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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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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My thanksgiving is perpetual

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence.” — Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau perfectly sums up how I feel about this time of year. While it’s nice to have a day to sit down and give thanks, I’m grateful for the blessings in my life every single day of the year.

1. I’m thankful that I get to be an aunt. It’s the best job in the entire world. I get to spend time with some wonderful kids and then send them home to their parents when I get bored/tired. Just keeping it real here.

2. I’m thankful that I have my health. Working in an environment like I do, I get nearly daily reminders that health is not to be taken for granted.

3. I’m thankful that I have some of the best friends one could find in a lifetime. They keep me grounded; they keep me laughing; and they keep me inspired. Today, two of them fed me BBQ’d turkey and from-scratch bacon stuffing. Delicious.

4. I’m thankful that this–the fourth year–has been the best, most productive year of my knee journey. I’m still seeing improvements, and that keeps me going to continue to find things that will help control pain and help me gain strength. I’m indebted to a number of people who have helped me on this journey, both from my personal life and from the healthcare side, and more thankful for them than most of them will ever know.

5. This year, as I was last Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Ryan Gosling. Who isn’t, really?

6. I’m also thankful for mashed potatoes (only the real kind, not the box kind), fro yo, cupcakes and old fashioned sugar cream pie (which I recently found out is Indiana’s state pie–who knew we’ve had an official state pie since 2009?).

7. I’m thankful for all the four-legged beasts in my life. I love that I get to spend time on the farm and breathe in the fresh air. On a related note, I’m thankful for any minute that I can spend outdoors. Even though it’s been in the 30s here, I’ve still been hiking at my favorite park. There’s nothing quite like gulping in fresh air, no matter how frigid it is.

There are many, many other things on my list, but I don’t need to write them all down here. Besides, if I did, I wouldn’t get this posted on Thanksgiving. #procrastinator

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Gypsy portrait

This is Stryker. He’s a seven-year-old Gypsy Vanner stallion. We joke about changing his name to Ferdinand because he is extremely (sometimes infuriatingly) laid back. Just like Ferdinand from the children’s story–the bull that would rather smell flowers than engage in the bull fights.

Gypsy Vanner stallion.

Someone should have scrubbed the mud off his face before snapping his picture.

I spent some quality time with Ferdinand this past weekend. We’re working on his ground training. He’s a big baby about, oh, pretty much everything. He likes to pretend that he’s not bigger than anything else on the farm and gets scared when he sees inanimate objects. It’s not his fault. He hasn’t gotten all the proper training. He’s been professionally trained under saddle and in a cart, but he hasn’t really gone too many places off the farm to learn that the world is not a scary place. It’s the lack of experience that shows up from time to time, and we’re working on that.

I tied three pie pans together with some twine–makes an awesome racket. The neighbors were probably, like, what the hell?! The lesson was brief, but it was a good lesson. It ended when I could rattle the pans on either side without him moving his feet and when he’d walk with me while I was rattling the pans. He was still tense, but it was his first lesson with the pans, so I think it went very well. He has no idea what’s coming because this was just the first in a long line of lessons I have planned for him. He’ll be “bomb-proof” eventually whether he knows it or not.

This ground work gives me something to do while I build strength and confidence in my ability to ride again.

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Three Point Oh

When I was in the pool last night, I just couldn’t stop. I was swimming laps in the outdoor pool because the indoor lap pool has been closed for the last few weeks for routine maintenance and painting. The night was sunny and warm. The triathletes swimming laps with me were welcoming and encouraging. The laughter and fun the kids were having in the big pool outside the lap lanes made me smile. I didn’t want to stop.

I swam three miles without stopping. That’s not entirely true. I did stop a few times long enough to put on or take off my fins. I use those to continue building strength in my right leg. I’d never had any desire to swim that far or that long. The longest I swim is 1.5 miles, and most days are closer to 1.25 miles. Last night was different, and I kept going.

I’m pretty excited about it. (In large part because there seem to be no repercussions today–no increased knee pain, no muscle soreness, no nothing.) I sometimes have moments like last night when I’m amazed at what I can do, and I’m reminded that I’m capable of more than I realize much of the time. I think we all are.

This basically means I’m one-third Ironman. The swim portion for the Ironman triathlon is 2.4 miles. I went way past that. Now I just need to add in a marathon and a 112-mile bike ride. Look for me in Kona in 2017. I kid! I kid. I’d never be able to do the run, and I’d need to cut considerable time off my swim. So look for me looking for relay partners to do the Ironman 70.3 in Muncie, Indiana. It’s right up the road, and we have plenty of time to prepare!

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Throwback Thursday, birthday style

My mom always did our birthdays up in style. Big style. We always had a theme, and more often than not, my grandmother would be asked to sew a special outfit for the big day. My mother would make the cake, and while she wasn’t a professional decorator, I think she would have held her own against the best.

I was young enough that I don’t really remember my Strawberry Shortcake birthday, but I do at least have photographic evidence of how coordinated it was–even the wrapping paper was coordinated. At this birthday, I was gifted a large strawberry-shaped toy box. It had a lid that came off completely, so it was more fun as a hiding place than as a toy box. Also, it was a good place the hide the cat.

My third birthday was themed for Strawberry Shortcake.

A mischievous grin on my third birthday. My room would sport Strawberry Shortcake pink for the next 15 years.

One birthday I remember well was the equestrian-themed party. It even had a saddle (on top of a saw horse) for me to sit on while unwrapping my presents. (On a side note, how many people have their kids unwrap presents at the party? Is this still a thing? To this day, I hate opening presents in front of people.) This party also had a cardboard cutout of a horse in a stable made by my older brother. One of my favorite art pieces in my home is a wood burning that he gave me for this birthday.

The Olympics themed birthday may have been the most embarrassing, in retrospect. It involved a sweat suit and a headband that I had to wear ro the party. The cake was a gold medal.

Olympics Birthday Party.

This is me… going for the gold.

The Barbie birthday involved what may have been the most technically demanding cake. My mom used a real Barbie doll, and the cake itself was the doll’s skirt. It was pretty amazing. I wish I had a picture of that one.

I was wrong. I think the Irish-themed party was the most embarrassing. I had an outfit that included an apron and a bonnet. A giant bonnet. I loved my grandmother, but I don’t know that I can comprehend why she went along with my mom on this one. Not only did I have an Irish dress, we had real Irish food, including biscuits and stew (which I hate) and a Blarney stone. I told you, big style.

Irish Birthday Party.

I don’t really have an explanation for this.

Birthday parties are on my list of reasons to never have kids. I’d never do it up as well as my mom did.