Category Archives: Birthdays

Happy Spring!

Another one of my favorite spiritual authors is Brother Richard Rohr.  A Franciscan priest, he approaches the Universe in a unique way, deeply, profoundly.  Sometimes so deep and profoundly I don’t know what he is getting at.  But I persist in trying to understand him.  I do not think I understood most of what he wrote before I turned 50.

Today is his 75th birthday.  Reading his birthday memoir post was a gift to me this morning that I would like to share with you.  The truth, of course, makes an appearance.  Enjoy!

Hot music tip:  download Sarah MacLachlan’s Prayer of St. Francis and Medicine for the People (all of it).


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Gentle Man

Tomorrow will be my father-in-law’s 80th birthday so I am taking this time to remind the world that gentlemen and gentle men do exist.  Perhaps not in public office, but out in the real world.    The Headmaster uplifts us all with his literary references, love of puns, and general quick wit.    As a former boarding school headmaster, he has parented thousands of young souls (primarily women),  guiding futures,  molding characters, and getting up in the middle of the night to attend to those wracked with teen angst.

The Headmaster embodies the fruit of the spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.  How lucky am I to be married to the literal fruit of the Headmaster???  The acorn, apple, and fig  don’t fall far from the tree.

Men today would do us all a favor by taking a page from the Headmaster’s play book.  An expert dishwasher loader and unloader, the Headmaster washes his own clothes, holds doors open for women (some of us still like that), and proffers glasses of wine or whiskey at all the right moments.  He would rather save his dog’s life than his own.   And, he can carry quite the tune.  The Headmaster has been married to the love of his life for nearly 57 years.  Truth be told, it is hard to find a gentler man.

So cheers to an admirable, honorable, and noble man.  Long may he live!  We will be toasting and roasting him tonight!



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Birthday Song


The Radish & Her Baby Princess

The Radish and Her Baby Princess


Many thanks to all of my family, friends, and internet companions for your well wishes on my birthday.  As many of you know, it was also my dearly beloved mother’s birthday as well.  I had nine months to prepare for the day and I used every one of them.  There has not been one day in which I have forgotten that she is no longer on this earthly plane.  Not one day.  But in the end, it had nothing to do with me, really.  It had everything to do with YOU, dear reader, and my mother.  Instead of a day of intense sorrow, there was peace and joy.

Let me explain for those of you interested enough to keep reading.  Warning:  Jesus will be involved.

As I wrote earlier in the year, my mother Sally’s word for 2017 was REJOICE.  She only had two weeks on earth to work on that word but apparently it was enough.  My words for 2017 were HOPE and RESTORE.  Honestly, though, I adopted and focused on my mother’s word and by so doing, hope and restoration followed.

Let me explain, for those of you interested enough to keep reading.

As I also wrote earlier in the year, my Reading Brain and my Prayer Brain were adversely affected by my mother’s untimely passing.  For the first time ever in my life, reading brought little solace.  The Bible (gasp!), bible studies, People magazine, House Beautiful, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, the news held no appeal.  A voracious reader, my appetite was gone.  GONE.  My Prayer Brain was even worse.  Meandering.  Directionless (at a time when Direction is most urgently needed!  We need a job!  Health!  Peace!  Stability! Focus!).  Distressing.  What to do???

Let me explain, for those interested.

On Friday night I attended a pipe organ concert at our church in St. Augustine with my father,  Big Mike.  The organist, Ken Cowan, play from memory eight complicated compositions.  You have no idea how amazing this musical contortionist was [an grammatical edit is needed here but see above paragraph].  One of the pieces had what Mr. Cowan described as a “fugue”.  After the concert, I asked my father what the musical term “fugue” meant.  Musically illiterate,  I could think only of the word “trance” .  Naturally, my father gave me the definition almost verbatim from Merriam-Webster:


  • a :a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts The organist played a four-voiced fugue.

b :something that resembles a fugue especially in interweaving repetitive elements

My interpretation was close to the secondary definition:

  • 2
  • :a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed

This is as approximate a description of the last nine months of my year, a “fugue”.  Between the moments of total functionality and quasi-normalcy, there have been many other moments of which I have zero recollection.  I have done some pretty random things, like become a certified yoga instructor.  (Say what?  Yep. I still can’t explain it to myself.)  Point, counterpoint, enter a voice or two, sing high, sing low sweet chariot.

Let me explain.

Yesterday after receiving my annual birthday blessing, I had an epiphany or three:

1) My mother came to church with me and even went so far as to engineer the liturgy for the day:  Phillippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord; and again, I say rejoice!” and Psalm 23, “He restores my soul …”.   While The Word in its totality has not fed me this year, the words REJOICE, HOPE, AND RESTORE have.

2) Jesus is the last person to care that I am not on my prayer game – there is no condemnation in Christ. [Romans 8:1].  Thanks, Jesus, for once again getting me off the hook.

3) Music, the language of angels, has soothed me.  To quote Eric Church, I have had “a record year.”  Mr. Church, Motown, and hippy dippy trippy yoga music have nourished my soul instead of books.

Finally, I took such great comfort in knowing that so many of you were hoping and praying I had a great day that I ACTUALLY DID!  YOU LIFTED ME UP FROM WHEREVER YOU WERE AND I THANK YOU.  I FELT THE LOVE!  THERE’S A PAIR OF WINGS WAITING FOR YOU IN HEAVEN.  Sunrise at the beach, a nap after, back to the beach for some vitamin Sea and D, a pitcher of beer with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Pride and Joy at Finn’s rooftop bar, and dinner with my extended Florida family = birthday bliss.  Kudos to Mr. Understanding for bringing me coffee every morning of Birthday Week.  And if, in my fugue,  I have forgotten to thank you for a kind note or act, please forgive me!  It was not my intention. For those who perhaps have been in a fugue of their own, don’t worry!  I get it now.


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Good Gifts

Warning:  this post gets worse before it gets better.  I PROMISE a laugh at the end, even if you might cry with me in the beginning.


Sally and I were born on the same day, 26 years apart.  As I was not with my mother last year on our birthday, my wish when blowing out the candles on my birthday cake was that I would get to spend another birthday together.   She had THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER.  Queen for the Day!  Me, not so much.  Mine included a full moon and a trip to the ER for Mr. Understanding.

For our  40th and 66th birthdays, my parents came to Brazil.  I had a blow out party, complete with caipirinha bar, 1964 themed attire, and a marvelous DJ.   At a group lunch on our birthday, one woman commented, “Oh, I’d hate to share a birthday with my mother.  When one would die, the other would be sad forever.”   I had never had that thought before.   I recall wanting to reach down across the table and slap her face.  I can remember exactly where I was when this woman blurted out this truism.  Fortunately, I cannot remember who it was.  Thank you, Jesus.

Ever since, though, some reptilian part of my brain has been preparing for this future day, approaching in 2017,  exactly nine months after my mother’s death, the full gestational life of a baby.  What new thing will be born then?  What was a thoughtless comment has actually made me pay sufficient attention to our mutual birthdays, particularly the ones spent together.  Of these, there were many.  Perhaps I should thank that nameless face for the opportunities we had to REJOICE together whenever possible?

When I said at the beginning of my Homage to The Radish that there was no baggage between me and my mother, I might have been fibbing.  For example:

My mother and I had WILDLY different notions about gift giving.

Here is a conversation I had in my head prior to my 4th birthday:

Me:  Why is Mommy locked in a bedroom sewing all day?

Myself:  She is making you a little leather dirndl, edged with fancy German ribbon at the top.  She is having a real issue with the plastic loops for the shoulder straps.  I know ’cause I snooped and I can her her swearing inside.

I: But I don’t want a leather dress!  How about a doll???

Let’s fast forward to my 17th birthday.

Me:  Wow!  A Merriam-Webster Dictionary!

Myself:  And a red London Fog rain coat?!  Just what every 17 year old wants!

I:  Seriously?  How about the new Michael Jackson album???  A pair of Famolares?

Fast forward again to my 30th birthday.

Me:  A commemorative copper pot!  Engraved even!

Myself: Is this a message about my cooking???  I have a nine month old baby!


It sort of became a joke.  Sally believed that the gift was more about what the giver wanted to give.  I am more about pleasing the recipient.  Both of us were thoughtful in our approach.  My mother had as many hits as misses.  Me, I mostly hit it out of the park in the gift department: French jacquard tea towels, fancy aprons, Jo Malone body cream.  If I didn’t, I’d find the item the next summer in her church garage sale bin.

Last year, I could not think of anything I wanted or truly needed.  So I told her to buy me a knife, because I knew she was coming to visit me in Arkansas and would enjoy using it.  Sally had great knives and I knew it would please her to give me one, even though she always traveled with her own knives, wrapping them in dishtowels and sandwiching them between her underpants, sweaters, and books inside her checked luggage.

Here is a list of gifts I gave my mother that pleased her greatly, not all of them material.

  1. suede go go boots and green eyeshadow – my dad and I picked them out at a store called The Gas Company (?) on the Arcata Plaza.  Age 5.
  2.  wearing a German dirndl she made for me.  Age 18.  University of Oregon campus.  ARE YOU DYING FOR ME YET???? This memory is so painful I am saving it for an actual book.
  3. cutting my hair in a style Sally found short and attractive for my round face.  Age 45.

Finally, every year there was a debate about the cake.  What to have?  Who wants to make a cake on their birthday?  Not my mother.  Sometimes we had pie.  Did I mention that my mother, while an excellent cook, did not like to bake anything but bread until her late 60s?

Here, a photo of one of her cake baking efforts.


Fantastic on color theory, a little sloppy on the piping.  This would only cause her to shrug her shoulders – oh well!

I still have a copper pot I use all the time, a well used dictionary, some fancy knives, and a quilt under which to hide my oh so weary head or with which to make a tent.  As I look at the quilt, she must have had an inkling of how often I’d move.


But the best gift she ever gave me was time spent with her.  How I wish I had more of it!  This year I will make a wish that she will be with me and my father in spirit, helping me to blow out the candles, putting her hand on my dad’s shoulder to lean in and assure us we’ll see her in the blink of an eye.


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George the Third


Geo birthday card.jpg

Today is the 13th birthday of my nephew and godson George the Third.  George was born in Sicily, weighing in at nearly 10 lbs.  Although his first name is not the same as his father’s, the Sicilians interpreted the III after his father’s surname as part of the name package and included it on his birth certificate.  The Sicilians, apparently, did not understand the American use of Roman numerals.   No amount of convincing could get the Italian government to correct this error.  Thus, he remains George the Third.

In Sicily, when my sister MCV went to the hospital to have her baby, she had to bring everything:  Sheets, diapers, baby outfits, wipes, diaper cream, blankets, her mother.  All the medical staff did was wrangle the baby out, which in the case of a bowling ball was no picnic, for anyone.  But by then, Sally was rather an expert doula and this was not her first Third World Birthing Rodeo (hats off to the ABC Hospital in Mexico City, which provided everything, even a delicious steak dinner).

Sally was present at the births of six of her seven grandchildren.  She was in attendance for four of them and outside the operating room for two.  This is a pretty good track record and says as much about the sons-in-laws as it does the daughters.  Sally was always helpful, easily entertained, and a gracious guest. She REJOICED at the births of all of these children and wanted to be on the front lines, traveling to two foreign countries for the experience.  Prior to the birth of her first grandchild, she had never witnessed childbirth, not even the births of her own daughters.  (At a later date we will explore Lamaze class and martinis.)

Sally’s “grandma name” was the French word for grandmother: Grandmere. She picked it herself.  We used an American accent.

If Sally were here, she would have called George yesterday and reminded him that it was his last day of being twelve, indeed, the last day of being a child in Jewish tradition, that tomorrow he would be a teenager.  I thought it but did not pick up the phone.  Fortunately, his mother gave him the Sally speech.

George the Third’s birthday is also Thing 2’s half birthday.  Sally always semi-celebrated half birthdays.  As time has progressed, my parents celebrated each month anniversary of their birth.  In fact, Sally passed away at exactly age 78 and a quarter, a fact she would have you know.  She did not take birthdays and anniversaries for granted.  As luck would have it, Sally had to share her birthday with me.  She never complained (at least not that I know of) and thought it was kind of a fun party trick.

It is on days like today that we sisters really grieve over our mother’s loss even as we REJOICE and celebrate the birth of each child.  Happy Birthday, George,  you are now a man.  Hug your mother for me and blow out all the candles on your cake.  You are a wonderful testimony to Grandmere.

P.S.  Gabe, if you are reading this, your birth was no less miraculous.  I just hadn’t started my 40 days yet.


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Thursday, December 8, was the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day nine months before Mary’s “birthday” of September 8, which is called the Feast of the Nativity.  According to Catholic dogma approved in 1854, the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin on this day.

It was also the day this week that my mother, a.k.a. the Radish, went in for a repair of her mitral heart valve.   She stayed under a little longer to fix the tricuspid too.

My sister, Mood Ring Momma, my father, and I had a long time to fellowship together in the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, delivering my mother at 5 a.m. for her operation.  Scripture and cheesy Jesus photos adorned the walls of the hospital lobby and waiting rooms.  I was at total peace, even as the clock ticked past the time the OR nurse was supposed to have provided an update.

At some point, it occurred to me that December 8 was a Feast Day of Mary and that I should be on the lookout for her.  I know this because I had hoped that 12/8/98 would be Thing 3’s birthday, coming two years and three months after Thing 2’s birthday, 9/8/96.  I like even numbers.  The only drawback:  most Mexican Catholics born on this date, be they male or female, are named Concepcion (Conception) and go by the (unattractive to me) nickname of Concho/Concha/Conchita.   Would I have caved to the pressure???

The first apparition, if you can even call it that, was a teensy blue medal worn by a former cardiothoracic OR nurse named Linda who chatted us up in the waiting room.  Her Aunt Mary had bought it for her at the Vatican.   At 67 years old, Linda rocked her scrubs.   I have never seen such a glamorous nurse.   Although this was a pea sized appearance, Linda was a veritable angel of information.

The second apparition was far creepier (?)/comforting/scalp tingling.  As the afternoon wore on, I received a text message from an unknown New York number with an accompanying photo of a double tombstone.  The text said, “Dad would have been 100 yrs old today.  Mary & I just stopped by.”  The name of the dad was Joseph.  Now, obviously, I was mistakenly included on someone’s text string. (Or was I???).  In any event, I felt that Joe and his wife, who shares a name with Mood Ring Momma, were looking after the Radish, perhaps during a perilous part of my mother’s journey.   As was Mary.

Naturally, I was on the look out for the third apparition.  Nearly catatonic by the end of the day, I had no further sightings and went to bed nervous for my mother, who we left unconscious and contorted in pain.  With half an ear open all night for a phone call, I slept very little.   If I am honest, I was also a little disappointed there was no trinitarian sighting.

But lo and behold, Mary showed up the next day in the mailbox in the form of my mother’s Christmas card, a little overdue but right on the money.  The Radish had used the above image of Mary for her annual epistle.  Here is her message, which bears reprinting:

“Radish here.  This is a Heart of Mary icon which I stole off my daughter’s blog.  It spoke to me because it is simple, timeless, and her heart is showing, and maybe this year we can show a little religion.  Her heart represents all her joys and sorrows.  Further,  Papa Bear and I with both our hearts wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2017.  This year we are so appreciative of our families.  And those who are our friends, you will never know how much you mean to us.  Be open to miracles this year.  XOXO”

A photo of my mother, crazy-haired, and my father, grinning insanely, hovering over their breakfast bowls, graces the back of the card.

Day Three post operation the Radish slept a lot but was not in pain.  Tomorrow, Nurse Ratched is on duty.  We are going to get that granny moving.  This seems to be part of my fate but with Mary, Joseph, and Cheesy Jesus on my team, how can I not surrender to the season???  Perhaps at 52, I am finally learning the true meaning of Christmas:  waiting for a miracle or ten, stripped down and wearing a backless gown, joy found breathing in a sheet swaddled recliner.

N.B.  I did not edit this so if there are any errors, so be it.  You’ll understand.  Also, it is Broccoli Babe’s birthday.  She is an angel encourager.

Shopping suggestion: for all your holiday messages!



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Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend


Perhaps there has actually been a Marian apparition in China?

Many a moon after I bought that medal in Mexico, I was living in Shanghai.   The postman delivered a package to my door, postmarked Brazil.   Inside was a note from my friend Maria the Dentist, saying that she had been to a chapel in Paris.  Realizing it was my birthday, she went into the gift store and bought me a booklet on the Chapel.  Inside the packet was also a little Infant of Prague statue from her recent visit there with her mother. 

My heart stopped and my scalp tingled.  Tears ran down my face.  

The booklet described the medal I had worn for years – the mystery was finally solved!  

I gobbled up that booklet.  It tells the story of a young novitiate at the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, in Paris, who woke up to a vision of a young child at the foot of her bed instructing her to go to the chapel.  The Blessed Virgin was waiting for her. The young nun, Catherine Laboure, motherless at age nine, got out of bed and went the the chapel.  She was told that “God wishes to entrust you with a mission”.  God needed the world to be reminded of his love and Catherine was told to have confidence.  Catherine was told to “Come to the foot of this altar”.  It was the summer of 1830.  

Four months later, Mary appeared to Catherine during communal meditation.  Appearing in a bright light, she was standing on a globe and holding in her hands a small ball with a cross superimposed on it, representing the Earth illuminated by the presence of God.  It was a new Earth, a Kingdom of Love.  Luminous rays come from the hands of Mary.  The globe symbolizes our world today; a world full of strife yet also liberated by Christ.  Mary tells Catherine that she is listening to our pleas – it is her great pleasure for her to pour out God’s graces on each of us.  “I will pour out graces on all who ask them of me with confidence.” 

The Virgin Mary then dictates to Catherine that a “medal be struck” and instructs her on the design.  The medal, worn around the neck, was to be a sign of faith and that those who petitioned Mary would be granted many graces (favors).  It was to be a medal used for healing.

On the medal, Mother Mary is depicting wearing diamond rings on both hands.  Some of the rings shine forth, some do not.  The ones that do not symbolize all the “unredeemed graces”, all the favors that were not petitioned of Mary.

Obviously, I had been wearing the medal for many years without knowing its true significance.  Whether or not I was consciously petitioning Mary, my prayers were being heard.  The biggest gift was that during this entire period, contrary to science, Thing 1’s aorta stopped expanding and stayed in the “normal” range where it has remained ever since.  (I will also credit here an Argentine woman named Caroline Hansen, the mother of a friend and wife of an Anglican priest,  who performed a healing ceremony at our nondenominational Brazilian church, a holy electrical current crackling throughout the friends holding hands.)

Serendipitously solving the mystery of the lady on the medal has been one of the biggest Godwinks of my life.  That kind of synchronicity  just cannot be engineered by human beings.  So, yes, I guess you can say there was a Marian apparition in China – does it matter that it came in my mailbox?  It was, for sure, a personal message for me.

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was the last stop on my pilgrimage in 2014, even though it was not on the road to Santiago de Compostela.  That was a redeemed grace, friends, of epic proportions!  When I leave this world, I want all the diamond rings lit up.   Nothing makes me sadder than the prospect of not having had the imagination to ask for a favor – for myself, my friends and family, or the world.  Where does your imagination need to take you today?

Herewith concludes Day 13.

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