A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan MARCH 9, 2014 - MARCH 21, 2014

A Birthday Invitation * A New Dilemma * Perspective * Empty Bowls * A Real Life Mystery * Of Ants and Me * No Invaders, No Dragons, No Trolls * Spring 2014 * Internal Drum by Patrick Ranahan * A Bout of Self-Doubt * A Paradox * What to Keep and What to Discard

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."



Hi Everyone!

You're receiving this email because Evelyn Moon, better known as Mom and GG Moon, is celebrating her 96th birthday on April 8. As the calendar falls, we're hosting her "official" birthday dinner on Saturday, April 5th. You're all invited and, if you're too far away and can't attend, you're welcome to call and wish the lady of the day, Happy Birthday!

Michael's preparing an arugula salad and a Cassoulet D'Artagnan. I didn't know what this fancy-sounding concoction was either. It's a hearty dish of duck sausage, and beans. Very French! I'm offering sardines, with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, onions, and capers as an appetizer and a lemon-rosemary layer cake for dessert.

The above mentioned dinner will be at my home around 6 o'clock. Please RSVP. Hope to hear from you, one way or the other.

Love, Dede


Pat calls. He's still delivering auto parts. The church gave him a going-away party. He quit his Sunday job there.

"How's Lexi?"

"She's being a bit of a problem at the moment."


"Well, she pretty much chewed up the shutters on an upstairs window. And she's peed a few times in the upstairs loft."

This is not good. Poop would be gross but dog pee? It sinks into the carpet padding and you can't get rid of the odor. We consider a few solutions. Pat's thinking of shutting Lexi in the downstairs closet when he's gone. I don't like this idea. The closet's bigger than her crate, but still.

"You can't leave her in the backyard?"

"No. She howls and digs out under the fence."

"What about the upstairs bathroom? It's bigger than the closet and has a window to let light in."

Pat doesn't like this idea. 

"I know you love Lexi but is this a fair arrangement for her? Do you think you should give her back to the dog rescue?"

"Give her back? No, I'm not giving her back."

"Well, something has to be done."

"I know."

Silence on the other end of the phone.

"Could she ride along with you in your car when you're making deliveries?"

"No, Mom. She can't ride along with me."

Silence on my end of the phone.

I'm concerned. I won't worry Mom with what's happening in her rental house. A "real" landlord wouldn't allow the dog to stay. I remind myself I can't fix everything.

"Well, let me know what solution you come up with."

"I will."

"You saw the email about GG's birthday dinner?"

"Yes, I'll be there. Talk to you later."

"Bye, Pat."

This situation needs a remedy. It can't continue as is. I'll let it churn a bit. I hope Pat will think of something he can live with — an accommodation that's good for Lexi and good for the house. I hate that getting a job means he may have to give up the dog he loves.

A chat with Pat. A new dilemma.



Cosmos, a new television series, is premiering. The reviews compare it to an updated Carl Sagan program. I'm watching the first episode. It includes computerized graphics and animated storytelling. The narrator talks about space and time in terms of trillions and billions of galaxies and light years. He says, "According to a cosmic calendar, human beings didn't appear until 11:59p.m. on December 31." He mentions a space probe we've sent that broadcasts a message in different languages. "Hello, we're from earth. Is anybody out there?"

The message includes quadrants and specific directions to our address in the solar system. Stephen Hawking, the scientist, doesn't think this probe is a good idea. He says, "The universe is big and weird. Would you call out in the jungle to let others know of your whereabouts?"

The TV story takes us out to the edge, to the moment before the Big Bang -- a time before time, when nothing existed. And then, from one explosion, came worlds upon worlds upon worlds. It's hard to get your head around. Our home, our earth, isn't even a speck. It's a speck on a speck. We're specks on a speck on a speck.

Have to keep this in mind as I worry about dog pee.



My friend, Grace, and I are at the Sacramento Convention Center. The River City Food Bank is holding its annual fundraising luncheon, Empty Bowls. Local artists and art students donate their pottery. A lunch ticket costs $40. It includes soups prepared and donated by local restaurants, and the choice of an empty art bowl to take home.

We worked at last year's event which raised $100,000. This year's goal is $125,000. One-third of the meals, provided by the food bank, goes to children. One of four children in the Sacramento area lives in poverty. The food bank also serves seniors and families.

Grace and I are dressed in black pants, white tops and black aprons imprinted with the words, "Empty Bowls." We're serving soups — chicken and artichoke, pozole rojo, and lentil. The soups rotate a pot at a time until the pot is empty. The favorite, year after year, is a crab bisque.

Empty Bowls is simple, elegant fundraising. Everything's donated. Volunteers man all the stations — check in, pottery tables, information tables, and soup lines. High school students clear tables and replenish table settings. When the event ends at 1:30p.m., volunteers get to select a bowl from the ones remaining.

I choose a small, light-green bowl that I'm putting on the dresser in my guest room. It's a perfect receptacle for car keys, earrings, or spare change. My multi-colored bowl from last year decorates the table in my entryway. It's filled with jelly beans for Easter. Sometimes it holds candy hearts or candy corn or red and green wrapped chocolate kisses.

My event souvenirs are year-round reminders to give thanks for my full pantry, and to remember that there are hungry folks out there — many in my own neck of the woods.


MH370 Memorial Kuala Lumpur International Airport Photo credit: sinh nguyen hoc/flickr

MH370 Memorial Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Photo credit: sinh nguyen hoc/flickr


Where did Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 go?

The plane disappeared six days ago on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China. The Boeing 777 aircraft is one of the largest and safest in the world. The plane reached its maximum known altitude, 35,000 feet, and speed, 539 mph, twenty minutes after taking off. It disappeared, without a warning or a distress message, twenty-two minutes later. Forty-two ships and thirty-nine aircraft from 12 countries, including the US, are searching the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea.

Everywhere I go — in line at the bank, in the check-out line at the grocery store, in the bridge room — people are speculating about this missing plane. Theories abound. Mass electrical failure, sudden decompression, pilot suicide, terrorism. One man predicts that the plane will be found empty. "The passengers and crew have been kidnapped by aliens."

Everyone's pointing fingers. China's criticizing Malaysia's handling of the situation. Bloggers suggest the Malaysian military shot the plane down and then covered up their mistake. Chinese citizens complain their government isn't doing enough to help find the aircraft. In Iran, because two Iranian passengers with false passports were on board, one lawmaker calls the entire episode a form of psychological warfare by the US to sabotage relationships between Iran, China, and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, families and friends of the 239 people on board wait, in limbo, to learn the fate of their loved ones. Just when I've been pondering the relative, minuscule size of our earth in the universe, our world seems very large again. Where is this airplane?



I've been battling ants around the kitchen sink for two days. The pest control person comes. He traces the ant pathway from inside my dishwasher, across the entryway, down the hall, through the laundry room, and out the door to the garage. He spies a hole in the door frame, at the garage floor level, where the ants are trailing in and out.

I like ants. Maybe "like" isn't the correct word. I respect ants. They're industrious and social. They eat insects and do other good works. I search the web for ant info.

  • Ants can lift 20 times their body weight. In other words, if a first grader were as strong as an ant, she could pick up a car.
  • There are various jobs in an ant colony — taking care of eggs and babies, gathering food, and building mounds.
  • At night, caregiver ants move eggs deep into the nest to protect them from the cold. During the day, they move the eggs to the top of the nest for warmth.
  • Some birds put ants in their feathers to eat parasites.
  • Ants are clean. Worker ants take rubbish from the nest and put it outside in "rubbish bins."

When I was little, I'd pick up ants crawling around the bathtub and take them outside. They're living things, I thought. I hated to kill living things, except maybe aphids on rose bushes. Mom says, "I never had to hire a pest exterminator because I had you."

So, here I am, hating to kill ants. I know I can't share my house with them. They'd be pushy, overbearing roommates. I let the pest control guy spray. He says, "You'll see strays for a couple of days."

I squirt the stray ants around the sink with window cleaner. They don't make this easy. I'm watching one ant, pacing back and forth, trying to comprehend the dead bodies all around him. Oh, shit. He's carrying a sick comrade on his back. This is too much. I can't kill this hero ant. He gets a reprieve. I coax him, still carrying his buddy, onto a napkin and carry them outside.

For the rest, I hope this window cleaner kills you right away. I hope you're all, mature, two-year-old ants who've enjoyed good ant lives, with weekends off and comprehensive medical coverage. I hope your colony gets the message to stay out of this house so we can live in peaceful co-existence.

I must share all this ant stuff with Ayla, the little girl who loves bugs. I'll tell her the story of ants and me.



I'm with Regan and Ayla at their house. Kerry and David are down the street at a neighborhood get-together. Regan's playing "Home on the Range" on the piano. She's concentrating on the notes on the sheet music. She's learning.

"Do you like playing the piano?"

"Yes, I also like having different members of my family babysit us. It's good to get to know other family members besides Mommy and Daddy. You, and my other grandma, Michele."

Ayla adds, "And Papa."

Regan says, "Yes, Ralph. Ralph and Michele."

We shift gears. Regan pulls a game out of the closet. The three of us sit at the dining room table playing Operation. As usual, I'm losing. Ayla makes a statement I've heard before. "Let's play a game that's easy for Mim."

Regan and Ayla begin assembling plastic tunnels and runways for marble races on the entryway tile. I'm still trying to get down on the floor. I do what I'm told. "Hold this piece." "Remove that section." Regan reminds us, "We need to work together as a team. Mim, as a team member, would you like a Girl Scout lemon wafer?"

Sounds good to me. Regan and Ayla want lemon wafters, too, but there's a hitch. Regan asks, "What if Mommy and Daddy notice that three lemon wafers are missing?"

Not to worry. I say, "If they notice, I'll explain that I ate all three lemon wafers myself." Problem solved.

We head upstairs to the playroom. It's a disaster. It looks like, well, a well-played-in playroom. Toys and princess dresses cover the floor. I offer to hang up the dresses in their special princess wardrobe. One by one, all the dresses are off the floor. 

Hmm? Regan's formulating a plan. "Let's clean up the playroom and surprise Mommy and Daddy." In short order, everything's being restored to its proper place. If I don't know where something goes, Ayla tells me where to put it. Regan says, "This is exciting. Mommy and Daddy are going to be so happy."

We dump a jar full of beads onto the pristine, cleaned up floor. For twenty minutes, our team pops beads together in a long string. We're building a giant worm. The worm's finished. We're looking for a measuring tape to measure how long it is, but we can't find one.

We put on pajamas and brush teeth. We watch a video about Wally the Troll, his pet dragon, and Bad Gremlin Bob. Bad Gremlin Bob has captured the castle. He's nailing signs across all the castle windows and doors - NO INVADERS, NO DRAGONS, NO TROLLS. This becomes our mantra. We march around the family room chanting.

"No invaders. No dragons. No trolls."
"No invaders. No dragons. No trolls."

Photo credit: David McKelvey/flickr

Photo credit: David McKelvey/flickr

David checks in. It's 9:30p.m. and Regan has an early morning to get to a ski lesson. Regan climbs into her bed. I climb into bed with Ayla to read three books The last book, about a caterpillar, is her favorite. I ask Ayla if she's sleepy. She is. "When Mommy and Daddy come home, I'll ask them to cuddle me. When they're not here, I like to fall asleep by myself."

Got it, Ayla. I turn off the light in Ayla's lavender room. "Good night, Ayla. I love you."

I check in Regan's pink room. She's sound asleep. "Good night, Regan. I love you."

How do you freeze time?



Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

                                   Rainer Maria Rilke



Those footsteps beneath my window
came and went so fast. The ground,
still frozen in spots, begins
its long thaw. The boy passed by
without incident, just the sounds
of his feet, a mud-sucked heartbeat.

When I think about my heartbeat,
its patterns and palpitations, windows
and valves busy with blood, the sounds
of circulation and murmur, the ground
pulses right along with me. It works
by pure magic, this internal drum,

begins anew every moment, always beginning
another push, another pump. Heartbeats
seem to be generated by superhuman force.
I asked the window what it thought.
It said, "there's the ground, trees point to the sky,
I hear no sounds.

But if you can hear the gift of sounds,
place them on the page as evidence of what began
and ended in an instant." A survey of the ground
complete, a military jet maneuvers, its heartbeat
hushed, into its inland cavern, its window-
less womb, where tools clang when dropped by
the uniformed hand. States away, traffic rushes by
the dancing cop, his frantic hands, the short sounds
of whistle and clap. A broker puts his nose to the window
on the thirtieth floor, mutters, "I must begin
my day," clutches his chest and drops, his heartbeat,
tired of his refrain, shows him the ground.

Out in a suburban field, a child squats upon the ground,
runs his fingers through the mud, listens as cars race by.
Today in school he learned the subject heartbeat,
he held his wrist and counted as the sounds
came through his ears by stethoscope. "Begin,"
the teacher said, the children obeyed. The window

took on the fog of nervous youth, and the ground began
its long stretch from the window to the sounds
of the eastern sea, all of this by way of heartbeats.

Patrick Ranahan
Published in
Latitude on 2nd
Cool Waters Media, Inc



Here I sit at the computer, staring at the screen. The monthly cleaning crew is dusting and vacuuming and I'm trying to stay out of their way. I'm trying to stay out of my own way. Pesky thoughts flit across my mind. Why am I writing? Do I really think my life could be of interest to someone, sometime, somewhere? Some days I think I'm leaving a "gift" for my descendants. I'd love to find letters my great-grandmother wrote 100 years ago. Other days, I fear I'm becoming a self-absorbed old woman.

A writing teacher once told me to write what I want to read. I've always preferred nonfiction over fiction. I've always favored history and peeks into days gone by. In that sense, I'm writing what I want to read. I can't be the only who'd love to read a grandmother's diary.

Or am I?

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Monsanto is not banned in America because in America if you make something that is bad for you but tastes fucking great and makes you feel good, you are going to make a fortune.



I write I'm not writing anything today.



When I think about the past, I remember specifics — images, sounds, scents. I see dimples in a smile, drops of water, my Rottweiler's big brown eyes. I hear train whistles, lawn mowers humming, and the white noise of clothes dryers spinning clothes. I smell pink bubble gum, apple cider vinegar, and pine Christmas trees.

I think about the life that's been unique to me. I remember the ordinary. I reflect on the struggle that life can be, even when it's good. I bow to the everyday challenges of climbing up, sliding down, and climbing up again. I admit to the ways things came out differently, many times, than I'd imagined — or hoped. I deliberate about the friend who wasn't a friend, and the person I ignored who was. I acknowledge decisions that turned out wrong and guesses that turned out lucky.

When I look back, I simultaneously see the world as I saw it as a child and as I see it as an adult. From this observation deck, I can choose, with more discernment, what to keep and what to discard. Maybe writing down my daily thoughts, in hindsight, will be an effort that turned out to be a good thing.

I guess time will tell.


March 24, 2014 - April 4, 2014: Thank You * Anytown, USA * Grandparent's Day * Love is Alive * Pacing Myself * Getting Ready * Life Goes On

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