A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan DECEMBER 30, 2013 - JANUARY 10, 2014

Clues * Happy New Year * Doing Whatever I Want * Stories in the News * A Lifetime's Too Short * Baby, It's Cold Outside * My To-Do List * The Briar Patch * WTF * Our Support Group

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."



Christmas company's gone. Jim and Sharon left this morning. Jazzy's wandering around. "Where did all the people go? Is it just you and me again?"

I'm listening to music from the movies on my new stereo. It's a Christmas gift from Jim and Sharon. Jim spent two days buying it and hooking it up. It has five speakers and surround sound. When we turned it on for the first time, I caught my breath. My kitchen radio doesn't project and is full of static. This orchestra in my living room sends notes swirling through my soul.

To make the stereo work, I needed to upgrade my ten-year-old television. I now own a TV with DMI1. I'm not sure what DMI1 is but the images on the screen are bright. Colors are vivid. People are three dimensional.

When I bought my old TV, it was considered cutting edge. How long will it take for this new one to be outdated? Six months? Built-in obsolescence discourages making choices. Choices must be made, however, or we live in suspended animation.

Megan, Marisa, and Kerry gave me a Kindle. Now I have more choices — books with covers and paper pages, or books downloaded on a computer-type device. I'll buy books when I want to keep them and underline and write in the margins. I'll read reviews and previews on the Kindle. I'll download books when I want to have one at the ready.

By the time a descendant chances to read this, TV's, stereos, and Kindles will be obsolete. Someone, an older person, will have to explain what the heck they were.

Today, people research their families on ancestry.com. They want to know who they are by knowing who they came from. They look for clues in "the old days." I'm trying to pay it forward by leaving these notes about "the old days" for those who come after.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I find more and more that, when faced with the various daily challenges life throws at me, I am beginning to repeat an old mantra, "Lord Have Mercy."



It's the last day of the year and I'm working at the kitty rescue thrift store. Goodbye 2013.

Like all other years, 2013 flew by. It gave us a pope from South America, Prince George in England, civil rights advances, worries over national security surveillance programs, chemical weapons in Syria, severe weather, gun violence, health care struggles, water shortages, and government impasses.

Tomorrow, the first day of the new year, offers chances for new beginnings:
     We'll try harder.
     We'll hold hands and celebrate diversity.
     We'll love our brothers and sisters.
     We'll be good stewards of earth and it's creatures.
     We'll cure the sick and feed the hungry.
     We'll make the distribution of wealth more equitable.
     We'll guarantee gender equality in jobs and politics.
     We'll make sure technology is in sync with our human hearts and minds.
     We won't fight.
     We won't go to war.

By February, the new year's aura will have begun to fade.  We'll have failed to keep our resolutions even through January. Politics, economics, and other world woes will challenge us and drag us back into old bad habits. But tonight and tomorrow we have hope. We have breath and life. Help us remember, 2014, every day we have one day to try to be the best we can be.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Highlights from helping Mom to set up her new HDTV stereo system: Getting her to listen to "Holy Diver" by Ronnie James, "Dio Blackout" by The Scorpions, and "Little Too Late" by Nicki Bluhm and the Gamblers. 2013 was a very good year — moved into a new house, had cancer-free MRI's, got a dog, enjoyed myself. Ready for 2014 to be filled with new opportunities for learning, employment, and relationship. Happy New Year everyone!



I'm putting the house back together — taking ornaments off the Christmas tree, stowing snowmen away, retiring Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for another year. It's fun putting up Christmas decorations. It's a relief to take them down. At first, the house looks bare. Then it begins to look peaceful and uncluttered again.

I'm not making much progress. I keep taking time out to read the first book I've downloaded onto my new Kindle - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It's a thriller and a page turner. I'm still in my pajamas. No make-up. No plans to leave the house. Basking in downtime from non-stop holiday eating and a houseful of guests. A quiet, do-whatever-I-want kind of day.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Unlike many New Year's Eves gone by where I rang in the new year with the Grateful Dead, last night I had a low key evening of working sound for a burning bowl ceremony at the church (a much different burning bowl than you find with the Dead), went out for beer and appetizers at the Yard House with the minister and a couple of ladies from the church. Yes, church ladies. Then went out alone to a local Irish pub where I found nothing I liked in the drunken crowd, the horrible music, and the incessant noise. Was home and in bed by 11:15 p.m. Hard to believe I'm the same person I was twenty years ago.

Gayle: On the first day of the year I need to tell you, Patrick, that everything you write and say makes me smile or shake my head.



There's a story in the newspaper today about a marine ecosystem that scientists are calling the "plasticsphere" — a new, man-made ecosystem of plastic debris. The plasticsphere is a product of discarded plastic items — flip flops, margarine tubs, toys, toothbrushes — that get swept from sewer systems and river systems into the sea. When the debris washes into the ocean, it breaks down into bits that are colonized by microscopic organisms. Scientists fear that chunks of polyethylene and polypropylene then percolate into the environment.

According to the article, about 245 million tons of plastic residue is produced each year. That represents 70 pounds of plastic for each of the 7.1 billion people on the planet. Researchers are studying this trash to determine the damage it does to our oceans. And to us.

Another story is about computerizing people — a movement to outfit people with electronic devices than can be swallowed, implanted, or attached to skin via "smart tattoos." Critics say this pushes the boundaries of what it means to be human. Supporters envision a day when devices, placed in people, will enable them to control computers, prosthetic limbs, and other objects with their thoughts.

A nonprofit organization, Mars One, based in the Netherlands, has the goal of turning the colonization of Mars into a reality show. Over 200,000 people have applied for a one-way ticket to Mars. More than half are under the age of 35 but 26 are over 56. The oldest applicant is 81. The US has the most applicants - 297 - moving into round two of the winnowing process. In the next four years, Mars One will cull the applicant group down to 40. Those selected will train in groups for seven years. Then, a global audience will vote and choose the first team to go to Mars in 2025.

In 2025, I'll be 81. Body and soul of mine, please stay healthy and together. I want to be around and find out how these stories play out...



I've finished reading Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, which I should have read as a kid but didn't. I'm poking around on the internet, trying to understand what a "tesseract" is.

I'm looking at interactive diagrams. I get the first dimension — a line. I get the second dimension — the square of the line — a flat square. I even get the third dimension — the square of the second dimension — the flat square is no longer flat. It has a bottom, sides and a top. It's a cube.

This is where it gets dicey. You square the cube, but you can't really draw it. Some people call this the fourth dimension or time. Then, to get to the fifth dimension, you square the fourth. And the fifth is a "tesseract" — a wrinkle in time or a short cut through space.

Of course. Silly me. Why didn't I see this before?

One site says in 200 years we may have a different understanding of the fourth and fifth dimensions that will change everything. Great. I don't have 200 years to find out how everything gets changed. I'm feeling frustrated when, in fact, everyone faces the same dilemma. There's more to know than can be grasped in one lifetime.



Bears hibernate when it's cold outside and it's cold outside. I think I'm part bear. I know what I'm about to do and I don't want to admit it. 
     It's 4:30 in the afternoon.
     I kick off my shoes and crawl into bed.
     I pull the red, velvety throw round my hands and my head.
     That rhymes.

My bones are cold. They feel like chicken bones stuffed in a freezer. I'll warm up under the covers. My eyes are closing. It's light outside.

My eyes are opening. It's dark outside. And it's still so darn cold on the other side of these blankets. The good angel, on my right shoulder, says, "Get up."

The bad angel, on my left shoulder, says, "Naw. Go ahead. Wallow in warmth and softness. Stay where you are."

I agree with the bad angel. Who wrote the rules about having to be up freezing my buns off in a cold house? The good angel is losing patience. "You're being ridiculous. Get up. Act like a grown-up."

All right, already. I throw back the covers, dash to the closet, and grab a sweater. I check my email. Someone's forwarded photographs of old people looking into mirrors, seeing themselves as they looked sixty years ago. One man says, "It's a universal condition — at some point in your life, you look in the mirror and say, 'Wait a minute, how did I get this old?'"

Someone else adds, "I need to go lie down for a while."

For crying out loud. I think the bad angel sent this email. Be forewarned, bad angel. I'm not getting back into bed. I'm going to look at myself in the mirror. What reflection will I see? I'll probably see a bear, an old scruffy bear, scratching her butt on a redwood tree and about to curl up in a dark, toasty cave.



It's a new year. People make New Year's resolutions. I don't. Instead, I'll make a short list of things I want to get done. It's my little ritual of visualizing goals to make them happen. Last year, my list included the following:
     1. Get Pat into permanent housing.
     2. Sell the golf cart.
     3. Install storage cabinets in the garage.
Check. Check. And Check.

What's on my have-to-get-done list for 2014?
     1. Update my living trust.
     2. Sign on with a personel trainer at our community gym.
     3. Plan something for my 70th birthday.

The first item doesn't need explanation. The second item's because, if I don't have someone waiting for me to show up, I won't make it to my workout.

Last week, I bought two three-pound barbells at the thrift shop. These two purple bell thingies were sitting, side by side, on a small table when one of them picked itself up and threw itself onto the floor. I'm not kidding. It didn't roll off the table. It flew off the table. It landed with a loud thud. No one was standing nearby. The three of us in the shop froze. We looked at the barbell. We looked at each other. Whoa. What just happened here? How did that barbell move? A big sign.


The third item on my to-do list is about my birthday. Here's the thing, the only birthday party I ever planned for myself was when my then-husband and I turned 40 at the same time. When I was married, I waited hoping something would happen on my birthday. Often, whatever happened was last minute. "You want to go to dinner or something? It's past six o'clock. We could go to the club."

I should have been less self-negating. I should have taken the bull by the horns. I should have stormed the barricades. I should have drawn my sword and shouted, "Carpe Diem!"
     My birthday's coming up.
     My birthday's this year.
     My birthday's next month.
     My birthday's next week.
     My birthday's tomorrow.
     My birthday's today and we have reservations for dinner at Scoma's in San Francisco.

I should have left notes around the house. "I want a 22-inch, dark blue, beaded, single-strand necklace with a decorative clasp, to wear with the light-blue dress I bought for my birthday. Thank you very much."

I should have been obnoxious.

At any rate, my birthday's in a few months — my seventieth birthday. How many times have I mentioned this? Am I being obnoxious?

In the past year, I've lost four friends who didn't make it to 70. I want my turning 70 to be meaningful. I want turning 70 to be an expression of gratitude. I don't know, yet, what this commemoration will look like — a party, a trip, a house full of family and friends, a silent retreat? But I have it written down on my to-do list for 2014. And if something's written down on my list, it generally comes to pass.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK  POST: California weather update for my East Coast friends: 58 degrees and cloudy.



Photo credit: Aden Tranter/Flickr

Photo credit: Aden Tranter/Flickr


Back working at the thrift store. It's received so many donations in the past month — people cleaning out closets — that we're having a sale to move merchandise.


Starburst, an orange kitten, is in the adoption room. He's six-months-new to this world and he's got attitude. "I'm here. Listen to me roar."

Starburst's two siblings have been adopted and he doesn't like being alone. His cries are loud and demanding. Guests in the store take turns playing with him. Pick him up and you press a purr button. Never mind he doesn't know you. He likes you. 

One little girl wants to adopt Starburst. "I have to ask my dad. I'm going to go home and draw two kitty pictures. One for my house and one for the store."

"Wonderful. We'll put your drawing on the bulletin board."

Last week, the same little girl wanted to buy a s'more maker. Her mother told her to go home and ask her father. The next day she was back. "Dad said 'yes' to the s'more maker."

This time her mother tells her, "It may not work the same way when you ask for a kitten."

People are taking their time shopping. They don't want to overlook a good buy. I offer assistance. "Can I take those clothes out of your arms while you shop for more?"

Folks head out the door with 20 pieces of clothing each — dresses, shirts, shoes, winter jackets, leather jackets, children's outfits, sweaters — for $20 plus tax. A woman buys a long, violet evening gown. She's not planning to wear it. "This dress will make lots of doll clothes."

Another woman buys a card maker. A new lady enters looking for an egg plate. We don't have one anywhere but we do get them in. She'll check back. It's for an art project. An elderly woman is hunting for tap shoes. She's signed up for tap lessons.

People, with bits and pieces of their stories, file in and out the door. In and out the door. I feel like Br'er Rabbit in the Uncle Remus tales. Someone's thrown me in the briar patch.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: One of the great things about being the son of a doctor was that you could always get a prescription when you needed one. I called the Kaiser advice nurse and reported my sore throat and congestion and was advised to "do a saltwater gargle." I might as well have called my grandmother.


JANUARY 9, 2014: WTF

Pat calls. "I met with the bankruptcy attorney this morning. All the paperwork is turned in. We're waiting for a court date. Probably in February. I saw a program at Sierra Junior College for library tech certification. I think I'd qualify for a loan. It's about $10,000 per semester for two semesters, but I'd need help with the registration fees and books."

"Why is it so much per semester?"

"Well, it covers living expenses like housing and food."

"But you have housing and food."

"Barely. It would be nice to have things not be so tight."

"You're filing bankruptcy. It's not time to take on new debt. Go to some libraries in the area. Talk to the head librarians. Find out if they're hiring and what skill sets they need. You may end up getting a certificate for a job that is being eliminated with budget cuts."

"I knew I shouldn't have told you about this. I'm trying to do something constructive and you're being negative. Bye."

I need the wisdom and patience of I don't know WTF who.

Just hung up the phone with my new personal trainer, Deanne. She made me feel good. "I have clients in their late eighties. You're just a kid."

I may be a "kid" but I'm an out of shape kid. Deanne has her work cut out for her. I do, too. My first session will be next Tuesday and we'll work on strength, balance, and flexibility. My goals are to feel less stiff in the morning, to be able to stand up from a squatting position without help, and to have more muscle in my arms and legs.

Deanne will give me some exercises to do with my new purple weights. That should keep the spirits in the thrift store quiet. Let's hope Pat's bankruptcy and my strength-training go well.



At the Family Mental Illness Support Group, ten people show up including two new people. Random comments at the meeting:

"I'm here to support my twin sister."

"I found a new psychiatrist to help me with anxiety issues about my bipolar son."

"Things seem to be revving up with my daughter again."

"Well, we're here because we come every time. Our son is homeless."

"My daughter lives clear across the country but I still need support."

"Our son is back home with us. The housing he was in foreclosed and he had nowhere else to go. It's driving a wedge between my husband and me."

I tell the group, "We've been offered an opportunity to get a little funding from the local foundation. We could use the money for books, speakers, and programs. Do you want me to pursue this?"

There's an unanimous "Yes."

"What are some of the topics you'd like to have addressed?"
"Legal issues."
"Special Needs Trusts."

"Okay. I'll look into the application process and get it started. Have a good month everyone."

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Top ten books that have had pivotal influence for me:
1. Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
2. Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
3. The Great American Novel, Philip Roth
4. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
5. Storming Heaven, Jay Stevens
6. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
7. Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
8. The Collected Poems of Joseph Brodsky, Joseph Brodsky
9. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
10. Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda


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

January 11, 2014 - January 24, 2014: That's All Folks * Old Friends * Working Out * Rose * American Hustle * Sorry State of Mental Health Care * Learn and Live * Football * SNAFU * The Paperwork Monster * I'm Engaged

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