Years before I ever tried my first truffle, a food lover’s rite of passage, I was born. Not too crazy of a notion, I know! We all share that life event in common.
But it’s nearly Mother’s Day and I can say with absolute certainty that I am the kind of person who seeks out all things food and shares this knowledge with the world because I have been blessed with so many amazing, incredible women in my life. These women have inspired me to explore life in ways I might not have known, and to challenge myself in ways where I may have otherwise been too reluctant.
This Mother’s Day I am celebrating all of these women, whether or not they’re mothers or are even much older than me. These are women you know too. They’re our own biological mothers, our close family members, our teachers, and our employers. Some are our life-adopted mothers who have mentored us at pivotal times to shape our characters, instill core values, and alter our life paths forever.
I encourage you to sit down for a writing exercise this weekend. Grab a journal, a pen or pencil, and get ready to think deeply about the women who have made a positive impact on your life. After pouring a glass of your favorite cabernet, pinot grigo, or even a relaxing cup of chamomile tea, I want you to ask yourself questions like: Who inspired you to apply for the job you never thought you’d get, but you did? Who gave you the strength to overcome your greatest obstacles?”
Set aside a full page in your journal for each of these women. Begin by writing down any important stories, quotes, or just statements of what was impactful. Finish your entries by writing down the ways that these women have changed your life forever. Then from these meaningful reflections, I want you to reach out to these monumental women on Mother’s Day.
I sat down for a good few hours to complete this exercise myself! Below is my own abbreviated journal, with some additional details for context.
My mom, after bringing me and Stephen home from UCSF, four days after a caesarian section!
“You brought what home from the creek?” asked my mom when we returned home from a hike in the rolling green hills of San Ramon, California, where my six siblings and I grew up not far from San Francisco. She noticed that Stephen and I were fawning over our new “pet” salamander in the living room that we discreetly brought home with us in the car.
“Mr. sawwamander,” my 6-year-old twin brother Stephen responded, grinning. We were the youngest kids in my family, brought into the world just eight days shy of my mom’s 42nd birthday and nine days shy of Mother’s Day.
And boy were we a handful! The term partners in crime is surely an understatement in describing the shenanigans we got ourselves into.
“He’s our new pet,” I added, certain that it was just as normal to bring wild animals home from the wilderness as it was to bring a baby kitten home from the pet store.
But my mom’s tone of voice didn’t sound like she agreed with our decision to bring the poor little guy home when she asked “Did you know that Mr. Salamander is actually a wild animal and not a pet?”
Suffice to say, Mr. Salamander wasn’t very fond of the fish tank we introduced him to. He was only our “pet” for a few days and we learned the “do not bring home wild animals” lesson pretty early on.
Similar lessons that were experiential rather than theoretical took place in my childhood because I had a mother who fostered the independence of her own children. This encouragement to explore and be curious allowed my siblings and me to be uniquely independent people, which directly contributed to every success I’ve ever had in my life.
Candy, the free-spirit.
“Can you help me get the ingredients out of the refrigerator?” I asked Candy, pressed for time to have dinner on the table by 7pm.
“Sure, honey!” Candy replied, heading to the fridge and patting me on the shoulder as she walked by to calm my nerves and assure me that we could beat the “hangry” deadline.
Comparing the ingredient list for the gratin, I noticed we were missing the gruyere cheese. Panic ensued. “Can I ever get dinner finished on time?” I thought to myself.
Resigned to another 30-minute trip to the store and yet another late-night dinner, I broke the news to Candy.
“We still have fontina from the pizza you made last week and a little bit parmesan left from the pasta. It’ll be great, dear! You should never follow a recipe word-for-word anyway” as if I had never heard that last line before!
While my stubborn personality didn’t want to omit the gruyere, Candy’s free-spirited insistence swooped in to save the night like it has on so many other occasions. Not always food related, these are the occasions I’m grateful for because she’s the kind of mother-in-law who can quickly step in and tell it just like it is. She brings an ease to situations that I can always make over-complicated.
When I find myself in similar cooking situations at home, I try to conjure just a little bit of Candy’s free-spiritedness to balance out my rigidities. My current food blog reflects this effort when I encourage my readers to be creative with the ingredients they have on hand or use substitutions for ingredients that aren’t easy to find. So thank you, Candy for being the voice of calm in my head when I need it most!
My Sister Moms
Three quotes from my sisters.
Left to right: Me, Liz, and Susan. Liz and Susan are fourteen and ten years my senior, respectively. Debbie [not pictured] is eight years my senior.
“Okay…you can come!”
When I was six years old, my sister Debbie nearly snuck out of the house on a summery Saturday afternoon with her best friend Krista. We were sisters “attached at the hip,” but rounding the corner of our suburban neighborhood’s block, she hoped she could break the Velcro for a couple hours to have some teenage fun.
With tears streaming down my face and and my lungs gasping for air when I finally found them, I must have looked like the saddest mess. But then she said those four words and they meant everything to me.
Maybe I was a little spoiled. But then again, is it really possible to spoil a child with too much love? Debbie’s unconditional motherly-love for me ensured that I too would be capable of love in my adulthood. I credit her so much for the amazing relationship that my husband and I have today.
“Beauty is pain.”
From French-braiding my hair, to tweezing my eyebrows when they grew in too ferociously, to accidentally burning my forehead with a curling iron before a family photo shoot, I heard these words a lot from Susan! In every situation, they were totally meant to crack me up.
But it's true that beauty is pain because it takes a lot of work to be beautiful inside and out, and my sister Susan really taught me this early on. Now in adulthood, we share so many similar life philosophies about the importance of balance through mindfulness, healthy eating, and exercise. It’s hard to imagine my own beauty without her!
“Susie and I are auditioning for a movie!”
There are so many amazing things about my oldest sister, who has thrilled and inspired me for as long as I can remember. Oozing cool, she was probably the first girl in our town to pick up skateboarding as a hobby in the 1980s, she knew fashion trends before Madonna even did, and on top of it all, she dabbled a bit in the movie industry.
Even though I was really young, I remember clearly when Liz convinced Susan to audition with her for the Mike Myers movie So I Married an Axe Murderer. While they didn’t land any main roles (shucks!), they were still able to work on the movie as extras.
Liz has always been that trailblazing sister that taught me to pursue my dreams while being uniquely myself. A cool older sister and a role model? Yep, I had that.
My Professional Moms
While my mom and and my sisters were invaluable to my development, here are three quotes from my professional moms who helped me to soar as I flew out of the nest.
Dr. Freedman - My School and Beyond Mom
“Hey Anne, let’s chat after class about your grad project.”
Dr. Freedman was my professor for a handful of classes in the nutrition department at San Jose State University. She caught me completely off guard one day after our Community Nutrition class when she invited me to be her graduate student. Knowing she sets the bar high for her graduate students’ performance, I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but I also felt privileged that she believed enough in me to take me on.
A couple dozen drafts of my grad project later (!) and with a master’s in Nutrition under my belt, Dr. Freedman has continued to mentor me outside of the program. Even though I said sayonara to academia for good, we catch up regularly to chat about our lives, our work, and our dreams for the future.
I treasure this kind of mentorship for lasting beyond my higher education degree. It’s so special that Dr. Freedman’s students can also become her adopted children who she is able to see through other important life events, while ensuring that they excel in their careers. Knowing that I have this smart, intelligent woman on my side to support me in my intellectual and business pursuits has been so instrumental to my professional career.
Sam - My Boss Mom
“Just go in there already!”
I feel like Sam and I already go way back, but it was just five years ago when we first met. I was her first clinical intern for her consulting dietitian startup company, and if I needed another mom to tell me like it is, it’s this woman.
When dietitians receive new patients, they visit them right away to learn a little about who they are and to record their food preferences. You could say I dragged my feet a little on our first few admissions, but Sam would have none of it!
It didn’t matter if the patients didn’t speak the same language, or if they couldn’t speak at all, I had to JUST go in there. My questions that started with “but what if the patient….?” didn’t settle well with Sam. From the look on her face and from seeing increased exasperation with each time I asked, I made a mental note never test her patience again!
Sam’s mentorship over these five years has included just enough tough love to make me a very skilled dietitian. There’s no getting out of anything ever with My Boss Mom, which is a good thing! She has instilled in me the determination to get things done right. Now that I’ve mentored over 15 of her dietetic interns, I have done my best to pay it forward by not allowing them any wiggle room either!
Monica – My Diet Assassinista Mom
“When you're ready for that transition, let us know.”
Monica is barely my senior, BUT, her knowledge, wisdom, and business skills have been vital to the establishment of my online presence as a dietitian.
I connected with Monica last year to work with her company WellSeek as a health coach, but the business model quickly extended into a web publication for dietitians to write articles that inspire others to live healthy, nourished lives. With that change meant that WellSeek’s dietitians needed strong brands!
Gearing up for the web publication, Monica and I discussed my blog and online presence in general, which were only a couple months old at the time. She told me that my brand had the potential to “sizzle” one day, but that I needed to spiff things up first. I knew she was right.
Monica had me at “when you’re ready,” and together we made my Diet Assassinista brand one that I can truly be proud of. Her mentorship not only brought with it the insight that I was ready, but it also encouraged me to take my career in a different direction. I feel so fortunate to have connected with Monica because without her my Diet Assassinista brand might not have been born!
I hope that my notes have helped to inspire you to reach out to all of your mothers this weekend! Share with them the stories you’ve recorded and and let them know how their impact was vital to your success in life, in love, and/or in your career.
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