“Some Days Will Be Good.”

20” Box Jumps @ Fit Body Bootcamp, Cranberry
with trainer, Nick Alouise. 12/20/2022

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year, especially since having my spine surgery, is that not every day will be the same.

Some days will be good days. Some days will be bad. Yesterday was a bit of both.

I crushed the strength workout with my personal trainer, impressing myself with the ability to comfortably (and correctly!) perform 3 sets of 20” box jumps – something I have been too physically injured to even attempt for the past TWO YEARS! But, when it came to doing a 4-mile run, it took me 28 minutes to run/walk the first two miles and I was forced to completely walk the final two miles. Frustrating, to say the least – especially when I had been doing so well, steadily improving with each and every run for the past two weeks.

That’s just the way it is though… and, really, that’s okay. I’m learning a lot about myself now – things I never even realized before. Like how there really is no honor in pushing your body to the point of pain, simply so you can prove to yourself that you can endure it. And pushing your body to the point of injury is neither noble, nor respectable, but rather stupid and self-deprecating.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t challenge ourselves, because there really is no better way to grow. But challenging yourself within your current abilities and then raising the bar each and every time you safely reach them is the surest way to succeed in achieving your goals. There’s so much to be said for the story of the tortoise and the hare – whose story is depicted by statues strategically placed in Copley Square, just steps away from the finish line of the iconic Boston Marathon. A visually artistic tribute to the fact that slow and steady progress really does win the race.

Copley Square,
Boston, Massachusetts

So WHY was yesterday’s run so difficult? Because, on the previous run, I pushed too hard, too fast, and for much too long. I was too much in my own head, comparing my current run to where I used to be before I injured my spine. I let the slower pace, the walk breaks, and overall time degrade me into ignoring my body’s signals and, instead of listening, I continued to push for more. Was I proud of the end result? Initially, yes. I told my husband with a big smile upon my face. I even bragged about it to a friend who understands that shaving 4 minutes off my overall run time is no small feat! But then my body reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that I am not fully healed yet and, even when I am, I will still just never be the same as I was before that skydiving crash. This really is “just the way it is” now. This is my “new normal”. If I want to continue doing all the things I love so much, I must remain vigilant in listening to my body’s signals, adjusting accordingly, forever conscious of the fact that we are on the same team, we should never be waging war with ourselves.

As the new year begins, and the goals I’ve set for myself inch ever closer, I will continually be reminding myself that some days will be good days, and some days will be bad. I can be determined about my goals, but I must remain flexible with my methods.


“Make it Count.”

New Year’s Day is almost upon us. The classic “fresh start” to a brand new year that seems to inspire people everywhere to “begin again” – to initiate change and implement improvements.

I’ve never really been one to jump on this bandwagon. I believe that EVERY DAY is a “fresh start”, and that you can choose to improve yourself at any time. That being said, I also believe that the scariest place to be is the exact same place as last year – so, if a few New Year’s resolutions are what motivates you to hold yourself accountable and do better, then by all means, resolve away! Show up for yourself, day after day, and grow. You deserve it.

I assure you, the only steps to take, and in whatever order you wish to take them, are your own. Only you can figure out what works best for you. Only you can evaporate the things that hold you back. And only you can set yourself free. The process is specific to you, alone, so the only progress you need to live up to is your own.

I, myself, have learned through my own life’s experiences that the deepest form of self-care is building a life that you are in love with – which, in the beginning, is a very unbeautiful thing. It requires making a list of all your debt and holding yourself accountable for eliminating it. It’s enforcing a morning routine, choosing discipline over motivation, and refusing to satiate your most immediate desires. It’s cooking healthy meals and drinking water rather than eating out and self-medicating with alcohol. It’s refusing to run from your problems while claiming that the distractions are the solution. It’s looking your disappointments and failures squarely in the eye and restrategizing, understanding that the will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.

It’s letting go, and choosing new. It’s disappointing some people, while making sacrifices for others. It’s living in a way that most people won’t, so that you may someday live in a way that most people can’t. It’s becoming the person you know you are capable of being – someone who understands that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy this life, not escape from it.

I am writing this today to simply remind you that THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Do what makes you happy. Change the things you can and let go of the things you can’t.

If there is something that you want, go out there and get it. If you have a dream, follow it. Do not let fear hold you back. Trust your gut and always believe in yourself – you are capable of so much more than you think. When people tell you that you can’t, show them that you can – but only if the thing you’re doing is something that YOU truly want.

There will, inevitably, be times when you fall – but you will stand back up again. Protect your heart, but recognize when to let it go. Reminisce on the good times, and take a lesson from the bad. Learn from your mistakes, but do not dwell upon them. Be confident in who you are, keep your head held high, and remember that you are beautiful.

Do not be afraid to express how you feel. Cry hard, laugh harder, and when you love – love with all your heart.

Never settle. Find your passion and embrace its magic. You can be whoever you want to be. There are no set rules, there is only now – and this is your now. This is your time, this is your life, and you only have one. Make it count.


“Things We Don’t Often Speak About.”

It’s quite an intricate process, indeed.

There are things we don’t often speak openly about. Our darkest times. Times when we are not beautiful or lovable. The mistakes that we’ve made, the times when we’ve lost our way, forgotten our true selves, and the moments we most certainly are not proud of ourselves for.

There comes a point in every person’s journey where, if you truly want to grow into a better, stronger version of yourself, you have got to stop lying and denying. You have got to be completely open and honest with yourself. You have got to acknowledge the role you’ve played in your own suffering – and you have got to get out of your own way.

I finally reached this point for myself a little over a year ago, and I’m finally ready to share a few of those details with you now.

You see, the past five years of my life have been tumultuous, to say the least. Losing both of my parents so suddenly and unexpectedly threw me into a loop unlike any I’d ever experienced before. For three straight weeks, I consumed little more than coffee, whiskey, and water. I was shaken to my very core, but I refused to adequately acknowledge it.

A few weeks later, we received the news that the man driving the commercial vehicle that struck and killed our parents had tested positive for cocaine at the time of the incident. He was subsequently charged with D.W.I. and was set to appear before the judge six months later. The news of this finding struck a nerve with me. You see, in all the chaos of that very first day, when we received notification of the accident and our parents deaths, my first instinct was to reach out to the other driver and to make sure that he was okay. I was advised by the Ohio State Trooper not to do so, and it haunted me that I had listened. As if losing my own family wasn’t enough, I was also self-inflicting guilt upon myself for not checking in on the wellbeing of the other person involved. Yet, in this moment, as the proverbial smoke was clearing and the details of the actual incident were being made known, the burning flames of anger and indignation began to take hold inside my heart. To think that I had ever felt sorry for this man! From this moment forward, I became more and more invested in the case. I began to stalk this man, his family, and his business through social media accounts and pubic records.

I have never felt so invisible, or completely disregarded, as I did that day in court, as my sister and I sat quietly, unable to speak. The Assistant District Attorney not only arrived late, but also, disheveled, wearing sunglasses, and slurping on a Starbucks iced coffee. Our case was the first to be called, and this A.D.A. immediately moved to dismiss the case of the man who drove the truck that collided with and killed our parents, despite the discovery of that perfectly acquired positive drug test.

“Your Honor, the Hudson’s vehicle made a left turn, across traffic, directly into the path of the defendant’s truck.”, he said. “The defendant has subsequently provided his own negative drug test to counteract the initial drug panel that was taken. It is not worth the court’s time or money to pursue this case any further.”

Whose side was he on??? Was it not his job to defend the truth, on behalf of our deceased parents, and the by-the-book operational procedures of his very own Ohio State Troopers at the scene of this accident?

We had entered the courtroom at 9am. We were walking out and getting in our personal vehicles at 9:09am. I was heartbroken… and livid – hot tears stinging my eyes, threatening to pour down my face. I tried to remain calm when speaking with our attorney. I told him that this wasn’t right. I asked him what more could we do? My sister and I made the decision that day to open up a civil case in order to preserve the drug tests and freeze all evidence involved in the case. We issued a subpoena and obtained all of the details regarding both drug tests, chain of command, as well as, every minute detail of the vehicles and the collision itself. Unbeknownst to us, the defendant and his family’s business were in the process of making large monetary donations to the emergency and public service agencies involved in this case, as well as, the general area.

Over the course of the next year and a half, the symptoms of PTSD stemming from my life’s personal and professional experiences, as well as this ongoing investigation and pending civil trial began to intensify, forcing me to make a conscious life change. I “retired” from my E.M.S. career just shy of 20 years working in the field. I chose to walk away from my professional passion as a Paramedic and opted to begin a new career in a stable environment with a group of spiritually enlightened individuals focused on higher levels of consciousness and individual personal growth. From that point on, things began to get better… but I was still far from living “happily ever after”.

I not only found myself adapting to a major professional transition, but also a drastic personal shift in my social circle as well. I began to drift away from the people and friends that I’d spent my E.M.S. years with and, in turn, began to develop new and meaningful relationships with an entirely different group of individuals. It was, equal parts, exciting and overwhelming – and, in times when I needed deep emotional support, incredibly lonely. No longer comfortable turning back to the familiarity of my former friends, I found that I was also not comfortable enough to lean upon my newfound friends in such a vulnerable way. For a time, I didn’t feel safe in anyone’s company. I felt stuck, isolated, and very alone.

Meetings and phone calls with our attorneys continued every week for the next three years. We were all in on this case, reliving and re-enacting every second of every minute, leading up to and including the moment of impact, as well as, tracing the steps of the defendant and the Ohio State Police in the hours after.

The defense tried, multiple times, to have the drug test evidence withheld from the case. Time and time again, the judge overruled their motion, stating that “the jury has the right to decide”, which gave me great confidence that the truth would finally be heard in its entirety.

Nearly three years after the actual incident, in August of 2020, the case finally went to trial. We had a difficult time selecting the jury – too many people knew this man, his family, and his company. A few of them had actually worked for him. Once the jury was secured, we spent nearly two weeks in that courtroom, as expert after expert testified to the details with which we had discovered. When we arrived at the point of addressing the results and details of each drug sample, the defense (again) moved to have the information withheld. This time, the Judge called for a recess. He dismissed the jury and, now, decided to withhold this evidence from the court. My heart sank. We’d come so far, had discovered so much, and were still being silenced and told that “it didn’t matter.”

On the final day of prosecution, I took the stand. My voice was shaking and it felt so hard to breathe. I answered the questions prepared by my attorneys, but my heart was screaming inside. I wanted so badly to get off of this grid – to skip the script and speak freely instead. I wanted to look at that jury and tell them the truth. That we did not come here in search of a million dollar settlement, nor did we wish any ill will for the defendant or his family. We simply wanted the truth to be heard. More than anything, I wanted this man to simply acknowledge his own mistake – but, time and time again, in the pre-trial interviews, he refused to ever do so. Therefore, we went to trial. Because right is right and wrong is wrong, and what point is there in having laws if we are not going to hold people accountable for obeying them? The incident on trial was, indeed, an accident. The man on trial did not personally know my parents. He did not intend to hurt them, or kill them, that day. But he did test positive for cocaine. He was driving that commercial vehicle way too fast. The antilock brake system had not been maintained and was not operational at the time of the accident. Had he actually performed a pre-shift truck check before starting his shift that morning, as he is required to, he would have realized that this particular vehicle should not have even been out on the road that day. And, while under the influence of drugs, his response time was most certainly impaired. He did not apply those brakes until the exact moment of impact, and he made no attempt to swerve.

The defendant, himself, took the stand. He refused to make eye contact with me or even look in my direction. When our attorney presented a photo of my parents and the wreckage which used to be their car, he squeezed his eyes shut like a child and refused to acknowledge either image.

It’s one thing to come to terms with such a tragic incident… it’s a completely different ball game when you’re trying to forgive a man who very publicly behaves like this, and refuses to simply admit that he was wrong.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours. Without the critical drug evidence being revealed to them, what more did they have to go on than that it was simply a tragic accident, and that we were picking apart details in an attempt to create a case? I can not blame them. But I do blame the Judge, and the court system, as a whole, for standing in the way of actual JUSTICE that day.

Once again, I found myself getting into my car for the 2-hour drive back home, feeling like the truth just doesn’t even matter – like my parents lives just don’t even matter, and I had wasted the past three years of my own life fighting for a truth that was never going to be heard or allowed to be seen. It’s a whole new level of low that I wouldn’t wish upon the devil himself to ever have to feel.

A few weeks after the case was decided, we received a phone call from our attorneys. The review of the case revealed that the Judge’s decision to withhold the drug evidence was confirmed to be “unlawful”. We now had to decide whether we wished to appeal the case for further review, and begin the entire process again? We had two weeks to decide.

In the time since the trial, my sister and I had the opportunity to allow the failure of the court to sink in. We were no longer writhing in pain over this loss. In fact, we were already beginning to heal. There’s a gentle sense of calm that envelops you when the heat of the battle is no longer bearing down upon you. When you’re no longer forced to look at the photos, or replay the videos, or re-hash every play by play detail of an incident that took a piece of your soul right along with it, you slowly, almost imperceptibly, begin to heal.

We did notice more money being “donated” by this particular person, his family and his business, as such donations are recorded on public record. And, while we can not prove that any illegal deals had been made, these repeated monetary transactions have made me even more suspicious of the probable corruption to be found in this particular political court system. We decided that any additional time taken from our own lives was no longer worth the sacrifice, considering the odds which we would be facing. We decided to nurture our own inner peace, rather than continuing to fight this seemingly never ending external war. We made the difficult decision not to pursue the case any further.

In the months and years leading up to the trial, I had been drinking quite a bit. Not every day, not always in excess, and never when I was alone – but often enough for me to know that it had become a crutch. It was the only way that I could find to relax enough to allow my emotions to show. It was the only way, outside of a few personal one-on-one conversations with a close friend, my husband, or my private, in-person sessions with my therapist, that I could allow my tears of sadness and grief to flow. But now there was anger too – anger and regret, over the opportunity I’d had inside that courtroom. The opportunity to say everything I ever really wanted to say. The opportunity that I’d had, but was too afraid to take advantage of.

That particular courtroom scene is one that has played over and over again inside my mind, disrupting my thoughts on many nights, as I have tried to fall asleep. If I could go back in time and change just one moment, this (most likely) would be it. Probably, it doesn’t even matter. It, most likely, would not change a thing. It wouldn’t, miraculously, alter the opinion of the jury or change the outcome of the case. But it would help my heart to heal, knowing that I had fully spoken my truth and had done my absolute best to make them understand.

Throughout this entire ordeal, and especially in the months that followed, I did my best to return to “normal” life. I ran marathons and PR’d several races. I planned “adventures”, immersing myself in experience after experience with my friends, as well as, my husband – none, of which, are bad per se… but all of these things were simply distractions that I was using in order to avoid facing the actual depths of my own depression.

I had lost faith in our world and the “powers that be”. I lost hope that things would always work out, that justice would prevail, and that life would always be fair. I lost touch with what was real, and meaningful, and right here in front of me, as I stared into the proverbial abyss and wondered what it’s all even for?

I began to distract myself with adrenaline inducing activities and fill my time with alcohol based adventures. By the spring of 2021, I was enrolled in the Advanced Free Fall program, learning to skydive solo and attempting to earn my license. I put myself out there under the preface of wanting to learn how to fly… when, in reality, I was preparing to (someday) let myself fall.

It’s funny how the Universe just sits back and patiently allows things to play out. I was up there jumping, recklessly testing fate with my own inexperience and conscious incompetence, while using the enormity of the experience to process through a plethora of pent up emotions. Sometimes, I believe, it takes facing death to make you realize how much you really want to live. By the time I realized this, it was all over for me. My moment of clarity came just moments before the crash.

It’s actually quite funny, when you think about it. Human beings are the only species that knows of its own mortality and, I’ve got to say, we do a pretty good job of dealing with this fact – or at least distracting ourselves from ever actually thinking about it. When time or unforeseen occurrence forces us to face this harsh reality, we use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, gambling, exercise, extreme sports, or whatever else we care enough to obsess about in order to distract us from our own existential dread. But overcompensating for the fragility of our lives in any manner is like placing a bandaid on a bullet hole. It might, for the time being, and to the naked eye, cover the issue, temporarily distracting us from the damage – but it simply doesn’t fix the underlying problem. The gaping wound beneath the bandaid is still there. It’s real, it’s raw, and, without the proper attention being given, it’s steadily going to worsen over time.

The truth is, I was out of control. But, through the chaos of jumping out of an airplane at 14,000’ with gravity rapidly pulling my body back to this Earth at 100+ mph, I was learning to control the one and only thing that we ever really can in this Life – I was learning to control myself.

After just 15 solo jumps, my time in the sky was, most certainly, cut way too short. I’d be lying if I said the thought of never jumping out into that big blue sky again doesn’t make me sad, but it is now a necessary fact – one that forces me to channel my energy and focus on all the people and all the things that matter most in my life, right here, right now, on this great, green Earth.


“Divinely Inspired to A Hellish Extent.”

It seems to me, as another year quickly comes to a close, that we tend to spend a few moments looking back – reflecting on all the things that have occurred, all the people whose paths we’ve crossed, and all the memories that are beginning to fade with time.

Sometimes I find myself thinking back even further – upon all of the people that I have opened my heart up to through the years, all of the ones I’ve tried to pull closer, hoping they’ll somehow connect with me better if they feel my pulse and realize that we’re both human. But, for the most part, the eyes I’ve found myself staring into are lost – most often closed, or empty, or just… weird. Like they’re viewing a different world than mine and so the connection has been lost completely. A few have actually connected though, and I’ve come to call these few my friends. I’m not one to chase, however, and I do have a tendency to go my own way… but, yes – if our paths have ever crossed, I do remember you. Whether it was just a few moments here and there, or whether we spent an entire season of our lives together, I am not one who easily forgets. Even if we don’t talk anymore. Even if we’re no longer “friends”. Even if none of that makes any sense at all.

It feels better when it’s warm outside, when the sun is shining on my face and the wind is blowing through my hair, making everything seem so much lighter. When we forget all about this game that we’re playing in – this thing we call “Life”. Maybe it’s my upbringing or recent life events but, sometimes I feel like this might be the last night for all of us… like no one really wants to keep doing this. Not badly enough, anyway. Whatever “God” is up there must be bored out of his mind. We’re all idiots, down here. And sometimes I imagine “the big guy up there” deciding to just turn it all off, like a TV, sighing as he walks away shaking his head. What a shit show.

A good storyline, one that we find worth watching, most often involves some major transformation within the main character. We start by presenting him in a good light – so that we like him and we’re all on his side. Then he makes some big mistakes, which many of us can relate to, and which ultimately leads him to the point of no return. And this is when he needs to make a change, or learn something new and transform himself into a better human being. That’s when we follow this hero’s journey full circle, all the way back home.

But sometimes I imagine “the man up there” watching what we’re doing down here and just shaking his head because there is no hero – and the journey that each of us are on seems to not be going anywhere. There are seldom any real life transformations outside of the movies, and the majority of people act like privileged mother f*ckers, creating meaningless drama to fill the void in their otherwise empty lives. They shed a few tears, admit to a few triggers, and think that means they’re healing – but very few actually do the work to truly heal. They complain about working too much and not earning enough money – or they earn a lot of money, but then complain because it doesn’t make them happy.

We travel the world believing that we’ll be happy if we learn how to surf, or party with the stars in New York or L.A., or drink the expensive wine in France. We run ultramarathons to feel like we’re alive, climb mountains, or walk some “spiritual” road that was really just created by some marketing genius who saw a window of opportunity in the marketplace. “People are lost and need to be saved” – so he capitalized on it and started selling “spiritual retreats” in Sedona and “enlightening pilgrimages” to Nepal.

And what about me? I haven’t written a decent blog in over a week because I’m all healed up and recovered now? No – I’m still healing, I’m still recovering, and I’m still just as lost and in a hurry, living day to day, as you. But you know what? At least I can say that I love it. At least I can say that I’m happy, and I’m doing everything I can to better myself – my body, my soul, and my mind. I love my simple, yet sometimes chaotic, life because I created it. I dance in the kitchen with my dog as we cook our dinner. I no longer need to drink in order to relax or connect with someone, to process through my emotions, or even just to have a good time. I’ve self-inflicted so much unnecessary stress, pain, and angst upon myself in the past that, at one point, I had even begun executing my own “exit plan”. The Universe has a funny way of opening and closing doors upon us, however, and I have never been so grateful for that particular one having been slammed shut, right in my face. It has taken a long time for me to realize this. I didn’t get away completely unscathed, but now I see things in a different light. I have a renewed sense of appreciation for this life, and I certainly don’t want the god up there to turn us all off yet just because so many others are wasting their god given time or are running around in circles in his eyes.

I have no ulterior motive, no higher purpose calling my name. I have no further goal which I strive to achieve or any “bucket list item” I feel I need to experience before it all just goes away… well, actually, there is still ONE but, generally speaking, perhaps I’ve finally done it all? Maybe I’ve finally gotten everything I’ve ever asked for? Or maybe I just finally value the simplicity of life more than I desire to unravel the complexity of it all? I’m not really sure. But I am now so calm and safe, peaceful and stable, that I literally have to conjure up a reason to write.

Just “put the pen to the paper”, the experts say – but who are they to tell me what to do? I feel too much like a robot when I get stuck inside a routine. I am already the most disciplined person I have ever known. I do what I say I will do – not for you, but for me. It’s how I was raised. I don’t let myself down and I don’t need (or want) anyone else to hold me accountable for anything. I used to, for a while, back when I cared more about other people and the importance of their own endeavors than I cared about myself. But I refuse to do that anymore. It’s myself that I refuse to let down.

Anyway… those people that I’ve opened my heart up to – so many of them never felt it. My pulse. Or maybe they just refused to let it reach them? I pressed and pressed, and tried to pull them closer – but their eyes were empty, or their hearts were closed, or they were too busy staring into an abyss of their own somewhere else. Whatever. I don’t really know.

What I do know is this – there once was day, so many years ago now, that I took a chance and opened my heart up to a man. He locked his eyes on mine and pulled me closer. In that very moment, we both knew. I saw my future in his eyes. He saw his in mine. That is the day that my life truly began and, even though we’ve been together for nearly two decades now, and married for more than half of those years, our journey to the end of time is far from over. There is still so much more for us to experience, as our story continues to unfold.

Maybe life really was meant to be lived forever? Energetically speaking, of course. Physically speaking “all good things must come to an end” – but I, for one, am not ready for this experience to be over anytime soon. So let’s not screw this up so much that the god up there decides to turn us all off before the very moment when the credits begin to roll, ok?

Maybe that moment is the one will change everything? Or perhaps it will simply be the end of it all? Either way, I’m in no hurry to know just yet.






“Everyday Excellence.”

“Strive for excellence, not perfection, because we do not live in a perfect world.”

Joyce Meyer

I left the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes this morning… and the hamper full of dirty laundry.

This was the first day, since my spine surgery in August, that I have had no appointments, no therapies, and no professional work to attend to. I was completely free to do anything I wanted to do, rather than all the things I “have” to do.

I consider myself lucky that I have a husband who doesn’t b*tch at me for leaving that sink full of dirty dishes – and for not tending to that pile of laundry when I obviously had the time to. He doesn’t look down on me for sleeping in, allowing myself to wake up naturally, and then stretching out upon our couch with a cup of coffee in my hand, as I began to write down some ideas for a potential future blog post.

And, hours later, when I finally felt the need to move my body, I have never been more grateful for my dog, whose eyes have never judged me – not even when I took him for our walk with no makeup on, wearing yesterday’s Santa Claus sweater and an old pair of ratty sweatpants. He walks happily beside me, no matter what.

I did, eventually, wash those dirty dishes – and that load of laundry is currently in the dryer. The point I’m trying to make, is that the truest happiness that life has to offer can only be found when we finally learn to relax.

You don’t always have to be busy in order to be productive, and you don’t have to be in a hurry to get everything done. Simply aiming for “excellence”, each and every day, will almost always trump the rarely attainable level of “perfection” that so many people waste their energy striving for.

…but back to my husband and my dog. These two familial beings in my life are the ever-present nonjudgmental, supportive force behind my internal drive to always find a way do it all – even if, just like today, it is in my own way and on my own time. And I have never been more grateful for this life that we have built together!


“Taking the Training Wheels Off.”

Sometimes you just have to STOP what you’re doing – and appreciate the moment you’re in.
This is one of those moments for me.

* UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania

I remember the day I learned to ride my bike. I say that like, one day, it just happened – but, in reality, it took several weeks. The memories aren’t exactly crisp anymore – more like the fuzzy remnants of a dream you’re not quite certain you’ve even had, except for the “main event”.

I don’t remember how old I was? If I had to guess, I’d say it was the summer that I turned 5. My dad bought me a bike. It was a blue and white “CARE BEARS” bicycle, with sunshine and rainbow stickers, training wheels, and a basket with “Tenderheart Bear” sitting proudly on top. I loved it! I couldn’t wait to ride it, knowing I’d finally be able to keep up with the neighborhood kids and my sister when they’d disappear for what seemed like hours, going on a “bike ride”.

Riding that bike up and down our street, in and out of all the alleyways, made me feel so free! But it wasn’t long until my neighborhood friend, Eddie, started telling me that I needed to ditch the training wheels. They were loud and annoying, and “only babies need training wheels.”

“You’re not a baby, are you, Aubs?”, he asked.

That night, when my dad got home from work, I asked him to take the training wheels off of my bike. I saw him hold in his laugh, stifling it with a smile, but he grabbed his toolbox anyway and followed me outside to where I already had my bike propped up and ready.

Once removed, he carried my bike down to the sidewalk and held it up as I climbed on. It was mere seconds before I crashed it to the ground. I tried again – and again, before I finally listened to the calm, rational words of reason my dad was speaking gently to me. “Why not try just one training wheel for awhile?”, so that’s what we did. We put just one training wheel back on the bike, and I tried to ride again. This time, I was successful. Whenever I felt unstable, instead of crashing, I’d lean on my trainer to steady myself – and pretty soon I was doing alright, all on my own.

About a week later, my dad suggested we take the remaining training wheel off. This time, I was the hesitant one. I had grown to depend upon it. It was my safety net, keeping me safe from another fall. It kept me grounded and held me steady – it gave me the confidence I needed to keep moving forward.

I remember crying as my dad removed this little wheel from the left side of my bike. I remember how sweaty my palms were as I held onto his arm, before climbing back up on it. He told me he’d be there, his hand on the back of my bike seat, as we started to pedal ourselves down that alleyway. He said he wouldn’t let go and I believed him. I started telling him all about my day, my friends, and how cool it was going to be because I was the only kindergartner in the neighborhood that could ride a bike without her training wheels. That’s when I realized my dad was no longer acknowledging me. I couldn’t hear his breath or feel the largeness of his presence behind me. I looked back to see him standing all the way back by our house, at the entrance of the alley, and I had pedaled (all by myself) to the farthest end, approaching the next city street!

I panicked… and crashed.

My dad came running, smiles and all, as I picked myself up, crying. I had scrapes on my knees and gravel imbedded in the plams of my hands. I was crying hot tears, full of anger and fear. I yelled at him as he brushed off my legs and picked up my bike. He never stopped smiling. When I was finished screaming, calming down and catching my breath, he pointed down the alley at the distance which I had ridden my bike… ALL BY MYSELF.

“You don’t need me.”, he said. “I let go because you were doing by yourself.”

“You didn’t believe me when I said that you could do it – but then you did actually do it, so I let you go.”, he continued. “You only crashed because you stopped believing in yourself.”

Now here I am, nearly 40 years later, reflecting upon those moments, as I am faced with leveling up once more. In a previous blog, I mentioned how I’ve been making tremendous progress in physical therapy each week. Even as I wrote that, I was still believing that I had so much further yet to go, and had already come to terms with the commitment of continuing this program well into next year. But it seems it’s time to take the training wheels off, once again.

I do still have a long way to go, in regards to achieving my goals. But, when it comes to in-person physical therapy to address the stabilization of my spine and improvement in mobility, Dane has taught me everything I need to know in order to keep moving forward on my own.

We still have a couple of remaining appointments scheduled out but, kind of like leaving that one single training wheel attached, I am only to use them if I absolutely have to.

He wouldn’t do this if he didn’t believe I was ready, if I wasn’t able to maintain on my own. And it definitely occurred to me yesterday, as I was running on the treadmill there, that the majority of other patients in the room were working hard to simply walk, or gain some other form of mobility and increased range of motion with which they can continue to live their daily lives. It was then that I realized that I have begun to look forward to these appointments like I look forward to hitting the gym with Nick on Fridays – but this is physical therapy, not personal training. It’s definitely time for me to move on.

That being said, if you or anyone you know ever suffers from a spinal injury, is recovering from spine surgery, or even just chronic, degenerative back pain and have the desire to avoid spine surgery altogether, Dane Eberle (currently employed at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania) is the greatest physical therapist that I have ever met, and he specializes in such issues!

He is but one chapter in the story of my own return running, but it has been a very important 4-month long chapter that I will never forget! It has rehabilitated my body from injury and educated my mind so that I may continue moving forward in my journey and, hopefully, never again fall back.


“All That Matters.”

Keep moving forward, no matter how much adversity you face. Through the storm, keep moving forward! Through the discomfort, keep moving forward! Through the self-doubt, keep moving forward! Connect with that deep longing brewing underneath the surface of your thoughts, and allow a greater sense of hope to pull you to the finish line.

Michael D’Aulerio

It was 5 years ago, today, on December 4th 2017, that my husband and I were resting comfortably in our living room at home, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Cincinnati Bengals, when our home team’s linebacker, Ryan Shazier, went in for a tackle, took a hard hit and, immediately, fell to the ground. He, instinctively, reached for his low back as his legs went completely slack. He flopped over on the ground, arms raised up high, crying out for help. My heart rate spiked as I jumped off the couch, “Honey, his legs!”, I screamed, “He’s not moving his legs!”

My husband and I, with many years of combined emergency medical and sports injury experience shared between us, both recognized the severity of the injury we’d just witnessed. We stood there, frozen, eyes locked on the television screen, as the medical team got to work, stabilizing the young athlete, before transporting him by medical helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian hospital, one of Pittsburgh’s best level one trauma centers.

In the days that followed, all of Steeler Nation held their breath and said their prayers, hoping this young man would somehow be alright. Our hearts sank as we heard the news that Ryan Shazier was, indeed, paralyzed. He underwent spinal surgery performed by the best neurosurgeons in Pittsburgh and, soon after, got right to work in daily spinal rehab. He had a long road ahead of him, but his family, friends, and teammates rallied around him, and the entire city of Pittsburgh, as well as fans from around the world, sent words of encouragement and offered support.

Eight months later, something incredible happened. It was a moment that I will never forget. On August 19th 2018, my husband and I were in the stands at the “Pittsburgh Steelers Family Fest” when Ryan Shazier, despite his obvious gait dysfunction, walked out onto Heinz Field without any assistance! We stood with the crowd, in awe and respect, and roared with support and thunderous applause. It was hard to hold back tears. This moment was just so beautiful!

8/19/2018 @ Heinz Field,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ryan continued to make astounding progress, recovering from this devastating spinal cord injury, but still, three years after the impact, he ultimately was forced to announce his retirement from NFL football. His body was most certainly improving, but it would never be the same again.

My heart ached for this man. What a difficult decision this must have been. What a soul-shaking realization to have come to terms with – that your body can no longer perform the way it used to and that continuing to pursue your passion is simply no longer an option.

This is the realization I, too, experienced, a year after my own spinal injury. I had been trapped within my own denial, wrapping my spine up in a tightly secured corset, continuing to run marathons and half marathons, lifting weights in the gym, and pushing myself through an enormous amount of pain until I simply couldn’t do it anymore. The numbness and tingling running down my legs and the contractures forming in my feet had become a daily battle that I was continually trying to push through. As I began to lose control over a few very important bodily functions, I was forced to finally admit that something was still very, very wrong. I was forced to admit that I needed help.

I began my search for the best Neurosurgeon in Pittsburgh and on May 13th 2022, nearly 3 months after my initial application and interview, I arrived at UPMC for my thoracic and lumbar spine MRI. The written report confirmed what we already knew – that the fractures in my spine had, in fact, not healed, and were actually deteriorating further. Viewing the films, alongside my full spine Xrays, with my very own eyes, and seeing the actual trauma to my vertebrae and disc spaces was my “lightning strike” moment. It was right then and there that I realized, without a shadow of a doubt, that all of the pain that I had been pushing through was not building me up or making me stronger – it was actually breaking me down and deteriorating my body further. Time stood still, and so did I. From that moment forward, I stopped running. I stopped going to the gym. I stopped bending and lifting. I stopped carrying groceries. I stopped doing pretty much everything. I was more aware of my body than I have ever been – every movement, every strain, every sensation, every pain. I became very conscious of how every little thing felt and how none of it felt very good at all. Even just walking made me feel like I was walking on broken glass.

I was terrified at the thought of spinal surgery, but I had exhausted every other avenue that I hoped would be a more natural solution – like chiropractic care, PRP therapy, and stem cell treatments.

I continued my research on the proposed surgery, as well as, the Neurosurgical team themselves. I read everything I could about the risks and the recovery. I watched a video of the full procedure being performed live on another patient. I reached out to friends of mine who are Doctors, accumulating a list of questions I needed answered before I decided wether or not I was willing to consent to this procedure. I’m pretty certain that I overwhelmed Dr. Gerszten when we finally met, face to face. I knew our time together was limited, so I hit him with my questions in rapid fire succession. Not once did he flinch. When I was fully satisfied and finally speechless, we scheduled the surgery and began the pre-op testing process in order to clear me in time. Before we parted ways, I thanked him for his time, his patience, and told him that if this particular team of neurosurgeons can get Ryan Shazier walking, then I am confident that they can help fix my issues and get me running again.

On August 2nd, as I opened my eyes in the recovery room after having the surgery, Dr. Gerszten was the first face that I saw. He was standing beside my bed, his hand on my shoulder, and he was smiling. “It went beautifully!”, he said. “You’ll be good to go run another 55,000 miles if you so choose!”

“When?”, I asked, still groggy from the anesthesia.

He couldn’t help but to laugh. “Well, obviously, not right now.” he replied, “But that marathon in May is not out of the question just yet.”

It has now been 4 months since my spinal surgery and I have made some incredible progress. I recently “graduated” from daily disc regeneration treatments, I have resumed modified workouts in the gym with Nick, and my physical therapist has introduced a few short running intervals back into our weekly routine.

I still have a long way to go, and I am still hyper aware of my body’s signals – but I am now learning how to decipher exactly what they mean. There is a big difference between “good sore” and “bad sore”; the kind of soreness from exercised, muscle fatigue and the kind of soreness from constantly stressed nerves and cramping muscles that are supporting the weight of fractured bones.

We just increased my running from 6 intervals last week to 10 intervals this week, for a total combined time of 35 minutes. I’m not running very fast or very far, and I welcome the walk breaks when they arrive. I can no longer run twice in a day or even on back to back days, but I am confident that I will be ready and able to go the distance come May.

Word has gotten out that I am registered for the Pittsburgh Marathon and my friends have begun to rally around me now, as well. It’s going to be a 26.2 mile celebration run, that’s for sure. I may not be breaking any records or winning any races, but I am finally running again, and that’s all that matters to me!


“In the Blink of an Eye…”

“We are all just a car crash, a diagnosis, an unexpected phone call, a newfound love, or a broken heart away from becoming a completely different person. How beautifully fragile are we that so many things can take but a moment to alter who we are for forever?”

Samuel Decker Thompson
Epic tattoo work performed by OZ Dillinger
at STUDIO 42, Beaver Falls, Pa. – 12/2/2022

Over the course of my life, I’ve noticed a recurring theme, one that has had a huge impact on who I am as a person, how I view the world and, therefore, how I choose to live my life. The past five years have made me very conscious of exactly what it is: that our time upon this Earth is temporary. In the blink of an eye, it all could be different… or even completely gone.

For my parents, it was 0.54 seconds – the difference between their vehicle clearing that intersection without impact, and the violent collision which ultimately claimed their lives. 0.54 seconds was all the time it took to determine the difference between their life and their death.

For me, it was just one second. One second’s difference on June 5th 2021 could have rendered me completely paralyzed or even dead – or, on the flip side, stepping out of that skydive completely unscathed.

I could go on and on with you, conversing about all the “would-a, could-a, shoulda’s” of my life and the lives of my friends. And I’m sure you’d have a few chilling stories of your own. Yet, the conclusion we would inevitably reach within this conversation is the same. That our time upon this earth is finite, and that what we do with it matters.

In the blink of an eye, it all could be gone – and one day it most certainly will… so love hard and laugh harder. Do what you love to do and say NO to the things you don’t. Leave your mark upon this world, especially in the lives of those you love. Make the most of every moment, and make every second count.


“Quieting the Noise and Learning to Be Still – My Social Media Experiment.”

“When we say “No” to one thing, we say “Yes” to something else…. rather than thinking you need to do more, what can you stop altogether, if only for a while, in order to discover what would fill that void instead?”

– Timber Hawkeye
Heavy on my privacy. What you see is what I allow.

I’ve always loved the “Happy Pappy”. The older man on the edge of a crowd, fully present in the moment, observing all that is going on, despite the fact that he does not always participate. The one with wise eyes and a knowing smile. The one who actually listens when in conversation and, while he may not always have much to say, people stop what they’re doing and listen when he speaks. He knows that less is best, so he keeps his insights short and poignant. He’s not trying to change anyone’s mind or shatter any one else’s beliefs. He is comfortable in silence and confident in himself. He needs very little and wants for even less. He is content with his life and the lessons that he’s learned from experience. He is happy. He is at peace.

There was one full month this past summer where the path of one particular “Happy Pappy” regularly intersected with mine. We both noticed it, we both acknowledged it and, pretty soon, we both began to look forward to it. Before we knew it, we were talking and laughing like the oldest and best of friends. Despite the large gap between us in age, we had quite a lot in common. From similar family experiences and memories from the days of our youth, to very similar career choices and unfortunate experiences that we’ve each gone through as adults. He and I rarely ever ran out of things to talk about and, as our time together quickly came to an end, it was hard not to feel sad. I offered to keep in touch, as I often do, through social media – like Facebook or Instagram. He waved his hand in the air and laughed, “Blah! I don’t get involved in all that noise,” he said, “but I looked up your blog and will be following along.” This man was not so “old fashioned” that he was oblivious or resistant to technology. He wore an Apple watch and carried an iphone. He was fluent in tracking his physical activities and monitoring his health stats. He used his phone for direct communication with friends and family through texting and phone calls, but knew how to keep it in its place – out of sight and out of mind when spending time with people.

We’ve since parted ways, but his words have stayed with me – as has the depth of this unique and unexpected friendship.

In the months since, I’ve taken a big step back. A sort of “social media experiment”, if you will – away from all the “noise” of this world and, let me tell you, it has been such an eye opening experience. To have so much going on in your life, yet to not always “share” it with everyone online and only your closest of friends in private is actually quite liberating. And, while I’ve never really been victim to getting “sucked down the rabbit hole” for hours upon hours of continuous, mindless “doom-scrolling”, I have certainly noticed the energy draining effects of being so regularly “connected” to these technological advances while, subsequently, feeling so disconnected in real life.

For me, social media had become a bit of a time suck. A minute here, a few minutes there – pretty soon, I had accumulated an hour or so of my life on-line, mindlessly posting and occasionally interacting, yet creating nothing substantial or worthy of the expense of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love strong connections and deep conversations with friends – but superficial small talk drains my energy, and ordinary, back and forth banter are counterproductive to my goals. So I took a break. I shut it down. I silenced it – unfollowing people and pages, removing notifications, and even setting up a cumulative time limit so as to lock it down. Because I needed to. Because I wanted to. Because I can. And because it was the best thing for me at the time.

I mean… have you ever wondered exactly what Life is really all about when you take away all the things that are designed to distract or enslave us? That is, in and of itself, another very deep, dark “rabbit hole” of spiraling questions and never ending possibilities – none of which I plan to address in this particular blog. But, since silencing the majority of the noise from social media in my life, I have made significant progress in so many other areas.

I have now “graduated” from disc regeneration treatments and continue to make great strides forward in physical therapy each week. We’ve finally begun to incorporate some easy running intervals multiple times per week, and I have been back in the gym, rebuilding my strength, as well as increasing my flexibility. I’ve been hiking a lot and I absolutely love hitting the trails! I participated in a very educational (and eye-opening) self-publishing class, as well as, completed a creative writing program. My attention span has increased dramatically and my ability to focus clearly has returned. My first book, “Chasing Boston”, is just about ready for publication, and I have found the time to read several of the books which have been on my own “wish list” for quite some time. I truly enjoy living my life without people knowing exactly where I am, who I’m with, or what I’m doing 100% of the time. I’ve noticed that my relationships are much more intimate, meaningful, and fulfilling when they are predominantly kept this personal and private.

I may not always know what’s going on with all the people whose names I know but whose lives I am not involved in. I may not always know the current state of world affairs or what the latest outrage is in the media headlines. I don’t know which celebrity wore what on whatever awards show, who they talked about, snubbed or slapped. I have no idea what fashion style is “in” or “out”, nor do I care. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the weather forecast is for whatever day this is until I step outside and see for myself! But I can tell you this – I am a whole lot happier, a lot less stressed, and way more productive than I have ever been.

I love my newfound autonomy, and the protection of my personal life from outward influence and “views”. I don’t need the “likes” or “loves” or “laughs” from the outside world in order to like and love and laugh at my own experiences and adventures. It’s not that I don’t love or care about others, because I most certainly do. It’s simply that I have finally grown to love and care about myself just as much. Afterall, what good am I to others if I, myself, am not okay?

So, after the past couple of months, my conclusion is this:

There’s a reason why social media apps fall under the category of “entertainment” and, even though I am still active on my accounts for a few minutes, here and there, most days of the week, I intend to continue keeping it in its place. I no longer crave the constant distractions from day to day. I no longer feel the need to be entertained. I’ve learned to quiet the noise. I’ve learned to just be still – to take things as they come, and relax into each moment. In my opinion, and for whatever it’s worth, there really is no better way to live. And, if you’re still on this journey with me, even after all this time, I want to thank you for being my friend. The experiences we share and the memories we create mean so much to me. I am grateful for our friendship and, as we continue through this life together, I am confident that the best is still yet to come!