469. A Successful Day


Ed taking a breather at The Running Gym – 3.27.14, right before we went to OR I brought Ed everywhere with me.


A year ago my gait changed for the better after Trainer D introduced me to the Farmer’s Carry and his good friend, the kettlebell. The next week my PT noticed and started talking about throwing me out of rehab so I went to The Gym and had words with Trainer D for hastening the end of my formal Rehab career – a “job” I had gotten comfortable with since it’s the only thing I had known since waking up.

352.  Ed Says, "Well, that backfired, didn't it?"

352. Ed Says, “Well, that backfired, didn’t it?”

I felt like he owed me so I tasked him with helping me learn to run. However, his overwhelming enthusiasm for ORFR concerned me.  I soon decided that I’d rather trust a machine than another person, so I made an appointment to try out my local AlterG within the week.


Happily, the Traffic Cop at The Running Gym is Coach R. You have to get past him in order to use the machine, but I ascertained that he knew he could help me within minutes even though I am nowhere near his regular client population. I sensed favorable brain activity from his line of verbal questioning and physical evaluation. On that very first day he stood in front of me while I was on the elliptical machine and made the same exact form adjustments Trainer D had made a few days before. The second time it happened I figured I should start paying attention more.

Team Tanimal | Ann Ning Learning How

353. Team Tanimal

Coach R showed me around The Running Gym and as I did my first set on the leg press I tried to illustrate my teachable spirit by doing whatever he said and saying, See how well trained I’ve been, R? I know how this gig works. He left me with some papers explaining my two paths: (1) Just running on the AlterG, (2) Training – we’d incorporate the AlterG as my warm up. I indicated that if I were to train it would have to be with him. I waved my hand around the room – “I’m sure these people are proficient,” I said, “but I need you. At this stage in the game I’ve decided to be picky.”


Side note: I’m kind of mean like that but I also quail at my own brassiness.

 I considered my options over the next week and decided I’d try to get Coach R to help me if he was willing to take my case on. So I came in the following week and as I got ready to get in the AlterG I made my sales pitch and asked for his opinion on what to do. I really like people to “opt-in” and try to give them ways to demur gracefully if they choose.

385. Sales Pitch

385. Sales Pitch

This is when Coach R famously said, Well…if you wanna do this RIGHT….

 Snicker, snicker. Now that we have a year of Training under our belts I can freely admit that I was thinking, No, R, I want to do this WRONG.

Side note: Aren’t you thankful that we don’t have thought bubbles following us around over our heads?

After I “ran” he walked with me to the waiting room to meet Tanpo. I breathed a sigh of relief bc I was so pleased to recruit him formally for Team Tanimal.

“I would consider this to be a successful day,” I told him when we reached the desk.

“I would, too,” he said, and we shook hands solemnly.

Last week we celebrated a year of Fun and Games by doing a new exercise. It was a walking lunge – a partial version of a movement I saw him demonstrate for a rehabbing pro athlete on my first day.  My eyeballs almost fell out of my head as I saw him lunging, high-stepping, and twisting with a medicine ball in slow motion with astonishing control.  We were just walking to another part of The Gym and he stopped to demonstrate this in passing. I looked on with interest – this was one of the moments I knew I would benefit from Training with him. If Ed Blueberry had been there I would’ve said, We’re not in Kansas anymore…

He simplified the movement so I just had to lunge and step as low/high as I could, plus I had the benefit of a bracing handhold. Good thing Trainer D had made me do a walking mini lunge exercise while holding a bar (for resistance, not support) this summer that I practice at home. When I’m not holding on to anyone I lunge and step minimally, but with Coach R I could lunge pretty well. It helps that he stands right there, exhorting me to challenge myself, etc.

I lunged semi-respectably, except this one time when my right leg was in front and I went to pick up the left one and there was this loud s c r a p e as my left toe dragged on the floor until it got the message from my brain to lift off the ground. PS. This set of sneakers isn’t doing great. I couldn’t help giggling. Even Coach R chuckled. Pretend like you didn’t see that, R, I said, and we kept on going.

428.  Well-People Problems

428. Well-People Problems

I had noticed that although I was feeling better pain-wise I was having some left leg control issues. My left toes kept on hitting my right leg midstride while I was “running.” What was just some redness at first developed into a significant bruise that evening. It doesn’t hurt but I hope it heals before I see CMD. My left foot also kept on hitting the step when we did step-ups. It was worse than it’s ever been – Coach R actually had to adjust it mid-set.


Overall, though, the tenor of our time has been positive. What was a successful day in February 2014 was the beginning of a successful year. This statement is in stark contrast to how I told Coach R that I was very close to declaring the entirety of 2014 to be a wash out” before Thanksgiving. Yes, I am still frustrated by the things I had hoped to accomplish that did not materialize, but I’m in a better frame of mind now to acknowledge and be thankful for the things that did happen.


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!

410. “That’s too much weight for the lady.”

Just relax.   [Ezra and his turtle in the car]

Just relax. [Ezra and his turtle in the car]

A gentleman who usually chats away with Trainer D in Spanish approached us while I was on the leg press Monday. “That’s too much weight for the lady,” he observed in a very refined tone and accented English. Thank you! I felt validated. I like him, I told Trainer D as the man walked away. Yeah, D agreed. He’s great. (PS. 20 minutes into my session I asked, Is it leg day again and you’re not telling me? Answer: yes, it was leg day. Apparently it’s a regular thing now. :/)

A few minutes later a young guy took a break from his appalling pull-up regimen to come consult Trainer D on something. I was minding my own beeswax and the guy turns to me and says, Now, if D yells at you it’s okay – it’s for your own good.

No worries there, I replied. If he does I give it right back. 🙂

Upon reflection that guy was probably giving that pep talk to the wrong person. I must admit that sometimes I’m the instigator. 🙂 🙂

Right after Leg Day I went to The Running Gym to hang out with Michael Phelps and Coach R. (Side note: Trainer D did not know about my back-to-back schedule but when he found out he immediately put some parameters on my “running” time and said we’d switch Leg Day to a different day when I’m not going to the Running Gym.) I was glad to “run” and had a great day overall. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty rough, though. There might have been screaming and crying with Gen and CMD. (Me: Are we done yet? (whimper) Gen: I know. (resolutely working away))

The rough days were not a result of my back-to-back Training sessions on Monday. It’s just stress. I’ve hit a speed bump. As tough as this past month and a half have been, the past couple days have been tougher. RecoveryLand is not smooth sailing even though I’ve done my best and am grateful for the extent to which I’ve been able to optimize my Recovery over the past year.   It’s not enough that I lived – I have to deal with the fallout and there are many hoops to jump through. (Side note: I do feel better after talking and laughing with Boo Boo last night. She’s pretty much the only person I talk to voluntarily on the phone. Also, I think we’re reaching the tipping point.)

129.  Ed says, "We're going with Plan C"

129. Ed says, “We’re going with Plan C”

I know I’m on the winning team here – no worries there – it’s just that I get tired when I think of all the stuff that needs to happen to get from Point A to Point B. So I’m going to take it easy – you’ll be enjoying pictures and/or re-posts from my Blog’s “early days.” FYI, post 100. Just Keep Swimming, was my first “public” post. Most posts with a number <100 you probably haven’t read before unless, like several of you have told me, you discovered my blog and sat down and read the WHOLE thing. ❤ Thanks for doing that <3.

I write because the emotional payback outweighs the physical discomfort. But lately the physical discomfort has been “too much weight for the lady,” so I’m taking advantage of the flexibility this platform offers me for at least a week. Thanks for reading, and above all, thanks for praying! Xoxo Ann|Ning

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!


219. Operation Hospitality

Operation Hospitality | Ann Ning Learning How

Originally published July 24, 2013.  I’m working on a few (okay, several) things in my life.  One of them is ORFR (Operation Run, Forrest, Run”).  M (37) is helping me with that, and so are the nice people at my new PT place (“The Gym”).  I am, however, in the walking zone since they haven’t seen me ever before and I do appear to be  a walking liability.  Key word:  walking.  Well, I told one of them, it’s probably better that they’re monitoring me on the Alter G since if left to my own devices I’d be doing all sorts of prohibited/unsafe things just to see if I could.  It would be like how when I was heartbroken over being discharged from The Place I consoled myself by graduating myself to using the cane.  I heard through the grapevine that A (6) was contemplating moving me up from the walker to the quad cane, but he never did.  When I left I was like, Since A’s not watching me, I’mma do whatever I want!  Enter Leo.  (Side note:  I have gotten much mouthier since I worked with A.  He was largely shielded from my verboseness since my voice was weaker then.  Given my hearing loss we probably heard about 80% of what the other person said.  As Ruthie pointed out, “It’s okay – you’re even!”)  I skipped the quad because I kept kicking it and getting tangled up in it.  It took me over a year (and some gait insights from M) to realize that I had kept on kicking my quad (“Cousin It”) and my rollator (“Willow”) bc my gait stance is so amazingly wide if I don’t concentrate on keeping my feet hip-width apart.  So it’s good that I’m working on a brisk walking pace first in the Alter G, especially since my gait has gone downhill since I’m away from CMD’s acupuncture magic.  Just kidding, it’s not magic – docs have told me the research on acupuncture is really good – it just seems like magic.

Alter G | Ann Ning Learning How

The other thing I’m working on is kitchen mobility.  I’m so keen on this idea because it is critical to independence.  It does cost me something physically – I need to plan to sit down every 5 minutes or so, and even then it’s often still very painful.  When I am so absorbed in what I’m doing I don’t sit down when I ought to it’s even worse.  But hey, a girl’s gotta eat, and I like to experiment and tell you about it.

American Folk Hero...it's Gabby!

American Folk Hero…it’s Gabby!

Learning how to cook again is actually part of Operation Hospitality.  In the circle I grew up in, hospitality is very common.  We are always going over to other people’s houses and there is always laughing and almost always food.  LOTS of food.  I practiced a very simple brand of hospitality in OR when I was on my own. Brunch was always easy to do – standard fare included scones (whole wheat chocolate strawberry, based on Mommy’s recipe – but hers are so much better), strawberries or other fresh fruit, whipped cream, and K’s Impossibly Easy Quiche (a crustless Bisquick pie).  I had a lovely brunch once with M, a friend who visited me faithfully in the hospital.  These are her hands on my shoulders in the picture with my Gabby! post.

These days we have opened up Chez Tan for hospitable business sometimes.  It requires lots of planning on Mommy’s part, but it’s doable bc A) she’s a NINJA, and B) I’m all sorts of medically stable and can ambulate appropriately (most of the time).  However, being hospitable at home with Mom and Dad is not my end goal.  One day I’d like to be hospitable like I used to be in Oregon.   I have broken down this endeavor into some actionable goals.  I need to go to bed soon or else I’d make you a ppt slide.

Operation Hospitality

Phase 1:  Develop Skills

1.  Learn to cook (again).  Not that I was really good at it the first time around.

2.  Have VCI – concurrent with step 1; see improvement in swallowing health so I can eat more.

Phase 2: Secure Indpependence

3.  Recover enough to live independently.

4.  Convince Mom and Dad that I am well enough to live independently.

5.  Procure housing.

Phase 3:  Exhibit Practical Friendship

6.  Invite people over; recruit one or 2 of them to carry dishes to/from the table.  Or I could get a trolley like Grandma E used to have.

I am still in phase 1:  Learn to cook again.  But I made great progress last week since I was able to make a meal for the P family, who is visiting for a week!  This was a good step since there is no time-pressure – I just had to make things so they were fresh for the delivery date.  Presentation was a breeze since there was none – Ai Ai packed things in Tupperware etc. and Timmy carried them.  On the menu:

I was waffling on the protein source and then decided to do LSLasagna with beef – excellent notion!  And I made an extra for Ai Ai & family and even my children enjoyed it thoroughly.  They initially looked askance at the cauliflower I put in, but they ended up liking it a lot – I just riced it and mixed it with sour cream and a little fresh salsa.

Life Skills "Mexican" Lasagna | Ann Ning Learning How

I was tickled pink to be able to prepare food for two families.  So I’m on my way!  This might take a while, though – I get that.  Perhaps your hospitality plan will be more, ummm…attainable in the near future.  But I’ll do this even though it’s tough because I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of gathering with friends and sharing a meal. In the meantime I get to enjoy the hospitable efforts of Mommy and my sister as they invite people over and feed them.   For me personally, though, it’s often easier to have people over than for me to go out to a restaurant, and I like to see my friends as much as possible so I’m trying to take steps in the direction of hospitableness on my own.  This is like writing – the emotional payoff is SO worth it.

364. 3rd Yr Status Update: Mobility


I made a 5-minute cameo at one of my church’s car washes and got my walker onto the grass so I could sit in the shade the Summer after my injury. Last year I showed up with Charles, My Rice Baby. Daddy said I couldn’t push Charles AND dry cars at the same time. I was like, WATCH ME!!! My friends’ children had to hang my towels up to dry but with a little help I did it :).

Learning How…vol 1 ch 10. The Turning Point

…I will never forget crawling to my wheelchair and then sobbing out of frustration. These days I remind myself that I know some folks who would be grateful to be able to crawl, and that God has given me peace about this situation…

A lot has happened since I found out (the hard way, since I refused to take people’s word for it) that I couldn’t walk. I can name the people who taught me how to sit up, to stand, and to walk. Now I have people teaching me to run. (Not that the walking thing has been perfected yet). In case this isn’t obvious: if you have helped me in one of these ways I will be loyal to you until I die. Team Tanimal membership benefits accrue to you and your family, existing or future, for life. I’m still working on defining the benefits package but right now it consists mainly of free entertainment.

Although I no longer live in a wheelchair I’ve developed an arms-only way of life. I’ll be sitting in a chair and I realize I’m putting an abnormally large amount of pressure on my arms. I’m not doing anything with them – just pressing them into my lap. Why? I don’t know.

I bet one of the ways Trainer D knew I had done gymnastics is because of the way I get up from the treatment table. I think of it like a wide balance beam since it minimizes the use of my legs and is more arm-centric. I know from my time with CMD that using my legs takes a while, and I have a need for speed. But Trainer D is trying to convince me that it’s your legs that are going to hold you up – not your arms.

349.  Appraisal

349. Appraisal

He usually says this when I’m on the treadmill. He’ll hem me in with some tubing and tell me if my knuckles are white that’s a hint that I’m holding on too hard.

When I took Driver’s Ed my instructor, Mr. Z., told me the same thing the first time I drove on 495 ( D.C.’s beltway). He patted my hand (I was gripping the wheel with superhuman strength) and told me, It’s going to be okay.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately. When I didn’t know any better and followed instructions without any fear of falling things were easier, but life in general was harder – I couldn’t even eat or wash my face by myself. But now I think of the terror that accompanied learning to walk and what I’ve learned from it and am desperately trying to apply it to learning to run.

347.  Trust

347. Trust


183.  Flight Phase

183. Flight Phase

Nobody’s making me – this was my choice. I think I need more time to get used to the idea and it’ll be okay. M37 was the one who first made me walk around sans Leo. By the time I left Planet Rehab I was the one who asked her if it was okay for me to try walking around my house without the cane.

The first time Dr. A6 Frankenstein proposed this course of action when he was teaching me to walk I was horrified. Now I’m happy as a clam to be walking around without holding on to anyone or anything. One day I walked into the kitchen and told Mom – Hey, Mommy, look at me walking. This is a dream come true.

I dreamed at RIO (3rd Hospital) that I walked to the bathroom on my own. I wanted to be able to do that so badly. Check! Goal met.

So I’ve made major mobility gains over the past 3 years. When I first came home I could propel my wheelchair but I was largely not allowed to go to a different part of the house without supervision. These days I move around the house freely. When I’m in the house I’m set – but when I need to go out in public I require accompaniment.

That’s why I am addicted to the AlterG. (Sorry, I know – I’m like a walking Vitamix and AlterG commercial. I promise – I have no connection to either company.) It’s a machine that allows me to be “alone” in public. It’s like being in the parallel bars but you can run in them and never worry about turning around at the end. You don’t have to trust anyone – you just get zipped in, the bubble inflates, and the issue of falling is eliminated.

But I don’t want to be dependent on a machine to run forever. I could never afford one, and Daddy has informed me that there will be no more purchasing of exercise equipment on my part, anyway. So that’s why I have Trainer D and Coach R. Coach R has been talking about doing some “light agility exercises” (that was one of those times when I laughed in his face but then realized he was serious – Coach R does not joke about agility), and Trainer D is…Trainer D. In fact, it was his overwhelming enthusiasm for ORFR that made me nervous enough to diversify my “trust” portfolio and seek out an AlterG and Coach R. I might diversify more but I need to consult with some folks first and go home. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the rest of the school year with H and J!





361. Priorities

The leg press at Ai Ai's gym.

The leg press at Ai Ai’s gym.

Coach R has spent several weeks teaching me how to get off the leg press: There’s a narrow bar here (pointing) you can use for balance.

Me: Hey, R – How ‘bout I just roll off and you catch me as usual?

Despite this method’s 100% success rate, he prefers good form. I’ll be doing my single-leg duty on the press and his disembodied voice (I think he’s in some other part of the gym), will exhort me to control the movement more. On Day 1 I was on the elliptical and he stood in front making the same corrections Trainer D had made the week before. Apparently I hadn’t internalized them. But the fact that my deficits have been consistently identified makes me think I’d better absorb what these people are saying and try to do things right.

I love going to the gym with my sister. She’s the first Tan to exercise this much. Ever. I like to sit on the recumbent bike while she goes to classes, plus the leg press is safely configured for my use. Today was the first day I noticed the problem these people have been talking about! I’ve kind of been taking their word for it and doing what they say as the path of least resistance. But today I did a couple reps without thinking and saw my knee cave in so I understood why these guys are so terribly intent on getting it to move correctly. Once I concentrated I was able to get it right(er).

328.  Operation Clean

328. Operation Clean

Now I’m turning my attention back to Recovery and trying to get things right. I took a break from Operation Clean and Managing Me. I slept entire days away. I also stopped eating normally and relied heavily on protein shakes (I’m back on [vegan] protein powder per the Miyagis). The only reason my parents tolerated this is that I was obviously distressed pre-Oregon. CMD looked at my tongue and knew something was wrong. While my home exercise schedule was thrown off exercising with a pro helped a lot.

We got here on Ed’s Birthday – April 7. I slept for about 2 weeks after that. But I decided that I should start “working” soon. So I got a notebook from CVS and scribbled my to do lists. The first page was reserved for “Priorities” – e.g.

  1. Recover from OR
  2. Run on the AlterG
  3. Get stronger, build stamina for next ENT appointment (so my cords look good and no one wants to touch anything)

After I started exercising more and running I started carrying myself differently. I’m working on core strength for my ADL’s, but it’s also important for the kind of lifestyle I’m aiming for.

I gave a short devotional for some ladies here and I was strong enough to practice and hit my time targets (almost). At the meeting I sat upright and concentrated on breathing. My last ST got in my head re. the “residual air” problem, and Coach R talks to me about leveraging air for greater exertion. Trainer D just tells me to breathe so I don’t pass out, throw up, or cry.

My lawyer, K, said my voice was stronger when he saw me in Oregon (his family had visited us in MD the prior year). After I spoke to the ladies, Miz A told me there was a big difference bw how I was able to use my voice this year vs. last year.

223.  I Found Grace in the Valley

223. I Found Grace in the Valley

Additionally, ORFR is now about pain management. I have less pain now :), and there has been no more bruising since I started, although I’ve made significant gains in distance and speed.

So I’m making good progress in getting back on track. CMD had suggested massage as an alternative and Boo Boo was able to recommend two therapists. I was sad last year when I regressed. But this time around I made a game plan. Actually, I told it to Boo Boo and she executed it bc I was…erm…a little distracted. Thanks, Boo Boo!

My theory has always been that increasing my lung capacity would improve my voice. I think it’s working. But I’ll tell you what the ENT says next month. My new theory is that learning to run will improve my digestive strength. I told Trainer D (via postcard) that I hope to eat some/more fish. This is in deference to J (Mrs. Trainer D/Mrs. Miyagi) – she is Team Tanimal’s dietician. Sadly, I tried reintroducing fish just after I started feeling pre-Oregon sick, and I was trying to eat 1 oz here and there but I couldn’t keep it down. Perhaps the problem was that I wasn’t keeping anything down at that time, but whatevs.

When CMD looked at my tongue that week she said, What happened?!?!??! So I told her how Trainer D was getting all up in my grill (not J – Trainer D just recruited her to weigh in since she’s got the street cred) re. eating animal products but how I clearly was not ready for them so I was going to tell him to go away. Okay, she agreed tentatively, but don’t hurt his feelings.

We’ve established that the likelihood of his feelings being injured is low, but I explained how I don’t say a lot of things I could say since I don’t want poor Mommy to have to follow me around for the rest of my life, apologizing to people.

So now I’m concentrating on getting stronger and eating appropriately. I’m not doing great at the eating yet, but I am closely monitored. Last year Mommy told me Ai Ai was going to be like the KGB and report back on my diet. This year Timmy has taken to quizzing me regarding my protein intake and sources during the day. As always, prioritizing my Recovery is a team effort.







359. Running with Myself

Running With Myself | AlterG | ORFR | Ann Ning Learning How

When I emailed my PCP about the bruising I said I wanted to run for stress relief. She understood without further explanation. I promised to keep her updated, that I’d run on the AlterG at a lower % body weight, and she kindly reminded me that overdoing things in any context is inadvisable.

ORFR also proves that Recovery won’t end when Rehabilitation does. I told Trainer D that I’m going to learn how to run and you’re going to help me, and within days I had set up an appointment at The Running Gym.

Coach R directs traffic there and I knew I’d have to get past him if I wanted to use the AlterG so I set about building credibility as a patient/client and within minutes we both knew he could help me so I signed up to work with him, not just run on the machine. The first time I ran on the AlterG was great – that night I slept like a log.

At first Coach R told me he’d stay with me if I’d like but I tried to dismiss him cheerily: No, thanks…bye! Thankfully he stuck around anyway since when it came to the point I waffled. So he reached over the console, unweighted me some more and sped the AlterG up. Once I got off the ground he left me alone for a bit. Coach R “gets it.” I must still unintentionally exude the attitude of This is Me and Me time, NOT Me and You time.

Trainer D probably “gets it,” too, but Personal Training is “Me and You time” by definition. So he tells me things about running theory and bodily alignment and I ask things like, Is this an accepted practice, or is the Trainer D method?

One day I was safely zipped in to the AlterG bubble at The Running Gym and Coach R came over.
Me: What should I be thinking about?
Coach R: Nothing. Just relax.

Good answer, Coach R!

As our Oregon trip drew nearer the AlterG became one of the only “safe” places for me. When I’m zipped in I can’t be approached without prior notice – the machine’s perimeter large and I have extra time to note if someone is walking over, unless Coach R is watching my feet through the window in the back, in which case I don’t care. Also, I love that it’s impossible to fall out. If it were I would’ve done it by now, trust me.

Now that I’m at Boo Boo’s house I’m back at The Southern Gym and use their AlterG 3x/week. I asked God for an AlterG to use while staying with Ai Ai and Tim last year and He provided a PT practice 5 minutes away. True story.  PS. If a PT practice has an AlterG they often reserve it only for patients so it was wonderful for me to find one open for public rental so close by.  They had to move out of their building in January due to severe water damage and I was praying that A) the AlterG had survived the burst pipe and B) they’d move back in time for my visit.

229.  Flourless "Nutella" Bars

229. Flourless “Nutella” Bars

I was the first one to use the AlterG since the flood and their first day back in the building was also mine. Last year my Southern PT didn’t want me to run, but this year I told him about the progress I’ve been making with ORFR and the people helping me, and he was more amenable. The fact that he was also very busy moving stuff back into the office probably worked in my favor, too :).

It’s still a major stress-reliever and now that I’ve gone to Oregon I no longer feel like I’m trying to outrun something. On our first day we had a breakfast date with G, the “Pretty Nurse” in Learning How…vol 1 who pinched me and woke me up in the ICU. When I saw her I immediately recognized her face. Sniff. After that went to the Library where I pushed my chair around the lake in the back.

245.  I'm Rooting for You

245. I’m Rooting for You


As we made our way around the lake I could see the Old Me trotting along, blithely unaware of what was going to happen. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath for three years and now I’ve finally started exhaling. I’m not breathing regular-like yet, but it’s a start. I feel more tranquil and as I run on the AlterG at The Southern Gym I pretend I’m running alongside the Old Me and we’re talking. This is what I say:

Life as you know it will end on April 7, 2011. A mass of flawed blood vessels has been growing inside your skull since you were a baby. It will rupture and cause a huge stroke. You’ll be afraid because you won’t know what’s happening. You’ll be in the office – your boss, M, will be there, but you’ll ditch him in the hallway and duck into the Ladies’ Room intending to pull yourself together. You won’t make it out of the restroom on your own steam – you’ll collapse. Nobody is in the room when things start happening but the Lord will send two ladies to help you before your body shuts down completely.

You’ll spend over a month fading in and out of consciousness (mostly out). Your dreams will be troubling but no harm will come to you. Your family will fly in ASAP. They’ll be afraid they won’t be in time to see you but they will – it will be sad but there will also be great joy when it becomes clear you’re going to make it. They will take care of you as you heal – you’ll discover that you can still make them laugh and they can do the same for you. It will also be your privilege to regain some skills that will make you feel like a normal part of a functioning household.

As you begin waking up, be assured that everyone around you is trying to help you. Pretty soon, before you think you’re able, they’ll expect you to get out of bed, sit in a wheelchair, and go to Therapy. They know you can do it even if you’re doubtful, and you need to know the things they are teaching you because you won’t be able to walk (or even hold your head up at first) and will have lost many motor skills you used to take for granted. These people were Divinely selected to work with you bc of their kindness and expertise. They will prepare you to fly home to Maryland.

Once you get home the fog will begin to lift and you’ll realize the implications of this event. You’ll need to decide whether or not you still think the Gospel is true, especially given the timing and severity of what happened. You will pray for signs and wonders, but you do not need signs and wonders to believe. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe. Everything you need to know is publicly available information you knew about before getting sick. You’ll be cognitively intact – just physically disabled. Use your noggin and tackle the Big Question that needs to be decided before you can begin Recovery in earnest.

113.  Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

113. Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

Once you begin Recovery at home be assured that the Lord will continue to bring you to people with skills and personalities you’ll respond well to. You will be thrilled when you learn to walk (There’s no crying in baseball!) and assume this pace (of healing) will continue until you’re back to normal. This is not true. Professionals will inform you that you’ll never be like that again – don’t worry about it, though, bc the Lord will decide the degree of your healing.  So you needn’t be concerned about the timeline, but it’s safer to make the mental adjustment to saying “goodbye” to your Old Self, anyway. You will face material setbacks but will learn to manage. When you’re out of options the Lord will lead you on a new path that will allow you to pursue Recovery more aggressively. Remember that many people live in greater discomfort and/or have conditions they will not recover from. You have been blessed with the opportunity and resources to get better – use them well.

Work hard – the biggest gains come in Year 1 but you’ll get better to the extent that the Lord has planned for you. Your job will be to find gifted professionals to help you push the envelope in a safe way. Invest time and money in this process – this is not how you will spend your leisure time – this is how you must live. Learn to identify and recruit talent effectively. I know you like to have things your own way but show respect for their skill and be guided by their expertise.

284.  Outlier 2.0

284. Outlier 2.0

Recovery will be hard work – you don’t get time off. You will not be able to enjoy most of the things you used to – but it’s important to celebrate the small stuff to keep your spirits up and cheer those around you.  Mom and Dad will take primary responsibility for your daily care.  Now that you’ve re-entered their Empty Nest the least you can do is keep things “interesting” for them.

There will be times when you acknowledge that death would have been a lot easier than the business of living. The official stance is that you were very close to Eternity on that day – but even though this scenario seems outlandish and very extreme the fact that God kept you alive by orchestrating the right kind of help for you just in time points to the fact that RecoveryLand is actually a highly controlled environment. True, it often doesn’t feel like it, and there’s a lot of tough stuff to grapple with. You will routinely be afraid and unsure of yourself – this is to be expected given the nature of your injury. But be on the lookout because although the Lord gave you difficult circumstances to deal with look at this is as the situation He chose to trust you with – He’s responsible for seeing it through and has sown seeds for your encouragement along the way. As these seeds grow and come into bloom you’ll be surprised and delighted that the details of your New Life have been so carefully and lovingly planned. Remember to thank Him that you can trust Him with your happiness.

Don’t be scared. It’s going to be okay.

356. I decided

Ed on his birthday, April 7, 2014 - packing as we leave Oregon again

Ed on his birthday, April 7, 2014 – packing as we leave Oregon again


Hi, everyone! I missed you :). I made reference to returning to OR leading up to my hiatus but I never said outright that we were going there in early April. This blog is a record of my life – e.g. you can trace the evolution of my diet, and you can watch my thought processes unfold in real time…but not necessarily verbatim. Like when I started seriously considering visiting my hospitals when I went back to Oregon my insides revolted completely. I actually said out loud to God, I can’t and I won’t.

308.  No Sign of Weakness

308. No Sign of Weakness

Unsurprisingly, the Lord changed my heart. In the following months I decided that I can, and now I can say I did. My theory that there would be enough grace in the moment when I needed it was correct. My job was to keep breathing. MommyDaddy did the heavy lifting. I think I tired them out.

Because old habits die hard I made a “book” with bright daily cover sheets and back-up materials of all the driving directions, details etc. we needed in the pages behind them. I used to be a highly proficient administrative assistant and could wrangle large groups of rowdy people/details in my Old Life but now I have trouble differentiating bw Saturday and Sunday so having me manage a calendar necessitates some flexibility on the end user’s part. Thanks for rolling with the punches, Mom and Dad!

We got off the plane at PDX and drove straight to Vibra (2nd Hospital) and saw M (“Anne” in Learning How…vol 1.) around midnight since she’s a night nurse. It was a great way to start the trip. She’s just as wonderful as I remember, although my perspective (no longer hazy, often standing instead of in bed or seated) is completely different.

348.  What's This Going to Look Like?

348. What’s This Going to Look Like?

Due to the longer flight and over overusage I developed some bright red spots on my lower legs that were painful and swollen but settled down quickly after I rested. Don’t worry – I kept Mommy informed and prepared to go to to the doctor but it wasn’t necessary.

I wasn’t surprised at the spots, bc I got some bruising on my quads and left hip (without hitting anything) when I started pursuing ORFR more aggressively in Feb/March. I told Mommy, my doctors, and my Trainers. Tanpo does not know about the bruising, I wrote to Coach R, bc he is on a need to know basis and at this point this information is immaterial.

I never informed Tanpo bc the bruises healed rapidly and 5+ other people were watching me and I didn’t want to cause him undue stress. We already routinely have conversations about why XYZ is no reason for him to take me to the doctor/ER immediately – I didn’t want to invite another one. I have since informed him in writing, though, as part of some paperwork we worked on together. Not sure if he read that part, but I’m assuming he knows. Also, let me remind you that he keeps me on a need to know basis, too– e.g. ever since I locked him out of our online banking accounts he’s not telling me the password. I’m like the giant wheel of cheddar in the Cheez It commercials and Tanpo is the white-coated doctor who checks off the “Not Ready” box on his clipboard.

Anyway, when I told my new PCP she was like, Okay – nothing strenuous for 2 weeks, and come see me if they don’t improve. When I emailed Coach R he immediately ran off to consult a physician next door and I told him, I think she (my PCP) was largely just kidding about the “nothing strenuous” thing…and nobody’s gonna die from some bruising, least of all ME!!

Trainer D’s response was, Oh, no, see – we HAVE been taking it easy!
Heh heh. Should’ve seen that one coming. But really, he was careful etc.

Coach R emailed me back and said kindly, Okay, but we’re still going to do what the doctor says!

The best part of our exchange was that I didn’t realize it but I was acting exactly how I predicted I might act if something like this cropped up. When I recruited Coach R to join Team Tanimal I told him that …when I get discharged [from Rehab] I tend to try and do whatever I want. Happily, Coach R understood what I need him to do (rein me in) and fulfilled his responsibility creditably.

Team Tanimal | Ann Ning Learning How

He let me “run” on the AlterG (I used a lesser % load) but declined to give me any other exercises after that. I don’t think we should do anything against what your doctor’s telling you, he explained.

That’s bc you’re a good man, Charlie Brown, I sniffed.

But seriously, this is exactly why I asked Coach R to help me out. I agree with his theory that we’re waking up muscles I haven’t used in a while. After 2 weeks of “ease,” though, I was so not sore it was troubling. I told Mommy, I haven’t been this not sore since I met Trainer D.

As I prepared to go to OR I needed to pull it together so I could do the necessary planning. On my last day at The Running Gym I told Coach R my new theory:

I decided: Ain’t no one gonna die. I mean, if I didn’t die THEN, I’m not going to die now.

I really meant that God didn’t bring me this far for nothing.

There is a lot to be said about our trip but I can’t yet. It was pretty rugged – I would have spent more time there with a less-frantic schedule, but we took the flights that were available. I really didn’t know how my brain and I were going to manage but it turns out I ran on adrenaline most of the time, overslept when I couldn’t take it anymore, and told myself, “I can rest next week.” That said, it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to wake up, find myself in this situation, and live through those first few weeks/months scared, confused, and so tired. But now I’m 3 years post injury  and I finally went back and saw the people who helped me live, and many friends who make it worthwhile. It was sad, but I’m glad I went.



353. Team Tanimal

Team Tanimal | Ann Ning Learning How

Obviously, Ed Blueberry is Captain.

My Post-Rehab Recovery Starting Line-Up has a new name: Team Tanimal.

There are no benchers or subs on Team Tanimal.  If you’re here plan on working hard.  We’re playing for keeps and I will extract every ounce of your expertise.  I have ways and means.

“Tanimal” was a nickname from my first job.  I only heard it once (to my face) but I thought it was hilarious.  I showed up one day to visit the Maryland Brokers (I used to work in corporate real estate) and as I walked in I heard, Here comes the Tanimal.  I used to click around the office in heels and pearls, wearing very Washingtonian twin sets etc.  But they could see beyond the cover and knew I would not be leaving until I got what I needed.

These days I’m not always sure what I need – so I gather knowledgeable people around me.  To that end, I successfully recruited Coach R to join Team Tanimal last week.  Coach R is the one who wanted more info on the atrophy thing he saw going on with my left side.  But when he asked me to do a squat I was convinced that Team Tanimal could use him.

This is how my squatting skills have developed:

June 2011:  RIO (3rd Hospital)

A(2) :  Let’s do some squats!  (enthusiastically)

Me:  snicker snicker

A(2):  What’s so funny?  (in the usual longsuffering voice)

Me: Umm….I don’t think I could do those in normal life.

October 2013:  The Gym – entry evaluation

Trainer D:  Can you do a squat?

Me:  Pshaw! (scornfully) Can I do a squat?

Trainer D:  It was a theoretical question!  (I was already halfway off the table – I interpreted the question as an order.  That’s how it usually works.)

February 2014:  The Running Gym

Coach R:  Do a squat.

Me:  I need to hold something – (looking around) – do you have a kettlebell? (Realizing Coach R wouldn’t give me anything – now he hands me a weighted ball) Will you demonstrate first?

Coach R:  No.  I want to see how you do it.

Ummm…hello?  I have a brain injury. Tough crowd.  PS. He was not satisfied with my plié.  But for once it’s not Trainer D’s fault – I did a plié in protest when Coach R declined to demonstrate.  Heh heh.  The last time I saw him he upped the ante by producing a tension belt, holding one of my arms, and informing me that we were going to do standing single-leg squats.  I burst into spontaneous laughter.  And then I looked at his face and realized he was serious.

But really, Coach R is super nice, so in the following week I pondered whether I should rent time on the Alter G (the anti-gravity treadmill) or sign up for Post-Rehab sessions with him.  I decided that given the concerns voiced by my PT and CMD, my parents’ interest, and my habit of getting too excited about new pursuits when left to my own devices I’d do well to recruit Coach R in an official capacity.

So, unlike Trainer D, I gave Coach R a choice – and he said Yes, he’ll help me.  YAY!!  A couple of things he said on my first day – the “interview” – really intrigued me: 1) You could run on the Alter-G first and then when your muscles are fatigued it will be a better challenge to do the exercises after.  2) If you are able to attend to the deficits (e.g. in my hips – he had identified them within 10 minutes) you will see dramatic changes in your gait.

Prior to this I’ve been working on protecting my energy  But now I’m facing more scenarios that will require significant up-front energy  investments, and a robust chi as time goes on.  So building stamina in this context first is good.

Furthermore, it’s only lately that people (that means Trainer D) have proposed the idea of targeting certain muscle (groups) to help me reach specific goals.  I haven’t been ready to focus on isolated strengthening before this.  It’s been more about – use your eyes…walk…walk better…stay vertical…don’t lean to the side…  But now I’m praying I’m finally ready to attain a higher level of fitness beyond not falling down.

BTW when I say “run” I mean a very gentle jog on the anti-gravity treadmill.  It’s impossible to fall out, I can choose the body weight % I wish to use, and I only trot for 3-5 minutes at a time.  ORFR is an experiment to help manage my stress levels as they’ve increased lately.  That’s another reason I’m praying my body is ready for this – exercising really helps me feel better but I’m also half-waiting for something to happen.  My legs could already be showing signs of this new level of usage (it’s only been 3 weeks) – but that’s why I’ve got Team Tanimal – part of their function is to tell me if I need to go get checked out again.  (Please pray that I don’t.)  I feel like I’ve been building momentum since beginning acupuncture etc. last year, but I know from experience that regression happens and it’s disappointing but it’s a part of RecoveryLand.  My progress has been largely driven by people simply asking or just expecting me to do things – e.g. sit in a chair upright or do a plank.  So I have been busily recruiting people to do the asking and who can also teach me how to do things if I need to (re)learn.

Oh yeah – now that you’ve met Coach R fyi his name might change.  I call him “Coach” to differentiate him clearly from Trainer D, although Coach R’s certification is as an Athletic Trainer.  I’m going with “Coach” for clarity, but I’ll take his feedback.  However, the names Dr. Frankenstein, Gargamel, and Mr. Miyagi, are all taken. So I hope his heart was not set on any of those.  Otherwise, the sky’s the limit!


352. Ed says, “Well that backfired, didn’t it?”


I’m getting kicked out of Therapy. It’s Trainer D’s fault. I did clarify that “I BLAME YOU” = Thank you,” but this is too important for me to say in any other way than code except this once. That moment has passed and I’m back to feeling happier when I hold him personally responsible for this.

I’ve not been discharged yet. I’m downgraded to 1x/week, and then 2x/month after March, with discharge as the end goal. In Q4 ’13 I told my PT I’d need as much notice as possible pre-separation. At that point her answer was You stay here as long as I say so. And I say so. I’ve avoided writing about PT in order to protect the identities of the innocent – but let me assure you that there is a LOT of laughing and the whole crew produces oodles of entertainment.

Trainer D is also highly entertaining and I have no hesitation when writing about it since he generously gave me free reign here. The reason I know this is his fault is because I actually felt a difference after ~3 months of training. No other variable has changed in my Recovery. This is an example of sensitivity analysis. If you build a model and are considering the impact of a cheaper supplier or a more expensive marketing firm you change one variable at a time. The extent to which your bottom line shifts is traceable to that specific variable.

87.  No Modeling in Public

87. No Modeling in Public

I walked into Rehab one day and my PT called from across the room, You look really good.

So I put Leo the cane down and asked her to watch me for real. K (the Speech Therapist) passed by and saw a difference, too.

Notably, the gait deteriorates with fatigue. I saw M37 that weekend right after church so my walking wasn’t looking that great. Overall, my score on the walking scale is still only a 5-6. I asked R (I’ll introduce you formally tomorrow) last week. It looks like I’ve had a hip replacement or something (per my request this was accompanied by a hysterically apt imitation) but it would be hard to notice if just passing me in public. I’ll take a 5-6. That’s better than the (low) 2-3 C gave me when she did my Planet Rehab eval.

117.  AVM Metrics

117. AVM Metrics

My PT also treated Mommy last year. Helping Baker Smurf is enough to secure my loyalty, but our PT has exceeded my personal expectations. She told Mommy upon discharge, …we’re going to take care of your daughter. Accordingly, she has interrogated me regarding my regimen. When I told her I ran she said, WHO WATCHED YOU? (Subtext: I need names.) So she’s added more accountability to RecoveryLand, where parental vigilance already demands that the people I work with be top notch. (Side note: I originally took the title picture of Ed for a post on transitioning from Physical Therapy to Personal Training. I now understand that Trainer D is not representative of the general Training population, so that post would likely not be helpful. I blame him for this, too.)

CMD also provides accountability, noting changes in the way my body is acting and charging me to make sure other people are watching too. When I met him at the Running Gym R asked me how I like acupuncture. Love it, I answered. She keeps me on a real short leash.

I tried to explain why this is a big deal to Trainer D but he has exhibited zero remorse. ARGH. “Absolutely terrifying” = unambiguous language!! Rehabilitation is the only thing I’ve known since I woke up. There. I said it.

So now I’m facing the prospect of being truly cut loose. I anticipated this, which is why I joined the Gym in the first place. But I didn’t realize it would actually hasten it. Oy. That plan backfired, didn’t it?

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

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

So the way I’ve decided to console myself is to learn how to run, I told Trainer D. And you’re going to help me.

We’re picking up where M37 left off when I had to leave Planet Rehab (sniff) and pursuing Operation Run Forrest Run (ORFR) aggressively. I asked him to think about what he’d be comfortable with (there are no harnesses hanging from the ceiling at The Gym, a non-(neurological) rehab environment)– how I have no interest in creating a liability sort of situation, etc. But his indication of complete comfort with any and all running scenarios was so instantaneously enthusiastic I was like,

Erm…I guess this is the part where I trust you. But we’re going to have to work up to that.

I don’t know if M37 is familiar with the concept of “working up” to something. The second day I saw her she told me we were running, and after she saw me run (it was more like fast shuffling) once in a harness she dispensed with it entirely on land and just stood behind me, holding my belt, when on the treadmill. (Then I favored the Zero G so I wouldn’t elbow her in the stomach.) Confidence begets confidence. She didn’t hesitate so neither did I.

I guess I’m more nervous in a non-rehab environment. That’s why I found the Running Gym and recruited R to help. There are no harnesses there, either, but it’s a sports-rehab sort of place and I can tell R knows what he’s about. So I’m working on running with him every week but I’ll also work on the same type of movements in a “real life” environment at The Gym with Trainer D. So far he’s easing me into treadmill usage in a non-scary way, which is good. This is still in the very early stages so I’m not sure how this is going to pan out, but I’m sure I’ve enlisted the right kind of assistance.