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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2


A Major in Parenting

by Samantha Gianulis, Muir ’96


What have you done with your UCSD degree? Built a better resume, leveraged that fabulous education into your earning power, moved on to an MBA to excel in the competitive business world—right?

I’m a Muir grad (B.A. History). I make great chicken salad for Mommy & Me playgroups. It’s kind of a big deal.

I got married the summer before the fall 1996 quarter—my last—at Muir. When graduation came around the following June

I was entrenched in my 70 hour-per-week catering job. I was a professional, feet firmly planted on that ladder.
Then I heard that the Commencement speech was to be delivered by our nation’s president. Oh, alright. I’ll go. President Clinton, characteristically charismatic, made a commencement speech to shame all others—and I sat in my robe on RIMAC field, listening to the president address us graduates about changing the world. I wanted to go back to school, to learn something more and broaden my horizons. I envisioned a commanding acronym next to ‘Samantha Gianulis’ on my business card.

Those were the best-laid plans. A month later, I turned up pregnant. Graduate school was put on hold given severe morning sickness … if I couldn’t get out of bed for work, going to school after work was out of the question.

I plodded along throughout my pregnancy, working too much. My doctor took me out of work early. When Alexander arrived, the idealist in me became a fierce protector; I wanted to make the world a better (okay, safer) place for him. I resigned my job to parent him full-time. It was liberating, until I found myself isolated in suburbia.

From the trenches of stay-at-home-motherhood, I asked my husband, Pete, “Honey, why did I go to college?” He replied, carefully, “Are you having another identity crisis?” Yes—I was. I spent four (okay, five) years in college prepping myself for a successful career, but I ended up cutting peaches into bite-sized pieces on a highchair tray and clipping coupons. Was I where I was supposed to be?

“Join a Mom’s club,” said my mother. I researched them online. While I was at the keyboard, I started writing. Writing had always been enjoyable for me, but besides keeping a personal journal or writing papers while attending UCSD, I never fancied myself a “writer”. But as I wrote, my son napping or chasing the dog, I felt like I was getting somewhere. At Muir, I wrote papers about what I learned, and now my long intellectual pause from graduation to motherhood exploded into essays, stories and poetry.

I started with what I knew–food. I had catering experience and a love for food and cooking, so I used this knowledge, along with recipes for my popular chicken salad and spicy shrimp, and got published. First websites, then magazines. Twelve years after graduation, I have a book soon to be released. I also have two more children. I’m exhausted, yet invigorated.

And I think I am where I am supposed to be. I may go back for that advanced degree, but right now, I’m fully engaged in writing, being an editor, and learning. I’m hoping to reach people with my book, and get them cooking with their kids.

The PR spin for my book is “essayistic cookbook”—sounds good. But what my book really is—it’s hope with culinary metaphors, it’s responsibility seasoned with vision. It’s dinner theater and suburban revolutions and parental grievances, with recipes to leave a good taste in your mouth.

It’s why I went to college—ideally.

Do you have a memory or a story about UCSD? This space could be yours. Write to the editor at alumnieditor@ucsd.edu

—Samantha Gianulis lives in San Diego with her husband and their three children. Her first book, “Little Grapes on the Vine … Mommy’s Musings on Food & Family” was published in April 2007.


Little Grapes on the Vine


Do you have a memory  or story about UCSD?  This space could be yours.

Email the editor.