concord grapes

Mother’s Day Thoughts

“My mother was my role model before I even knew what that word was.”

Lisa Leslie

That quote is very apt for my mother. She was {and is} my role model and mentor before I ever learned about the value of having role models and mentors. From my earliest days, I remember her inspiring and motivating, sometimes counseling, occasionally providing needed criticism, but she never had to shove us in the right direction all that much. We were too busy just following her path and trying to be like her.

My mom went to UCLA to study psychology on her own dime. She and my father married young {they had barely turned twenty} and somehow she managed to rack up a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a PhD. while working three half-time jobs {you do the math} and finally swinging a Regents scholarship while my dad did the same, racking up his bachelor’s, his MBA, and his MSBA, and got drafted for the Rams. Right about the time she finished that PhD., she had me. And in fairly short succession after that, she had my two sisters.

She never sat still for too long. When she wasn’t playing with us or teaching us, she was baking or sewing clothes or taking care of anything that needed taking care of while my dad, post football, worked grueling hours at a marketing job he hated {and eventually gave up to bring us back to California, where he took over my grandfather’s brokerage firm}. It wasn’t easy, but she laughs about it if you ask her and says she just doesn’t remember much of her thirties.

Somehow, while raising all of us, while shuttling us from school to piano lessons and horseback lessons that I know we really couldn’t afford but she managed to get us anyway, and helping on my grandmother’s working ranch, somehow she still baked. She still sewed. She was there to read stories and to talk and to play with us with our Barbies and Breyer Horses and whatever else took our fancies that day.

Somehow she did all that while establishing her career as a professor of psychology at the university in town. She researched and published. She became the department head. She ruffled feathers and she always dealt with it all with class and taught me just how powerful it is to be able to deliver a middle finger to the powers that be all without actually lifting a finger. She became an established expert in her field.

Later she published textbooks. Textbooks that rolled out several editions. She published more research with some of the most admired minds in the field. She became an expert in the field of behavioral neuroscience.

All while attending track meets and piano recitals and dressage championships and martial arts tournaments and academic awards and band concerts and whatever else my sisters and I took it into our heads to get into. And somehow, in preparation for those, she made sure we practiced and that we actually got good at all of these things!

She still doesn’t sit still. I don’t think she can. Not because she still looks after my father and my youngest sister {who is autistic and still lives at home} and not because they have two active Australian Shepherds, although they all keep her busy. Not because she’s still teaching and writing textbooks and publishing and advising researchers and because recently she was elected president of an academic association and responsible for a year’s worth of research events and publications that they oversee.

But because I think it’s just not in her nature. My mother has a rhythm. She doesn’t rush, she doesn’t stress {that you can see at least}, she just efficiently goes about taking care of business, and since there’s always more business to take care of, she just keeps bustling off to take care of the next thing.

I’ve asked her how she managed this when my father suffered a heart attack about eight years ago, when she dealt with her own issues, when sometimes my sister’s autism got the better of all of us, when I deployed and deployed again and then deployed again, when life happened suddenly and messily all over the place, how she managed to not only keep going, but to keep going with grace.

concord grapes

“There is no wine if grapes are not pressed, no perfume if flowers are not crushed. So don’t be afraid if there are pressures in your life. They might bring the best out of you.”


Her answer was that we are all more resilient than we think. That if we allow ourselves to think that we’ve been broken by something, that we will be broken. But if we think instead that we’ve been pressed, that we’ve been tested, that we can and we will dust ourselves off again and get back up and keep on going, that we’ll get up and we’ll be just fine.

It’s all about how we define “fine.” We may leave pieces of ourselves behind after a struggle. But it’s up to us to decide whether we miss those pieces of ourselves too much to continue, or whether we really didn’t need them all that much anyway.

I’m thinking of and missing my mom like crazy today. If I can be to my son half the mom she is to me, then we’re all going to be just fine. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I can’t wait to harvest grapes and make jelly and wine with you again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

1 Comment

  1. I know this is late, but this is a very nice blog post that you have written about Mom. She took good care of all of us. Both Mom and Dad are good parents and I’m glad that they are still alive, together and well today. We are lucky to have a great, happy family.

    I was never a Barbie person since my favorite childhood toys were the vinyl reptiles, sharks and invertebrates myself, plus Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, plush animals (especially foxes) and creepy crawlies that glow in the dark, but I respect your opinions completely. I remember getting a toy catalogue back in the day and you guys used to buy the toys whenever I saw something that I wanted, and this were back in the days long before we used the Internet. We also played video games and traveled to different places when we had the chance. Of course, I still love animals and video games to this day.

    Having autism is part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed for my condition. Don’t worry though, I never use my autism as an excuse for anything.

    Grapes are wonderful but I never have eaten a grape for a while due to still being on keto. Right now, I’ve been eating blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and of course, goji berries. Mom still plans to bake my favorite cake on my Birthday.

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