by: Michelle Salyer
Each year, as we set out to find a few amazing women to highlight in our annual Mother’s Day feature, something special unfolds. Inevitably, the ladies we find are not only terrific moms but so much more. They are women who give back to our community, make a difference in the workplace, and break boundaries for others. They are women who champion, advocate for and adopt children in need. They are women who balance work — sometimes more than one job — career travel, advanced education, charitable work and raising children.
Despite diverse careers and backgrounds, these Space Coast moms definitely share a few traits in common — among them, plenty of energy, a knack for time management and their own positive role models, often their own mothers. Six fabulous ladies shared with us what makes them tick, what keeps them going, and what really matters at the end of the day.
Having recently returned to working full-time, Scottie Winslow has a profound admiration for both stay-at-home and career moms. “I think the biggest misconception about stay-at-home moms is that you have leisure days and limitless free time.” On the other hand, she believes, “The biggest misconception about working moms is that your career is more important than your children…I believe both roles require planning, sacrifice, focus, and the ability to be supermom from time to time.”
Because she travels extensively for her job, Scottie strives to be “fully present” during family time. “When I am with my kids I don’t continually check work email or focus on other electronic distractions. I want them to know how important they are to me and that they have my full attention when we are together.”
Despite her full plate, the Melbourne mom also makes time to volunteer with charitable organizations, including those that benefit children. “Club Esteem serves an important purpose in the community by providing children with opportunities that they might not otherwise have. I have always had a philanthropic spirit and I enjoy the reward of seeing students make it into college with the support of the program.”
Working full time, raising four children and staying healthy is a challenge, but Kathleen Rao-Verpaele considers herself fortunate to have a great support system, including her parents and in-laws. “Raising a family takes a village. There are days all four kids have to be at a different park for a sporting event, and the grandparents come to save the day so every child has support at his or
The busy mom maintains her wellness through 5 a.m. workouts, weekly worship and a women’s group at the Church at Viera, and a close relationship with her mom, Mary. “My day is not complete without a piece of her in it. It’s like having an on call therapist 24/7!”
But Kathleen’s biggest fan and supporter is her husband of 14 years, Kevin. The former high-school sweethearts have supported each other throughout college, graduate school and four children, and are still going strong. “The saying really is true — marriage is like fine wine, it gets better with age. Not that we haven’t gone through rough times, because we sure have. But we know who we are and we are exactly where we want to be.”
For Kristin Blake and her husband, Paul, miracles do exist — and they come in tiny packages. The couple struggled with infertility for six years but did not seriously consider adoption for fear that it would be a long, emotional and expensive process.
But then a mutual friend introduced them to a young woman and her boyfriend who were seeking adoptive parents for their unborn child. The Blakes made an “instant connection” with the couple and just five months after that meeting, they adopted their son, Talin.
Talin’s birth parents remain an important part of their lives today. “Our relationship with Talin’s birth parents is unique…We’ve grown a relationship with them that will last forever.”
Although the process has gone much more smoothly and quickly than most adoptions, Kristin encourages other hopeful couples not to become disheartened.
“Never give up on your dream of becoming parents. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I know that God put the desire to become a mother in my heart for a reason…If I had never gone through it all, I never would have adopted and been given the most precious gift of my life, my son…You never know what’s around the corner and how your life can change tomorrow.”
Owner of Red Ginger
Age: 45, From Melbourne
Married to: Jimmy Han
Mom to: Kevin, 9
A native of China, Grace Han moved to the United States nearly 20 years ago with her husband, Jimmy, seeking the opportunity to start a business. Since then, they’ve been blessed with a son, Kevin, and have opened two locations of their upscale Chinese restaurant, Red Ginger.
Juggling her own business and being a mom is “very difficult” especially with no extended family here, but, Grace says, “My son is my first priority. We make time with him no matter how busy we are.” Family time is spent playing golf, piano or chess, doing Boy Scout activities or cooking at home, where Kevin helps mom decide what dishes will make it on to the menu. “He has a very good palate — we let him try it first and anything he likes we know it’s good.”
Despite Kevin’s culinary knack, his mom encourages him to make his own path, just as her parents allowed her to do. “We had a basic rule in our family: We could make our own decisions and had much freedom.”
Although Grace has a child of her own and is living her dream in the United States, she knows her mom still worries. “She doesn’t want me to work too hard.”
Licensed Real Estate Agent with Walker Bagwell Properties of Cocoa Beach and owner of Buttermilk Pie Boutique
Age: 31, From Cocoa Beach
Married to: Justin Connors
Mom to:Ava, 6; Emma, 4 and Abigail, 21 months
Despite juggling two burgeoning businesses, and supporting her husband, Justin, with his wealth management firm, the Cocoa Beach mom strives to live by her mother’s advice, “You can never tell your kids too much that you love them. Support their passions and the choices they make… Most importantly, enjoy this time when they are small. Cherish it. When they graduate from high school, you will not say, ‘I wish I had done more laundry, or kept the floor cleaner. You will say, I wish I had snuggled more, given more kisses, played more.’”
VP of Business Development, Hospice of St. Francis
Age: 39, From OrlandoMarried to: Desmond Taylor
Mother to: Desi, 12; Noah, 6
For Pauline Taylor, life is definitely a balancing act. She not only commutes from Orlando to her full-time job in Titusville, she is also completing a master’s degree in health administration and raising two sons. But she and her husband, Desmond, have realized that finding balance doesn’t always mean sharing an equal load.
“We both understand that things are not always going to be 50/50. On those days I can only give 10 percent, he steps up and gives 90 percent and vice versa… I have a great partner in my husband.”
Happiness also comes from accepting that “everything is not going to be perfect.” Instead, Pauline says, “Right now I measure my success by the way my children treat other people and each other. I tell them every day that they don’t have to be the smartest or the fastest — they may not be able to control those traits. But I do expect them to be kind, caring, and respectful — these traits they can control. When I see them making good choices, sharing, and genuinely being nice (when no one is looking) I smile and think, ‘Wow, we must be doing something right.’”