I love how you write-I hear your voice as I read your words. SL

Dede, So many of us thank you for continuing your advocacy work! How brave of you to continue the fight after loosing Pat. Respect and admire you for that. Hope you receive the highest honors for A Mothers Diary! XO Kimberlee W

Dede, thanks so much for your 11/30 stories from 2013.  I enjoy your wit and your writing on varied topics.  I also remember the snow that winter. NK


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


I prefer winter and fall,
when you feel the bone structure
of the landscape. Something waits
beneath it; the whole story doesn't show.
Andrew Wyeth


December 18, 2013 - December 25, 2013: On the Back Burner * Plans and Priorities * In the Moment * How the Light Gets In * Christmas Eve * A Christmas Card

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' DIARY by Dede Ranahan DECEMBER 1, 2013 - DECEMBER 16, 2013

Hiding Out * Keeping On Keeping On * It's Complicated * It's Idiopathic * Nelson Mandela * Abundance and Hunger * Snow * Showing Up * The Thrift Store * Give This Man a Chance * Back to Square One * Hiding in Plain Sight *Christmas Gifts * From My Now to Your Now

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."



Pat calls. "I have your money for you."

"All of it?"

"Yes, I told the people at the church what happened and they all chipped in and gave me the money. I'll give it to you on Tuesday when you take me for my MRI."

"Stash it someplace safe in the meantime. Don't lose it again."

"I won't."

I'm putting my collection of Thanksgiving pilgrims away and gathering Christmas decorations from the garage. I'm trying to forget that I look like I've been in a knock-down, drag-out fight. Hope no one comes to the door or calls me on FaceTime. I won't answer, either way, if they do.

Good thing about The Jazz. She doesn't seem to notice or care what I look like. She purrs and cuddles with me on good days and bad.



Irene calls. "Dede, thank you for the beautiful Thanksgiving e-card. I just opened it. Am I calling at a good time to talk?"


"I want to let you know that Ed passed away on Thanksgiving morning. All the family were gathered in his presence. It was very peaceful and he didn't appear to suffer. It's too soon, of course, but I'm glad he didn't linger. He wouldn't have been good at lingering."

"How are you, Irene?"

"I'm okay. Both of my girls are here with me and I couldn't have made it without them. I go in for more MS treatment on the tenth. There are many decisions to be made. Ed will be cremated and his ashes will be scattered beneath his favorite oak tree on the ranch. I'll put the house on the market in the spring. Eileen wants me to come live with her in Grass Valley. I may do that for a while, but I need full-time assisted living. I'll be looking for a facility I can afford that has some residents in my age group. It's a bit overwhelming. I'll stay with Eileen for a few weeks while I sort through some of these things."

"Irene, when you're in Grass Valley, let me know. I'll drive there to see you."

"I will. How's everything with you, Dede?"

"At this moment? Everything's okay. I try to take one day at a time. Thank you for calling. And please Irene, take good care of you."



I'm at the dermatologist's office. He looks at my swollen eyes. "Your eyes are much worse than the last time I saw you. I'm stumped. This problem is more of an internal medicine problem. You should see the allergy doctor."

I'm with the allergy doctor. He's showing me photos of people with swollen eyes on his computer. "We have to figure out if this is an outside-in problem or an inside-out problem. I'm ordering some blood tests to determine your thyroid function. Orbital edema is one of the least understood diseases on the planet."

I have a disease?

"Whatever explanation you offer for your swollen eyes, I guarantee that the theory's already been studied and found lacking. If you want to get a Ph.D. in this illness, medicine will thank you. This occurrence is idiopathic, or of an unknown cause. Meanwhile, another option is to start a course of prednisone. It will be hard on your bones, but if I were in your shoes, I'd opt for the prednisone. You are, medically speaking, becoming a complicated lady."

Hmm? Usually, I think "complicated" sounds interesting. Not this time.

Home again. I'm discouraged. I look like some kind of freak with huge, swollen eyes and enormous bags of fluid hanging down my cheeks. Have to keep this in perspective. I'm sure most folks would think mine is a minor problem, compared to MS or to dying.

Santa, all I want for Christmas are two normal looking eyes.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I know I should take it as a compliment, but getting carded at the bar when you're ordering a beer and you're well into your forty-fifth year is getting a little tiresome.



I'm picking Pat up to drive him to Kaiser for his six-month MRI. I try not to think about why we're doing this. It's to check if his brain tumor is returning. I wonder what he's feeling when he goes through the procedureFear? Worry? Like a time bomb's about to go off in his head? When he gets in the car, he takes out a wad of dollar bills.

"Here's your money."

"One hundred eighty dollars?"


"All from your friends at church?"


I never cease to be surprised by this son of mine. And by people in his church.

Home again. I'm taking prednisone, Benadryl, and non-aspirin acetaminophen, trying to fix my itchy eyes. I email the allergy doctor. "Anything else I can do for this itching?"

He emails back. "Wash your eyelids twice a day with warm water and no tears baby shampoo to remove any irritants. All the blood tests are coming back normal. As we discussed, it's idiopathic angioedema, or no known cause."

I have to remember this word. Next time I have to explain why something's happening that I don't understand, I'll say, "It's idiopathic. It's occurring spontaneously. I don't know why."

I don't have to know why. It's a foolproof answer for whatever you need a foolproof answer for. It covers all the bases and gets you off the hook.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Tried very hard to hear the music in the industrial noise of an MRI of the head, but there's no music to be found there, it's just horrible noise.


Photo credit: Arthur/flickr

Photo credit: Arthur/flickr


Nelson Mandela is dead at 95. One commentator says, "Some leaders are respected. Some are loved. Mandela was both loved and respected around the world."

How long does the influence of a world leader last? Will South Africa remember Mandela's example? Already there's talk that the integrity he modeled is coming undone. Scandal, greed, and political corruption are reported in his homeland. Is it inevitable that we regress when an icon no longer stands before us?

Mandela thought for himself. He was pragmatic. Nonviolent resistance was not an inviolate principle for him. When nonviolent resistance didn't appear to be working he promulgated a course of limited violence. "There is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon," he wrote in his autobiography. Yet, when the burden of decision-making was upon him, Mandela often used other tools in his toolbox. He chose forgiveness and reconciliation.

Mandela honed his ideas and his values during 27 years in prison with lots of time to think. A convergence of time, circumstance, and character gave his life historic meaning. He didn't nudge the world. He shoved it.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Glad I had the chance to hear him speak in Oakland. R.I.P. Nelson Mandela.



I'm stocking up on staples at the local discount grocery outlet — getting ready for Christmas week and the marathon of holiday meals. I'm culling my recipes and making selections.

I'm at the check out register. My total is $168.83. For this amount, I get black beans, white beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, bread, soups, canned tomatoes, assorted shredded cheeses, tuna, evaporated milk, olives, cottage cheese, peanut butter, pasta, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cereal, walnuts, almonds, lemon juice, sour cream, sausage, sugar, flour, baking soda, Canadian bacon, and cat food. The list doesn't include perishable fruits and vegetables which I'll go back for next week.

I'm heaving eight heavy bags from my car to my kitchen. By the time everything is put away, this will have been a half-day's undertaking.

Pat sends an email:

"Hi, I signed a petition to the United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says: 'We demand that Congress cease playing political hunger games that hurt vulnerable families, children, and local communities. Vote against any cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Food Stamps. Will you sign this petition? Click here. Thanks.'" Pat

I sign the petition.

It's 10 p.m. and I'm in bed for the night. It's 37 degrees outside and a heavy rain is falling. I hear it thudding onto the bark in my backyard. I pull up the red blanket I throw on top of my quilt. I'm warm and toasty under the covers.

I give thanks for this comfort. As I rest my head on my pillow, I close my eyes and imagine looking through the plaster ceiling, through the cement tiles on the roof, through the cloud cover, and into the dark, endless expanse of the universe. I breathe in and out. I'm one with what is. I fall asleep.

At 2:30 a.m., I'm wide awake. Prednisone is reducing the swelling in my eyes, but it's revving me up and interrupting my sleep. Canadian geese are flying over. They're squawking back and forth. Where are they flying in the dark, in the rain? Are they looking for shelter? Are they looking for food?

I remember the staples in my cupboards. I consider abundance and hunger. I don't go back to sleep.


Photo credit: ilze Long flickr

Photo credit: ilze Long


I was supposed to play bridge in an all-day regional tournament today. A new bridge partner has to cancel. Her daughter has bipolar disorder and lives at home. Her daughter's going through a rough patch. She's talking about not wanting to live.

"We can't leave her alone."

This friend comes to the family mental illness support group. Our December meeting will be next Friday. I'll send out a reminder and ask for an RSVP. With the holidays, people may be too busy or out of town. Or, with the holidays, there may be greater need to convene and support each other. Holidays can increase stress, push buttons, pull triggers. 

It's still raining. Oh, my gosh, it's snowing. The black bark in my yard is turning white. I'm cocooning. I'm turning on the Christmas tree lights, lighting candles, and heating the oven — getting ready to bake banana bread to put in the freezer.

I'll call my friend, later, to see how her family is doing. Maybe the falling snow will provide a quiet distraction — a meditation on things bigger than ourselves.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: First sign of the apocalypse: local grocery store discontinues Heinz 57 steak sauce.
Found a flash drive in my winter coat pocket that I was certain I had lost in a public computer room. It contained some very private data so glad I found it.
It's actually snowing here. Rare.



I'm sitting here staring at the computer screen as if something wondrous is about to crash through the glass. A brilliant thought? A novel idea? A 3D-living-technicolor manifestation of my awesome mind at work?

Writing pundits say, "You have to show up." Show up or you might miss the moment an inspiration bursts into view. Right over your head. Like a cloud with a candle in it or something.

So here I am. Waiting. Watching, Wondering. Thinking about that box of dark chocolate marshmallow Santa Clauses stored in the garage. I bought the candy to be Christmas after-dinner treats, but they've been delivered too soon. There were 18 in the box and they're disappearing one at a time. There are nine left. I need twelve. I'm short three. What to do?

I could order more but I bought them on sale and now I'd have to pay full price. And the timing would  still be off. They need to arrive right in time for dessert on Christmas Day. Not a moment too soon.

I could have them delivered to a friend's house. I'd ask her to bring them over with an invitation to join us for dessert. This plan has defects though. Which of my friends is trustworthy enough? Which doesn't like dark chocolate covered marshmallow? Which has nerves of steel and oodles of willpower? 

None of them. We're all wimps.

There's another plan coming into focus. Plan B. I could skip the dark chocolate marshmallow Santa Clauses altogether. It's not like I've announced them already. I could serve peppermint ice cream with chocolate sprinkles and who the heck would know? And since nobody would know, nobody would be disappointed.

I wouldn't have to bother a friend to store the Santas and deliver them. I wouldn't have to worry about the timing thing. There'd be no reason not to go into the garage right now and take one Santa out of the box. The more I think about it, the more I'm liking this Plan B. It makes a lot of sense.

The writing pundits are right. I'm glad I plopped myself down in this desk chair, glad I sat waiting in silence, glad I didn't let a blank computer screen scare the you-know-what out of me. If I hadn't shown up at my computer today, I'd have missed this inspiration, altogether.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: You have reached the end of the internet. Turn around and go back.



I'm at Snap it Up for my Tuesday morning shift. People come in the door one and two at a time. It's a steady stream this morning. The first customer says, "I'm buying these clothes for my sister. She and her long-time boyfriend broke up. She's wearing his clothes and he's wearing hers."

"Can she go to his house and pick up her clothes?"

"No, it's a volatile situation. I'm trying to stay out of it, but she needs some winter clothes. She's wearing summer stuff."

Another woman's found three strange looking red cords. I don't know what they're for but she does. "They're Christmas lights. Please plug them in and make sure they work. I've lost my job and I have to be careful spending for Christmas."

All lights light up. Three light sets sold, fifty cents each.

I show a small, petite lady the dressing room. She's holding a brand new pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. I think they look a little big for her. She better try them on.

A woman with a walker hands me a denim jacket, a headset, two Christmas wine glasses, a lavender and peach scarf, and a green bracelet. "I'd like to see that lavender beaded bracelet in the counter, too."

The bracelet's three dollars. She clasps the bracelet on her wrist. "I really like it. I better not. I have to make the check I got today last the rest of the month."

I tell her maybe her luck will hold and the bracelet will still be here next month. Damn. Wish I'd t thought to offer it to her for half-off.

A young girl asks, "Do you have any ugly Christmas sweaters? My brother needs one for a work Christmas party." We search both the men's and women's racks. No ugly Christmas sweaters.

"Let me look in the back and see what's come in." I find three ugly Christmas sweaters — all large women's cardigans. The girl's eyes get big.

"Let me go get my sister-in-law." 

A few minutes later the sister-in-law flies in the door. "Can I see those sweaters? It doesn't matter that they're women's." She's giddy to have three sweaters to choose from. She picks a tan sweater with a green Christmas tree on the front and a brown moose on the back.

"My husband will be so excited to have this sweater for his party."

Another happy customer. I love this job.

A new woman says, "I'd like to look at that Christmas creche in the cabinet." 

I pull out a boxed set with 15 pieces - Mary, Jesus, Joseph, the wise men. The whole enchilada. The box is worn but it looks like Mary and Joseph and crew have never been out of it. The woman inspects the plastic pieces for chips.

"I'd hate to buy this creche for my daughter and then get stuck with it if she doesn't like it. I'll re-donate it if that happens, but she keeps telling me she really wants one."

Sold for eight dollars.

Three Hispanic women pile a mountain of clothes on the counter. Most items are one dollar or uno. A few are two dollars or dos. That's our bilingual exchange. I smile. They smile. Everyone's laughing.

An Asian man comes in the shop, inspects some items on the Christmas decor table, and leaves.

The woman with the jeans comes out of the dressing room. The Gloria Vanderbilt jeans are too big but another pair is perfect. I put the Vanderbilt jeans to the side and ring up her purchase. Those are really nice jeans she didn't buy. They're size eight. Hmm? When was the last time I wore a size eight? Do I dare try on these jeans when I'm through for the day?

The Asian man comes back. He buys two Christmas ornaments. One for fifty cents and one for ten cents, plus tax. He gives me the exact change.

Last sale of the day — a two-dollar Christmas ornament. I hope it's for an ugly Christmas ornament exchange. I don't say that.

I'm in the dressing room with Gloria Vanderbilt. I look in the mirror. I turn around. I look again. I'm so excited I have to tell someone. I tell the manager. "Jennifer, the jeans fit."

Sold for five dollars. And throw in a Christmas scarf for The Jazz.

What a great store. It raises funds for FieldHaven. It gives exceptional value to the community. To me, it feels like home and a breath of fresh air.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Just love the feeling of creeping along in a parking lot, looking to the right at the empty spot you're about to pull into, when you hear the crunch of a collision from a pickup truck backing into you. Which is to say that I don't really like the feeling at all.



The December surprise arrives. Actually, it's not a surprise. The surprise would have been if there were no surprise. Pat was in an auto accident yesterday.

"Mom, it's a fender bender. It happened in a parking lot."

He's called the insurance company. He's taking the car into a collision center for an estimate. "The other guy says we're both at fault. I might have a thousand-dollar deductible."

Lord. Who might have a thousand-dollar deductible? I'll be the one who has the deductible.

Pat says, "It's bad timing. I have a job interview in Davis tomorrow. I can't drive my car that far with the driver's side rear view mirror torn off."

"Okay. Drive my car to the job interview."

Pat arrives to pick up my car. He's printing forms for the DMV that the insurance company told him to fill out. They think it was the other guy's fault. Pat says his policy doesn't include rental car coverage while his car is being repaired.

"Let me know what the insurance company decides and how the job interview goes."

Pat looks handsome in his tan jacket, white shirt, and polished black shoes. My son's trying hard to get his life on track. I gaze at him in awe. He never gives up. This man, this son of mine, deserves a chance.



Pat Calls. "I didn't get the job."

That was fast. "What did they say?"

"They had fifty-six applicants for five positions."

"Well, it would have been a long commute."

"I know, but I would have driven it."

"What about your car?"

"The other insurance company is saying that we're both at fault. USAA is saying it's the other guy's fault. They may have to get a third party mediator."

"Okay. Let me know when they make a decision."

"Okay. Bye, Mom."

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: My dog's defecation clock somehow got set to three a.m. this week. Guess it's good practice if I ever have a child.



There are 13 people at the mental illness support group meeting today. One new person shares her story — long-standing and difficult. She's trying to get better services for her son. He hears voices. He says, "The voices are telling me I need to help them blow up the world or I need to kill myself."

The woman's been unable to get an appointment for her son to see a psychiatrist. She's trying to get assistance from someone in a state senator's office. She's also collecting gloves, hats, and coats for the homeless. Her son stays in a grungy downtown hotel and she's concerned for those who don't have an inside place to stay in the 20-degree weather we're having.

"Is your son still talking about killing himself?"

"He says, 'Mom, I'm handling it. I told the voices I'd help them blow up the world. I called their bluff. They've quieted down.'"

A  marriage and family therapist joins the group for the first time. "I've worked with clients who have mental illness and I've worked with many families. I came today thinking maybe I could answer some questions or make some suggestions. I'm aware that everything said in this room is confidential. If I meet you the neighborhood, I won't acknowledge you unless you want me to."

An elderly couple sits close to one another. She looks frail. He's been here before by himself. "I brought her today so she can listen and I'm here to support her."

I ask, "Do you want to talk about anything?"

"No, we're observing."

We sit at a u-shaped table in a grocery store that lets us use a conference room once a month. Shoppers walk by the closed, folding plastic doors. They can see us but they can't hear us. Mental illness doesn't exist in this country. We hide it in plain sight.



I've ordered Frozen dolls, Anna and Else, for Regan and Ayla. Have calls into Megan and Marisa to see if there's something I can send for Aidan and Ashton and Sam and Elise or if cash in a card is in anyway exciting.

"How much do you want to spend?"

I hate this question. It touches on issues behind issues behind issues. It verges into psychology, financial literacy, and emotional conditioning. It's one of the fundamental questions about aging on a fixed income. How do I make sure I don't run out of money too soon? How do I weigh living now versus living later? How do I discern when to splurge and when to save?

I'm on the phone with Marisa. We're online for hours, trying to find a pair of pink, fluffy slippers for Elise. Who would think that pink, fluffy slippers would be difficult to find? Finally, we find slippers. They're not pink. They're not fluffy. They're brown with chocolate dots on them. Elise says, "They're good."

Sam wants a Golden State Warriors beanie. That search takes a couple of minutes. The slippers and the beanie are both available on Amazon. Shipping times are good for Christmas delivery. Christmas gifts for two sets of grandkids down. One set to go. I'm waiting for a call back from Megan.



Megan's on the phone. Aidan and Ashton need rubber bands for their Rainbow Looms. So, I'm sending money gifts to buy rubber bands and whatever else they want.

My cousin, Annette, calls from Kansas City. Her son, Danny, recently met a man from Wayne County, Pennsylvania. The man says, "The county's crawling with Funks." Funk is my mother's family name. Danny's trying to get more information about possible, current-day relatives.

Annette and I discuss a photo of an 1890s farmhouse. She and I both have copies. An unknown relative wrote on the back of the photo, "This is grandmother's house. On the porch is one brother, and on the lawn is another brother, and another brother is to the left."

A reminder to give more specific information.

This evening, as I slip under the covers, I'm thinking about my descendants. I want you to know dear children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, that I'm thinking of you. I hope this journal will give you a picture of life in the distant past - in the years 2013-2014.

My "rainbow loom" uses words. With words, I'm trying to weave a big, warm hug that will wrap around you in the future.


Love, Mom, Mim, Great-Grandma, Great-Great-Grandma.
Love, Dede


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


I prefer winter and fall,
when you feel the bone structure
of the landscape. Something waits
beneath it; the whole story doesn't show.
Andrew Wyeth


December 18, 2013 - December 25, 2013: On the Back Burner * Plans and Priorities * In the Moment * How the Light Gets In * Christmas Eve * A Christmas Card

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 :-)


Your diary's never boring. Love it. I'll cry if it ever ends!! GM

omg, you're breaking my heart already in the first "trenches" post! guess we are in the same club...will keep reading Randye

 I’ve really been enjoying your diary. Nice to get to know you! Judy


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

Hiding Out * Keeping On Keeping On * It's Complicated * It's Idiopathic * Nelson Mandela * Abundance and Hunger * Snow * Showing Up * The Thrift Store * Give This Man a Chance * Back to Square One * Hiding in Plain Sight *Christmas Gifts * From My Now to Your Now

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 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 - DECEMBER 1, 2013

Walkin' the Cat * It's Criminal * Follow the Leader * November 22, 1963 * Happy Birthday, Marisa Elizabeth * Little Things * God Bless Us Everyone * Thanksgiving * Which End's Up? * Topsy-Turvy

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."



I've gone and done it. Didn't want to do it in broad daylight, but the way I figure, it's now or never.

I'm still reading Rebecca Skloot's, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Last night, I fell asleep readin' the book. That's why this dialect is stickin' in my brain. I love the honesty, the energy, the music in it. As one of Henrietta's relatives told Rebecca, "If you pretty up how people spoke and change the things they said, that's dishonest. It's taking away their lives, their experiences, and their selves."

Anyway, I woke up this morning with a tellin' in my head — as if I spoke like one of Henrietta's relatives. Perfect timin' cuz I'm not sure I want to reveal what I'm doin'. This way of talkin' will be part of my disguise. Not that my inflection or phrasing is accurate. It's not.

So I been pushin' this new cat stroller round my house for two weeks. I been hopin' The Jazz would get curious and want to ride in it so I can take her for walks. She's curious 'bout everythin' else. She jumps in boxes. Jumps in paper sacks. Soon as I open a cupboard door, if I'm not watchin,' sure enough she's in that cupboard. And she ain't comin' out.

Like an idiot, I'm pushing this kitty carriage around in my house, at night, with the shutters closed. The Jazz loves riding on the seat of GG's walker. She loves riding on the back of my desk chair. But she doesn't even sniff at this stroller. She doesn't get near it.

This morning, I decided the time has come. We have to try this thing out or I'll have to talk it back to the pet store. Got a good deal on it too — half off. I make sure the zipper on the stroller's mesh covering is aligned and ready to zip. I pick my kitty up using a soft voice to not scare her too much. I plop her in the stroller and zip it shut. Fast as I can. She's not happy but she's not screaming, either.

"We're taking a walk," I say. "Out to see the birds and the bees and the trees and the flowers. Out to see the big wide world you never get to see."

I start down the sidewalk and, boy, am I hoping no one is coming out on the street today. I should have a worn a big, floppy hat and dark glasses to cover my face. Too late. I round the corner and wouldn't you know. Here comes a neighbor from the next street over. Orchid Lane. That's the fancy street. She's out walking her dog. She's coming right at me.

"Well, isn't this great," she says. "You're walking your cat. Makes sense since she probably won't walk on a leash."

My neighbor doesn't know how right she is. Her dog's yapping at The Jazz who's hissing through the blue mesh covering. She's got a view out all four sides of the stroller.

"You didn't see me," I say. "We never had this conversation," I say.

My neighbor nods and moves on. I round the next corner and the next corner and the next corner. We're in the home stretch for our first outing. The Jazz is turning back and forth in the stroller. Looking out the back at me. Looking out the front at Lord knows what. But like I said, she isn't screaming.

Back to the front door. I push the stroller inside and unzip the cover. The Jazz flies out. She's glad to be free. Guess we'll keep this pet contraption. It wasn't that bad out there — long as I don't catch eyes peeking through curtains as we pass by.

I'll stop trying to pretend I'm not doing what I'm doing. I'll hold my head high and wear bright colors. Don't know why people can walk dogs but not cats. It will broaden Jazzy's life experience. It will be good exercise for me.

Don't tell my kids about this, though. I'll never hear the end of it.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Don't look back. "A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr.



More talk in the news today about murders and suicides attributed to guns and mental illness. More talk about the lack of services and beds for the mentally ill who ask for help. More talk about the failure of our mental health system.

I've fought the battle for better mental health care for a long time. Between 2001-2003, for example, in the university system where I worked, I produced seminars titled "Mental Illness in the Classroom - How to Recognize It and Who Can Help." Teachers, kindergarten through university level, were hungry for this information and came to these workshops from throughout California and from out of state.

For one symposium, Tipper Gore sent a personal video message to the audience. For another, we featured the award-winning KQED documentary, Hope on the Street. In the film I narrated our family's anonymous story, which was one of five stories. With the KQED producer, I travelled to the Carter Center in Atlanta, at the invitation of Rosalyn Carter, to show the film there.

In spite of worthwhile projects and sold-out attendance at our conferences, university resistance to dedicated mental health programs was entrenched. Deans were interested only if programs would bring in big bucks for their schools. Some professors said, "Forget it." In a focus group for faculty readiness, one professor told me, "I'm fed up with students making irrational outbursts in my classroom. I'm a professor because I want to teach. I've no time for this other nonsense."

Resistance was widespread. A ranking member of the State Department of Education said to me, "Please don't educate teachers about mental illness. They'll become more frustrated than they already are when they learn there are no resources to make the changes that need to be made."

When my position at the university was cut, my mental health programs languished. I found out, later, that certain administrators and faculty members experienced mental illnesses within their own families. The powers in charge, however, could not or would not connect the dots. Much stigma and shame existed.

In 2013, there is still much stigma and shame. I get asked, from time to time, to get back in the fray. I say, "My energy, these days, is concentrated on my son."

I know that younger advocates will continue the struggle, but it's sad that getting timely, appropriate, stigma-free mental illness care remains a huge challenge. For those who suffer from serious mental illness, priority for their care continues to sink to the bottom of the proverbial heap. 

It's criminal.



Kerry and Regan are at a parent-teacher-student conference so I'm with Ayla. We're in the backyard. Ayla's blowing bubbles and Piper's trying to catch them. She jumps and chomps at them in mid-air, and makes them pop.

Ayla says, "Popping bubbles is Piper's favorite thing to do. She was born to chase bubbles. She's a crazy dog."

It's windy so we go inside. Ayla has an idea. "Let's play my cherry tree game."

Ayla sets up the game and explains the rules. We start playing, but we're running out of cherries. Ayla makes a unilateral decision.

"This game's too hard for you, Mim. Let's play another game."

We're playing CandyLand. For Ayla, CandyLand isn't a competitive game — it's a team sport. The red, green, yellow, and blue plastic people must all advance toward the CandyLand castle together. If one plastic person draws a good card, all plastic people get the same good card.

"I'll be the leader," Ayla says. "The rest of you come with me."

Now, we're building something — a tower slide for marbles. Ayla knows exactly how to fit the green tubes and purple tubes together. She holds up a silver marble.

"This is the test marble. Let's see if it goes."

The marble rattles down the tubes to the bottom. Our marble tower is a success.

Kerry and Regan are home. Regan got all T's on her report card. T stands for On Target. Boy, have things changed. On my report cards, we got E for Excellent, S for Satisfactory or U for Unsatisfactory. If I'd gotten a T, I'd have torn up my report card and run away from home. I'd have thought that T meant Terrible or Terminated.

Kerry takes me upstairs to Regan's bedroom. She shows me the dresser she's spray-painted white. It used to be my dresser when I was 15. I didn't like it at the time. Made from solid maple with tongue-in-groove drawers, it seemed like furniture for old people, not me. Today, the dresser has been passed down to my granddaughter. It looks modern painted white. It has clean, classic lines. It will, most likely, be in the family when I'm no longer around. I could get sentimental. 

Ayla's rolling on the floor. "Look at my butt, Mim."

Kerry says, "Stop, Ayla. you're not being polite."

Ayla's laughing. Butts are funny. One can't get maudlin with Ayla around. If we follow the leader, we'll find lots of fun things to do.

President and Mrs. Kennedy November 22, 1963

President and Mrs. Kennedy November 22, 1963

NOVEMBER 22, 2013: NOVEMBER 22, 1963

It's 10:45 a.m., November 22, 1963. I'm in Father Fagothey's philosophy class at the University of Santa Clara. I'm sitting in the fourth desk from the front in the third row from the left. My off-again-on-again boyfriend, Jim, is sitting in the desk next to me on the right. A student enters the room and hands a note to Father Fagothey.

Father Fagothey's reading the note. He's not moving. He's looking down. The room is silent. Father Fagothey looks up and says, "Class is dismissed. President Kennedy's been shot."

There's a collective gasp. Students run out the door. Jim picks up his books and disappears down the hall. I'm walking across campus back to my dorm. It's a crisp, clear day. Leaves are falling. Like the leaves, students are scattering in all directions. Some are gathering in small groups. Everyone's crying. I'm crying. I pass Jim. He's sitting in his white Ford Thunderbird in front of the student union. He doesn't see me. His eyes are closed.

The TV's humming in my dorm lobby. I don't stop to watch it. I go to my room and throw some books and clothes into a small bag. I'll drive home — it's minutes away. I'll watch the news in my living room. I'm praying that when I get home and turn on the TV, the newscaster will say that the President's in surgery and expected to survive. The President's going to be fine. The country's going to be fine. The world's going to be fine.

I know, fifty years from now, I'll recall I was in Father Fagothey's philosophy class when I learned President Kennedy was shot. I hope I'll also recall that, when I got home, TV reports said he was out of danger and receiving good care.



Tomorrow is Marisa's 40th birthday. This weekend Megan and Kerry have joined her in Seattle for a sisters' weekend. They're posting photos on Instagram. They're all smiles and hugs. A candle is blazing like a sparkler on Marisa's birthday dessert. 

I'm pleased that my daughters are good friends. Not all sisters end up being friends. I hear. I don't know. I never had a sister, really. I say, "really" because my mother did give birth to a little girl, Loretta Marie, when I was four. I didn't learn about this until later. She lived a few hours.

I was excited that my mother was having a baby. I couldn't wait to hold it. Then Pop walked in the front door empty handed. He said, "They were out of babies at the hospital today."

That was it. No further discussion. What? How could this be? The day my mother goes to the hospital to get our baby they're out of them? Could we only get a baby on this one day? What about tomorrow? Will more babies be coming in? I didn't ask these questions. I mulled them over in my four-year-old mind. Thinking about this, now, my chest feels heavy. I've never talked about it.

About six years later, when I was ten, my friend's mother was expecting. I was jealous. Mary Jo was about to have a baby in her house. I knew, by then, that hospitals didn't run out of babies, that babies grew in mothers' tummies. I understood I had a baby sister who died. What if Mary Jo's baby would die? The thought crossed my mind. Then Mary Jo's little sister died during childbirth. Did I wish that and make it happen? The thought haunted me. I was a terrible, terrible, little girl with evil powers. Another thing I've never talked about.

Wow, Marisa's birthday and the subject of sisters has gone in an unexpected direction. Back to my daughters. Once again, I'm jealous. I have a perfectly okay brother. I'd also like to have a sister. And Jim would probably like to have a brother.

I talk to my cousin, Annette, in Kansas City. "You need to come out here," I tell her. She says she'll think about it. She doesn't like traveling and making trip arrangements. Maybe, if I tell her I have to have a sister and she's it, she'll come.

Meanwhile, Happy 40th Birthday, Marisa. I love you and Kerry and Megan. And Patrick. And Jim. We mustn't forget the brothers. Here's to at least  40 more years — for all of us.



First thing this morning, I called to wish Marisa "Happy Birthday."  I asked her about the wine and chocolates I'd ordered for her room. And about the note that said, "Have a Wonderful Sisters' Weekend."

I'm bummed. Marisa didn't get the wine, or the chocolates, or the note. I can't reconstruct the situation. This error can't be undone. I call the hotel and ask to speak to the manager. I'm connected to Edward. "I'm looking at your daughter's hotel record," he says. "I apologize. We totally dropped the ball on this. I can offer a discount on the next booking of our hotel. I'll send you an email to track this offer."

I'm waiting for the email. I'd rather have had an excited text from Marisa at the beginning of her birthday weekend about the surprise in her room. Maybe whoever "dropped the ball" won't do it again. Maybe he or she will remember, next time, that little things can mean a lot.

An email exchange with Pat.

"Hi, Pat. See you Thursday at Kerry's. Can you pick up GG at 4:00 p.m.? Kerry and I will be cooking. I have a postcard here for you. I'll bring it on Thursday." Mom

"Hi, Mom. Yes, I'll pick up GG on Thursday. I think, after the last payment to the bankruptcy lawyer we owe three hundred sixty dollars. I made a little money last weekend and I'm wondering if we could pay off the total if I give you half — one  hundred eighty dollars. Thanks." Pat

"Hi, Pat. If you can pay half, that is a huge help. How did you make the money? At the church?" Mom

"Hi, Mom. I made the money helping a friend of mine with his screen printing business at an Irish dance competition at the Sacramento Convention Center. I'll call and verify what the total is. So, if I pay half, can we pay the total and get this over with?" Pat

"Hi, Pat. Yes, let's get this over with." Mom

"Hi, Mom. Thank you." Pat

PATICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I just spent two days helping a friend with his vending business at one of the most bizarre cultural events I've ever witnessed. It was called Oireachtas 2013 and was the Western Region Competition of Traditional Irish Dancers. There were about 2000 young girls competing for national and world qualifications and most of them were anywhere from 5-13 years old and they were all done up like beauty pageant contestants in full costume dresses, wigs, and makeup. I might have some serious nightmares tonight.



Whoa. I just called Irene. She's always the same - calm and grateful. Ed has taken a turn for the worse. Irene says that hospice has moved in full-time. "They're wonderful. And my daughter, Eileen, who's a nurse is here, too. I couldn't manage without her. Thankfully, we're able to keep Ed comfortable. And the grandkids have decorated his room with deer antlers and photos to make his room look like his room at the ranch. That's his favorite place to be."

"Is he awake?"

"He comes and goes. He's such a nice guy."

Irene and Eddie have been married 51 years. What a wonderful thing to be able to say after 51 years - "He's such a nice guy."

"I won't keep you, Irene, but I want you to know I'm thinking of you."

Irene wishes me "Happy Thanksgiving." She and her daughters are planning to fix a turkey and celebrate with the grandkids and with Eddie in his room. He won't be leaving it again. More of my friends are dying with grace. I'm thankful for their example. God bless us everyone.


Photo credit: jozjozjoz/Flickr

Photo credit: jozjozjoz/Flickr



First time, ever, that I haven't hosted Thanksgiving. I used to have 25 to 30 people for Thanksgiving. Then it dwindled to ten.  Now, I'm passing turkey day to Kerry.

I'm at Kerry's. We decided it would be fun, as long as we're both spending the afternoon cooking, to do it together. I'm preparing a new recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts. They remain attached to the stalk. They'll serve as both the centerpiece and a side dish. My cell phone rings. It's Pat.

"Mom, I'm having a really bad day."

"What's happening?"

"I can't find my wallet. I've looked everywhere. I had the cash in it that I planned to give to you today."

Here goes my stomach. I've already put $360 on my credit card to pay the bankruptcy attorney. Pat is supposed to give me half today. I've been feeling proud that he's earned some money and offered to pay some of the bankruptcy expense. Is this for real? Have I been set up? Why do I never know how to handle situations with my son? They always catch me off guard.

Pat arrives at Kerry's. "Did you find your wallet?"


I'm home again. We had a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner, but this money thing is throwing me. Why the drama? On Thanksgiving? I'm forgetting about the things I'm thankful for. I send an email.

"Pat, I'm counting on that $180 for Christmas expenses. I wasn't planning to put $360 on my credit card." Mom

"Mom, hopefully my wallet will turn up soon and I'll have the money to give you. If not, I'll get the $180 to you as soon as possible." Pat

"Pat, I took you on good faith and I'm disappointed. I can't keep being the financial fall guy. I'll deduct the $180 from the bills I pay in December." Mom

"Mom, I had the money set aside to pay you. You don't even care that I am out nearly $200 if I don't find my wallet. Please give me some time to either find my wallet or come up with the $180." Pat

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!



Early morning email from Pat. 

"Mom, I hardly slept at all last night. Not only am I upset and worried that I lost $200 that I intended to give to you and that I worked very hard to get, I'm terrified that you're going to cut off my cable, internet, phone, and renter's insurance.

"I'm already having a terrible time finding work, but without these things it will be basically impossible for me to look for work, send out resumes, or reply to employers via phone.

"Please don't do this to me. I feel like you are punishing me for something I shouldn't be punished for — losing my wallet. I realize that I still owe you $180 and I fully intend to get that to you as soon as I'm able, but taking away my communications with the outside world is not going to help me achieve that." Pat.

No matter what I do, I always feel like I've done the wrong thing with my son. I've been too lenient or too strict. I call Pat. "I'm coming over to help you look for your wallet. Maybe a different set of eyes will find it."

I'm at Pat's. His house, as usual, is in disarray. Dirty dishes in the sink. Dust everywhere.

"The last time I used my wallet was at Walmart. I don't remember seeing it after that."

"Do you think someone took it out of your pocket?"

"I've thought about that."

"Call Walmart and see if someone turned your wallet into lost and found."

Pat calls. No one's answering the phone.

"Okay. I want you to go there and check with customer service."

I look upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, in the garage, in the car. There's no sign of a wallet.

"I worked really hard for that money. I was feeling good that I could buy Lexi's dog food this month and pay for her shots."

I'm home again. I get an email from Pat.

"Hi Mom. I forgot to ask you if you could drive me to my MRI for my brain tumor on Tuesday? I'm supposed to take an Ativan and not drive. Thanks." Pat.

Everything's so mixed up and convoluted with my son. Every day I question my own judgment.



It's 8:30 a.m. The phone's ringing. It's Pat.

"Mom, I think I'll have some money to give you tomorrow."

"Did you find your wallet?"

"No, I sent an email to the church and told them what happened and I think some of the people are going to help me. I'll let you know, tomorrow, how much I can give you."

Back and forth. Up and down. I'm feeling topsy-turvy. Also, I'm hiding out.

Six months ago, a dermatologist determined that chemicals in my hair products were the cause of my then swollen, itchy eyes. He prescribed a new shampoo and my eyes cleared up. Yesterday morning, I woke up with two bulging eyes. By evening, they were much worse. I called a hospital advice nurse. She scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist this coming Monday.

Meanwhile, trying to think of a clever metaphor or simile but nothing's coming to mind except a cliche. I look like shit.

Not a fun way to begin the holiday season.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I picked up a Christmas tree a few months ago. It's fake with pre-strung lights. I put it up today. Gaping holes in places, two strings of lights don't work, top is broken and leans off to one side. It's a Charlie Brown Christmas! Funny, sort of, because it's unfortunately true.


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

Hiding Out * Keeping On Keeping On * It's Complicated * It's Idiopathic * Nelson Mandela * Abundance and Hunger * Snow * Showing Up * The Thrift Store * Give This Man a Chance * Back to Square One * Hiding in Plain Sight *Christmas Gifts * From My Now to Your Now

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Dede Ranahan graciously shares her story with us and it is absolutely amazing.
Thank you Dede ((((♡♡♡♡♡)))) Mary  S

Enjoying your diary. I can relate to you and your son, Pat. I wish I'd written a journey on Shane but had no idea that I would out live my son or that I would lose him at 39. Savor your time with your family. Even the difficult times. May God bless you and your family. Darlene

I've been reading your diary, Dede. It's beautiful. And so are you. Jean


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

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 -DECEMBER 1, 2013: Walkin' the Cat * It's Criminal * Follow the Leader * November 22, 1963 * Happy Birthday, Marisa Elizabeth * Little Things * God Bless Us Everyone * Thanksgiving * Which End's Up? * Topsy-Turvy

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