483. Erm…Are you sure about this?

image1Last week my massage was particularly harrowing. I told Gen how it’s hilarious that she lets me talk about what I think is wrong and what hurts, but she gathers all the information she needs by looking at me as I get up from my chair and walk to the room and then she gets down to business when I’m on the table.

She laughingly referenced the day we met – You had a hundred “rules.” Examples:

  • No cream – I’m allergic
  • Don’t touch my neck
  • All these clothes stay ON
  • Don’t touch me in general

Just kidding on that last one. Kind of :/.  PS.  Not kidding re. the clothes.

She recited some of my introductory rules and then mimicked her inner thoughts when we I first showed up – What, did someone bring you in here at gunpoint?


I thought that was hysterical bc I had never verbalized it like that before but it’s so representative of this whole situation. Now I flatter myself that I’ve gotten used to this whole Recovery thing and can roll with the punches, but apparently I still give off the air of being an unwilling participant who just wants to be left alone.

The problem is that my physical deficits require a lot of close contact for treatment and safety reasons.

Mm hmm. How terribly ironic. Holding hands with people was not my custom in my Old Life. One day I stumbled at the Gym doing some kind of I don’t remember what sort of move.

Trainer D: Ok, do it again. Wanna hold my hand?

Me [shrilly]: NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

[reconsidering] Sorry, that came out meaner than I meant it to.

But when it comes down to it I have become dependent on the safety provided by another person. But it turns out everyone’s plan is to lull me into a state of complacency and then SURPRISE!! It’s time for you to do this on your own.

480.  It's friendlier with two

480. It’s friendlier with two

Last week Coach R progressed from the pinky-swinging to making me doing step-ups without holding on to anything (he put me on a step near a railing so I could grab it if I lost my balance). The idea was for me to practice my balance and move my arms, which you know I love. :/

Coach R:       I want you to do this without me holding your hand.

Me:                How did I NOT see this coming? (Seriously, I was shocked.)

I WILL cry if I have to. (PS. I don’t make idle threats.)

Coach R:       I’m RIGHT HERE (indicating his proximity.)

Me [sullenly]: Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I could tell from his silence that he was concentrating on his ready stance and it was time for me to stop protesting and start moving. So I did my best but we stopped without even completing the full set bc my left ankle was hurting. I used my core as much as I could.

Coach R:       I’m happy with the way that went. That was better than what I was anticipating. Was that what you thought would happen?

Me:                 I didn’t think

Coach R:        [Chuckle] – that’s a really good answer.

Me:                 Seriously, I never even imagined that you would make me do such a thing.


In retrospect of course I should’ve known that we were moving in this direction – but I guess I refused to let myself think of it.

When I told Gen the story about the pinky swinging she smiled knowingly bc this is very much her world. But the thing is that it wasn’t my world until I got sick. When I landed here I was terrified and appalled at all the things that have to happen in RecoveryLand to get you healthier.

But Gen summarized it nicely. After she listened to my rules recitation at the beginning she (after laughing inwardly) thought to herself, Okay, I get it – you’re telling me I have to earn your trust.

And she did. They all did. So now even though I’m still scared sometimes, and although I like to put up a bit of a fight and say sassy things for fun, they all know that I’m really just along for the ride.

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!



468. Storytelling


I pitched my idea for my 3-hour workout plan to Coach R last week. I proposed a TV show format – Coach R’s Neighborhood – we’d use a zip up hoodie or track jacket in place of Mr. Roger’s sweater and would just need to recruit a colleague to follow us around, taking video on his phone. Coach R didn’t say, “No,” which I chose to interpret as tacit consent. Well, who wouldn’t be up for this? It would be immensely compelling programming. We could be viral YouTube celebrities.

Trainer D and I are working on Bossy Smurf Works Out With Animal Muppet.  (Reminder: Bossy = Me; AM = Trainer D). The earlier parts of Recovery were like Survivor: The Brain Injury Edition and I was constantly getting voted off the island. Gen has a unique point of view that would make for some riveting After School Specials. CMD, however, cannot have a TV show. It would be too scary – and I want all of this to be family-friendly fare.

10. I got voted off the island.

10. I got voted off the island.

Just kidding. I describe CMD to other people as “frighteningly competent” and “wonderfully compassionate.” Seriously – I walked into the waiting area today after treatment and was thrilled to find a new patient there (I had heard her enter a few minutes before and was hoping I could have a word with her). I indicated that starting treatment with CMD was one of the best decisions I’ve EVER made and that I try to get all of my friends fabricate a reason to go see her.

I also love referring members of Team Tanimal to each other. Trainer D asked for Gen’s information when I walked in one day and announced, She grows in fantastic-ness EVERY WEEK! But now I just tell people, Gen gonna change your LIFE.

Incidentally, I feel SO much better today. My joints have settled down and I am in the pain-free zone right now. This is a good thing – I’ll take it for as long as it lasts. I was really hurting on Monday, but I “ran” and immediately felt much better. During Stretchy Time I explained why my mind works like this to Coach R.

I told my first neuropsych (the one at RIO 3rd hospital) while I was standing in The Vice (standing frame) and he was talking to me one night, This is like a really bad reality TV show.

He was like, That is so interesting – tell me more about this Reality TV show…

73.  Stronger

73. Stronger

The man is a 20+ year veteran of this profession and my nurses were liberal in their praise of his skill and experience. But he, like others, were apparently not expecting the level of confusion I displayed as I struggled to figure things out.

409.  How to Change Channels Mentally

409. How to Change Channels Mentally

I tried to get Mommy to give me permission to “change the channels in my head. And when I’d say things to staffers in my attempts to make them admit that none of this had actually happened they’d be like, Are you confused about the date? And I’d be like, Okay – feeling all defeated on the inside bc I didn’t get the answer I wanted.

But I think in terms of TV shows bc that idea was one of the ways I made sense of the situation early on. I felt like I was a 3rd party observer for a while, and then I came to understand that even though I felt like this whole scenario was a poorly conceived plot no one would believe it had really happened and I had to live it, like it or not.

Even before I woke up I had terrifying and hilarious dreams in The Valley that make sense retrospectively since I’ve been told of events, people and places that appeared in my dreams in an altered state. Once I started to wake up and eventually regained the use of my voice I started storytelling in earnest.

I told stories to my family (poor Daddy was confused by this), and to the nurses – e.g. I knew there was a lot of restroom-related anxiety (I had a bad UTI) so before I would characterize myself as “awake” I told one of my nurses a long story about how OF COURSE there were issues bc of the kind of food I was being fed, and my body couldn’t process a 12 oz bottle, I needed an 8 oz. I was so adamant and wouldn’t stop the verbal flood of argumentation my nurse kindly changed my Food Tube Bottle to a smaller size.

I guess I was desperately seeking to regain some control when I woke up and found myself in such a weird situation. It’s still very much a control thing. I tell stories on this blog all the time – and when there is no conceivable way for me to make something funny I’m learning to put words around it and be able to verbalize certain memories, regrets, etc. to other people so that I get to regulate how that idea takes shape in my consciousness and yours, and it’s not just a shadowy figure hiding behind all of the rubble in my mind.

The other half of this is simply that a lot of this stuff is legitimately amusing. Seriously, it’s a very powerful thing to be able to laugh when life is not overtly funny. But I would argue that many things that happen to me ARE overtly funny. Ask Mom – watching Tanpo’s eyes get all wild and crazy when he advocates on my behalf makes me laugh so hard I have pulled things in my stomach. I laugh all the time during Training when Coach R demonstrates things bc I remember when I used to get carried around all the time and the “active” minutes in PT were devoted to learning to sit. I apologized to Trainer D bc I’m likely undermining his credibility as a Trainer by laughing so much. Poor Coach R probably isn’t used to so much laughing during Training, but I can’t help it. I’ve tried to ease him in to this situation over the past year, but it’s not my fault that this situation gets increasingly entertaining as time passes. I explained to him, If you had known me before my injury all of this would be 10x funnier to you.

138.  How to Laugh when you Really Feel Like Crying

138. How to Laugh when you Really Feel Like Crying

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

465. Why is my life like this?

Mmmmmm.  Coooookies.

Mmmmmm. Coooookies.

Remember how I said yesterday that I’ve been trying to train hard? Well, since I’ve recalibrated we’ve met with some success – there’s evidence that I’m training harder.

Gen could tell something was wrong with my hips by the way I got out of my chair. She didn’t say anything to me, she just eyeballed my gait.   I asked her to please check my left hip (and shoulder) but when I got on the table she went straight for the right hip. Screaming and writhing ensued. But the worst thing was that I knew if the right side felt like that, the left side definitely needed attention.

I’ve been wondering why my legs have been feeling funny. They feel tight and weird like they did in April/May when I started “running” for real. Now that Trainer D and Coach R know that Smurfette is watching me they are really putting me through my paces and I am trying to log more AlterG distance and speed. The end result is that my hips were a little bit in the subluxation zone. Not a full subluxation, just a beginning movement. But don’t worry, Gen put me to rights lickety split. (Hence the screaming and writhing. Later the Front Desk asked, That was you?)

And then she checked my forearms. They aren’t as bad as last week – the tendons aren’t as crossed, but she said it felt like I had kept on doing what I had been doing and she accused me of continuing to use the hair implement that did this to me. Now, I heart that thing and am having withdrawal, but that’s not enough to make me want to hurt my arm more. I haven’t used it. I even wore my hair super straight today as proof.

Another piece of evidence that I’m training harder is that Trainer D is now opining strongly on the kind of protein I need to be consuming after training since we’ve upped the intensity level. Sometimes he greets me with an “I’ve been thinking…” sort of hello, and I know I’m in for it. His newest scheme is to introduce me to circuit training on carefully selected machines.

Trainer D: There will be no resting in between sets except for how long it takes you to walk to the next machine. And if you can’t walk, I will carry you.

Me: I think we should skip straight to the carrying part.

325.  Make them carry you!

325. Make them carry you!

After training I sat in the café and sent this email:

To:      Coach R
From:  Me

…[Blah Blah Blah Administrative stuff.]

… I’m out of the house already (hanging with Animal Muppet – we had words at the assisted chin up machine and now he’s making me drink the most expensive and caloric smoothie ever.)…


To be more accurate, we did not have words at the assisted chin up machine, we had words at every machine. Fun times were had by all.  Also, the smoothie wasn’t that caloric.  I have just been trained by Baker Smurf (who is diabetic) to be wary of all of the sugar in fruit.  And this smoothie tasted so yummy it was obviously fruit-heavy.

After we had words Trainer D informed me that my protein bar was not an acceptable post-training snack. I had to go downstairs to the café and get some liquid protein.

And then I went to see Coach R, “ran,” and ate a bar afterwards. So there.

But before that Trainer D found me in the café and I told him I did not like this whole “liquid protein” requirement bc I had developed a strong aversion to the powders he and Smurfette had introduced me to when I started being nauseous. Actually, it’s probably influenced by the fact that I drank so many of them pre-Oregon. This was his response:

Trainer D: I need you to put your big boy pants on and DRINK THE PROTEIN.

Me: Did you really just say that to me? Booooo.

Earlier I had told him upstairs in the middle of a set, You know, you should really leave bossing to the pros. But if you roll with me a little longer I could teach you some tricks. But apparently he’s absorbed enough via osmosis for him to offer opinions very freely and heatedly. So for now we’ve come to an agreement that I will slurp down another Ensure (Active, High Protein, Low Sugar) after I see him (and Coach R).

When Gen moved from my hips to my shoulders I felt like I was being smushed like a pancake. More screaming and writhing ensued, and I asked rhetorically,

“Gen, WHY is my life LIKE THIS?!?!?”

Her reply was definitive: “Because you’re getting it back.”


PS.  My arms really are acting up so I need to bow out early this week. See you later 🙂

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

462. You can’t catch me!!



A long time ago Ernie told me that when Ezra started to run around he’d squint up at his Mom or Dad and say, “You can’t catch me!”  and zoom off so he could have the fun of being chased (and caught).

Ernie would tell me this and laugh at the boyish fun Ezra was having.  You can see it in the eyes – it’s cheeky delight, that’s what it is.

One time early in my recovery Ezra stood near me, closed his eyes, and said, Hey, Aunty Ning Ning – watch THIS.  And he went tearing down the hall.

Of course I freaked out bc with my slow reaction time and mobility issues I couldn’t bear to see him run off with his eyes CLOSED blissfully unaware that the staircase down to the basement was so nearby, but he has radar like Josh and emerged unscathed on the other side of his little adventure.

I told Gen today that it’s apparent that I can no longer “get away” with things.  I’m getting caught red-handed all the time.  Last week she touched my shoulders and exclaimed at the huge knot:  WHAT have you been worrying about?!?! she demanded.

This week she checked my right forearm, which has been acting up.  Trainer D worked on it last Friday and left fingerprints.  But they were nothing compared to Gen’s remedy.  The tendons got crossed.  This was 1% Coach R’s fault (he seemed completely remorseless, btw) bc of a new strength exercise he had me do last week, and 99% my fault bc I am addicted to a new hair implement that requires a lot of right-hand manipulation.  When I admitted this to Gen she laughed really hard and threatened to ask Tanpo to confiscate it.  And then there was a lot of writhing and screaming as she released the tendons for me.

I’ve been babying my arm a little but I’ll be hanging out with Coach R next.  Fun times ahead.  Since the first time I got weird bruising my concern level has plummeted.  To use Trainer D’s phrase, if “you bruise like a peach” it becomes unremarkable. I was just not used to it since it didn’t happen in my old life.

One of my favorite Training moments is when I was hurting really badly one day and Trainer D asked, What are you stressed out about?”

“Will you PLEASE just FIX THIS?!?!”  I barked, pointing to my hips.

This is Coach R’s method of extracting information:

[During stretchy time.  I’m wiping my eyes so my face is covered with my hands.]

Coach R:  How was your weekend?

Me: Good.

Coach R:  That’s good…[Blink Blink, Hanging Silence.]

He had watched me deteriorate over the prior week so he was waiting for an update.

Me [Internal, when I realized he was fishing for info]:  FINE.  Let’s just DO THIS…

CMD, in true CMD style, cuts right to the chase:  “I feel your standards are too high.”

Mmm hmm.

She also can’t bear the thought that I stopped taking all of my herbs while she was traveling in China in November bc I was nauseous.  Apparently my essence is not being nourished.  Boo.

I was doing some administrative stuff on my blog last week and skimmed over my posts from the last few months.  Wow – I didn’t remember half of the stuff that happened, but when I make references to “physical deterioration over Q4” I wasn’t kidding.  And I didn’t even write about a lot of it, either.  But the important thing here is that things are better!  There’s a plan, and I’ve even recruited a couple new pairs of highly skilled eyes to watch out for me.

CMD has had two years to observe and form the opinion that my standards are too high.  My new doc has had less than one month – only two office visits.  But this week she hit the nail on the head as she outlined the direction she wants to take me in this year:  Be kind to yourself.

423.  Be Kind to Yourself

423. Be Kind to Yourself

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

443. Thanksgiving 2014 Update

343.  Strength & Honor

343. Strength & Honor

Can you believe 2014 is almost over??  The days when my parents would come home from the hospital and Dad would stay up late typing Updates are passed.  I only send updates like this once a year, but I blog  5x/week and I’d love it if you came along for the ride (fasten your seatbelt).  Here is a sampling of 2014‘s Greatest Hits. When we went to OR earlier this year a friend greeted me as my wheelchair and I arrived at church  that Sunday with, The unfiltered version of You is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.  She was a faithful visitor while I was an inpatient and keeps up with my adventures in RecoveryLand via my blog.  Apparently the contrast in my pre- and post-AVM demeanors is visible in my writing.  PS.  I’m more fun now.  Ask around.  

Last Thanksgiving I told you I was transitioning to Medicare.  I was discharged from Therapy/Rehabilitation in October but I’m still working hard in the gym under professional supervision.  One of the benefits of getting stronger is that my vocal health has improved and there is no longer any talk of surgical intervention 🙂  The Infrastructure building portion of my Long-Term/Self-Directed Recovery is complete, and the extraordinarily skilled professionals (“Team Tanimal“) I see daily are living proof of God’s care and provision for me.

When I grappled with the notion of returning to Oregon to dispose of my things I actually said out loud to God, “I can’t, and I won’t.”  Unsurprisingly, the Lord’s grace turned those statements into ICAN and I DID.  I had previously vowed never to return to any of my hospitals, but I visited all three and reconnected with many of the wonderful people who took such good care of me in the beginning.

I’m so glad I went and so grateful to the friends who made the trip as logistically easy as possible, but it still took a lot out of me.  I am physically improving but perhaps the biggest gain I’ve had this year is that I finally admitted that prior to my brain bleed when I wanted to become a missionary I asked God not for a career change, but for a life’s work.  Well, I got one.  It just turned out to be bigger than I had anticipated.  And for the first time I’ve verbalized it, e.g. to Team Tanimal.  It is such a blessing to be operating from the same information base and to be in agreement that I don’t just have a general wish to “get better” – I have specific lifestyle goals in mind.

It was part of God’s plan to keep me cognitively intact enough to communicate about this effectively and package it appropriately for public consumption.  God has made it very clear that I will not be getting what I thought I wanted but I’m confident I will be getting exactly what I was made for.  It is my privilege and joy to meet people all over the place and tell them How I Found Grace in the Valley.  In addition to  blogging I have also published 3 short books (Learning How…on Amazon) – as always, everything is completely non profit.

I write and maintain my online presence within the parameters of my physical limitations.  I am getting better and stronger, but I still feel the gnawing deficits, pain, and fatigue regularly.  I’ve had to take more time “off” from my blog etc. than I liked this year, but that’s the beauty of how this works – if my symptoms act up I can shut everything down as needed.

But I’d love to feel the weight of these limitations less and less as time progresses.  Thank you so much for your prayers and support throughout this process.  Please keep on praying – I need it more than ever!

Happy Thanksgiving.  Love, Ann|Ning


356.  I decided

356. I decided

Return to Oregon

  • Went back to OR for the first time in 3 years to empty out my storage garage.
  • Decided “I don’t need any of this” and my friends made things so easy by taking care of everything – thank you!!
  • Visited my 3 hospitals and thanked many kind medical professionals; saw my Intel friends – I was so glad to be with you again!
  • Saw Dr. Dogan, the surgeon who saved my life – he was pleased with my progress
  • Reunited with M, (“Molly” in my book) a patient at RIO (3rd Hospital) with me.  We conversed while lucid for the first time and apparently we’re cut from the same cloth.  God saw my need from afar off so he gave me a true friend in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
359.  Running With Myself

359. Running With Myself


  • ORFR = Operation Run, Forrest, Run
  • Before I went back to Oregon I tried to run like I was being chased.  Now I run simply because I can
  • After more than a year I’m running longer, steeper, faster, and stronger
  • Among the benefits:  Stamina, vocal improvement, better breathing and core usage, stronger digestion (I’m eating meat after a veggie-only year); Side note re. non-cardio Strength Training: building muscle protects my joints (which are not moving in the way they were intended to), and helps compensate for the neurological deficits and fatigue
  • When I say “run” I am still dependent on a machine to help me – (I use an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, pictured).  It’s impossible to fall out.  Trust me – if it were I would’ve done it already.
Decision Day 2014

Decision Day 2014

Team Tanimal

  • Discharged from Rehab in October
  • Trainer D” – my Personal Trainer whose knowledge of brain/gait mechanics got me kicked out of rehab
  • Coach R” – Athletic Trainer to teams of pros and Olympians; he knows he’s supposed to be the grown up here and reins me in as needed
  • Gen” – my Massage Therapist; an Ortho Surgeon working pro bono; an extraordinary individual and the funniest person I’ve ever met.
  • CMD” – my Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor; wonderfully compassionate and frighteningly skilled, she’s the reason I was able to start exercising more
  • PS.  If you’re wondering what I’m wearing in this pic yes, I do shop for workout wear in the boy’s section now.


Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

These are my 3 Books on Amazon:  eligible for Prime and Super Saver Shipping.  Everything is nonprofit!

  1. Learning How…vol 1 – an easy, non threatening way to introduce people to the Gospel of Christ, and a great way to encourage believers.  Ch. 10 is when I decide the Gospel is true.  
  2. Ed Goes to DC – introduces the ideas of illness, hospitalization, friendship, and cheerfulness to kids; plus it’s just a really sweet story.  (Here’s the YouTube version)
  3. Learning How to Hope – a collection of my favorite posts from my blog.  I published this specifically for my African friends.  All of my writing is nonprofit but sales from this book in particular go straight to Burundi. (Also in Kindle format)


432. Rattled

Sometimes you need a helping hand.

Sometimes you need a helping hand.

I had an appointment last week that left me rattled. Upset for days – which is why I’m writing this. I’m hoping to get it out of my system. It actually really helped me to read 431. When the Journey… It hadn’t been posted yet, so I read the “draft” form I had loaded into WordPress. Remember when I said I’ve started writing for myself? I wasn’t kidding.

I spend a lot of time and energy acting like everything is fine – I project that I’m up for the challenge, mental, or physical, since this sort of behavior invites the kind of treatment I think will take me to the next level of wellness. (Side note: Since this isn’t a pretense but the result of studied effort, it’s totally working. Thanks, guys!) But the undercurrent I try to forget about is that I routinely feel unsure of myself and vulnerable while I adjust my public-facing game face and my private ruminations.

What do I mean? Well, I often have discussions that go like, Did XYZ really happen? And more often than not the answer is No, that didn’t happen – that was a dream. Or, maybe the answer is Yes – that happened while you were asleep. Either way, there are mental hiccups in my awareness that blur the line between reality and imagination that are confusing for me. There is also a sense of uneasiness around questions like, Will I return to this place? Will I see that person again? Will my leg take my weight? Will my hand do what I want it to?   This is on top of the monumental confusion that accompanied the growing understanding that this really happened when I woke up. Back then I was very passive as the medical professionals around me treated me. As I get better I’ve started seeking treatment as an active participant. Sometimes I strike gold. At other times I walk away feeling utterly helpless and exposed to the elements.

I’ve been told I used to be extremely controlled and I always presented a polished professional exterior. And then my brain bled and everything I had kept under wraps for 30 years spilled out. Hey, at least it’s entertaining.   Maybe not for me, especially at first. It’s better now since I obviously love to laugh and find plenty of fodder in RecoveryLand, but I still find it galling to undergo the scrutiny that comes with Disability paperwork reporting and giving my health history at new places. In a lot of ways my life is an open book now, but some things I still have trouble verbalizing.

But I’m getting stronger and am learning to manage my own health outcomes more so than when I used to show up at a medical office or rehab hospital simply bc my last Rehab Team told me to. (Or told my parents to.) This results in some trial and error, e.g. when I did some phone screening for Team Tanimal and talked to that person who made me so mad I had to air my grievances in 370. Sizing Up the Competition. After that experience I came home and talked to Coach R about “running” more and doubled my time at The Running Gym. I am SO happy about that decision and am grateful to Coach R and my parents for making it happen logistically :).

370.  Sizing Up the Competition | Ezra is a fierce competitor.  He loved Joe Joe my "Tackle Buddy" - and you see how that ended.

370. Sizing Up the Competition | Ezra is a fierce competitor. He loved Joe Joe my “Tackle Buddy” – and you see how that ended.

After that rattling appointment I went to see Gen, who made it better, but was still rattled enough to talk w Coach R about it a couple days later. His line of questioning indicated that he was, like me, expecting deeper answers, but by then I had synthesized my thoughts enough to summarize it succinctly within 30 seconds and he understood. He wasn’t pleased, mind you, but he understood.

Aaah, well, I dismissed it. I’ve spent the last year putting the right people in place so I wouldn’t be wholly dependent on what the healthcare system is serving up that day.

It’s true – as I’ve improved I’ve had some medical encounters lately that have left me with the feeling, Hey – glad you’re doing well…. Good luck with that. (Side note: There are exceptions to this – and I’m grateful for true interest and help when I can get them.  Also, I’m not referring to the end of my Outpatient Career.  Getting discharged from Rehab, despite my verbal bluster, is a good thing.)

398.  Water Damage | The boys at Ezra's Fire House field trip

398. Water Damage | The boys at Ezra’s Fire House field trip

But it’s also not true in that I didn’t really “put” these people in place. I might have done a little research, but I found Trainer D, Coach R, and Gen on my first try. CMD was a referral from my cousin (thanks, JE!! Xo). A month+ ago I had one of those experiences that left me feeling terrified and vulnerable – I referenced it in 411. Watchful. It took a few days but I reached the tipping point – I realized that God didn’t bring me this far for nothing, and I felt the pressure release from my heart as I remembered that I’m on the winning team here.

But even though I know God’s on my side and that’s enough, He has generously given me human proof, too. Although that situation stressed me out to the point of psychosomatic symptoms it was worth it to hear Team Tanimal’s professions of support. These people are  a hardcore combination of skillfulness and kindness.

243.  Taking Sides

243. Taking Sides

Okay, I think it’s out of my system now. I’m just trying to do my duty and go get checked out officially as I encounter well-people problems that are new to me. But the bottom line is that this is a new phase of Recovery that God has prepared me for. A couple of weeks ago Trainer D said simply, “You’re ready for this.”

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!



429. I Don’t Want Your Pity.

A few months ago a friend who was new to RecoveryLand verbalized a problem I instinctively felt at the beginning, but never gave voice to. When everything is different about your physical situation and as you adjust to being noticed in passing and actively observed you start feeling the fleeting glances and intent stares even if (a) you don’t have the visual skills to actually see them or (b) you’re just imagining people are looking bc you feel so terribly conspicuous and your insides cry out, I don’t want your pity!

Even after 3 years I still struggled with this idea. When I told Gen about my “interview” at The Gym when I said, You ready to let all this loose up in your facility? She laughed, called me crazy (takes one to know one) and said, You really go for shock value, don’t you?

298.  Somebody - PLEASE just tell me what to do.

298. Somebody – PLEASE just tell me what to do.

Not even, I replied. Seriously, I was trying to give them a chance to tell me to go home and sit down quietly for my own safety. I told Coach R, That’s why I entered [the Running Gym] so cautiously. Experience has taught me to be prepared for people to be like, Quick!! Bring the waiver!!!

So I’ve practiced hard on signaling to the market prior to entering the Post-Rehab world. But around the time we went to Oregon I had that huge realization that I didn’t want my Game Face to become my Permanent Face. Remember that time I saw the ceiling at The Gym and freaked out? It took me a couple of days to eventually tell Mommy about it, and a couple of weeks later it happened again and I told Trainer D. I decided I wanted to practice talking about sad stuff bc it is what it is – it’s a part of me, and by talking about it I get to control how the memory exists in my own mind and how to represent it to other people.

348.  What's This Going to Look Like?

348. What’s This Going to Look Like?

My philosophy now is that although I don’t want your pity, it’s inevitable that sometimes people will in fact, feel sorry for me. This usually manifests itself in acts of courtesy many people usually don’t take time for. I decided I’m cool with that. Although I will do my utmost not to invite pity, it’s my job to honor the kindness motivating you to run and open the door for me, or to give me your seat.

401.  This is how Tans go on vacation

401. This is how Tans go on vacation

There are some exceptions to the not inviting pity thing, e.g. when I’m so far gone I don’t care – I want you to feel sorry for me, and PS. Would you please carry me around, or choose someone on your staff to do so (you seem to have a superabundance of interns). But most of the time, when I’m feeling pretty well and thinking, hey, I’m lookin’ pretty good today (mobility-wise), and then the guy cleaning the floor leaves his mop to come hold my hand so I don’t slip (true story – ask Hannah and Boo Boo), I am really thankful that I still have the mental capacity to recognize that situation for what it is: Compassion.

9.  Can I hold your hand?  (What's your name?) | Hannah: "What's 'considerate' lie?"

9. Can I hold your hand? (What’s your name?) | Hannah: “What’s ‘considerate’ like?”


Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

428. Well-People Problems


Remember a while ago when I said I was “strong enough to keep on running even though my left leg was dragging pathetically on the belt”? “Strong” might not have been the best word. A couple of weeks after I wrote that post I decided I couldn’t ignore it anymore. This is what had happened (see the picture above – these were my Supple Leopard/World Cup shoes, but the left toe rubbed off entirely. This is hilariously symbolic. So ends my experiment with the minimalist style).

175.  Becoming a Supple Leopard

175. Becoming a Supple Leopard

Apparently bits of my shoe are stuck in the AlterG. Sorry, Coach R – my bad!! It took me a long time to admit that my stamina and mobility had taken a real hit. PS. I’m still “running” but I have unweighted myself so I’m much lighter and for the first time in several months I’ve noticed Coach R assume the “observing stance” common to PTs and Trainers out of the corner of my eye. Based on his comments he’s been observing all along, but I think he’s maxxed out the perimeter he’s willing to give me and is closing back in.

The fact that it took me a couple weeks to notice the uneven wear on my toes is funny but unsurprising. I often lack the self-awareness to give feedback – my Trainers have to be clairvoyant. One day I did an exercise on the right then on the left and Coach R asked me which side was harder. Left…no, right… I dunno! I thought out loud.

I got a good laugh.
Coach R: That’s the best answer ever.
Me: Seriously – how am I supposed to know?

I wasn’t trying to be funny – was that a trick question or something?

But when I showed my peeps how my pretty Supple Leopard shoes had gotten torn up they were ALL OVER the situation. Gen put her ortho hat on, made me feel better, and gave me some exercises to do. Coach R immediately instituted ankle strengthening moves we do all the time. CMD painted the herbs on really thick and has kicked the magic into high gear for the past couple months. Trainer D took a closer look at my ankle area while I was lying on a table and I saw him knit his brows and shake his head.

I asked him during the next session what that had been about.

Trainer D: You saw that?
Me: Of COURSE I saw that. I have two eyes. I’m not saying they work super well or anything, but yeah, I saw that.

So he told me that something was wrong with the muscles in my leg and ankle (surprise, surprise) and I asked what the consequences were if he just left me alone. I knew from experience that the remedy would probably hurt. Given the consequences I decided to ask him to go ahead and take care of it. It hurt like I expected but he knew I was nervous, which helped, and by then I was used to Gen’s superhuman strength and unwavering determination to put my muscles in their right places, so it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.

I’ve examined the set of sneakers I purchased in March/April and all of them have uneven wear on the toes. The Leopard ones are the worst since they have the thinnest soles. I wore them for a couple months for my leisurely (no treadmill) inside-the-house-exercises at Ai Ai and Tim’s and then I wore them for two months here at home. They were part of my regular rotation so yeah – it was two months of occasional wear. Two. Months.

So I’ve resigned myself to spending more money on sneakers now that I’m on my feet more and my gait is impaired so the wear is uncool. It’s October now, and the set I purchased in August is holding up okay. I was hoping to make it to October, and here we are! So now I’ve got my sights set on EOY 2014. Maybe it’s helping that I’m consistently “running” super light, and everyone is helping my ankle feel better. However, even though it’s no longer sprained apparently my Achilles and/or my posterior tibialis are messed up.

When Coach R was explaining it to me it was one of those times when I was like, Seriously, R, it’s like you’re not even speaking English right now. He then offered to “work” on it, and I said, define “work,” and when I understood his meaning I apologized beforehand for anything I might say in the ensuing 10 minutes. I survived, CMD covered everything with herbs after poking and shocking me, and charged me solemnly not to shower until tomorrow.

113.  Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

113. Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

So for now I’m going easier on my home exercises, concentrating on my balance and coordination, elevating the left foot whenever possible, and trying not to make things any worse. As it stands I’ve got plenty of supervision, and overall I’m glad to experience hiccups like these as opposed to the more serious setbacks that litter the road in RecoveryLand. Trainer D calls stuff like this “well-people problems.” For me, the fact that I’m well enough to have issues like this is a-okay. My shoe-wear problem stems from the fact that I had a stroke that impacted my left side more than my right, but it also indicates that I’m using my legs enough for it to show. I read LH to… Hope for the first time in a while and remembered that in March 2013 my back was acting up so badly I had to take time off, go lie on the Ceragem bed just to make it past 6pm and took painkillers before going to Planet Rehab even though they made me sleepy. M37 let me lie down once during that period bc she felt SO sorry for me. I had tried to grasp a stair railing during a rest break and completely missed. She then let me lie on a mat for 10 minutes before sending me to The Pool. But now my muscles are so much stronger, plus I know how to manage them and my energy better. Yay!

Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

Hey, Mommy, look – I have well-people problems!!

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

426. Hungry

Cheekiness - it's all in the eyes.

Cheekiness – it’s all in the eyes.

I just saw Gen this morning. My ankle has been bothering me – apparently my Achilles is compromised. Gen felt what Trainer D identified visually on Monday while supervising me on the treadmill. We’ll see what Coach R and CMD have to say. That bump on my left knee has started to hurt, so that’s not great either. But I’m going to try the stretching exercises she gave me and we’ll re evaluate in a week since she’s not a fan of my desire to wrap it up with a brace as this might cause the quad to lock up even more, and it’s already very tight.

Yep, it’s another great day in RecoveryLand! I like to tell Coach R that when I almost fall over, have a brain misfiring moment, or just need a few more seconds to lie on the table. But actually, I’m not being facetious right now. Yes, my leg is being uncooperative but after I saw Gen I got to go to the supermarket with Mommy and we are now home on this extremely rainy day and I get to have a nap prior to my Managing Me exercises. It’s the triumph of the mundane – so yeah, it really is another great day in RecoveryLand.

248.  Pumping Iron

248. Pumping Iron

Although I’ve been having some physical wear and tear I’ve mentioned that it’s really important to me to keep on doing this. One of the reasons is my appetite. About a year ago I did my Vegan Experiment. I felt really good since I wasn’t overburdening my digestive system.

Click for vegan recipes!

Click for vegan recipes!

I have gradually eased up on the veganism but at first I couldn’t even eat too many raw foods or protein-rich plant foods like beans or tofu bc CMD could tell by my tongue that I wasn’t digesting properly. Then I prepared to go to Oregon and the eating thing really deteriorated. CMD gave me a Ziploc bag full of tree-like herbs meant to cure my nausea. Coach R left me alone on the AlterG to relax. Even Trainer D didn’t fuss with me about my diet when I told him I was stressed.

This summer I started incorporating some fish into my diet after ORFR really took off at Boo Boo’s house. A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and started eating meat for real. Red meat. Bison, to be specific.

The result of having a Monday double-header (Trainer D and then Coach R) is that I am exhausted (I shower and then take a long nap) and famished (I eat lunch, too). I have not been hungry for a while. I have instinctively thought it might be good to eat some animal protein (I was hoping it would help with my fatigue), but my latest round of blood work indicated that yes, this would not just be “nice,” it was strongly recommended.

We didn’t talk about eating meat, actually – it’s just that I’m trying to take a more natural path before trying the iron supplements my PCP told me about. I’m also drinking an herbal mulberry-infused tea CMD gave me that’s supposed to help.

So far it’s going great – I’m still moderating the carnivorous activity but Mommy and Daddy are happy to see me eating some meat and Trainer D is a happy camper and no longer gets on my case re. my amino acid profile. The “running” thing definitely helps. Just like I can feel how it helps me use the air in my lungs more effectively I know it’s helping my body use fuel more appropriately.

Wow – I thought I messed up my metabolism that time I was a little scrawny in my early-mid twenties. That was nothing compared to the impact of the AVM Rupture and stroke. But anyway, I have enjoyed my first week of freedom sans Rehab. I was discharged last Wednesday and Mommy and I went to breakfast to celebrate. I had this:



Although I’m technically Rehab-free I am still heavily scheduled. This was intentional on my part. The next day I went to The Running Gym where I had a good “run” and Coach R was in fine form. Mommy and I then had lunch and I had a salad (I avoided salads for a long time bc they are raw) with steak on it:



Things are looking up.

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

423. Be Kind to Yourself


I was truly exhausted this weekend. I had a nice “run” and saw Coach R on Thursday but didn’t have my usual appointment at The Gym on Friday so Mommy said, You can’t even blame D. Internally I paused and was like, Well….you’d be surprised how creative I can get, but I searched my mind and came up empty handed even though I was still sore from Monday’s workout.

On Mondays I have a double-header. It just occurred to me that this is a sure sign of true progress. I used to be thrilled to have the stamina to have land PT at Planet Rehab then go straight to Pool Therapy, or vice versa.   I used to go to the pool and tell them, Thank you for saving me from M37!!! The hot water (Therapy pools are kept much warmer than regular pools) felt great, and the freedom of movement was wonderful.

19.  Pool Therapy

19. Pool Therapy

Nowadays I have even more challenging back-to-back appointments. I never used to look at my schedule when I was an inpatient bc of the visual issues, but also bc I dreaded seeing multiple sessions of PT on there. There was a lot to learn before I went home but I was just so terribly tired. I was convinced I’d die at any moment, but I went along with it anyway like, Okay, fine – we’ll play your little game. 🙂.

I tried to schedule Gen on Mondays prior to the Running Gym, but had to change my routine to seeing Trainer D and then “running” right after. I don’t see Trainer D every Monday, but when I do, I always “run” directly after so his preference is to not do Leg Day. When I reminded him of this last week his response was immediate and enthusiastic – Woo hoo! Upper body day!!

Midway into our session I looked over and said plaintively, You’re punishing me, aren’t you?

Yeah, so I’ve been super sore. Hopefully the soreness will dissipate as my body adapts to the rigors of these new movements. That’s how it worked with the lower extremities, so I have high hopes.

Poor Trainer D has fallen off the Gen bandwagon lately bc life has gotten in the way. I know she has been really helpful to him, just like how she’s helpful to me. Side note: She says my ankle is better and I don’t have to wear the brace anymore! So I have been emphasizing a friend’s favorite phrase to D lately: Be kind to yourself.

She used to use this line on me before I got sick bc my predilection for overwork has always been obvious. But one day I got a cryptic comment on my blog from an “Anonymous” reader: Are you being kind to yourself? I sense backsliding…..

Bahahaha! I was like, I know that voice.

So I’m trying to balance this idea of being kind to yourself with my resolution of intentionally pushing the envelope. Sadly, I think I got so tired last week simply bc I had too much fun. I saw friends and we had a great time, but maybe I should try to be more self aware in terms of how I’m feeling physically, although it’s such an emotional boost to spend time with the people I love.

351.  Hurry

351. Hurry

The moral of the story is that although I just got done saying that I’m going to continue “pushing it,” and although I feel the pressure of what are the consequences if I don’t do XYZ, I know there is enough time for me to do what God wants me to do. This includes resting. My theory is that I will function better overall if this happens. You should try it, too and we’ll compare notes! Have a great week 🙂 !.

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