Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian

Top Shelf 2020: A Weekend in the Mile High City w/Joani & Colleen

Woo hoo!! U&U followers!

If you enjoy reading my manic tales, I bet you might also really enjoy hearing me perform one live on stage!!

Maybe you’ve attended a previous Story District performance. Story District is a 20 year old boffo storytelling community in D.C. All the tellers share first person true stories – exceedingly well crafted and delivered supported by the Story District’s pro coaches and directors. They also have awesome workshops and classes!

My maiden voyage was in a 2015 show inspired by this very blog and debuted at my my parish Emmanuel. Take a look here if you missed it:

Unhinged: True Tales of Living with Mental Illness

And here is my very funny and embarrassing story about “how to get a date worth keeping”.

Joani in Story District’s Second Tuesday: I Can’t Feel My Face

One about my worst job(s) ever!

Joani in Story District’s Worst Job Ever at DC Comedy Improv

And my story of the balance between the mystical and the maniacal!

Joani in NPR Invisibilia Live w/Story District at the Lincoln Theatre

And I am super psyched to announce that again at the Lincoln Theatre, on January 25th, I will be performing along with daughter Colleen in Story District’s Top Shelf 2020. We are both over the moon to be one of the top eight stories chosen from almost two hundred the previous year.

It’s super exciting too because this was Colleen’s very first foray onto the Story District Stage. And it’s the first time Story District produced such a show: He Said, She Said, They Said. One story, more than one point of view!

Ours is a tale of an adventurous weekend we spent together in the Mile High City — where we sampled all the city legally had to offer. And the hilarious antics that ensued thereafter!

I would LOVE to see you there. Please, come cheer us on! The house is already half sold out! So get your tickets here!

Tickets for Top Shelf 2020, January 25 @ The Lincoln Theatre

It’s a night of poignant, moving and hilarious storytelling. The best of the best. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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Dirt Therapy Redux

Mary Magdalene and the Gardener

Resurrection stories. U&U is an ongoing collection of resurrection stories — that before too long I would like to turn into an actual book. It seems that now I may just have carved out some time to actually do it.

Last week I chose to leave a job that I loved. You see the garden in which I so lovingly toiled had become a bit too overgrown with weeds. Weeds suck up all the water and crowd out the sun. Its hard to stay healthy and whole in a garden choked by weeds. Its nearly impossible to grow.

So I decided to uproot myself and with God’s help, to plant myself anew in life giving soil.

“Now the green blade riseth” is my favorite Easter hymn.

So it seems very apropos to repost Dirt Therapy once again.

So here we go….

Once upon an Eastertide, a little boy came home singing the Pete Seeger song: “Inch by inch, row by row, Lord, please help my garden grow”. At school the little boy, along with his class, had planted bean seeds in jelly jars. Each day they tended their little glass gardens, checking the moist dark earth. Some of the children drowned their seeds with love. While others, their seeds withered from neglect. While others, theirs actually and miraculously sprouted and grew.

Tiny green shoots poked their heads into the fluorescent light. Slender green vines wound around the inside of the jars.

And then one day — the little boy proudly brought his home and set it down on the kitchen table. His mom asked, “Okay, my little sweet potato, what’s this?” And the little boy replied:

”That’s Jesus, mom. That’s Jesus in a jar.”

It wasn’t exactly “Now the green blade riseth” but it was sweet indeed. That sweet little boy was my son Jacob (now 28 years old!). Sadly the little Jesus vine did not survive very long — but don’t blame Jacob. Sadly, you see, plants often came home to my house to die.

Even though I quite ironically once worked at plant store called “Great Plants Alive” most of the plants that crossed my threshold sadly met an untimely death.

And back in the day when I still had a backyard, I was quite happy to just let Mother Earth be my gardener. So whatever grew — grew –and whatever withered – withered. My yard was a little city patch of green. And since I had no green thumb, this was my rule:

If it’s green let it grow.

My lawn was covered with crab grass, wild violets, clover, and dandelions. The fence was covered with tangled honeysuckle vines, ghetto pines, a struggling maple tree, and poison ivy. Plastic baseball bats and dead tennis balls dotted my lawn. A sad little wagon and outgrown bicycles littered the grass.

Occasionally I would attempt to tame this wilding place with my lawn mower and a weed whacker. But much more often, I would retreat and recline in a plastic chair on the patio to read a good book.

If it’s green let it grow.

My manic-depressive mom, Mary Lou was quite the gardener. While I have been blessed with her bipolar brain, God did not see to bestow upon me her green thumb. And hers was very green indeed.

When I was growing up, my mother could lash out like lightning just as easily as she could erupt in joy. Her highs and lows were beyond her control. My mom did the best she could.

And she did her very best in the garden.

Mary Lou was totally at home in her rock garden. She relished her trips to the local greenhouses and she spared no expense at the nursery.

The back of the station wagon would be overloaded with peat moss and potting soil, flats of flowers, hydrangeas and azaleas, and a shrub or two — or three.

The lawn would be littered with empty plastic pots, as she dug down deep in the dirt planting geraniums, petunias, and marigolds. I have a snapshot of her doing just this. Her sun kissed skin is freckled and bronze; her auburn hair peaks out from her kerchief; and golden hoops dangle from her ears. Gorgeous.

Resplendent and radiant, digging in the dirt, all is right with her soul.

Digging in the dirt is therapy.

Sowing seeds is therapy.

Fertilizing the soil is therapy.

Watering the ground is therapy.

Gardening is therapy.

Dirt therapy.

Wordless, holistic, holy, hopeful, dirty therapy.

My mother’s daughter, namely me, no longer has a backyard. But I do have a little balcony. And each Eastertide I plant my little English garden in half a dozen clay pots. I am partial to bright colors: Shasta daises; hibiscus; and geraniums. I am partial to plants of the forgiving kind, the kind that forgive me if I don’t water them as often as I should.

A little Miracle Grow, a little sunshine, a little dirt, and all is right with my soul. At least for a little while.

In the beginning, the Creator walked in the cool of the wet garden at the time of the evening breeze. God made us out of the dirt of the garden. God made us out of the dirt of paradise.

And so in all the deaths we die — both large and small — we return to the Garden. We go down into the dirt like seeds forgotten and buried in the dark earth.

So as we are in the beginning, we are in the end. The Alpha is also the Omega.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala, came to the garden and she saw that the stone was rolled away. And there stood the Gardener, the same Gardener who had walked at the time of the evening breeze. Mary did not know him until he called her by name. And then she knew. Here stands the very tiller, the very tender, the very lover of my soul.

Now the green blade riseth.

Dirt therapy.


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Bipolar Boundaries: a Geography Lesson

USA Canada Puzzle Concept

A puzzling, cross-boundary bipolar diagnosis.

Will I be crazy in Canada?

I just got my passport and I am psyched! This November I am hightailing it to the Canadian, BC border. My sister Maureen, 1970’s style made a big political move north – and while she retains her American citizenship – she has never moved back.

She is as Canadian as maple syrup and Molson’s Ale, eh! Different and yet the same, geography has shaped who she is. Maureen’s longitude and latitude have shifted her worldview. Different and yet the same, geography has both shaped and redefined her.

So I ask again, will I still be crazy in Canada? Will I be just as unhinged north of the border as below?

Last week with “Inked!”, I posted my 60th post here on U&U. And it seemed as good a time as any to look back at a year’s worth of data – to see how U&U is doing. Who’s reading, who’s following, who’s commenting, who’s “liking”, who’s sharing.

I am obsessed with my WordPress app, compulsively checking stats on visitors and views after each week’s post. And daily I am amused to discover where my readership resides. Googling — folks from across the globe stumble upon U&U. And it makes me smile.

This little blog is a worldwide phenomenon (wink, wink, nod, nod!): 13,648 views, 8,233 visitors, and 300 followers. Read in over 80 countries, the lion’s share of my readers are, of course, in the U.S., followed by the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and France.

My numbers are in the “tens” in Russia, Italy, the Philippines, Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, and South Africa.

I have a couple of readers each from Finland, Thailand, Uraguay, Colombia, Nigeria, Slovakia, Vietnam, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Argentina, Iraq, the DR, Costa Rica, and Kenya.

And I am a one hit wonder in Jersey, Cameroon, Portugal, Estonia, Algeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Croatia, Uganda, and Saudi Arabia!

(Are you smiling? Me too.)

A few years ago, I read a most provocative book, “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche” 2010, by Ethan Waters. In a diverse world, Waters writes, there is a diversity of ways of going mad. Likewise all across the map, there is a rich variety of ways, humanity maps the mind’s terrain.

Western hegemony, he says, has homogenized our understanding of mental health. Exportation of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual has obliterated cross -cultural expressions of mental illness. Powerful pharmaceutical companies profit not just from the drugs but from the diagnoses they advertise and promote.

“Crazy Like Us” tackles this global issue at the local level. Specifically Waters tells the story of people with four different diagnoses in four different countries: “The Rise of Anorexia in Hong Kong”; “The Wave That Brought PTSD to Sri Lanka”; “The Shifting Mask of Schizophrenia in Zanzibar”; “The Mega-Marketing of Depression in Japan”.

The data he shares is persuasive. The stories told are compelling. The questions he raises are profound. Waters’ investigation contextualizes the West’s experience of mental illness and calls into question our scientific theories and therapeutic practices.

So I ask the question again. Will I be just as crazy in Vancouver as I am in Virginia?

For me specifically the question is about bipolar disorder. Does it cross borders? Is it the same in any language?

My answer to this question is incarnational.

You see, deep down in my bones, I know that both my mania and my melancholia are both organic and spiritual, local as well as universal.

My answer is yes.

And oddly enough, after doing a little research, I find that my findings concur with a study done by the World Health Organization in 2011. The World Mental Health Survey (WMH), used consistent methods, (yes, the DSM-IV), and collected data in eleven countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and New Zealand.

Bipolar disorder indeed crosses borders — but not uniformly or without cultural variation. Bipolar spectrum also differs in degree from country to country. The United States has the highest lifetime rate of 4.4% and India the lowest, with 0.1%

Dr. Sarah Bodner, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami, attributes the differences to diverse factors.

It could be genetics; it could be environment. It could also be the way individuals in different cultures are willing to respond to this kind of inquiry. Cultural awareness plays a very big role in psychiatry. Some cultures have a huge reluctance to speak about such things.”

 Cultures with a higher rate of stigma had a lower rate of the disorder. But those very same cultures’ traditions may also help inoculate and protect that culture’s corporate psyche. America’s highly mobile lifestyle is counter to stability in family structures and community support, making bipolar disorder more of a first world problem.


But a article cites another quite unique theory behind what makes America the most manic country in the world: the melting pot. And it is the topic of at least one book:

“’The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and a (a Lot of) Success in America,’ by John D. Gartner, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, discusses the hypomanic qualities entrepreneurs and leaders who took risks to come to America.”

 Hypomania is that Bipolar sweet spot, in which a person experiences exuberance, creativity, and focus and gets a sh*tload of things done! (This is my favorite place to be!)

David Schlager, a psychiatrist with the Lone Star Circle of Care concurs:

The U.S. attracts people who believe they can achieve a better life. They come to believe they can pick up and start again. It’s a self-selected sample of people who are grandiose and impulsive. It takes a suspension of belief to actually believe you can come here and make it happen.”

Those are a significant percentage of people in the bipolar spectrum.”

Bipolar disorder is strongly heritable. Two thirds of bipolar folks have a close relative who is also manic-depressive. My Irish American ancestors bequeathed this brain to me. It’s the gift that keeps giving in my family: my grandmother, my mother, and me.

My brain is both blessing and curse, emphasis on the first. Hypomania is God’s gift to me – yes – God’s gift to me. Manically and daily, I pray that in this sweet, sweet, sweet spot – I can manage to stay.

Often I succeed, sometimes not. And that’s okay. I would not have it any other way.

So I am grateful to God for my genes; I am grateful to God for my DNA. I am grateful to the Great Creator who made me this way — created in the image of a crazy and wondrous God.

Crazy in Virginia. Crazy in Vancouver. Crazy all over the world.

Canada, here I come.



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What’s in a Name?

baby-names1 - you named we what 2

My mother ran out of names.

Providence Hospital, DC, March 3, 1955: Three days old, I lay swaddled in the nursery nameless.

Preceded by a sister, Maureen Ann, and a brother, Timothy Francis, it seems my mom had already exhausted a very brief list of favorite names and could not come up with one for baby number three – me!

The discharge nurse told my mom I had to have a name to be discharged. “What shall I write  on the birth certificate? “ My mom responded with a question. “What’s your name? she asked the nurse. “Joan”, she said. “Then we’ll call her ‘Joan’,” my mom said, “and tack on ‘Louise’. That’s my middle name. That’ll work.”

So I went home as JoanJoan Louise.

Growing up I searched for a grander story – a better story to tell. A grandiose little Catholic soul, I believed I was named for Jean d’Arc. A lacquered portrait of Joan hung on my bedroom wall – a First Communion present from my second cousin, the priest – Father Buddy Litkey. Shining in her armor, mounted on a white horse, banner furled, and wielding her sword, I believed myself her heir apparent.

So I canonized myself – St. Joan.

Yet even sanctified, It did not take long to grow bored with my monosyllabic name. (Don’t you love it that “monosyllabic” has five syllables?:)) Such a plain Jane name is Joan. So at my confirmation – as little RC kids traditionally do – I chose a saint to be my patron.

I chose “Veronica”: the woman of legend who wipes the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary. Her beautiful name literally means “true icon”. So beautiful. But for none of the above reasons did I choose it.

I chose it because it was the sexiest damn name this little 10 year old could come up with. Four syllables, exotic, and musical it rolled off the tongue –


But everyone still called me Joan. Well Joani actually (as I spell it now).

As a kid I tried to stretch my name on the page by adding letters: Joan, Joanie, Joannie. In my hippy dippy adolescence I chopped off a couple– an “n” and an “e” in homage to Joni Mitchell. I still have all of Joni’s music on my iPod, but I held on to the “a” for my own namesake:


Two weeks ago at SpeakeasyDC’s “Unhinged”, Dara, one of the storytellers, introduced us to her husband’s alter egos. Struggling in their marriage, she met them all in therapy. Out came Michael, a shy and vulnerable boy. Out came drill sergeant, Charlie, his champion and protector.

Her husband, who suffers from DID, Dis-Associative Identity Disorder, by any other name is still her husband. All three gentlemen sitting on the couch were fragments of the man she loves. Shattered by trauma, to cope and survive, he gives them different names.

Each week in therapy they would pick up the pieces, befriending the fragments, collecting them together, both hoping to be be healed, both hoping to be made whole.

And I too go to therapy — twice monthly — to remember my name. I go to recall who I am, to recall just who my God calls me to be – in this time and in this place. And in ten years time, who I call myself has changed many times over.

Names change as lives change. Biblically speaking, on the way to the Promised Land, Sarai becomes SarahAbram becomes Abraham. Wrestling with angels, Jacob is renamed as Israel.

Even the Holy One, whose name was never to be spoken, has too many names to number: Elohim, el Shaddai, YWHW, I AM, Emmanuel – just to name a few.

So what’s in a name?

Well for each and everyone of us  – a whole, whole lot.

Name them and claim them.  Count them up and collect them. Try to understand them. Hold them close and cherish them. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Birth to death, each and every one is an integral and indispensable part of you.

Thanks be to the nameless God — who calls us all by name — whatever that might be.


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Differently Wired, Elektra-kly

The Bipolar Brain, wired bright.

The Bipolar Brain, wired bright.

Medusa. I definitely resembled Medusa. Twenty-one electrodes, like snakes had been glued to my head – a crazy helmet I had to wear for forty eight hours. A crazy helmet I had to wear because a crazy neurologist was trying to figure out how my crazy brain had gone crazy haywire.

But not because I was crazy.

Three years ago I started having side effects from one of the crazy drugs I was prescribed. The symptoms were both surreal and terrifying. They occurred only at night. It was like a power outage, like someone had flipped a switch. One minute my brain was on. The next minute it seemed my brain was about to shut off. I didn’t want to close my eyes. I did not want to go to sleep. I was scared to death that I might just wake up dead. Short circuited. Wires fried. Unplugged.

Dr. Khan stared at the scratches and the scribblings. Silent seizures, she said. That’s what wrong with your head. You’re not bipolar. You have silent seizures. Days of mania? Nights of depression? One EEG and she thought she had my brain all figured out. Diagnosis done. But Dr, Khan in the end turned out to be the crazy one. Crazy wrong.

But it’s really not so crazy to want to understand. The mystery of the mind is not solved with an x-ray or a blood test or an EEG. Cracking open the skull is like trying to crack God’s own safe. It is virtually un-crackable.

Just ask Michio Kaku, a theoretical astrophysicist and author of “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind.”

There are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, roughly the same number of neurons in your brain. You may have to travel 24 trillion miles to the nearest star outside of our solar system, to find an object as complex as what is sitting on your shoulders.”

“The Universe is concerned with the vastness of outer space…. black holes, exploding stars, and colliding galaxies. While the brain is concerned with inner space, where we find our most intimate and private hopes and desires. The mind is no farther than our next thought, yet we are often clueless when asked to explain it.”

100 billion lights to light up my brain. 100 billion lights wired 100 billion different ways. To the 100 billionth power. Welcome to my wired world. There is a symphony of synapses firing in my head. Sometimes the music is exquisite.  Sometimes cacophonous. Sometimes incomprehensible.

And sometimes my brain erupts like fireworks. Bright flames of orange and yellow and red. Flames I am most reluctant to extinguish. Flames that keep me up at night. Once upon an October just two years ago, I barely slept for ten straight days and ten straight nights. For ten straight days and ten straight nights, my fingers flew like lightning on the keyboard of my Mac. Twelve sermons in two hundred and forty hours. Brilliant. Profound. Inspired. Glorious. Indeed so  — maybe the first five or six. The next half dozen – not so much.

Manic fire fizzles. It fades to shades of purple, blue, and black. Just how purple, blue, and black depends. Sometimes dim and depressed and distracted. Sometimes as deep and dark and black as a black hole.

The brain burns itself out — shattered in an electric storm as surely as when lightning strikes a tree. A matter of scientific interest  of great interest to none other than Mary Shelley’s, Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

…for a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling a thousand contradictory theories and floundering desperately, guided by an ardent imagination and childish reasoning, till an accident again changed the current of my ideas.”

“When I was but fifteen…I witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm. It advanced from the mountains…and the thunder burst at once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens. I remained while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood twenty yards from our house; and as soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump….shattered in a singular manner….not just splintered by the shock but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood.”

My mother once was shattered thus. So shattered she could not speak. So shattered she could not hear. So shattered she did not eat. So shattered she could not raise her head.  So shattered all her days were night. So shattered it seemed – it would take a lightning bolt to raise her from the dead.

A lightning bolt did. It’s called ECT – electro-convulsive therapy. And my mother, a bit like Frankenstein, had these electrodes wired to her head. The doctor flipped the switch and she was resurrected. Maybe not the first time, but after several treatments — with all the electricity of a 100 watt light bulb — my mother was resurrected.

And no one knows how. No doctor, no scientist could explain how my mother’s brain got rewired but it did. Who needs a psychiatrist when you can call an electrician?

Differently wired. I have come to understand my bipolar brain as differently wired. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and Mt Sinai Hospital Center are all working on the same thing. How to make visible that invisible thing called bipolar disorder. How to rewire the manic side and the depressive side just so. How to rewire the brain chemically and genetically just so. The very best scientists of the very best kinds are all exploring that inner space — magnetically, electronically, digitally.

All to find out what I already know. I am differently wired. My brain is bipolar and that is how it works. It is how I perceive the world. It is how I experience the ups and downs of life. It is how I think. It is how I feel. It is both blessing and curse. It is a gift I did not ask for, but I am grateful for it just the same. I am differently wired. That is who I am.

My mind dances in spirals and does not walk in straight lines. My thoughts fly like fireflies and my head is often in the clouds. Words spill out of my mouth both melodious and ridiculous. I am a one woman band, getting so much good stuff done in so little time. At least so I believe of myself — most of the time. I do not want to medicate myself away. But my brain can do with a little management — at least a little bit.

You see, I resemble Elektra more than I do Medusa. In Greek mythology Elektra is a nymph of the ocean married to a god of the sea. One daughter is Iris, the rainbow. The other daughter is Harpies, the storm winds that blow. Elektra — amber, shining, and bright — pierces the storm clouds with rainbows of light. I am Elektra. At least so I believe most of the time!

So with a little bit of science, with a little bit of magic, with a little bit of prayer, with a little bit of humor, with a little bit of faith, with a little bit of help, with a little bit of spark, and yes with a little bit of medication, and more than just a little bit of sleep — that is how I manage to be me. Joan Louise – Elektra – Peacock.

Differently wired. Definitely me.


Thanks  be to all the gods and goddesses.

Thanks be to God, The Holy Three.

Thanks be to God for wiring me,


Quite differently.

For making me — just me.



O Mary, O Mary Lou…ou….ou

Mom mom, Mary Louise Cady Peacock, 1950

Mary Louise Cady Peacock, Born November 3, 1926 – Reborn June 19, 2014

My mom’s name is Mary Louise Cady Peacock. “Mary Lou” to family and friends. “Mom” to her children and “Ma Lou” to her grandchildren. My mom was named for her mom — Mary Angelus Diggs Cady. Angelus —  because she was born when the Angelus bells were ringing. The bells that remind the faithful to bow their heads and say their Ave Marias. Hail Mary, so full of grace.

My mother, Mary Lou, I am sure said more than her share of Hail Mary’s in her lifetime. Round and round the Hail Mary’s go on the five decades of the rosary. Round and round they go with prayers full of sorrow and prayers full of joy. My mom was a woman of two poles and like everyone who walks this good earth, she had her share of sorrows. At the tender age of seventeen, she was pulled out of school to take care of her dad and her brother when her own mother took to her melancholy bed. She lost her dad, Benjamin Cady, just a week after my brother Tim was born. She really loved her dad, who none of us ever got to know. Mom told us the story of how he always told her that when he got home from work each day he would bring her a “solid gold wait-awhile”. And apparently he always did.

Born in 1926, my mom was a child of the depression. She grew up in a big, crazy, chaotic, extended family that included lots of her aunts and uncles as well as her singular brother. Granddaddy Cady was the plumber who supported them all. Everybody needs a plumber, even when times are tough:)

So when Mary Lou grew up she had a big, crazy, chaotic, Catholic family of her own. She and my dad met at St. Theresa’s Parochial School. A little young for dating at six and seven, they started courting when my dad was in college. Married in 1950, my mom gave birth to all six of us in just nine years (Yes, just nine years!). And hysterically we were practically born in pairs: girl boy, girl, boy, girl, boy. When calling any one of us for any reason whatsoever, our mom would recite the litany of all our names. The litany  from the oldest to the youngest: Maureen, Timmy, Joani, Bernie, Clare, Joseph.

Mom loved to cook for her hungry horde. It was, I believe, her most creative outlet. She had a bazillion cook books but never really followed a recipe and never quite made exactly the same thing twice. While other kids sat down at dinner to eat meatloaf or spaghetti-os,  we would sit down to Filet of Sole Almondine or Beef Stroganoff. Food that requires Capital Letters. And when her grandchildren came along, she took to cooking even more.

During football season, we’d gather in my parents’ recreation room to watch Redskin games. My mom would start cooking before eleven the food that would not quite be ready by seven. The ping-pong table (Yes, the ping-pong table!) nearly groaned from the weight. Not even Jesus, multiplying the loaves and the fishes, could compete with my mom in the kitchen.

Raising six kids in the suburbs in the sixties and seventies — along with being married to a workaholic doctor — is no walk in the park. And even in the best of circumstances, these circumstances would make just about anybody crazy. Our mother was no Blessed Mother — but given her temperament, she was the best mother that she could manage to be. Some days were certainly darker than others. And some days she shone as brightly as the sun.

Mary Lou could shop until she dropped. She could spend as much money in a drug store as she could in a jewelry store. She bought us both the best and the strangest of presents. Once I got a sweater from the local pro shop — embroidered all over with golf scenes like putting greens, fairways and flags. And I do not even like nor play golf.

Mary Lou could talk a blue streak. And she would talk to almost anyone about anything. Sometimes the grocery store clerk or the dental hygieinist would know more about our family than we did — our mother having made a recent visit:).

And in her day, Mary Lou was a knockout (as my dad would say!). With her auburn hair and freckled complexion, she was always beautifully dressed in that Jackie Kennedy sort of way. She had hats and shoes and pocketbooks to match her every outfit. She taught us that our socks should always match our shirt. Something I still do to this day:)

She was definitely a disciple of Better Homes and Gardens. She loved decorating and making our house a House Beautiful. Most especially I believe because she lived under her mother-in-law’s roof until after number three was born (That’s me.) She had kind of a Williamsburg flair when it came to furnishings. And sometimes she would stay up into all hours of the night rearranging the furniture — manically trying to get it just right.

Growing up with our mom was crazy but it was our crazy — our very own brand of loud, unpredictable, chaotic crazy. And all six of us have turned out remarkably okay. And some of us sometimes better than okay.

And even after all the difficulties  of the last ten years — since my dad died — and all the while our mom lived at the Fairfax Nursing Center — mom still loved and embraced her big crazy family. She remembered all our birthdays – for all six of us children and all seven of her grandchildren. From visit to vist, she would remember every important detail of whatever we had talked about the month before. She always wanted to know everything about us —  which included even our dogs, our cats, and our cars. And even more she wanted to know everything there was to know about her every grandchild — schools, sports, plays, graduations, jobs. She would even ask them embarrassing questions about their boyfriends and girlfriends who had come and gone. No detail was too small for her to care. Because she loved us — no matter what.

So mom, Mary Lou, may today and everyday–  evermore–  be your dancing day. No more pain. No more tears. Today may you be dancing with the saints and angels. Today may you be dancing with daddy. And today may you be cooking up a storm in God’s kitchen. (I am just sure that SHE has got to have one.) Mom, from stardust you came and to stardust you return. Thanks be to God for the life of Mary Louise Cady Peacock.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Pax vobiscum,


Note: A service in celebration of Mary Lou’s almost 88 years will be held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 1608 Russell Rd, Alexandria VA 22301 on Saturday, June 21st at 10:00 am. The Rev. Joani Peacock and the Rev. Chuck McCoart Jr, presiding. Memorial gifts in honor of Mary Lou may be made to the charity of your choice.