A tribute to my Parents on their 50th Anniversary

Occasionally, something really big happens in my life that causes me to veer completely off track and prattle on about something entirely unrelated to my blog and my running efforts. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of my parents and I can think of no better reason to diverge from my typical fitness woes and use this platform to rave about the two folks responsible for my upbringing for a few minutes. While their big day is still a few weeks away, we celebrated last night at a fabulous party thrown my my sisters and me. This is the toast I gave in their honor.

 

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My parents being so adorable my eyes hurt.

I’m going to tell you a story about love. I wasn’t there for the beginning part, so any and all errors in the early history and sequence of events should be blamed instead on my parents, who were responsible for the retelling of events and who now after 50 years of marriage cannot wholly be trusted to produce accurate, reliable, or truthful information.

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Why hello there, Gene Witherup! Tinkering again I see—surprise, surprise!

This is my dad, Eugene “Gene” Witherup.

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That’s also him on the left, pictured with his brothers Tom, Ron, and Joe. Missing from the photo is their baby sister, Janice.

He was raised in a Catholic family and after high school went to St Mary’s Seminary with the intent to enter the priesthood. Had that worked out, I wouldn’t be here and this would have been an exceptionally short story. Fortunately for me and all of his descendants, he decided that wasn’t the path for him, and he graduated from St Mary’s with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy. Afterwards, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration, but needed to get a job first and complete a few pre-requisite classes in order to make that happen. He took a job working full time at Polk State School and Hospital for two years, which is where the magic happened.

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This is my mom, Marilyn Frellsen. Looking good Mom!

Mom was working there during her summers and they met during a work related Christmas party in 1964. Mom knew the son of the head of the school and he brought Dad over and introduced them. Now, in asking my parents for information about how they met and while talking about this party, they offered up that neither of them knew how to square dance. So, not only was this a party, but it was a square dancing party.

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OK, so this was taken MUUUCH later, but still during a square dancing phase of their marriage and I’m going with it (…that period of time makes much more sense now).

…While I wasn’t there at the time, I do know my dad, and I know that it usually takes something dramatic to coerce any sort of dance moves out of him. Dad was apparently smitten because he asked my mom to dance. A dance he didn’t know how to do. That speaks volumes right there. And my mother agreed. That also speaks volumes. So I don’t know what sort of moves they pulled off on the dance floor, but it didn’t matter because little heart shaped fireworks were obviously all either of them could see.

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Love is in the air!

So, the little love birds started dating and Dad pursued his master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, my headstrong mother obstinately insisted on pursuing her dream of becoming a physician, even though her parents tried to steer her toward a then more socially acceptable career as a nurse. She graduated from Grove City College and was accepted into the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For anyone Pennsylvania challenged, this meant a long distance relationship with about a 6 to 8 hour drive between the two sweethearts, which could not have been easy for a young couple.

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Mom getting ready for exams at Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now part of Drexel University. Don’t stress Mom, you’re going to be a great doctor someday!

This is a photo of my mother that recently surfaced on Facebook, taken sometime during her freshman or sophomore year at med school. To complicate matters, one month before entering med school, my mother was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. At the time there were no disposable syringes for insulin and she had to boil her glass syringe every week. Back then this diagnosis meant a life expectancy of 20 years. She was 22 or 23 in the photo, which means she was expected to live until about the age of 40. Let that sink in for a minute. …This had just happened folks, and they got engaged during that Freshman year anyway.

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Cheers!

They maintained their long distance relationship and my dad drove the 6 to 8 hours to Philadelphia to propose to his sweetheart anyway, and they got married on Aug 19, 1967.

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The beautiful couple on their big day!

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Dad on a boat, on their honeymoon…

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And Mom, who I believe is on the same boat, but I can’t really be sure.

I’m bringing this up for a reason.

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A selfie!

My parents did not know what life had in store for them and as a young couple in love, they faced a slew of tough decisions with a very uncertain future. And it wasn’t just an uncertain future, it was a future that had been condemned by the current medical data available at the time. They got married anyway.

They had not one, not two, not three, but four children, not knowing whether my mother would be around in 20 years to see their children off to college, or married, or to meet her grandchildren.

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My tribe, back when we could all fit on one couch.

This had to be difficult for both of my parents. Perhaps this is why my mother has chosen to lead a life where every opportunity for adventure and play is seized and savored. Whether exploring distant lands, zip-lining through the jungle, indoor sky-diving,

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It’s a bird!…It’s a plane!…It’s Super Mom!

or trying to learn the latest dance craze, she has taught all of her offspring to get off the sidelines and experience all you can while you can, because you can. Dad, who tended to be weighed down by things like common sense and rational thought, and a defibrillator, would often roll his eyes and offer up a “good grief.”

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Ummm, good grief.

But for all those exclamations of “good grief,” he has embraced many phenomenal excursions and experiences just the same, typically with the entire family cheering both of them on.

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Dad, praying he can somehow escape a water entry at XPLOR, Cancun.

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A Machu Picchu selfie!

Fortunately, they persevered and now here we are:  50. Years. Later.

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You made it! And you’re still going strong!

So what do you get when you combine two brilliant minds, one with a penchant for medicine, the other for tinkering with radios, electronics, and computers, with the right amount of love, compassion, humor, tenacity, and drive? They got us: four strong, extraordinary women.

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…IS SHE DONE TALKING YET?

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OK, we’re awake! I see four incredible female powerhouses plus one honorary fiesty little female powerhouse in training (my niece, Madeline, is on the right)!

For starters, Margaret.

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What a cutie!

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#Mag4POTUS2020

Mag is a successful environmental and health care lawyer, a member of the Board of Directors for the Chesapeake chapter of Habitat for Humanity, President of Professional Women in Building Council of Maryland, and a self made scout leader for both her son’s and daughter’s troops. And to round things out, she dabbles in the occasional community musical theater.

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Mag, in her infamous role as a singing couch.

My parents could have stopped there, because they really hit a home run with her, but they kept going so I’m going to keep going.

Next came me.

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But I’ll come back to me.

Kristiann.

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Kristiann also has a flare for the dramatic.

Kristiann is a compassionate social worker who has dedicated her life to helping persons with mental illness.

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Kristiann and one of her babies, Jasper.

She is a dependable part time animal rescuer, and a newly anointed political activist who recently created a local group to support and protect human rights and equality, and her group membership is up from 1 to now approaching 70 people.

Jennine.

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Jennine was an exceptionally serious child.

Jennine is an engineer for Lockheed Martin, a bona fide rocket scientist who has travelled the planet making defense systems that are classified, which works out perfectly because I wouldn’t be able to explain them even if I had blueprints and bar graphs splayed out in front of me to help.

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She’s super smart. I know, I know. I find it hard to believe as well.

Dad, that electronic toy loader thing you gave her as a child totally paid off. She’s a freaking rocket scientist. For real.

And then there is me: Laurilyn.

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Mag called me “Fang Face” for years after a game of catch went very, very wrong.

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Sooooo glad my teeth came back.

I am an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others heal from injury and illness. I’m a part-time writer, author of now two books. I’m a wannabe runner and athletic enthusiast.

We, along with their grandchildren,

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each with enormous potential and brilliant futures in front of them, are my parents’ legacy.  Some say Dad was outnumbered in a house full of girls, but I believe he’s always been a feminist of sorts because he chose Mom: a strong, fearless female who was never one to back down from a challenge or an adventure. And she chose him.

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He has only suffered a few minor tics.

And both of them have always been our most adamant supporters.

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Smooch!

So I raise my glass, and thank God that my parents made each and every one of the decisions they did (except for making me eat lima beans, I didn’t learn anything from that) and I also thank God for the medical advancements that have allowed both of their continued presence in our lives. Cheers to them and 50 wonderful years!

BB10K 2017: Asthma Schmasthma and the rest of us.

Last year’s Bolder Boulder with the kids inadvertently ignited a small running candle inside my previously couch inclined husband. Miraculously and without coercion, he has engaged in regular runs with gradually increasing distance over the last year, apparently in anticipation of his shining moment of glory in this year’s “best 10K on earth.” …Ironic that this newfound healthy habit just happened to coincide with my running hiatus due to injury, and subsequent laziness in recovering from injury, but I digress. He has asthma, so he would be a natural running partner for me if only I could keep him from his inhalers. He vigorously sucks back the magical lung expansion treatments before jauntily producing runs with times I can only dream about.

Today was no different. He had qualified for a start time several hours before the rest of us, so once again we headed down to the race at an exceptionally early hour for a holiday.

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Piled in car at 6:15am for the Memorial Day BB10K 2017! Nathan’s friend, Evelynn is doing her best to prevent any identifiable feature from being in the photo. Gabby is, well, being Gabby.

Nathan had decided to run somewhere in the middle of the race with a friend, Evelynn, while Gabby and I would represent Team Bailey at the back of the race. Lungs expanded to what I can only assume are potentially illegal levels, we walked Dave down to the starting line and wished him luck and retreated to play games on the phone in the car.

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Who’s ready for a race?!?

Dave finished his race before we even left the car for our starting line. He was like one of those balloon race cars, sponsored by Advair, sailing through to the finish in just over an hour.

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That’s his lungs, people. On Advair. Oh, never mind.

He was amazing, and this family has never been one to let a little affliction get in the way of life goals!

Nathan and Evelynn were next to depart. Gabby and I dropped them off in their starting wave and snapped a few obligatory pictures, wanting to record the moment in case we never found them again, what with record breaking crowds and all.

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Left: has trained for half marathon. Right: jumped on trampoline for 3.5 hours yesterday.

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“Pretend to run!” …Seriously, I don’t know how you two finished before me.

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“Jump!” …Just in case you can’t figure out the running thing, just start jumping. You’ll be fine.

They are exceptionally capable teenagers, but the sheer crowd size of 100,000 makes it unnerving for a mom to let them fend for themselves.

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I know you’ve got this buddy. Taken yesterday, by the way. 

I grew a couple extra gray hairs and let them go.  My cat, Gabby, cheered me up with a couple of pre race pictures, and we found our position at the starting line.

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Cool cat and her momma.

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A salute and a dab with a whack to the chest.

After a few minutes, we took off! We jogged a bit here and a bit there, but mostly walked. Gabby was a terrific, non-complaining type of cat and we got along great! She only asked a few times if we were done yet, and she mostly dreamed about the promise of post race celebratory donuts.

We passed this guy:

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Party hat kid. While a wonderfully conceived concept, all hats went flying willy nilly upon the first jostle. Still, hats off for creativity!

And we passed the highest point:

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That hill gets me every time. 

And we plucked our way across the finish line. Well, I plucked and Gabby sprinted into cheetah mode upon entry into the stadium, where her throngs of fans leaned over to high five her as she zig-zagged around human obstacles and emphatically crossed the finish line waaay ahead of me. Well played, little kitty. Well played.

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Whew! We made it! Hooray!!

 

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The “single file” line for post race snack bags. This picture smelled as good as it looks.

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That’s a lot of snacks! And we were near the end of the herd! 

Bound and Rebound

They say once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget the skill. Running is like that too. Unless you have a cardiac history and previously birthed 2 children and you’ve stopped running for, say, 10 months, then there is no hope. In that case it’s like trying to learn a newly discovered tribal dialect that’s all clicks and grunts. While you’re deaf. And blind. All by yourself. In the arctic tundra, because it’s winter and you picked a fine time to start learning a new language.

And so, here I sit feeling deaf and blind, and both physically and mentally subpar to my human counterparts who are able to run without effort or forethought. My dear non-running husband, sensing my weakness no doubt, has stepped up his running game to weekly efforts, tackling increased mileage and speeds I can only dream about. I am unsure if I will ever be able to run again, and not at all sure that I even want to try. My mind has been at war with my body for months anticipating the inevitable defeat any actual attempt to run will bring.  My new normal is to get dressed in my running pants, headband and all, and sit around not even thinking about running anymore until it’s time to get ready for work. Initially I was sidelined by injury and illness, as is typically the case, but lately it is the lack of inertia and mental stamina that continue to keep me sidelined. Also, if I press real hard on my hip I can still make it hurt, so is it REALLY healed? Nope. Nuh uh. No.

Enter the trampoline. Santa brought my kids one for Christmas and I recently hopped on board and gave it a whirl. It was the literal kick in the rear my psyche and posterior required and the fog was jostled from my brain. I was suddenly both buoyant and brilliant! I quickly discovered low impact circular running and I’m pretty sure this will take off.

I had found in trampolining the sure fire transition I need to help restore my faith in my running career. And I fondly recalled my high school days as a cheerleader.

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Whee! …The camera angle helps. And if it makes you feel any better, I was sore for 3 days after this maneuver. 

And then I pulled out the donkey kick:

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A move usually reserved for accomplished trampoline masters. 

The trampoline proved to be a worthy adversary and, truth be told, it was not long before I suffered the consequences of my 10 month hiatus and high altitude activity.

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I’m OK. Just looking at my socks.

Though timid at first, it wasn’t long before I regained full mastery of the underrated seat drop.

Obviously, if there were an Olympic seat drop competition, I’d be a contender. My son, Nathan, decided to offer up some friendly competition.

And just like that my exercise routine is on the rebound. With the trampoline, I rediscovered laughter within exercise and remembered that at least some of the time, it should be fun and not just funny. Inspired, I headed out for a walk yesterday bundled up in my winter coat, a scarf and jeans. I did not try to run, did not pretend to be running, and didn’t even bother to dust off my running clothes. I just enjoyed the pleasant day and some quite time with my bubble gum.

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Mom-Walker here.

 

 

Adding Insult to Injury: Flat Pancakes.

Blah. The last 4 months have not been kind to my efforts to become the next greatest thing in the world of running. I’m still nursing a sore hip after an elegant and eloquent tumble down the stairs that I already mentioned here.

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My nasty bruise on a ginormous photo of my hip. I feel really great about posting this picture here. Also, that other thing is either a mole or a small planet around which my bruise is orbiting.

Additionally, I abandoned the gym and heavy weight lifting after a year of battling shoulder and back strains. Frustrated, I went back to my basics. Chocolate and wine. And after resting and munching my way through 20 lbs., I went back to my other basics. Jillian and her ripped in 30 days broken promises grated on my nerves though, so I briefly branched out into the Iron Strength for Runners DVD.

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Stronger, faster, injury-free running?!? YES, YES, and YES, PLEASE!!!

Unfortunately, thanks to its plyometrics, after a week I was left with a swollen and angry knee that could barely make it to a right angle. My knee is slowly on the mend but is not ready to run yet, and I even had to give up my lengthy walks in favor of sleeping in. Well, that could probably be argued, but MAN, I needed sleep. I’ve had minimal energy in the last 6 months or so, and found myself sneaking in “recovery naps” after my previously energizing walk/jog sessions. I also turned 45 this week and chalked my lack of energy up to age as well as probable further deterioration of my cardiac function. Turns out my thyroid is once again out of whack, explaining my current sub zero metabolism, my penchant for weight gain, and my lethargic attitude. True, my cardiac function could still be contributing, but it is a relief to discover an alternative component that can be easily remedied.

In honor of my 45th birthday, I treated myself to my first mammogram.

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Yippee!! Do I know how to party, or what?!?

Technically, I had one shortly after my son was born, but my “suspicious lump” was indiscernible within my then massive milk field. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing more than a clogged milk duct. Since then, I’ve successfully averted all other attempts by my doctor over the last five years to schedule the test, but finally succumbed to the pressure (Literally. HA!). I haven’t intentionally avoided the procedure, I just figured logistically I’m not equipped with much opportunity for lumps to hide. Also, I tend to be overloaded with tests and visits related to my challenged cardiac function, so other systems tend to fall to the wayside.

The medical intake form was mostly straightforward with questions about cancer and any signs or symptoms I was experiencing, all of which were negative. They really should have rephrased the question, however, when they asked if I had any complaints with my breasts. I thought about asking for another page to expand upon my lengthy list of grievances but settled on “they’ve become sad, droopy pancakes,” and handed my synopsis over to my technician.

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It’s like looking in a mirror.

She was pleasant yet still serious and goal oriented as she led me back to the imaging room. I donned the medical gown as directed and wondered if she actually thought I could be hiding something in my modest, broken-down bosom. I stared and the Xray machine and silently questioned whether I would have sufficient hoist-able material to image on the tray before me, but my technician was undaunted. She expertly commanded my pancakes forward only to be further flattened by the apparatus. My defibrillator briefly presented a challenging obstacle course of sorts, but eventually my technician was able to navigate around the chunky device. It didn’t erroneously misfire and to the best of my knowledge it remains adequately connected to my heart, so I consider the whole ordeal a success. But any remaining perky-prone part of my meager bust was undoubtably obliterated during this procedure, as if to reinforce and commend the havoc wrought from breast-feeding and punctuate the laws of gravity.

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Gabby’s latest drawing of me. She sees how it is.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no comparable imaging procedure for the male counterparts. Any man still reading this far into my blog is absolutely cringing at the thought. Surely an improved imaging technique could be devised in this technologically advanced day and age?!? As none has been invented yet and it remains the gold standard for early breast cancer detection, I will continue my rendezvous with this bust busting, chest compressing device on an annual (or at least semi-annual) basis.

Fortunately, my mammogram was completely normal (Hooray! …No one likes lumpy pancakes!). The lab work that was done simultaneously, however, revealed my wayward thyroid function. Now with my meds adjusted, I optimistically await new, surging levels of energy that will allow me to resume my musings in the running world. In the meantime, I’ve embraced yet another DVD set in the hopes of improving my flexibility and core strength: PiYo.

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PiYo. Not to be confused with “Pie!! …YO!”

It’s a combination of Pilates and Yoga and there are a dozen or so workouts included in the series of discs. The instructor, Chalene Johnson, is actually encouraging and positive, which is new. She doesn’t yell at me like Jillian used to do. Not that I mean to dis Jillian. We’ve been through a lot together, and she has earned a special place in my heart. But Jillian is more of a tough love, drill sergeant kind of coach and the change is nice, at least for now. As for the workouts, I suck. I’m an inflexible idiot frantically trying in vain to keep up and swing my leg into a standing split while my children and husband gaze on in confused horror, unable to identify what exactly I’m doing, certain I should not be doing it.

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Even the cat is concerned.

But I’m getting better and I haven’t managed to injure myself further as of yet, so there’s that. Then again, the journey has just begun…

 

The Art of Injury

About a month ago, I fell down a flight of stairs. This I did for no apparent good reason other than pure clumsiness coupled with a dose of misfortune and amazingly slippery bare feet. While speed has thus far eluded my feet in my running efforts, my tushy took the wheel and could not be slowed during its accelerated decent down our slick steps from hell. Fortunately, I sustained nothing worse than massive bruises on my right hip and ankle. Since then, I have been unable to run with any significant effort and have resigned myself to low impact walks in the pre-dawn hours of the day.

Not to be outdone, my running bestie and sister in clumsiness Kristiann sent me this awesome text yesterday:

cropped k's foot

…Her boot looked reminiscent of a horrifically fugly running shoe a local expert running store tried to convince me would surely help my running efforts, but that’s another story. Turns out she ran both of her last two half marathons with a stress fracture in her foot. She had it Xray’d previously because of nagging foot pain, but the sly fracture was missed and was only confirmed this week. The poor girl is completely laid up with a forced non weight bearing status on her left foot. Feeling sad and probably self-conscious (because LOOK at that boot) she sent me multiple pictures of her woeful tootsies.K's boot w:sneakerk's boot w:bowlk's boot w:TV

Naturally, I did the only thing I could think of, being unable to pry my eyes off the misshapen orthopedic eyesore encasing her foot. I had a ball! And now, I am sharing it with the world, so that others may be free to tap into their creative, artistic selves and redesign and embellish otherwise unflattering orthopedic apparel.

k's shark foot

Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun dun…AAAAARGH!

 

K's foot teeth:tongue

Pbbblt.

k's running rocker

(**NOTNIKE is in no way related to NIKE)

And meet Phteven:

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K's foot teeth2

Come on.  THATHS PHUNNY!

k's vampire boot

Sooo scary.

And for the latest online optical illusion:

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Or is it three?

What orthopedic disasters have you had to endure? Feel free to decorate and otherwise deface your own photos (or those of your siblings), and leave a picture in the comments. It’s guaranteed to help you heal!

 

P.S. Just because I love my sister and want to help her “heel.”

L's bruise

My hip monster.