A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan 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

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."



Yahoo. I played duplicate bridge this morning and my partner and I came in second. It's a puzzle. When we think we've played well, we come in last. When we think we've played like shit, we come in first. It keeps one humble. But oh, on days like today, coming in second felt marvelous.

Now I'm cleaning floors like Miss Happy Homemaker in a TV commercial — sans the ruffled apron and dark red lipstick. I have a smile on my face and a trill in my voice. Jazzy's running for cover. I don't know if she's afraid of the vacuum cleaner or the spirited woman pushing it.

Tomorrow, friends I met on Guam 41  years ago are coming for the night. All in all, a good weekend. That's all folks. Yabba daba-doo.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I guess I should take my Christmas tree down but thinking about leaving it up for the rest of the year.



I'm waiting for my friends, Bill and Bette, to arrive. I've popped a cranberry pie-cake in the oven. I've licked the batter in the bowl. Eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and almond flavoring. Yummy.

Megan calls. She and Britt are still fighting the battle over the drainage pipe on the hill behind their house. They're not getting satisfaction from the homeowner's association or the developer. Meanwhile, it could rain and flood their property again at any time. They'll probably need to hire an attorney.

Bill and Bette ring the doorbell. They walk in and we start chatting where we left off two years ago. Bette and I share Instagram photos on our smart phones. Bill dithers with his smart tablet. We're three old farts, sitting in my living room, trying to use technology. Glad no one's watching.

I make tuna sandwiches for lunch. We watch the 49ers win their football game. We drive to dinner at a southern ribs place. Bill orders deep fried okra as an appetizer. I wrinkle my nose but then eat my fair share. We watch Downton Abbey and cut into the cranberry pie and wash it down with homemade Irish cream.

All of us turn in at the bewitching hour of 10 p.m. Bill plugs in his breathing machine for his sleep apnea and wraps it in a towel to muffle the noise. "It bothers Betty," he says. These folks generally get up early — like 5:15 a.m. For my sake, Bill sleeps in until 6 a.m. and Bette starts getting dressed at 7 a.m.  I join them to make breakfast. 

Bill and Bette have attended exercise classes at 5:45 a.m., three times a week, for 20 or 30 or some ungodly number of years. I'm in awe. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is important to me at 5:45 in the morning except to stay warm under the covers. Guess you could say I'm not a morning person.

Bill ambles out to get the newspaper. His back is hurting — he has arthritis in his spine. Several neighbors are out walking dogs. "They saw me," he says. "Maybe they'll start a rumor about a man spending the night at your house." Bill's sprouting horns. "Let's sneak Bette out the back door so no one sees her. They'll only see me."

It's 9 a.m. Bill's pulling out his maps. Who uses maps anymore? Bill uses maps. He loves maps and he spreads them out on the kitchen table. He's marked two routes home — a direct route and a long, more scenic one. He's trying to decide which to take. He'll decide on the road.

"Let us know if you want to travel someplace with us. Come visit us in Medford."

I wave as Bill and Bette back their grey SUV out of the driveway. It's good to keep in touch with old friends.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: A poster: "Relax. Nothing is under control." And all this time I thought the opposite.



I'm at the gym with Deanne. She's my new personal trainer. She's young and pretty with a long, brown pony tail, dark brown eyes, and a toned, healthy-looking figure. If I pursue this fitness program will I look like Deanne?

Deanne asks about my health and has me check off boxes on a form. "Looks like you're pretty healthy," she says.

Pretty healthy and out of shape. We get right to it. I'm lifting weights over my head and to the sides. I'm pushing handles on weight machines. I'm leaning on chairs, crossing my legs and stretching my hamstrings. Hamstrings, biceps, triceps, quadriceps - I hear Deanne using these words.

I do two sets of 12 of each exercise. I try to remember to breathe. Is it exhale on exertion or inhale? "Don't worry," Deanne says. "It's most important to keep breathing. If you mix up inhaling and exhaling sometimes, it's okay." 

The half hour flies by. "You'll be sore tomorrow," Deanne says as a matter of fact.

I leave the gym and go to Snap it Up. The manager asks if I can hold down the fort for a few minutes on my own. I assure her I'll be fine. It's busy. People are aware of our "all shoes and clothing for $1 sale." Two hours into this shift and, oh my, I'm feeling a tad sore. Three hours in and I'm feeling more sore. I sit down at the cash register when there's a lull.

Now I'm at Lori's salon getting a haircut and highlight. In addition to being sore, I'm getting stiff. I fall into Lori's chair. I moan and groan when I have to move to the shampoo bowl.

I'm wondering what it will be like getting out of bed tomorrow morning. Maybe I should sleep in a chair. It might be easier to lift my body out of a chair than out of my bed. And Sonia will be here at 8 a.m. sharp to clean. I better set my alarm for 6 a.m. It might take me a while to get up, showered, and dressed. I may get slower before I get faster.


JANUARY 16, 2014: ROSE

My friend, Rose, and I are meeting for lunch. She's 75 and such a trooper. She's still fighting the exhaustive fight for a competent mental health system. She's one of three co-authors of California's Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

Disappointed in its implementation, Rose lobbied for an audit by the California State Auditor. The auditor reported that it wasn't possible to determine whether Prop 63 programs had been of benefit to those served, had improved community mental health delivery, or whether programs had complied with the requirements of the law.

In addition to the appalling number of untreated mentally ill, Rose, based on her continuing research, believes eighty percent of those in the system are not receiving adequate care. "Parity," she says, "we still don't have parity for physical and mental health."

"Would you be willing to come speak to my support group? I'm applying for some funding so we can reimburse speakers for their gas and give them a small honorarium for their time."

"Yes, I'll speak to your group."

Rose's husband and son always come up in our conversations. They both ended their struggle with mental illness by suicide. Two grandsons — one is living with her — also deal with the illness. We agree. If all the parents and grandparents housing their mentally ill children and grandchildren were to dump them on the street, there'd be major socio-economic fallout. Our health and welfare programs would be more overwhelmed than they already are. These family members, who've given up on the mental health system, are a hidden, unappreciated population.

I ask about a mutual friend's thirty-something son. County mental health hasn't helped him. He has schizo-affective disorder and is in Napa State Hospital for the seriously mentally ill. Rose says, "He was charged with a crime after he got into a fight with another patient. He spent weeks in the county jail and then was transferred to the 'other side of the wall.' He's in the forensic unit of the hospital under horrible conditions with chains on his legs and wrists. He has a good attorney but the whole process is really outrageous."

I can't imagine what this is like for my friend. My mother-heart shudders for her. We change the subject. We talk about Rose's 75th birthday party. We talk about my mother, my children, and grandchildren. We try to talk about everyday things like average folks. We hug goodbye and remind each other, "Take care of yourself."

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: It's been said that you always get screwed at the drive-through but lately I've been getting screwed every time I buy cottage cheese. Something about it doesn't taste right.
Mark: Sounds like it tastes like cottage cheese.



My friend, Grace, and I are at the movies to see American Hustle. The theater's sold out. We end up sitting in different rows. It's a good movie with good actors - Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence. I'm enthralled watching Jennifer Lawrence. She's 22 or 23 and she's amazing. It will be interesting to see how her acting career progresses.

After the movie, Grace and I buy salads from the deli at Nugget Market. We catch up. Among other things, we talk about Governor Brown's announcement today. "It's official. California's experiencing a severe drought, the worse in 100 years."  

The governor's requesting a 20 percent reduction in water usage. Folsom Reservoir is so short of water that a ghost town, submerged by the lake, has become visible. The American River is at a two-decades low. The water shortage threatens, among other things, California's Central Valley agriculture and the supply of water sent to Southern California.

Water is always political. Ongoing fights continue between Northern and Southern California about water rights. With this drought, water will become even more political. In the hours after Governor Brown's announcement, opponents of fracking repeated their call for a moratorium on the process of extracting oil by using large amounts of water. They called for more water storage and more dam construction.

In the movie this morning, some 1978 congressmen were caught accepting bribes in exchange for supporting private interests. They were sent to prison. My guess is that today, behind the scenes, there's an "American hustle" going on among California's special water interests.

What's that saying? "The more things change, the more they stay the same."



An email message today from NAMI California is quoting an article in the Wall Street Journal.

"According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, almost 91 million adults live in areas where shortages of mental health professionals make obtaining treatment difficult.

"A departmental report to Congress earlier this year said 55% of the nation's 3,100 counties have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers, a combination of budget cuts and doctors leaving the profession.

"Such shortages are expected to grow now, as the federal healthcare law goes into effect and allows more people to seek help. Indeed, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Director, some 6.8 million uninsured people with a mental illness will gain coverage after federal and state health insurance exchanges implement the new law.

"More people will be chasing after scarce resources, an influx that will 'overwhelm if not inundate the field,' said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association."

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The cough syrup with codeine the Doc gave me triggers hyper-REM sleep. Very intense dreams.



This quote appears in an advice column in today's newspaper. "We have two lives. The life we learn with and the life we live with after that."  Bernard Malamud

The writer to the advice columnist signs her letter "Just Sick." She says she lied to her date about using birth control and now she's pregnant. She's in her 40s with no husband and no support. She's realizing she doesn't know how to undo the mess she's made.

The adviser, Carolyn Hax, admonishes "Just Sick." "You've become rudely acquainted with what a bad person you're capable of being. Arguably everyone will, or should, have that awakening over the course of a lifetime — but it's still tough to live with."

Hax advises J. S.  to get therapy to help her use this lesson to become a better person than she was pre-deceit.

When does the life we learn with end, and the life we live with begin after that? My life is like a grocery cart still filling up with assorted mistakes and lessons learned. All the more reason to throw in hefty boxes of humility, cases of compassion, sacks of self-awareness, and cartons of respect for consequences — intended and unintended.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Well, it's officially the marijuana super bowl. Two cities who have legalized marijuana battling it out. The Super Bowl indeed.



Deanne's giving me my Monday morning workout. She's recapping yesterday's football game between Seattle and San Francisco. She's describing incorrect calls by the referees. Deanne's fit, pretty, and nice. And on top of that, she understands football. How long can I keep liking this woman?

Often, I feel like I'm the only person in the hemisphere who doesn't get football. And what's more, I don't care. Football's messy. Football's mean. People get hurt. President Obama said this week, "If I had a son I wouldn't let him play college football. There's too much risk of serious injury — especially life-changing brain injury."

I'll try to remember that it's the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks who are headed to the Super Bowl. I'll say, "Isn't it sad about the 49ers losing?"

My phone rings, It's Kerry. I can't resist. I don't say, "Hello." I say, "Isn't it sad about the 49ers losing?"

Kerry's laughing. She knows I don't give a fig about the 49ers. You can fool some of the people some of the time, though. To others I'll say what I read on the internet: "The Seahawks started as the favorite in Vegas, but there was early action and the Broncos, within 30 minutes, became the favorite all over town."

I wonder if Deanne knows this?



Megan's entry today on her blog.

SNAFU...Situation Normal All F*ed Up

"When Aidan fell and lost his baby tooth at two, we were told he would have to wait five or six years for the adult tooth to show up. It broke my heart. He was cheated out of his top tooth for the first eight years of his life, and when the tooth finally showed up, it was sideways. SNAFU!

"Curious people always asked what happened to his tooth and it got to be a really old story. I wanted to snap my fingers and give him the straight tooth he deserved as soon as possible. Fortunately, after waiting six years, an orthodontist aligned the sideways tooth in no time and Aidan's missing, then crooked tooth, is a fading memory.

"Unfortunately, it's Ashton's turn to wait. It's been two years since his osteotomy. The surgery was a hopeful attempt to realign his right hip so that the degenerated femoral head could regenerate and put the Legg-Calve-Perthes diagnosis behind him. We were told that the regeneration phase could take two years.

"Ashton's been patient and here we are, two years later. Unfortunately, we now know that the prognosis isn't in his favor. His femoral head didn't regenerate and it's not aligned for proper growth. Ashton will need a hip replacement, but he has to wait. Hip replacements aren't done on a growing child. "Early twenties," they say, "perhaps late teens."

"Ashton is barely 10.

"This sounds like an eternity to me. I imagine ten more years of stiffness, lethargy, limping, and pain for my son. Again, I want to snap my fingers. I want to see a different x-ray. I want to see the one that shows healthy bones on both sides of his pelvis. I want to see him daily tie his shoes, ride his bike, walk the dog, play any sport he desires, and become a young man with a confident gait. But I can't because the SNAFU is right in front of me, in black and white.

"Listening to the orthopedic specialist, I'm heartbroken, but I don't show it because I'm being watched. My 10-year-old son is watching me to determine what this adult conversation means for him. If I cry, his heart will break, too. So I don't. I play the part of the confident mother. The mother who knows that everyone has a SNAFU in their cards. This is Ashton's. This is ours.

"Like it or not. We got this."

I want to hold my daughter. She will hold her son.



There's nothing on my calendar today except paperwork. I'm paying my bills and Pat's bills. I'm organizing a 2013 tax file and collecting information to take to an attorney to update my living trust and Mom's living trust. I'm completing the application for funding for the mental illness support group. I'm scheduling my annual physical, Jazzy's annual physical, the heater's annual physical, and an eye exam.

The Jazz is as bored as I am. She's pacing back and forth in front of the computer screen. "Do something," she says. "Get out of that chair."

If I get out of this chair, none of the above will happen. It will get postponed until tomorrow or the next day. It won't go away. I see a scary mass of papers spreading out across my desk. It's the Paperwork Monster. It's big and white with blotches of color, irregular edges, and humps and bumps. I can't spray it, shoot it, drown it, or set it on fire — unless I want to burn the house down at the same time.

If the Paperwork Monster could talk it would say, "I've got you. You might ignore me today, but I'll be back tomorrow. I'll be back tomorrow and tomorrow until you have no tomorrow."

Well, that's a sobering thought. Guess I don't want the Paperwork Monster to disappear completely. Unfortunately, we're symbiotic organisms. This fact, frustrating as it is, gives me a modicum of comfort.

Remember this, Paperwork Monster. When I go, you go.


George Clooney Photo credit: Timur Gromov/Flickr

George Clooney
Photo credit: Timur Gromov/Flickr


I'm dreaming and, in my dream, George Clooney's proposing to me. He says, "I know this is the real thing because you have the same placemats as my sister."

I don't remember showing George my placemats. Tis of no consequence. I know this is the real thing, too, because we're on a movie set with lots of actors and crew wandering around. George is proposing in front of all of them. He gives me three engagement gifts.

The first gift is a candy rosebush covered with dark chocolate roses and edible blinking lights.

The second gift is three pair of long, dangly earrings. The first pair has big silver hoops with blue, world globes hanging from them. The second pair has long, wispy, red and green parrots made from real feathers. The third pair resembles snow shoes. Miniature snow shoes. I don't wear long, dangly earrings. But hey, if George were to give me earrings carved from watermelon rind, I'd wear them.

The third gift is enclosed in an expensive gold box. It's a do-it-yourself necklace —  a gold chain with 56 gilded Brazil nuts to string on at my leisure.

We're taking a break on the set. We've about finished filming, but George, as producer, has decided to scrap this screenplay and start over. I give him a copy of my "Manifesto for Mental Health Care Reform." He loves my script. He's making it the centerpiece of the new screenplay. In this story, a determined lady like my friend, Rose, fights for mental illness parity. It's a musical. I'm in the lead role.

In a few minutes, George is taking me to meet his sister. He wants to show me her placemats. Then darn. I wake up.


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

January 26, 2014 - February 7, 2014: On To Off * Another Tragedy * A New Wrinkle * Tradition and Heritage * Requests and Success * Damn Freud * Same Old Same Old * "Thanks for Coming In" * When I Was a Child * Staying Grounded * The Young Crowd

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