Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

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It will never be just one

I was talking to a friend over dinner the other night, and she was telling me how excited she is at the prospect of becoming an aunt.

“I’ll get to see the kid for an hour and then be, like, see you later!”

I’m sort of paraphrasing there, but the hour struck me.

It will never be just one.

When your niece/nephew is a baby, you’ll want to cuddle and sniff their baby heads forever. You’ll relish the times they fall asleep in your arms, even when your arms fall asleep because you’re trying not to move so you don’t wake them. You’ll stick around for hours listening to their chatter as they get a little older. You’ll spend lazy Sunday mornings building Lego castles with towers that reach above their heads and take pictures on your phone because they insist it’s important.

You’ll watch them (and sometimes gasp quietly; other times swear under your breath) as they move from training wheels to two wheels and shout “Watch this!” as they race over the wooden ramp their dad thought was a good idea at the time. You’ll run with them as they race down the street, trying to beat you to the next block. You’ll spend hours throwing the football and making sure that everyone gets equal turns. (And then patiently wait while someone inevitably has a meltdown because the other someone got one extra throw.)

You’ll spend hours trying to find the perfect birthday or Christmas present, even though you know they’re not going to spend more than five minutes with it because they have a hundred other presents. But it has to be just right because they will know it’s from you.

You’ll dance around the living room holding hands and spinning until you’re dizzy because that’s just what they want to do.

When you get your courage up (and they can take themselves to the bathroom), you’ll take them out for Sunday brunch. Just them. No parents. You’ll ask about school and listen as they tell you about the scary principal (who’s not really scary). They’ll tell you wild stories as their imaginations take root and grow. And you’ll listen intently because, by now, you’ve realized this time is going to go by too quickly.

When you really get up your courage, you’ll take them for a weekend. Alone. And it will be big and scary (for you, not the kids), but it will be oh so much fun. Even though you don’t do anything in particular.

You’ll drive two hours just to stand for three more and watch them swim in a meet even though you know it’s going to be hot and sweaty and stinky in the natatorium because it’s important that they know you’re there. That you’re present and cheering for them every step of the way.

You’ll spend an extra 30 minutes simply soaking up all the super-ultra mega hugs of doom your nephew gives because he keeps saying, “Just one more!”

It’s interesting, being an aunt. I never imagined the ways it would change my life, and I never imagined just how much I could love someone else’s children. It’s sometimes hard to articulate exactly what it means to be an aunt and what it entails, but I can be clear on one thing. It will never be just one hour.


One of these characters is programmed to frown when you tell him to smile.



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365 miles a year

This morning, I read that Mark Zuckerberg (aka the inventor of my biggest waste of time) had posed a physical challenge for 2016. He’s calling it “A Year of Running.” The premise is simple. Run 1 mile for every day in the year. Never mind that it’s a leap year, so there are 366 days in 2016.

I’d seen other challenges issued as the new year approached for 1,000 miles, 2,016 miles and more. Those all seemed unattainable to me.

This seems like a perfectly reasonable proposition. Not too much. Certainly something a beginner could aspire to do.

I don’t think that you have to run 1 mile every day. Or at least I can’t. I need several rest days between runs no matter the distance because I don’t want to completely anger my knee.

I like this idea. I’m going to give it a shot. Starting tomorrow.


Tri, tri again

(Little Miami Triathlon Fall 2015 Recap)

Triathlon montage.

(clockwise from top left) Me and my super awesome tri partner before the race. Icing the knee(s) in the car on the way home. Headband that appropriately says, “This isn’t sweat. It’s liquid awesome.” The kinesiotape configuration that makes a world of difference with swelling. Us post race–we still look pretty good!

Facebook reminded me the other week that it’s been three years since my DeNovo transplant and Elmslie TTT (surgery was on 9/18/12). Three years. I would never have recognized the anniversary if it weren’t for the FB memories that pop up at random. That’s a great thing because it means I don’t worry about the knee quite like I used to the first two years after the surgery.

How to better celebrate another year down than to complete a triathlon?

That’s right. I had no grand ideas that I would be able to COMPETE in the venture. Especially not with everything that’s happened over the last six weeks. Through all of that, I managed to run only once (for about 2 miles), bike three times (for a total of about 30 miles) and kayak twice (for a total of about 18 miles). That was the full extent of my “training” for this triathlon. Well, I do still swim fairly frequently, but perhaps not surprisingly, swimming is not a great training plan for a triathlon that does not include a swim leg.

I thought I’d back out after my dad passed away. I had an understanding partner who didn’t pressure me and said we could try again in 2016. But I decided to go ahead with it because I really needed to focus on something else.

I did the Little Miami Triathlon the first time four years ago. My goal then, too, was simply to finish. I’d broken my leg the year before and had my first knee surgery only five months before the LMT.

This time, I’m about 20 pounds heavier, so that’s not an awesome start. I had also been running quite a bit leading up to the 2011 event and biking 20 miles a couple times a week. In short, I was much better prepared then than I was this year. And it was brutal.

But I finished. And damn did it feel good.

I struggled mightily on the run. I knew it was going to be the tough leg. But there were SO many people out there motivating me–all of us. There were kids with parents manning the water/aid stations, and they would cheer us on. There was one kid kneeling in the middle of the road with both hands flung high in the air, “Motivational high fives! Right here! That one’s for you!” There were people along the route clanging cow bells and cheering us on, “We’re so proud of you! Good job! You’re doing great!” I couldn’t help but smile when I passed one kid dressed up as Captain Jack Sparrow. There were cyclists (not with the race) who flew past us as we ran on the trail toward Killer Hill, “Awesome job!” Other racers would pass me and tell me to keep it up. It’s kind of hard to stop when you’re getting that much awesome support from strangers.

I didn’t do so well on the bike either. At least I can blame a constant headwind for the trouble on the bike; it seemed like it was blowing straight in my face no matter which way I turned. Tons of people passed me on the run, so I felt better when I passed a number of people on the bike. That didn’t stop the negative self talk that started up when I found myself fairly alone on one uphill stretch that went directly into the wind. “Ok, well, you’ve gotten this far. That’s ok. No one will blame you if you stop. Oh, look, that guy got off his bike to walk. That seems like a good idea. No, don’t get off the bike. If you get off the bike, you’ll never get back on. Wait. Josie [my friend/driver] has the car key. If I stop here, I can just call her to pick me up. Where the hell am I? I can’t even give her directions to come scrape my body off the side of the road. Shiiiit. Better keep pedaling.” Like I said, it was brutal.

Last time, when I rounded the final corner and saw that the last little bit of the bike course was all uphill, I started crying/cursing. This time, I was so focused on simply turning the pedals, I didn’t even realize that I was on the last hill until I saw the flags marking the finish line. Holy shit. I was almost there. I had one last surge of energy that put me across the line. My time this year was considerably worse than last time, but I don’t know that I really care. I finished. My friend told me, when I started lamenting the time, to knock it off. She said that doing what I did with virtually no training made me that much more of a badass. I think maybe it just makes me insane, but I’m going with her version.

The one really good part of the race was the canoe. We didn’t do very well in 2011 (in fact, we did so poorly, we had other participants laughing at us). We didn’t want a repeat of that, so we practiced a few times and watched THIS amazing video that was clearly filmed off a VHS tape from the 80’s. The people in it are perfect, mullets and all. It was entertaining to watch them, but more importantly, the video was pretty informative. It helped! We had compliments from other teams about how well we navigated the waters, and we had at least one other team following us because we were doing such a good job picking routes downstream. We passed people! That was pretty cool.

After the race, I crawled across the back seat of my car so that I could prop my leg up. We stopped at the first gas station we saw to buy ice that we then put in a couple plastic sacks and packed both my knees in ice. I stayed that way for the two-hour ride home. I’m happy to say that, while there are parts of me that are very sore, my knee is ok. In fact, it’s responded better than I’d dared hope. There is some residual pain, but it’s completely manageable with the normal measures of ice and elevation.

Which means… I’m looking forward to the HUFF 50k relay in December.


Shake it off

I was going to title this “Haters gonna hate,” but I was informed no one over the age of 15 uses that phrase, except Taylor Swift. Pfft.

I’ve been at this knee thing for five years now. Almost. It will be five years at the end of March. In the beginning, people in my life were all really positive and spent lots of time cheering me on. I had all the help I needed in the first weeks after the big surgery, and people would go out of their way to be encouraging. I had people asking after me, and I wondered how they even knew about my knee. I was always thankful to have such support, and it was difficult to be anything but positive when so many people surrounded me with optimism.

Then came the last year. Some people in my life, though very well meaning, became downers. I was struggling quite a bit last year, and some people thought the best approach was to begin telling me that maybe I just needed to accept the knee was as good as it was going to get. I understand they were trying to be helpful, and they didn’t want to see me hurt. Except I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, and I didn’t take it so well. It pissed me off.

It also motivated me. I wanted to prove them wrong. I wasn’t ready to believe that I wouldn’t be able to do simple things (like sweep my floor or go up/down stairs) without eliciting pain. I also still didn’t want to believe that I wouldn’t compete again, but that was no longer as worrisome as not being able to live everyday without pain.

One of the naysayers was my primary OS. He told me in June that he didn’t think there was anything else to do for the knee and that I needed to consider that this was maybe as good as the knee was going to get. I appreciate that he’d run out of ideas and was being honest with me about that, but I took it as a challenge. And I proved him wrong over the course of the next six months. Even if I get no better from here on out, I’m definitely better than I was last June.

I’m not writing this to be all “in your face!” (I like my primary OS, and I certainly wouldn’t be here without all the good work he’s done.) I’m writing this for the folks who might be reading and who have their own naysayers. Don’t listen to your critics. Well, you can listen to them, but prove them wrong. Whatever is going on right now, it’s your journey. You can let people help guide you along the way, but it’s ultimately your decision how you move through life. Make your life about you and not about what other people think, especially when they’re loudly whispering in your ear that you can’t do something.

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Anonymous inspiration

Last time I saw my PT, she said that she’d told a couple other patients about me (without using my name so as not to overstep HIPAA) to give them an example of someone who’s had to work hard and not give up despite not knowing exactly what to do. She referenced specifically that I’ve had to work on strengthening and had to figure out ways to do that without inciting pain. She wanted to give them some encouragement, I guess.

I’m just not so sure that I’m a particularly good example because I don’t know whether I have a healthy dose of optimism or an unhealthy dose of stubborn. My mother would likely lean heavily toward the latter, having told me my entire life that I’m often too stubborn for my own good. Bullheaded, I think is what it’s called.

I googled “stubborn” and quickly found the quote below. Which made me laugh right out loud.

“I don’t know how you persist in being so stubborn-”
“It’s a superpower. I was bitten by a radioactive mule.”
― Shannon Hale, The Actor and the Housewife

If stubborn is a superpower, I think I have it. I just don’t recall a radioactive mule in my youth.

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I am a girl, yes.

I received what I’ve determined was a backhanded compliment while I was in the gym this afternoon. At least I’m taking it as a compliment.

The gym was packed. I think all the resolutioners are getting a head start on the new year. I saw a dude out of the corner of my eye while I was finishing up on one of the machines, and I could tell he was waiting for the machine. When I stood up to wipe it off, he motioned toward the stack and said, “That’s the same weight I use… and you’re a GIRL!”

Thanks, Captain Obvious. I am indeed a girl. But what I think you meant to say is that I’m a total badass.