Patricia Kline, 50
Menlo Park, CA
In January 2009, Patricia Kline's mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, was hospitalized after a fall. To deal with her stress and anguish, Kline—head of marketing and operations at her husband's furniture dealership and a onetime Silicon Valley communications exec—returned to the childhood ritual she'd shared with her mom in their Indiana kitchen: baking pies.
Struck by how tiny her mother's world had become, Kline decided to work small, using a muffin tin instead of Mom's faded pink pie plate to create what she called ipies. "Toward the end, when she could no longer speak, I'd hold her hand and tell her about my pie experiments," Kline says. "When I did, she'd visibly relax. I'd like to think we were still communicating through the language of baking."
Her Clean Break
Her mother died that February, then the faltering economy forced Kline and her husband to shutter their dealership and move to a downsized house, "cutting expenses to the bone." Kline resisted a return to her high-paying PR roots. "When you lose so much, you discover that your identity isn't made up of material things—it's about what you can do with your brain and enthusiasm. Now was the time to take a chance and do something with passion."
"From January to June 2009, I made a dozen pies nearly every night," Kline says. "The idea was to create a pie that could be eaten like a cupcake, but my first efforts were pathetic. Peach juice would ooze out the sides; the crust would crumble away in my hands." Some 1,200 (!) ipies later, she'd perfected her butter-and-cream-cheese crust and won a coveted space at her local farmers' market; she also does special orders and hopes to attend pastry school in San Francisco next year.
"Often someone will come up to my stand and announce himself or herself as a 'pie person,'" Kline says. "I love that. Pie is simplicity and cheer, an easy moment of happiness. Pie people are optimists at heart."
— Naomi Barr