away?", I was always too shocked to do anything but whisper "yes". My day shifted after these encounters. It was hard to go on after re-telling, yet again, the worst day of my life.

During the second summer of this, Luke said, "Mommy, will you stop talking to those kids at the park?" I had felt caught in a merry-go-round of responsibility and he gave me the out I needed. I spoke my therapist and asked her how to stop. "Why do you answer their questions?" she asked?
"Because they asked!" I said, feeling like I was stating the obvious.
"They have parents, you know, who are perfectly capable of telling their child what happened to you."
Clearly she wasn't getting it. "But those parents don't know what happened to me."
She gave a little laugh. "All the parents need to tell their child is that you lost your leg and wear a prosthetic leg to get around. End of story."

Huh. Really? Wow.

For the next week I practiced my answers to the children. Armed with an arsenal of responses, I packed another lunch for Luke and I and drove to the park. I was so excited to use my new skill, to set my new boundary. I got out of the car, took Luke from his car seat and grabbed our picnic basket. Come on, World, give it to me, I can take it, I thought.

Do you know what happened? Nothing. Barely a stare. Nary a question. Seriously. I have to admit, I was disappointed. And then it dawned on me. I got what I wanted. A peaceful day at the park with Luke.

It's still rare that total strangers ask me what happened, children or adults. I'm fine if acquaintances or friends ask me about it, that feels appropriate. But a stranger at the grocery store line? No. Once I became clear about where my boundaries were, that's what I sent out to the world and it's what I received back.

It's a good thing for me to realize in all parts of my life - Know my boundaries and kindly let other people know what they are. People won't hate me if I honor myself.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm on TV!

A few days ago KOMO 4 News did a story on my walking campaign. They aired the story on three or four different news programs. Lots of people have talked to me about seeing me on TV. Truth be told, being on TV is terrifying to me because my voice sounds three levels too low and, worst of all, I see myself limp. I'm embarrassed when I think of everyone seeing me limp until I realize that people see me limp all the time. It's me that doesn't see my limp. It's always a shock to see it. When I walk, I don't feel my limp; walking this way has become normal. More than once I've seen myself on film and wondered, "Who is that gal with the limp?" It's quite sobering to realize that it's me.

I don't mind showing people my C-Leg and, in the context of a news story, I don't mind talking about my leg or my amputation. Just like when the article came out in the Bellingham Herald, I'm clear that I am doing this for other amputees around the world.

So take a look, if you haven't already seen it, and hear more about my story and why I'm walking 100 miles.

Oh, and look for the ducks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Honoring our Veterans

Memorial day is a day to recognize and honor those who have died while serving in the military. I want to expand that recognition and honor those who have lost a limb while serving our country.

My first prosthetist informed me that many Vietnam vets lost their legs during their time in the service. Because of them, prosthetic technology had come a long way. When I was getting a leg in the mid eighties, the Seattle Foot, the newest prosthetic foot, made its debut, boasting its ability to help amputees run. By having a newly designed spring action foot made from carbon fiber, the technology offered amputees an alternative to the previous clunky foot.

I've written previously about how far that technology has come; I now have the newest technology with the "C-Leg" that I wear and plug in every night. The microchip in this leg reads what my foot and ankle are doing - about 50 times a second - and adjusts the knee accordingly. It's really kind of amazing.

From what I can tell on Google, nearly 1,000 people have lost a limb in the Irag war. Many of them have defied limitations and have gone on to continue in the service. I know a lot of advances have been made because so many people have made the sacrifice and paid a price to serve our country.

I give thanks to the many amputee vets, past and present, who have given not only to their country but have helped the advances in prosthetic technology.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trusting it's Good for Me

A number of people have asked me lately if I can feel a physical difference now that I've been walking everyday for a number of months.

After my first month of walking, at the beginning of the year, the muscles in my body felt looser and I had a spring to my step. Taking two stairs at a time was much easier. But after a few months, I plateaued. I've grown accustomed to my new normal and now I don't feel any physical benefits from my daily walk.

If I were able to walk a longer distance each day I would likely find the benefits increase, but a mile is about as far as I can comfortably walk on a daily basis. On those days when I walk further than a mile, I usually pay for it the next day with a blister on my residual limb.

Just because I don't feel any positive side effects from my daily walk doesn't mean I will give it up. I walk becuase I am committed to my cause: the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation. I walk because I said I would. And, most important, I walk because I trust that my body needs it.

Since I lost my leg, I've never been one to "honor" my body, in fact I've had a love/hate relationship with my body. I love that it kept me alive and I've often hated what it looks like and feels like. The natural aging process has given me pause, though, and as I feel aches and pains that weren't there three years ago and see wrinkles emerge, I realize how finite this body is. I escaped death once, but there will come a day when it's my turn and this body will cease to breathe.

So I remember that walking is good for my heart, my lungs, and my muscles. I'm counting on my daily walk to be a source of stability and strength. But mostly, I just trust that it's good for me.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


A friend recently asked if I would change the way my life turned out. Would I rather have not lost my leg at seventeen years old and lived my life with two legs?

Absolutely not.

I don't love being an amputee. There are days when I hate it; there are days when it's an annoyance; and there are days when I don't really think about it. But every day is informed by what I have learned over the past thirty two years of being an amputee. I understand life in a completely different way than I would have had I not lost my leg. I have learned innumerable lessons about people and life that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Life for me is about learning and growing. It's my obligation to myself. Just a few months after my accident I played the Three Wishes game: If I had three wishes, what would I ask for? My first thought was to ask for my leg back, but I immediately discounted that idea. Something deep inside me told me that This Was It. Being an amputee was my classroom and I was here to learn something from it.

I'm hell-bent on finding the good in every situation. Especially the really hard situations. Admittedly it's hard for me to find something good about running late in the morning or smashing my finger or burning the cookies. But the Big, Life-Altering events in life cannot pass by without understanding something deeper about them. My amputation is no exception.

One thing I have learned is gratitude. For life itself. For people. For the simple joys in life. Even for those heart-breaking moments that change the world as I know it. Eventually, I am able to open my arms and embrace whatever I can learn.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Being Seen

Being just 17 years old when I lost my leg, I was at the height of my sensitivity to being singled out. But there I was, on a daily basis, being ogled at, stared at and pointed at, all because of how different I was.

I remember when I first started college just nine months later. There were so many cute boys. Occasionally, as we were approaching each other walking down the side walk, I'd catch a cute guy looking at me. I'd get excited. Does he think I'm cute, I wondered? As we got closer to each other, I could see that he wasn't looking at me, he was looking at my prosthetic leg or my limp. He wasn't thinking I was pretty; he was noticing my difference. Then he'd walk by without even looking me in the eyes. My heart sank. That story happened more times than I care to admit.

When I started skiing, backpacking and kayaking, people would stare, only then it was in admiration. Strangers often came up to me and asked questions about my prosthetic leg and about how I lost my leg. I indulged their questions, not understanding how to set any boundaries.

I could feel eyes on me before I could see them. I knew when a child was pointing at me by the whispers from the parents to stop. I was used to being seen for the part of me that was missing.

I spent a number of years shifting how I see myself: from being a survivor and defining myself through my amputation to exploring all of who I am, warts and all. I am more than a gimp. I am more than someone to be admired for doing daring or physical things. Being a mom has helped immensely with taking the focus off of my leg and putting it right where I wanted: on my motherhood.

I was on the front page of the Bellingham Herald this week in an article about my 100 mile walking campaign. I haven't been in the paper before and I wasn't prepared for the attention. I'll admit, it's been uncomfortable and has pushed me outside my comfort zone. After years of trying to take the focus off my leg, it's ironic that I've come full circle and I'm talking about losing my leg on the front page.

Only this time, it's not about me. Now the issue is about people in developing countries who may be singled out in ways I can't imagine, who may be ostracized from their communities. Now it's about equality and basic human dignity. It's about allowing people in developing countries to see themselves in a new light, to see themselves as contributing members of their communities. Now it's about getting other people walking, even if it's just for a mile.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crashing Into Sleep

For the first fifteen years after my accident, I went to sleep the same way every night.

Each night, as my body relaxed and sank onto the mattress, heavy and motionless, my mind quickly let go of the day. I have never been one to let life’s problems disturb the sweet decadence of sleep’s reprieve. In that space between consciousness and slumber, my mind would slip into a mindful dream space: random images and twisting colors streaming and swirling around each other. I was a part of the images, but, because I was not yet fully asleep, I was aware of, and could even narrate silently, what was happening.

Regardless of how this conscious dreaming began, it always ended the same: I was a passenger in a moving car. Other cars were on the road, both in front of mine and behind mine. It was always dark, sometimes pouring rain; shadows of images passed by my car's windows. Without any warning, the person driving my car abruptly and violently slammed on the brakes. I watched in terror as our car swerved, careening out of control, as we tried to avoid hitting the car in front of us. The sound of the screeching tires, squealing as loud as a train coming to a sudden stop, jolted me out of my near slumber, always just before the crash.

My eyes popped open and I jerked awake. I felt like a landed fish, laboring for each shallow breathe. My mouth was full of metallic tasting saliva as if it had just started bleeding. I swallowed it away, took a deep breath, and looked around my room, reminding myself that I was in my bed, safe and sound. The unbidden, ghastly ritual over. I shut my eyes and saw only darkness. It was only then that I could quickly fall asleep.

My crashing-into-sleep routine waned significantly after I met Harvey, the man who hit me, fifteen years after the accident. Is that a coincidence? I still occasionally crash into sleep and even after 32 years it is still just as terrifying. I didn't know about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome back then, but now I can identify my other symptoms: fear of being in a car on the freeway, screaming at sudden noises, startling easily. I know I drive my husband nuts sometimes with my extreme reactions, but knowing that they can be attributed to PTSD offers some relief and makes me feel a little less crazy.

I wonder about the folks around the world who have lost their limbs in traumatic ways: war, landmines, and accidents. How do they find relief from their symptoms? Are they aware of PTSD and the psychological impacts of surviving trauma?

Getting a prosthetic leg and regaining mobility is such a gift. True emotional healing is a much longer mile than I ever expected.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One Foot Then the Other

When I was at the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation at the beginning of my campaign I heard stories about people in Sierra Leone who lost a limb during their violent 10-year civil war. I saw a picture of a man who's leg had been violently amputated by a machete by the rebels. He had been left for dead, but his indomitable spirit kept him alive. Today, with support from the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation's sustainable program to make and provide legs to the many amputees in Sierra Leone, this man is walking and working again and contributing to his community.

Because of the earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 4,000 people lost a limb. The POF has added Haiti to their list of world-wide countries in which they provide limbs to people who need them. I think of these Haitian amputees nearly everyday on my walk. Are their wounds healing well? Do they have crutches to use while they wait for a leg? Can they get around at all?

I am humbled by the amputees in Sierra Leone and Haiti. I can't even compare myself to them. Their trauma has been so encompassing, so wide-reaching. I try to imagine their lives and I can't.

Sometimes I wonder how a woman in Bellingham, Washington can make a difference in the lives of these people. But I have to believe I can. If I doubt my ability to make a difference then I don't know what I will tell my children when it's time for them to go out into the world to make their mark.

I do what I can, one step at a time. One of my favorite songs is "Calling All Angels" by Jane Siberry. In her angelic voice, she sings, "It's one foot then the other as you step out onto the road." That's all any of us can really do, walk our personal paths of passion, one step at a time, with faith that the path ahead will lead us to our destination. I trust that walking my daily mile matters. Even though they don't know that I'm doing this for them, for me, it's enough to know I am walking for the Haitians and all the other amputees who otherwise won't walk again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I've been an amputee for thirty two years. The first eighteen years I was very active and involved in many activities: backpacking, kayaking, skiing and dabbling in many other sports like soccer, rock climbing and scuba diving. I never really felt disabled.

And then I became pregnant when I was thirty five years old. I quickly started gaining weight which made walking quite painful. Eventually even sitting was painful. I had a temporary leg made, but, by the end of the pregnancy, it fit just well enough to get me to the donut counter of the grocery store and to the movie store. At the end, waiting two weeks for the birth, I was like a beached whale laying on my couch.

After my son was born my weight didn't go back to normal as easily as I hoped so my mobility didn't resume as quickly as I wanted. It took about two years to get my weight back down, but what I realized was that my hips had shifted and everything felt different. I had to have a new leg made because my body simply wasn't the same as before I became pregnant. It took about two years after I gave birth to feel myself again, but it was only about nine months later that I became pregnant with my second child.

For my second pregnancy I decided to wear my peg leg. We made a big socket so my residual limb could fit in it, even after fifty pounds of weight gain. The leg itself was lighter, so it was easier to maneuver with all that extra weight. What I didn't anticipate was how the straight-legged walking (think Peg-Leg Pete) would tweak my back and other hip. I wore that leg for a full year before getting yet another new leg made for yet an even different body.

Pregnancy is what really made me disabled. I have never fully recovered and, at this point, I've quit trying. I realize the body I had before babies is long gone, just like it is for many two-legged women. Just for me, it's not about weight, it's about all the other ramifications pregnancy had on my one-legged body: tendinitis, bursitis, a permanently swollen foot, and lower back pain.

And you know what? I wouldn't trade it for the world. I wouldn't give up one ache or trade in one pain. I would gladly give up my other leg if it meant I could be Luke and Tessa's mother. There is nothing I can say about motherhood that isn't cliche. I can't talk about the small, seemingly insignificant moments without sounding schmaltzy; I can't go on about the big Aha's without sounding trite. But what I know, beyond the small and large joys of being a mother, is that it has been worth everything I had to give up. Everything.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Power of Forgiveness

I was seventeen years old at the time of the accident; Harvey, the man who hit me with his car was twenty one. We saw each other for the first time a few years after the accident at the trial. We weren't allowed to speak to each other. Not that I wanted to talk to him; I wanted to punch his face in. I wasn't allowed to. The trial lasted a week and my lawyer could tell, by the questions the jury was asking, that they were likely going to be a hung jury. Which would mean another trial. I knew I couldn't go through that again. My defense mechanism is amnesia and I only remember about 4 hours of that whole week. It was grueling. We decided to settle which, meant I didn't get much compensation. More fuel to my fire of anger. When it was all over, a juror came up to me and apologized, explaining that there was one juror who thought it was my fault. I freaked out. If ever there was a time in my life when I wanted to run, it was in that moment. I could only walk quickly to the nearest exit and limp my way down the two flights of stairs. My sister followed me, easily caught up to me, grabbed me and held me tight. My tears soaked the shoulder of her shirt.

I didn't see Harvey again for fifteen years. On the fifteenth anniversary of my accident, I called Harvey to yell at him for ignoring me for fifteen years, for ripping off my leg, for ruining my life. (He didn't really ruin my life. I mean, I was healthy, relatively happy, and active, but it would have been much more dramatic to say, You Ruined My Life!). I wanted him to pay. His insurance company paid the settlement so, as far as I could tell, he had had no consequences to "ruining my life." His time had come.

I don't mean to be a tease, but the rest of this story is going to be published soon and I don't think the publisher would appreciate it if I gave away the ending. I've written an essay about my experience with Harvey which is in the upcoming anthology, The Spirit of a Woman, Stories to Empower and Inspire, edited by Terry Laszlo-Gopadze. It will be in major bookstores in June, but pre-orders are being taken now. There's a link on the right side of my blog in which to pre-order. I am honored to be sharing space in the same book as some amazing women: Angeles Arrien, Christina Baldwin, Lauren Artress, just to name a few.

I can tell you that I've thought a lot about forgiveness over the years. I've come to the conclusion that forgiveness is a choice, forgiveness is a process, and forgiveness has been a gift I've given myself.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Walk a mile in my shoes

I've been thinking about the saying, "Walk a mile in my shoes" lately and how there are two viewpoints to that saying. The first is from the person saying it, as if in challenge, as if to say, "You can't possibly know what it's like to suffer as I do unless you have the same experiences that I do."

I know that place. I've had that feeling. After I lost my leg in a car accident in high school, I felt so alienated from my peers. They couldn't possibly know what I was feeling. Like any normal high school student, I was desperate to be the same, to fit in, to connect with my peers. My accident catapulted me into another realm of consciousness and I didn't know how to relate to them anymore. In my desperation I would think "Walk a mile in my shoes and then you'll understand me, then you'll be able to relate to me." But the reality was, I wouldn't wish my experience on anyone. Partly because it was too painful - why would I want anyone to go through that? And partly because it was my experience. No one else's. Icky? Yes. But mine. I knew, from that early age, that everyone on this planet has their own experiences that have the potential for learning, growing and transcending.

The other viewpoint to that saying is from the person receiving it, the person who is hearing it. Do I take on the challenge to understand other people's perspectives? Other people's pain? Do I really try and know what other people go through? Sometimes I do; sometimes I don't. And even when I do, I ultimately know, that unless I share the exact same experience, I cannot know another person's pain.

As I was walking the other day and my prosthetic leg was rubbing in that unmentionable place, I tried to walk that mile in the shoes of someone living in Sierra Leone who needs to walk for her water. What is it like to have to walk for one of life's necessities on crutches? In the midst of pain? How does one do that? I kept walking, as if my life depended on it; I just kept walking through my own pain. I don't have scorching heat and oppressive humidity added to the mix - which would, quite frankly, make me wilt like an unwatered flower - and I have all the creature comforts I could ask for inside my warm home. In truth, my life did not depend on finishing my mile the way it does for people in developing countries. I could only imagine.

The important part of that saying is that we all walk our own miles. We all have pain that we can allow to separate us from the rest of the world. But I don't believe it really separates us. When I allow it, my pain actually connects me to the rest of the world, just as easily as my joy does. I just need to allow it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


A great BIG Thank You to everyone who has supported my campaign so far. I'd like to extend a special thanks to the staff at Seal Press who have been so generous as well as my friendly neighbors in the Columbia neighborhood!

So far we have raised enough for about three and a half legs. I am determined to raise enough money for 100 people to get a new leg.

When I received my first leg I was fortunate; I didn't have to live on crutches for years before getting a leg. Each time I get a new leg there's a similar feeling: relief and gratefulness that something so simple can drastically change my life. Some people who know me and the challenges I've had getting a good fitting leg the past three years ask why I don't just use crutches and forget the leg. Are you kidding?

My aging body has taught me one thing well. Each part of our body is there for a reason. Take one part away and the rest of the body has to compensate. And in that compensation we pay a price. If I were to use crutches for many years I would suffer the ramifications: arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis would likely develop in my hands, wrists or shoulders. Besides, using crutches is damned inconvenient.

I think of people in developing countries who have to carry water or a baby or firewood without wearing a prosthetic leg. Many simply can't because of the physical difficulty which means they aren't contributing members of their families or their communities. The satisfaction that comes from being an active community member can't be found in a credit card. It's found in the leg that carries them through the streets of their village.

People are pretty much the same everywhere. When we see someone who's different, we can't help but look. Even I do it. When I get stared at on crutches, the looks are far different than the looks I get when I'm wearing a prosthetic leg. It's the difference between separation and connection; it's the difference between pity and admiration. When I wear my prosthetic leg in public, I'm a part of the two-legged world. When I use crutches, I'm apart from that world. I'm always going to be looked at as different - I AM different. That's OK with me. Just let me stay connected.

I want to make sure that 100 people feel like contributing members of their communities and feel connected to their world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Henry David Thoreau, in his essay titled, Walking, explained that the word Saunter comes "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "there goes a Sainte-Terre," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.

I like to think of myself as a saunterer, even though my image of someone who saunters is more of a meanderer than I. When I go for my daily walk, I have a goal to walk a mile and while it's not to the Holy Land, I find that I do travel to the holy land of my heart. I may be walking with my husband and talking about the kids or our respective days or I may be walking alone, listening to my "spirit" music on my Ipod. It doesn't really matter. Getting outside for a walk connects me to nature, the changing seasons, my husband, and myself. Walking keeps me in touch with my body that changes daily.

For years I looked outside myself for that which is Holy. If age has taught me anything, it's the understanding that the Holy exists as much within me as it does outside of me. I experience holiness in the quiet solitude of my morning coffee as much as I do sitting next to the ocean. And now, as I walk every day, I find my inner experience is every bit as holy as the blooming of the lilacs.

And, like the saunterers in the Middle Ages, I, too, am asking for money. But not for myself. Money so that others may have the experience of finding their own Holy moments as they walk through life.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Such a Deal

How can I NOT raise money for this organization when they can make a leg for $300?

Thirty two years ago, just after my accident, my first prosthetic leg cost about $15,000.00. Though insurance covered the bill, I couldn't help but compare the cost of my new leg to the cost of my new car just a few years later: $18,000.00. It wasn't a fancy car, but it certainly wasn't a clunker, either. I had that car for eight years and loved it.

Every four or five years I have a new prosthetic leg made. Changes in my body and worn out parts both dictate when it's time to be fitted for a new leg. With each new leg there are new products on the market to consider: feet, knees, and sockets. Until recently, I have usually picked middle of the road parts; I wanted reliability and function mixed with a little bit of the state-of-the-art technology, like a Honda.

With my most recent leg I decided to go for the gusto and get the Mercedes of all knees. I am now walking on (a chorus of angels, please) the "C-Leg". This knee is amazing. They say it feels like getting your leg back again. It doesn't, but it does allow me to walk down stairs like a two-legged person. It allows me to walk across uneven ground, like on grass or a dirt path, with full confidence that I won't fall. The knee does so much of the work for me, making sure it doesn't buckle from underneath me. I plug my leg in every night to re-charge the internal battery. The leg has a sensor which reads, about 50 times a second, where I'm putting my weight and adjusts the knee accordingly. And the leg rotates at the ankle, which may not sound like much, but to stand still and twist my body without torque on my back is a huge deal.

But there is a price for this technology. The leg I'm walking on now costs $50,000.00. Most insurance companies cover the C-Leg because of its ability to reduce falls (and any associated hospital bills as a result), and mine was no exception.

When I heard that the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation makes each of their legs for $300 I wondered how they do it. I wondered how shoddy these legs are. I wondered how comfortable they can possibly be for a mere $300. I saw one of these legs a few weeks ago when I was at the POF office in Seattle. The leg, typical of the many legs made for people in Vietnam or Sierra Leone was amazing. The knee is a spring, the foot is a basic rubber foot, but sturdy and tough, which is important in countries where people often go barefoot. The socket looked much like mine; they are made in the same way as mine and great care is taken to ensure that they fit properly. The leg was lightweight which keeps it comfortable and the rest of one's body aligned properly.

POF doesn't make the legs, they send volunteer prosthetists to teach people who live in these countries how to make them. Folks in these countries even manufacture the parts, keeping the costs low. But more importantly, it keeps the prosthetic industry in these countries sustainable.

I know that the leg I walk on is vastly different than the legs made for folks in developing countries. I know I come from such privilege. Everything about my world is so different than that of someone in rural Vietnam. But we do share the need to be upright and walking on a comfortable, functional leg.

I know a good deal when I see one. These legs are not only a good deal for the folks who wear them, but they are a good deal for the countries who make them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Connection through Pain

I have been surprised at how much pain I have walking my daily mile. Before starting this new goal I took about ten days off from my daily walk. When I started walking again after my short hiatus, the pain returned. Sometimes the pain is the vice-grip pain I had at the beginning of January; sometimes the pain is because my skin is being rubbed raw in unmentionable places. I've been quite discouraged.

And then I think of the people I'm walking for. I think of their pain. I think of their inability to walk and the complications and pain that causes. I remember the homemade prosthetic legs I saw at the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation office, legs made in Vietnam and Sierra Leone. One was made out of pieces of bamboo held together by strips of fabric. Another was made out of metal. When I held those prosthetics I teared up with sadness and compassion. I can't believe people actually walk on something so ill-fitting. Those legs prove how desperate people are to walk. The least I can do, I think, is walk my mile, regardless of my pain.

But there's something that doesn't sit right with me about comparing myself to others and contrasting their pain with mine. What does that really accomplish but create a hierarchy of pain? Too many times I have heard people say to me, "I can't complain about my pain to you, not after what you've been through." Why not? Just because I had pain, and still do, doesn't mean others can't experience pain - and even whine about it. I think of pain as a multi-faceted crystal. Though the inside of the crystal doesn't change, how we view the pain changes, depending on which facet we're looking through. My pain doesn't negate anyone else's pain, nor does it in any way lessen their pain. Do does the pain of an amputee in Vietnam reduce my pain on my daily walk? No, it doesn't.

What does happen, though, when I think of the amputees I'm walking for, is that I am encouraged and strengthened when I think of them. I know that somewhere, deep within their soul, they find a way to endure and continue on through their pain because, most likely, they simply have to. When I think of their ability to walk through their pain I feel like I'm tapping into the vibrational strength their courage sends out into the universe. I don't feel a separation from them, which comparing and contrasting causes. Rather, I feel a connection with them, a bond. We share the experience of amputee pain. Our daily lives may be entirely different from each other, but we share the bond of our pain.

So when I walk, when I feel pain, when I think of the amputees I'm walking for, I'm calling on their strength, I'm connecting with their courage. And in that connection, my step becomes a little lighter.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

100 Miles, 100 Days, 100 Legs!

I want to announce my new goal: I am walking one hundred miles. I’ll take a hundred days to do it, but I’m walking one mile a day for one hundred days. I’m doing this to raise $30,000.00, enough money for the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation to provide one hundred prosthetic legs for people in developing countries.

A mile a day might not sound like much, but for those of you who have followed my journey since January, you know that I couldn’t even walk around the block at the beginning of the year. My goal three months ago was to be able to walk a mile by the end of seven weeks. Well, I surpassed that goal and am feeling the freedom and expansiveness that only comes from a life of mobility. Now walking a mile is my daily goal.

After completing my first goal, I wanted to continue walking but, more importantly, I wanted to get outside myself and support other amputees to feel some of the same freedom and joy that I feel. I saw an article about the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation and their work in Haiti after their devastating earthquake. The POF works in developing countries to teach local people how to manufacture parts for prosthetic legs and how to make the legs themselves. They teach self-reliance. The stories of the individuals who have benefited from their help are heart-wrenching. And while I cannot pretend to relate to a man whose leg was cut off by a machete in a war-torn country, I can relate to his joy at having a leg that provides him the mobility and freedom to open up his world again.

The ability to walk is a basic human need, especially for folks in developing countries where walking is directly related to one's ability to earn a living or go to school. Stories abound at the POF about people who are able to rejoin their communities because of their ability to walk again.

I want to help 100 people experience the joy that I feel. I want to help 100 people open up their world again. And I’d love it if you could help me. No amount is too small. Each leg costs only $300 so every little bit adds up quickly.

I'll be blogging periodically about my goal. I'd love for you to follow my next journey.

There’s a Donate button at the top of my blog that will take you directly to my fund-raising page for the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation. Thank you so much for stepping up and supporting one hundred people to regain their mobility.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Moving On

It's been nearly a week since I reached my goal, finished my course, and celebrated at a fun Gala. The day after the Gala I gave myself permission to skip my walk. After all, I deserved it, didn't I?
What I discovered is that I don't want to stop walking. It means a lot to me to get outside everyday and loosen up my joints. So Mark and I took a lovely walk down to the beach.

I've been pondering my next goal and I don't know exactly what I'm doing yet. What I want to do still needs a plan.

You see I love working on myself. It gives me great joy to learn and grow. Ever since I lost my leg, I knew that I had to wring positive experiences from this situation to make it all worth it. Nine months after the accident, as I was walking on my college campus, I played the three wishes game: If I had three wishes, what would I ask for? The first thing that popped into my head was, "I want my leg back." No sooner had I formed the thought than another one formed around it, smothering it with wisdom. "No, you can't ask for your leg back. This is a life long gig. You're going to learn from this." Ever since then, I have. I've learned from being active in my twenties and finding my physical limits; I've learned from accepting; I've learned from the man who hit me and forgiving him, forgiving myself; I learned about pain and transcendence. The list goes on.

As you know, I'm turning 50 in a few weeks. I'm taking this very seriously. I see myself entering a time in life when I have the resources to give back to my world. Not necessarily financial resources, but experience, wisdom, and time. And I want my leg to be more than life lessons. Not that a life lessons aren't enough. They are. I just want more.

So I think there's a way to walk and somehow help others. That's the bones of my plan. I'll flesh it all out this week.

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 48

Today is the last day of my goal. Today my program ends. I have been taking a series of self-empowerment workshops through Excellence Northwest. Each workshop builds upon the last, ending with The Practice, the workshop I'm currently finishing. In early January, at the beginning of The Practice, each of us had to declare a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, something we wanted to accomplish in seven weeks. It all culminates tomorrow night at the Gala - a grand party where we all get to profess what we've accomplished.

One of my biggest accomplishments has been reconnecting with my body. Ever since I became an amputee 32 years ago, I have never walked everyday for 48 days in a row. I've been physical in many ways, but always for shorter spurts of time. Walking everyday has given me the opportunity to settle into my body again, accept where it is, and make choices about where I want it to be. In ways my daily walk for seven weeks has been more empowering than sky diving, skiing or any of the other activities I've done. I can still surprise myself.

Reconnecting with my body has been like rekindling the flame with an old lover. It's been very familiar, yet new at the same time. There has been a level of comfort involved, but a new trust that needed to be built. In recommitting to my body, I am recommitting to my whole self and to my future.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this goal by reading my blog and through your kind and encouraging words.

Though The Practice may be finished, though I may have achieved my Big Hairy Audacious Goal, this isn't over. In fact, I feel like I've just begun. Come back to my blog, which I will now post to twice a week, and see what my next challenge will be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 47

Body image.

Big topic. One I've been wanting to write about for the last 47 days, but haven't known what size bite to chew off. I could write about women and body image in general, but that's only part of my story. Body image for me has been a constatntly changing landscape serving as a backdrop to whatever story I've been living.

In high school, I was hyper aware of every one of my imperfections: thunder thigh, big gut, small chest and red hair. I walked the crowded high school hallways with my books pinned against my chest, my arms crossed tightly across them, hiding myself from the glares, not only of boys, but other girls.

After I lost my leg, I knew that my leg, or lack of it, had the potential to turn men away from me. I knew I would be disgusting to some men. I was so thankful that my prosthetic leg covered up my residual limb so that nobody needed to see it. When I went swimming I quickly took off my leg as close to the pool as possible, jumped to the pool and slide in quietly. I tried to avoid stares but, having been on the other side, knew that people couldn't help themselves. Of course they would sneak a peak. I would, too.

What was so hard is that I never knew why people were looking at me. In college, walking down the street, if a guy was looking at me I'd take it as a compliment, until I realized he was staring at my limp or my leg. Having such a visible difference was confusing for me as a young woman. I didn't know whether I was being looked at as pretty or freakish.

In my twenties I felt strong. I was involved in amputee soccer and skiing and was using my body a lot. I almost didn't care what people thought of me because I was in love with what I was doing. I knew, with each new activity I did, that I came close to not being to do that activity at all. Had the car hit me a few inches higher, I could have been paralyzed. Had the car hit me with a little more force, I could have lost my other leg. The activities I did were made even sweeter by the fact that I nearly lost the ability to do them at all.

When I became a mom I started to feel like what I heard many other women talk about in terms of their body image: the sadness of my sagging breasts, the tummy that wouldn't go away, the pregnancy weight that stuck like glue to my butt, and all the other physical shifts that happen from pregnancy and childbirth. I felt like a dowdy mom. In this respect I felt average, one of the gang. I took comfort in this; it was the first time since high school that I could comisserate with friends on the same playing field.

And now? I revisit landscapes from my past,depending on the story of the day. Some days I still walk through life trying to hide myself. Some days I feel on top of the world, able to do anything, proud of and thankful for my body. As I age, the frumpiness lingers, but I'm trying to find a new perspective in how I value and admire an aging body. When I look at other women my age or older I mostly see beautiful people. Maybe not in the classic sense or the Hollywood sense. I see women who have lived life and who's bodies tell the story.

A few years ago I went to the Korean day spa in Lynnwood. My friend and I first visited all the dry sauna rooms in which we wore our robes. After we had gotten good and hot, we went to the hot tub room. I knew I'd have to take my prosthetic leg off and hop around soI mentally prepared myself for being naked in front of other women. I didn't want them to look at me but I quickly realized that was unrealistic. We were all looking at each other. Out of the corners of our eyes, as we threw our head back in laughter as we chatted with our friends. We looked. And what I saw were amazing bodies. Some large, some skinny, some inbetween. But each body had a story, many stories. A scar on a breast, a tattoo on a hip, a welt on a arm, wrinkles all over a face. Those bodies were, to me, far more beautiful than anything I could see in the movies. And my naked body, with half of my leg missing, had it's own story. That's all. Just a story. But I'm sure some of those other women could see beauty in my story just as I saw beauty in theirs.

I think that was just a small bite.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 46

When I was young I celebrated Lent. I usually gave something up like candy or, when I was older, swearing. I remember hearing that by changing behavior for the forty days, the length of the Lenten season, our habits change. I feel like I've developed a new habit in walking these past 46 days.

It's not a question anymore whether I'll walk or not. My daily walk has become a part of the family routine like taking out the garbage and eating dinner together. My husband asks when I'll fit it in each day to see if he can come with me. When I invited Tessa to come on my walk tonight she said, "Can I go tomorrow night instead? It's raining tonight." Sure, I said, both of us knowing a walk is in my future tomorrow.

I like the comfort of knowing I'm using my body everyday. I kind of even understand why people exercise as a way to relieve stress. I find that I'm less tense after a walk, more relaxed. Even if I'm grumbly about an issue when I first start out, by the time I get home, I've usually thought it through.

Now that I've met two goals, first my mile walk, then my two mile walk, well the FOUR mile hike (yes, I'm still proud of myself), I'm wondering what to strive for now. I like having something to work towards. I want the next one to be a stretch. Now that I know my body better, I know how much more I can ask of her. I'll ponder this over the next few days.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 45

A month from today I turn "50"! I can't wait.

As I said before, I've always wanted to be an old lady; turning 50 feels like I'm stepping onto that path. Just dipping my toes into the waters. I'll go swimming in the Old Lady lake later, but soon I'll just test the waters.

Being young at heart is important to me and so I am returning to my daring youth and taking my family to Whistler for my birthday so we can all ride the zip line. I'm exhilarated just thinking about it. And terrified. I can't imagine having to step off the platform and into the abyss.

When I was in my twenties I went skydiving two times. Once with a friend and again about a year later with a group of other amputees. The first time was a challenge, the second time was terrifying. When it was time to step out of the plan and onto a little tiny step, I looked down (the wrong thing to do) and said, "I can't do it." The plane circled around, but I was given a warning: Say no again and we'll fly you back to earth. I hadn't paid good money for a short plane ride, so I made myself step out of the plane and onto the tiny little step. When they told me to let go, I did. I spread my arms and counted to ten and then pulled the cord. I was safe. I was floating. I was flying, or as close as I could in human form.

There's something about taking these risks that reminds me of not only my mortality, but also of my spirit. The courage to step into my fear and right through it, trusting that I will be OK, is more exciting than floating through the air. Knowing that I have the fortitude and the guts carries me through the more mundane parts of life. The memory of those experiences stay with me, reminding me that I am a risk-taker.

After I had children, taking these kinds of risks wasn't worth it to me. My dad drowned when I was 13 years old and I was unwilling to do anything that put my life at risk and leave my children without a mother.

My kids are older now and I can do the zip line with them. I can share my joy, my screams, and my Hot Damns with them. I can show them how fun risk can be.

I want to step off the zip line platform on the day I turn 50 and remind myself that I have the courage to step into every day of my life. I want to rekindle that younger part of myself that was willing to fly instead of take the safe way back to earth.

Some may call this a mid-life crisis, the desire to return to my youth. I call it mid-life clarity. Finding out, again, that living life to it's fullest is what's important.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 44

When I woke up this morning and walked to the kitchen to make my coffee, I could feel almost every muscle in my long leg and in my butt. Amazing. With the all the skiing, hiking, and soccer I did in my twenties, you'd think I'd have discovered my butt muscles before, but I hadn't.

Maybe it's because my backside had never been so jiggly as it's gotten lately. Maybe because I went from losing my leg to exercising whenever I used it. Maybe I just wasn't as tuned in to my body in my twenties. But I was this morning and I have to say that having buns of steel is a seductive prize. I wouldn't set out with that as my goal, but if it is a side benefit, I'll take it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 43

Another day of walking. This time in an asphalt jungle. We headed up to Vancouver today to feel the Olympic spirit. What we really felt was the Canadian spirit for their love of hockey. I've never seen so many people wearing their country's "gear."

We probably walked three miles today and it was much harder than yesterday's four miles. I think there are a few reasons for that. Walking on asphalt is much harder, as I'm sure it is for anyone. My lower back really feels the impact. Also, when I was hiking up, up, up yesterday, my prosthetic leg couldn't make a full stride. On the uphill, my prosthetic leg can only make half a stride, from full extension up to meeting my long leg. That means that my prothesis doesn't have the opportunity to rub on my backside so much. Today, after three miles of full strides, my backside is feeling pretty raw.

But, for the most part, I'm feeling good. I need an Advil to cut the incessant ache and a night of sleep will help with the raw spot.

I will say this: in my post yesterday I wrote that maybe Tessa's hurt ankle was a blessing in disguise. It wasn't. I would have loved to have had Mark and Tessa there with me during my accomplishment. It was really nice to walk with the family today, bantering, joking and having a good time. I wish I could have had that yesterday; I'm sure it would have helped.

My hikes aren't over, though, so there will be other opportunities for the family to hike with me. Then I won't need to hike with ruby slippers because "home" will always be with me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 42

YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOO! I did it! And then some. Boy Howdy am I thrilled.

I sit with a glass of champagne and an aching lower body as I recall the events of the 2 1/2 hours I spent in the Chuckanut mountains today.

I really wanted to hike up to Fragrance Lake, so the initial plan was to drive one car to the parking lot near the lake and leave it there. Then, when we were done hiking the two miles up to the lake, we could walk to the car and drive down to the car at the trail head. But, truth be told, there was something in me that not only desperately wanted to hike up and down, but knew I could. When it came time to leave the house I had to decide, do we take both cars or can I commit to 4 miles?

I committed.

We drove to the trail head and started up the trail. The sun was shining and there were scores of other people hiking the same trail. What was I thinking that I might see some trail-side plants? It's still February! Instead there was a sea of sword ferns blanketing the forests floor. Deep deep green amidst the brown duff of fir and cedar.

After we hit the half way point 45 minutes into the hike, Tessa twisted her ankle. She didn't want it to hurt, but Mark and I could tell it did. Reluctantly she and Mark headed back to the car and I decided to go on by myself the rest of the way.

Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. I'm used to hiking alone; in the past my friends often had to keep their own pace. They always waited for me at a resting point, but I am used to being with my thoughts and my panting breathe as I walk alone.

As I did, I thought about how much easier this all was than I expected. What was I thinking limiting myself to 2 miles? I can do 6 or 8! But then I rounded another switchback and wondered when the hell the lake would appear! The last half mile was tough, more on my lungs than my legs.

I finally got to the lake about 45 minutes after parting from Mark and Tessa. Teary eyed, puffed up from this accomplishment, I kept walking until I found a bench. I sat for about 5 minutes, relished the moment, washed my four (!) heart rocks in the lake and headed back down.

This C-leg is amazing. I can walk foot over foot, bearing weight on my prosthetic leg while it's bent. Walking down was a breeze. When I've hiked in the past, this is the part that really tweaks my lower back. But today, I walked down easily and quickly, probably in an hour. As I walked down the trail, it was the first time in a long time that walking felt so natural that I wanted to run. I ached to have my body let loose and run down the hill, the breeze flowing through my hair. Do nearly 50 year olds, even two-legged ones, run down hiking trails? I don't think so. I did what any dignified nearly-50 year old would do and walked down the trail. But I swear, it was like I was walking with ruby slippers on.

When I arrived at the trail head, Mark and Tessa were in the car waiting for me. I thought I would cry; I thought I would feel utter relief. Instead I felt blissed out. I was all smiles.

What dawned on me today with intense clarity is this: When I think of myself as disabled, I am. When I think of myself as not disabled, I'm not. I think Tessa was right: I'm disabled and I'm not. My leg teaches me about the paradox of life.

Today, I felt alive and my own brand of normal. Holy cow, I walked FOUR miles today!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 41

Tomorrow is the big day and I'm so excited. Tomorrow I'm taking my 2 mile hike in the woods.

I so look forward to being in the woods, smelling the wet earth, seeing the budding trees and forest floor plants. I'm sure I'll try to recall each plant's name; I studied ethnobotany in college and loved becoming acquainted with each plant's use.

I look forward to huffing my way up the hill. I usually grumble because I hate to sweat. I'll likely wonder when it will all be over, but the exhilaration at the end will make it all worth it.

I'm going to be conscious of breaking a pattern tomorrow. You see, even though there's so much anticipation before I'm physical, before leaving the house, as I'm getting ready, I can get pretty grumbly. It comes off as if I'm mad at everybody else. I've reviewed this behavior enough times to know that I really just get scared. I get scared that whatever I'm about to do will be hard. I get scared that I'll look foolish. I get scared that I'll fail. Any irritation, anything that goes wrong just exacerbates my fear, so I'll be aware of being authentic. Instead of snapping at my family and masking my fear in anger, I'll just say, "I'm scared." Even if I don't know what I'm scared of in the moment. A wise woman recently told me that the physical feelings of being scared and being excited are the same. So I guess it's really my choice about how I express those feelings.

I want to have fun tomorrow. I want to remember that no matter how far I go, what I'm most looking forward to is being in the woods. I can hike in half a mile and have a similar experience to that which I'd have two miles up. My intention, however, is to hike the full two miles.

Now, if I could just do the whole hike with ruby slippers on. How swell would that be?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 40

The feedback I get from other people is interesting: most people don’t see or think of me as disabled.

There’s a huge part of me that appreciates that and prides myself in that. I don't want pity; I don't want to be treated differently. I remember what it's like to have two legs and I know that having only one leg does not make me different than other people.

Then there’s a part of me that is confused by all of that. I deal with my leg on a daily basis. It is clear to me that my body does not work the same as two-legged bodies. It takes me energy to accommodate the loss of my leg in my life, if not physically, then emotionally. Not in a huge way, but the loss is there, everyday. I don’t mourn it daily, I deal with it daily. I don’t bemoan the loss, I’ve accepted it. Since I remember what it's like to have two legs, I also know that having only one leg does make me different than other people.

It’s a hard line to balance, recognizing my limits and not being defined by them. That’s easier for me to do when I’m alone, but once I’m reflected by other people, the tune changes.

When I hear from other people that they see me as normal, after the initial glow, it seems to minimize what I deal with. Being labeled as normal fails to recognize all that I do to manage living with one leg. Another hard line to balance – the need to be recognized for dealing with a difference and the need to be recognized for being normal.

I think what I understand now is that there's a tug of war between my spiritual body and my physical body. My physical body is challenged and as it ages, it's challenged even further because of the loss of my leg. Physically I don't feel exceptionally normal. It's my spiritual body that feels normal. The rest of my limbs could be cut from my physical body, but that won't cut out my spiritual body. My essence, my true nature, the part of me that transcends the physical is rich and deep.

I’ve become acutely aware over the years that there are so many hidden challenges that millions of people deal with on a daily basis. Perhaps what makes us all truly normal is having our own private challenge in life, accepting it as our own, and learning to grow from that challenge. I know that I've grown as a result of being an amputee.There is a plethora of lessons I've learned in life just because I don't have my leg. Has the loss of my leg been worth it? Absolutely. Would I change how my life turned out? Absolutely not.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 39

Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted to be an old lady. I've always carried an image of myself as wrinkled with a wispy gray bun sitting in a rocking chair. Children will come sit on my lap and revel in my kind council. I imagined myself emanating wisdom.

I turn fifty in five weeks and, while I'm nowhere near my image of being an old lady, I am on my way. My hair is already gray and I've gathered a bit of wisdom on my journey.

What I didn't factor into the equation was the toll life takes on my body. Regardless of my amputation, but in many respects because of it, my body is showing the signs of good old wear and tear. I need to get bifocals; my bones creak when I stand from a sitting position; I get heartburn. How did this happen?

Ever since my accident aches and pains are a normal part of life for me, which was unusual for my age. My peer group didn't grumble about tendinitis, bursitis, or swollen ankles. I know that, in many respects, my body is older than my chronological age. It made me feel a little freakish and lonely. And I dealt with the pain by ignoring it, getting angry with it, and hiding it.

But now that my friends are getting older I finally get to commiserate with them. They too know how hard it is to stand after sitting for an hour. I empathize when I hear them complain about sore muscles or a bad back. Their bodies are starting the wear and tear process, too. While I don't wish this on anyone, I feel like I have company!

Not that I like to spend a lot of time whining about my body. What I didn't expect about aging is how young I would feel on the inside. That old lady with a bun sitting in the rocker? When I was a girl I thought of her as quiet, soft and gentle. I didn't realize that I would grow up and, instead of sitting in a rocker, I'd want to be listening to rock music.

Just so long as I stay young at heart, I'm not too concerned about my body.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 38

Today I made a decision. For the next week I am not going to use any disabled parking. I want to be aware of how much I depend on it and how much I use it as the easy way.

It took about ten years before I could consider getting a disabled placard for my car. Once I had one, I used it, not all the time, but definitely when my leg was tender or painful.

Since I've had kids I've so easily rationalized why I can use it. When they were little and I was getting back down to my normal weight (read: I was still heavy) I did need to use it. Getting around the grocery store holding a baby was a challenge in itself. I knew my limits and that didn't include trekking across a parking lot.

I usually feel awkward getting out of my car, though. I feel like I need to explain to the stranger who walks by me, looking at me with judgmental eyes, why I'm justified in using this disabled parking space. I know I look normal, but there have been a number of years when my walking has not been normal. But the stranger doesn't know that. The stranger only sees me, a normal looking person, get out of the car. I make sure my placard is hung quite visibly on the rearview mirror. No one can question me if I have a bonafide placard.

As I was pulling into a disabled spot today, out of habit and ease, it dawned on me that, in fact, I'm quite capable of parking at the far end of the parking lot, walking all the way to the store, walking around the store and actually walking back to the car. If I can walk for a half and hour everyday, I can certainly walk across a parking lot.

So this tells me two things. First, that I'm becoming more aware of my habits and the stories I tell myself about my disability. I am learning to question myself a little bit and see if there's another story to tell. Second, I am becoming stronger. Even though I felt like I took ten giant steps backwards during my walk today (I had to stop on every block because my residual limb was getting the vice grip feeling again), the fact of the matter is that I walk at least 2/3 of a mile every day.

So, I want to change my story this week. In the new story, I'm strong and capable. I am someone who walks across the parking lot to the store.

With a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 37

Yesterday started out as a drippy wet walk in the woods. At the end of my hour the sun was shining and the newly emerging leaves were painfully green, so intensely were they glistening.

Today was a mellow neighborhood walk in the sun with my children . Not a "sunglasses day", but it wasn't raining.

I'm still pondering the whole disability issue - how much choice I have about being disabled and how my attitude affects my disability. Can I have a disability and not be disabled?

I have to figure this one out.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 36

I took an hour walk today on Sehome hill, a beautiful arboretum behind Western Washington University. I used to take lots of walks there when I first started college, right after my accident.

I was so grateful for Sehome hill, a lush, luscious, vibrantly green forest that was, with effort, accessible to me. Walking was very painful and arduous those first few years after the accident. I kept walking in spite of that because intrinsically I knew that I had to. I didn't want life to pass me by. I wanted to live as much as I could.

As I was walking today, I pondered what makes me disabled. I questioned whether I'm even truly disabled. When I was a young eighteen year old, I couldn't think of myself as disabled. I flat out refused. I spent energy learning to stretch, expand, reach and find my limits, of which there were few. I wasn't interested in being disabled so I wasn't. I prided myself on being able to just keep up with the friends who slowed down enough for me to do so. I had a can-do attitude. In my twenties, anything was possible, almost.

When I had kids, all my energy went into them, not pushing my physical limits. I found there were new limits to explore: how much sleep I could go without; how long I could comfort a crying baby; how patient I could be playing dinosaurs for hours; how much I could love when my child was sad. Pushing those boundaries had nothing to do with my leg and never will.

Being physical went by the wayside. I allowed that to happen. But I'm realizing that the slow decline, the imperceptible descent into inactivity shaped my attitude about my body and my abilities. So much so that gradually I started to think of myself as disabled. Then I started to call myself disabled. What I thought was simply calling a spade a spade was in fact a shift in attitude.

Walking the same paths today I walked over thirty years ago put me in touch with the young woman who refused to be disabled. It reminded me that, in fact, I have a choice in the matter. How attached am I to identifying myself as a disabled person? What I realized on my walk today is that I get to choose my attitude toward my body and, in turn, make a choice about whether or not I'm disabled.

Despite the static limitations of my body - I'll never grow my leg back - life can be heaven or it can be hell. It's all in what I make it. It doesn't even really matter what the issue is. Lack of money, ill health, strained relationships. My relationship to those situations will determine how happy I am.

I'm turning fifty in about six weeks, but there's a big part of me that's still an eighteen year who wants to live as much as I can. Now I understand that it's my choice. Disabled or not.