224. Classic

 

Isn't this picture SUCH a riot?

Isn’t this picture SUCH a riot?

Originally posted 8.139406735177_2b2b3b0cb1

A month ago Ernie, Ruth & Co. came to visit for the 4th of July!  We enjoyed a whole week of Tan Family Funfest, Southern Style.  There was a lot of food consumption (we are Tans, after all – and those we have happily welcomed into our family via marriage totally get the Tan family philosophy of eating), laughing, and mayhem in general.  It was fabulous.

Ai Ai snapped the photo above of Josh and Karine as they walked into church that Sunday. These two have grown up together, and although they live in different states now instead of just a street away from each other, the old bond remains strong.  To review:

70.  Contingency Plans

70. Contingency Plans

72.  Role Reversal

72. Role Reversal

2 Things...

2 Things…

50x2.  A Cup of Water

50×2. A Cup of Water

Their friendship is classic and never goes out of style.  I love the classics.  I read the same books over and over, which is good since I don’t rely on my eyes as much anymore, but I can still recall all of those obscure Austen references.  I also love classic clothing silhouettes – but I am somewhat limited now in that I require soft “rehab” pants and ankle weights and shorts/skirts are NOT a cute look.

But classic friendships have been among my chief enjoyments as my recovery has panned out.  I’ve had the opportunity to make many new friends, (YAY!) but it was the friends I had already made who gathered at the hospital to pray for me, who flew from Maryland to Oregon to see me, and wrote me letters that brightened my days as an inpatient.

As time has passed and I have suddenly appeared online (e.g. on Facebook for the first time in the history of mankind), I’ve come to understand that the crucial period of my initial illness has long past and while many people dropped everything to pray for me, the urgent matters of life have taken priority as I’ve moved from the “critical” to the “recovery” phase of illness.  This is in no way a value judgment – I “get” that this is the perfectly natural progression of events.

That’s why I have been so thankful for the old friends who have stuck with me and made the effort to become part of my life again.  This would have been a perfect time for people to fade out of my life – it’s natural that friends come into your life for a season, and then the relationship might wane.  I understood this in theory before I got sick.  When I understood that I had lost almost everything when my brain bled I assumed this meant friends, too.  Not in an “I’m not going to be your friend anymore,” sort of way, but in a “Life goes on” sort of way.  The problem is that my life didn’t go on, the time lapse in my head was minimal, and the relatively recent realization that everyone else’s world has kept on turning and I no longer have a part in the action has been another heartbreaking thing about this situation.

I wrote an email to a friend a few months ago with the subject line:  For a Rainy Day.  I remember a moment of lucidity at RIO (3rd Hospital) – I was in my wheelchair brushing my teeth (thanks, OT!) and I looked at Mommy in the mirror and asked, “Does P know?”  I think Ai Ai contacted her when I got home. Soon an Eeyore necklace arrived in our mailbox bc “Eeyore” was the nickname she had given me when we worked together.  The purpose of that email was just to thank her for being a good friend – I said I understood now that she didn’t have to make an effort at cultivating our friendship, but she did, and I will always remember that.

Some of my staunchest friends are the ones I grew up with, or who grew up similar to how I did.  Some of them come from vastly different backgrounds than I do.  The point is that something big happened to me, and I’m grateful for those who remembered what I was like before I got sick and stuck around to find out what I’d be like after I got sick.  Thanks <3.

P.S.  I’m largely the same person.  I checked with Hannah.

 

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474. Overflowing

Kpop's T-shirt for a school vocab project

Kpop’s T-shirt for a school vocab project

I was in a lot of pain last weekend. It was stress-induced, I think – not helped by my strength training regimen, but mostly sympathy pains bc Coach R is having some shoulder issues he’s ignoring. I told him I should do the Vulcan Death Grip on him and put us both out of our misery. Problem is I don’t know how to do the VDG. Maybe Gen can teach me.

So I suffered all weekend and felt better enough in the morning to take it out on Trainer D first thing on Monday, after which I tried to play it cool with Coach R, but then was so annoyed at my lack of “running” stamina I relieved my feelings by sending him one of my hilariously passive aggressive emails and hoped that it would make me feel better.

It did.

Still, I’ve avoided writing this post, bc it’s pretty bold – like 395. Well Suited. After I wrote it and transitioned to the Full Disclosure Model with my peeps I took a major physical hit.

395.  Well Suited

395. Well Suited

Well, although I’ve been feeling GREAT lately I’ve acknowledged that the physical situation is deteriorating rapidly (speed bump! I’ll tell you about it next week) so I figure I might as well go all the way and write this, although I fondly hope the physical situation will right itself ASAP.

So here we go: When this happened to me I lost a lot of things. I owned pretty things – not super high-end stuff, but things I liked well enough to still miss. When I saw which way the wind was blowing, the things I still had a fingertip hold on I decided to lay down and pretend like that was my intention all along.

Example 1: for 3 years I pawed through my belongings mentally and thought, When I get this back…. But at a certain point in Oregon last year I threw a “souvenir” back in the box and said, I don’t need any of this. I dismissed entire boxes that were still sealed with packing tape.

358.  "I don't need any of this."

358. “I don’t need any of this.”

After we went to OR I landed at Boo Boo’s house and actually thought about what happened. One morning I came to the kitchen and cried on Mommy’s shoulder: Boo hooo!! My pretty things. Poor Boo Boo  relieved her feelings by banging some pots around on the stove.

She told me later, You did it smart, Ning – you made a clean break.

It wasn’t what I had wanted, but I agree – ultimately it was a smart move.

Example 2: My name. Are you confused by the Ann|Ning thing (FAQ)? An old friend from B school contacted me via my website and called me “Ann.” He was relieved when I told him to please keep calling me “Ning” even though I thought it was really sweet of him to use “Ann” since he thought I might prefer it. Please – it’s totally cool for you to call me what you’ve always called me, or you can choose the name you’re most comfortable with. It’s fine. The thing is that Shady Grove “The Place” was the first hospital I arrived at awake. I wasn’t used to people talking to me directly and lacked the vocal strength to tell them, My name is Ning.

So they called me “Ann.” It is my actual name, after all, and I like it – it’s just that I never used it until now. So my name was something I laid down intentionally, too. I’ve embraced the usage of “Ann” – it’s kind of my Medical Alter Ego now. I embraced it to the point where I told myself, It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.

But it kind of does matter.

Sniff.

Yesterday I told you I’ve had a hard time believing that the Land of the Living is for me. That’s one of the reasons I insist on being identified with the Disabled Community – they were the first ones to make me feel welcome here and to tell me that there are workarounds to get stuff done even if you’re living with XYZ and things aren’t like they used to be. It’s a function of my time in The Valley and the strange waking up process.

The last couple of times I spoke publicly about How I Found Grace in The Valley I emphasized at the end that This Disabled Life is not all drudgery. There is stuff that has happened that is so good that I can’t talk about all of it still bc it makes my teeth hurt and I’m afraid they might fall out of my head entirely. I joke that the Lord had to do something SO drastic to keep me out of Africa bc I am so thick-headed about these things that I probably wouldn’t get the memo unless He did something as serious as putting me in a wheelchair (even so, it took me another 6-8+ months to concede the point post injury).

In the same way, I’m super thick-headed about good stuff, too. But God, in His mercy, persists in giving me extremely kind and obvious “post it notes” to remind me along the way that even though this is crazy, it’s okay because He’s taking care of me. These circumstances, like my injury, are way too pointed to be considered coincidence.

359.  Running With Myself

359. Running With Myself

This summer when I was still feeling great I was in the Gym’s café buying some “Brain Juice” (EPA/DHA) and told Trainer D as we stood in line, I didn’t know this [feeling of wellness] was for me.

A minute later I said, My chi is so strong right now, you have no idea.

I can feel it, he contradicted.

As I walked to the lobby I told him, I’ve decided that we’re calling this “healthy,” so I need you pony up and play along.

There have been lots of ups and downs since we had that conversation, but the main thing I’ve clung to is my statement, I didn’t think this was for me. “This” = The Land of The Living.

As soon as Decision Day hit and I decided that Jesus Christ is in fact who He says He is I knew what I’d have to do. God gave me some extreme circumstances, but His grace has been so vast and surprising there’s no way for me not to be “all in” and respond in kind with an extreme sort of lifestyle even though the expectation was that I might just lie in bed and watch Netflix for the duration. Even back then I knew a Public Recovery would occasionally be brutal, but again, I chose this lifestyle with my eyes open because this message is so critical. But although I’ve found my calling this isn’t all “work.”

I’ve realized that I don’t constantly have to grit my teeth and brace for impact. Yes, my feelings have been hurt beyond the scope of “normal” human interaction as a byproduct of this lifestyle, but it pales in comparison to the goodness I’ve received from the gentle care of the Good Shepherd (who, btw, knows and cares about my hurts). It’s just that part of my Recovery has been to learn to be willing to receive. This is still a process, and I’m at the very beginning – but I want to state for the record: my cup runneth over (Psalm 23.5).

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473. Out of the Mouths of Babes

Karine reciting Psalm 23 to me at OHSU 4.29.11 (the white things are my knees)

Karine reciting Psalm 23 to me at OHSU 4.29.11 (the white things are my knees)

 When I was rewarded with a couple months of R&R at Boo Boo and Timmy’s house last year after we went to Oregon I got to hang out at the End of Year school activities with my children. Best. Vacation. Ever.

One day we went to a “Speech Meet” where my “son” proceeded to wow the crowd with his animated rendition of an old fable. I could barely contain myself bc I was so proud. But I tried not to embarrass him like how I tried to exercise restraint at H’s Spanish play the week after.

But when a classmate of his stepped up to the microphone and recited Psalm 23 with the deliberate enunciation of a good speech therapy student (I haven’t mastered that, BTW), I lost it. He was on, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me – thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. And I fought hard to swallow the tears bubbling up from my tummy.

The terrifying confusion that marked my inpatient days is long over but I still feel the echo of fear bc its sound was so deafening the first time. One night in the 2nd or 3rd Hospital (I was still too loopy to know where I was) my friend A came to see me with her little boy, M. He had drawn me a picture of a shepherd guiding his little lambs across some hills and A told him, Sing Psalm 23 for Miss Ning.

Even though I can’t remember where we were I do remember preparing myself mentally to hear the sweet strains of The Lord is My Shepherd – you know, the one from the commonly used hymnal affectionately known simply as the Red Book. But M is the son of two talented musicians and has grown up with the Praise & Worship genre as the soundtrack of his life. He has been well trained and blessed hereditarily so he unhesitatingly launched into a rousing chorus of Matt Redman’s “Never Let Go.”

I was startled at first because I had been expecting the gentle melody of the familiar old hymn, but even then my mind shifted gears rapidly and I enjoyed M’s spirited rendition of this favorite praise song.

These are the lines that lead up to the chorus:

and I will fear no evil

For my God is with me

And if my God is with me

Whom then shall I fear?

These were words I needed to hear desperately. But lately it’s the opening lyrics that have really captured me:

 Even though I walk through the valley

Of the shadow of death

Your perfect love

Is casting out fear…

 

I wrote this in July 2014:

One of the hardest things I realized before I went to Oregon was that death had been very near to me on that day. (I had largely blocked it out.) I refer to that period (when I was asleep) as “The Valley” and when I heard this verse of the song it actually made me wistful for it. The Valley was absolutely terrifying but I was able-bodied in it. I walked normally etc. and I actually began to miss it bc it was the last thing that “happened” before I woke up and found myself in this situation.

From 388. Vespers

388.  Vespers

388. Vespers

 

It’s taken another 6 months but I’m getting more comfortable with the idea of The Valley, and even with the idea that I actually miss it. I’ve had a hard time believing that The Land of the Living is for me and my time in the Valley is why. But I’m done skating around it. It happened. I walked through The Valley, and I learned to walk after I woke up, too. And I was never alone.

Matthew 21.16 …out of the mouths of babes…thou hast perfected praise…

Psalm 8.2 Out of the mouth of babes…hast thou ordained strength…

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472. Thy Rod and Thy Staff

Dec 2013.  Tanpo and I at the bank getting LHC set up.  I like to take selfies when he's not looking and send them to Mommy.

Dec 2013. Tanpo and I at the bank getting LHC set up. I like to take selfies when he’s not looking and send them to Mommy.

One of my favorite posts ever is the one when I explain how naughty I was when I woke up and would say anything to delay my parents’ departure for the night. One time I was like, Daddy, tell me that thing again about ‘Emmanuel, God with us.’”

18.  Dad, Tell me that thing again...

18. Dad, Tell me that thing again…

Heh heh. That’s right. I totally leveraged poor Daddy’s devotional thoughts as a stalling technique.

But I wasn’t always stalling.   Sometimes I had honest questions or requests, like when I asked him to read Mark 4 to me.

123.  Don't You Care?  | This was the first time I heard myself play the piano (I’m still sitting at the keyboard) and I heard what I sounded like.

123. Don’t You Care? | This was the first time I heard myself play the piano (I’m still sitting at the keyboard) and I heard what I sounded like.

I continued asking things when I came home and was trying to decide whether or not I could still believe the Gospel. For a while I thought of difficult theological questions and would ask Dad about them just to see what he’d say.

Side note: A friend pointed out to me recently that the fact that I have a Dad who is in a position to answer hard questions and, in fact, welcomes them, is something to be truly thankful for. And I am.

It was the non-theological questions that I stopped bringing to him. In the hospital when I was going through my “quiz” reality-testing phase I’d ask people all sorts of things about the logistics of the past month+ (when I had supposedly been asleep), things like, Hey, Mommy – what was in my fridge/cupboard? What kind of shower curtain do I have? Hmmmm?

So one day I said, Daddy, how did you get into my apartment?

Poor Tanpo looked immediately stressed out and said feebly, Mommy?

I saw his distress and was immediately like, Don’t worry, Daddy, never mind. And I subjected only Mommy to quiz time after that. I gave Daddy a hard time in other ways.

But one night in Vibra (the 2nd hospital) I didn’t ask any questions. But Daddy saw that I was scared so he pulled a chair up to my bedside and talked to me about Psalm 23. …Thy rod and thy staff – they comfort me…he quoted.

I had just begun to wake up and was terrified and uncomfortable. Dad told me, The shepherd’s rod and staff signify the Lord’s power and authority…Don’t be afraid, Sweetie.

Sniff.

That night I was so terribly cold but unable to use my voice to tell anyone and lacked the motor skills to find and click the call button for help. So I would just lie there in my bed and try to use the pillow that had been wedged under my weird left shoulder to try and get warm. But I wasn’t truly comfortable until I had a dream that I was snuggled up under a blanket knit with Psalm 23 on it.

As the weather has been so cold lately I have remembered this instinctive desire to curl up under my fluffy comforter and be warm. It’s also my instinct to retreat from the world as my Recovery becomes more and more public. But it’s too late for that – I chose this lifestyle with my eyes open, and I love it even though sometimes I still get scared. When I do, the Comforter, who brings all things to remembrance, assures me that His power and authority rule everything – so I’m going to be just fine.

But the Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

 John 14.26

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Psalm 23

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March 11, 2011 – Burundi, Africa

Psalm 23 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

12B. Codebreaker

Originally published October 2012.  Don’t worry – the Tans are not going through Medical angst/uncertainty right now.  It’s business as usual.  I just really like this post :)

One of the little known side effects of my illness is that I was required to be a codebreaker as soon as I woke up.  This happened when people had to say “no” to me but felt really bad about it so they framed it in nice words and I had to read between the lines.

One of my favorite examples is when I started to wake up in the 2nd Hospital and wanted some fruit so badly, but the sign on the wall said “NPO” and told everyone that both food and liquid were contraband items in my world.  This did not stop me, however, from hitting up passers by for some ice chips or fruit.  I though a lot about that part in Pride & Prejudice (ch. 55, I think, for you Austenites out there) when Georgiana plays the reluctant hostess at Pemberly and does her duty by serving pyramids of fresh peaches, grapes, nectarines etc. to Lizzy and other guests.  I wanted some fruit in the worst way and asked Mommy for some.  It pained her to have to deny me something that I wanted so much, and Mom said some very loving and sad words that I mercifully don’t recall.  I only remember the moment when I summarized, “So…‘no’ to the fruit.”

Now that I’m better, I’m the one who speaks in code.  Here is a sampling for my family’s reference:

  • Ed is baking cookies. = I need baked goods NOW.
  • Ed thinks you’re the cat’s pajamas, Mommy. = I love you, Mom.
  • Ed and I are going to go tell Tanpo a joke. = I’m going to go bother Dad.
  • Ed is sitting on the sofa with Tanpo while he “watches” (naps during) the PBS Newshour. = I really, really, really don’t want Dad to be sick.

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471. Friends

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I heard from Ruth Johnson (aka Mamma JJ who had heart surgery last Friday) and was so pleased and surprised bc we haven’t met in person, but she found me anyway.  Please pray for her continued healing.  Thanks!

Do you remember the story many of us learned in Sunday School about how 4 friends carried the bed of their paralytic comrade to the house where they knew the Lord Jesus was teaching? They couldn’t get near enough because of the crowd so they broke through the roof, and lowered their friend (still lying on his mat) to the spot right in front of the Lord.   He both forgave the man’s sins and as proof that He (the Lord Jesus) had authority to do such a thing, simply said to the man, Get up – take your mat and go home. (Mark 2.1-12)

There were four friends carrying the fifth friend’s bed. Each one was responsible for a corner – the roof scheme worked bc they had the manpower and the guts to come up with a “Plan B,” keep the mat balanced as they lowered it to the floor, and believe that it would be a successful venture.

We don’t know how long the man had been unable to walk – it could have been something he’d lived with from birth, or the result of a later injury – but we do know that he had four friends who cared about him enough to bring him straight to the feet of the Lord no matter what.

This is in stark contrast to the man in John 5 who was lying by the pool of Bethesda. The pool had healing properties for the first person to enter the water at the appropriate time, but the man (who had lived with his disability for 38 years), was never able to get into the water fast enough.

The Lord saw this man, immediately knew that he had been living like this for a long time, and asked, Do you want to be healed?

Sir, the man replied, I have no man to help me into the pool – and when I’m trying to get in, someone else gets in the water first.

What a heartbreakingly frank statement: I have no man…

Well, the Lord has no need of assistance in this case or any other. He speaks to accomplish. *

“Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”

And that was the end of the matter.

These two stories about men who couldn’t walk have the same ending – the Lord simply tells them to get up, gather up their mats, and walk. But the circumstances are so different. One man was part of a group of friends who brought him to the Lord. The other man had no friends, but the Lord found him and showed him that he only needed One. Even though I know that One is enough I am so thankful to be blessed with many.

255.  Seriously, could you HAVE any more friends?

255. Seriously, could you HAVE any more friends?

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*I think this is a Beth Moore phrase – I’m not sure, though. I just know I read it many years ago (maybe in Believing God) prior to my injury.

470. Look at THAT one

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Eddie taking a breather at my other Gym

 

Transitioning to the Full Disclosure Model with my peeps is one of the best decisions I ever made. Actually, there was no “transition” with Gen – she knew it all within 5 minutes of our meeting. I could explain it better to CMD after she treated JJ and I could refer to “My friend from Africa” so it made more sense. I had told Trainer D a little bit about it all when he first got up in my grill (and called in the professional help – Smurfette – for a casual consult) about my food soon after we met. But it really came out of left field for Coach R.

420.  I Said It

420. I Said It

He didn’t flinch. None of my peeps did – they just absorbed the impact of what I was saying and we have continued to roll merrily along in pursuit of a higher level of health with a shared understanding of my situation.

The only person I noticed flinching was Ann|Ning. I still do sometimes, even though our interactions have gotten so much easier since I no longer have to keep track of who knows what. But I can still get caught by surprise.

Example: Some team members were talking about the big Powerball jackpot last week and Coach R asked me what I’d do if I had a billion dollars.

This is an extremely benign question. It’s the sort of thing you could ask in an icebreaker exercise for team building among strangers, and we are not strangers.

But a lump rose to my throat anyway and I blinked hard as my mind flew through the things I’d like to attend to but can’t. Of course, this led me to think of what people who win or inherit big bucks might do – buy real estate, cars, etc., and I stifled another sigh. These things don’t fit in with my lifestyle.

Finally, I thought, I have my wheelchair. I have everything I need.

A long time ago I told you I’d introduce you to Red, my wheelchair. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. I just have to pull it together enough to write that post. But I’ll tell you now that it was a direct answer to prayer. I had been praying for a long time that the Lord would give me “something for me,” because I can no longer enjoy so many of the things I used to.

I hit on the idea of a wheelchair over a year ago as I anticipated more travel, and said, Lord, I’d really love a Tilite 2GX titanium chair with tubular arms and swing away footrests, but I could never afford one. I wanted it to be titanium so it would be super light bc I’m not the one carrying it. I haunted a wheelchair website online for weeks and built the model of my dreams and determined that I couldn’t justify spending that much considering that I’m only an occasional wheelchair user.

Then, guess what happened? “My” chair showed up on Craig’s List. Seriously, based on my EBay research, the chances of finding a model with your specs at a discount is slim to none. Ernie and Tanpo took me to see it (near E&R’s house) and I got to test drive it to make sure it fit. A2 was the last person to “seat” me properly, and that was while I was in inpatient at RIO (3rd hospital) – I knew my numbers from then but my situation has changed. Happily, it fit, and Ernie and Daddy took care of the money handling. And then J said she’d bedazzle it for me. We made a day of it and with KAR, who lobbied strongly and successfully for sparkly streamers :).

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So I’ve been enjoying my chair ever since! It’s something just for me that is simultaneously meaningful and useful, even if I only use it once in a while.

A few months ago I cried a little and told Mommy, I miss my pretty clothes.

We’ll work on getting you some pretty clothes, she comforted me. But I said, “No, thanks,” bc I don’t really need pretty clothes to live like this. Right now my mindset is: the more I own, the more I need to clean, or move out of the way so I can clean the table etc. Besides, I have already decided on my uniform (all black workout wear) so I don’t have to think – I just grab things and put them on.

One morning I sat in the lobby of The Gym dutifully sipping my Chocolate Ensure since I had just seen Trainer D and am trying to abide by the new liquid protein rule. A cute little kid, maybe 3-4 years old, came skipping up to the chair next to me and his mom busily zipped him up into his coat in preparation for their walk to the car.

He had been sick (his mom kept on feeling his forehead), and he was busily asking her for some chocolate milk as she attended to his coat.

Don’t worry, buddy – we’re going to go get the BIGGEST chocolate milk you’ve EVER seen, she assured him.

But the promise of this future delight was difficult for the boy to grasp. As his coat got zipped up as high as it would go he looked over at me sipping my Ensure, and told his mom in a loud stage whisper full of awe and longing, Look at THAT one.

I laughed and laughed, and told him I was sure his would be a lot yummier than mine. But I’ve thought of that incident for the past week. That kid had only one wish in the world. And I had what he wanted.

I don’t flash back to Medical scenes as often anymore. What has been troubling me lately are flash backs to scenes of every day life – the clothes I used to wear, the handbags I used to carry, the jewelry and shoes I chose so carelessly every day since I fell back on my favorites so often. I knew what worked, and surrounded myself with the wardrobe and teacups etc. that made my life easy and beautiful. It’s all gone now. But I’m learning that I have everything I need. And more.

308.  No Sign of Weakness

308. No Sign of Weakness

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