Monday, January 27, 2014

One Year Update: Recovery from A Trimalleolar Fracture

It's been a year since my husband and I went ice-skating and I ended up with a trimalleolar fracture of my left ankle. I wrote a detailed entry about my recovery timeline back in June of 2013, about five and a half months post injury, and many people have ready my post and commented that it helped them as they dealt with their own injury. So I decided to post a one year update.

The biggest thing I would say is that I'm doing very well. I don't have a limp when I walk and I am able to do yoga and walk briskly on a regular basis. I haven't returned to running fully but i have to be honest and confess that's more laziness than injury. I am building back up to running this year. I still wear all my old shoes, although I don't generally wear heels so I'm not sure how that would feel. Most importantly to me, I am able to play with and care for my three year old, chasing her around playground equipment, walking in the snow, sledding, and carrying her up and down steps when she is sleeping. For me, the biggest moment of realization that I have recovered came this past December when I was on vacation with my family. My husband wanted to hike up a waterfall and I was able to complete the slippery and somewhat tiring climb without any problems from my ankle.

There are still some post-injury differences that I notice. I still get pain in my ankle when it's cold or rainy. For me, the pain isn't severe; it doesn't limit my activity and I don't need to take over the counter pain medication for it. I do notice it. My left ankle is still not as flexible as my right ankle and still looks thicker and a little puffier. This hasn't affected my shoe sizes or level of comfort and activity. The scars over my left ankle are still prominent. I don't think they look awful but they are clearly noticeable if I am wearing sandals and capris. Emotionally, I am still very, very nervous about icy or potentially slippery surfaces. I live near Washington D.C. so most of the time that is not limiting, but this winter has been cold. I did buy Yax Trax to slip on over my shoes but I haven't had a chance to try them out. I don't plan to try ice skating again; if my family wants to go I will bundle up and man the camera from the sidelines.

I still have my screws and plate in. I can definitely feel them under my skin, although they are not bothersome unless I try to sit cross-legged on a hard surface. Which, sometimes I do since I am playing with a three year old. I don't think I will have them taken out unless they become much more bothersome. I am not at all interested in another surgery and then going through another recovery period. I don't have any problems getting through airports, which is something I worried about initially. I haven't set off a metal detector once.

After reading many of the comments on my original blog post I realize that there are clearly variations on this injury. Any trimalleolar fracture is severe but I've heard from others whose breaks were worse or who injured their other leg in addition. Obviously the severity of the injury or additional injuries would affect the recovery process. I broke my fibula higher up on my ankle; it was broken through and displaced. That was the worst break. The tibia was broken in two places but the displaced fragments were both essentially tips of the bone. And my right ankle was completely healthy, which helped greatly in mobility and recovery, as it gave me a stable and strong place to work from.

I continue to feel that the major factors in my recovery were following my doctor's instructions faithfully in regards to not bearing weight, good nutrition, many prayers from family and friends, and religiously following the physical therapy regimen I was assigned. My physical therapist was a huge player in my later recovery. He took me through progressive stretches and strengthening exercises so that I gained back all my functional ability. Even more importantly, he was incredibly positive and encouraging. He made me believe that I could recover, which made me willing to work at it. If your insurance doesn't cover physical therapy I would recommend paying for at least one visit if there is any way at all you can manage it - credit card, borrow the money from someone, any way at all - so that an expert can outline a progressive regimen for you to follow on your own.

I hope that my record of my injury and recovery continues to help others. I hope that you having hope that you will get back to normal will help you get through. I will continue to keep everyone in my thoughts and prayers as you heal.

See my original Post here: Timeline of Recovery from a Trimalleolar Fracture

Monday, January 20, 2014

Redeeming a Symbol

I was having lunch with my mother yesterday and we were chatting about jewelry. My mom commented that because she has been given so many beautiful crosses over the years that's primarily what she wears. I nodded. I know this is true.

Then I said "I don't wear crosses to work. I am afraid it would make people feel like they couldn't open up to me. That they would think I am harsh, or judgmental, or mean and that they wouldn't trust me."

My mom nodded. She knows this is true. We sat with that for a few minutes.

Then I said "That's terrible, isn't it? That a religion that was founded on love, that should be known for love, is known for meanness and judgment instead."

My mom said "Yes. That is terrible, and terribly sad."

So, you might ask why I'm still a Christian? Why, if my religion has been so distorted and bent that I can't wear it's symbol for fear of wounding the people I am trying to help, am I still a part of it? I have options, you know. My husband is Jewish, and I love Judaism. I love prayers in Hebrew, and the intellectual challenge of Midrash, I love the deep peace and haunting beauty of synagogue services. I could so easily convert and be Jewish. Or I could be a Buddhist. I have read so much about Buddhism lately and it's offshoot psychological discipline of mindfulness. I find it very natural, very wise, very resonant with me. I don't even think I have to convert to Buddhism. I think I could just find a community and start meditating and praying with them.


There are Christians like my friend Betsy. I need to tell you about Betsy, and it's hard, because she died this weekend. And she wasn't supposed to die, she was way too young and way too loved and there's a huge community of devastated people missing her now. Most importantly her family, her husband, her young son. Betsy was a minister at a church I attended several years ago. She had bright pink hair and she radiated love and safety. She taught me that creativity is an aspect of G-D that we are blessed and privileged to share. She reignited my love of knitting, a fire that still burns for me in color and softness and my own creative expression. She was a haven of care and concern for others. She made people feel at home, safe, comfortable with her and in our church. She let people know that G-D loved them and that she did too. I loved listening to Betsy offer the communion service at church when it was her turn. The communion service is a traditional set of words that often is read in a formal and remote way. Betsy told the story warmly, intimately, like she was sitting down to dinner with friends and letting them know about something really, really cool. Something important, something wonderful - which is what communion is about. It's about us, sitting down all together at G-D's dinner table, in fellowship and love together. Wow. Reading all the posts on Facebook, I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Betsy represents for me what all Christians are called to be; loving, welcoming, joyful, creative.

I have other reasons to be Christian, of course, not just one good woman, although her example is an affirmation of the goodness in this faith. But the core of that choice to be Christian for me is a belief that G-D does love us, loves us passionately, loves us so much that he lived and suffered and died with and for us, so that we can be freed by that love. Freed to love others, to be courageous and open and free of fear in reaching out and loving other people. And so I won't walk away, not now and I don't think ever.

If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, I want you to know I will be safe for you. I will love you and listen to you and welcome you and I will not even think about changing you, or wanting you to change. I will not judge you or condemn you. If you offer me your story I will receive it like the treasure it is and I will celebrate the gift that is you. G-D loves you. G-D has loved me, and has charged me to give that love as freely as it has been given to me.

And if you are reading this and you are a Christian I would ask you to think about this. On the night he was betrayed, and handed over into suffering and death, Jesus gave his disciples a new command. He said "Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." (John chapter 13 verses 34-35).

I read this and I know I need love you too, even when I don't agree. G-D loves you, loves all of us no matter how big a mess we have made of everything. Will you love me back? Will you love the ones that you don't want to love, the ones you want to change, the ones you judge and recoil from? Can we do this together? Can we become a church filled with welcome, joy, love, creativity? Can the cross itself be redeemed as a symbol of love?

Friday, January 17, 2014

1st Day of Class

I got to attend class today with our three-year old. My husband and I signed her up for a variety pack class through our local parks and recreation department back in December. The class has two sessions each on cooking, gardening, art, exercise and nature. My husband's original idea was to add some structure to her non-preschool days with him but when he was talking about the class I said wait, wait. I want to go too. So we scheduled her for Fridays, even though that means being late to preschool for the next 10 weeks, because I have a flexible work schedule that gives me every other Friday off, most of the time. I made arrangements with my boss to use some vacation time to cover the rest of the missed work time. And off we went this morning for our first class.

This is a big deal for me for several reasons. First, I love classes. I love going to school. In my daydreams about what I would do if I didn't work I almost always see myself going back to school in something, or at least taking different classes. Yes, I know I am a total nerd, but I'm comfortable with that. I get a lot of fun out of learning. And I really like actually going to class, actually being there in person. I've taken some online classes but it's just not as much fun. I get the content but not the experience. I like talking to people. I like the synergy that happens when several people get together and have a conversation - even when those people are preschoolers and we're talking about how often we've been sick this winter.

Second, I often feel that I miss out on some of the special things that my husband and daughter do together. They take field trips to the museum and the aquarium; they hit story hour at the library; they even have an ice skating date next week with friends so our daughter can try ice skating for the first time. All of this takes place while I work, and sometimes I end up feeling just a little bit jealous. Not a lot, and I'm glad that my husband can stay home with my daughter and that they have an awesome relationship, but just a little bit sad and envious that I don't get to play. I've learned that most preschool oriented classes take place on weekday mornings. This makes perfect sense, given the natural rhythms of 3 and 4 year olds. Mornings around our house are when our daughter is at her most cheerful and cooperative and most open to new experiences. It's just a little hard on working parents, since we don't get to share the fun.

Third, and more philosophically, is that taking this class with our daughter is part of something that I am trying to tell myself recently. I'm reminding myself to live now. Don't wait until my schedule is calm to do things I'm interested in. Don't wait for perfect moments. Instead choose something interesting and make it happen. Find the time, find the energy and go do it now. I can't do everything I'm interested in all at once, but if my stance is consistently to do something, then over time I can do quite a lot. So this season I'm taking a class with my daughter on Friday mornings. Maybe in the spring my husband and I can take a dance class together. Season by season, we can have quite a bit of fun together as a family and probably even learn some things too.

So we went to our variety class this morning. The nature segment of class comes first, apparently. The theme today was owls. The teacher told us all something about owls - that there are 200 species. She mentioned that most owls eat mice and insects but that some eat fish, to which my daughter said "that's disgusting!" We glued paper together to make a barn owl and added feathers and googly eyes. The teacher read an owl story and then we ended class by dancing around pretending to be various animals. I noticed the other parents (including my husband) didn't seem quite so into the class, but I had a lot of fun. Perhaps I am just a goofy big kid in an over-30 body. (Well, okay - more than perhaps. That's almost certainly true.) Or perhaps I was just savoring the occasion, the chance to play and to learn and to live a little with the people I love the best.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tu B'Shavat

Today (since sundown) and tomorrow (until sundown) are Tu B'Shavat, which is the Jewish New Year of the tree. I don't usually know when this falls but since my husband and I took our daughter to Tot Shabbat at the synagogue this week it's been on my mind. During the synagogue service we sang songs about the wonderful things trees give us such as air, shade, fruit, places to build tree houses etc... I thought it was interesting that no one mentioned wood. Maybe because that involves cutting down the tree? Our daughter came up with maple syrup which made me quite proud, since that had been a recent discussion of ours.

I first learned about Tu B'Shavat when I was in college. My senior year I was in a class about food and culture. The class was led by a professor but actually taught by the students; we each were responsible for an hour long lecture during the semester. I don't remember much about the class, to be honest. I wish I did. Come to think of it, my college probably wishes I did as well. What I do remember is that each of us brought food each week as an illustration of our project and that my project was on how food relates to Jewish Holidays. I chose the theme because my husband was at that time my boyfriend, and had been for about 18 months. We were pretty serious about each other by then and I wanted to learn more about his background. I had a fun and delicious time researching the project and making test recipes with his help. I think I settled on kugel and challah and my class seemed to enjoy the food and the presentation, at least until I fainted at the end. Fortunately I have gotten over my anxieties about pubic speaking since I was in college.

The food for Tu B'Shavat is classically a celebration of plant products that are traditionally abundant in Israel: wheat, barley, pomegranate, fig, grape and olive. Several of these don't actually grow on trees, but that's okay. Another way to celebrate is to eat 15 different fruits, since Tu B'Shavat actually means the 15th day of Shavat. You can also host a seder meal for Tu B'Shavat, gathering with family and friends for prayer and song over an extended meal, which sounds fun but is not something that our family has ever done.

The reason for a new year of the trees is that in Torah law the age of a tree is important. The first three years of a tree's life you don't eat the fruit from it. I'm not sure what you do with any fruit that forms, but I can tell you from experience trying to plant fruit trees they generally don't bear fruit those first 3 years anyway. The 4th year of the tree's life all the fruit is tithed to the temple and it is considered as belonging to G-D. The 5th year you can eat the fruit. Tu B'Shavat is considered the birthday of all trees, so that's when the age of a tree advances. Essentially it was the start of the new tax year.

These days there isn't any more tithing to the temple. Now Tu B'Shavat is generally celebrated by either planting a tree (if you live somewhere that is warm enough to do so) or by donating money to plant a tree. Which is what I will do, since where I live it is the middle of a very cold January, and it is absolutely no time to be planting anything outside that you want to actually live. Tree planting is part of Tikkun Olam, the work of healing the world. It is a promise to the next generation and the generation after that. I will take care of the earth, I will plant trees now so that you may enjoy them when you are born. I like that promise and hope.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Morality of Fairy Tales

I love fairy tales. I always have. I can remember reading Grimm's fairy tales and Anderson's fairy tales over and over as a child, probably around the age of 7 or 8. I don't remember being disturbed by them, although some of them are quite bloody and brutal. I am actually more disturbed by them now, as a parent, then I ever was as a child. Perhaps as a child I knew they were pretend and so I didn't worry about it. Or perhaps as a child I just accepted things more without thinking about details, which is why the story of Noah's ark really bothers me now when it just seemed like a fun floating zoo story as a child.

My daughter loves fairy tales too, although I suspect that it's more a love of Disney princesses at this stage. She'll ask at bedtime for stories of Aurora and Rapunzel and Ariel and Cinderella, and I will tell her my version of the stories. Which has led to a few discussions of the concept of artistic license and the explanation that it's okay to change pretend stories but real stories (autobiographical or Biblical or scientific) have to be told the way they are. Despite some occasional disputes over details we are both enjoying the nightly ritual of telling stories. When she can read I will give her the original stories and I hope she will love them as much as I did, but I hope we will keep telling them together as well.

The advantage of telling the story yourself is you can tell it your way, emphasizing whichever point seems relevant or just interesting at the moment. Lately we've been focused on Rapunzel, probably because my husband recently watched "Tangled" (the Disney version of Rapunzel) with our daughter. Also because our daughter has recently become accomplished at building tall towers with her magnetic blocks and so she has the added fun of pretending that Rapunzel (and Rapunzel's mommy and daddy, which is her own addition to the story) are in her tower. Then she lets them out again, of course, and does it all again.

So the last few nights we've been telling the story of Rapunzel at bedtime. My version is a little closer to the classic Grimm's tale than Disney's but still with plenty of license. For example tonight, while we were telling Rapunzel, we talked about the possibility that maybe the witch learned to be good. Maybe while she was alone in the tower she became sorry for hurting other people and felt sad about her behavior and tried to do better. And so then maybe Rapunzel came back and let her out and the witch did good things for the rest of her life. We used the word "repent" and I explained what it meant; that people can do wrong things but they can be sorry and change. Other nights we've focused on the idea that maybe Rapunzel's daddy made a bad mistake agreeing to give the witch his baby. The idea of parents making mistakes is one we're starting to broach, so it helps to have an illustration. On other nights we've tackled the idea of selfishness and how it leads people to do bad things, like the witch wanting Rapunzel all to herself.

I like the morality of fairy tales as a teaching tool. Are they simpler than real life? Well, yes, of course. Most teaching tools do simplify the problem at hand, boiling it down into clear examples and counterexamples. Once the basics are mastered then it's easier to see the principles at work in more complex situations. In the case of fairy tales kindness, hard work, persistence, caring and sacrifice are rewarded while selfishness, meanness, laziness and aggression are punished. I know as our daughter gets older life will hand her complex situations, situations where she has to measure good against good or bad against bad and come up with the best choice she can. I hope our stories become part of the framework for her decisions.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fireplace Frustration

Our house has a fireplace. My husband and I haven't had a fireplace in past homes and apartments because it's never been a major point of interest for us. But this house, which works so well for us in so many ways, happens to have a fireplace. So we've decided that as long as we have a fireplace we might as well use it. I indulged myself in dreams of cozying up on the couch under our down comforter in front of a roaring fire. We had the chimney cleaned and inspected this fall and received a clean bill of health. For Christmas my mother gave us some kindling, fireplace tools and an attractive basket for firewood. I bought color changing pinecones from Plow and Hearth for interest and mystery. And so we embarked on our journey to master the art of a fireplace fire.

Honestly, it's not going very well thus far. The first fire attempt was pretty much a flop. We had the damper open, and we used kindling, but the logs never really caught. Which seems puzzling to me, since dry wood should burn, right? No, apparently that's wrong. We went on the internet to try to figure out our mistake. The article we read said that sometimes a cold draft comes down the chimney and keeps the fire from getting started. It recommended opening the glass doors thirty minutes before trying to light the fire so that heat from the room would go up the chimney. So we opened the glass doors. That didn't particularly help. Then my husband suggested turning on the fan that is supposed to move warm air from the fireplace into the room. We had left it off because it is dreadfully noisy and didn't seem to move much air, but at that point we decided to try it. I suppose it helped some, because eventually most of the wood in the fireplace did become ash. It was more embers and smoke then crackling flame.

Our second and third fire attempts didn't go much better. We tried different ways of building the fire, creating elaborate layers of newspaper, fatwood, kindling and logs. We tried different configurations of glass doors open, shut, fan on, fan off. We would get fifteen or twenty minutes of flame as the kindling burned and then the whole thing would smolder to a stop and eventually go out. It's all been quite perplexing.

Finally, tonight, we used a firelog instead of wood. I really, really wanted a nice fire because it is 12 degrees (Farenheit) here this evening. While that isn't as cold as some places in the country are suffering, it's quite quite cold for Northern Virginia and way too cold for me. So we used the firelog from the supermarket to build the fire. Firelogs are typically made up of waste wood products such as sawdust or fibre from palm branches mixed with waxes, kind of a mix between wood and a candle I suppose. The packaging states the burn more cleanly than wood and emit less carbon dioxide, which makes them less environmentally destructive. I will say that the firelog worked much, much better in our fireplace. It lit easily and burned for the advertised 2 hours with plenty of cheerful yellow flames. The color changing pinecones rested nicely on top and added a lovely dark blue that faded to a sea green for the time they burned. It was all very pretty.

It feels like cheating though, somehow, to use a manufactured product. Fire is supposed to be basic, something simple that connects back through time to all the other humans who have huddled around fires at night for warmth and light. So we will probably continue our endeavors to learn to build and tend a real log fire. Hopefully it's a question of time and practice, or a missing ingredient that we just haven't realized yet. I suppose time will tell. In the meantime, for these really cold nights, at least we have a fall back option.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Christmas Story for Three-Year-Olds and Adults

We took our holiday decorations down today. I like to leave them up through as much of Christmas (which is technically 12 days, until Epiphany on 6 January) as possible, but I usually will take them down the weekend before Christmas ends because it's just a time consuming task that I don't want to do after work. This year my daughter helped, and while we put the Nativity scene away she wanted to hear the Christmas story again. So this is the story I tell her:

G-D decided he needed to show people how much he loved them, because people just didn't understand. So he went to a very young, poor girl named Mary and told her he had a wonderful plan, but that he would need her help. He wanted to be born as a human to show people how much he loves them and he needed a Mommy here on earth. Mary was scared, but she loved G-D and wanted to obey him and so she said yes. Mary loved a good man named Joseph who loved her as well, and they were going to be married. G-D spoke to Joseph too and told him about G-D's plan and asked Joseph to be his Daddy and Joseph said yes. So Mary and Joseph got ready to have a very special baby. But then a king told them they had to pay some taxes, and they couldn't do it at home. They had to travel far away to a city called Bethlehem, and it was a long hard journey far away from their home and their friends and family. When they got to Bethlehem there was no room for them anywhere. No one had any room for them and finally someone told them they could sleep in the stable with the animals. It was cold and dark and it smelled bad but that's where they had to sleep and that's where Mary had her baby, who was baby Jesus. She didn't have his crib or any of the things she and Joseph had gotten ready for the baby so she had to wrap him in some old clothes and put him in a feeding trough so he would have a safe place to sleep. That night an angel appeared to some shepherds nearby and told them not to be afraid, and told them all about the special baby who was G-D born here on earth. Then a choir of angels appeared and sang. When the angels left the shepherds went and found baby Jesus right where the angels told them he would be and then they went away and told their friends. Some wise kings from another country saw a special star and knew G-D was doing something amazing, so they came looking for the special baby. They followed the star and stopped in Jerusalem to ask for directions. King Herod, who was a bad king, told them to look in Bethlehem but planned to hurt the baby Jesus. The kings went to Bethlehem and found Jesus and his parents and gave Jesus some special presents, just like we give gifts at Christmas. Then they went away by another road because they knew Herod wanted to hurt baby Jesus. An angel came and spoke to Joseph and warned him that the bad king wanted to hurt Jesus, so Joseph took his family far away. They came back later, when Jesus was older, and Jesus grew up to be wise and strong and good and showed us all how much G-D loves each of us.

Which I think is a pretty good version of the Christmas story for a three year old. I'm trying to cover the important points and keep it honest. But wouldn't you know, of all that detail what she picks up on is that there is a bad king. Each time I tell the story the question she asks is "Why is he a bad king?" I'd rather she focus on Jesus, or Mary, or Joseph, or really anyone else. I don't really want to tell her about all the terrible things Herod did, about the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem or all the other people he killed. We've been talking about death recently because our cat died and she's having enough trouble with that. I don't want to overload her. So I told her "He's bad because he's jealous and selfish. He doesn't want to share what he has. He loves his power more than he loves G-D or other people, and when people love things or power more than G-D or other people then they start doing a lot of wrong things."

I'm not sure my answer is making sense to her, since she keeps asking the question, but the more I think about it the more I think it's a pretty good answer. When you can love G-D and love others more than you love things or power then you can share, laugh, be gentle and humble, show compassion and demonstrate courage. You can be open, creative, loving and secure. When you love your things or your power the most then I think you become fearful and insecure, closed down in your heard, and then it's easy to be destructive, cold, proud and unkind. So I think I'll keep telling my daughter the Christmas story my way. And if she keeps asking about Herod, well, I hope that her question becomes that teaching moment that helps her choose love as a way of life.