Tuesday, March 17


I wasn't given any physical therapy after I got my cast off in January, so I've instituted my own rehab routine, mostly consisting of aerial dance and horseback riding. 

In five weeks of wearing the cast, my range of motion decreased significantly and my grip was pathetic. I tried to lift myself up onto the lira (hoop), something I'd done easily in November, but was unable to stand the weight of my whole body. My finger felt like it might snap. So, I slowed down a bit.

I've been doing finger stretches, squeezing exercise balls, and completely letting go of spooked horses that take off suddenly across the arena.

I don't think rehab is something anyone enjoys much. A friend who took a nasty fall of her bicycle resulting in a broken femur last year is still waiting for her normal energy level to return; an aerial dance friend just told me she's been grounded for a month because of bruised ribs.

While I was still in the cast, I went to see the movie Unbroken, which tells the survival story of US Olympian and WWII bombardier Louis Zamparini, whose plane was shot down in the ocean, followed by his imprisonment in Japanese prisoner of war camps. 

The movie was good, but at the end I was surprised to learn that it is based on a best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand. Many may not know that Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit, suffers from debilitating chronic fatigue and dizziness, and rarely leaves her home. As an athletic college student, she became ill very suddenly, dropped out and became dependent on care from her boyfriend. She wrote Seabiscuit and Unbroken--both tales of astounding physical achievement against the odds--after she got sick.

I remember reading what is, to my knowledge, the only article she's written about her illness. She became so dizzy while writing Seabiscuit, she would sometimes hold her head up with one hand so that she could continue typing with the other.

All of this came back to me as the movie credits rolled. I can't even manage to post to my blog regularly, I lamented. And this woman writes best-sellers from her bed. Have you ever wished you were housebound so that you might accomplish more? 

I had to ask: Would Hillenbrand have ever written a word if she had never gotten sick to the point of not being able to do much else?

The value of life is often equated with productivity, but certainly not being bed-ridden. It's easy to feel like rehab is working to get back to a place where you once were. But what if it it more like re-shaping into something completely new?


Friday, February 20

a limping angel

I went to see Cirque du Soleil recently for the first time. I was enchanted by the aerialists to which I aspire, but was most intrigued by one dancer who danced on crutches the entire show.

I found myself wondering if he actually had a physical impairment that required the crutches or if it was just part of the show. His moves were so smooth, his transitions so seamless, he seemed to almost fly around the stage.

But a hunch sent me to Google the next day. His name is Dergin Tokmak. From Germany, Tokmak contracted polio when he was a baby, but dreamed of becoming a dancer--influenced most heavily by breakdancing.

When he learned Cirque du Soleil was actually looking for a dancer on crutches for the 'limping angel' in Varekai, he decided to audition. Now he's touring the world.

I guess it's tempting to be impressed by how much someone with a physical disability has accomplished in the dance world, but I wonder how many show-goers don't even know Tokmak is handicapped.

Rather than dancing in spite of his handicap, his dance seems inspired by it. His uniquely strategic, flowing movement is made possible by the crutches which, like wings, carry him just above the stage. 

The angel's limp has become a dance.


Friday, February 6

free at last

I'm free! As of Monday this week, the cast is off.

You may have noticed I've been a bit absent the last five weeks. Perhaps it was because my one and only hand was in a cast, or maybe I just took the opportunity to sit on my butt all day, catching up on the latest season of Maron. And you'll never know.

Forced vacation
I missed my hand while I was in the cast. I certainly missed not being able to type or bathe myself, but mostly I missed my palm. Yes, I missed my palm. Or more accurately, I missed feeling things with my palm. I missed running my hand down my dog's back and pulling my friends into a hug. Without my palm, I felt cut off from a world of sensations. I was isolated, all because of one pinky finger fracture. 

I was not in the cast long enough to learn how to do everything with my feet, but I certainly developed the dexterity of the three fingers available. I spent a lot of time thinking about people without arms and how much I rely on mine. And I had plenty of time to think while waiting on the toilet for someone to come wipe my butt.

While the permanent loss of another appendage would certainly send me into a spiral of depression, I was vaguely aware that, eventually, I evolve. I would become the no arm girl, I would own it. What other choice would I have? It's a sobering thought, yet amazing to realize the human body's capacity for adaptation. And even more amazing, the adaptation of the mind, always the slower, harder member.

But instead, I'm enjoying my freedom. I love washing my own face--I have never felt so happy to bathe myself. I'm walking my dog again. And driving is the greatest gift I've ever been given. I am master of my domain once again.

Still, if you ever have the opportunity to break something, or get sick, or somehow end up temporarily laid up, I highly recommend it. You will find yourself astonishingly grateful for your health.


Saturday, January 3


I suppose it was bound to happen. I was tempting fate. Living on borrowed time...

At the beginning of this week, I fractured the bone and dislocated the knuckle of my right hand pinky finger. Doesn't sound major but when your right and only hand gets put into a cast, you've got a bit of a dilemma.

I was out at the barn working with one of our new horses, when he spooked and ripped a lead line through my fingers, leaving my littlest fifth finger pointing at an angle that it was not meant to do naturally.

The doctor at urgent care realigned, to put it nicely, my finger and braced it. On Wednesday the orthopedist fixed it up with a beautiful purple cast and sent me home with some wishful thinking instructions like don't use your hand. He had no idea what he was asking.

And so I find myself sitting on my best friends couch, unable to accomplish even the most menial task like drinking my morning coffee without assistance. I've never broken anything before much less the one and only good hand I have. No offense to poor Finneas who is now pulling more than his share of weight.

We are making history here at OneArmGirl.

But sometimes your life takes a drastic turn and you must seize the opportunity to learn to do as much as you can with your feet. That must be a famous quote somewhere.

The thoughtful reader may ask how it is that I am even writing this post right now when typing is clearly out of the question, aside from hunting and pecking with one of the two fingers that are still usable.

Voice-activated dictation is a beautiful thing.

So I continue to write and e-mail, though driving and bathing myself are out of the question. Any horse activities and aeriel shenanigans are also on hold.

On the bright side, I now have plenty of time to binge watch Scandal on NetfliX and catch up on serious news stories like "The Top 10 People Who Didn't Make a Difference in 2014" from The Onion.

My New Year's resolution is to increase my rate of bone growth.


Thursday, December 4

no hands

My last week in Israel, I was privileged to take a riding lesson from Uri Peleg, a nationally renowned horseman and promoter of natural horsemanship techniques. It changed my life.

But first, we have to go back a few years...ok, more than a few...

I took my first riding lesson when I was about nine. If you are not familiar with English style horsemanship, imagine black velvet helmets, tall black boots, and plenty of snobbery to go around (my apologies to the English, I'm sure their intentions were pure). Unfortunately, I showed up wearing western boots. I should have read the signs.

I sincerely appreciate my training in English riding for the attention to detail and meticulous care for equipment and horse, but managing my reins would prove to be a lifelong frustration.

Lacking in the area of upper extremities, keeping my reins at the correct length to accurately communicate with my horse was nearly impossible. If it was exhausting for me, I can only imagine the irritation of my ride. But knowing only to work harder to achieve what I wanted in life, I persevered...until I quit several years later, believing I wasn't good enough.

So, when friend and fellow riding instructor, Nomi showed me a video of her friend Uri riding and working cattle without any reigns at all, I was mesmerized. The rusty gears started to turn.


Sitting astride an appaloosa called Winter at Uri's Ramot Ranch, nothing was working. Winter was not responding in the way I wished to anything I'd been taught to do on a horse. It was like finding yourself behind the steering wheel of a car, but having lost everything you knew about driving.

Thankfully Uri didn't laugh, but started to teach me a new riding language. This new language uses various gentle but specific leg cues to move forward, back, and turn to the left or the right--reins used as a last resort. It is astonishingly simple, and logical in that you ask the horse to move as guided by your legs and body position. The difficulty was getting off the worn path in my brain of using rein language. I literally had to hold onto the saddle horn to keep my hand from moving.

But as I started down the rocky new path of communicating in the natural horse tongue, I felt a slow but steady wave of liberation. Every time Winter responded immediately and exactly as I'd requested, weights of old frustration fell away.

We stopped at the top of a green plateau and looked down over the entire Sea of Galilee. If you've ever felt your life changing in the very moment it does, you know the excitement.

On the way down, I held my grateful hand up over my head, palm waving.

Look, no hands! I smiled to Uri. He smiled back.

I should have fisted it in victory.


Saturday, November 22


"You're so brave, Tashoo," Noam tells me when she sees small children at the resort swimming pool staring and pointing.

I tell her my secret is to not look away, to stare back, and maybe give them a wave with Finneas.

"That way they can't make me the strange one," I say.

Noam says she would like to kick them into the deep end.

But there are larger implications when skimpily-clad, slim young women saunter about everywhere you look in this holiday hot spot.

Every photo I take of Noam and show to her, she wrinkles her nose and says, "Ugly. I'm so fluffy."

"You can't change how everyone sees you, you can only decide to be OK with yourself," I say.

I watch a woman, or girl, walking toward the water, her long perfect back growing out of her symmetrical hips straight up to meet her relaxed, carefree shoulders. I'm so jealous.

I never had a back like that. At her age, scoliosis was already crippling my genetically shortened torso. Regardless how carefree my now thirty-something, emboldened spirit might be, my spine will never reflect it.

Yet, I'm angry with Noam's self-criticism and her doubts about finding a man who will appreciate her body. It leaves no room for her wise-beyond-her-years grounding and easy-going, light-hearted nature. When she says, "I love you, Tashoo," it means more to me than most because her sincerity is palpable.

Neta is Noam's mom. I like the way she drives her truck over the rocky volcanic Golan farmland, one arm resting on the door, the other, with several leather bracelets, casually guiding the wheel. She lets her hair hang long, parted in the middle, like I imagine she has done for a long time. Her work-tough boots move up and down on the pedal.

Her shoulders are broad and strong, but she walks easily without any evidence of stress. Her soft voice and easy laughter exude a natural calm. She brings peace into a room.

I am struck by her beauty. This is the kind of woman I want to be.

One of the brave.


Monday, November 17

the old country

Hello. I'm writing to you from the Golan Heights in Israel, where the world began, more or less.

I have been here in Israel for nearly a week. The jet lag is mostly gone, but after a long day of ranching yesterday, followed by an after dark trek to local hot springs on the Israeli/Syrian border (complete with Jurassic Park style fence), I'm feeling a bit tuckered out.

I'm eating as much humus as I can tolerate; holding as much Hebrew as I can keep in my head; and generally loving the temperate climate--though my hair is still adjusting.

Tomorrow we head to the south, to the beach.

More to come...