A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan - OCTOBER 19, 2013 - NOVEMBER 2, 2013

One Day * Stories Inside Stories * Fashion Shows * Distractions * Damsel Braids and Inchworms * Ode to Cleaning * Busy Day * Gravity * Animal Sanctuary * Elder Ride * Halloween * Obsession * A Calling to Write

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."



Kerry and Marisa are walking a ten-mile Nike marathon for breast cancer in San Francisco.

Megan's hiking with her family in Utah's Kolob Canyon.

Pat's working the sound system at Unity Church in Roseville.

GG's attending a tea party in her assisted living facility in Roseville.

I'm playing duplicate bridge in Lincoln.

Four kids.

One mom.

And me.

One day.



I'm taking my Prius in for its 60,000-mile service. The dealership shuttle drops me off at the Galleria Mall while I wait for my car. The shuttle driver tells me to call her when I'm ready to be picked up. Sounds like a plan. The mall doesn't open until 11:00 a.m. and it's 10:30. I find an open entrance next to Pottery Barn. A woman is letting someone inside the store.

"Are you open?"

"No, but we're giving a decorating class and you're welcome to attend."

A sales associate carries a water canister filled with ice, water, and lemon slices out to the desk by the cash register. This is an item I've been thinking about for a while and here it is, right in front of me. And because I'm attending the decorating class, I get a coupon for 10% off anything I buy today. I ask the salesperson to put a water canister and its white porcelain base aside for me while I look around. I love browsing in this store. I enjoy the displays of pillows, candles, artificial flowers, and baskets. As if every home in America looks like this. It's a Norman Rockwell marketing strategy.

I scoot over to Crate and Barrel, which is right next door, to check out their water servers. They have more expensive models but they're not as nice as the one I have on hold at Pottery Barn. This is a shopper's dream. I've found a better buy and I get 10% off. The devil's leading me on. Before going back to pay for the water server, I see white dishes. I'm not looking for white dishes. I don't really need white dishes. But dishes and serving ware are two of my guilty pleasures. These dinner plates are labeled a "Best Buy." They're $5.95 each or eight for $41.95. They're oven, microwave, and dishwasher proof. They'd look perfect on my table at Christmas. To be an equal opportunity consumer, I buy the plates at Crate and Barrel and head back to Pottery Barn to purchase the water canister. This is turning into a successful shopping trip.

The dealership calls to say my car is ready. They've found some suspicious looking bubbling around the water pump seal. It should be watched.

"How much is the water pump replacement?"

"Four hundred fifty-seven dollars."

"No way."

They're not telling me I can't drive my car off the lot without repair. And a water pump isn't nearly as much fun as a water server and white dinner plates. I call the shuttle driver to tell her I'm ready to be picked up. I get a recording that says, "The shuttle will get to you in the order of your call."

I head over to Nordstrom's and sit down on a bench in the entry way between the parking lot and the store. This Nordstrom entrance is where the shuttle driver said she'd pick me up. Half an hour goes by. I call the shuttle service again and get the same recording. I leave another message. I'm in my people-watching mode. A lanky man and a lumpy woman walk through the door.

"I won't wear something like that," she says, "I'm too chunky."

I make up a back story. They're dating. They haven't slept together yet. She's trying to prepare her guy.

Three teenage girls run out the door. One shouts, "There he is. Hey, dude!"

They sprint and scramble into a car. Back Story: The "dude" is the girl's older brother who just got his driver's license. In return for getting to drive the family car, he has to drive his little sister and her friends to the mall.

A Russian family of five charge through the entry way. The mother barks something at the father. Sounds like "$%#!(***." Back story: The husband and wife are fighting over how to spend their money at the mall. She wants to buy a pressure cooker. He wants to buy boots.

A bald man and a long-haired woman enter from the outside door. She races ahead and opens the inside door to the store. "People don't have to open the door for me," she says, "I do it myself."

Back story: The woman asked the man to take out the trash this morning and he said, "Do it yourself." She's pissed.

It's two-and-a-half hours since I called the shuttle service. Something's amiss. I call the service tech. I get his cell phone and a recording. I leave a message. I'm tired of people-watching and I'm losing my sense of humor. I call an office number. A perky girl answers.

"Can I help you?"

"I hope so."

I tell her my back story. She puts me on hold. Several minutes later, she comes on the line again. "We're very sorry. The shuttle driver never got your message. She'll be right there."

The shuttle arrives. The driver's apologetic. "It's my third day on the job. I'm so sorry." She apologizes all the way back to the dealership. Inside, the service technician apologizes.

All's well that ends well. I drive back to the mall to pick up my packages. At home, the water server and the white dishes look even better than they did in the stores. I usually hate shopping, but today felt spontaneous and in-the-zone. Next time I go shopping, I'll probably end up buying a new water pump.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I spent a week in my car yesterday. Accepted a ride-share gig to drive a guy to Oregon to bring his daughter to her mother as part of his custody agreement. The ride up, starting at 6 a.m., was narrated all the way by a three year old demanding food, water, hand-holding, song-singing, and frequent bathroom stops. 

The way back was narrated by a guy (who had a gleam of danger in his eyes) who could not stop talking and would become emotionally agitated every time we saw a policer officer on the road. He pontificated endlessly on how much he hated cops, government, "anything related to social control."

I still hear him babbling. Didn't get home till after 9 p.m. What horrors I have to subject myself to in order to put a few bucks in my pocket. Beware of babblers who can't tolerate silence and who begin almost every thought with, "You know, a lot of people don't know this, but..."

If nothing else, the creative material is piling up. I feel a book of short stories coming on.



It's been 30 years since I've been to a fashion show and, today, I'm at a fashion show put on by community volunteers. Three stores are providing the outfits. The models wear lots of palazzo pants that make everyone look shapeless. Baubles, bangles, and beads remind me of the sixties. Very Bohemian.

Ten women are sitting with me at a round table. Four are in long-term marriages. Four are long-term singles. One, who is 70-something, is newly wed. One, who is 70-something, is newly widowed. The circle of life on display in a circle of women.

The woman next to me says, "I hope the show ends soon."

Me, too. I'd like to see a few ensembles put together from the clothing at Snap it Up. At intermission, I ask the woman in charge if they've ever used outfits from a thrift store.

"We don't do that here," she says.

Another 20 minutes and this fashion show will be over and, then, I'm good for another 30 years.



This morning I woke up to the sound of someone walking on my roof, the gutter cleaner guy. Talked to a plumber about the faulty garbage disposal in the house GG rents to Pat, and told him to replace it. Now I'm getting ready for the carpet cleaner. I'm moving floor lamps and small tables into the kitchen.

With all this home maintenance, my focus is on materials. I'm feeling out of touch with my spiritual side. I take deep breaths and think about how to make cleaning and repairing a meditative exercise. Especially, when it's costing me money I'd rather spend on other things.



Kerry and Regan are attending a Brownie meeting to pack Thanksgiving baskets for people in need so I'm babysitting Ayla. I pull into Kerry's driveway.


A pouf of red hair pops out of the shadows.

"Look at the ghosts Mommy hung in our tree. Look at the scary pictures in our window. Want to come in and see our skeleton?"

Inside, Ayla's house isn't as scary as outside. Inside, we're reading books — a Bad Kitty book and a book about a chameleon. While we read, we wear damsel crowns and braids made of corn-yellow yarn and entwined with artificial flowers.

Ayla says, "We must wear them together, Mim."

She looks much prettier in her damsel braid than I do. "It will puff your hair up, Mim, but your hair is shorter than mine so it won't puff it up too much."

We're in the backyard, in our damsel braids, looking for bugs. Right away Ayla spies a tiny inchworm. "I love bugs, Mim. When I grow up, I'm going to work with bugs."

Ayla picks up the inchworm and cradles it in her palm. "This is Bumpy. He's the same worm I found last week."

"The same one?"

"Yes, but this is the real Bumpy."

We pick leaves and grass for Bumpy and throw a couple of pieces of bark into his plastic bowl. Ayla notices a pink flower on a small bush. It looks like a miniature camellia. "Isn't it beautiful, Mim?"

Ayla drops Bumpy on the flower. He's taking a nap.

Still wearing our damsel braids, we're back in the house and using Kerry's iPad. Ayla knows the password. She finds a screen of Halloween games. She's facile. Playing games on iPads is easy — like reading books and finding bugs.

"Show me how to play the games, Ayla."

"It's simple, Mim. Watch me."

I am watching you, Ayla. Watching you is pure joy.

The real Bumpy

The real Bumpy



The whole house is torn apart
The furniture's piled high
The ceiling fans whirr overhead
The carpets have to dry.

The cat can't find her litter box
The sofas are still wet
The more I try to clean my house
The messier I get.



My busy day:

1. I refilled two bird feeders. They've been empty for weeks. The word in the trees is, "Don't bother with that house on Periwinkle Lane. Food's good when you can get it but the management's unreliable."

2. I put the house back together from the carpet cleaning.

3. I took my evening walk early since it's getting dark sooner. I was happy to note that most of the pumpkins are still where I placed them.

4. And finally, I bought it. Something I've been thinking of buying for a long time. I'll only use this item when it's pitch black outside. I have to work up my nerve and listen to my give-a-shit self and then maybe, maybe I'll say what I've done. Stay tuned...



Went with my friend, Kaye, to see Gravity. My favorite line in the film is when Sandra Bullock's character says, "I hate space." She's having a really bad day in the universe.

I'm sore and out of shape. Kaye is older than I am and looks great. She gives me the phone number of her personal trainer, Deanne. She can show me what gym equipment to use and how to use it. Paying for a personal trainer isn't in my budget. But being out of shape isn't in my budget, either. This is preventative care.

I know I won't stick with a workout routine unless someone expects me to show up. Deanne will expect me to show up. The time's come. I'm out of excuses and gravity makes things fall. Improving my strength and flexibility is important.



My friend, Grace, and I are at the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. The emphasis is on sanctuary. The animals, about 90 of them, are rescued. They're not forced to appear if they don't feel like it. An attendant says, "They can't choose their food or where they sleep, so we let them choose where they want to be within their space."

It's overcast today and some cages seem empty. Time to stay inside perhaps?

A declawed mountain lion, rescued from a family keeping it as a pet, strides back and forth.

A raven sits alone. The attendant explains. "The other ravens were picking on her so we had to isolate her for her own protection. She's very sweet. We talk to her and spoil her."

A tiger is sleeping A sign on the cage says, "There are more tigers in captivity in the US than remain in the wild."

Peacocks and  chickens roam about the grounds with us. A feral cat cage houses four residents. The information says,"An estimated 40 million feral cats live in the US. Their average life span is two years. An indoor cat can live 14 years or longer."

A bear is rooting on the ground for insects. He ignores the fruits and vegetables mounded nearby.

Two condors, a male and female, share an "apartment." Both were found injured and are retired to this compound. The male rebounded from his injuries but suffers from arthritis.

A restless coyote, Maggie, paces in circles. She's anxious. An attendant says, "She's too tame to survive in the wild. She's too wild to be in a cage."

A macaw monkey drinks from a pond. He sometimes has seizures and is on medication. The sign says, "Please alert an attendant if the monkey appears to be in distress."

I'm grateful to this sanctuary for its care of these animals. At the same time, I'm sorry many of them seem to have human-like afflictions and/or afflictions caused by humans. Our relationship with animals is such a mixed bag.

Guess who at the zoo.

Guess who at the zoo.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I just got home from a terrible Mexican dinner. I ordered the two- cheese enchilada plate and realized a couple bites into my first enchilada that the cheese wasn't even melted. I sent it back asked the kitchen to heat it up for me. They brought it back with a fresh, hot melted enchilada which was good but they returned the original second enchilada with unmelted clumps of cheese. I know, I know, first-world problems, but hell of an aggravation when you spend as much time as I did justifying spending money on dinner the first place.



Irene calls to thank me for the book on MS. "I received the package last night," she says. "I can't talk long. We have a meeting this morning with the hospice staff."

Hospice? When did Ed's brain tumor move from treatment to hospice?

"He's getting worse. We looked into a hospice facility near our daughter, but it's expensive and we've decided to use hospice assistance in our own home."

As usual, Irene sounds calm and resilient. She'll call me and give me an update when they have more hospice information. Another friend whose husband is dying. My new normal?

My cousin, Annette, calls. She's bubbly about the packages she's sending. "They'll drive Monday by UPS. Will you be home?"

"Yes, I'll be here."

Annette, my 75-year-old cousin, is putting lots of effort into gathering, organizing, and forwarding family history and heirlooms. I ask her how she is. "I was really sick in July and August with asthma but I'm better. My daughter-in-law has to have hip surgery and my son's asked me to come help."

My friends, Jan and Jim, have invited me to their home in the Bay Area in November. Jan goes to physical therapy for back and hip issues. Nevertheless, she's making plans to go to Yoshi's, a favorite jazz club in Oakland, on a Sunday night. She wants me to join her and Jim and a few of their friends.

I hate the drive from here to there but I have to go. This elder ride seems to be getting more unpredictable for everyone and we all need to stick together.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: What a morning! Met up with some regulars from the dog park and we drove up to Auburn to take the dogs to the river as a treat. My dog, Lexi, who hasn't had lot of experience off leash in the woods, took off in a mad sprint the moment I unleashed her and disappeared into the forest. Three hours of wandering around the woods calling her name, whistling, searching to no avail. Drove around the perimeter of the forest but couldn't find her. I had resigned myself to the fact that she was indeed lost and was dreading the long drive home without her when two guys showed up on the trail with Lexi on a leash. Thanks for the scare you damn dog!



I'm among that spooky percentage of people who don't like Halloween. I never have. Oh, sure, when I was a kid I went trick-or-treating. I hid my stash from little brother. But somehow, I never got into celebrating ghosts and goblins.

As a mother of four children, Halloween loomed like a gotcha test. Other mothers were creating clever outfits for their children. I didn't sew. I wasn't crafty. I hated the pressure I put on myself. "You must come up with original, complicated, over-the-top costumes for your kids. You can't use costumes from last year. You can't cut holes in sheets for eyes and drape them over small bodies. A black mask does't count as a costume. A witch's hat doesn't count as a costume. A pair of surgical scrubs? Absolutely not!"

As an adult, I don't enjoy costume parties. Don't ask me why. I don't know why. It's one of life's little mysteries. My best year, I made ladybug costumes for me and my husband. My worst year, I went to a costume party without any Halloween attire at all — not even an effing pumpkin necklace.

My daughters send me cute pictures of my cute grandchildren in their cute Halloween costumes. Kerry and her crew gather at an RV campground every Halloween with their friends. The campground sponsors contests for the best decorated camper and best costumes. The children trick or treat among the campers in a safe, controlled environment. My grandchildren are being gifted much better Halloweens than I gave to my children. My daughters, their mothers, get mega Halloween brownie points.

In this over-55 community, I don't get trick-or-treaters at my door. I miss them. I enjoy seeing their colorful costumes and their expectant, painted faces. I adore their squeaky little voices saying, "Trick or treat." I like to be the good guy and hand out candy bars. I don't do fruit.

To my credit, perhaps, I have a living, breathing black cat. She sits in my kitchen window every day all year long. Maybe the Halloween committee will give me one or two Halloween brownie points for her.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The last five years I have had like zero trick or treaters. This year I moved into a new house in a nice neighborhood so I wasn't really prepared for the gangs of ghouls on my doorstep. I ran out of candy with the last bunch. Guess I'm not answering the door anymore tonight.



I'm online reviewing recipes — some new ones sent to me by a friend and some sent in a daily email from allrecipes.com. I check my recipe box on that site. I've saved 1,599 recipes. That's 4.38 years of recipes if I were to make a different one every single day.

Not only have I saved 1,599 recipes, I've scanned at least that many more and not saved them. I've read thousands of reviews by other users. I've studied a gazillion photos that accompany the recipes. What is this? It must be some kind of addiction.  Recipe insecurity? Recipe obsession?

I get dozens more recipes each week from Pinterest, more recipes than any one person could use in a lifetime. Sometimes GG says, "This recipe is very good. Will we ever get to eat it again?"

Good question. I'm always onto the next, yet-to-be discovered gem — the recipe to end all recipes.

This recipe thing, it has to be genetic. GG never cooks in her assisted living facility. She never shops, but she checks the grocery inserts in the Wednesday newspaper each week. She compares prices and looks for special offers. She doesn't pass the information on. She reads the ads and dumps them in the waste basket.

So what's that about?

I sent a recipe to my friend, Grace, a while ago. She keeps raving about it. She says, "Every time I serve it my guests love it."

I want to make it again but I can't find the bloomin' recipe anywhere — not in my online recipe box, not in my document file, not in my cookbooks. I have to ask Grace if she can send my recipe for zucchini ribbons back to me. When she does, I better print it and tape it to the inside of my pantry door. My pantry door is finite. When it can't accommodate one more recipe, that should be it. The pantry door collection will be my one and only recipe collection.

Maybe, then, GG will get something "very good" served to her more than once.



In her book, How the Light Gets In, Pat Schneider talks about writing as a calling. I think about Pat's words and sit here at my computer because, if I don't, I may miss something. Who knows, it could be something funny, sad or even brilliant. When I write, words appear on the page and show me things I wouldn't otherwise reflect upon.

To begin writing, Pat says to take whatever comes. Whatever image. Whatever words. Whatever first flashes into our minds. "It's a gift from the unconscious."

Each of us has a unique voice. There never was and never will be another voice like mine. Or yours. We need to find our voices and put them to work. I write so I might think and act with both mindfulness and exuberance, and to tell the stories that are mine to tell.

As I write, I recall Pat Schneider's "Blessing for a Writer," and sprinkle it on myself like holy water:

"...lost though you may be in the forest,
drop your own words on the path like pebbles
and write your way home."


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

NOVEMBER 3, 2013 -NOVEMBER 16 , 2013: High Tech low Tech * Spending Plan * Equanimity * Insignificant or Not? * Family Mental Illness Support Group * Missing Teeth and Too Much Hair * That's Italian * Snap it Up * There's the Rub * Perfect Day * Batkid

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