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I’ve wanted to write this for over a year now, but summarizing the core values that are at the very heart of your being, and putting them into words is a rather daunting task.  But it’s on my list of 43 Things, and it would be nice to check another one off.  If you’ve never heard of This I Believe, it’s an idea based on a radio show from the 50s, in which notable people would write an essay about “the core values that guide their daily lives,” and then read them on air.  On their website, you can listen to the essays (read by the author) of people like Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Oscar Hammerstein, Maria Von Trapp, and even Albert Einstein.  Hearing the deepest beliefs of such influential people is a pretty damned cool thing.  So I decided to write my own (narrowed down to a few key subjects).  I was afraid that my beliefs would change over time, but what’s important to note is that these are your core values, and really they shouldn’t change very much over time.  I will say that trying to sum things up into a short essay is very difficult, so I will just do a few topics right now.  Perhaps in another year I will write on a few more.  So…here goes nothing:

My interest in politics is rooted in my passion for basic human decency, self-pride, justice, honor, family, morals, charity, and of course, democracy.  This conservatism was already in my heart long before I was old enough to know what a government is, and I learned these ideals from my parents.  I believe that the root of all decency is in a good family life.  Parents have the ultimate responsibility – creating and molding a life that will contribute to our society.  Involved parents breed good students, and good parents create more good parents by their example.  My parents* taught me good manners, honesty, how to be a hard worker, how to live within my means, and how to help others.  It is often painfully obvious who grew up without good role models.  At the funeral of a friend’s father a few years ago, I learned that he was a very loving man, and that one of his beliefs was that “the greatest gift you can give your children is to love their mother.”  This sentiment truly touched me – he and his wife were still very much in love after decades of marriage.  His sons (who by the way, were not his biological sons), learned how to treat a woman and show love through his example.  In a world where most men still view love as a weakness, I truly value this lesson, and I seek it in my relationships (platonic and romantic) with the opposite sex.  Fathers have a great responsibility to teach their sons how to be good men, and to teach their daughters what to look for in a mate.  Mothers are the example of womanhood to their daughters, and set the example of a future wife for their sons.  Together, the parents show their children the inner workings of a relationship, and it is repeated through the subsequent generations.

I believe that it is better to be kind than to be right.  The best example of this is during an argument.  Being passionate about values and politics, I could potentially get in a lot of arguments with the people I care about.  But I care about them – I would never want to say anything to make them feel badly.  But some people often throw out insults such as “that’s stupid,” “you’re crazy,” and the like.  I cannot imagine insulting the intelligence and sanity of another person, especially one that I care about.  It is perfectly possible to prove a point without resorting to insults.  It’s also possible to not insist on proving a point at all.  People will believe what they believe, and one conversation is not going to change their mind – certainly not one riddled with insults.  If being right means knocking someone else down, or crushing their belief system, perhaps it’s not so important to be right.  We are all very different.  It is impossible for someone to think exactly as you do.  We all have a different frame of reference, different experiences, and different influences that have brought us to this very point.  Forcing beliefs on others has never been successful.  Perhaps you could just listen, and appreciate the beliefs and ideas of another human being – even if they are vastly different from your own.

* I feel it is important to point out here that my parents divorced when I was 15, and yet they were still able to successfully co-parent (and still do!).

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My last blog promised all sorts of things, and I have not delivered. No goals, no “This I Believe” essays… Honestly my mind has not been in the place to write about positivity and ideals.  I’ve had some prolonged stress and life’s just been hard the last several months.  There have been a few bright spots, but my mind seems unable to turn from what’s going wrong to what’s going right.  So I may as well vent and update about the recovery and try to put my special spin on things.

I somehow forgot that the first quarter at work is our busiest.  OK maybe I remembered that it was the busiest, but wow.  Wow.  I guess last year I hadn’t been given that much responsibility yet so I figured I could handle things this year just as well as last year.  So I planned a vacation in February…February 10-13, to be exact.  To the CPAC convention in DC.  My first trip to DC.  It was already very risky to take a vacation during this period, and then the weather got all crazy last week and the office was closed for 4 days.  I’m going to have to work at least 50 hours a week for a month to make up for the missed days.  So I canceled the trip, losing about $450 in the process.  Ouch.

I suppose it’s for the best though.  My ankle still isn’t really up for travel and sightseeing.  It’s been 3 months since the surgery, and things still aren’t 100%.  I’d say about 75%.  There is still a lot of swelling, pain, and stiffness.  I have about 50% flexibility, but it is stable and I feel safe walking even though it is usually painful.  I wear an ankle brace everywhere but home – it’s an upgrade from the boot, but it limits my wardrobe to tennis shoes.  Flats are very painful.  So I pretty much never feel cute…but I digress.  I had a check-up with the ankle surgeon yesterday, and he thinks that the fiber wire that he used to anchor my tendon to the bone might be rubbing on the tendon, causing it to swell.  And I’m not talking about a little swelling – it’s major swelling.  Probably an inch in circumference or more by the end of the day.  So I had another lovely steroid shot directly in the tendon yesterday (pretty much the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced), and it seems to be doing better.  If it continues to swell, he may have to go back in and remove the wire.  I am still miffed by how a “two week recovery period” can turn into three months.  At least I can walk now.

Physical therapy seems to be helping as much as it can despite the swelling.  It takes up 2-3 nights a week, sometimes a Saturday.  My social life is suffering, and I miss my friends and family dearly.  I’m attempting to have a love life, and the time constraint has proven a hardship.  When I don’t have PT, I’m working late.  The four days off last week was a desperately needed escape from reality.  My family has suffered considerable loss and hardship the last six months, and it’s been hard to watch those I love suffer.  I try to be the pillar of strength, but the constant negativity has really taken a toll on my disposition.  It shadows everything.

I know I’m a lucky girl, but just this once I don’t want to pretend that I feel lucky.  Life goes on, this too shall pass, and all that…I’m just ready for this period to get the hell out of here.

The purpose of this post is two-fold: an update on the
ankle and a lead-in to the next two posts I have planned.
First off, the ankle is finally starting to heal in ways that I can
see and rejoice over. For about two weeks, I was sinking into
a depressed state and was growing quite bitter, especially toward
those around me. OK, toward people in general. I’ve
lost my sense of humor about not being able to walk – quite
honestly, not being able to walk for 2 months is no laughing
matter. It’s challenging, painful, and embarrassing.
Coworkers and even complete strangers will act like they’re going
to kick or trip me, or make some kind of comment that just isn’t
necessary. Even though I know it wasn’t out of malice, it
started bothering me so much that I really couldn’t keep it
together at all. Lots and lots of tears. If you’re any
kind of decent person, don’t stare at or tease someone who’s
injured, help them. So, I’ve started physical
therapy. Three times a week (I pushed it to 4 last week) for
an hour after work. Immediately after I have to get home and
ice my foot (by then it’s 8:00), eat dinner, take a shower, and
then it’s straight to bed. Not much room for a social
life! Still no weight allowed on the foot without the boot
on, so it’s all working on getting the fluid out of my foot,
rebuilding muscle with electronic stimulus, range of motion, and
flexibility. The progress is slow, but the physical therapist
did show me how to “walk” with one crutch, and I have even been
able to get around at home without crutches. I can only put
weight on my foot with the boot on though, and only indoors where
the floor is nice and flat. I don’t have any stability at all
and the tendon that does most of that work is still reattaching
itself apparently. Still, it’s progress. I can carry
things!!! I think the worst part of crutches is that you
can’t carry ANYTHING. I’ve been using a small backpack as a
purse (oh how I miss my cute purses), and if it doesn’t fit in
there, it doesn’t go. It’s also extremely tiring. Just
going across a parking lot has me out of breath – I’m not very
athletic anyway, but hauling your lower body weight around on my
scrawny arms has been truly exhausting. I know grown men who
are in great shape that say the same thing, so I think I’ve done
pretty good to do as much as I have. But being able to just
use one crutch at the office has made my life a lot easier
already. I also have to watch that I don’t hyper-extend my
right knee. It is very weak and taking a full stride is quite
painful if I don’t watch how much I am extending it.

Day
48

The
result of 2+ months of being on crutches.

Today was
day 53. I see an end in sight, and things are looking
up. I certainly learned a lot about myself and what I
can/can’t deal with. I also learned that when I injure
myself, I should take care of it! Blasted high threshold for
pain….I always have to learn things the hard way. So, moving
on…I made a list of goals last year and I did complete a lot of
them. You can read that list here
and my follow-up here.
I’m ready to update my list and add some new ones. Most will
obviously be short-term goals concerning the foot, but I’m
considering some longer-term goals as well. Before I can
update my list though, I need to finally write my “This I Believe”
essay (that was one of my goals). If you don’t know what that
is, you should check it
out
. I just love the concept and being a person
with very strong beliefs and ideals, I think I’ll have a lengthy
entry! I’m looking forward to getting my convictions and
beliefs into written format and sharing them with others, and
looking forward to setting and achieving new goals for a new year
that is already looking to be full of possibilities.

If you don’t already know, I had reconstructive surgery on my ankle on October 28, 2010.

Small ankle joint effusion, peroneal tenosynovitis, partial tearing of the anterior and posterior talofibular ligaments and calcaneofibular ligament, and posterior tibial tendinitis with tenosynovitis.

That’s what the MRI said, but when the doctor actually got in there to see the damage, it was apparently a lot worse.  He said the damage looked older than the injury I suspected had caused the problem.  One of my tendons was shredded into three strands, and most was unattached.  So he reattached things and tightened things and sewed things up.  I had never had surgery before, and I was really scared during the weeks leading up to it.

I was initially told two weeks non-weight-bearing recovery.  After surgery, he told me that it would be 6-8 weeks.  At the time, I was so out of it and in so much pain that I didn’t care.  I had already planned on staying with my mom and step dad, so it didn’t change much in my mind.  I would still take a week or two off of work and just figure out how to get back and forth.  Little did I know…

Strength-wise, I was very unprepared for being reliant on crutches.  I couldn’t get up or down from a sitting position (read: the toilet), and I couldn’t even swing between steps – I had to go one crutch at a time.  Three days after surgery, I had to go to the emergency room because I couldn’t keep my medication down.  After 4 hours without pain medication, I needed professional help.  Without being too descriptive, just so you know – throwing up while you’re in the worst pain of your life while riding in a car is no picnic.

So that was the worst of it.  I’m at 5 1/2 weeks now, out of the bright pink cast and back in the boot (just when I leave the house, my foot is naked every possible chance I get), back home and back to some semblance of a social life.  I still can’t drive, and I still can’t put an ounce of weight on my foot.  I can’t feel my 4th and 5th toes, and I’m hoping it’s just from nerve damage during the surgery and they will repair themselves.  I have a nice 5-6 inch scar up the edge of my foot and over my ankle bone.  I finally got to wash my foot yesterday and even was able to shave my leg.  Things are looking better, but it’s going to be a while before life gets back to normal.

I guess my point in writing this is educational.  If you’ve ever known someone who’s injured, or sick for a long period of time…be a good friend.  I went from doing something several times a week with friends and driving whenever I wanted, I could stand over the stove to cook my favorite dinner, I could go on a date, I could clean up after myself, change directions quickly, go for a jog, do my laundry, take a shower, wear anything I wanted, etc etc etc.  The realization that I was stuck like this for at least a month made me feel sorry for myself on more than one occasion.  Living with your parents is never easy, but I couldn’t even hop in the car to get away.  Even when I did leave the house, my foot swelled so bad that it almost wasn’t worth it.

So all these things that seem like no big deal to you – picking up your dirty glass, unloading the dishwasher, driving to work, standing(!)…imagine all that is taken away.  Imagine being reliant on other people for EVERYTHING.  Imagine not getting to do what you want when you want to do it EVER.  Imagine strangers staring at you when you go out in public.  Imagine your friends telling you that they’re out at parties, dinner, movies, while you’re stuck in bed with no choice for weeks to come.  Imagine your friends just not contacting you at all.  I realized that I have a few friendships that were only being held together by me – the two weeks that I wasn’t up for talking on the phone and initiating conversation kind of showed me who truly cared about me, or at least who understood that I needed some serious support.  Then again, people I barely knew were texting every day to cheer me up.  I got some lovely cards also.  So while I apparently needed to reassess a few friendships, I gained a few as well.  Let me re-iterate – be a friend.  Be an over-the-top friend for a few weeks.  You don’t even have to visit, just call.  Don’t just text, pick up the stupid phone and make it personal.  One day you’ll be in those shoes, and you’ll see what I mean.

Anyway, things are going better – I was able to come back to my apartment with the help of a friend who stayed with me for a few days.  Now I’m on my own – it’s difficult to do ordinary things, but I’ve learned to live with less and deal with a little clutter since I can’t clean up very much.  My wonderful mother comes by once a week to do the major cleaning and laundry and I look forward to her visits and the subsequent clean home.  I do miss being able to hop in the car and grab a bite to eat or go to the store, and shopping.  I really miss shopping.  I still have to burden a few coworkers and friends to get me to and from work, and I’m very tired of having to ask for help.

If you’re still reading, I’ll take that as a sign that you care about what I’ve been going through.  I’m a generally positive person – only two meltdown pity parties in 6 weeks is pretty damn good if you ask me.  I’m lucky to have such a wonderful and helpful family, and to have lots of friends who have bent over backwards to help me – everything from uplifting phone calls to taking out the trash.  I don’t think I’ll ever take my health, friends, and family for granted after this experience.

The boot I was in for about 6 weeks before the surgery and will probably be in for 4-6 weeks after. It's no picnic either.

At home right after the surgery. The tube coming out is attached to a machine that circulated ice water around my foot.

During surgery prep, the nurse blew a vein in my left hand. It doesn't look that bad here, but it was black and blue for about 3 weeks and was quite painful.

The doctor wrote "NO" on my left foot, and "YES" on my right foot. There can't be enough fail-safes!

The incision one week after surgery.

The first layers of the cast.

The first of the three casts. It was more comfortable than the post-op dressings, but very heavy. No, my favorite color is not pink - there aren't a lot of choices of colors.

The incision at 3 weeks, after sutures were removed. The brown/black stuff isn't blood, it's just an iodide solution that dried on.

Cutting off the third and final cast.

I posted a blog last December listing out some goals I hoped to achieve – here’s an update!

And here’s the original.

December 29, 2009

1.Get rid of all of my recycling “problem”

Update: I finally took out the 6-7 paper bags of recycling in my apartment, and have not let it get that bad since!

2.Write a “This I Believe” essay

Update: Haven’t gotten around to this one yet, but I’ve got some ideas rolling around in my head.

3.Build up a personal savings.

Update: This will be easier after my student loans have been paid off.

4.learn more about wine

Update: An ongoing process!

5.drink more water

Doing good on this one!  I drink about a liter a day.

6.Figure out why I’m so tired

Update: turns out high blood pressure can really wear you out!  Guess what I have?  High blood pressure!  Now that I’m on medication, I sleep great!

7.learn yoga

Update: I’ve learned a little bit – can anyone recommend a good video?

8.learn how to fall asleep

See #6!

9.learn to garden

Update: I have a little herb garden on my balcony, and they’re doing alright!

10.identify 10 strengths I am proud of

11.Take a cooking class

12.visit the Taj Mahal

13.Train a guide dog.

14.Stick to a budget.

Update: mumblemumble…

15.Learn conversational French and/or German

Update: I learned a little before I went to Europe, and I think I did ok speaking to the natives!

16.Learn to ride my mountain bike.

Update: Trying to sell the bike…  http://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/bik/1910206744.html

17.get buff

Update: I’m doing the 100 Pushup Challenge!

18.Visit the ancient ruins in Greece.

19.visit Petra

20.find true love

Update: Well, I haven’t joined a convent yet…

21.learn to invest

22.Purchase a home

23.Learn to be less reactive.

24.Stop interrupting people when they are speaking.

Update: I am definitely more aware of this, I just have a hard time holding back!!

25.Volunteer for a local political campaign.

26.learn about local politics

27.Learn to enjoy being part of a “pair.”

28.improve my manners

29.keep a plant alive for one month

Update: I got a plant from the arrangements at my grandfather’s funeral just after Christmas last year, and I am happy to say that it is alive and well!

30.stretch every day

Update: I don’t get to it every day, but I do stretch and work out more often.

31.check my blood pressure once a week

Update: Again, I don’t do it as often as I should, but then I’m not as worried about it as I was when I wrote this.

32.rebuild my six-pack

Update: This is a slower process than it used to be, but I’m working on it!

33.live with integrity

Update: This isn’t a goal that can be just checked off – it’s ongoing.  I should find some books on the subject.

34.decide what “honor” means to me, and be an example of honor for others

Update: Another ongoing process.  I will probably try to include my definition of “honor” in my “This I Believe” essay.

35.live passionately

36.Be a better friend

Update: I definitely have been making  more of an effort to spend time with my friends and keep relationships going, despite the distance that separates me from most of them.

37.give more to charity

38.set career goals

39.Be completely ruthless about getting things done

Update: Very few weeknights out = more gets done at home!

40.resist the temptation to settle

41.get up when the alarm goes off

Update: I get up a lot easier now that I have been sleeping better.  I’m comfortable with snoozing a few times.

42.Live in the present

Update: Dwelling on the past doesn’t get us anywhere…this goal is more like a constant reminder to keep my mind on what’s directly in front of me.  In fact, reading it just now reminded me to stop worrying about what I was worrying about today!

43.be more self-reliant