By Suzanne Fox Sevel
From the sleepless first months with a new baby, to the joyous celebration of a great-grandchild, motherhood is a lifelong act of love, sacrifice and courage. One never forgets their mother who kissed away the pain, supported their dreams, set good examples and shaped values. In honor of Mother’s Day, SpaceCoast Living takes a look at five exceptional Space Coast mothers who are making a difference in their families and in the world.
BABY LOVE: Karen Kicinski
“He’s having a blast and we are really enjoying him.”
Karen Kicinski, marketing director for LifeStyle Homes and new mom to seven-month-old Brooks, knows that having a baby is a life-changing experience. “You’ll get a lot of advice about parenting. As I became more confident as a mother, I learned to trust my own instincts. Every mother-child relationship is unique,” Karen said. Knowing there isn’t just one “best way” to raise a baby helps keep things in perspective. “As long as Brooks is happy, healthy and safe, we are good,” she said.
Baby Comes First
“Being responsible for a child means putting your child’s needs first at all times. We had to shift priorities and schedules. My mother gave selflessly my whole life. My parents had the philosophy of ‘Give your children enough to feel as though they could do anything, but not so much that they do nothing.’ That’s what we’re trying to do in our family,” Karen explained.
“I’m blessed to have a hands-on husband in Chris Kicinski, owner of CIC Painting Inc. Because Brooks has grandparents and aunts who live nearby and love playing with him, our son is exposed to many activities during the week. I’m thrilled to watch him grow and reach milestones. When he rolled over for the first time, I felt as if he had just won the Nobel Prize,” she laughed.
“Having Brooks has been great, though much different from life before. He loves music, Mickey Mouse, being outside in the stroller and the Johnny Jumper. He’s having a blast and we are really enjoying him,” said Karen.
MOTHERS HELPING MOTHERS: Mary Allen & Laura Chiesman
“It is challenging to raise a family and manage a career, but it’s worth it.”
Mary Allen, a therapist at Circles of Care, and her husband, Ken, raised nine children. Today, they have 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. When her children were young, she took them to parks, the zoo, the beach, on camping trips and picnics. “We always had fun,” Mary recalls. She volunteered at school, church and for the last 50 years has played bassoon in the Melbourne Municipal Band. She was a hands-on mom who sewed everything from Easter dresses and Halloween costumes to bathing suits and cheerleader outfits.
Faith in the Potential of Women
Mary is also the founder and director of the nonprofit Genesis House Inc., a group of three shelter homes for homeless women and their children. Since 1977, over 14,000 lives have been transformed by Mary’s vision and unshakable belief in women. Through her efforts, generations of disadvantaged mothers and their children now lead happy, successful and meaningful lives.
“It wasn’t the big splashy things you remember; it was the time and attention she gave the family,” said Mary’s oldest daughter, Laura Chiesman, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and president of FirstWave Financial.
Laura is herself a mother of two, Stuart and Lea, and grandmother of two, Maddix and Isabelle. “I’m happy seeing my children take off into their own successful adult lives,” she smiled.
Laura’s mothering style included a full-time financial career and she prioritized time for family, school, vacations and activities. Like her mother, she volunteers in ways that empower women. She is on the board of directors of Genesis House as well as an active member of League of Extraordinary Women and the American Business Woman’s Association.
Enjoy the moment!
“It is challenging to raise a family and manage a career, but it’s worth it,” she says. “My goal was, and still is, to not waste time with guilt or worry, keep my focus on the moment I’m in and enjoy it all!”
FROM THE UKRAINE WITH LOVE: Kathleen Bendiksen
“The experience of all four children together that summer was pure magic.”
Kathleen Bendiksen, owner of the KSMB Insurance Inc., has an 18-year-old daughter, Karlette, who recently finished bible college in Australia and now manages Healthy Happy Vegan in Satellite Beach. Kathleen always wanted more children, but after experiencing tragic losses, she and her husband, Magnus, decided to stop trying. But then came a prayer answered, from the Ukraine.
When You Have Love, It All Works
When she saw 11-year-old Viktor’s photo, she knew he was going to be her son. She hosted Viktor for a summer. “It was amazing, joyful,” Kathleen said, beaming. “We knew we wanted him here for good. Children in these orphanages are subjected to horrendous conditions and abuse. When we met Viktor, he had abscessed teeth and broken ribs. He has such a soft heart,” she said. Soon she found out about two other girls who needed a host family, Vera, 14 and Eva, 12.
Love Can Cross Oceans
“The experience of all four children together that summer was pure magic. Everyone bonded immediately,” she said. So began the journey of trying to make the adoption of three children permanent. “When I learned about their circumstances, I felt compelled,” she said through teary eyes. Kathleen started a nonprofit, Love Can Cross Oceans, to help these orphans. She put on events, made raffle baskets, hosted dinner parties, even had a Dancing with the Stars-type event. “I am simply amazed at the generosity of the Brevard community,” she said.
“I’m all about spending my time and love to shepherd these children. They’re learning to believe in themselves, to pray and have fun,” she said.
“You’ve got to break through the layers with kids, take time to know what is really going on. Stay committed and things will work out,” she smiled.
To donate or volunteer, please visit LoveCanCrossOceans.com
STANDING UP IN THE DRIFT: Linda Carrillo
“You’ve got to be present, not just there. It’s your job to help your kids see their strengths and realize their dreams.”
Linda Carrillo, assistant vice president of ambulatory services at Parrish Medical Center, is mother to Richard, 23, and Alyssa, 18. Linda says that being a good mother means sacrifice, rearranging and prioritizing. “You’ve got to be present, not just there. It’s your job to help your kids see their strengths and realize their dreams.” She and her husband, NASA Chief Engineer Rick Carrillo, are on the same page when it comes to parenting. “I’m always trying to improve and stay on top of my game. Be a model of the way you want your children to be,” she said.
Strength, determination and perseverance
Ricky’s getting his Ph.D. in Engineering at the University of Florida and Alyssa is an honors senior and pole vaulter at Titusville High School. “We encourage our children to see the best in themselves and not to be afraid to fail,” she said. “We have rules like curfews and technology-free zones in our home.”
Everybody has a story
“It takes courage to support an outsider or steer away from peer pressure and drama, to not just follow the crowd in life. I’m proud that my children are the type who will stand up for people who don’t have a voice,” she said.
Parenting Parents: The Sandwich Generation
Linda is now taking care of her 83-year-old mother Brunilda as well as her 80-year-old father-in-law, Joaquin. “My mother was such a strong, independent woman, but now she needs me. People will take advantage of seniors. You’ve got to look out for them,” she said.
Linda is involved in many charitable organizations including: the SPCA, the Diabetes Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, Hannah’s Heroes, the United Way and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, among others.
A MOTHER’S LOVE IS INFINITE: Katia Chenet
“The joy that your children give you is what makes you happy in life.”
Katia Chenet is a mother to three children, Derek, 26, Zachary, 24 and Nikolai, 18. Her husband, Cedric, had been an Air Force dental officer who was often deployed to locations like Japan, Korea, Peru and Saudi Arabia. Katia moved oversees to be with her husband and first became a mother while in Japan. “You have to learn to adapt and be flexible as a military wife,” she said.
There is No Room for Selfishness in Parenting
“The first time I heard Derek crying in another room, I felt a tug in my heart. It was a grabbing pain. That’s what being a mother feels like,” Katia explained. “When you become a mom, your children always come first.”
“The joy that your children give you is what makes you happy in life. You lead by example, so stick to your principles. You have a chance to impact your children’s lives,” she said.
Katia had her son Zachary in Florida and Nikolai in Texas. “It seemed like I was always crossing the Pacific Ocean while pregnant,” she laughed. “I learned that boys are like waves of energy. One might need more attention at certain times, but it changes. You also learn that what worked for one child won’t necessarily work for the others,” she said.
Katia studied urban planning and architecture in college and used her skills to help design and also manage Cedric’s dental office in Viera, Cedric C. Chenet DDS. They started this business shortly after Cedric retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Air Force.
“My own mother always was a strong, magnetic person; a feminist who believed in the power of mothers and women. She continues to be my beacon of strength,” said Katia.