461. Doing My Duty

That's right, P2.  Eyes on the prize.

That’s right, P2. Eyes on the prize.

It has only been a few weeks since I started my new health regimen and I feel SO much better. Of course, I know there is still a long way to go, but after I met my new doctor and spoke with Smurfette the Dietician my blood pressure (which was appallingly high that morning) went down, my pain melted away, and I started resuming the activities I had abandoned as I went downhill at year end.

This is what has been happening:

Jan 7
To: Trainer D
From: Me

Thanks for helping me Mon.  I “ran” better and was feeling good through Tuesday.  My hip started to protest again this (Wed) morning but thankfully I went to see Ninja CMD and she took care of it.  This message requires no email response - I just wanted to ask before I forget and so you can think about it and talk to me later:  I’m concerned that the hip pain is now directly related to my improper body usage/quad dominance whereas prior to this there was no discernible pattern except that it was triggered by stress.  Do you really think the pain I’ve had lately is due to quad dominance, and is it fixable?

Thanks :)

To: Me
From: Trainer D

I am pondering. Figure it out we will. Pain free you will be…

I was hurting so badly I sent him that pathetic email on the 7th, but I saw my new doc and Smurfette on the 8th and 9th and immediately felt so much better that I went to The Gym later in the morning of the 9th and informed him I no longer cared about his answer since both issues (stress and quad dominance) should be addressed.

Smurfette has me logging all my food in My Fitness Pal so she can see what I’m eating. To review: the concern is quantity (not enough) as opposed to quality.  I told D this morning that I have trouble staying awake long enough to eat all that food!  This is primarily a Sunday problem since we’re out for most of the day.  I find it much easier to eat and am much hungrier on Training Days.  E.g. On Sunday night I agonized over whether I could get away with not eating that 8 oz of strawberries bc I just wanted to go to sleep.  I decided that since I wouldn’t be red flagged by MFP to go to bed.  PS.  He loved the story about how sometimes I can’t finish all of my Ensure (Active High Protein Low Sugar , Chocolate! Coach R quizzed me on this – not the Chocolate part, the protein part.) upstairs during my extensive grooming routine so I take it to the kitchen and make an Ensure mocha.  :)

To: Smurfette
From: Me
Re: My Fitness Pal info…

(You’re supposed to log exercise as well as food in MFP.)

…I use placeholders for working out with Trainer D and Coach R bc the app is difficult for me to type in and if I try to enter strength training I don’t know the names of everything we do, can’t remember, etc.  So I’m calling it “Calisthenics.”  I have to remember to tell Trainer D about it in case he might be deeply offended :).  But even though sessions are an hour I count fewer minutes of actual activity since I allow for resting, laughing, stalling, walking in between places etc…

A while later:

… I have not noticed body changes but I HAVE noticed behavioral changes.  Specifically, after I saw [the doc] a couple weeks ago and you (thank you SO much for that quick, informal consult) I felt so much better.  My pain melted away and my blood pressure went down.  I have been uncomfortable for all of Q4 bc I’ve known something was wrong.  Trainer D was brave enough to be a true friend and call me out.  He’s all, I can’t diagnose, I can only recommend….That was code for, if you don’t take action you will never hear the end of this.  So now I feel like things are going in the right direction and I’ve got people lined up to help me transition from survival mode to sustainability.  I’ve resumed my home circuit Training D told me to do, I make more of an effort to fuel up, I have resumed more of the home activities (cleaning, cooking, filing) that really fell by the wayside as my condition deteriorated over the past few months…


…PS.  Let me just say again that I feel LIGHTYEARS better since joining the practice and speaking with you. Thank you!! I saw both Trainer D and Coach R today.  Fun times were had by all.  D was right about the alimentation.  I hate it when D is right.

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!


460. T-Shirt


It Got Better.

“It Got Better.”


Thank you for praying for Mom Bjorlie – surgery went well and she woke up in good time. Please continue to pray for a fast and full recovery!

The day after Peter was born all of us were together so we went swimming with the kids at the hotel. Ezra was just becoming conscious of the difference between his swimming attire and the “big boys” and had recently declared his intention to go shirtless in the pool. But when he saw me in my pool therapy get-up, rash guard and all, he was puzzled. “Aunty Ning Ning,” he asked, “Why are you wearing your shirt in the pool?”

Tee hee. Poor guy. He asked me very solemnly but it was hard not to laugh and squeeze him with his skinny little arms sticking out of an impressive flotation device.   I considered joining a regular pool when I left Pool Therapy and before I found my Trainers. I had plans to go talk to the Life Guard on duty when I showed up since I didn’t want anyone to be nervous, but abandoned the idea when I read that there were no flotation devices allowed in the pool I hoped to join except Coast Guard vests.

So this ruled my Aqua Jogger out. I learned to wear a belted floatie in Pool Therapy. I also learned to wear a rash guard at Pool Therapy. I know at least two other Pool Therapy patients who wear a shirt in the pool to cover their scars.

19.  Pool Therapy

19. Pool Therapy

One of them I met while I was in the water one day. He was in a wheelchair but was so strong he eschewed the lift customarily used to get wheelchair patients into the pool and just used his arms to lift himself down the ladder. We smiled at each other politely and his demeanor was so gentle and he seemed like he was my age so my curiosity got the better of me. It helps that when you’re in a Therapy Pool it’s obvious that stuff has happened to both of you so it’s a lot easier to ask and answer questions. Is the goal for you to walk again? I asked nosily.

Yes, he answered. Then I think he asked what happened to me, and then he volunteered, I was shot three times in the chest.

Wow. You don’t meet someone like that every day. He told me this very matter of factly. I seem to invite a higher and more immediate level of trust now that this has happened to me and I know from experience that it can be a relief to share information without the fear of freaking people out, so I try not to freak out when people tell me stuff. Trauma hardens you to a lot of things – you’re better equipped to handle it when someone else tells you what’s happened to them – but it still makes me sad :(.

Especially this guy, who went on to explain that he had been shot three times in the chest bc of the lifestyle he had been living and now that he had been in a chair for three years he was working on walking again and living better now that he knew the consequences for living how he used to, and now that he had a daughter to care for.

Lately I have realized that even people I think I know well are often carefully controlling the flow of information that populates the background of our relationship. They do it out of necessity – it’s how you learn how to deal and maintain a certain level of functionality in life. I know because I do it myself.  But there are times and situations that lend themselves to information sharing. And even though I flatter myself that I’m tough enough to handle whatever you’re going to disclose, it might still break my heart…but I won’t tell you. If you lived through it I can listen to it.  In fact it’s my honor to do so.  I’ll just pay you the compliment of not flinching, thank you for sharing that information with me because I know it cost you something to say that out loud, and take your need straight to the One who carries all of our griefs and sorrows.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53.4


459. Lean On Me

💗Please pray for Mom Bjorlie as she prepares for surgery tomorrow/Friday! 💗

Before I learned how to walk I learned how to stall. When Dr. A6 Frankenstein told me to leave my walker behind and just hold on to his hands I was so scared I tried to buy some extra time by asking, “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he answered (with great finality).

“Quite sure?” I pressed.

Yes he was sure. PS. He offered me his hands but I gripped his forearms instead. I tried the same trick on R8, who treated me sometimes at The Place. When I asked him the 2nd time (Quite sure?) he responded with, “I’m sure – are you sure?”

But he knew I was afraid so when it came down to it he told me kindly, You can put as much weight on me as you would on a walker.

Note: You’re not really supposed to lean in to a walker. R8 was one of the PTs who told me this. He was just trying to make me feel better.

I didn’t feel better but consoled myself by leaning heavily on both of his arms.

We’ve come a long way since those early days when PT was more of a contact sport since I was a greater fall risk. The guarding style has become looser as I’ve gotten better, which is not to say it’s not vigilant – I’m just given greater liberty since I can self-correct more often now.

Example: One day Coach R said we were going to do a side lunge walking sort of thing. So I eventually made my way to the yellow line on the floor that was supposed to be my guide, took both of the proffered hands and started to do my duty.

Uh oh. As I leaned to the right – not even my left/weaker side! – I felt my entire leg collapsing. We both braced, I avoided contact with the floor, and eventually got my feet under me so I could stand up. But it felt like we were there forever – arms locked, and me trying not to fall. Coach R has told me multiple times that it’s good that I have enough upper body strength to use him to stay upright.

Mmm hmm. I’m just saying that if I had been wearing the gait belt I only recently removed from my purse since no one lets me wear it anyway, that wouldn’t have happened. Yes, we would have had to enlist someone else to actually hold the belt, but the more the merrier, I say!

One morning I saw Trainer D and he had chosen (infuriatingly) to only speak Spanish. I took this as permission to ignore everything he said.   He can communicate well enough in gestures so I was getting ready to do something and I told him I was nervous about keeping my balance.

He opened his arms wide, the ample spread indicating, I’m right here! What could possibly go wrong?

I looked at him with the arms open and the mouth smirking. I think he was holding a water bottle or something. That’s your ready stance?

My open doubt made him laugh bc of course he was planning on keeping things safe – he just likes to see my squirm first.  So he moved closer to my side and then he forgot himself when he saw how appalling my form was on the first rep so he corrected me in English. Once we were speaking the same language I really grasped what he was saying and shifted my weight etc. appropriately.

Several months earlier on my first day back from OR and Boo Boo’s house we were at the same spot in the Gym except I was seated and was supposed to do a twisty balance thing with a medicine ball but Trainer D refused to let me wear my gait belt. Boo Boo was visiting and stood nearby.

Hey, D, I said, twisting to my left and trying not to fall off the bench, Remember that time I was glad to see you?

I’m happy to see you, too! He immediately replied.

[Me, out loud]: Yeah, so I think I might be over that now.


[Me, internally]: Wow – you really walked right into that one, didn’t ya there, Buddy?

He laughed, I did not fall off the bench, and he provided a ton of evidence for Boo Boo that he is the cheerful, neuro nerdy, and Animal Muppet-ish person you read about here.

A friend and fellow AVMer recently told me her son had noted the return of her sarcasm as a true mark of recovery.

I must be really healthy.

Or maybe I’m just mean. You decide.

 Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

458. Isn’t He Gracious


This is Dr. Paul Lam. He is my Tai Chi video instructor. CMD informed me I need to relax so I have renewed my interest in Tai Chi. It was my Pool Therapist who introduced me to Tai Chi post injury. She told me about “chair” Tai Chi – routines done seated so they are great for those in wheelchairs or with impaired mobility. I lost no time in purchasing an Amazon Instant Download. I’ve always liked Tai Chi because it IS relaxing even though I did it badly and extremely briefly – but I like it now for the emphasis on breathing, the slow, sweeping movements, the coordination required and the visual skill it takes to follow your hand with your eyes.

I never got beyond maybe 10 minutes at a time with the Chair Tai Chi. I’m serious – this guy goes on (with an extremely enthusiastic smile) for like an hour and I was exhausted after a fraction of that time.


Now that I’ve graduated to Dr. Paul Lam (He is free with Amazon Prime Instant Video, you can also find his first lesson on Youtube) I also enjoy the challenge of standing and moving my feet. The weight shifting is slow and deliberate with a clear emphasis on leading with either the heel or the ball of the foot so it’s good for me.

I also enjoy his gentle instructional manner. He is a riot, although probably unintentionally. In the picture at the top he is demonstrating what he describes as the Universal Greeting in the Tai Chi world. You’ve probably seen it before, or done it if you’ve done martial arts but I’ve never heard it explained. Apparently the position of the hands signifies Strength, Friendship, and Humility.

Good greeting, I’d say. I wrote yesterday about how great it is when someone is available and willing to jump in beside you and get the job done when you’re struggling. When I think of it at the highest level, this is what the Lord Jesus did, and even though in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, He did it in a way that would draw us to Himself, that wouldn’t scare us, and that would invite trust. Isn’t He gracious?

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1.14

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15.13

Let this mind be in you, which was also found in Christ Jesus: Who, being found in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2.5-8

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

457. Tandem Training


Hi! I decided to take yesterday off bc it was a holiday in the States (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday) but I forgot I had pre-loaded a post (456. Agility) and it published itself as usual yesterday at 6.30 am. Oops :). If you missed it, click on this picture or the link and have a read. I think it’s a hoot. But then again, I think all of this is a hoot.

456.  Agility

456. Agility

J (Team Tanimal’s Rec Director) thought it was funny, too. We discussed it in the car in the morning as we went to the Gym. Things got even funnier really fast bc we did a Tandem Training session with Animal Muppet himself, Trainer D.

Choice quotes:

Me: Do you see how J’s enthusiasm is waning as the session progresses, D?

J: You like how I bought us some extra time there, Ning? (J stalled for a few minutes by asking a theoretical question about proper plank form. Good one, J!!)

J to D (between sets): In yoga class they say nice things like, Thank your body for working so hard today.

J [internal]:  Umm….how far are we on that list?  (Trainer D had a clipboard with a sheet outlining the exercises he intended to make us do planned especially for us.)

J totally cracks me up. The thing is that Trainer D does not specialize in that kind of affirmation. He’s too busy critiquing your form and everyone else’s within his field of vision. He can’t help himself. We’re working on not pointing, but some days you gotta pick your battles.

343.  Strength & Honor

343. Strength & Honor

While he does have a mental database of motivational phrases I smile at internally as “Trainer Talk” sometimes he makes me laugh out loud when I think to myself, Do you seriously hear what you’re saying? Examples:

D: See how narrow that thing is? Don’t miss.

D (after slowly increasing the size of my kettlebell until he brought out a HUGE one and saying he only needed one rep): Now, it’s going to feel like it’s not going to move, but it will – I promise.

I could not suppress my giggling.

Me: Did you hear yourself say that out loud? That was the worst motivational speech EVER.

But when it really matters Trainer D is good at getting you to do stuff when you think you can’t. Most of the time if I’m having (balance) issues and can’t do something outright he breaks down the movement for me so I can get a grip on the smaller pieces – but yesterday he gauged the situation and decided to intervene more actively.

He made J and me link arms and do sit ups. At first we were lying on the floor saying this was the funniest thing we had ever done. Side note: the picture above is from RIO (3rd Hospital) when J and KAR came to visit. J was put in charge of rolling that ball across the table to me. I was still working on standing up. This was the last time we worked out together.

But when it came to it I absolutely could not lift my torso off the ground in any way. After two reps D saw that this was not going to happen no matter the amount of Trainer Talk he spouted so he laughingly sat down next to me, linked arms, and did the next 28 reps while I laughed hysterically and let him and J pull me up with them.

It was so funny. I could barely breathe from the laughing. But more than that it was a great illustration of the encouragement spectrum. Motivational words can be great and I’m thankful for verbal encouragement– but I’m also grateful for the people who have the availability and willingness to roll up their sleeves, jump in beside me, and get the job done when they see me struggling.

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!


456. Agility


… I don’t want to be dependent on a machine to run forever. I could never afford [an AlterG], 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…

From 364. 3rd Year Status Update: Mobility

364.  3rd Year Status Update:  Mobility

364. 3rd Year Status Update: Mobility

Coach R (Q3‘14): We’re gonna have fun today.

Ooh. Maybe we were going to watch cartoons on one of the TVs and eat popcorn. But then I remembered that Coach R’s definition of fun and my definition of fun were likely different.

“We’re going to do the agility ladder,” he announced.

Yep, very different.


He had to tell me multiple times about each pattern we were supposed to do. Please note: the ladder is taped on the floor, so it’s a flat surface I can’t trip on. Also, I say “we” since we progress up and down the ladder together although I have graduated from holding one hand plus Coach R gripping my arm to just the one hand.

Here are some quotes from Ladder Time:

Me:   I didn’t realize how brain damaged I was until I started working out.

R:     You can go faster. (Translation: Chop Chop)

Me:   Daddy’s over there (the waiting room is within eyesight of the ladder) so I gotta not fall down, k?

C (a pro athlete who was observing and remarked to another pro during their workout): I’m jealous – R never holds my hand.


And here’s the latest and funniest exchange yet:

R:      Knees up – I want to see more bounce and faster movement on the balls of your feet. You’re more athletic than you think.

Me:    [voice full of hope] I could do bunny hops (two-footed jumps like little kids do on a balance beam).

R:      That would be…interesting. (Translation: Bunny Hop = unacceptable substitution for this exercise.)

Me:   [uncontrollable laughing…once I caught my breath:] Ok, R, if you were me, what would it look like?

R tried hard to modify his movements but only got a quarter way down the ladder before I doubled over laughing again.

Me:   Umm…I said If you were ME, what would it look like?

R tried again after an even longer pause indicating he was thinking deeply about the scenario. This time his knees were a hair lower than his first attempt but he was unable to slow it down.

I laughed again and realized I couldn’t press him any more to imagine having impaired mobility. We all have our limits.

I will say, though, that the Ladder has gotten easier with practice. It helps to see the parade of athletes who frequent the Running Gym on the Ladder as I “run” in the AlterG. I get plenty of examples of what it should look like. I can even recognize C by the movement of her feet if I just see a blur out of the corner of my eye. One day I asked: Why doesn’t it look like that when I do the ladder? C: ‘Cause that’s all I’ve been doing for the past 5 years.

Practice makes perfect. That’s why we’re doing this – not just for the (unintentional) laughs. Believe it or not I’m pretty compliant – I generally do as I’m told but ask questions to indicate that I’m paying attention to the kind of care I’m receiving. This is a habit I formed when I woke up and got tired of people sticking needles in my uncooperative veins. I decided if someone wanted blood, they’d have to give me a good reason. Now that I’m training with crazy people it’s comforting to know there really is a method to the madness.

I asked Coach R one day if he thought I’d ever run on a regular treadmill. I’m not sure yet, he said. I’ll know more once I see how you do on the Agility Ladder.

He’s exposing me to more challenging types of movement. Interestingly, he also noted that he’s actually more comfortable with me in motion as opposed to being still. This was soon after the time when I almost fell off a table but was already lying down.

During a different exercise I queried, How come we’re doing this?

He answered simply: Because if the more difficult movements become easier the simpler ones will, too.

A week ago during Stretchy Time Coach R said plaintively, We haven’t done the full workout in a long time…

Bahahahaha!! Poor Coach R. I haven’t been letting him do what he does best at full throttle. Well, things are looking up. My pain melted away after I saw my new doctor and consulted Smurfette the Dietician last week. I have resumed the home circuits Trainer D instituted and thought I was doing GREAT! And then My Fitness Pal was mean to me on Sunday. But I digress.

Trainer D informed me that now that I’m seeing Smurfette he’s really going to push me. PS. My core was so sore I avoided laughing for several days this week.

So a few days later I asked Coach R if we could resume the full workout with zero restrictions. I figure if he sees me in distress he’ll adjust accordingly. He had looked at my chart and realized we had been doing more stuff than he recalled but it’s significant to me that his impression was that we had been holding off.

Well, it’s time to ramp it up again. Wow – I haven’t thought about movement this much since I was a kid in a leotard trying desperately to get airborne. The current state of things is similar: Execution is elusive but my theory is fantastic.


Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

455. Mom Bjorlie Update



Mom Bjorlie has been scheduled for surgery:  Friday – January 23rd.  Please pray for her and the whole family!

She is recovering well from the flu but it appears the situation may be more complicated than originally thought, although I don’t think open heart surgery could ever be looked lightly.  There is an aortic aneurism (I have to go Google that right now), and an ultrasound on Monday to make sure there’s not one in her stomach, too.  Also, the mitral valve might need replacing, but the surgeon won’t know until he looks around during the procedure.

Hmm…this is the part where we pray hard.  Thankfully, what we view as scarily complex is small potatoes to the Lord.  But He knows we get anxious anyway and He sympathizes with us.  :)

454. 3 Good Things: (3) Feeding People

J handled the sharp objects for me :)

J handled the sharp objects for me :)

The 3rd really fabulous thing that happened recently is that I’ve learned how to cook well enough to feed people! A couple of years ago I was leafing through a Crate & Barrel catalog and when I came to the pots and pans I lost it. I’m talking UGLY cry. I was so sad and I missed all my pretty dishes and cookware that Mommy gave me before I moved to Oregon. So then I bought a Vitamix and decided to learn how to cook. You all joined me as I posted recipe after experimental recipe in 2013.

So last month I decided to invite J and myself (Team Tanimal’s Recreation Director) over to A and DGI’s house to prepare 3 meals. It worked out great bc they had a fun houseguest who took charge of mashing the potatoes (Thank you, K!), their little girl loves watching the Food Network (so we were entertaining), A got a little rest since she was extremely pregnant at the time (PTL baby boy is here and all are well. PS. He’s cute as a button), and they ended up with food for the weekend!

We made:


272.  Dairy Free Clam or Chicken Chowder

272. Dairy Free Clam or Chicken Chowder


It was a great morning. The night before I sent A a picture of the day’s checklist. She loved it – she said it reminded her of the checklist I came up with when I coordinated her wedding. I have no recollection of that checklist but I’ll take her word for it.


The fact that I made a checklist that listed every step is a trick I learned from other brain injury survivors. When I asked them how to cook they really emphasized the importance of planning. A non brain injured person would know immediately that for main dish X, sides A B or C would be suitable. But if you have a brain injury you’ll be wasting too much time remembering what A B and C are whereas you’ll need to keep your wits about you so you can keep track of your potholders and dishtowels since you are likely to set one on a heat source and potentially burn the house down. #True story. (The house didn’t actually burn down, there was just a significant incident.)

132.  10 Tips for the Disabled Cook

132. 10 Tips for the Disabled Cook

I avoided this problem by keeping the sides to a minimum, but I did write things down in the order in which I needed to do them, or ask others to do them :) so we could finish all 3 dishes in one morning. So we prepped the onion and pepper, roasted the veggies, and put my Vitamix (thanks for carrying it around, J!) to good use and since I had thought it all out and written it down the night before we carried it off without a hitch and sat down to enjoy a nice lunch after our labors.

Go, Team, go!!


My Trainers have both been amused by my Bossy Smurf checklists and behavioral patterns. Admittedly, a lot of it is personality and when I was an administrative assistant I ran a tight ship. Or at least I flattered myself that I ran a tight ship. But now running a tight ship is more necessity than preference. My brain simply doesn’t process multiple things simultaneously well. Visual, audible and mental clutter are paralyzing for me, and I’ve heard the same from many other survivors. The problem is that life is messy and it’s difficult to streamline my processes all the time – so when I am able to it’s a victory in RecoveryLand.

Ruthie explained once, Tans show love through food.

My latest project is to get Mommy to assign me dinner duty once a week like I do at Boo Boo’s house. It would’ve happened a lot sooner but Tanpo doesn’t like my food. I don’t blame him. Who wouldn’t rather eat Mommy’s cooking?

I’ll say stuff like, Hey, Daddy – I just made some delicious DF cream of celery and spinach soup. It’s such a pretty shade of green. You want some?

Poor Daddy gets such a pained look on his face. He doesn’t favor my cashew cream and nutritional yeast creations.   I’ll try to cook some Asian stuff to accommodate him, but I have to put my thinking cap on bc you often have to cut veggies and meat pretty small and evenly so they cook at the same rate in the wok.

Ummm….precision is not my forte, so we’ll see how that pans out. I’ve been amusing Mommy for the past week by asking things like, Does Daddy like enchiladas? What about (cauliflower) Alfredo?

Heh heh. My first dinner duty is tomorrow night. I’m not telling Dad, but I’m making the DF clam chowder and he IS going to like it :).

UPDATE: he liked it. And last night he ate kale.

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!