My Mom, the Nerd Icon

My Mom, the Nerd Icon

By: Andrea Cole

My mom’s birthday is in May and so is Mother’s Day, which means I get to spend (even more!) time thinking about my mom. And you know what? She’s been one of the great influences in my nerdy career. Both my parents are, but I want to talk about my mom. So here are 10 reasons my mom rocks as a nerd icon.

  1. She’s wicked smart. My mom is a Neuroradiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and has been doing what she does for almost 30 years. She’s published many many papers and given oodles of lectures on the most eye-crossingly complex details of the brain and spinal cord. There’s even the story of my birth, where I came early and Mom was scheduled to lecture in Baltimore. So instead of head straight to the hospital, Mom arranged for her notes, slides, and a replacement lecturer were on their way to Baltimore before she even stepped foot in the maternity ward. Talk about dedication!

  1. She gets really excited about girls in science. As a doctor, my mom really excited to see other girls and women in STEM careers. She’s often been the only woman in her department, but makes sure that her gender doesn’t become a factor in her working environment. As for myself, I got to hear stories of her early childhood explorations of streams and gullies, experiments on water plants involving staphylococcus, and nightly dinner discussions on all the different types of procedures she does at work. But the best part, I was home for Christmas a couple years ago and got an excited description of a microscope kit designed for little kids and “how much fun would it be to have that as a little kid, I nearly bought one even though I don’t have grandkids.” (And grandchildren are not on the radar right now. BTW.) She was also one of the first guests at GeekGirlCon’s GeekGirlConnections event in 2012.

  1. She’s a genealogist. When I was in middle and high school, my mom spent countless hours researching and archiving what we lovingly called “dead people stuff.” But really, she’s found some pretty cool things. For example, I have an ancestor who deserted during the Civil War and started a whole new family in a different state. But my favorite thing that came from this project? Mom compiled a cookbook with family recipes from my dad’s side and interesting tidbits and photos of family. The best recipe is for Elephant Stew, and it starts with a whole elephant.

cole cookbook

  1. She’s an amazing knitter. Mom’s current big hobby is knitting. She’s been a knitter for at least as long as I’ve been around, but now’s when she’s been really able to shine. Not content to just sit at home and knit, Mom goes to knitting circles, guild meetings, weekend-long classes, and even conventions! That’s a lot of dedication. The great thing about her knitting (aside from one of a kind wearables for me) is that she loves it so much that she makes sure that those she’s with are doing the best they can. If ever someone is having trouble, Mom’s always there to lend a hand, or needle.

  1. Bedtime wasn’t all lullabies and sleep-tights. When I went to bed and my mom tucked me in, I always had a choice of a lullaby, usually a Scottish one, or some time to chat. My favorite thing to talk about? Unicorns. Hey, I was 6. But talk about unicorns we did. Mom told me as much lore as she could about unicorns or whatever fantastical creatures I came up with that night. That’s a tradition I intend to continue when the time comes.

  1. She harbored in me a love of reading that continues to this day. We’ve shared many a book and many a quirk when it comes to reading. Together we’ve found that it’s best to not read Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels before bed or you might find it’s time to turn out the light right as Pitt has likely fallen to his doom and one just CAN’T leave him in that state! When I went away to college, Mom even wrote a “prescription” for Jurassic Park, to be read whenever I felt homesick or stressed.


  1. She fills her house with endlessly fascinating things. Both my Mom and Dad are collectors. Dad’s pretty straightforward with his masses of fossils, but Mom likes to branch out. In their house, you’ll find Uzbeki wedding tapestries, batiks from Indonesia, samplers made by seven year old girls in the 18th century, and all kinds of maps from across the centuries. Sure you could say the house sounds like a museum, but to me, it’s a place rich with the loves of its owners. Eclectic, but with a theme that parlays the interests of those who live there. 

  1. She’s a world traveller. My mom was born in Scotland and moved to the US with her family when she was only 5. As such, the majority of her family is still in Scotland and trips back “home” are practically an annual event now. But it’s not just Scotland she journeys to. Recent years have seen my parents travel to Turkey, Taos, Tuscon (for the rock and mineral show!), Baja California, Oaxaca, and there are even talks of a trip to India with a layover in Egypt. My mom is definitely responsible for my love of travel. Her philosophy is that the best way to educate kids about the world is to have them travel in it and I’m inclined to agree. 

  1. She’s a quoter of movies. Sometimes my family speaks in movie quotes. If there’s a situation that already has a prewritten response, then why not use it? Stay within earshot of my family for long enough and you’re likely to hear lines from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Cool Hand Luke, the Muppets (and more Muppets, and more Muppets), Ghostbusters, and a plethora of other movies. Her favorites include “What we’ve got is a failure to communicate,” “We’ll hold ‘em. We’ll hold ‘em at bay,” and “They’re weirdos … But they’re nice weirdos. ” Life’s more fun when you can add a little Hollywood humor to it.

  1. But what’s the best part about my nerdy mom? She encourages you to be your own nerd. Sure my mom introduced me to a lot of nerdy things, but when it came to finding my own inner nerd, she embraced whatever came out. The same went for my brother. I love technology and social media, asks to know more about how Twitter works. My brother makes jeans, she taught him to sew his first pair of boxers. I love comics, she bought me a Wonder Woman sweatshirt. The point is, she’s the best you could hope for when it comes to nerdy people, she’s excited to share what she knows and even more excited to learn about your passions. And that is the best part of my mom being a nerd.

andrea cole