03/20/2012 06:59 pm ET Updated May 20, 2012

My Inspiration Station

Right from the beginning, my family wasn't your typical "cookies and milk" type of family in the New Jersey split-level with the matching Volvos in the circular driveway on the plot at the end of the cul-de-sac. We did have a nice house and did usually have all that we needed as far as food and clothes and toys. We always had nice holidays and birthdays and a lot of the times I look back on I can see myself smiling and playing outside in the summer until way past dark, filthy from head to toe and enjoying every second of running around with my brother and the other neighborhood kids. And as a kid, I projected forward to being an adult and seeing myself cherishing those precious moments where I was truly able to be a kid, running around in my chocolate-stained pink T-shirt without a care in the world.

The last thing in the world I thought I would look back on and have gratitude for was my free-spirited mother who believed in doing everything the opposite of what other people did. When all the mothers bought white bread, my mother bough whole-grain nut bread from the specialty bakery because my brother had severe food allergies. When all the other mothers bought gallons of cow's milk, my mother made the 45-minute drive to the only natural foods market in all of the tri-state area just to buy organic soy milk. And when all the mothers bought the chemical-loaded bright icing sheet cakes from the chain grocery stores for birthday parties, my mom put a special call into her gluten-free baker who whipped up a gluten- and dairy-free cake. And while all the other kids enjoyed chocolate Santas and easter eggs and bunnies, my brother and I gnawed away on our dairy-free carob treats. And it didn't stop at the food. My mother also didn't believe in buying "trendy" or "in-style" clothes for us and my brother and I spent the majority of our childhood dressed in saddle shoes and corduroys while the other kids got to run around in their neon day-glow shorts and T-shirts with worlds like "Rad" written on them. And then when I was on the soccer team in high school, it was my mother who would spread a hemp blanket out on the hill above the field and look down on the game as her blonde hair blew back in the breeze.

At the time, I didn't appreciate her, nor did I appreciate the things she did that I swore were the things that made me different from all of the other kids. I blamed her for a long time, starting with the day in first grade where everyone had to stand up and share what they wanted to be when they grew up. Child after child stood up and said "fireman" or "mommy" or "teacher." When it came time for me to stand, I couldn't think of any "mold" that I fit into, and so I said: "I want to help people." My teacher was completely confused by this and thus told me that what I wanted was to be a doctor. I looked at her like a deer in the headlights and nodded my head yes as all the other kids laughed at me because I was the one child who didn't have a clear view of what I wanted. And there it happened, at 7 years old -- I felt different and convinced myself it was my mother's fault. My mom had different morals, different ideas of how kids should be raised, and different ethical values than other parents had, and she didn't believe in telling me that I had four ways I could spend the rest of my life, but instead encouraged me to do whatever made me happy, no matter what it was. She taught me not to settle for anything less than what my wildest dreams were. And it's now that I look back and understand that out of all the things in my childhood, I am most thankful for her.

And so, as I sit here, as an almost 29-year-old private chef, pursuing my degree in spiritual psychology and integrative nutrition, I can see how my inspiration truly stemmed from my mother. Without her teaching me about the hazards of using a microwave or using harsh chemicals, or without her teaching me to be nice even when others weren't nice to me, or without her encouraging me day in and day out to stand tall and confident in who I am, no mater what -- I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today. I grew up watching my mother be who she wanted to be and work toward living the life she always dreamed of. And I watched her as she did everything in her power to raise out-of-the-box thinkers who could hold their own in this crazy world and have a good time doing it.

At the end of the day, my job really is to help people. I knew that's what I wanted when I was a 7-year-old, and because people laughed at me, I pretended that part of me didn't exist. I tried to fit into the molds of other, more predictable ways of living, but it never really resonated. And here I am, in the homes of clients every day, doing my best to share what I have, share what I've learned, and lend my healing hand in the form of nutritious food, positive energy, and a happy outlook on life. And when people say that everything "comes full circle," they're right, because when I am in the kitchen, cooking delicious food and feeling connected to my soul, I am right back where I was at 5 years old, running free under the June night sky, as I giggled wildly and breathed in the deeply satisfying suburban summer air -- my focus directed inward. I feel grateful that my job is something that fills me with such happiness and joy and fills my soul on the deepest level. And I feel even more grateful to have been raised by such an insightful and beautiful woman, who wanted nothing more than to pass on the magic of her heart and the motivation of her soul. For it's my mother that makes my bright light shine even brighter.

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