Posts Tagged ‘life’

Each January is hard. It’s not the snow or the cold or the harsh winds. It’s not even the darkness that lasts too long. It’s the heaviness on my heart as two birthdays come a week apart and those loved ones are gone.

Grief is an odd thing. Psychologists can tell us the stages of grief but they cannot tell us in what order they will come to us. The how often, how long, and how intense the waves of grief will be is unknown until after they pass.
“Shouldn’t you be over that by now?” says someone untouched by grief.

“It will get better.” 

Yes, it will. It’s easier to breathe now. The waves of grief seem further apart and less intense at most times. Each year is better. But the loss never goes away completely..

I miss my mom. I miss her smile. I wish she was here to tell us, “Can’t we just all get along?” 

I was very fortunate. I got to enjoy my mom for almost 60 years. On this day 4 years ago, my brother from Australia flew in to surprise her on her 90th birthday and one grandchild drove in sub-zero weather to celebrate with us.

None of us could have imagined that our mother would be dead eight months later. She enjoyed life too much to give it up. She tried as best she could to take care of her health. But her heart no longer had the power to the pump oxygen to all of her muscles and repeated falls weakened her. 

I was helping her after she broke her collarbone in a fall in early August. We spent a wonderful time celebrating my brother’s art at an event to honor him one year after his own death. We came back to my house and the excitement of my dog caused both of us to fall. Her head hit the wall and a tiny vessel in her brain started to bleed.

Within hours she started to leave us, despite the efforts of a medical team. A few short days later, she was gone.

So, those stages of grief that the counselors talk about come and go in waves that are hard to track. This January might be harder because I am dealing with issues that I had ignored for many years regarding my brother’s alcoholism. My mother is deeply ingrained in those memories.

How I wish I could take back the times I criticized her for helping too much, while trying to fix Jim’s problems. I didn’t realize I was doing the same thing to her, trying to fix her.

I remember our conversations after dad died. She missed him so much, but she wanted to keep living and live life as best she could. She had the confidence that she would see him again. That gave her hope and strength for each day.

That’s what she would want for all of us: to face life with confidence that God ultimately has everything in hand; to find hope and strength for this day and all the days to come.

Okay, mom. I’m going to smile today, remembering your smile. I’m going to make a new friend today, remembering your welcoming nature. I’m going to try as best I can to help everybody get along. And along the way, I have to make a few batches really of good Snickerdoodles and Spritz. Thanks, mom.
More on Snickerdoodles

According to Wikipedia, The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word Schneckennudel (“snail noodles”), a Palatine variety of schnecken.[1] It is also possible that the name is simply a nonsense word with no particular meaning, originating from a New England tradition of whimsical cookie names. Wikipedia- Snickerdoodles  

Click here for recipe and clear instructions: Super Soft Snickerdoodles from TheKitchn

 Spritz cookies – Our mom and dad, who often baked together, used a star-shaped tip in the cookie press and piped a long snaky shape onto a cookie sheet. Then, they cut the snake into individual “S” cookies. No sprinkles, frosting, dipping in chocolate or food coloring for them, as they enjoyed the rich buttery flavor unadorned. Occasionally, my parents created wreathes and other shapes but the “S” was the one I looked forward to eating.

A cookie press is helpful, but these can be made with a pastry bag or plastic bag with a star-shaped frosting tip. This Spritz recipe  from Serious Eats details the techniques to get great cookies, not just decent ones. 

Stages of grief 5 grief stages from PsychCentral

Help for those who grieve – An online support group can be a good start, but I recommend finding or beginning a local group whenever possible. The DailyStrength website offers a wide variety of support groups. This page on Death and Dying has  adult groups and a different group for teens.


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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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Faith Academy Cheers Opponents Nov.2008

I am glad I could verify this story that I received in an email forward. I was disappointed that one of the links I tried in my search simply repeated the email with no outside verification. That is how lies get passed on as the truth. This story, I am glad to say could be verified by at least two reputable sources.

Cheering the other team doesn’t have to be left on the football field. We can pray for our opponent in a law suit so that if greed motivates them (or us) that God will work to reveal that. We can pray for the person who cuts in front of us on the highway, so that God can calm their hearts and slow down the frantic pace of their lives. Maybe we should add a prayer of hope that the method God uses to slow them down doesn’t involve an accident with innocent victims.

Cheering for the mother with two crying infants at the grocery store may involve a sympathetic smile or something as generous as leaving $20 with the clerk to help pay for her food. Cheering for the son-in-law who calls to complain about his wife could mean really listening, instead of immediately arguing that the precious daughter is prefect.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves is not an easy command to follow, but whenever Jesus instructs us to do something, I have found that God gives us the strength, resources, and wisdom to do it. The beginning is the decision to try. Then, comes the first step.

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Her father takes the call. With a shaky voice, she begins,  “Well, I kinda had an accident.”

After establishing that she is okay, and talking calmly to assure her, my husband phones me.

“Give her a call. I think she’d like to talk to her mommy.”

Parenting continues long after the little ones have grown and left the nest. We get phone calls asking for recipes, telling us the latest saga in the learning curve of becoming an adult.  Sometimes long after the fact, we hear of emergency trips to hospital for gall stones, romance won and lost, and occasionally news of how they are doing at school. We never want to hear about car crashes.

Since my name is on her auto policy while at school, we field the confusing maze of details while our daughter deals with the claims adjuster and finding transport to class and work after a car accident. We are grateful neither driver is injured, but frustrated we can do little to help in the initial trauma. This is her first accident and she is upset.

Her agony arises from the scare of the accident itself and from the fact that her beautiful car is crunched badly.

“I haven’t even had it a year and I still owe the bank…”

She is doubly upset that she is at fault, but she assures us that she was not on the cell phone in any way. Funny thing is that she was on her way to pay a parking ticket. The officer appreciates the humor of that and agrees to take the ticket and payment in for her.

She drives away in her crunched car.  It refuses to start the next day. The accident had deployed both airbags and knocked off the belt responsible for recharging her battery besides the other damage. She borrows cars, and hitches rides with friends while waiting to see how much or how little will be left after the huge deductible we carry and the balance at the bank.

“I don’t want to get an old junky car.”

Her first car cost $500, older than she was, had a bad radio, looked a little sad with dents and a bit of rust, and gave her grief with needed repairs. Her friends all refused to travel with her if her car was the only one available. This latest car is a Dodge Intrepid and only 12 years old.

Joyfully, the long awaited call from the claims department gives our daughter a good driver discount on that huge deductible plus attributes full value to her destroyed car.  She won’t have to drive an old junky car. The memories of her first car can stay safely in the past and her parents can breath easy once again.

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The week of  Valentine’s Day, I was driving south on icy roads, taking it slow and easy. Near Heart Butte hill in Grant County, North Dakota, I saw the southbound lane was blocked with snow at the same moment that a semi crested the hill in front of me. I had no choice but to hit the drift. My car spun and the semi drove safely past leaving me facing north but in one piece. After a moment thanking God for saving me and protecting the other driver, I rocked the car back and drove forward out of the drift.

At the next driveway, I pulled to the side and checked my vehicle for damage. Aside from knocking quite a bit of snow from my wheel wells, my Saturn had survived but I think I lost a piece of dark plastic from the under body.  Surprisingly, my hands were not shaking, and my heart felt relaxed.

Life is joyous, yet fragie. I am grateful to be alive and thankful for each moment. I wish I could retain this awareness, but I know I will soon lose this precious feeling in the midst of daily routines.  I love my life!

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