Archive for January, 2017

New warning label for my ladder

 At age 63 do not use this ladder without a helper unless only using only the second step.

The best response from posting my accident of falling off a ladder while clearing ice buildup was from my elder brother. “Congratulations…if you keep trying you’ll catch up with me in the dumb stuff accident league. Heal quickly and always ask yourself, ‘what did I learn this time?'”

So, what did I learn?

My mobile phone should always go into my right hand pocket, as that was where I first looked for it when I was still on the snowy ground after my fall from the ladder.

I was reminded that I have very good friends. After getting myself inside, I quickly realized that I was in no condition to care for myself. I called my friend and neighbor, Amy, but she wasn’t home and had no transportation at the time. She asked if she could call another mutual friend. Sue came immediately, and suggested that we get my wedding ring off first, before swelling made it impossible. She found my old wrist brace, got out our cold gel packs, and stayed with me until my spouse arrived.

I learned that everyone has a dumb stuff story. I heard the best story on Monday when an x-ray confirmed the break and I went to my next appointment with a splint securing my left wrist. A woman older than myself began her story like this; “My husband had gone into town… “. I could relate. Mine had gone to a meeting.
She was on a ladder hanging a wallpaper border, reached too far and fell through a large window, but didn’t get cut or hurt in any way. Her husband came home and asked, “What happened to the window?” The woman proudly told me he didn’t get upset and they fixed the window.

I learned that my illustrations can be somewhat dated. When I explained to a medical tech that I had tried to reach too far as if I was Stretch Armstrong, she nodded and said, “Mine is Go Go Gadget.”

I was reminded how wonderful my spouse is. He rearranged his schedule several times this week to accommodate my needs. He shook his head at my foolishness, but never told me I was stupid. 

I am still learning various ways to get thing done one-handed. I cannot tie my shoes or put on my iWatch. The first day I needed help with almost everything. My spouse and I have done this dance before. Helping the other person get dressed because of some health issue has happened many times throughout our 42 plus years together. The dance does involve some conversation, a few assumptions and miscommunication, and then comes clarity and mission accomplished.

Finally, my own struggles remind to pray for others. As I tried to keep my arm higher than my heart even in bed, I prayed for those in pain who cannot find a comfortable position for sleep. When I had to think through the smallest details of a task in order to find alternate methods, I prayed for those with Parkinson’s disease like my friend, Steve Quam, who travels across the country on his bike in order to teach people how to live well with Parkinson’s. While I just had to figure out how to open my toothpaste, Steve has to think through how to shape his lips to play his flute, something that came effortlessly prior to the illness that affects muscle & brain connections.

My husband hopes I learned never to climb ladders, but I know that did not happen. Yet, the fall will remind me to climb down and move the ladder to a better position rather than trying to reach. And, oh yes, get a second person to help.

Steve Quam peddles for Parkinson’s
Learn to live well with Parkinson’s- Davis Finney Foundation


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Today would have been my youngest brother’s birthday. James Edward Dahl, born January 24, 1958, the youngest of five children, died August 18, 2012. His creative brain was stopped by an bursting aneurysm which soon after stilled his beating heart. More than four years later, I don’t need pictures to remind me of his warm smile or the pain that he medicated through alcohol.


I attended my first Al-anon meeting last week. I wish I had gone years ago. But I told myself that his alcoholism affected my co-dependent mom, not me. I lived too far away from his daily life. I thought I was not touched by this disease. However, as I tried to move forward after his death followed a year later by our mother’s death, I discovered many unresolved issues surrounding my relationship with my artistic, lonely, sharing but self-burdened younger brother.

At that Al-anon meeting, around the room I heard echoed my own thoughts and struggles. Why couldn’t  I fix him? How come I could not convince my mother of her co-dependency, as she gave him money and made excuses for him? During my visits to see him and mom, I’d ask, “Didn’t he love me enough to delay drinking until after the movie?”

I heard one admit that she was like the older brother who would not join his Father’s celebration at the return of the Prodigal Son in the story told by Jesus. In her words, I heard my brother’s accusation that I rode into town being the “Good Child” and leaving mom upset. When he blamed others and could say it aloud, he usually had been drinking and so my admission and apology could not be received, but I rarely heard his heart cries. I did not understand his inner pain or the hold that alcohol held over his life.

I was the self-righteous one with all the answers. Since his death, all I encounter is questions. If I couldn’t fix him, could I accept him for who he was? If I couldn’t understand his behavior, could I acknowledge his great love for his family, his friends, and his art? If he could not wait for that drink after a day of smiling at unreasonable customers, can I face the fact that I longed for him to be free, to be whole, and to receive the love that God and so many offered him? Can I see the log in my own eye in all those efforts to force our mother to see the speck in hers?

Today’s reading in Courage to Change, a book given to me at that first Al-anon meeting, I am encouraged to be myself, to own my own feelings of anger, embarrassment, resentment, or fear that one of my children may “catch this disease.” Today, I can choose to honor my brother’s struggles and his gifts. Today, I can embrace my own faults and contributions.

I can apply what William Shakespeare wrote, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

– link to Al-anon Family Groups in USA, Canada & Bermuda: http://al-anon.org

–  The Biblical story of the prodigal son can be found in the book of Luke chapter 15  with a few other lost and found stories.

–  Jesus’ words on the log and the speck are in Matthew which is printed here.
Matthew 7:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT) from Bible Gateway.com

3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,[b] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.                       [a & b: in Greek = brother]

– humorous note on context of Shakespeare
quote from Hamlet: https://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/thine-own-self-true

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