Where My Heart Is – By Whitney H.

2014 was definitely one of the best years of my life to date, but what made the year so special was being able to really be part of my family again!

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After high school, I was dying to move away and start life on my own. Though my family was sad to see me go, I was more than prepared to spend time away and was even okay knowing that I wouldn’t see them very often. Once I was done with my degree, I left my home state of Florida and moved  further away to Oklahoma City. That was probably far enough from my family but I wasn’t done moving yet. I ended up putting even more distance between my family and I to start a job in Denver.

I didn’t realize how important my family was to me until I was so far away that I didn’t really get to be part of them. My youngest brother, Sam, started middle school and my sister, Susie, was in her last year of high school. I couldn’t help but think how I was missing out on all of their special experiences.

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When I had an opportunity to move closer to home, I jumped at the chance. Though it was a big, expensive and tear-filled move, I made my way down to Tallahassee where I’m less than three hours from my family. Now I get to go to family birthday parties and band concerts. I get to spend time getting to know my youngest brother and actually my oldest brother too! It’s amazing to me how you can grow up together and still feel like there is more to know about a sibling. My sister and I get to be best friends now, which is something we have struggled to do for years.

All in all, I’ve had too many wonderful experiences to count from 2014, but my favorite of all of them was finding out that my family is where my heart is!

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Learn more about Whitney here.

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Expanding to Florida: LIM359-Tallahassee to Host 1st Event in February

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We are very excited to announce that LIM359 now has a chapter in Tallahassee, Florida!  LIM359-Tallahassee is lead by Whitney Harris who was a founding member of our original chapter in Denver, Colorado.   The first activity will be held in late February or early March of this year.  We are very excited to see LIM359’s expansion into Florida and can’t wait to see what Whitney has in store for the chapter!

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Favorite Memory: Climbing My First 14-er in 2014 – By Jessica R.

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As I reflect back on 2014, I realize that I have many great memories. I completed my first half-marathon, I visited lots of family across the country, I attended my first Broncos game, and so much more. But I’ve decided that my favorite memory is climbing a mountain that reaches over 14,000 feet – my first 14-er! On August 16th, the morning after stand up paddle-boarding with LIM 359, my boyfriend and I set out at 4am to Mount Bierschtadt near Georgetown. We hit the trail at 6am. It was beautiful seeing daylight break. I was not prepared for the climb (though this is one of the easiest 14-ers in Colorado) and about half way up I got dizzy. My heart was racing and I had to catch my breath every 5 steps, but I would just stop and look at my surroundings. It was so amazing. In retrospect, we needed much more water than we’d packed. Finally, crawling up and over some red boulders, we made it to the peak.

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The view was like none I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to put into words – just stunning. After soaking up views in every direction, and because the peak was starting to get crowded with other hikers, we started our descent. The total hike took us 5 1/2 hours. To me, the view that was just as amazing as the view from the top was the view from our car looking up at the peak. I couldn’t believe what we’d just accomplished. It was so crazy to me that I had just walked around on top of this tiny tip top of a peak I could now see from the car. The mountain looked so enormous from the bottom. This year, I hope to summit another Colorado 14-er!

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A Favorite Memory from 2014 – By Emily K.

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My 2014 was filled with many moments of joy, accomplishment, love and happiness. It was a big year for me – I experienced some great successes that I am very proud of. Though marked with the occasional challenge (which I believe often make achievements that much sweeter), this trip around the sun was pretty exceptional.

One of my absolute favorite experiences in 2014 was the trip my husband and I took to Maui with our good friends, Stu and Jeanine. Stu was the best man at our wedding and is just the most kind, gentle person, and Jeanine is just fabulous, eccentric and fun beyond words. We’ve spent countless nights together, enjoying far too much wine, amazing meals and lots of laughter – putting distance in our friendship was one of the biggest drawbacks of moving to Denver from Arizona two years ago.

So! A trip to Hawaii together, six whole days – seemed just like perfection. And while I was very excited, I also felt quite a bit of hesitation surrounding this trip. Water based vacations have always presented issue and anxieties for me regarding my prosthesis. Where do I leave it when I go to the pool/ocean? How do I get to the pool/ocean if I can’t walk? What if someone steals it (I know… I know…)? How do I put my liner on with all this sand on the beach? What if people stare at me?

Since losing my leg in 2000 to bone cancer, I have never felt comfortable being “out” with it. And while I have made a lot of improvement with both accepting and embracing myself as an amputee in the past two years, all that seemed to vanish when I got to Hawaii.

The first night there, Stu, Jeanine, and my husband Shawn slipped in the pool at our resort, “oohing” and “ahhhing” and urging me to come in. I declined, and sat on a pool chair, fighting back tears. I wanted to get in the pool, but I was so scared to be seen without my leg on. I felt really angry also, angry at them for not understanding and for going swimming in front of me, and for clearly enjoying it. I realized that if I stayed angry and stayed sad, I was going to waste this incredible week, this incredible vacation – because let’s face it, Hawaii = water. I also ran the risk of ruining it for the three people who were so clearly enjoying themselves. And I really, really didn’t want to do that.

I made the decision, right then, to stop feeling sorry or angry or scared, and to let myself enjoy my trip. I slipped my leg off, then my liner, covered them with a pool towel, and slid in. It felt so good. I am proud to say that I went in the pool or the ocean, or both, every single day. Multiple times a day!

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I answered a lot of the questions and anxieties I had, which were fueled by fear. Here is what I learned:

Where do I leave my prosthesis when I go to the pool/ocean? Simple, right where you take it off! And you take it off as close to either body of water to make access easier. I would head to the pool early and find a good spot close to the edge, so I wouldn’t have to hop much to get to the pool. With the ocean, I brought extra towels so I could place my leg on one, and then cover it with another. I also covered my leg with a towel by the pool – it made me feel most comfortable.

How do I get to the pool/ocean if I can’t walk? This is where having good friends, or a good husband is really helpful. While I could get in the pool on my own, the ocean was pretty much out of the question. It was hard to get up to a point where I was buoyant enough that I could swim out. And balance is hard with waves crashing against you and sucking your footing out from under you. Shawn would carry me in to about my waist, and then I was good from there. We snorkeled for hours a day!

What if someone steals my leg? Thankfully, I didn’t learn the answer to this question through experience – but I do think it’s a bit irrational. That being said, I covered my leg with a towel whenever I took it off as not to draw any attention. I don’t expect someone to come along and grab a leg and run, but kids can do silly things, and I’d rather not be stranded.

How do I put my liner on the beach? This was definitely a challenge. Next time we do a beach trip, I will make sure to bring a beach chair. Putting my liner on (I am an above knee) while sitting on the ground is really hard. Not to mention, as hard as I tried. Things. Got. Sandy. My leg, my liner, my hands, my towel. There was no avoiding it.

What if people stare at me? This for me is my biggest fear. I know when people see Shawn carrying me into the water or up the beach, we get some stares. How romantic! Oh wait – did she hurt herself? Oh wait – she has one leg! Oh my god she has one leg! That is the dialogue I hear, and it makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. But you know what, that dialogue is one I am creating myself. I don’t know what other people are thinking. So instead of looking around and wondering, I simply took to looking at my husband – this amazing man who could care less, who thinks nothing of it, and who just wants me to enjoy myself. And you know what – I did, I really, truly did.

So – my favorite memory of 2014? Snorkeling in Maui, with my husband and two of our best friends beside us. I got to witness this incredible world below the surface of the ocean, while overcoming a giant battle within myself, and with it, perhaps unlocking a whole new world for myself. Who knows what 2015 will bring – but I am thrilled to go into it with less fear and more confidence! Happy 2015!

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Favorite 2014 Memory – By Emily H.

One of my favorite memories from 2014 was Christmas because it was the first time Zach and I were able to share it with both of our families.  This was also the first time our families have really been able to spend an extended amount of quality time with each other and that was very special to me.  We have family on opposite coasts, so we usually spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other.  This year, however, we managed to entice everyone to come to Colorado for Christmas.  Our crew included parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and our niece and nephew (the cutest of the bunch).  In all, 22 people gathered together to celebrate Christmas and the bonds of family.  Before everyone arrived, I spent a few days in the kitchen preparing food for Christmas Eve, Christmas Brunch, and Christmas Dinner (including 10 pounds of mashed potatoes alone).  It’s a little ironic because I can go out and pound my residual limb by running with no problems, but standing in a kitchen for long periods of time or visiting a museum tends to make my leg really sore.  Despite this, it was all worth it because the food was delicious and our families got to spend time getting to know each other instead of cooking.  Two days after Christmas, we also went down to Colorado Springs to hike at Garden of the Gods.  It was an amazingly clear and beautiful day, and a great way to wrap-up a wonderful time with family in our beloved state of Colorado.

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Most of the family who spent Christmas with us, minus the 5 who were already out hiking.

Learn more about Emily here.

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Favorite Memory from 2014 – By Ilene B.

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One of my favorite memories from 2014 was when my daughter was home for a two week visit.  I signed us up for a hay ride and elk viewing in the backcountry of Highlands Ranch.  She, my husband Tim and I were among 10 people and two guides on this adventure.  We all met and listened to instructions about the ride and behaviors for when we arrived at the viewing site.  The ride out was beautiful.  It felt as though we were miles away from city life.  We were instructed to keep our voices down as we approached our stop and to walk in single file to our destination.  I did not realize that this included hiking up a steep hill without a cleared path.  With Tim pulling me up this hill, I was not realizing that my prosthetic leg was getting caught in the brush.  My daughter changed positions and walked behind me to clear my leg each time it became entangled.  The guides had all the necessary equipment to lure the elk closer.  Elk callers and sticks to beat the bushes (makes the elk think we’re an animal instead of human?).  Meanwhile the rest of us hid behind bushes not to be seen by the elk.  We were able to view one majestic looking elk across the valley and heard him calling to another elk a little further away.  Finally, the sun was setting and we trekked back in the dark with headlamps on totally pleased with what we saw and heard.  Me?  I was excited that I was able to climb the hill, walk across a large field, and back again with my leg in tact and me in one piece!  It was a great adventure.

Learn more about Ilene here.

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