Inspired by My Mom, Who Can Do Anything

I have not always been proud of my mom. She knows this, mainly because I would tell her constantly about all of the things she should be doing differently. It’s only fair then that I take the time to tell her–and you–how incredibly proud of her I am today.

Today, my mother receives her Master of Science in Nursing.

At 51 years old, she’ll walk across a stage in a cap and gown. She’ll stand at a podium on that stage and speak for her class, an honor bestowed upon her by her peers and instructors, in part because of her academic excellence.

This journey started about twenty years ago.

I don’t remember what my mom was doing for a living, or if she was able to find work at all. I remember we were poor. Very poor. I know that her husband at the time spent whatever cash she could come up with on drugs and alcohol. I know that they fought in the middle of the night and she used her arms to protect her head from pummeling fists.

And then they decided to go back to school. Both of them enrolled in nursing school, earning first an LPN degree and then an RN. The RN my mom earned while working full time.

Her job prospects got better, but the abuse continued.

When I was 12, she left. We left. She took us from that home and that town and started over in a new place with a new job. There would be many new jobs and new homes for her over the next decade. She would even leave the nursing industry entirely for a while in one of her many efforts to make things better. She worked in sales and then she started her own business, always striving to make things more normal and safe for my brothers and I.

About ten years ago, she called to tell me that she was thinking about going back into nursing. It sounded crazy to me; she hadn’t worked as a nurse for at least five years. She had to take a bunch of classes and get her license renewed. She had to explain a five year absence to a prospective employer. Nursing was something she’d tried and quit years ago; why would she go back to it?

“I think I can do this,” she told me.

“Why would you want to?” I asked.

We’re taught to see going back as failure. We move forward. We move on. We don’t revisit a passion we’d held years ago; it’s practically admitting you were wrong to give up in the first place!

She didn’t care.

She went back.

She got a job in a nursing home near her house, the same nursing home where my mother-in-law works. It was there that I told them both that we were expecting another baby. It was there that she heard about a storm that had wiped out half of the town. It was there that she got her groove back. It was there that she decided she wanted more.

I was driving on I-4 in Central Florida, enjoying my daily commute-and-chat with my mom, when she told me she was thinking of going back to school. She had befriended a woman at work, a nurse practitioner, who had been encouraging her to consider graduate school. My mom was 48 and asking me if it was a good idea to go back to college.

“Is this stupid? Am I crazy?” she asked.

“Of course not! Two years is nothing!” I told her.

A couple weeks later she called to tell me she’d learned it would actually take three years for her to become a nurse practitioner. She had to earn her bachelors degree first and then earn her masters degree.

“That’s another year before I can even think about practicing,” she said. “I’ll be almost 52 before I even graduate!”

I guess at 48, 52 seems really far away.

“You can do this,” I told her. “You can do anything.”

I figured she probably could, but I wasn’t sure if she’d actually go through with it. My mom is notorious for her grand ideas.

She went back.

A year into her schooling, her oldest son was arrested. He was accused of robbing ten banks, an accusation that sounded absolutely ludicrous at first. Of course it did. And then it became slightly less ludicrous as we began to learn more. The bottom fell out of her world and it seemed as if it would be forever until she got to hold her child again.

“I don’t think I can keep doing this,” she told me one morning.

I wasn’t sure if she was talking specifically about school or all of it, but I knew she wanted to quit. Working full time and going to school was already pushing her to her limits; the added toll of her son’s problems threatened to break her.

“You can do this,” I told her. “You can do anything.”

I was starting to believe maybe she really could. She’d already done so much.

She stayed. She pushed on. She grieved for the life she had wanted for her son, stood beside his girlfriend through a pregnancy and the birth of her grandchild, and still managed to go to school and work. And she did it well. She made As and Bs even when she was sure she was failing.

She earned her bachelors degree with academic honors and almost no fanfare from her family. Only her husband attended the graduation ceremony. The rest of us were incarcerated, sick, or simply too busy to make a big deal out of it. Maybe we believed her when she said it was nothing. But we were wrong; it wasn’t nothing.

Still she wasn’t done. She took a new job, one with a better salary and more responsibilities. She struggled to learn her new role while keeping up with her school work. When the long days stretched into long weeks and even longer months, she questioned whether or not she’d taken on too much.

“I don’t think it was a good idea to take on a new job while I’m still in school,” she said. “I’m not sure I can do all of this.”

“You can do this,” I told her again. “You can do anything.”

I knew it was true. My mom had shown us all that she was super hero.

Today she graduates.

She has finished her graduate program and done it extraordinarily well. She’ll wear a special hood over her robe to symbolize her academic excellence, to symbolize her ability to not only survive but thrive.

My mom is amazing.

She can do anything.

And I am so, so proud to be her daughter.

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  1. Audra says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother! And what an amazing accomplishment for her! Congratulations!
    Audra’s most recent post: Shady Dealings

  2. Dawn says:

    This post gave me happy goosebumps. Your Mom is, truly, incredible… in so many ways.

  3. Alan Labovitz says:

    Here’s to your mom (minus drink in hand)! She’s an incredible woman you can truly be proud of. I might add, I think you are also an incredible woman. Learning about your family and your background has been fantastic for me. To see the abilities of people who have come through what you and your mother have endured and accomplish what you have accomplished makes me realize that it’s possible to overcome much to win out over what life brings to make things better for you both and for society. Congratulations to your mom and to you.

  4. Fabulous. Congrats to your mom. Push on, push on to the goal. It’s a great accomplishment and I’m sure gives her such a sense of pride in herself too. I know because I went to college (not at 48 or 50) but when my babies were babies, and we had a struggling new business, The Hubby and I. I worked, raised the kiddos and worked with him in our business, then to school. It is hard work but I had such a sense of pride when I finally finished so I know how your mom feels! Again, congrats to her and to you for the support you give through it all.
    Jill of All Trades’s most recent post: Skull, Fruit and Hat

  5. What an inspirational story. As someone who does HR in Healthcare I can tell you NP’s are in high demand. Congratulations to her. My hear however hurts for your childhood.
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: Follow Friday #2 Neighbors of Easton

  6. Kerry says:

    I earned my degree at night, without most of the obstacles your mom had. It was HARD. This really is a huge accomplishment.

    What a great example for your kids. Seeing all of this DOING…it’s awesome.

  7. Nanna says:

    Well. This is the coolest thing anyone has ever ever done for me – thank you. Thank you for getting what it was like.

    Can you believe it’s finally here??????????

  8. Little Miss Sunshine State says:

    Your Mom rocks. It’s obvious where you got your courage to do things that push you out of your comfort zone.
    How cool that she had a daughter who kept saying “you can do it”.

  9. Allyson says:


  10. Domanic says:

    Wow, this is truly beautiful. While life gives you so many things, she has proven to rise above all of it. I am so proud of her & am so humbled by your writing of her. Thank you for sharing. Way to go Melissa.

  11. Tara R. says:

    Wow! What a fantastic accomplishment. Congrats to your mom.
    Tara R.’s most recent post: First impression

  12. dave says:

    Hat tip for your mom! Inspiring story for others who face daily adversity.
    dave’s most recent post: Monterey Bay!

  13. Bre says:

    This is beautiful, Britt. I was going to write a post, too, but mine would pale in comparison. Your mom has fought through odds and that is an inspiration to me. I’m so proud of her, and look to her for mentorship in this beautiful career field. Her hiatus and successful return fuels my fire for my journey in nursing. God gave your mom to me to show me how to fight odds, and for that (and her) I am grateful. A job well done, Momma Bear! It much to my chagrin that I will not be able to cheer as you waltz across that stage. You are a wonderful example to all of your babies and grandbabies.

  14. meredith says:

    mazel tov! <3
    meredith’s most recent post: pouty bottom lip, squinty eyes, head tilt.

  15. Darla says:

    What an inspiration. I don’t know that many people would take on this challenge and continue going through with all the obstacles.

    Nanna, you rock!

  16. Megan says:

    Yay Mom! Quite an accomplishment. And? You are absolutely adorable as well. You’re the whole package!
    Megan’s most recent post: Wall, Meet Head

  17. Dory says:

    Can you believe it’s here, Melissa?! We can, and we knew you could do it! You’re an admirable, inspiring, Proverbs 31 woman! Congratulations!!!

  18. fiwa says:

    Way to go Mom! That’s so inspiring. All the best to you! :)

  19. Kim says:

    What an amazing story. Your mother is an inspiration. Congrats mom!

  20. Lisa says:

    Way to go, Mom of Britt! I’m so happy for you! You have accomplished so much!
    Lisa’s most recent post: Who Finally Published a Life List?

  21. Carly says:

    <3 what an awesome tribute to an amazing woman. Your mom rocks :)
    Carly’s most recent post: Silencing the Inner Critic

  22. Nicole says:

    Congratulations to your mom!!! My mother earned her very first Bachelor’s degree last year at the age of 53. She chose to go on the earn her Master’s degree now, too. My mom, who didn’t believe in herself for so many years, will have achieved something she never thought possible when I was born a month shy of turning 20. I couldn’t be prouder of her if I tried.

  23. Zan says:

    I don’t comment on blogs very often, but I wanted to say that this is an awesome story. It makes me feel lazy and uninspired. Your mom worked so hard to achieve her goals — this is a really motivational story. Thank you for sharing!
    Zan’s most recent post: Chicken Biryani

  24. naomi says:

    Nanna – you are a ROCKSTAR!! Proud of you, just by virtue of meeting you via Britt’s blog. Well done, you beast!!!
    naomi’s most recent post: BLOOMIN’ ONION

  25. JB says:

    That is very impressive. I wish she was a nurse here – I have no doubt about how amazing she is/will be wherever she lands. She is the perfect age to be brilliant at her work. Inspiring!

  26. Britt, your mom is an inspiration, not just for you, but also for me. Like her, I am “going back” and sometimes it feels like a scary place to be in, but I – we – will persevere, and things will be more than alright in the end. Congratulations to your mom!!!
    Andrea | Elimination Communication’s most recent post: How to Know When Your Baby Needs to Pee

  27. autumnesf says:

    What an inspiring testamony!
    autumnesf’s most recent post: What Is It……

  28. Marta says:

    That really is amazing and inspiring! Congrats to your mom! What an achievement. It just shows that dreams can come true, even if they seem long gone, we can always make them into reality if we try hard enough.
    Marta’s most recent post: From the Beginning.

  29. [...] saw an NP this week (the one who encouraged my mom to go back to school!), and she helped me adjust my anti-depressants and added Vitamin D to my daily pill intake. I [...]

  30. Liz says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of your mom; you two could be twins!

    Congratulations to your mom for all of her hard work and determination. School isn’t easy even if you’re not working a job. I’m so glad that she went back to achieve her dreams, even if it wasn’t “the norm.”
    Liz’s most recent post: 8 Ways to Promote Your Ebook on Twitter

  31. the muskrat says:

    Hooray for nana! This reminded me of working full time, serving in the Air National Guard, and going to law school. It sucked.
    the muskrat’s most recent post: at the georgia aquarium for world immunization week

  32. [...] we go back to school as adults, we give up the confidence of knowing who the hell we are and what we became when we grew [...]

  33. She’s amazing, and inspires me on the daily. I love your Mama!
    Karen Sugarpants’s most recent post: Growing Up All Over Again

  34. i read this the day you posted it. i cried. i’ve tried to comment every day since, but i wind up in tears. i so wish our msn moms could have met.

    i’m so, so proud of your momma. for so many things. and i am thrilled that she graduated with well deserved honors. wish i could have been there to see her walk that stage…
    hello haha narf’s most recent post: No Cast Necessary

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