A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan: FEBRUARY 22, 2014 - MARCH 8, 2014

Congratulations, Aidan * Water * News * Over Doing It * Home * Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss * Air Raids * Mom's To-Do List * Windows * My Book

To read A Mother's Diary from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."



Aidan's done it again. His latest poem's placed in the student Chaparral Poetry Contest. An award ceremony will be held March 20 in the opera house in St. George, Utah. The top six winners, in each category, will read their poems.

Distant Future
by Aidan Mace

As we approach our landing,
I move toward the window to get a good look.
I see the beautiful landscape approaching,
This landscape is red and filled with little clusters of buildings.
Soon our ship captain calls for everyone to get off.
As I exit the ship I begin to float in the low gravity environment.
I look around.
What I see is amazing.
I see a civilization beginning.
I can feel the red dust blow past my cheek,
and envelop my pores,
Then I feel a strong breeze.
It seems to blow some sense back into me,
and I realize,
I have just set foot on an astounding place,


PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Got a late Christmas present from my Dad. An all expense paid trip to Nashville to buy a guitar.



On this day in 1948, Mom gave birth to a little girl, Loretta Marie. She lived for four hours. I hope my little sister knows I'm thinking of her.

I'm on my walk. It's 71 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. To me, it feels like spring. My nose thinks so, too. It's itching and twitching.

Me and my nose aren't the only ones who're confused. Roses are leafing out. Yellow daffodils, blue periwinkle, purple pansies, crimson fringe flowers, and pink-blossomed flowering plum trees are bursting forth. Birds twitter and flit from tree branch to tree branch.

The National Weather Service reports there is a 1 in 1,000 chance that this season will conclude with average rainfall. Cuts in water allocations will affect rice, tomato, and corn production. Reduced rice planting also means less habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. One climatologist observes that this winter represents a different world compared to anything since 1895.

In my own backyard, I've got some serious plant damage. I'm waiting to see if bottlebrush, podocarpus, citrus trees, and an African sumac tree are able to rally. They look pretty distressed from the dry, cold winter. All my potted plants have croaked.

Outside,  my sprinkler system is turned off. Inside, I'm careful not to let the faucet run when I'm brushing my teeth. I run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. A couple of droopy  houseplants won't be replaced. I'm taking short showers and using a shower bucket to catch water as it falls. Small measures. Hope they add up.



Pat calls. I ask, "How's the job?"

"It's going well."

"Thanks for the check, Pat." Pat mailed me reimbursement for the $40 I loaned him for gas.

"Did you cash the check yet, Mom?"

"No, why?"

"Can you wait until Friday? I need the money for gas."

Pat laughs at himself.

"Okay, but I'm cashing the check Friday afternoon."

I laugh at myself.

"I talked to Dad. He says he's been thinking about a Christmas present he hasn't given me, yet. He's getting me an electric guitar."


"He says we should fly to Nashville and buy the guitar there."

"Really? When are you going?"

"I don't know. I have to get a few days off work. Meanwhile, some Tibetan monks are coming to the church. I'm going to ask them to call on GG for her 96th birthday."

"Really? Will you tell her in advance?"

"I'm thinking of surprising her."

"What will they do when they see her?"

"I don't know. Pray, I guess."

I hope the father-son trip to Nashville comes to pass. I hope the Tibetan monks are well-received. I hope, when they're praying, they say a prayer for Pat. And for me. I never know what the next news will be.



While Deanne is on vacation, I decided to use my three-pound weights here at home and practice some of the exercises she's shown me. Yesterday, I worked out for half an hour. 

Today, I can hardly move. The muscle in my lower back is unhappy and it's letting me know. It hurts to lie down. It hurts to sit. It hurts if I have to cough or sneeze.

Maybe I was too cocky thinking I'm getting myself in shape. This twinge in my back is a good reminder to go slow with my workout routine. I'll tell Deanne about this when she returns.

I hope, in a week, my back muscle will have relaxed. My body will say, "Okay, let's try this again. No bad feelings."




I'm at the vet's office with The Jazz. We're here for her annual rabies shot and general check-up. A woman pushing a stroller, with a blond, blue-eyed little girl in it, comes through the door. She's followed by a dark-haired, dark-eyed little boy. And, of course, by an animal on a leash — a tiny, wiry-haired, white terrier. We start up a conversation .

"The puppy's about 13 weeks old from a rescue center. My eldest daughter is 20 and she's from China. When she was small, she had a little white dog. Then an earthquake wiped out her home and her village. Someone ate her dog."

My reporter self kicks in. "How did you get connected with your daughter?"

"Through our church. We're in the process of adopting her even though she's legally an adult. She's in touch with her family in China, but it's a complicated relationship and it probably won't get better. My daughter's been through so much and she has major trust issues. She wants us to adopt her. She needs that kind of commitment."

The little boy gives a green squeeze toy to the little girl in the stroller. His mother continues.

"I surprised my daughter the day we went to see the puppy. She was nervous about the house where it was being fostered along with her doggy mother and four puppy siblings. She thought we were shopping for a dresser for her bedroom. She said, 'This doesn't look like a store. I don't want to go in.'  I told her she'd have to trust me — that it was okay to go into the house. The foster mom handed the puppy to my daughter and said, 'This puppy needs a mother.'"

I'm never disappointed. Start a conversation with someone, anyone, and you're apt to hear an amazing story.

"My daughter began sobbing. She couldn't stop crying. She wanted the puppy and yet it brought back many sad memories for her. It was one of the most emotional days of my life."

The woman and her little group leave. A man and woman come in together with another wiry, little dog. A brown one. I smile and say, "Good morning."

The man says, "No, but I'm working on it."

As they disappear into an exam room, the receptionist explains, "They've been up all night. They came from an emergency animal clinic."

I wonder what their story is. It's our turn with the vet. The Jazz is good for her exam and her shot and getting her nails clipped. Afterward, she scrambles, fast as she can, into the blue cat carrier I had to force her into earlier. Like the girl from China and her little dog, The Jazz is adopted and wants to go home.


Photo credit: Sammie Pucci/Flickr

Photo credit: Sammie Pucci/Flickr


Theodor Geisel was born on March 2, 1904. In recognition of his mark on kid's literature, the National Education Association has declared this day to be National Read Across America Day. In 2114, I predict Dr. Seuss will be as popular as he is today. His words and rhythms make you happy — even when you're out of sorts. Here are some of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes:

"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so get on your way."

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."

"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

And my very favorite: "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."

I rest my case. Even Dr. Seuss believes each of us is pretty darn great.



In grammar school, I remember air raid drills. Without warning, a siren would begin blasting. We'd dive under our desks, curl into balls, and cover our heads with our arms. As if this would protect us from bombs falling from the sky and exploding all around.

Whenever I heard an airplane overhead, I feared that the Russians were coming to kill us with their communist weapons of mass destruction. We didn't call them WMDs, then, but I knew that there was this very bad country, Russia, that wanted to hurts us. They would even hurt us little kids.

In high school, a friend's family dug a bomb shelter into the earth in their front yard. They kept it stocked with food, water, radios, flashlights, tools, books, and other things they'd need in the event of a Russian air attack.

Over time, other countries occupied US attention more than Russia. Today, Russia and the US are again butting heads. Obama has suspended military ties, port visits, planning meetings, and trade talks. If Russia continues to deploy its troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine, other sanctions may follow.

A fragile, new pro-Western government in the Ukraine is struggling to get a foothold. Russia wants Ukraine in its sphere. The US has economic and strategic reasons for supporting the growth of democracy in the area. Both countries believe they have a mandate to protect their own interests. Both countries distrust each other. The situation will undoubtedly get worse before it gets better.

I hope my grandchildren don't have air raid drills at school. I hope they're not afraid when they hear airplanes flying overhead. I hope the adults in the room have learned lessons from the past and find a way to get along.

When Pat was in sixth grade, I met with his teacher for a parent-teacher conference. The teacher said, "We had an air raid drill last week. All the kids hid under their desks. As I walked by Pat's desk he said to the boy in front of him, 'If this air raid's for real, you can kiss your ass goodby.'"



I'm at Mom's with a tax accountant. Mom's ready. She has her income records rubber-banded together in one file. She has her expense records in another. She has explicit instructions for the tax lady.

"Be sure to deduct my expenses for the purchase of my hearing aids and the thirty-six dollars I spent on hearing aid batteries. Also, remember my sixty dollar renter's credit from the state of California."

With information supplied and collected, we're trying to find a return date for the accountant to come back with the completed tax forms. It can't be too soon.

"I want my money. I want a refund."

The accountant says she never promises anyone a refund. She has to cross all the t's and dot all the i's first. We settle on March 18. The tax accountant leaves. I stay behind to fill out some papers for a money market account we've opened. I give Mom the new attachments she wants for her electric toothbrush.

"How much do I owe you for these?"

"Thirty-two dollars."

"Thirty-two dollars? For toothbrushes?"

"Yep, thirty-two dollars for toothbrushes."

"Well, they each last six months. I guess that's not too bad. There are four in the packet, right?"

"No, there are three in the packet."

"Gads. Only three?"

"Only three. Anything else?"

"No, thanks for your help with the taxes and the shopping. After I get my tax refund, I need to get new eye-glasses."

Okay, Mom. I'll take you to the optometrist to get new eye-glasses. Maybe that's the secret to your long life. You always have a next project on your to-do list.



A little girl asked her mother about death. "What will it be like?"

Her mother thought and said, "Do you remember what it was like before you were born?"

The little girl said, "No."

The mother said, "That's what it will be like when you die."

But really, none of us knows what death will be like. A window of time. That's what each of us has — a window of time. My window is from May 22, 1944 to ????

In some ways, we have more than one window. My immediate window is my front kitchen window. I have a bigger "window" by telephone, email, and local activities to observe what's happening in my neighborhood. Through television, the internet, newspapers, and other media, I have windows to the bigger world. Through recorded history and family stories handed down, I have windows into the past. I have no window, except through speculation, into the future.

No one else, ever, will see, hear, and experience exactly what I do. That's a critical reason why I'm writing — to try to realize the life that is unique to me. I could be breathing but unconscious. My life is my one chance to be fully awake. Then, when I die, I can more peacefully sleep.

I mean this to be comforting. It is, to me, at least.


MARCH 8, 2014: MY BOOK

What a nice surprise. I check Instagram this morning for new posts. I see two posts from Marisa - a photo of my book, Contributions of Women: Medicine, is in one post. A photo of me, on the back page of the book, is in a second post. Marisa writes:

"When I was eight years old, my mom's book was published as a part of series on contributions of women. What a wonderful role model I have. Happy International Women's Day!" To the photo, in the second post, she adds, "My Mom."

As a parent, you never know what makes a lasting impression — good or bad. I know I made lots of parenting mistakes. I cringe thinking of some of them. But you have to hope that, on balance, your parenting turns out okay.

Writing that book was a life-saver. A life-saver because, as a young mother of four children, I needed something adult to wrap my mind around. Kerry was two. She'd sit in my lap at the typewriter. I'd punch a key. She'd punch a key. I'd punch a key. She'd punch a key. White-out everywhere. What a friggin' mess. It took me three years to write a one-hundred-seventeen page book. One-hundred-seventeen pages with big print.

I remember the day my copies of the book were delivered by UPS. I opened one of the books and studied its Table of Contents. I ran my fingers across the cover. And, yes. I checked my photo in the back.

I was in awe of myself. I'd actually written a book. I'd visualized the book in my mind and, now, I held a hard bound copy in my hands. I'd achieved a goal. I didn't know, yet, that my book would win their 1982 first prize for non-fiction books from The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. 

Thanks, Marisa, for taking me back to that moment. I hope you read my book. I hope you liked it.

Photo in my book - 1981

Photo in my book - 1981

Table of Contents: Contributions of Women: Medicine

Table of Contents: Contributions of Women: Medicine

March 9, 2014 - March 21, 2014: A Birthday Invitation * A New Dilemma * Perspective * Empty Bowls * A Real Life Mystery * Of Ants and Me * No Invaders, No Dragons, No Trolls * Spring 2014 * Internal Drum by Patrick Ranahan * A Bout of Self-Doubt * A Paradox * Making a Case

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)



I have always respected your writing talent and now coupled with such an important cause.  The way you have turned your own personal tragedy into helping others is remarkable. Pam R.

"Imposter umbrella?" Love this. What umbrella do you have now? Oh, love your writing.  Heidi F.
Heidi, I have another perky black polka dot umbrella :-)  Dede

I love your blog! Bev C.


Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

February 22, 2014 - March 7, 2014: Congratulations, Aidan * Water * News * Over Doing It * Home * Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss * Air Raids * Mom's To-Do List * Windows

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)



Pat and me in 1969

Pat and me in 1969

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan FEBRUARY 8, 2014 - FEBRUARY 21, 2014

Life and Umbrellas * Stalling * Love This Place * A Very Good Day * Happy Valentine's Day * Getting Organized * Stuff * Conflict * Interview * Missing

To read A Mother's Diary from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."


Photo credit: Barb Watson/flickr

Photo credit: Barb Watson/flickr


I'm headed to Nevada City to attend David's grandmother's funeral. I didn't know Grandma Joyce, but I want to be present at her service for my son-in-law and for his mother, Michele, who is Joyce's daughter.

It's raining cats and dogs — the heaviest rain we've had in a year. I throw on my raincoat and grab my perky black umbrella. It's perky because it has little red, yellow, green, and blue polka dots on it. It looks cheery. And it's easy to spot in a stand full of black umbrellas.

I risk life and limb driving Highway 93 to get to the funeral home. I hang up my raincoat and drop my umbrella onto a pile of black umbrellas. I sign the guest book and give Michele and David a hug.

A family friend conducts the memorial service. He tells the story of a little girl, young woman, mother, and grandmother unfamiliar to me. Kerry presents a video of family photographs displayed in a sequence timed to music. Joyce loved Frank Sinatra. The music swells to Frank's "My Way." I was fine until now. Other people were fine until now. Everyone is pulling out tissues and wiping their eyes.

We have to walk from the funeral chapel to another building behind it for the reception. I slip on my raincoat and pick up my umbrella. That's strange. The button on the handle that opens and closes it is missing. It's difficult to open my umbrella with its button missing. I have to push from the bottom and pull from the top. I don't remember my umbrella being this small in circumference.

I walk to the reception area and try to set my dripping umbrella on the floor. It's a fight to get it to close. The room's packed and warm. Kerry and I wait for the food line to thin. I'm standing with my back to the dessert table. Kerry waves at me from across the room.

"Look behind you," she mouths.

I look. There's a tall man. What's Kerry telling me? Am I blocking someone? She keeps pointing. I turn around, again, in time to see a sweet-looking old lady leaving the reception. She's tucking a  black umbrella to her side. Her umbrella has polka dots on it. Her umbrella has an open/close button on its handle. My umbrella. The sweet-looking old lady has my umbrella.

Too late. She's gone. I can't get to her without stomping across a table covered with cookies and cupcakes. Kerry's laughing. I'm laughing. Seems like the thing to do. After pasta salad and sliced ham, I hug David and Michele goodbye. I don't want to be on the road in the dark and with glare on the pavement from the rain. For crying out loud. I have to wrestle this impostor umbrella into my car because it's impossible to close. If someone's watching, they'll call 911. They'll think I'm struggling with an attacker in my front seat.

I'll get a new umbrella. I'll donate this annoying one to the thrift shop. On second thought, it's not good enough for the thrift shop. When I get home, I'll stash the darn thing in the garbage can. A fitting end. In my opinion.

Kerry sends me a text. David's father's umbrella is missing. He's not laughing. Whoever took his umbrella didn't leave a replacement like the sweet-looking old lady who took mine. I hope she enjoys her new, bigger, automatic open and close, perky polka dot umbrella. I hope it helped David and Michele a little that I attended Joyce's service. Life is too short.



I'm taking The Jazz for a walk in the cat stroller. It's a warm 62 degrees. No rain. Of course, I run into my next door neighbor as soon as I push the stroller out the side gate. I was hoping I wouldn't see anyone or they see me.

"I'm taking my cat for a walk."

"That's okay," he says.

"Doesn't it seem a bit eccentric?"

"Look, living here, anything can seem eccentric."

"So you won't say anything?"

He laughs.

I can't tell if The Jazz likes the ride. She's not meowing. She's looking out the back, front and sides. I unzip the stroller's mesh cover on our return. She doesn't leap out right away. May mean she likes this contraption?

I'm in the den organizing the paperwork for Mom's rental house. She's got all her tax stuff together. She's raring to go. She wants me to set up an appointment with the tax preparer. Now. Walking the cat will not get me off the hook.



Here I am again — at Snap it Up. I love this place. People are grateful and unpretentious. They like to talk.

"I used to have a lot of money. I don't anymore and I'm managing fine."
"I bought a Ralph Lauren blouse here last week for one dollar."
"I make little cat beds. Would you be able to use them if I bring them in?"
"That cat in the adoption room is sweet. I hope someone adopts her soon."
"Do you have yarn? I want to get some for my friend who knits sweaters for the homeless."
"How much is this belt? If it's a dollar, I'll take it."
"I'm going to Weight Watchers. This is the perfect place to buy clothes as I'm changing sizes."
"Keep the change. FieldHaven does good work."
"I love that chicken but it's fifteen dollars. Guess I better wait."
"I found this poster of San Francisco. It's perfect for my mobile home."
"I better stop shopping. My husband's waiting in the car. I'll take these tops because they're a dollar."

I find three tops myself — one from Coldwater Creek, one from J. Jill, and one from Talbots. All are like new. All are one dollar. Like I said, I love this place.



The heating and air conditioning man arrives for the annual heater check-up. Everything looks good, but... Here comes the but: "The capacitor that helps the fan is testing below the recommended range of 7.1 to 7.5. It's testing 6.6. As part of our recommended preventative maintenance, you probably should replace it before it dies and causes damage."

"How much?"

"It's one hundred thirty-one dollars, I think. We had a price change yesterday. Also, your drip pan doesn't have a switch to turn the unit off if it's collecting too much water."

"How much?"

"One hundred thirty-eight dollars. It's not code or anything, but when our company installs a new unit, we make sure the pan is equipped with a switch."

Hmm. Everything's been working fine. "You know, I don't go up in the attic. I have to take your word for it."

"You trust me don't you? I can bring the capacitor down and show you."


The technician, a very personable, pleasant young man, attaches his gismo to the capacitor. It reads 7.0. It reads 7.0 three times. Hmm again. "Thanks, but I think I'll wait on this and see how it is in a couple of months when you come back to service the air conditioning unit."

I may have to rethink this bi-annual heating and air check. I'll clean the filter myself. Thank  you very much. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

Pat arrives to do his laundry. Lexi bounds in. She still doesn't know how to walk. I give her a dog biscuit and she runs around the coffee table 15 times. Pat fills out an insurance form to give me power of attorney on his car insurance account. I pay this bill monthly and it's always getting mucked up because he hasn't completed the power of attorney form. Pat folds his last load of laundry.

"C'mon, Lexi." Lexi accepts the leash and pulls Pat out the door. She's happy to come. She's happy to go.

I'm at Mom's delivering her very specific staple requests. I give her a new bottle of homemade Irish cream like the one I gave her at Christmas. As I suspected, she has the empty bottle, from Christmas, ready to return to me.

"Have you made an appointment with a tax person, yet?"

"Well, no."

"I really want to get my taxes done and get my money back."

"Okay. I'm on it."

I stop at Kerry's to drop off Ayla's belated birthday gifts — a book about bugs and a birdhouse you attach to a window so you can watch the birds nesting inside. We skim through the bug book. A picture of an ugly scorpion reminds Ayla of something.

" I ate one of these."

"You ate a scorpion?"

"Yes, and it licked me on my cheek."

"Did you swallow the scorpion?"

"No, because it was licking me on my cheek."

Kerry joins  us. "Did you know Ayla ate a scorpion?"


"I didn't eat it, Mim. I was tricking you."

Ayla's a storyteller. "I want to be a bug catcher when I grow up."

"What will you do with the bugs?"

"I'll give them to the birds."

Home again. The heater's humming softly. This morning I saved myself $269 that I didn't spend on my AC unit. This afternoon I caught up with my son, mother, daughter, and granddaughter. All in all, it's been a very good day.



In the gym with Deanne, she's setting me up in a seated leg curl machine. She's adjusting the weights and the position of the leg rest. The bar that holds my upper legs in place isn't very tight. Should it be?

"It's fine. It's not tight because you have thin thighs."

I catch my breath. Oh my!  Stop the presses. Deanne says I have thin thighs. No one's told me I have thin thighs in 40 years. I ask Deanne to say it again.

"You have thin thighs. You're thin."

I knew I loved this woman. She may be my new best friend.

At the Family Mental Illness Support Group meeting, we have a new person in attendance. Each month we have at least one new person. I let the group know that I've been asked to meet with Lincoln Hills Foundation grants committee. "Do you have suggestions for what I should present to the committee?"

The group suggests mentioning in-kind donations such as my time and the use of Raley's conference room. We agree that we don't want to spend money simply to be spending money. We want whatever money we receive to be put to work.

There are eight people at the meeting today, each of us making a difference for each other. A small group impacting a small group. What's that Margaret Mead saying? "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Happy Valentine's Day.

PATRICKS FACEBOOK POST: Happy S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day). I celebrated by taking myself out to lunch and enjoyed a mushroom burger among all the paired up sweethearts.


The Jazz

The Jazz


The Jazz is ensconced in a basket on top of a trunk in my closet. Her from paws stick out over the basket's edge. She raises her head so she can see over the side. Nothing moves but her eyes. I'm being watched.

I'm sorting through my clothes and have  filled up three large bags with pants and tops that no longer fit. There are a half dozen mistakes in the give-away stuff — what-was-I thinking garments that I've never worn. This sorting process will help me be more focused when I'm clothes shopping. As I decide what to keep and what to get rid of, I remember five getting-dressed rules I picked up from Andy Paige in her book, Style on a Shoestring:

1. Use lipstick.

2. Wear outfits that give me shape — clothes that define a middle in my torso.

3. Carry a statement-making handbag. I'm weak here. I generally use one handbag at a time — an all purpose bag so I don't have to switch contents.

4. Select fun shoes and funky socks. I try but I no longer wear heels because my ankle has a steel plate and six screws in it. My favorite shoes are my sea-blue tennis shoes with white polka dots on them. (What's with me and polka dots?) And I practice sock awareness. I try to match socks to my outfit with color, design, and wit. I like to wear witty socks.

5. Add something unexpected. This is my favorite rule. This can be a pin, a scarf, a pair of earrings. Something that says, "This lady was thinking when she put herself together."

My closet's shaping up. There's still one thing I haven't attended to. Maybe that's why The Jazz is staring at me. "While you're in this mode, ahem, there's a litter box in the laundry room that needs your attention."

Getting organized can be fun. Mostly.



Continuing my spring organizing, I'm at Target picking up a few things — hangers, storage containers, makeup, hand towels, pillows for the guest room, and a wallet. Somehow this adds up to $121.82. How do a few minor items cost this much?

Mom calls. "Have you set me up with tax person yet?"

"No, I didn't call anyone today because it's Sunday."

"What about the bank? Did you look into CD rates?"

"No, not yet."

Mom's getting antsy. "What if the tax person has steps into her office? I won't be able to go up the steps. What if she charges too much to come to my place? Or to your place?"

I better get on this.

Well, the good new is the wallet doesn't work. Once you put coins, cash, and credit cards in it, it won't close. I'll take it back and knock $14 off the $121.82 bill. My old wallet is good enough. I'll go back to getting rid of things instead of acquiring things. 

Who needs all this stuff anyway?



I'm at the movies to see The Monuments Men. It's the story of US and British soldiers charged with retrieving European art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Critics aren't giving this movie top reviews. The theater, however, is packed.

When the credits roll at the end, the audience has reflected on artwork and culture as evidence of humanity's collective soul, and a time when humanity seemed hell-bent on self-destruction.

World War II combat in Europe ended in May 1945. Since then, the US has engaged in wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and Afghanistan. Today, as we withdraw from Afghanistan, we're witnessing uprisings around the globe — in Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Congo.

Conflict is the ongoing human drama. Each of us has our own hot buttons. Familial dysfunction is the stuff of storytelling. Countries are macrocosms of individuals and families. Why does equilibrium — personal, tribal, global — forever elude us?



The Lincoln Hills Foundation grants committee is asking about my application for $1,000 for the Family Mental Illness Support Group. They're exercising due diligence.

"What's your background and professional experience?"

"I'm a family member and retired policy director for NAMI California."

"What is the groups' geographical outreach?"

"Lincoln Hills."

"What are the groups expenses?"

"We have none. We'd like to buy some books for the group and pay for a few speakers."

"What is your main purpose?"

"To provide support for family members who have someone coping with serious mental illness."

I have a few questions also. "People from outside Lincoln Hills have asked if they can join the group. Do you have any objection?"


"What kind of expense reporting do you need?"

These retired volunteers explain their process and give me an hour of their time. They're trying to make a difference in our community. Whether or not they decide to give us a grant, I respect the work they're doing and the responsible way they're making funding decisions.



A photo's missing. I found it a few weeks ago as I was rifling through some files. It's a candid snapshot of me when I was about 36. I don't know who took the photo. I think I was at a writer's conference. I'm wearing a name tag, a dark silk blouse, and a white blazer.

I like the way I look, at this moment in time, captured on black and white film. The skin on my face appears soft and moist. My features aren't as angular as they are now. My lips are full. My eyes have an intelligent, I'm-listening-to-you gaze. They're big and brown. I have thick, dark-brown hair in a stylish short cut. I look like someone I'd like to know.

I'd planned to make copies of this two-by-three inch photo and give one to each of my children. They have no pictures of me as a young woman. I tucked the photo into the corner of a framed photo on my bookshelf. Now, it's not there. 

This is troubling me more than I want to admit. An irreplaceable little keepsake of what I looked like once has vanished. I think I'm mourning my own disappearance. A time when not only my photo but I will be missing.


Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

February 22, 2014 - March 7, 2014: Congratulations, Aidan * Water * News * Over Doing It * Home * Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss * Air Raids * Mom's To-Do List * Windows

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Dede, every one of your blogs has a portion that I Love so much that I take a screen shot and read it over and over. Your last blog had the reference to the grocery cart, and I used it in my company newsletter (gave you credit). This week my screen shot was your poem, which I will share with my grandkids!

I am also following your book recommendations — ”No One Cares About Crazy People” arrived yesterday, and I ordered the David Mas Matsumoto book this afternoon! Thanks!
Stacey Shurson, Vice President at M. J.  Hall & Company, Inc.



Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

February 8, 2014 - February 21, 2014: Life and Umbrellas * Stalling * Love This Place * A Very Good Day * Happy Valentine's Day * Getting Organized * Stuff * Conflict * Interview * Missing

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)


Pat and Me 1969

Pat and Me 1969

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan JANUARY 26, 2014 - FEBRUARY 7, 2014

On To Off * Another Tragedy * A New Wrinkle * Tradition and Heritage * Requests and Success * Damn Freud * Same Old Same Old * "Thanks for Coming In" * When I Was a Child * Staying Grounded * The Young Crowd

To read A Mother's Diary from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."



What a mix of a day. It began pulsating with possibilities.

I've located a writer's group in the Sacramento area. The group is sponsoring a six-week writing course for $60. This is doable. The hitch is the class is in the evening and about 45 minutes away. I no longer like to drive in the dark. I'm hoping Pat might want to join me. He could drive my car and tap into his inner poet. I've invited him for dinner. I'll ask him.

Pat arrives at 10 minutes to six with Lexi in tow. I'm slicing a small loaf of sourdough to make garlic bread. I leave the kitchen briefly and, when I return, several slices are missing. Where's Lexi? She's cowering on the sofa. Pat drags her into the kitchen and shows her the bread.

"Bad dog, Lexi. Bad dog."

"Did you feed Lexi her dinner, yet?"

"I don't remember. I'll check her dish when I get home."

I'm preparing chicken cacciatore. The kitchen throbs with the aroma of chicken simmering in tomato sauce, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and red wine. We sit down to eat.

"So Pat, how was your day?"


"How was the gospel singer at the church service this morning?"


"Were many people there?"


"How many?" This takes a few moments. "Fifty? One hundred?"

"About fifty."

The conversation is one way. No questions or comments are coming back at me. Pat's affect is flat. He's not interested in the writing workshop. "I've done enough of those."


"When I was in college."

"Okay. Well, think about it. I'd pay for it and I'd enjoy your company." I don't ask, "What are you up to tomorrow?" I know the answer. "Not much."

"Would you like some ice cream?"


"I have chocolate sauce."

"No, thanks."

"Do you want to take the leftovers home?"

"Okay. Thanks."

I pack up an unopened box of spaghetti, the remaining garlic bread, and the chicken and sauce. "Don't let Lexi get it," I warn.

"I won't. Come on Lexi, let's go home. Thanks for dinner, Mom."

"Thanks for coming, Pat."

Pat hugs me and I hug him back. My son and his dog disappear down the sidewalk into the dark night. I close the front door. I stare at the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter. The pot that was filled with lusty sauce is empty. I feel like an electric candle that someone's switched from on to off.



A woman from the support group calls to tell me about her friend's son. On January 19, this 20-year-old man jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge. His mother had tried everything to get help for her son's mental illness.

On a balmy San Francisco day, another unserved youth decided he couldn't go on and tossed himself into the bay. How does a mother bear it?



Pat has a job. He's delivering automotive parts for a business in Auburn. They'll pay him eight dollars per hour plus four dollars per hour reimbursement for gas. He stops by to tell me about his first day. There's a catch. He doesn't get paid for two weeks. This means  he's covering gas costs for this business in advance. He's putting wear and tear on his car.

"Can you front me five hundred dollars until my first paycheck?"

"Why do you need five hundred dollars?"

"To cover gas and pay for lunches."

"Pat, I can't do this. Take your lunch. Most working people don't buy lunch every day. Five dollars per day amounts to one hundred dollars per month. That's money to buy Lexi's dog food and pay for other expenses. This employer shouldn't ask you to cover gas costs the first two weeks. They know you've been out of work."

"Mom, I haven't had work in seven years. I don't want to rock the boat and jeopardize this job."

"Pat, what if they renege? What if they're not reliable? I can't afford to lose five hundred dollars."

I give Pat a check for $40 for gas. "What would you do if I weren't around to help you?"

"I wouldn't be able to take this job."

Pat leaves. He has to get home and check on Lexi who's been in her crate all day. That's another issue. This poor dog cannot be locked up for eight hours every day. I sit down and take a deep breath. With Pat, there's always a new wrinkle.



I'm immersing myself in an author I've recently discovered. David Mas Masumoto is an organic peach and grape farmer in Del Rey, California - the Central Valley. In the introduction to his book, Heirlooms: Letters from a Peach Farmer, he says, "I try to choose my words carefully, and write stories with conviction. I journey with words and hope my stories travel beyond our valley. Yet in the end, I believe life is simply about loving. And loving words."

In a later chapter he writes, "Here's my two-generation theory about family. How many remember our father's and mother's first names? Probably most of us. How about our grandfather and grandmother? Still, most likely, many of us. But how about our great-grandparents? Most have two generation knowledge of our heritage and, within a short time, you and I will probably be forgotten. It's pretty easy to die with insignificance, and that sounds tragic to me."

Mas says the things he values include tradition, slow trucks, the culture of fog, home, delayed gratification, memories, thinking, reflection and stories. "I mean what I write. I live with the haunting thought that my words can stay with the reader for a while and may remain with me forever."

Thank you, Mas. I'll try to follow your example. I'll think about tradition and heritage. I'll mean what I write. I'll choose my words carefully.



Grants Committee
Lincoln Hills Foundation
P.O. Box 220
Lincoln, CA 95648

Jan 31, 2014

Dear Grants Committee:

Thank you for the invitation to submit a grant request.

I organized this new group - Lincoln Hills Family Mental Illness Support Group - in February 2013. We've had monthly meetings since then.

This is a support group for SCLH family members who have loved ones coping with serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others.

In many cases, the public mental health system has failed to serve our ill family members, providing inadequate care and poor outcomes. Many in the group, like myself, are the only reason a son, daughter, mother, father, sibling or adult grandchild is not homeless and on the street. Some of us have ill loved ones in prison, unemployed, and in other challenging circumstances. Our family situations can be unpredictable, chaotic, and heavy financial burdens. Stress levels are high.

Stigma surrounding mental illness is prevalent. Therefore, we meet in the conference room at Raley's. This gives a modicum of privacy removed from SCLH and a safe haven. Our monthly meeting gives us a chance to vent and know that others in the group will understand without judging. We offer support, an exchange of information about resources, and the important knowledge that we are not alone.

To date, we have about 35 members on the group email list. On average, eight to ten attend each meeting. I've promised the group that there will always be a meeting on the second Friday of the month no matter  how many are in attendance. They need to be able to count on the meeting routinely taking place.

With a grant, we could purchase books for the group and bring in speakers. Honorariums and speaking fees would determine the number of speakers we could engage in a year's time. With no previous history as a guideline, I'm requesting $1,000 in funding for this coming year. We'll keep you apprised as to the use of this funding and will adjust funding requests, as appropriate, going forward.

Please call me if you need further information. Thank you again for your consideration.


Dede Ranahan
Support Group Moderator.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: After over seven years of unemployment and walking a very precarious financial tightrope which I fell from several times, I started a full-time job on Tuesday as a delivery driver for Millennium Transportation delivering auto parts to mechanics and repair shops. For the first time in a long time I won't be spending my days scouring the classified ads for work. It may be premature to announce this position as I'm finding it hard to believe I actually have a job and hope it lasts but, as of now, I am officially employed full time.

Stephanie: Congratulations!
Keir: Congrats!
Donna: I am so happy for you Patrick!
Meridith: Yeah Patrick!! Congratulations!!!
Amy R.: Good for you! New year, new adventures.
Lara: Way to go!
Cara: Pat, as someone who has also suffered during this crappy economic time, I am so happy to hear this. No one can truly understand the difficulty of submitting thousands of resumes, and going to countless interviews. I am so happy for you and so proud of you for keeping your focus. Congratulations!!!
Amy P.: Congrats Patrick Ranahan. This is wonderful for you!!!
Shannon: Happy for you Pat. I knew you were going to get something soon!
Brandi: That's wonderful!! Congrats!
Pam: Happy driving Patrick!!
Ed: Go Pat Go!!!!



While I'm walking home from duplicate bridge this afternoon, a neighbor pulls up and idles her car to say hello. She says, "Weren't those hands difficult today?"

I agree. They were a challenge.

"Something's happened with my fifty-four-year-old son."

Ah. The real reason for her stopping in the street.

"He's in the hospital."

"Is this good news or bad news?"

"Well, he's beginning to recognize when he needs help. His new psychiatrist took him off his medication for schizophrenia and his symptoms came back."

This sounds familiar.

"The hospital's got him stabilized. How can a doctor undo forty-five years of medical history? Where are my son's records?"

Good questions. Serious mental illness is the most challenging illness of this century. Mental illness is the least understood and most devastating illness of this century. Mothers know this. Those same mothers that Freud blames for everything. "Something wrong with your kid? It's your fault."

When will we outgrow Freud and see mothers (and fathers) as mental health allies instead of enemies? When will we move into a compassionate future? A future that will care enough to do research to find answers about our brains and how they can go awry?

That's why my friend and I play bridge. It takes focus. And focus takes our minds off problems that, so far, seem to have no resolution.



Article in today's paper:

"Mental health hospitalizations of California's youngest residents, 21 and under, increased 39 percent between 2007 and 2012, jumping from 33,000 to 46,000.

"The number of emergency room visits involving suicide attempts among children and teenagers increased more than 20 percent between 2007-2012.

"Some mental health professionals believe that once their young patients commit a crime, they'll enter the juvenile justice system and have much better access to mental health treatments."

Stories and statistics about the failure of our mental health system make the news regularly. That's about it. Nothing changes or gets better. I hope that in 2114 this is no longer true. But, if history is predictive, 100 years may not be enough time to make a difference. Mental health care's been in the Dark Ages forever.



I'm working at Snap it Up thrift shop and, as usual, a parade is coming through the door. All clothes are $1 today. The first customer is buying twelve pair of men's jeans. I ask who they're for.

"I'm buying them for prisoners at the jail who are being released. Often, they have only the clothes they wore in. I help stock a closet where they can get a warm jacket or an extra pair of pants to wear out on the street."

Another woman asks me, "Are you having a good day?"

"Yes, are you having a good day?"

"I'm having a very happy day."

Do I leave this statement alone or do I go further? "Why are you having a very happy day?"

"Because my ten-year-old son got placed in a group home and I know he's safe for the moment." This turns into a long story. "My adopted son's real mother was a meth addict when she was pregnant with him. Meth's in his cellular structure and he's always hyperactive. He's on meds for ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder but they don't have his meds right. He gets violent. He busted through steel doors at the hospital when he saw me on the other side.

"The doctors say his frontal cortex, which is the brain's center for impulse control, isn't developing as it should. If the cortex doesn't begin to catch up in the next two years, he'll probably have to be conserved to a group home permanently."

She continues. "I had serious surgery recently and I'm still recovering. I'm trying to get well and take care of my son. I feel like i'm not setting goals but my counselor reassures me that I do have goals  — to survive and to help my son survive."

This woman has a lot on her plate. I tell her about NAMI. I tell her about the support group.

"Can I join your support group?"

She doesn't live in Sun City. I always try to think about why someone has crossed my path. I'll run this by the group. I get the woman's name and phone number. I'll get back to her.

More clothes are moving out the door. Some with a caucasian woman for her disabled roommate. Some with a black woman who takes the bus to get to the shop. Some with a hispanic woman who comes in every week.

I'm working in a thrift shop that could be in Anytown, USA. I like being here when customers find something they need at a great price. I smile, look them in the eyes, and give them an opening. More often than not, they start to tell a story. They're eager to have someone listen. That's all I can do. Listen and be humbled.

I say, "Enjoy that blouse. It looks beautiful on you."



In preparation for Grandparents' Day, I write a letter for Regan's second grade social studies class.

Dear Regan,

Thank you for asking me to write about my life when I was a child. Time goes by so fast. It seems like yesterday when I was seven — like you.

In second grade, my teacher was Mrs. Quimet. I remember her as I'm about to turn 70 years old. Our teachers are important to us. Somewhere around this time, my father, Pop, surprised us with a black and white television. We were the first family on our block to get one. It was like magic. I raced home from school every day to watch The Mickey Mouse Club. My favorite Mouseketeer was Darlene. I liked that she had long pigtails and often played the part of a tomboy. I also watched Sky King and Howdy Doody.

Our family lived in a very small house in San Jose, California. I had to share a bedroom with my little brother, James. I hated the arrangement. I liked dolls and he liked trains. I pushed a dresser into the middle of the room to divide it in two, but this only helped a little. I knew that James was still on the other side of the furniture.

When I was eight, Pop built a hamburger restaurant adjacent to his real estate office. He called it Burgertown. McDonald's didn't exist yet. Most days, after school, I went to Burgertown while Pop and GG cooked hamburgers and waited on tables. Sometimes I peeled potatoes or stocked the candy cabinet with Milky Ways, Snickers, M & M's, and Mounds Bars. I had hamburgers, fries, chocolate milk shakes, and hot fudge sundaes for dinner.  It was heaven.

Photo credit: heather brennan/flickr

Photo credit:
heather brennan/flickr

As I got a little older, I discovered that I liked to write poems. I wrote this poem one night while I was in bed.

The Moon Fairy

As I lay awake one night beside the window sill,
I raised the shade and took a peek while everything was still.
The moon shone on the house next door, made sparkles in the creek,
And where the purple violets grew, it left a silver streak.

There below my window sill upon a feathery fern,
I saw a wee wee fairy dance about and turn.
He frolicked there the whole night long and when the moon began to fade,
He looked up and saw me there below the window shade.

He spun around and disappeared into the frosty air,
And many times have I looked in hopes to find him there.

Sometimes when the moon is high and sparkles in the creek,
I raise the shade a tiny bit just to take a peek.
I never see the fairy there who played upon a tune,
But I can hear him playing, still, under the silvery moon.

I'd love to tell you more about when I was child if you want to know more. I wish for you a happy childhood. Don't grow up too fast. Otherwise, you'll soon be 70 years old like me. I love you Regan. I love you lots.




Finally, It's raining.

I'm at a mentoring session for duplicate bridge. Volunteer mentors coach us on various bridge conventions. Today, we're learning about New Minor Forcing. I read that, except for one or two, no top player has learned to play bridge after the age of 20. There go my chances for the big time.

Meanwhile, two friends died, unexpectedly, this week. One died from the flu. One day my friend was fine and three days later she was deceased. There's been a higher numbers of deaths in our area this flu season. The victims include healthy people who didn't get flu shots. This flu strain trips the body's immune response to the point that it overreacts and the sick person drowns in excess lung fluids.

My second friend died from cancer diagnosed a short time ago. Another healthy person felled.

I'm leaving bridge class, walking outside, and letting the rain splash on my face. I'm placing one foot in front of the other, mindful of firm ground. I'm giving thanks for another day. Especially for another wet, rainy day.

Photo credit: mrwtfd/flickr Winter Landscape Wassily Kandinsky

Photo credit: mrwtfd/flickr
Winter Landscape Wassily Kandinsky

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I'm posting abstract art by Wassily Kandinsky. Nice! Leave a comment and I will give you an artist to post. The idea is to occupy Facebook with art, breaking the monotony of photos of lunch, selfies and sport. I will assign the name of an artist to whomever likes this post, and you have to publish a piece by that artist with text like this: I was given Rembrandt. Here is his painting - Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Shawn: Great choice Patrick Ranahan
Patrick: Lisa, you get Wassily Kandinsky.
Patrick: Nick, you get Willem de Kooning.



Priceless notes from Utah in the mail today.

Dear Mim,
Thank you so much for the birthday and Christmas money! I spent some money on a video game and I'm saving some. I hope you come visit us this year!
Love, Ashton

Dear Mim,
Thank  you so much for the Christmas money! I decided to spend the money on books for my Kindle! I bought and read a lot of books with the money! Thank you so much. I can't wait to see you this summer!
Love, Aidan

I'm working out with Deanne. She says, "I can tell you're getting stronger. You're doing this at the right time. Some people say, 'I'm old' and think it's too late. But really, you're getting your body in shape for the next 20 years."

Deanne is gracious.

She hands me ten-pound weights. "I want you to sit, extend your arms down with the palms of your hands facing upward holding the weights. Keep your elbows in. Raise the weights to shoulder height."

She's got to be kidding. My right arm goes up — kind of. But my left arm's a total loser. It can't get the weight past my waist.

"You can do this," she says. "Try for four."

I try. I fail. Deanne switches me to three-pound weights. I can lift three pounds, but I have a ten-pound goal. Now, I know what's expected.


Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

February 8, 2014 - February 21, 2014: Life and Umbrellas * Stalling * Love This Place * A Very Good Day * Happy Valentine's Day * Getting Organized * Stuff * Conflict * Interview * Missing

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)