51. “I see this very well…”

[Burundi March 2011] Pippin, the family dog.

[Burundi March 2011] Pippin, the family dog.

July 2014 update:  My friends, JJZME (from Burundi) are coming to visit!  I am SO excited.  The last time I saw them was November 2011.  It was very soon after my injury and I spent most of the time behind a closed door when I could, crying.  I was sad because I had known they were planning to go on furlough and I had hoped to go back with them at this time (I had hatched this plan before I got sick.)  But God had other plans, and I’m happy to welcome them now.  This time around I’m much improved and promised to make them fun smoothies in my Vitamix and give them rides in my new wheelchair, Red.  So I’m going on vacation next week.  See you in August, and as always, thanks for reading.

PS.  This is one of my favorite posts ever.  Sometimes you gotta just call a spade a spade.

Manzanita, OR

Originally posted 11.28.12 After a few false starts I was able to start using an alarm clock again.  It helps since I have to be up early to get to Planet Rehab on Tues/Thurs.  VT is just down the road so getting there doesn’t take so much doing on Mon/Wed, but I just set the clock for the same time every day since it takes too much eye-work and motor skills to change it.  I have long favored waking to the radio vs. the buzzer and I recently woke to hear a message by Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, the pilot among the 5 missionaries who were killed in Ecuador.  Steve is the little blonde boy in that famous Life Magazine photo of his cowboy-hatted profile with the beautiful tropical bird in the background (a gift from the people who eventually killed his father).  Now if you have no idea what I’m talking about go watch Beyond the Gates of Splendor on Netflix – it’s a documentary (2004), and there’s a hysterical sequence at the end that shows Steve Saint and Mincaye going to the supermarket.  There was also a feature film made about this subject in 2006 called The End of the Spear.

What really gripped me about Steve Saint’s message was the story he told about his youngest child.  She was the first girl in the family, and the Saints were thrilled.  It took some convincing on her part but they allowed her to go on tour (she was a musician) for a year.  On the day of her return in 2000 she wanted to lie down for a bit since she had a headache.

She had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and the paramedics came to whisk her to the hospital.  There was a huge flurry of activity which must have looked very strange to Mincaye, their adopted grandfather, who was staying with them.  Mincaye was a member of the Waodani (referred to in the past as the Auca Indians) and he had been a member of the group that had speared the 5 missionaries when he was a young man.  There had been no time to explain what was happening to Mincaye, so in the middle of the hospital hubbub Mincaye caught Steve Saint by the arm and asked, “Who is doing this?”

I think his question implied that he was ready to go spear the responsible parties with an IV pole if they were hurting his “granddaughter.”  Steve Saint simply said, “I don’t know.”

But then understanding illuminated Mincaye’s face and the fierceness drained out of it.  “Aaaah, I see this very well,” he said, using a turn of phrase characteristic of his native tongue.  “God Himself is doing this.”

The Saints’ daughter died that day and the story of their loss grieved me to the core.  But Mincaye’s words struck me as a brilliant summary of a very dark and sad event.  His mere presence in the Saint home is a powerful testimony of love and forgiveness.     He was responsible for Nate Saint’s death and yet Steve and his family welcomed Mincaye into their inner circle where he discharged his duties as grandfather with honor.  But it was his words at the hospital that I find even more daring than the change in his life after becoming a follower of Christ.  I personally would have cringed at assigning responsibility to God that day in the hospital.  But Mincaye just called a spade “a spade,” and maybe I should, too.

Last night I told Mommy, “Sometimes I wish this hadn’t happened but I know it really did happen and I’m so used to it now that I don’t really wish it hadn’t happened anymore.”   When I was hospitalized in OR it took a while for me to acknowledge that my injury might have happened.  After I decided that everything was too detailed to be a dream I started thinking, Okay, this happened, but my behavior and the questions I asked indicated that I was hoping it hadn’t happened.  It wasn’t until about a year ago that I stopped hoping it hadn’t happened and started accepting that it did.  It’s taken some time but I’ve gradually become unafraid of assigning responsibility for what happened to me to God.  Now I know that it’s okay to carry my logic through to the end point and rest the responsibility in His hands – after all, He is God – it’s not like He can’t handle it. (Side note:  Forgive my colloquialism – you know I mean it reverently.) 

Admittedly, I’m still a far piece off from “celebrating” the fact that this happened to me.  I mean, come on – I’m still getting used to acceptance.  But check back with me in a year or two and we’ll see what my story is then.  Speaking of celebrating, I’m going to start thinking about Ed’s 82nd Birthday Bash!  My brother will celebrate a milestone birthday then too, so maybe we’ll all go up to see them and party together.  Hey, E&R – let’s discuss.

p.s.  I did okay at PT yesterday and am back to my M-Th therapy schedule.  Let the good times roll!  Thanks for praying.

p.p.s.  Steve Saint was badly injured in June 2012.  He was testing an aircraft (his ministry designs flying devices for indigenous peoples) and something (sorry, I’m unclear on the details) fell from the sky and hit him on the head, resulting in neck-down paralysis.  He’s had spinal surgery, is regaining feeling and can walk now, but I’m sure he and his family would appreciate your prayers as he continues to recover. 

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395. Decision Day 2014

July 2014 | AVM Rupture Recovery Year 3

July 2014 | AVM Rupture Recovery Year 3


Mommy took these pictures at lunch last week.   I’ve been practicing my laughing lately and yes, I’ve started shopping in the little boy’s section since I started needing more exercise clothes.  I just can’t relate to what they sell in the women’s activewear department.

I explained to my Trainers last week that  the fact that I can look you in the eye and talk to you about this with confidence is not because I have been untouched by this situation.  It’s because I already decided…

223.  I Found Grace in the Valley

Grace in the Valley | Paul goes to Rome | Ann Ning Learning How

This is one of KAR’S pictures from the R Family tour of Israel last year.  I asked her to send it to me because it’s one of my Daddy’s favorite things to tell me about.  The Apostle Paul made no secret of his desire to go to Rome (Romans 1.10), but he ended up going in a way he would never have chosen – by appealing to Caesar he was escorted to Rome as a prisoner and used his time well to share the Good News with many of Caesar’s household (Philippians 4.22).  The fact that he didn’t get to go to Rome when he wanted to also resulted in the letter he wrote to the Romans – and we have profited from the epistolary treatise for generations.

KAR sent me this picture a long time ago and I filed it away in my Flickr account until I wanted to write about it.  Today’s the day!  I think Tanpo likes to tell be about Paul going to Rome because it is such an encouraging and instructional example of someone who was forced to walk a path he wouldn’t have chosen, but in retrospect we are privileged to see how the Lord multiplied Paul’s impact via those circumstances that were hard to live through but were chosen and planned from the perspective of the eternal Divine.


121.  How to Eat Ice Cream While Minimizing the Health Consequences

121. How to Eat Ice Cream While Minimizing the Health Consequences

KRK (remember him from the Life of Elijah – I Kings 19 at the end of my How to Eat Ice Cream… post?) wrote an article in this month’s Missions magazine.   (Do you get Missions?  You should.  Or if you want to save paper you can read it online.)  It’s called “When God Says, ‘No’ so that Missions Advance”It’s on the inside cover if you’re reading the hard copy, or page 2 of the pdf.  What an honor that would be – to receive this kind of “No” for His greater glory.  KRK mentions me in the article (thanks, K!) and when he first talked to me about it I was floored at the prospect.

I said this a couple of weeks ago, but this is not just “my story.”  It’s the situation the Lord chose me to entrust with.  Don’t get me wrong – a lot of times I feel like I could have totally done without the privilege of being “chosen”, but then I remember that He planned this from the beginning and will provide my resources for living and I can smile again.

A couple of weeks ago Ai Ai and I were Hee-Hawing in the aisle of a store as I pushed a cart along for exercise.  “Boo Boo,” I reflected, “sometimes I think I might laugh too much to be a credible disabled person.”  She told me, No no, the sound of laughter is evidence of a joyful heart – and that is a Very Good Thing.  I guess genuine laughter does point to a joyful <3, which increases my credibility as a disabled person who trusts God for His perfect plan even though things have been looking extremely imperfect for quite a while now.

When I shared what’s been going on with the lovely group of Ladies at the end of July it was the first time since I got sick that I could say, “I found grace in the valley.”  There is often a distinction between what we know to be true vs. what we feel to be true.   On that Saturday the two coincided for me in a very sweet way.  As I was talking I was thinking, I’ve got this,” because this has been my life for 2+ years and so I know this “story” well.  But as I was talking I realized that many of the ladies there had no earthly idea these thoughts had been going through my head and it was good for them to hear me say what everyone was thinking and then chronicle how the Lord let something Really Bad happen to me and then gave me peace about it.

Seriously – if you haven’t read “The Turning Point” please go do so, now. You can also listen to a clip of what I said that morning (7:41).   I write for many reasons, but this is the primary one.  I used to give people a little speech at The Place before I handed out tracts: “I’ve had time to consider whether or not this is true, and I think it is, so I want to make sure you know about it.”  It was early on in my outpatient life and I was like, “C’mon – who’s really gonna say, ‘No’ to the girl in a chair?”  Heh, heh.  Sorry.

I was glad to see everyone on Saturday but it was a special treat to see R – JCJ’s mom.  Sister K came, too, and I got to meet her new baby and Grandpa, too.  It was great because I had corresponded earlier in the week with R but totally forgot to invite her to come on  Saturday!  Welcome to my world.  A couple of nights ago I also forgot to take my contacts out for the first time in 17 years.  I guess I was just really focused on getting in bed because my back was all done.

A year ago I visited with R and she asked me in such a gracious, winsome way, “Is it okay that you lived?”  She’s pretty much the only person in the world who could ask me that with the weight of experience behind the question and true friendship lending it sweetness.  The fact that she’s JCJ’s mom is yet another one of those things I see too much intentionality in to be considered coincidental.

Yeah, it’s okay that I lived.  More than okay.  And on Saturday I got to say why.

P.S. the title of this post is a play on the song, “In the Valley” by Sovereign Grace.  It’s based on the titular prayer from The Valley of Vision – the collection of Puritan Prayers and devotions introduced to me by Drs. M&S when they visited me during my Amazingly Happy Summer in OR 2010.  It’s a very peaceful song – if you like it go Google it and you’ll find that Sovereign Grace very kindly provides free tabs, lyrics, lead sheets and piano scores(melody and chords only) online.


395. Well Suited


A long time ago we celebrated graduations by helping the grad choose an "Interview Suit"

A long time ago we celebrated graduations by helping the grad choose an “Interview Suit.”

We welcomed a childhood friend back to our church recently and he inquired with another friend, How is Ning?

Stronger than ever, was the response. [Great answer – thank you!]

He pressed for more information since he hadn’t seen me since childhood: Well, how strong was she?

Strong enough to survive the bleed.

Strong enough to learn to walk when I was 31.

Strong enough to keep on “running” today even though my left leg was dragging on the belt pathetically.

And strong enough to admit that the life I lost wasn’t the life I really wanted, anyway.

The consensus is that I will never be the same. I generally avoid the language of medical certainty (I like to leave room for Divine Intervention and medical opinions likely don’t take this into account), but I agree that I won’t be the same…and that’s okay. I’m ready to acknowledge that I don’t want to be the same. I don’t know what my end state is going to be but I’m sure it will be some sort of “good.” Come along for the ride and we’ll find out together.

348.  What's This Going to Look Like?

348. What’s This Going to Look Like?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve finally started to settle down after Oregon. I’ve been test-driving the ideas you’ve been reading about with my focus group (viz. my friends) and they helped me think stuff through. They didn’t just “yes” me to death, they made me elaborate on my statements and explain things fully.

When I met with my elders at W (my OR church) to tell them about my desire to visit Burundi one of the things they said was that it was good that I wasn’t running ahead of everyone, assuming they’d catch up. I had spent 6 months in silence regarding my Africa Dream. I didn’t even tell my parents bc I was like, I might be insane. I’ll pray about it and we’ll see if this is just a passing fancy.

It wasn’t. 6 months later (the happiest of my life) I told my parents and it was another several months before Daddy said I could talk to my elders and ask J&J to host me in Burundi.

So I took my time. I only talked to God about this crazy plan and then I started enlisting the help of spiritual heavy-hitters in my life to help me.

I took my time with transitioning to RecoveryLand, too. It’s been over 3 years. It took me over a year to do anything online. It’s taken me over a year and a half of writing to get comfortable with making definitive statements.

I used to poll on the miraculousness of my survival and ask questions like, I think this situation is kind of “extreme.” Would you agree? I was appalled at what had happened but was unsure if I was sizing the problem correctly. This was only compounded by the fact that once you leave the acute stage of illness and transition to Recovery you have to earn your spot in the public’s consciousness. Your world stopped, but everyone else’s keeps on turning. It took me a while to understand that this was a completely natural order of events and to choose to try to re-integrate myself into the stream of life.

367.  The Fellowship of His Sufferings

367. The Fellowship of His Sufferings

When people stop and think about it, though, they tell me that yes, this was a big deal. Not always in words, but their eyes fill with tears at the thought of the initial phone call they received. I mix in circles small enough for many people to know my name and have prayed for me (thank you!) even though I don’t know them. If we happen to meet, they will often cry, too. And perfect strangers (more so in the South) will approach me while I’m minding my beeswax in public and tell me about their struggles bc they deem me as “safe” to talk to.

The first time KRK saw me (this was before he knew I wanted to go to Africa, or anything – he just knew I had gotten sick) he said, Ning, now when you walk into a room you have instant credibility. [Side note: Ann vs. Ning FAQ]

He spoke from experience and compassion. I am humbled that that was the first thing he wanted to share with me.

When my friends thought about what happened their reactions ranged from “deep deep sorrow” to all-out “anger.” No one shared that they had been “angry” with me until a couple of weeks ago. And it came from a friend I have never seen angry before although we’ve been friends for over 20 years. It took guts/vulnerability to admit that, and it was tremendously validating for me because I was angry when I realized this was for real, and it was such a comfort to know that someone else had been angry on my behalf. (The word on the street is that this opinion was not a unique occurrence.)

But this same friend told me that the anger faded when I started to blog and everyone could read what I’ve been thinking about. To have it verbalized in such a way was wonderful. That was the effect I was going for although I couldn’t have articulated it when I first started.

204.  Food for Thought when Launching A Business part 2:  Competitors and your Product's Superiority

Attribute Map | 204. Food for Thought when Launching A Business part 2: Competitors and your Product’s Superiority

I don’t do this bc I survived a cataclysmic health event and want to join the already saturated “inspirational” and “self-help” market. I write because God gave me hope when I was ready to throw in the towel and He did so via ordinary means and publicly-available information. I’m not asking anyone to take my word on what I saw in The Valley of the Shadow. Since God preserved me cognitively I’m asking you to use your noggin, like I did.

I’ve written before that although God made it very clear that I’ll not be getting what I wanted I’m sure I‘ll be getting exactly what I was made for. But this is the first time I’m making this statement: I was made for this.

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394. Spectacle

(Mar/April 2011)  I had just gotten home from Burundi and J-->G took a bunch of us to dinner to get the full story.  I was jet-lagged but the pizza helped. :)

(Mar/April 2011) I had just gotten home from Burundi and J–>G took a bunch of us to dinner to get the full story. I was jet-lagged but the pizza helped. :)

There is an element of spectacle about what happened to me. I had just come home from Burundi and everyone was like, How did that girl survive Africa?!?!? There was a huge “Princess & the Pea” element to my desire to move to the 3rd world that made people (myself first of all) look on with wide-eyed wonder at the whole thing.

And then word circulated that something had happened and I was on life support in Oregon. My friends called each other and tried to break the news gently. One of the reactions was, No, it can’t be her – she’s fine. She was bouncing around here last week.

So I was already being observed bc it was an uncommon choice (certainly one that no one was expecting from me) to want to turn my back entirely on the American Dream and move to Africa. But I never got that far.

When I first got home I was at church with Ai Ai and as I maneuvered into my chair I felt like everyone was watching (they kind of were – they were all poised to intervene if I needed assistance.) Boo Boo, I hissed, I’m such a sideshow right now.

No you’re not, she comforted me.   Mind the wall. (She didn’t want me to hit myself.)

Last week I told my Trainers about the element of spectacle surrounding this situation as part of the context for a “Goal Reset” I’ve been thinking of for a while now. I told them it was like I got lit on fire, jumped off a bridge into a roaring river and made it.

Side note:  Special thanks to the dear friends who helped me think through this statement.  I was originally afraid it sounded too bold.  But once we talked through it we agreed that I wasn’t overstating the case.  I also got some good laughs regarding these theoretical scenarios:

This is my new analogy to illustrate the difference bw Trainer D and Coach R:

(1) Theoretical conversation with Trainer D:

Me: Hey, D, I want to jump off a cliff.

Trainer D: [holding hand aloft in a “rock on” symbol] I’m coming with! Let’s take my bike. [His ill-advised motorcycle.]

(2) Theoretical conversation with Coach R:

Me: Hey, R, I want to jump off a cliff.

Coach R: Official response – That will not help you reach your long-term goals. [Sotto voce] But between you and me I want to see good form on the way down.

These people (even in their theoretical forms) totally crack me up. It helps that I crack myself up, too.

But back to my original analogy about being lit on fire and jumping off a bridge: yes, I made it, but I didn’t swim to safety on my own. I was rescued.

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Cubicle Decor


I got a package in the mail recently from W (my Oregon church).  Inside was a notebook that was found among the things I gave away when we cleaned out my garage.  (PS.  Thanks again for making it so easy, everyone!)  The notebook was actually a gift from my eldest niece, Hannah.  The front cover was a picture of her posing cheekily on one of our family vacations.  This picture (above) is of the inside cover.  On the bottom, the thing that starts with, “byg…” is the first email she ever sent me.  She was probably 1+ and pounded on the keyboard while sitting on Ai Ai’s lap.  I printed it out and taped it to my monitor at work.  It was my favorite article of cubicle of decor.  When I left my first job I took down my baby’s “email” and pasted it in my notebook.  I’m glad I got it back.


357.  Thank You

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66. Enthusiasm

Originally posted 12.18.12 – This video only gets funnier with time.

Seriously?  What  is Karine celebrating in this movie?  (If you haven’t watched the clip yet, do it.  Be forewarned – it’s noisy.)  The original version is 2 minutes long (I cropped this to ~40 seconds) but I assure you, she says “Yay” and claps enthusiastically the whole time.  Maybe she was just glad to be at the piano and to be with her cousin.  Joshie and Karine are still quite attached to one another.

This summer when I played sudoku on the iPad with my left hand (“Oooh!  I wanted the 6, not the 7!  There goes my score.)  I used to listen to a mix of kiddie songs Ernie made for Karine when she was a baby.  One of them is called, “So Glad I’m Here.”  It’s very repetitive and I normally have an aversion to repetitive songs, but I tried really hard to like this one and be glad “I’m here.”  It’s better, but it’s still a choice to be made.  But watching videos like this makes the choice easier.

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392. Preparation


Click for my LHTW video

ChezJ, Burundi, March 2011 | Click for my LHTW video


I’m getting ready to celebrate Decision Day 2014 next week. I’ve had a lot of things racing through my head lately and I’m working them out by writing about them. Thanks for “listening.” I’m doing a “fun” post tomorrow, promise. I first found this letter by accident on my hard drive around the time we went to OR. It was too painful for me to do anything other than skim and then close the window, but I’m not tiptoeing around this anymore. I asked God for a life’s work. It was bigger than I thought it would be.

To remind you: this is my friend, Mr. N. I wrote the letter to Mr. and Mrs. N – they are JJ’s maternal grandparents and I would invite myself over to “The Farm” in OR to visit them twice a month when I lived there. It was such a huge blessing to have the N’s as resources to help me think through the ramifications of such a decision.

344.  I'm all done Goodbye

344. I’m all done Goodbye

August 2010 – to Mr. and Mrs. N

…As you pointed out last Sunday this is a BIG decision…seeing as how I’m not quite ready for social security yet :). (July ’14 Update: The US gov’t decided I’m ready after all and I am grateful to be on Social Security Disability) That’s why I appreciate your prayers so much. I did read that article in Missions Magazine and have been collecting more and more information from books, other missionaries etc. Over the past several weeks my heart has been gradually filled with peace regarding this matter. The questions you asked/suggestions you laid out in your note have been very helpful, Mr. N, and I’d like to write a few thoughts concerning each:

  1. Does any other avenue look as good? Would I be as content at Intel as in Bujumbura?
    I am definitely grateful to have a good job at Intel, but when I think of what I would like my life’s work to be, working in Corporate America is not it. My personality has always been work-driven, i.e. I work hard and long, seeing good work as a way of maintaining one’s testimony and honoring the Lord’s name. But my greatest satisfaction at work has always been sharing the Lord with co-workers and seeing Him draw them near to Himself, and He has given me a heart to love all kinds of people –security guards, secretaries, executives, associates. The idea of being able to serve the Lord “full-time” fills my heart with joy. Since the beginning of the year I have been asking the Lord to give me some special service for Him and that if it was not His will that He would take the desire away from me. Well, the desire has only gotten stronger (and to borrow a phrase from CMML’s Global Strategy) “What once seemed unattractive and impossible, now seems delightful and compelling.”
  2. Find a Scripture

    374.  Arms of Love

    374. Arms of Love

    On the night of August 13th I was lying in bed thinking of Burundi and worrying about the fact that I’ve never been to Africa and if I could really “handle it.” The Lord brought to my mind Christmas of 2005. A very very dear lady from my chapel, Aunty Sila, was dying of multiple myeloma. I went to visit her on December 23rd. It was apparent that her condition was deteriorating rapidly (so much from even 1 week before), and that she would be going home to be with the Lord soon. Her husband, Uncle B(W) , needed help, and I wanted very much to be able to stay with them that night, but was nervous that I might be indulging my propensity for what Isobel Kuhn calls “missionary heroics.” So I called my mom and dad, who are very good at keeping me accountable, and consulted them. They loved Aunty Sila too, (everyone loved Aunty Sila!) and said that yes, if I wanted to stay, it would be a good thing to help Uncle Bill. So Dad came over to Uncle Bill’s apartment with my toothbrush and pajamas, and brought Dr. M, (Clarification: my favorite endocrinologist, as opposed to “guitar boy”) another one of the elders, with him. Dr. M sat me down and said that he knew I wanted to stay, but he was concerned because he didn’t think I had ever seen anyone die before, and that I should be aware that it could be scary. I remember at that moment I just looked him in the eye, and said “No, I haven’t ever seen anyone die before, but I’m not afraid. I want to stay.” And I did…I stayed and watched with Aunty Sila for 2 days and 2 nights until she went home to be with the Lord. I had no idea what I would be called upon to do during that time, and if I had maybe I would have gone home with Dad! But I will always recall watching with Aunty Sila and attending to her in her final hours as one of the highest honors of my life…anyway, I know that I stayed with Aunty Sila for a weekend, whereas now I’m talking about a potentially long-term/permanent move to Africa, but my point is that I was not afraid because I knew that the Lord would give me the grace I needed when I needed it, and that the underlying motivation was LOVE. I loved Aunty Sila so much…so as I recalled all of these events as I lay in bed the Lord brought 2 Cor 5.14-15 to mind:

“For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, and if one died for all, therefore all died, and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

  1. Look at circumstances
    The biggest circumstance that I see pointing towards my going to Bujumbura is simply that J&J have asked folks to pray that the Lord would provide someone to help with the financial aspects of the ministries there. For the first time EVER I do not just have a generally benevolent wish to “serve the Lord,” but an area that I am trained in and could fill a true and specific need. Also, my job is a rotation program, meaning that they expect me to move on to another job within Intel within the next 6-9 months. So the environment at Intel already includes the assumptions that I will be moving on soon, and that they will need to hire a replacement for me. I have not communicated my desire to go to Burundi to J&J yet, but have corresponded in more general terms with them and received a very kind and encouraging note from them this week. I will wait until I speak more with my parents, and Lord-willing, speak with the Elders at W (my OR church), and at my chapel in Maryland, asking them for their prayers and counsel…

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391. Smile

GRIN.  I love how Ezzie is lounging in the background.

GRIN. I love how Ezzie is lounging in the background.


 A few weeks ago I had a sadder day and I told Mommy, “It’s been a tough year.”

“It’s been a tough 3 years,” she shot back.

I had been thinking only of 2014 so far and how it was only half over yet, but I had to concede the point. It has been kind of rough.

But it’s been really great, too – I’m getting better and am starting to get used to my new life. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t think of my Old Life often and miss it terribly.

I looked at some old pictures with a friend from my Old Life recently and she said the primary difference she sees is that I don’t smile as readily anymore. A friend from my New Life, upon seeing pictures of me pre-AVM for the first time, remarked that it’s great that my smile is the same.

The two opinions can coexist. When I see laughing pictures of myself or me wearing a cheeky t-shirt, or me mugging with my babies I recognize that my smile is indeed the same. But in posing pictures, like at an event, you can read the undercurrent in my eyes. Or maybe just one eye, to be accurate, since I only really have control over one.

Happy Father's Day 2014

Happy Father’s Day 2014

I never used both eyes fully, so this is not new – but I am more self conscious now about my facial weakness and what I look like in general. When I see old pictures of myself I marvel at the visual confidence I see in myself and try to remember what looking straight into a camera’s lens without thinking felt like. To remind you – I was never overly happy about my appearance in my Old Life – it was simply irrelevant. The question of what I looked like just didn’t come up. Now it’s front and center, and that’s why I asked DGI to make the cover shot of my book as fuzzy as possible with my walking ring in the foreground.


I’ve found that when I struggle hard with a question it either helps me figure out what to say (I’m going for Words of Life, although I sprinkle in stories to make you laugh), or it helps me to go back and remember or reread what I said about this subject the last time I struggled with this question.

Some questions get settled once and for all. Some questions come back to haunt you with every new situation that arises. This is one of those questions. So it’s a good thing I’ve gotten well enough to exercise the mental acuity necessary to practice and deliver a message bc since I can’t depend on notes as much relevant points get stored in my head. I have been trained for this. I know how to do this, but the thing is I kept on falling asleep last year so the practicing didn’t really materialize. But this year my stamina and breathing/core strength! have improved vastly and I was able to plan and give an appropriately timed talk to the ladies at Ai Ai’s.

I gave a brief devotional on my favorite subject lately, Appraisal, and one of my points was that like it or not, our kids – girls, especially, although I read/heard something recently that adolescent boys are increasingly feeling pressure regarding their appearance :( – will be looked at and appraised. They will not know what to do about this at first. I sure didn’t. That’s why the awkward years were so painful. So it behooves us to help prepare them by making sure their sense of identity is strong enough for them to know it and be confident about who they are. The best way to do this is to model what this looks like ourselves.

349.  Appraisal

349. Appraisal

There are things I cannot influence about the way I look – at least not overnight. We’ll see what the future holds. Many people have told me that they can’t really see a huge difference in my appearance post-AVM. But the thing is that I feel it, and what grieves me is the excruciating self-consciousness it produces.

But although I know I don’t smile as readily anymore, I am thankful that my “new” smile (even though it’s crooked sometimes) is the same. That means that I have a happy heart. I used to be 100% about the presentation. Mommy says I was very controlled. The brain injury has ruled this out as a viable option. But I look healthier than I did a year ago, for sure. I know bc multiple friends at Ai Ai’s gym told her they were surprised and happy to see me looking so improved relative to the year before. One lady said, She’s like, glowing. That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me. I told Boo Boo maybe it’s bc I’m wearing different make up but she didn’t think this was the cause. So instead of worrying about how to strike a flattering pose I think it will be safer for me to go for inside-out radiance.

221.  Radiant

221. Radiant

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390. Vacation

One of my favorite vacation pics ever.  FL April '07

One of my favorite vacation pics ever. FL April ’07

Team Tanimal’s Recreation Director (J, you just got a promotion from PT28/Mall Therapist) Googled “Fun things to do when you’re [physically] disabled.” I thought it was hilarious but was also touched. Sniff.

I cannot enjoy most things I used to and am bound by strict parameters – e.g. time of day (the earlier the better), existing appointments (I’m already heavily scheduled), proximity to an acceptable restroom, recommended water and food intake, accessibility etc. I realized after going to Aruba for Thanksgiving that flights over 4 hours mess with my head (even more so than it’s already compromised), and flying to Oregon gave me bright red spots on my lower legs even though I did squats whenever I could. Booo. My preventative measures failed. But I’m getting better so maybe these won’t be problems in the future. At this point, though, I’m not too interested in doing a trial run.

301.  Post-Vacay Recap:  Aruba

301. Post-Vacay Recap: Aruba


Even riding in a car for a couple hours a couple weekends ago triggered the return of my pain (this time it was the right shoulder and hip). Daddy preached at E&R’s chapel – Side Note: excellent job, Tanpo. I enjoyed your thoughts re. Moses – and I used the eraser-end of a mechanical pencil to poke myself in the shoulder the whole time since my Theracane didn’t come to church with me. I also fell asleep after the return trip home with my right leg dangling off the bed. This is a version of a stretch that M37 and Trainer D favor – it’s obviously better when a professional is helping you, but sometimes you do whatever you can.

Happily, I was able to sleep the pain off sans medication. This is a phenomenon unknown to me thus far and I welcome it! That said, it still makes me nervous that going away has its ramifications.

It’s also almost impossible to unplug mentally now. This is not my hobby. Nor is this my career. I am not an endurance athlete or a weekend warrior. This is my life.

I would love to take a vacation from all of this. The question of how to do that has weighed heavily on my recently since it’s summertime and parts of Team Tanimal have been taking well-earned time off.

I am a great advocate of taking time away from work. My first boss used to have to struggle with me to get me to go on vacation and forget about things for a while (I was not overly proficient at setting business continuity practices in place), but my last boss was more successful although I still insisted on being around at quarter-end and year-end to close the books bc I quailed at the thought of potentially unreliable remote access. (!!) In general, though, I think it makes people more effective if they get a break, and I need my people to be at their best.

In the meantime, I’m doing what I can. I figure it might be better to just spend an hour with my friends or my babies. But an hour is never enough – I always want to laugh more and am constantly exceeding my limits and paying the price later. You know by now that I love to laugh but you can probably imagine there’s always a bittersweet undercurrent.

So now I’m settling for a few minutes. I am so thankful that God is restoring the gift of music to me. Now that I’ve got my piano back I listened to the songs I recorded before I got sick and the familiar tunes, while they made my cry at first, are truly soothing. The rolling bass sounds I can’t produce anymore were what I was searching for in the hospital when I heard myself play for the first time and was absolutely shattered. I can sit down now and play with minimal forethought. Happily, most of my musical memory is intact; it’s just the motor skill and vision issues I’m working through.

Click for "I'm Taking Requests" medley

Click for “I’m Taking Requests” medley

I can also “run” on the AlterG with less effort. I still re-align myself every couple of minutes, think left-right for my arms and legs, and try hard to breathe appropriately, but it is SO much better than when I was first learning to walk. A reader recently left a comment on “152. 10 Tips for Learning to Walk Again” and remarked on how hard it is to remember to do everything all at once…but when you do, “it’s magical.” True – I remember thinking the same thing when I was an inpatient. Except the “magical” part – there was nothing magical about that experience. Dr. A(6) Frankenstein told me I needed to train my muscles how and when to fire. Update: they’re firing, albeit imperfectly.


359.  Running With Myself

359. Running With Myself

The AlterG remains one of the only “safe” places for me now and I enjoy my time (20-30 minutes) thoroughly. I have also started doing modified yoga and tai chi moves for a few minutes at a time bc my PT is a yoga enthusiast and shows me how to do things to improve my balance and I used to do tai chi (badly) before I got sick. But it’s a few minutes when I can stand outside alone (Mom or Dad can see me through the window) and look at my reflection in the glass and just breathe. Yes, I’m checking my alignment but thankfully that still comes naturally. It’s only 5 minutes but I congratulate myself on not falling down – I couldn’t do this a year ago! – and I thank God that things are different now. I used to look out the window from my hospital bed and watch the wind move the leaves on the trees. Now I’m standing on my deck and enjoying the breeze on my face.

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