Happy Birthday to My Mom: 90 Years Young!

Today my mom turns 90 years old! Oops, I mean 90 years young!

Happy birthday mom! She was born in San Francisco’s Japantown in 1923. Her parents immigrated from Japan and I have that story here along with our Japanese family crest.

During WWII, she was forced to relocate with her family. She ended up in a remote part of Utah where she had relatives but it was near an underground nuclear weapons testing station. All her siblings died of cancer and I suspect there is a connection there.

My mother, a breast cancer survivor, is the lone member of her family who was able to claim WWII restitution. She used the money to buy a new car and she’s still driving it. In fact, she still drives, but only during the day and only in her neighborhood.


 My mom

Her brother served on the much-lauded 442nd Infantry Regiment. After the war, Japanese Americans were allowed, for the first time, to buy property and to work for the Federal Government. My mom began her civil servant career and bought a two family house in Los Angeles for her family to live in near LAX airport. Her parents upstairs and her siblings downstairs.

My mother married my father, a Chinese immigrant which probably shocked her parents who spoke only Japanese! The Chinese and Japanese have also long hated each other so this was a big deal!

My mom stayed home with us three kids until I was in junior high school. At that time, my father was ill with Parkinson’s Disease so she returned to work at the Seal Beach Naval Weapon Station nearby while caring for my dad who was in a wheelchair.

Rose Wenjen and her motherMy grandmother

Despite any hardships that my mother endured (and there were plenty), what is remarkable about my mom is her upbeat personality and her zest for life. For her 90th birthday, we — my brother, sister and I — threw her a party. I asked guests to R.S.V.P. with a short sentence on why they appreciate my mom. This is what they said:

She is a wonderful mom – always so positive.

… she is an inspiration to me on aging gracefully.

She inspires us to keep moving like the Energizer Bunny!

… of her innate curiosity about life’s offerings, and her ability to let go.

She is always upbeat – always has something positive to say.

She is a role model for living life to its fullest!! <3

She is always kind, cheerful and helpful.

She is an example for all of us how to appreciate life in its fullest without if ands or buts.

She is always smiling and willing to give a hand.

She enjoys new adventures.


The party we threw for my mother called, sometimes unexpectedly, on all the talents of her extended family. The video slide presentation that my sister and brother-in-law (a talented fine photographer!)  made would not play, despite sending my brother to the restaurant two hours in advance to double-check it. We ended up putting my brother up on a ladder. Thank goodness for those multiple engineering degrees! They really came in handy! The restaurant staff struggled with the video slide projector but my brother got it to work!

PickyKidPix did the invitations with me including embossing.

Grasshopper and Sensei did the Save The Date invitation.

My son played Happy Birthday to You during the cake cutting on his guitar.

The grandkids all performed musical numbers as the evening’s “Entertainment” to much applause! (I’d post the video of them, but my kids would kill me!)

Afterwards, they handed my mom a rose. Her name is Rose!

My niece and sister-in-law folded beautiful origami that we used to decorate the tables and perch atop the flowers in the center of the table. Cranes are a symbol of long life to the Japanese so we tried to fold at least a hundred of them! My niece also charmed the guests by demonstrating how to fold her origami creations!

presidential birthday greeting,

My sister also got a Presidential Birthday Greeting. My mom received a lovely card from Michelle and Barrack Obama! You go here to request it but allow at least 4 months!


At 90-years-young, my mom is incredibly active. She does a million things including piano lessons, line dancing, art classes, Garden Club, International Friendship Club, Chi Gong, yoga, and more. If you complain about not feeling well, she will press you to use Aloe Vera products or healing magnets, the key to good health, she believes! Everyone she knows has some kind of Aloe Vera product from Forever Living Products or Nikken Healing magnet that was gifted to them from her!

So perhaps that is the secret to a long happy and fulfilling life:

  • A positive attitude.
  • Staying busy doing activities you enjoy.
  • Making new friends.

Happy Birthday Mom! We are looking forward to celebrating 100 with you!!


My mom, 90-years-young!

p.s. My sister tells me that my mom’s hair is starting to grow in black again. It used to be completely silver grey. I guess there is something to those healing magnets and aloe vera! I should probably stop scoffing it.

p.p.s. Here’s another 90-year-old perspective sent to me by my sister:

“7%”  by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio 

90 years old perspective, 90 years old life lessons, 90 years old wisdom
“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short – enjoy it.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don’t worry, God never blinks.

16.. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19.. It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

Its estimated 93% won’t share this.

I’m in the 7%.

Friends are the family that we choose.

p.p.p.s. Here is what was happening in 1923:


By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Happy birthday to your Mom. She is very inspirational – I can only hope to be so active and full of life at 90.
    Natalie recently posted…Around the World in 12 Dishes–New ZealandMy Profile

  2. Happy Belated Birthday to your mom. She is incredible. All I can say is, “Only the strong survive!”

  3. What an amazing mother you have – happy birthday to her!

    My 86-year-old grandmother says that milk is the key to longevity. I won’t argue with her – she somehow manages to mow her entire (at least 1/2 acre, on a hill) lawn at least twice a week, not to mention all the time she spends in her immaculate flower beds!
    maryanne recently posted…Afterschooling: Family TimeMy Profile

  4. Elle Carter Neal

    Congratulations and many happy returns to your mother 🙂 She looks very happy.
    Elle Carter Neal recently posted…How to Talk to PeopleMy Profile

  5. Giora

    Happy Birthday to your Mom and by the way, Japanese Canadians had similar experience like your mom during WW2.

    • Hi Giora,
      I always wondered about the Japanese Canadians. Were they forced into concentration camps too? I’ve never heard ANYTHING about them. Thanks so much! I learn so much from my readers!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Monsters In the Closet Picture Books: The DarkMy Profile

      • Giora

        In early 1942 the government moved the Canadian Japanese from British Columbia province into camp. The government told them that their properties will be given to them back after the war. But their properties were sold off on the cheap in auctions. In 1988 the Canadian government officially apologized to the Japanese Canadians and started offering compensation. One of Canada’s most famous Japanese Canadian (google for him), David Suzuki grew up in the camps.

        • Hi Giora,
          Wow, I didn’t know that. Sounds very similar except for the selling off of their property! Japanese Americans were not allowed to purchase property and only could own property by buying in the names of their children who were citizens from being born in the United States so I think less of them lost property but most of them lost their small businesses, of course. How were they compensated? The Japanese American received $50,000 ($25,000 after taxes were withheld) but it was decades later so most of those who were deported were dead. Are the Canadian Japanese getting fair market value for their property?

          I will google David Suzuki right now. Thanks for the heads up on him!
          Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Monsters In the Closet Picture Books: The DarkMy Profile

        • Hi Giora,
          David Suzuki is such an interesting and wonderful guy. How ironic that He is a Companion of the Order of Canada. He got treated by his Canadian government on both sides of the spectrum!! I wonder if he received a special apology from the government as they awarded his Companion of the Order of Canada!! (Oh by the way, sorry about that selling of your house and putting you in a concentration camp but here’s a nice shiny medal for you.)
          Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Monsters In the Closet Picture Books: The DarkMy Profile

  6. Catherine Johnson

    Happy birthday to your mom, Mia. How wonderful! I love that list too.
    Catherine Johnson recently posted…All aboard me hearties!My Profile

  7. Happy Birthday to your mom! Now I understand where you get your own energy from, Mia.
    Susan recently posted…Create Six Word Memoirs with KidsMy Profile

  8. Happy Belated B-day to your Mom, Mia!

    Wow–she sure is 90 years young and so beautiful! We call all only hope to live such a long, healthy and happy life (and have half as much energy)!

  9. Sheela Chari

    Happy birthday to your mom! This was such an inspirational, heartwarming read. Thank you for sharing your mother with us.

  10. Jeanette Nyberg

    Amazing, Mia! I love your mom. It’s so interesting to learn about the backgrounds of my favorite online people, and your mom is just inspiring.
    Jeanette Nyberg recently posted…Bean Mosaic: Fall Leaf ProjectMy Profile

  11. What an amazing lady! I hope she had a wonderful birthday!
    JDaniel4’s Mom recently posted…{Read.Explore.Learn.} Math Activities- Number RecognitionMy Profile

  12. WOW! You’re mom is an inspiration to all of us! 😀
    Erik – This Kid Reviews Books recently posted…Ann and Nan Are Anagrams by Mark Shulman AND Chippy Chipmunk Winner!My Profile

  13. Ann

    Happy Birthday Pragmatic Grandmom! She sound like a very inspiring person. I want to be that healthy positive and full of energy when I turn 90 too.
    Ann recently posted…Red Light, Green Light, Go!My Profile

  14. Your mother looks wonderful. I enjoyed reading about her life. What an inspiration! She definitely does not look 90 years old.
    Lisa recently posted…IRI Hiring Home-Based Field Service Reps Across U.S.My Profile

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