Dear 2019,

I have a confession. I wince when I look at the American flag.

It horrifies me to admit this. I think somewhere down deep, I’ve buried the thought that the flag of my country has been hijacked by a sector of the population that doesn’t represent anything that I was raised to believe in. For the past two years these people, and the 45th administration of the United States, have proudly flown Old Glory as a representation of their “great” America, while they simultaneously project racism, white privilege, mass shootings, misogyny, climate change denial, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and just about every other phobia out there.

When 2018 was coming to an end, I started to wonder why I’ve been letting such a small (but vocal) percentage of the population erode the pride I’ve always felt for being an American.

When Yoda and I spent five months driving around the country in 2010-2011, we dove deep into the heartbeat of America. It was, and still is, beating strong. We visited states all over the country—red states, blue states, north states, south states. No matter what the state, we always encountered kind, interesting, hard working, and delightfully unique people and places whose stories touched me to the core.

My husband and I own a production company and have spent the past couple of years producing a TV show called Real America Road Trip (this is the show we were filming when the Pomeranian Incident occurred and radically changed our lives in the blink of an eye). Over the past two years, as the world became louder, angrier and more divided, my passion for our show has exploded. What started out as a whimsical series about road trips has turned into a celebration of people and places that make our country great (I started to look for a different adjective, but dammit 45, I will not let you take the word great out of my vocabulary). There is so much to love about the United States of America.

In 2017, I wanted to move to another country.

In 2018, I wanted to bury my head in the sand to protect myself from the constant onslaught of horrific political news.

But now, in 2019, I want to, once again, fall in love with the USA.

Isn’t it the most damaged who most desperately need to be loved, warts and all? Love lets the light in so that healing can happen. Instead of turning my back on the American flag, perhaps the most powerful way to encourage change is to love and celebrate those parts of the U.S. that best represent who we are as a people.

This is where my annual promise to the New Year comes into play: My New Year’s resolution is to love my country.

I have spent the past two years wondering where the country I’ve grown up in has disappeared to. Well now I’m pretty sure it’s been here all along, but I just needed to open my eyes to see it. This is something I plan on reminding myself each time I see the Red, White, and Blue.

In closing, Year 2019, I think I love you already.

Sincerely,

Kee Kee

P.S. The theme song for our show was written and recorded by my awesome husband, Eric Troyer.

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It’s now been 15 weeks since “The Pomeranian Incident.” At times it was tempting to feel sorry for myself with the feeling that the world was passing me by. This bone break is a beast, and the long recovery period from a tibial plateau fracture (TPF) is something that can’t be avoided or rushed. It just is. Let me repeat: the long recovery period just is. Armed with that knowledge, I had no option but to surrender to my situation and see if I could learn from it. It turns out, I have learned a lot.

Because I was locked in a brace and couldn’t put any weight on my TPF leg, I spent the summer dependent on Eric for everything from meal prep to house cleaning to sponge baths. I eventually got some of my independence back with the help of a wheelchair, a chair lift and some creativity when I was on crutches (like stuffing my bra and pants with things in order to carry them across the room).

A month ago I was finally cleared to begin my rigorous PT schedule, which will continue for four or five more months. You see, when you have a TPF and are non-weight bearing for a couple months, your leg quickly atrophies; leaving you with a toothpick leg that has next to no muscle. So the initial PT sessions were focused on teaching my quad to activate. And now for the past few weeks I’ve been learning to walk again. When I took my first unassisted steps two weeks ago, I about wept with pride for my tiny little spaghetti leg for not buckling. I’m unable to walk very fast and at times I have a pretty big zombie limp. I still can’t kneel, squat, run, jump, or comfortably walk down stairs one foot after another . . . BUT I CAN WALK, and that in and of itself is humongous progress.

This injury has taught me a lot about so many things. I’ve learned patience, because nothing about this recovery is fast. I’ve learned I will never take for granted the miracle of walking. I’ve learned I have some real diamonds in my life: one good friend gifted me her cleaning lady for the summer, another lent me medical gear to help with every day life, others brought meals over or just called to say they were thinking of me, out of town friends and family sent me gifts to either make me laugh or keep me busy (if you are the friend who sent a watercolor painting kit, please let me know so I can thank you!). My hairdresser even came over and gave me a color and cut while I sat in my wheelchair in the kitchen. When Eric played a festival with his band in England and was gone for four days, I had to learn to ask other people for help, something my ego is not at all comfortable with doing. It turns out that when friends learned what I needed from them, they were there for me. All I had to do was ask.

I’ve also learned to look at the world from the vantage point of the differently abled. When I was in my wheelchair I was mostly invisible, but when I was standing upright on crutches people engaged with me. I’ve also learned that the differently abled have to always assess a location to see if they are able to access it (Is there an elevator? Are there grab bars in the bathrooms? Is there a handicapped-accessible parking spot available? Is it too crowded and is there a risk of someone bumping into me when I’m on crutches?). Forevermore when I talk to people in a wheelchair, I will crouch to their level. My neck is still giving me problems from all that looking up.

But my most valuable take away of all is what I have learned about shama.

Because of the pain, during the first few weeks I couldn’t concentrate on reading or even watching TV, so I just stared out the windows. This gave me plenty of time to notice how very much is going on in nature.

There is a fierce beauty that accompanies the ferocity of a powerful thunderstorm sweeping through. Raindrops landing in the pool form little wavy circles that start small and grow larger, yet no two raindrops seem to make the exact same pattern. The morning sun hitting the dew on leaves makes them sparkle like brilliant little flickering fairies. I spent hours studying the smooth underbellies of grasshoppers and moths that landed on the window next to my chair, utterly fascinated that they were able to grip the glass without sliding down. Once I even saw our resident hawk swoop past the window with prey in its talons, and another day I watched a spider weave an entire web. I’m convinced it is one of the greatest works of art ever created.

Our family of deer got so used to me sitting on the front porch in my wheelchair that they now just lay near me and groom themselves or even nap. My sweet Magic, who a couple years ago was a spunky one-antler fawn, is now a majestic 7 point buck with a neck that seems to have quadrupled in size from last fall. Despite his massive growth, I still feel so spiritually connected to him. The Gobble Gang (13 turkeys, 11 of which were born in the spring) discovered corn and started visiting regularly when I was on the porch. I think they had been watching me from the safety of the woods while I sat with the deer, and one day they collectively decided I was not a threat.

I became so lost in the world of Shama Sanctuary (what I call our property) that the days would speed by. Often the tiny miracles I observed in nature left me thinking that in that moment there was nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

Beyond nature, the highlight of each day was lunch and dinner. Because I wasn’t able to comfortably sit at our kitchen table and needed to elevate my leg, I would eat my meals in a recliner in the living room. So, at mealtime, Eric would join me by sitting on the sofa with his plate carefully balanced on his lap. I couldn’t really tell you what we talked about, but nonetheless these conversations were my favorite part of the non-weight bearing period of my recovery. The intimacy of sitting with my best friend having conversations about nothing in particular filled me with a sense of pure contentment and inner-peace.

This injury teaches you to celebrate the little milestones – like the fact that I can now carry a glass of water across the room, and I can put socks on while standing up. In fact, every Sunday night (the accident happened on a Sunday), Eric and I have a “celebration” where we name every little bit of progress that has been made that week. During the first couple of weeks we simply celebrated that we were one week closer to me walking again. But eventually we started adding little things, like when I finally got a shoe on my foot, or like me helping make dinner while hopping around the kitchen on one leg.

Although I’m certainly not happy this happened to me, I am grateful for the experience. It’s become abundantly clear that it’s the little things that bring shama to one’s life. When you are fully present, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Contrary to my initial worries, the world is not passing me by, because the world is with me all the time. The truth is that I haven’t missed anything, but I have gained a lot.

p.s., I have the best husband in the world.

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