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Nursing School: Eat That Elephant

5 Mar

My 5:30 am cup of coffee helps me get ready for my day’s clinical rotation.

Hi there, dear reader!

Thanks for stopping by! Maybe you’ve come here because of link from pinterest, or a share on Facebook, either way, I’m glad you’re here.

As you can see from the activity on my blog, I no longer blog regularly, here’s why…

In January of 2014 I went back to school. This college drop-out had to start from scratch completing a long list of pre-requisites for nursing school. And I did it. And, I did pretty darn well in those classes. In May of 2015, I was accepted into the nursing school of my choice.

Today, I’m currently a full-time nursing student, in my second semester – with another three to go. If all goes well, I’ll graduate in May of 2017.

School requires all of my attention, and while I would love to blog about my adventures in my nursing program, writing about all that I’m learning and experiencing, my spare time is committed to my family. And laundry. Lots of laundry. And making dinners and school lunches. And let’s face it – I’m studying all the time. Plus, HIPAA puts a damper on the storytelling side of things. And boy are there some stories I would love to tell. But just know I’m getting a broad scope of perspective and my heart is growing in understanding the demands and responsibilities placed on nurses, especially those who offer bed-side care. (Basically, you should go give a nurse a hug.)


My pile of books and study material right by my bed.

My goal is to apply all I’m learning in nursing school, and my experience as a doula, and my practice as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mix it all up, and let all of these things inform how I can best offer quality, evidence based care in the medical field, especially for expectant families during the childbearing year.

I also teach childbirth classes at a hospital in my neck of the woods. If you’re in the Asheville, NC area and you’re looking for free childbirth classes you’re welcome to sign up at I would love to have you in my class! (Classes fill up quickly, though.)

Till then, know that I am doing everything I can to become better at what I do. And for me, that means nursing school. Will I become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)? I don’t know yet. We’ll shall see. For now,  my goal is to keep passing my exams and learning as much as I can.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

PS. For those who have a dream that requires you to go back to school in order to accomplish it … remember there is no perfect time to go back to school. Start with what you can. Things worth doing are rarely ever easy.


One of the SIM rooms at my school. (Check out that view!)

Joy’s Top Ten Most Read Posts of 2013

31 Dec

Top Ten Posts of 2013
10. Pushing and Beyond | Tips for the 2nd Stage of Labor: I talk about practical ways a doula and or loved one can support a woman when she’s pushing in a typical hospital setting – I cover everything from where to stand and what to say to a mother in between contractions. Like I said, very practical.

pushing and beyond tips for the second stage of labor

9. Simple Tips That Reveal Your Newborn Is Full: When newborns are hungry their body language show clear signs of this hunger long before they start crying; likewise when babies are full their body language tells us this too. I have two infographics on this link which describe these hunger and fullness cues.

Breastfeeding tip open hands

8. I Encapsulated My Placenta | Pictures Included: I show – in great detail – the encapsulation process of my placenta from my son’s birth. I also talk about the benefits I experienced from ingesting it. This link has seriously graphic placenta photos – I know some of y’all like that though. ;)

she ate her placenta

7. The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received Wasn’t Spoken: I talk about how broken and helpless I felt during the early days of my son’s colic and the things that helped me cope the most. Hint: good friends who knew not to give advice but to simply be present.


6. Mother-Led Weaning | How and Why I Gently Weaned My Son: I share my story of gently weaning my almost 18-month-old son, Noah. I give tips on what worked for us and I also talk about my personal reasons for weaning.

Mother led weaning

5. How I Learned to Support A Mother’s Choice Not To Breastfeed: I share a very personal experience that fostered more compassion and respect in my heart towards mothers who choose not to breastfeed.

bottle fed baby

4. How I Survived Babydom | 17 Must-Have Baby Items: I give a list of my favorite baby items that best helped me navigate motherhood.


3. How to Help a Woman in Labor: Simple hands on tips for new doulas and or partners on ways to best support a woman in her labor. This is also good for expectant moms to read as well – I offer lots of labor coping tips.

Photo by Lena Pettus

2. How to Tell if it’s Labor and Other Tips: This one I wrote way back in 2010, and it’s still a favorite among readers. Lots of little bits of advice to help you know what’s what in birth.

How to tell if it's labor and other tips

1.Birth Sensations & Protecting The Perineum Through It All: This one gets down to the nuts and bolts of pushing and what it feels like. I offer suggestions, tips and explanations on how to push effectively without damaging the perineum.


Where Have I Been And Why Have I Been Away So Long?

8 Dec

Good Question.

Let me try to explain. But first let’s imagine that you and I are already really good friends. Because it’ll be easier for me to explain myself if I feel that we’ve got history and we know each other really well instead of the reality that you and I probably wouldn’t recognize each other if we passed in the aisle at Trader Joe’s.

I have this friend, and she has this expression, “don’t hear what I’m not trying to say.” She says it when saying something that’s kind of tricky to say, or could be taken the wrong way. When she says it to me, I know to listen up, because she’s going to say something that’s honest and unfiltered.

So, I’m saying it now, because there’s a few tricky things I’m going say in this blog post and I don’t want anyone to take my honesty about why I’ve been away the wrong way.

That’s the thing with blogging. We’re limited to this digital relationship. This blog doesn’t let you hear my tone of voice,  or see my body language. This blog post doesn’t let us share smiles or laughter together (at least in person). This screen you’re looking at hides everything that’s crammed in between the words I’m saying. And that’s why it makes what we write on a blog so easy to misinterpret – so much meaning comes from how it’s being said, and not just from what is being said.

But you know that, because you’re smart and self-aware and loving. And you’re my friend. (This is me giving you a high-five!)

Where have I been since my last post in March?

I’ve been in busy town, right next to crazy town. That’s where.

In March I started very slowly packing up our little renovated Victorian rental home in La Grange, IL. Peter, my husband, would graduate from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago with not one, but two masters in May, and we were moving. Somewhere…

To where? We had NO CLUE.

Wherever he got a job, really. We hoped we would be able to get back to Texas, close to our friends in Denton, or Austin, but we didn’t get there, but we sure tried! (I’ll tell you where we did land here in a bit.)

As you can imagine, I needed fewer distractions and my blog and Facebook page were becoming an escape/excuse from reality rather than a tool for me to communicate my passions and love. Also, for a season I needed to let my blog and Facebook page take a back seat to my personal life as I dealt with all the uncertainty in front of my family.

So I shut it down. Without a word. I know. Sorry. I didn’t tell anyone I was about to do it because I didn’t want to seem attention seeking or appear like I was looking for affirmation in keeping it going. Also, because it wasn’t something I had planned to do. I woke up one morning and just did it. (Sometimes I’m rash.)

Peter and me just after his graduation ceremony at Millennial Park.

Congratulations Peter on your MFA in Film, Video and New Media, and MA in Visual Critical Studies from the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and recipient of the William Merchant R. French Fellowship! (That us at Chicago’s Millennium park, where his commencement took place, just after the ceremony!)

Peter graduated! It was really special! I was so proud! Those two masters degrees that he got in the 18 months we were in Chicago felt like mine too!

The very day after graduation we emptied our home of all our belongings and got on the road to … Arkansas.

In order to save money, we spent the summer living with my folks in a small town in the Ozark mountains of Northwestern Arkansas. I did graphic design work on the side and Peter filled out application after application after endless application.

By the last week of July, we still did not know what was next, we were still waiting to hear where we would be living and where Peter would be teaching. We were still waiting for Peter to land a job. Truthfully, it was scary.

The pressure was thick. Peter was a champ. I was losing it, though. I was not calm. I was panicked.

I started to regret choices; like our leaving Denton or not choosing a graduate school where tuition was covered. I started calculating how much his education cost us even with his half scholarship, both in physical and emotional terms, (especially if his degrees didn’t pay off) and the fear of those “what ifs” were really making me hard to live with.

I think it’s understandable when heavy stress surrounds your life that it affects the atmosphere around your family, but I really wish that I had more resilient faith that something great would work out. I just didn’t have that in me. Everything felt bleak. In that season of my heart, I didn’t have any extra oomph to blog about what pot-hole I was in.


At the end of a long day of packing almost everything up. The next day, we got on the road to Arkansas.


Just did our final walk through, locked up the doors. Here I am saying good-bye to our little charming Victorian home in Chicago.


After a long two-day road trip, we arrived in Arkansas. Our landing spot for the summer was tucked away in these hills.

We kept all our things in storage until we knew where we would land. We just finished unloading the truck! (and yes, my kids came along. I never have childcare when I need it! Haha!)

We kept all our things in storage until we knew where we would land. Here we are having just finished unloading the truck! (and yes, my kids came along. I never have childcare when I need it! Haha!)

Somehow during that crazy time, the first week of August, my family took a vacation to FL, thanks to my parents generosity. For the first time ever, my children met my brother, his wife, and his kids. My sister came along too. We were all there, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. It was so special.

We rented a little cottage by the beach and sat on the shore every day. It was immensely healing and restorative for all of us, but especially for me. There is something about the ocean that soothes my heart.

It was on the last day of our vacation that Peter received a phone call where he was offered a position as a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. Of course, he accepted!

The relief was tangible. We were giddy. Actually, it felt like we won the lottery.

All the down time at the beach was good for all of us!

All the down time at the beach was good for all of us!

A family photo at Ana Maria Island.

A family photo at Ana Maria Island. The next day we got word of Peter’s job offer.

We made a mad dash to move to Asheville in time for classes, but unfortunately finding a rental in Asheville is like an extreme sport. And so Peter left ahead of us (just like the last two moves we have done) and I stayed behind in Arkansas with the kids and looked for rentals on Craigslist and dreamed of our new life in Asheville.

Fast forward four months, and here we are. We found a cozy little craftsman cottage in Asheville, Zoe is in preschool, Noah is home with me during the days and Peter has just finished teaching his first semester of school and he loves it!

Asheville has turned out to be a wonderful place to live! I just wish I could bring all my Texas friends here and then I would be set!

I’m still getting pictures hung on the walls and picking out paint for my room, just yesterday we put up our Christmas tree and I looked around our little home and felt deeply grateful and content.


The kids helping me decorate the Christmas tree in our new home. I’m standing behind the camera feeling really grateful.


Our little corner of the earth in Asheville. See that cute little garden, I did all that. Now it’s all mostly dead, because I can’t garden as well as I doula. :)

Look! Our little house has an official play room! Be still my heart!

Look! Our little Asheville home has an official play room! Be still my heart!

Why Have I Been Away So Long?

I know, we got settled at the end of summer. I could have started blogging and getting back in the swing of things with my page sooner. But I wasn’t there yet. I needed to refocus my heart. To really remember what is it that I love about being a doula and a childbirth educator.

I’ll tell you one thing is for sure, it’s not about having a successful blog or Facebook page, or making clever memes, and I needed to remember that.

Honestly? I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a handful of well-known bloggers in person, and with a few of them I’ve seen some icky egotistical thing creep out through their cracks, especially ones with a lot of readership or Facebook likes – this underlying feeling is present in their writing that shows they believe their voice is the most worthwhile one.


I could feel that creeping into my posts on Facebook and I just … blach. Barf. I hate that. Shake it off!

Run away! Run away! Run away!

I do not want to be someone who ever considers myself more highly than I ought to.  I do not want to assume that I am always the expert.

I want to keep my heart learning and humble. I want to be in relationship with you as friends, as mothers who are in this together, supporting you with my strengths, as you support me with yours.

So that is why I stepped out of it for so long. I needed to get back to the heart of what I love about being a doula and a birth educator: it’s about support. It’s about comfort. It’s about being present. It’s about being equally wise and still and protecting the space around a woman as she becomes a mother.

It’s about listening to others share their story. It’s about protecting and participating. It’s about showing and teaching, not directing and commanding. It’s about serving mothers and babies without promoting an image of self-importance.

I needed to center my heart towards that purpose again and it took some time to detox from all the noise in my head.

What’s next for me?

Teaching. Teaching. Teaching. And hopefully some writing, too.

Y’all, I’m going to have a little metaphorical baby: a low-cost, six-week childbirth class in my own home in Asheville, NC starting in late January ’14. Let’s do this!

Here’s to finding your home, living your passions, always learning, and staying the hell out of crazy town.


Yours truly, sporting the same gretchen-like braid everyday this past summer. Apparently my hair was in a rut, too.

Hugs to you, and thanks for being here with me,

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