Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

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Thirty seconds

Spring lasted all of thirty seconds around here. Seriously, it was blowing snow on April 2, and it was 85 degrees today. I’m not going to complain… but I want to complain. Because it’s hot. I spent the weekend shearing llamas, and it was sweaty, dirty business. I only got 16 done, which means there are 48 still waiting on me. Oy.

I’m getting ready to do something this weekend that I haven’t done in four years. I’m going to compete at a llama show. Yes! Legit. I actually signed up, and I’m going. I’m totally unprepared and haven’t practiced AT ALL, but I wanted to do it, so I’m doing it. I had to sign up before I chickened out.

This show is actually the same one after which I stopped competing four years ago. At the end of that day, I drove home in tears. I was in agony. That was also the day I decided to get serious about the big surgery.

For the last two years, I’ve gone to shows and helped friends with their animals. I even went in the ring once or twice. But I never exhibited my own animal, and I certainly didn’t do the performance classes.

I’m pretty excited about this. I’m taking an animal that I trained years ago (but that I haven’t practiced with in about four years), and I enjoy him oh so much. His name is Zin. He’s big and fluffy and patient, and we’re going to go make fools of ourselves.

This is kind of a prove-to-myself-that-this-was-all-worth-it moment. We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed!



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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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Happy holidays

I’m freshly back from a whirlwind of holiday traveling, and I’m trying to catch my breath in the short lull before the new year. I’m not complaining though. I’m blessed to have family and friends to visit during the Christmas season, and I try to enjoy as much of it as humanly possible.

My sister’s kids (the niece and one ‘phew) received a Twister game. Despite not having played it in over two decades, my inner competitor determined that I need to school the six and eight year old. I’m not sure my PT would approve the moves I made in order to secure a win, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

My sister gave our nine-year-old nephew (one of my older brother’s kids, if you’re following along) a catapult. I mention his age only because this particular catapult was for ages 14 and above. An important note on the box that my sister apparently overlooked. My ‘phew asked for my assistance in putting the thing together, and I happily sat down at the table to get to work. The happy lasted for about five minutes. There were SO MANY PIECES. I spent nearly two and a half hours putting that thing together; the nephew bailed after about an hour, but there was no way he could have done it himself anyway.

After I got it together, I flipped the lever, and… the thing barely flopped over. I was completely annoyed after spending all that time (also, the instructions were extremely difficult to follow because there were no words, only pictures). Then, I realized, PHYSICS. I had misplaced the fulcrum. I had to enlist the help of another adult to get a few pieces off and then re-positioned. We tested the catapult with a gum ball, and we nearly took out a window. Holy crap. There was serious fire power in that “toy.” Again, for ages 14+.

I sadly didn’t get a picture of the catapult, but I did snap a few others.

Upturned Christmas tree.

Manning knocked my tree over. Granted, it’s fairly small, but he should not have been jumping on it. This is why I can’t have nice things!

Pic of kids.

It would take a miracle for these two to look the same direction and smile for a picture. There was obviously no Christmas miracle.

Swinging at the nearby park.

Playing on the swings at the park with my niece. What else do you do when it’s a whopping 50 degrees out? Definitely no white Christmas this year. I’m not disappointed.

Picture of the moon on Christmas morning 2015.

The moon about 7:00a Christmas morning.

Cats in front of packages.

Manning (grey) and Mowgli (b&w) think they’re master wrappers. They’re not. They’re a nuisance when it comes to paper.

Cat and remote controlled dinosaur.

An epic Christmas morning battle between a cat (ironically, in this case, named Zen) and a robotic Velociraptor (the new interloper). My money was on the orange beast. (Also, I think it’s important to note that Zen isn’t mine, lest you think I’m a crazy cat lady.)

December has been a busy month. It’s a good end to a long year that had a lot of ups and downs. I’m looking forward to starting 2016 off on the right foot and seeing what the new year has in store. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, there will be a few mistakes.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” ― Neil Gaiman

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I did the dash…

I did the Drumstick Dash*.

Pictures from the Drumstick Dash. Thanksgiving 2015.

(clockwise from top left) On the shuttle. With my colleagues. With a fun group of women. With my first foil blanket!

This Thanksgiving, I’m most thankful for my ability to put one foot in front of the other for a sustained period of time. (I’m thankful for an awful lot of other things, too, and you can read about them here and here.)

When my intimidatingly athletic friend first texted with a query as to whether I might be interested in doing the Drumstick Dash on Thanksgiving morning, my reaction was, “Did you mean to text me?” Like, me. The person who is in no way a runner? But I said yes in about the same breath because I was so excited someone thought of me when they signed up for a run.

(On a side note, when I was online signing up for the dash, my mouse slipped, and I accidentally also signed up for a trail race in January. I don’t know what’s gotten in to me!)

I arrived in Broad Ripple at about 8a this morning, via a shuttle. Because there were nearly 20,000 people descending on Broad Ripple Avenue by the 9a start time. I hate crowds, but this one actually wasn’t too bad. I did not hyperventilate. I’d recruited a co-worker/friend to slog the dash with me because I knew I wouldn’t be able to truly run it. We had forgotten safety pins for our numbers, so as we were trolling around to find some, we ran into another colleague who has made it his mission this year to do one race per month (overachiever!). As we waited for the start, we ran into a few more friends who stopped to take pics. How fun! I guess with that many people, you’re bound to know a few in the crowd.

We started off walking very slowly toward the start line. We’d positioned ourselves well behind actual runners, so it took us nearly 20 minutes just to make it to the actual start line. That means that some runners were done with the race before we’d even started! We walked for the first little bit and then decided to slow jog for a while. We kept running in to gobs of people stuck together. I need to learn how to bob and weave my way through a crowd, but this was my first road run and a fun day, so I wasn’t worried about it this time.

With two trail races coming up in the next two months, I’d decided that I needed a new pair of trail running shoes. Then I decided it would be a good opportunity to “break them in” this morning. Not a good idea to run the asphalt in brand new trail shoes. Eh. You live and learn.

Speaking of trail running, I decided today that I like it a lot better than running on the road. It’s definitely easier on my poor legs–there is some give in the dirt that I didn’t find in the asphalt this morning.

Anyway, even with the walking and all the people, I made it across the finish line three minutes UNDER my goal time. Woo! It was a very generous goal time for my first run like this, but I’m still going to own it. Boom.

As we were waiting for the shuttle back to our cars, I started looking up another 5k for December. I found a couple, but one was on the 19th which reminded me I’d better simply stick to the trail relay I’ve already signed up for on that weekend. See? I can control myself sometimes.

*The Drumstick Dash is a fundraiser for Wheeler Mission, an organization helping the homeless in Indianapolis. It’s not too late to donate to the Mission.

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The burrowers

Burrowers. Not to be confused with The Borrowers. Never saw that movie, but I know it’s out there.

The last few weeks–ok, about 10 or 11 or 12 at this point–have been a bit difficult. In a protective measure, I’ve unconsciously drawn in to myself. I’ve spent more time alone in the last two months than I have… ever, really. I can count on one hand the times that I had someone over or I went to someone’s home. Both scenarios on one hand. And I haven’t been out in all that time.

This is unusual for me. To spend SO MUCH time with only my own thoughts to occupy my mind. There are actually a number of good things that have come from this time, but what’s on my mind tonight are what I’ve decided to call the burrowers. Though, even as I write this, I realize that’s not the nicest sounding name/description.

What I’m referring to are the people who have burrowed into my life and who refuse to leave. Even when I’m disengaged. As I slowly start to actively engage again, I can’t help but be immensely thankful for these people. The ones who reached out and leaned in. The ones who sent inquiring texts and uplifting messages. The ones who told me my self-imposed hermitude (it’s a word because I just used it) needed to stop. Those who didn’t disappear under the guise of giving me my space.

It’s these people who mean the most to me. I’m humbled by the magnitude of their caring. And eternally thankful that they choose me.

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An ending

“There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.”
-Shel Silverstein

As we were casually eating brunch one lazy morning in late September, I said to a friend that I felt this fall was going to be a season of change for me. I could feel that there were decisions to be made, steps to take and change to experience. I didn’t know at the time how big at least one change would be.

We were going through photographs a few days after my dad passed away, and I was surprised to realize that I’d never seen photos of him as a little boy. I’ve seen pictures of him when he was in his 20s, 30s and so on. I’ve seen pictures of him on the day he married my mother. I’ve seen pictures of him cradling his newborn children. But I’ve never seen pictures of him when he was a tow-headed little kid.

I was struck by just how much one of my nephews looks like he did as a kid. So similar, in fact, my brother-in-law was like, “Where did you find that old-timey picture of N? No, seriously. Who is that?!”

A photo of my dad when he was about 5 years old.

My dad. The photo wasn’t dated, but I’m guessing he was around 5 years old.

Grief is an interesting thing to experience. At first, there are few other thoughts. It’s impenetrable. Then when you get your wits about you again, there are subtle reminders in quiet moments every day. Then there are some good days followed by days where you have to find an empty conference room because the tears won’t stop at work. It’s fleeting and hard to pin down and ignores your attempts to tie a neat bow around it to put it away on a figurative shelf.

It’s been a little over a month now since my dad died, and every day is a little bit better than the last. Life goes on, and there are still decisions to be made, steps to take and change to experience.


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.