A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan - OCTOBER 2, 2013 - OCTOBER 18, 2013

The Grandma Drawer * Naps * Courage * Paralysis * Good Enough for Guests * Age Calculator * In The Big Scheme of Things * Conversations * Getting It * Mission Accomplished * Always Something * Holy Moley * Under Control * Wild Women

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."



This morning I'm at the Snap it Up thrift shop which is opening October 9. I'm volunteering to work in the store once a week. Proceeds from the shop will benefit FieldHaven's kitty rescue organization. I'm in the back room pricing and tagging clothes. Some are ready to display and some need steaming. Stained and torn items go into a GoodWill bag.

Boxes of clothes and knickknacks are arriving faster than I can sort through them. I'll have nightmares about this. I have a recurring dream about stuff. I'm trying to get somewhere and clothes and toys, that I have to pack, fly at me from all directions and I can never finish. In this store, stuff is coming from every which way while I'm awake. I'll be glad when I'm working the cash register on the shop's out-the-door side.

Two leather purses, child-size from Mexico, catch my attention. They're $2 each. They're perfect for the Grandma drawer in my den. My grandchildren know this special drawer is for them. There they find games, crayons, coloring books, puzzles, hats, magnifying glasses, and stuffed animals. The Grandma drawer needs continual replenishing so it doesn't get boring. It may become one of Snap it Up's best customers.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Thank you Brandi for my first official Rapbay Urbanlife delivery. Enjoying the tasty treats. Delicious! You're so kind.



It's windy today and my allergies are kicking in. Antihistamines aren't helping my stuffy nose and itchy eyes. The pills make me sleepy so I'm about to take a nap on the chaise in my bedroom.

It feels decadent to fall asleep in a chair in the middle of the day — like I'm cheating or something. My neighbor takes naps. Friends come late to dinner because, "We fell asleep." Some couples I know take naps together every day.

I never used to take naps. There was no time with little kids and jobs. A nap is a perk of being retired. Or perhaps, napping is simply an innate part of aging. Teenagers take naps. Toddlers take naps. Babies nap all the time. I'm growing backwards.

As I drift off, I note my backyard. I think about the birds, lizards, frogs, bees, trees, and shrubs that share my private patch of earth. I give thanks for the sunshine streaming in the window, for the freedom to sleep without fear, for the black kitty purring at my side, for the air I'm breathing in and out, for the chance to dream in the afternoon...

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The love keeps pouring in. Thanks Lara for the generous and thoughtful surprise in the mail today.


Photo credit: Laura Lok/Flickr

Photo credit: Laura Lok/Flickr


This week I've learned of four friends diagnosed with cancer — brain cancer, breast cancers, and lymphoma. Three of these friends are my age. One is in her early fifties. Their stalwart reactions move me — acceptance of the situation, determination to meet challenges head on, and energy focused on best possible outcomes. Another word for all this might be "courage."

My colleagues are showing their mettle. They're making preparations. They're reviewing medical procedures and options. They're being honest and humble. They intend to keep things as "normal" as possible. I'm sure they have their moments, in the middle of the night, when they feel overwhelmed and frightened. In the daylight, however, they're sending wishes for a beautiful fall season and for happy holidays ahead.

My friends are making me proud to be old, and showing the heights we can reach when danger looms large and nothing is certain.



Back to square one. It looks like an annuity is out of the picture for my mother. At 95, we've decided we don't want to tie up her funds in a format she can't access right away if necessary. My brother asked his financial adviser for suggestions. He had no recommendations other than CDs or money market accounts.

Today's best money market rate is.90%. Today's best one-year CD rate is 1.05%. These rates are pitiful. Maybe this is a good time to stand still and not get caught in the middle of a Washington stalemate over funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.

Who knows how all this will fall out? It's beginning to feel like we're living in some kind of horror movie. No one can tell the good guys from the bad guys, or if any good guys are left. And no one knows how the movie will end. Maybe it's ending already. Maybe the ending is paralysis — like what I'm feeling right now.



It's fall. I'm thinking of my slow cooker and comfort food. Time for tomato basil soup, Father Greco stew, and garlic mashed potatoes. Time for the bouquet of cranberries simmering in brandy and allspice, and pumpkin bars just out of the oven.

Friends say they used to like to cook but, now, not so much. And they say, as a result, they're not eating nutritious meals. For myself, I'm collecting healthy recipes that require little fuss. This recipe meets that standard — good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

One English muffin split and toasted
Mustard - favorite kind
Canadian bacon slices
Fuji or Envy apple slices
Swiss cheese slices

Place toasted muffin halves, cut side up, on an uncreased baking sheet. Spread with mustard. Layer with Canadian bacon, apple slices, and cheese.

Broil for six or seven minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with grape garnishes or orange wedges.

My preference is for simple recipes good enough for guests. And good enough for me when I'm the only guest at my table.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Richard Quest is one of the most annoying correspondents on CNN.



According to an online age calculator, today I'm 69 and 139 days old. I've lived 25,341 days, 3,260 weeks and one day, and 8.33.03 months. Maybe that's why, this evening, I can hardly move.

I worked for four hours at the FieldHaven thrift shop this morning. Standing the whole time, I sorted, priced, and placed items on hangers and shelves. My feet were screaming, "What are you doing?"  When I got home, I took some aspirin and sat down.

Most days I tell myself I'm younger than I am.  Might need to rethink this. Next Tuesday, when I'm at the thrift shop, I'll be working the cash register. I'll find a stool to sit on and then walk around, in between sales, to stretch.  Don't want customers mistaking me for one of the antiques.

By next week, I'll be 69.40 years old. The age calculator doesn't stop.  I must alternately rest and move my muscles.



There's a message on my answering machine from the window washing folks. It's a woman's voice.

"Hi. We have a problem with your appointment tomorrow. I usually come and work with my husband but I have another job and the person who was supposed to take my place has called in sick, so I can't help clean your windows. I hope we can reschedule. We  have five children and, with this business and my other work, it gets a little hectic."

This husband and wife do a great job on windows, screens, tracks, and shower doors. They're running a special for $59 — about $40 less than what other's are charging. I call the woman back. We reschedule for a week from tomorrow. I hear children in the background. I hear fatigue in this mother's voice.

"Thank you for rescheduling," she says.

"No problem," I say.

"See you next week."

It seems moms and dads are stringing multiple jobs together to take care of their families. In the big scheme of things, my dirty windows are insignificant.



I call my friend, Irene. Her MS is progressing. Eddie, her husband, is undergoing radiation treatments for a brain tumor. He also needs a kidney transplant. As usual, Irene is philosophical and upbeat.

"We're doing what the doctors tell us and trying to enjoy each day."

Pat calls. "I can't come over to do laundry because I don't have enough gas. Have you made a payment to the bankruptcy attorney for me this month?"

"No. I won't make another payment until the monthly bills I'm paying for you are under five hundred dollars. How's the job search?"


"You made four hundred dollars a month last year dog-walking."

"I don't want to do that again."

"I have a couple coming out here next week to wash my windows. They have five children and need the income. They probably don't want to wash windows but they're doing what they have to do."

"I don't want to have this conversation." Click.

Some conversations go more smoothly than others.



Random comments at the Family Mental Illness Support Group Meeting:

"My son's an alcoholic but I think he has mental health issues, also. He won't see a doctor to get a diagnosis."

"My daughter was sentenced to eighty days of community service for a rear-ender. I wrote a letter to the public defender and the judge to explain that carrying out this sentence is beyond her capability. In court, the judge had my letter but said he couldn't use it because it hadn't come from the public defender. In the end, the prosecuting attorney and public defender agreed to sentence my daughter to ten days of house arrest. I can make sure she fulfills that sentence."

"My son's entering another cyclic period of his schizophrenia. He's less and less able to handle routine situations. We visit him for maybe thirty minutes and then he has to return to his residence. He won't eat with us. We go to the drive-through and get a hamburger and fries but he won't eat in the car and saves it for later."

"My son's coping. He's working again and his children are with him during the week. He says he's giving up alcohol. We've given him forty thousand dollars this year."

"My grandson and son both have schizophrenia and they're living together in an apartment. My son has a job and my grandson's taking classes but isn't working. He says he doesn't want to work. I don't know how long this arrangement will last."

"I've spent fifteen thousand dollars helping my daughter. I can't continue. I'm putting my finances in jeopardy."

"We know our ill children can be manipulative but it's hard to know when to help and when to say, 'No.' People who haven't lived with mental illness in their families, shouldn't make judgements about what I'm doing."

"I'm glad to have this group. I can talk here and know that the rest of you will understand and relate to the decisions I'm making."


Photo credit: Captivated Life/Flickr

Photo credit: Captivated Life/Flickr


Yesterday, after sundown and under cover of darkness, I delivered 20 miniature pumpkins — one each to the front door of every neighbor on my street. Today, seven are still where I left them. A few have disappeared. Eight or nine rest in more prominent positions in their yards.

I've done this before. In 1970 in Rochester, Minnesota, my family shared a back yard with eleven other families from all over the globe - Germany, Korea, Australia, France, Mexico, Massachusetts, and Texas. At 3 a.m., I crept from backdoor to backdoor and hung May Day baskets full of flowers, candy, and trinkets — jacks, balls, marbles and stickers — on each doorknob.

In the morning the backyard was buzzing.

"Who did this?"

"Do you know who did this?"

"Did you do this?"

That May Day caper still remains a who-dun-it. Now, the Great Pumpkin has struck on Periwinkle Lane. I hope the over-55 crowd isn't too old to enjoy this. I feel like Ayla and Regan. Sometimes, life is simply too much fun.



Pat leaves a phone message:

"Hi, Mom. A couple of house related things. It's time to put some foam insulation on the outside water pipes so they don't freeze this winter. I'll install it if we can buy it at Home Depot or Lowe's or something. The floor in the downstairs bathroom is bubbling up in spots and looks like water is leaking underneath it from the toilet. We should probably have someone take a look at it, but I don't think they'll be able to tell what it is without tearing up the floor. Would it be all right if I did laundry tomorrow?  Thanks. Pat"



I'm at the dentist. With my mouth pried open and packed with dental equipment, the dental hygienist pokes and scrapes and relays pertinent information.

"Your premolars have a nice leaf shape. Your molars have all their bumps. As we age, our teeth move forward, except for a few folks whose teeth move backward. Your teeth are becoming more crowded. They're impinging on your tongue's space and making imprints on it. Have you noticed the change in the shape of your tongue?"

I shake my head. It's hard to talk with a mouth full of metal.

"There's also bone loss around the back molar on the left which is a wisdom tooth and wisdom teeth behave differently than ordinary teeth. I see from your last visit that the dentist would like to fill about four of your teeth."

"Huh?" I mumble. "I don't remember her telling me I have cavities in four teeth."

"Well, they're not really cavities. They're teeth showing maintenance abrasion, in other words, too much hard pressure brushing. The procedure's to keep the abrasion from getting worse."

"How much is the procedure?"

"Twelve hundred dollars."

"Is it covered by insurance?"

"You'll have to check at the front desk. Also, it looks like you're snapping your dental floss. You need to slowly insert the floss between your teeth and move it up and down in a zig-zag fashion. Do you sleep with your mouth open?"

"I don't know."

"Well, that probably explains the apparent resistance of the bacteria in your mouth. Saliva pushes bacteria around so they can't do too much damage. But if you're breathing with your mouth open, your mouth is dry and the saliva can't do its job."

I'll try to remember, when I'm asleep, to keep my mouth shut.

"You know, we have an orthodontist here if you want to discuss your teeth moving forward to see if you need orthodontic treatment."

"You're kidding. Braces? At sixty-nine?"

"The consultation is free and she won't push you into anything you don't need."

"I'm not interested. Anything else?"

"Yes, I recommend you use an over the counter mouth wash without alcohol because alcohol is drying and we don't want to dry out your mouth more that it already is. And don't use one that will turn your teeth brown like prescription mouthwashes do. I can get the brown color off in your cleaning except in between the places where your teeth are too crowed because you know..."

"Yes, I know. My teeth are moving forward."

"See you in six months."

Maybe. I'm heading home. Sooner, rather than later, I'll probably put alcohol in my mouth. And I'm not talking about the alcohol in my mouthwash.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: She sometimes shits on the carpet, pees on the floor and the couch, chews up and eats anything she can get her teeth on, jumps on me, scratches my face, wakes me up in the middle of the night after I've had three hours of sleep and absolutely has to go outside only to run around and sniff things and not do any business. And still I love her, my crazy dog, Lexi.



The great government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis of 2013 has been resolved. Sort of. Jack Ohman's political cartoon in the Sacramento Bee today captures the situation perfectly.

"We've reached an agreement to create a framework to establish a timetable to pass a bill that allows us to restart talks that will permit this to happen again in a few months..."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get my own house in order. Yesterday, I replaced cracked rollers in my garage door. Today, I had my windows washed inside and out. I'm looking for someone to clean my gutters. I'm getting estimates to refresh the bark in my front and back yards. Next week, the carpets and the sofa will be cleaned.

Not a fun way to spend money, but taking care of things, as a matter of routine, should limit bigger maintenance problems going forward. And my psyche rests better harboring the delusion that things are under control — which, or course, they never are.



Yesterday a 96-year-old woman, living here in Sun City with her daughter, locked herself in her bedroom. Her daughter called the police. When they arrived, the elderly woman fired a shot through the bedroom door, missing an officer by inches.

A SWAT team and helicopters were on the scene for thirty minutes. They were able to talk the woman out of the house. She appeared with one hand on her walker and one hand in the air. The  38-caliber handgun was recovered and the woman was taken to the hospital for observation.

Today, a neighbor approaches me for information about my mental illness support group. Her 33-year-old grandson is spiraling out of control and threatening suicide. He can't keep a job, uses drugs and alcohol, and isn't able to abide by the rules in his group home. His family is afraid of him and his mother is caught in the quagmire.

In my experience, mothers are often the one and only hope for their mentally ill children. They hang in with them when the rest of the world writes them off. I have no answers for my neighbor. Our mental health system sucks.

My friend's tragedy is a tragedy for her entire family. If you've not walked in the worn-out shoes of those who are impacted, and if you're judgmental, advise tough love or hint of enabling, you'll see another wild woman — me  — go on the rampage.


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

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

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