Monday, August 14, 2017

Living with Racism

I wanted to write a post in response to everything that I've seen over this past weekend. It's going to be a long one, so fair warning.

I'm a Japanese American. My mother was adopted, which means that as much as I wish, I don't have a strong connection to my Japanese heritage. I don't fit people's expectations. I love pasta and I love bread. I eat a lot of rice, not because of my mom, but because of my Bolivian husband. I watch a lot of cartoons, but until I married my husband (an anime aficionado), I'd never watched a single episode of anime. (Though I might have binged a whole series last week.) I was good at math in school, but I preferred English. I took Spanish in high school, and although I tried to audit a college Japanese course, I didn't learn much. At home, I speak Spanglish.

I feel like a fake. I feel like I'm not 'Asian enough' for the Asians that I meet. Yet, when it comes to the American culture, I'm too Asian for them.

I'm quite lucky, actually. My whole life, I dealt with very little racism. At least, that I noticed. Most of my friends didn't act like I was different, other than a few jokes here and there, and I think I was too shy to put myself in a situation where I met a lot of strangers.

That all changed when I became a nurse.

On a daily basis, I'm exposed to complete strangers, some of whom are incredibly nice. Others who aren't as much. But even when someone's nice, there's still an underlying difference in the way that they treat me. I would say probably about 80% of my shifts, I have at least one patient who asks me some version of 'who are you.' They may ask where my family comes from, where I come from, what my heritage is, or who my 'people' are. (That last one tends to be a little harder to take than the others.) I try and stay positive and pleasant. Usually, I just say Japan or let them know that my mom is Japanese and they drop it.

Then there are those that don't.

I've written a few posts in the past about things my patients say, but I'm going to condense this into things my patients say that refer to my race.

Are you here all night? And you're Chinese? Oh, Japanese, interesting. Well, we'll enjoy each other tonight.
There's my dark-haired beauty
How do you say pee-pee in Japanese?
Am I in a Chinese hospital?
Get out of here, Yoko!
There's my little Indian girl.
Oh, are you sisters with that other Oriental girl?
I see 'you people' didn't waste any time.
Good job, Short-round!
I had a vision I was going to marry a little Vietnamese girl.

Those are just a few that I've written down over the years. It's nowhere near everything I've heard.

I've had patients who have asked not to have me because I make them flashback to WWII. (A much older lady with confusion. Apparently, I scared her every time I went into her room.)

I've had patients be especially vulgar to me because of my race. One patient told me he had a 'vision' he was going to marry a 'little Vietnamese girl' and then attempt to get me to hold his hand.

I've even had coworkers unwittingly leave things for me because they assume that it will be easier for me. The moment when this was most apparent was one night when I came on shift, and the previous shift told me that they left an admit for me because the patient didn't speak English. When I asked what language he did speak, they told me Laotian. He was Asian, I was Asian, so obviously, it would be easier for me to communicate with him. (By the way, I don't speak Laotian, or any other Asian language, for that matter.)

I can usually laugh it off. In fact, I try and beat other people to the punch, so that they know that I'm not offended by their comments. I tell my coworkers that I work nights because my ancestors lived on the other side of the world, and that's what time they were awake.

Honestly, I don't get offended easily.

But it gets tiring. Being treated as 'someone else' isn't fun, no matter how you spin it.

Recently, I had a super sweet patient who was a little confused. She made a few comments, which were fine, and I even joked about them with my coworkers.

At first.

The comments never stopped. Every single time I went into her room, she referred to me as 'The Japanese.' When I went into her room while she was on the phone, she told them to wait because I was in the room. Except she didn't refer to me as her nurse. She referred to me as 'The Japanese.' Like I said, she was sweet, and she was confused. As a nurse, I try not to be confrontational with people, especially when I know I'm not going to see them again after a few days. If they want to ask about my heritage, I'll tell them. But this sweet lady was my undoing. After two nights of being addressed by my race, and not my name, or my profession, I broke down crying on my way home from work. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see me as just her nurse. As just another person. It was always different, and she always had to point it out.

I'm a person. I'm a nurse. I'm a wife, and a sister, and a daughter. I play the piano and I hate to exercise. I've got a weakness for cream puffs and I'm terrified of ghosts. But when people see me, they don't see that.

That's what racism is for me. When no matter who you are, no matter what you do or what your interests are, you're classified by what you look like. Who your ancestors were. The stereotypes you fit into. 

Maybe that's why I joke about it with my coworkers. Why I write about it on my blog. Because it exists. Even if not everyone sees it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Shiny New Ideas

Two years ago, I was starting to get worried. It had been a while since I’d had a ‘shiny new idea’ and I knew that NaNoWriMo was coming up. I try and write something brand new for NaNoWriMo, and by the middle of the year, I usually had a basic idea for what I would work on.

I really didn’t need to worry. It’s amazing how stress can affect the creative muscle. By the end of July, I had a full-fledge idea, one that turned into four books, and sustained me for two years of NaNoWriMo.

You’d think that I’d learn from that experience, but here I am, two years later, again worried about NaNoWriMo. The rest of the year, I know I’m set. I’m editing and revising to my heart’s content, but the closer I get to November, the more my brain starts to panic, thinking that I won’t be ready.

Most of my panic is because I’m a planner. I need a thick and detailed bible ready before I can even start writing the first word. I want to know the direction the story’s headed, and the character backgrounds. I need to know the culture, their beliefs… I even tend to draw out the setting so I have a feel for the world.

I had a basic idea, but it wasn’t fleshed out, mostly because it was so generalized and so vague that I didn’t even know how to flesh it out.

Here’s the secret to shiny new ideas:

Always pay attention to everything. You never know what will start a spark.

Last time this happened, hubby and I went to the museum for our anniversary. Not because either of us were particularly interested in pirates, but because we wanted to get out of the house. The entire experience was a fodder for ideas, and pirates played a heavy role in my later book.

This year, all it took was an article on Pinterest, with a title that was much more interesting than the article itself. It was the spark that I needed to turn my vague idea into something that keeps me awake at night, planning and plotting for November.

How about the rest of you? Where do you get your ideas? Are you already planning for NaNoWriMo?

Monday, June 19, 2017


It’s amazing how brains work. Sometimes, it seems like we’re all on the same page, and then other times… we see things very differently.

When I was probably 12 or 13, I remember reading the Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. I really enjoyed the story, and I thought one of my parents’ friends would like it too. I’ll never forget my mom’s response when I suggested it.

She told me that he doesn’t ‘see’ when he reads. She thought he wouldn’t enjoy the book because he wouldn’t be able to visualize the images that the author used.

For little twelve-year-old me, this was an absolute breakthrough. Mostly because I never knew that anyone could see the images in their heads. I assumed the description was just there to give the story more depth. I had no idea that it meant something to a lot of people.

So yes, I’m a writer who can’t visualize anything. Every once in a while I can pick out shapes in my mind, but usually, it’s blank. You know what I can do though? I can hear sounds. That’s what draws me into a book – sparkling and realistic dialogue because I can hear it. I love the back and forth, and it’s a lot of what I focus on in my own writing.

Even now, when I write, I have to remind myself to put in physical descriptions. If I didn’t collect pictures of my characters on Pinterest, I would have no idea what they looked like.

I’m curious about what other readers focus on. Do visuals draw you in? Or do they just leave a blank?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nursing Necessities

Last week, I mentioned that things have been a bit crazy for me. There have been several different things that have thrown me off balance, but not all of it was bad.

During the end of April, and the month of May, I became a preceptor for a student finishing up her nursing degree. The program requires that she work 120 hours with a nurse, and they wanted her to take on a full load by the end of the 120 hours. I know that was the same requirement for me when I was a student nurse, but to be honest, I barely remember my own preceptorship.

It was a blur, and except for a few memories that stand out, I don’t remember what kind of a student I was. I have a feeling that I was shy and withdrawn, mostly because that’s my normal personality. 

This student was not that way at all. I was quite impressed with her knowledge and her work ethic. It was an interesting experience for me, to watch her learn skills that have become almost second nature to me. There are so many things that I do without even realizing, and after having to stop and think about it, I’m kind of amazed by much I’ve changed since becoming a nurse.

For example:


I remember the first time that I had to do a full body assessment. I went textbook, asking the questions in order and stopping to record every single answer. Now, I do it while I’m working with the patient. If I’m preparing their medications, I ask them how their day was. I ask how their appetite’s been, and if they’ve had any nausea. If I get them up to the toilet, it’s a great opportunity to check skin, instead of making it a completely separate assessment. I can also check to see if they have any swelling in their legs when I’m swinging them back into the bed. Every interaction with my patient is a chance to assess, and most of the time, I forget that’s even what I’m doing until it’s time to chart.

Which of course leads to the next part of nursing –


I don’t remember much about charting during my preceptorship. I do know that the system that they used was more user friendly than the one I’m using now. It honestly doesn’t matter, because charting in itself is pretty standard. Making sure to focus on all the systems, chart the irregularities, focus on their diagnosis. When you know what you need to chart, then it’s easy to store that information for the time you have a chance to sit down at the computer. I feel like it took me several months before I fell into a rhythm, and knew what needed to be the focus of my charting.


Now this is something they didn’t teach me in nursing school, but there should totally be a lab on projecting to mostly deaf patients. Not yelling, because that increases the pitch and doesn’t always work, but speaking up so that you can be heard. Especially for people that are naturally shy like me. I call it my nurse voice.

Growing thick skin:

People aren’t always pleasant when they’re sick. Sometimes, they can be downright frustrating. It’s hard not to take everything personally, especially when you have a patient who’s being particularly difficult. I will be honest, sometimes, I still struggle with this one, but I still try not to take everything personally. I’m sure I would lash out if I were a patient as well.

What about the rest of you nurses? What are some things you’ve picked up over your years of working?

Monday, June 5, 2017

I'm Back!

Hey everyone!

It has been a while since I’ve posted here on my blog.

Things have been a little off for me lately. I’m used to things being off. I’m a night nurse, which means that half of the time I’m awake during the day and half of the time I’m awake during the night. I never work the same days of the week. Sometimes I work one shift by itself. Sometimes I work four in a row.

I’m used to that. It’s part of the job, and I’ve done it for long enough that I’ve learned how to adjust.
Unfortunately, too many irregularities have made it difficult for me to focus on even the smallest things. Not all of them were bad, but when added up, my body, my brain and my emotions have been on the fritz.

After two months, I finally feel like I’m getting semblance back. Last week was the first time I was able to work on a large chunk of my writing without losing interest or focus.
So yes, I’m back, but I’ll be starting slow.

Here’s to a great summer, with structure and regularity!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Patients that Changed My Life: Carol

As a nurse, I have the chance to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Some are fun, some are not so fun. Then there are those that change my life, and changed the kind of nurse I am. For privacy purposes, I won’t use real names, but I want to tell you their stories.

To read about previous patients, click here.

In one of my first ever nursing jobs, I worked in a facility specifically for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I found that I loved working with them. They kept me guessing, and usually laughing. We had this one lady, who I will call Carol. She was active, even though she was declining rapidly. She used a merry-walker, which kept her safe when she would suddenly get tired and need to sit down.

She had almost no short term memory. You could have a conversation with her and seconds later, she wouldn’t remember it.

That doesn’t mean that she didn’t remember anything.

She had an issue with me almost immediately. No matter what I did, she got angry, and she would scream at me. It wasn’t that unusual, since she had a temper, but she did seem to single me out more often than not. I had no idea why until a few months into the job when she said something that surprised me.

“Get off my husband!”

I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I let her know that I wasn’t on her husband. Over time, she kept making comments that made me believe that her husband must have cheated on her with an Asian woman. Comments like:

“Get out of my house!”

“Get out of my husband!”

“They’re my kids, not yours!”

“Tell me it didn’t mean anything and you didn’t enjoy it.”

Most people don’t really think about it, but it’s the emotionally traumatic events that seem to stay with Alzheimer’s patients. They may not remember that they just ate, but they remember how people made them feel. Those memories stick with them longer than anything else, even if they don’t even know my name.

Just because they’re confused, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and that they don’t notice what’s going on around them. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Self-Published Vs Traditional

I participate in a lot of writing groups online. I guess the right phrase is that I lurk in a lot of writing groups online. Depending on the group, I may or may not write anything, or participate, but I always learn. It’s a great way to interact and build relationships with other writers. Most are super positive and helpful. We’re all learning the craft after all. There’s always something new we can gain from the interactions.

A little while ago, I read a post that just floored me. It was deleted pretty quickly by the admins, but the commenter asked if there were writers in the group who were serious about their craft or if they didn’t care and planned on self-publishing no matter what.

Over the past few years, I’ve interacted and met multiple self-pubbed authors, and I’ve got to say, they know what they’re doing. They’re putting themselves out there without support of a publisher, and all on their own. They’re brave, and they’re definitely serious about their craft. If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t bother.

Of course, that doesn’t apply to all self-published authors. Years ago, I gave away free critiques, and one of the girls I gave a critique to asked me what she should sell to make the most money. This was around the time that dystopias were big, and she made the comment that she should probably write that because she heard vampire stories are out.

It’s pretty easy to tell which author is serious about their craft, and it has nothing to do with traditional or self-published. It has to do with the effort they put in. Whether or not they’re willing to learn about the craft, and whether they’re willing to take criticism. Those are the authors I admire, no matter which path they choose.

Last month, I read a book by a self-published author, and I was very impressed. In fact, I had no idea it was self-published. The cover was professional, the writing solid, and I fell in love with the story. For those of you interested, it was the Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series by Chanda Hahn.

Professionalism has nothing to do with pathway. It has to do with the end result.