Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Goal Report

At the beginning of every year, I make goals for myself, and I try and share them here so that someone keeps me honest. This year, however, I found a writing partner, and I shared my goals with her. She was the one who kept me going, and I found that I was very successful… mostly.

This year, instead of general goals, I planned out each month. I had long-term goals, and I had monthly short-term goals to keep me on track.

Long term goals: Write more, focus on publishing.

I feel like I’ve hit each one of those. It’s hard to really quantify, but at the beginning of the year, I had a first draft of Commissioned, and a first draft of Hooked. Commissioned went through three very vigorous revisions, went through multiple beta readers, and is now being queried. Hooked has more of a direction, though now that I’ve written book 3 and 4, there will be some obvious changes that I’ll need to address, but that should be easy enough.

Write more. I had the idea of getting Commissioned ready for querying, and hopefully finishing the trilogy. As I expanded, the series turned into four books, and I had an idea for another book as well, a light, science-fiction version of Jack and the Beanstalk. So instead of writing one brand new book in 2016, I ended up writing three.

My other goal was to read 45 books this year. Unfortunately, I did not reach that goal, but if I could count the different novels that I beta read for, I would be pretty darn close. About four books off, and the month isn’t quite over.

How about the rest of you? Did you reach your goals?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thinking Like a Nurse

In October, I helped plan for the second annual Rexburg Teen Writers Conference. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of stress, all at once. We’d planned for everything. We had food ready for the presenters, we had the venue, and different volunteers to make sure it ran smoothly. We were able to get projectors for presentations, and we had Barnes and Noble coming to sell books through the whole thing.

The night before the conference started, I had a terrible feeling in my gut. I’d gotten off work that morning, and I guess I had residual “Nurse Krista” brain. But the things that concerned me wouldn’t leave me alone.

What if someone passed out and we needed to do CPR? What if someone has a violent allergic reaction? Or what if…

There were way too many possibilities, and my brain started going through every single one. I got up and created a first aid kit out of what I had. Which, to be fair, had quite a bit. I was able to fill an entire duffle bag with gauze, antibiotic cream, antidiarrheals, antiemetics, and of course, an inflatable ambu. I went early to set up, just to see if there was an AED on site.

 There’s a lot of instances when I tend to look at situations from the perspective of a nurse. I know how easy it is to fall, to sprain an ankle, to get food poisoning or to cut yourself. Whenever I travel, or whenever I’m in a group of people, I always think about what I would do if something were to happen.

I’m grateful that I’m able to use my skills to help other people, and that I can assist in an emergency. But I’m even more grateful when those emergencies don’t occur.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why I Plot

I spend most of my year excited for November. Dreaming about November. Anticipating November. Because of the time I spend thinking about it, I also plan for November. In fact, I consider myself an obsessive planner.

I’ll work on my characters, and my character bios. I know their fears, their dreams, their goals, and their background stories. I plan my setting, draw out maps, name all of the places they frequent, just in case it comes up. I outline, and then I outline, then I outline again. I usually have about three outlines, each one expanding on the previous.

Why is this important?

Last month, I was able to write three different books in thirty days. I was able to start and throw out scene after scene, and it was because of my extensive planning. This year, I decided to go a step further and do a scene by scene plan. I’ve always had a detailed outline, but sometimes a section would last three or four scenes, and sometimes just one. I didn’t know whose point of view it would be in, and sometimes, I would get stuck just because I didn’t know how to transition from one scene to the next.

So this year, I decided to take my outline and turn it into a scene by scene. I used a spreadsheet for this one, numbered each scene, and then wrote who the point of view character was and exactly what was supposed to happen.

After that, I went to Scrivener, put that many scenes into the novel, and then wrote the scene synopsis as the title, and the detailed outline points in the notes section.

By the time November came, all I had to do was open Scrivener, start at scene one, read the outline of what should happen and write it. When I finished, the next scene was already set up for me.

It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it. I love being an obsessive planner, because it means that I’m able to achieve my goals. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

International Fashion Lesson

America is known as the melting pot. Most of the people you pass on the street have some kind of cultural mix that makes it almost impossible to know where they’re really from. I’m an Asian American, which means that I look Asian, but I definitely associate as an American.

When I moved to Spain, a lot of people assumed that I was Asian, but then there were those who knew instinctively that I wasn’t. In fact, there were times when people would pass by me and make a face, and say the one word: American.

I could never figure out how they knew. Most of the time, I wouldn’t be talking to a friend, and I wouldn’t be doing anything that seemed remotely American, but somehow they all knew.

After marrying my husband, and after many years of marriage, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s because of how I dressed. It wasn’t that I was a slob, but it turns out that Americans do tend to dress down compared to other countries. They could tell by my ratty tennis shoes, and lack of fashion that I was an American.

Can you spot the Americans?

Hubby still comments on it every once in a while. He’ll let me know that I can wear something nicer, or that I don’t need to wear something that’s old, especially if it looks worn. One of his favorite phrases is, “Just because we don’t have money doesn’t mean we have to look it.”

I can’t count the number of times that I went to school at my University and most of the students are still in their pajamas. Or in sweats and sandals. And now that I think back on it, when I went to the university in Spain, the only ones who dressed that way were the Americans. They didn’t mind going to the grocery store dressed down. It’s just the grocery store. I know I’ve had that thought when going to class. Would anyone actually notice if I’m wearing the same sweatshirt all week? It’s nice and warm, and that’s all I care about.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Afraid of the Dark

 I love working night shift. A lot of people think that it’s because there’s less work to do, which might be true, but it’s more that there’s a different kind of work. A lot more of the behind the scenes, checking orders, etc to help day shift out.

I’ve worked day shift too, and I do enjoy the bustle and the busy. The thing that I hate is the hours. If I could get the busy of dayshift, but at night, I would be perfectly happy. But I don’t think my body is equipped for day shift. Waking up that early in the morning makes me want to cry sometimes. I’d rather stay up late than wake up early, and I don’t think that will ever change.

Working night shift also comes with a whole different set of situations. Night shift is obviously dark, since most of the lights are dimmed so the patients can sleep. It’s also quiet for the same reason. We want to let the patients sleep so that they can recover and heal. The other part is that it’s much more empty. You don’t have anyone in the kitchen, all of the activities and therapy people are gone for the day, and administration doesn’t work at night. It’s just the bare bones, enough to get through to the next shift. At least, that’s how it is in a skilled nursing facility.

What still amazes me is how many nurses and CNAs I’ve worked with over the years who were afraid of the dark. They would work night shift, but they were still terrified of the dark. They would jump at every sound, and they would spend their time scaring themselves while at work.

A few years ago, I was walking a patient up and down the hallway when she couldn’t sleep. After a few laps, she leaned in closer and asked, “Do you still hear the voices?”

I’m sure my eyes grew big, and I had no idea what she was talking about. Turns out, she’d gotten me confused with another nurse, who was afraid of the dark, and afraid to work alone in the hallway the patient was on because she would ‘hear voices.’ For me, the worst part of the story was that she told the patients, who had to live and sleep on that hallway, that she found it creepy and heard voices.
I had a CNA that I worked with who would close all of the windows. She was terrified people would be peeking in while we worked.

Any of you afraid of the dark, or worked with someone who was? Did it make it hard for you to work nightshift?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NaNoWriMo Report

As many of you know, I participated in NaNoWriMo this year. Last year was kind of a breakthrough for me, because I’d planned my novel. I’d obsessively planned my novel, and by the time that November hit, my writing bible was huge. I’d written three different outlines, expanding them each time, and I knew exactly what was going to happen.

I sat down, and I ended up writing two books, and 177,000 words.

This year, I figured I could do the same thing. In fact, I decided I could do better. I wanted to finish the Commissioned Series, and I had another idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for the past few months. So my goal for November was to write 200,000 words, and three different books. Simple right? On top of that, I’m the ML for the region, so I plan and prepare write ins, encourage them all to keep writing, listen to them when they’re discouraged, and I also created daily writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

The one thing I didn’t plan on was my work schedule. I’ve worked night shift almost consistently for the past five years, so when I got my schedule for November, I was a little nervous. I was working nights the first week of November, and then I’d switch to day shift, which would be a personal challenge for me.

But I’m one of those people who has to reach their goals, even if it kills me. My co-ML and I made a goal to reach the first 50,000 in the first five days, and that was simple. Then I had my schedule change, and everything kind of went flip-flop. I don’t know how to be awake during the day. I would get home so exhausted I couldn’t write anything. So I started waking up an hour earlier to try and at least get a thousand words written before going off to my 13-14 hour day.

It was a long month, and I know I pushed myself way too hard, but I’m proud to say I reached all of my goals. 205,000 words, which was a little over my original goal, and all three books are now written. That’s not to say that I don’t have a ton of editing to do, but that’s what the rest of the year is for.

I love November and I love NaNoWriMo because it lets me push myself harder than I do the rest of the year. It isn’t that I don’t write, it’s that I make sure that I write more.

Here’s my final graph for November! How'd the rest of you do?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Learning Japanese

After I graduated from college, it was hubby’s turn to start studying. He’d spent a lot of time on English as second language classes, and he was able to transfer into a community college. He took classes that prepared non-English speakers for college. They had a class on note taking, and a class on essay writing, giving them all of the skills they would need to succeed in an academic setting.

I was working at the time, but as I started going through the class catalog, I realized that I’d never actually taken a class for fun. Every single class I’d ever taken was either for my degree, or mandatory to graduate. I decided to audit a Japanese class, because I’d always wanted to learn Japanese and understand that part of my heritage.

My teacher was from Japan. In fact, she didn’t know a word of English, so my first day of class, I sat there and stared at her while she talked nonstop in a language I didn’t understand. Most of my class had a basic idea because most of them had been obsessed with Japanese Anime growing up, so they knew basic words and phrases. I hadn’t grown up watching anything in Japanese, and my mom didn’t speak the language, so it could have been Greek or Mongolian for all I knew.

I don’t think I’ve ever had to think so hard for a class before. Not just because I was trying to understand what she was teaching, but I was also trying to translate it into something I could remember. Translating, especially in a new language, can be mentally exhausting.

One of the most surprising results of this mental fatigue was that after each class, I found I couldn’t speak English for several hours. The only language I could use was Spanish, and I think it’s because I’d been trying to translate English into Japanese and vice versa for an hour. Once my brain could relax, it couldn’t access the English anymore.

How about the rest of you? Any odd experiences while learning a new language? 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Patients That Changed My Life: Jimmy

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 jobs as a nurse, I had a patient whose name was Jimmy. He was an active guy, and because of his dementia, he wasn’t able to sit still. He would pace the hallways for hours, and even during meals, he couldn’t sit down long enough to eat. The more stimuli he had, the more agitated he would get.

I think one of the reasons why I connected with Jimmy was because he reminded me of my dad. He was obviously a hard worker, and he usually thought that he was our supervisor. He would come up to the nurses’s station, go through the clipboard and then nod his head and tell us to keep up the good work. He loved it when we asked him for help or advice.

One of the things that I realized about Jimmy was that he did really well with personal, one on one interaction. He was definitely confused, and he didn’t make much sense when he talked, but he craved the human interaction, and not just being in a room full of people. He needed to make a connection.

I started saving his meals at dinner, and put it in the fridge in the kitchen. Then, after everyone was asleep, I would take him in the dining room, heat up his food, and the two of us would sit and talk. While he had the human interaction, he was able to sit. He was able to be distracted enough to relax, and he was able to eat something.

Even after he lost his memory and his home, he still was Jimmy. He never lost his identity, no matter what the disease did to him. Yes, there were moments when his personality would change, but as I got to know him over time, I realized that he was still the man he was his whole life. He was a supervisor, he was a father, and he was a friend.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Universal Language - Or Not

My family is fairly musical. I actually feel like the musically stunted one in the family because I only learned how to play the piano and sing. I have some sisters who play up to three or four instruments. All of them participated in bands and took AP Theory classes. I do, however, know music, and I was taught from a very young age.

When I moved to Spain, I had someone ask me if I would be willing to teach them piano. I'd never taught, and I didn't really speak the language, but I figured it wouldn't be that difficult. It's just using the same terms. Our first lesson, we sat down, and I asked her if she knew anything about music. She told me that she kind of knew the notes, but instead of calling them A, B, C, like we do in the United States, she called them Do, Re, Mi. It took me weeks before I could remember all of the notes and be able to help her without singing the Sound of Music in my head. If I wanted her to play an F, I would tell her Fa. If I wanted a B, I would say Ti. It was incredibly confusing, and I thought that maybe she'd been taught incorrectly.

Then I went to a choir practice for church. The director was apparently very musical and as we practiced, she used the same terms as the girl I'd been teaching piano. She would play a Do on the piano and we would learn how to read music by Do, Re, Mi. She told the class that this was the proper way to read music, and that it was the way that it was done in the United States, so it had to be right.

It's amazing how music, which seems like something that should be a common language for all, had different terms within different cultures. Music is still universal, and it doesn't matter if we're playing a C or a Do, as long as the music is there.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Geriatrics and Poop

Right now, I'm still transitioning to working at a hospital instead of working in a skilled nursing facility. I'm on a Med-Surg floor, and I really like the opportunity to learn new things and use a different set of skills that I didn't need to use while in Skilled Nursing. It's busy, but a completely different busy than what I'm used to. There is one comment I've heard though, while working on my floor that makes me laugh.

Most people here assume that working with Med-Surg means that you work with poop. Everyone else has a specific purpose, whether it's the women's center, or ICU or even the cardiac floor. Med-Surg is where the patients go that don't fit in a neat little compartment. Which means we get a lot of the elderly, and a lot of those who can't take care of themselves.

However, when it comes to poop, I've got to say that Skilled Nursing definitely has a distinctive edge. When all of your patients are incontinent, and when all of your patients need assistance to the toilet, or can't get out of bed, all you do is clean up poop. It's something that I've just become accustomed to. In every facility I worked in, we had a set schedule, and when someone hasn't had a BM for a specific number of days, we give them something so they do. My first job, we had a poop board, and all of the CNAs had to update it at the end of their shift. I still remember my co-worker yelling at the CNAs to fill out the 'poops'. I worked in a facility where we started giving stool softeners after one day without a BM. By day 3, we were giving enemas.

In the hospital, the patient isn't in the building long enough to really worry about it. If they report that they haven't had a BM for several days, we can help them, but I've noticed it isn't as big of a priority as it is in a nursing home. And yes, there are incontinent patients, but the ratios are much lower.

As nurses, I think we should just come to expect to work with poop. It's a part of life, and we're the crazy ones who obsess over it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's Gonna Be Okay

As many of you know, this November is NaNoWriMo. I'm lucky enough to be the ML of my region, and part of that responsibility is sending out peptalks. They're messages of encouragement, and to keep my region excited to write. Since I'm a little busy this month, I decided to post my peptalks here as well, for anyone else who's doing NaNoWriMo.

As November comes to a close, there’s so much we may regret. All that wasted time, when we should have been writing our novel, but instead, we got busy. Or maybe we got distracted. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we don’t meet our goal.

And you know what? It’s okay.

Look at your word count. Go ahead. Even if you’re nowhere near 50,000.

See that number? That’s how many words you’ve written in November. And the month isn’t even over yet! You can totally add to the word count until midnight ushers in December.

Don’t get discouraged if you’re behind. You’re a writer! You’ve moved your story ahead, whether you wrote 5,000 words or 50,000. You are so awesome, and Mindie and I are so lucky to be your MLs.

Take a deep breath, open that document, and remember:

It’s gonna be okay.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Foreign Honesty

Growing up, my parents taught me about manners. About meeting strangers and being polite. Not saying what's on your mind. Not invading other people's space and not asking incessant questions. About avoiding topics and not getting offended myself. I thought I'd done pretty well with that...

Until I moved to Spain and none of that applied anymore.

I was shocked by how forward everyone was. They all said what they thought, and they didn't care if you were uncomfortable or not. It was a complete culture shock, but the part that really got me was how many times I had a guy follow me and then ask me out. On the subway, or sitting in the park. It was completely different from what I'd ever experienced.

One time, a friend and I were going to go see La Bella y La Bestia in Gran Via, which was a pretty big deal. We were so excited, and definitely dressed up so we could go to the theater. We arrived early, and the doors still hadn't opened, so we decided to walk down the street to one of the plazas and sit by the waterfall. As we were walking back to the theater, we noticed that two young Spaniards were following after us. We got to the theater and they came up to talk to us, and of course, my friend was gorgeous so they tried to talk to her first. Except she didn't speak Spanish. Then they turned to me. I was peppered with questions about where we were from, why we were in Spain, what we liked to do, if we had boyfriends, etc. They were shocked when I told them that I wasn't interested in having a boyfriend. They kept telling me that I needed one, and that they would be more than willing to accommodate. I was relieved once the doors to the theater opened and we could escape.

Another time, I was alone in a park, and a sweet old man sat next to me. He asked me what I was reading, and for a while, we just chatted. Finally, he asked me if I'd like to go to his house with him. I was slightly amused and asked what we would do there. He told me that we would share his bed. I was so shocked I didn't even know how to respond.

I've found that I actually prefer the honesty. It makes for some awkward situations, yes, but mostly with people who aren't used to saying whatever's on their mind. And it makes it so much easier for me to know what people are thinking. I don't have to skirt around issues anymore.

What about the rest of you? Do you prefer being PC and not offending anyone? Or do you prefer having honest communications with people?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Politics In Nursing

Back when I was a young idealist, I decided I was going to be a nurse. I was going to go and change people's lives, take care of them and just be the kind of nurse that makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, reality doesn't always mirror our expectations. When I first became a nurse, I had the best job ever. All of our patients were private pay, which meant we had a very low nurse/patient ratio, as well as enough staff to actually take care of the patients.

Then hubby and I moved, and I found out that my dream job was the exception, not the rule. Since then, I've worked skilled nursing where all their patients are Medicaid or Medicare patients. Every building scrapes and begs for enough patients to break even. I didn't even realize how much the patient population affected the pay rate of the building until I took a management position and saw the behind the scenes.

The behind the scenes is what really made me wish I'd chosen a different career.

There is so much politics involved in nursing. There's trying to convince the hospital's social workers or case managers to send the patients to you, and not to the other facilities. There's the importance of the documentation because if one nurse or one CNA charts something incorrectly, it can cost the building hundreds of dollars. Maybe even thousands. And if all your nurses and CNAs document incorrectly, you can lose hundreds of thousands. Then there's the politics of home health and hospices coming and trying to get you to discharge your patients to them. In the area I'm in right now, I'm astounded by how many home health companies there are. For as rural an area that we are, there always seems to be more and more popping up.

Oh, and while we're talking about money and trying to get patients, there's also the push toward not even needing skilled nursing. When I was management at an assisted living, we started taking more and more patients that should have gone to a skilled. We found ways to get nurses in the building, whether through home health or through myself being on call 24/7. We just needed the patients in the building. There were times when I seriously questioned whether a patient was appropriate for assisted living, but there was always a loophole. Yes, they can't transfer themselves, but home health will shower them for us. Yes, they have a tube feeding, but that's during the day, and I was in the building anyway, right?

Now that I work in the hospital, I find that it's exactly the same. It's different, obviously. The way we're funded is different. The way that we get patients is different, but the idea is the same. Money controls the nurse to patient ratio. Money controls how many CNAs are on the floor. We have to do extra charting so that we can get funded by the insurances, but in doing the extra charting, we don't have time to actually be in with the patients as much as we'd like.

I hated the politics when I was in management. I almost felt like we'd forgotten the patients half of the time while we were trying to figure out how to cut corners to keep from spending so much money. It's an unfortunate reality, and I know that every business, and every field has the same problem. We can't function without the politics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For Love or Money

During our Writers Conference, I was very excited to be behind the scenes. I got to see how things worked, but even more than that, I got to interact with the presenters on a much more personal basis. I'm not super outgoing, and I didn't want to annoy them when they wanted to relax, but as luck would have it, I happened to be in the Presenters Room at the same time as J Scott Savage and his wife. We were the only ones in the room, and I gathered up my courage to ask him about his writing.

After we talked for a little bit, I asked him to describe his typical day, since I just envisioned him sitting at a desk writing for hours and hours on end. His response surprised me. He told me that he still works full time on top of all of his writing. He even stepped outside during the conference to get some work done during a break. He told me that he had tried to work full time as a writer, but even as a best-selling novelist, he couldn't afford it.

What an eye opener. The more I tell people I write, the more comments I get about how it'll be nice once the money starts rolling in. Or how I can live off of the money I will earn. Speaking to actual published writers, and hearing their stories, I realize that that probably won't be the case for me. No matter how much I write, there's so much uncertainty. There's no guarantee that I will break out as a new author and gain the fame that everyone assumes happens to a writer.

That might be something that concerned me, if I was doing it for the money. For me, writing is a calling, and it's something I love doing. So even if I don't make millions, or become a best selling novelist, just writing and interacting with other writers is a dream come true.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Foreign Healthcare

I had the unique experience of studying international nursing through Saint Louis University. The way the program was set up was that I spent two years studying nursing in Spain, started clinicals in the Spanish hospital, then transferred to the United States, studied for another three semesters and finished up clinicals, take the NCLEX and then once I get my nursing degree in the United States, I would return to Spain and study in the Spanish university and get my nursing degree so that I could work anywhere in the European Union.

It was a fun adventure, though I didn't finish with both degrees. One thing that really did surprise me was how different healthcare was in America vs Spain. Spanish healthcare is nationalized, which means that everyone has healthcare. There are those who can pay extra for a special insurance, but no matter what their situation, they could see the doctor and get procedures done without needing any extra insurance.

It sounds like a dream come true, but the more I watched it in action, the less impressed I was by it. My mother-in-law has some health issues, and when she needed surgery, she was put on the list. The list wasn't affected by who needed it more urgently, instead it was determined by who signed up first. She was in intense pain, but she had to wait for many, many months before she could get it fixed.

When I was in Spain, I got to experience it firsthand, both as a patient, and again as a nursing student. When I was a patient, I found that things weren’t as easy as they are here. I had abdominal issues, and I went to the doctor, who only had five minutes to talk to me. That was how much time he was allowed to spend with me. Then I had to get some tests done, and since I didn’t speak Spanish, I brought another nursing student who could. He wasn’t allowed in with me because he was a male, so I was forced to go through a colonoscopy all alone, not knowing what was going on.

Once the results came back, I was the one who had to pick up the results from the hospital and then take them to the doctor because they didn’t have any way to communicate it to one another. It was a huge pain, and I’d never had to do so much footwork for my doctor before.

As a nursing student, I saw hospital floors where there was only one sink, and no hand sanitizer available to the nurses. And we didn’t have gloves because they were considered “impersonal.” Nurses weren’t allowed to assess their patients, and the night nurse would pop all of the pills for the next day. The day nurses didn’t even know what medications they were giving.

As many issues as we have in our healthcare system, I’ve got to say, it could be much worse. And I’m grateful for the rules and regulations we have, because it keeps us safe, and keeps medicine moving forward.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Why I Like Working With Alzheimer's Dementia Patients

When I first decided I wanted to be a nurse, I knew I was going to be a geriatric nurse. I knew that was where I was meant to be. My first job as a caregiver was in an assisted living that was specifically for Alzheimer's and Dementia patients. It was my first time dealing with those who were confused, and at first, I didn't know what I was doing. Orientation consisted mostly of explaining where the supplies were, what the assignments were, and what was expected of me during a shift. I didn't have any expectations coming in as to how I would have to deal with the patients and their disease.

To my surprise, and probably the surprise of everyone, I loved the job. it was an amazing experience, and I found that I connected with these patients. I became fiercely protective of them, and a lot of it was because they couldn't protect themselves. I was their advocate, and I took that responsibility very seriously.

When I first became a nurse, I started applying for jobs in different skilled facilities, but there was one in particular that just felt right to me. It was a facility that was specifically for Alzheimer's and Dementia patients. It was probably one of the best jobs I've ever had, and the company itself was wonderful.

Whenever I talk about my time as a nurse or caregiver in those facilities, I'm met with surprise that I actually enjoyed my time there. people don't understand why I would want to spend time with people that are confused, and who don't remember who I am, even if I saw them a few minutes before.

After working in rehab and in the hospital, I can say that the reason why I love Alzheimer's so much is the clean slate. I go in and talk to the patient, and no matter what, it's wiped clean. They don't remember. Now, that may not seem like a good thing, but for me it is. Nurses have to deal with a lot of cranky patients. And sometimes, we get cranky back. But when I work with Alzheimer/Dementia patients, they forget. If they get mad at me for making them change out of their dirty shirt, five minutes later, we can go back to having a happy conversation. If they threw their food against the wall because that's what they felt like doing, I have a much easier time ignoring the behavior because I know that they can't control it. There's also no point in getting mad, because they won't remember it anyway.

Even with their forgetfulness, they can remember aspects. They can remember how you made them feel, even if they don't remember your name. And sometimes, knowing them well enough that I can make them smile is all I need to have a good day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Felix Felices

As many of you know, this November is NaNoWriMo. I'm lucky enough to be the ML of my region, and part of that responsibility is sending out peptalks. They're messages of encouragement, and to keep my region excited to write. Since I'm a little busy this month, I decided to post my peptalks here as well, for anyone else who's doing NaNoWriMo. For those of you wondering, yes, our regional theme is Harry Potter this year.

Do you remember in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Harry wins the Felix Felices from Professor Slughorn? Felix Felices can also be known as liquid luck, and whoever drinks it will be successful in whatever they do, but only for a limited time.

Harry didn’t use it on himself, not at first. He tricked Hermoine into thinking he gave it to Ron before his first Quidditch game. When she told Ron, he drank it and went out and played a nearly perfect game. Here’s the brilliance of Harry’s plan: Ron didn't think he deserved to be the keeper and he was afraid to go out on the field and play. Once he realized his success had nothing to do with the potion, he believed in himself.

If we could, Mindie and I would slip you all a little liquid luck. We know the obstacles that are hurtling toward you, faster than a quaffle. There’s homework or work, kids, friends, parents, laundry, dishes, holiday planning, sickness, weather… it never really stops.

Even so, we know you don’t need luck. We believe in you, and you should believe in yourself. You can do it. Knock those bludgers out of the way and keep playing.

You were meant to win.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Asian Representation

I'm one of those people who has been watching the diversity movement closely. Mostly because I'm curious about how this is going to turn out. I see comments made, usually innocently, and the immediate backlash. Sometimes I see decisions made that just blow me away. Those of you who followed the #MakeMulanRight know what I'm talking about. Here's the thing, I don't know if that was just a rumor started by someone who wanted to see everyone get up in arms, but there's a reason why that was a big deal.

Mulan is one of the only Disney Princesses of Asian descent. Depending on how you classify Asian, you might also consider Jasmine in that category. She had a unique story, and she fought on her own. She was the one who defended her family's honor, and she was the one who ultimately saved China. For anyone to think that her story needs to be 'fixed' by adding a white hero to rescue or save Mulan is more than insulting. But there's another reason why it's so important to make this story about Asians.

Asians are very underrepresented in media in general. You might see one, to represent the group, and that's it. The prime example that comes to mind for me is Harry Potter. There's so many amazing characters in that series, but how many Asians can you count? I know that it's a school that's predominantly white because they're all in England, but at the same time, there's Asians in England. There's Asians everywhere, and don't think there aren't. When I lived in Spain, almost all of the museums had three languages: Spanish, English and Japanese. When we made the music video for our writing group, everyone was so excited that I could be Cho Chang. And I was fine with being Cho Chang. Because she was an Asian who was actually represented in the Harry Potter universe. But that was my only option. If I were an Asian male, I wouldn't even have a character to play.

Ravenclaw Selfie!

I honestly can't wait for the live action of Mulan, and I'm fervently hoping that they do the movie justice. Not just the movie, but the characters. We don't need white actors to portray Asians. Let's go out and find some Asians. I know they're out there somewhere. I bet they'd do a pretty good job of playing Asians.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nurse Mentors

Last week, I talked about nurses eating their young, and my own experience with someone who tried to destroy my confidence as a nurse. If you didn't get a chance to read it, here is the story.

She'd gotten offended because I mentioned that I was an RN. Now, I didn't really study very much about the different types of nurses. All I knew was that a nurse was a nurse. For the NCLEX, I had to study questions where they gave a scenario with four different patients and ask which one was appropriate for an RN, which was appropriate for an LPN, and so on. But I don't think it really registered.

I've heard RNs make comments about LPNs. In fact, when I was having a difficult time with a co-worker, another co-worker asked me, "Did you tell her that you're the RN and to shut up?"

Here's the thing. I really respect LPNs. In fact, there are two LPNs in particular that became some of my closest friends, and that influenced the kind of nurse I became. The first LPN was this wonderful woman named Ellen. She and I were as polar opposite as could be. She was tall and boisterous and loved to get people riled up. I was quiet, shy, and barely spoke to anyone if I didn't have to. We worked together at my first job, and she took me under her wing. She showed me how to deal with difficult patients, with co-workers, and even with management. She always took the opportunity to teach -- in her own unique way. I was never afraid to ask her opinion, and I never got offended if she gave it, because we learned to work together as a team. Never once did I stop to think about her credentials. She was just my co-worker and we made sure that things worked smoothly.

When I moved to Idaho, I had another wonderful co-worker named Joanne. She worked nights with me, and we both seemed to think and function in very similar ways. We both walked fast, worked faster and always did a little extra so that things would get done the right way. She's the one who taught me how to navigate bigger facilities, and to become an effective leader, especially when it came to working with multiple CNAs. She helped me gain confidence in new skills that I hadn't used in my previous jobs, and I loved working with her because everything always ran so smoothly. Even in a disaster, there wasn't anything we couldn't work through.

Those two wonderful women were my mentors. I didn't care that they were LPNs. They were nurses, and they knew what they were doing. Instead of getting frustrated, they took the time to teach, and those opportunities helped me to develop my own style and talents as a nurse.

How about the rest of you? Any mentors you'd like to recognize?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Asians Look Young

Growing up, everyone always thought I looked young. And cute. No matter how much I tried to look and act older, everyone saw me as a little girl. I got my first job when I was a senior in high school, and I was eighteen-years-old. One of my first days, I had a patient ask me why I was working and if she needed to call the police. Apparently, she thought that my employers were breaking some of the child labor laws by having me serve food. It probably didn't help that the aprons issued to me were too big and I had to wrap them around my waist twice to get them to stay on.

Me at 18

My first job as a nurse, most of the patients and the staff didn't think I was old enough to have a degree. In fact, I earned the nickname of 'the kid' quite early on in my career.

Recently, I've had this happen less and less. My ever-loving and honest husband told me the other day that I can no longer pass for a teenager. Which, considering I'm close to thirty, is probably a good thing. But that doesn't mean that I don't still have those patients who ask how old I am, just to make sure that I'm old enough to have a degree.

I recently was on the other side of the situation, when my friend and I were passing out flyers for our writers conference. We stopped by a Chinese restaurant in town and asked the girls working there if we could hang up the fliers. They were both very cute, and as we were leaving, I happened to mention to my friend that neither of them looked old enough to be working there.

All of a sudden, I understood all of the comments that I'd received over my life, the ones commenting on how young I look. I know that in the long run, I'll be grateful that I look young, but for now, there are days when I'd rather look old enough I don't get carded when I need to buy superglue.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nurses Eat Their Young

There's a phrase in the medical field that nurses eat their young. It's a phrase that I've heard quite often, and that I've unfortunately seen just as often. It's true, we don't completely trust new nurses. They're just starting out, and they obviously don't have the experience that it takes to run a floor. Or to get everything done.

But here's the thing. We were all, at one point, a brand new nurse starting out.

When I first became a nurse, I had no idea about the politics that happened behind the scenes. the seniority that nurses get over others was surprising. I remember, when I was still orienting with a nurse, she commented that she couldn't understand why they would put me on the difficult hall, when she'd spent so many years on the hall she's on and hasn't been able to move to the hall they assigned me.

"Oh," I said, not even realizing how this comment would come across, "They said it's because I'm an RN."

We didn't get along after that. For her, she had experience behind her. She'd worked as a nurse for decades, and she knew and had experienced so much more than me. I, on the other hand, had a higher degree than she did, which meant that management wanted me to be on the 'coveted' floor. She ate me alive, and it was terrifying. After several months, she moved on to a different position which meant that she could spend a lot more time in my area, and she took advantage of it. She would search for things I'd done wrong, and I'll admit that there were a few times when she would drive me to tears.

Apparently, this was something she'd done before. My coworkers told me about a nurse who had her master's degree, and every time she came on shift, this nurse would make her sit in the corner and wait until she was ready for report.

I couldn't understand why someone would treat another coworker that way. Especially when we're trying to take care of the same patients. It wasn't until I became older and watched new nurses start out in their career. There are times that make me flinch, but I always remember my first experience, and how I needed someone to gently lead me, not make me feel like I couldn't do the job.

We need nurses who are confident. And confidence comes from knowing that we can do what we're asked. Nurses shouldn't eat their young. They should nurture them. It not only makes for a much better environment, but it also ensures that all of the staff are competent enough to take care of their patients.

How about the rest of you? Any stories about nurses eating their young?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Last month, my NaNoWriMo group decided to try something new. We called it PlOctoWriMo. As in Plotting in October Writing Month. We used the article from The Write Life, by Janice Hardy on a 4 week success plan for NaNoWriMo. Read the article here.

We took her ideas and broke them down into different days. Some weeks, we had three different assignments, and some weeks, we only had two. It was so fun to have a mapped out plan on how to plan our novel. Over the years, while doing NaNoWriMo, I’ve found that the more I plan, and the more intricate my writing bible is, the better I write. Not only do I write faster, I’m also able to write more at a time, and I wanted to share that success with our region.

We had two different planning sessions through the month, added to our kickoff, and we had an awesome turnout. We also had a lot more activity online, with many of our participants asking for brainstorming help, and we always were able to help them through their roadblock. Which means they’ve already planned for it before they even got to it.

One of our planning sessions

I know there are pantsers out there, but when it comes to writing a novel in 30 days, I feel like planning is the best way to do it. During our Writers Conference, I actually sat down with J Scott Savage and asked him how long it takes him to write a novel. He said that he takes about 6 weeks to write his first draft. When I told him that last year, I wrote two books in my series during November, he already knew that I was a planner. He didn’t even have to ask.

How about the rest of you? Planners out there? Pantsers?

I'm Not A Teenager Anymore

One of the books I have planned for NaNoWriMo is a contemporary soft science fiction. It centers around a girl in high school, which means I had to do research on teenagers.

I sat down with one of my cousins and grilled him for two hours on how teenagers dress, what they listen to, what they watch, what they say…

And I didn’t feel a million years old asking things like: What do kids these days like to do for fun?

After all of that, I still didn’t realize how much of a non-teenager I am until I went to a critique session for our writers conference. We were split into multiple groups, and part of the split was teenagers and adults. Since I was a part of the committee, I got to rotate through the groups, and for half an hour, I sat with a group of teenagers and listened to them read their stories.

I loved their enthusiasm. For them, nothing was impossible. They didn’t care about the writing rules. Their interest was in the story, and they loved one anothers’ work. They were positive and constructive at the same time. What surprised me was the way they treated me. I was a stranger, and every time they talked, I could sense the shift in the group. The kind where an adult was talking and I was intruding on their fun circle. After a while, I stopped commenting and just listened to them.
There were a few moments that really made me want to laugh.

One girl read a very impressive epilogue to her book, and I was confused about how old her character was. Her response: "He’s way older, like in his thirties."

Imagine how that made me feel!

Also, another girl started telling the others about how excited she was to write the night before. She told us that she stayed up until 10:30pm, and that it was crazy, and she was so tired the next day.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Open Mind

My first year in Spain, I opted for the ‘cultural experience,’ which was a fancy way of saying that I lived with a host family. It was definitely an experience, for sure!

The woman I lived with was probably eighty years old, and she had a mentally handicapped sister who was just as old. My first semester, I had a roommate who lasted almost a month before she decided to live somewhere else. The women we lived with weren’t the easiest to live with, and I think that it made it easier for her to choose to live in student apartments, where she could do things with other girls her age.

My second semester, I had a unique roommate who didn’t seem to know anything about living abroad.

During that time, there was an orange alert out to US citizens abroad, meaning that we were supposed to be cautious while traveling. I honestly don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be cautious, but apparently it was slightly more dangerous. Maybe it’s because I look less ‘American’ than others, but I didn’t worry too much. I already knew that I used caution when traveling, and that I didn’t do anything stupid to peg myself as an unwitting tourist.

My roommate, however, went into full panic mode. She had a whole cover story where she was a Canadian who didn’t speak English, but if they asked her to speak French, she would tell them that she didn’t understand Spanish, because she also didn’t know French. Every time we went out, she would tell me that people would bump into her on the metro on purpose, or that some of the men were following her.

Even though she was living in a different country, and apparently attempting to appear from Canada, she didn’t do a good job of hiding her roots. After about a week, she started going to the American store and bringing food to the woman hosting us, asking her to make ‘real’ food. The food she brought were things like hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, and cold cereal. Things that the woman had no idea how to cook, or what to do with. She made us fresh meals every day, paella, garbanzos, oh it was so good. But my roommate didn’t want that food. She wanted American food. Real food.

She didn’t last very long with our SeƱora either. Within a month, she had moved into student apartments.

It was amazing to me, every time she refused to adapt, or even try the culture she’d chosen to live in. And it was even more astounding how offended she would get when others didn’t eat or think the same way she did.

There’s so much we can learn from other cultures, if we’re only willing to adjust and adapt to new ways of thinking. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Health Literacy

Now that I work in the hospital, I feel that my eyes have been opened to so many different parts of nursing. Sometimes, I feel like a brand new nurse, experiencing this for the first time. One of the most amazing parts is the education. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked anywhere that focuses so much on keeping their staff educated and up to date on evidenced-based practices. I’m not complaining. I’m actually incredibly grateful.

Part of my training required me to watch a video on something called health literacy. They interviewed several patients, some of who were educated, but who didn’t understand their health. Why? Because healthcare providers have a whole new language.

I didn’t even think about how many words and phrases I use that just don’t make sense to people who aren’t entrenched in the medical field. Even something as simple as medications can become confusing for the patient, especially if it isn’t explained in a way that they can understand.

When I was in high school, I started having really bad abdominal pain. It was excruciating, and to the point where I didn’t want to eat. Finally, my mom took me to the doctor and they did a typical exam which included an x-ray. One of the questions the doctor asked me was about my last bowel movement. I was seventeen, and I had no idea what that was, but my mom and the doctor acted like I should, so I told them that I had one the day before. Then I had the x-ray, which showed that I had extreme constipation. I didn’t have an obstruction yet, but quite a bit of buildup.

Later, my mom asked me why I said I’d had a bowel movement when I obviously hadn’t. I admitted that I didn’t know what that was. Then she told me that if I didn’t know, I should have asked.
It’s an experience I completely forgot about until I watched the video for work. Patients admitted that they had no idea what their diagnoses were, or what medications they were taking. They didn’t want to admit that they were confused, so they didn’t say anything.

It happens so much more than I realize. I even did it at one point. It’s so important that we ask. And it’s so important for healthcare workers to educate their patients in a way that they can understand. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rexburg Teen Writers Conference

Earlier this month, our region hosted our second annual Teen Writers Conference. Last year, I attended as a participant, and this year, I was so excited when I was asked to be a part of the planning committee.

It was definitely a learning experience. I guess I never thought about all the work that happens behind the scenes. There’s the financial aspect – knowing where the money is coming from, and where he’s going. Then there’s the location. Finding a place big enough, especially in a small town, is a lot harder than you’d think.

And advertising – wow. That definitely forced me out of my comfort zone. My best friend and I offered to do the fundraising/advertising portion of it. Fortunately, our local library was a hug supporter and printed all of our fliers for us. After that, we went to all of our local businesses to see if any of them were willing to support us. We were honestly overwhelmed by the support we received from our community. They really made the whole experience possible.

The conference was a huge success. Of course, there were a few hiccups along the way, but I think that’s to be expected, especially while we’re all still trying to figure out how this all works. I was just happy that there weren’t any huge emergencies.

The best part was being around other writers. There were some with way more experience than me, and others who were just beginning. I almost felt like I could see the past and the future – the writer I was, and the writer I could be. It really made me look at myself, to make sure I’m always progressing.

Alyson Peterson. Her Ian Quicksilver series is awesome!

Lisa Mangrum

J Scott Savage

And of course, I love getting autographed books!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Food Heritage

Recently, hubby and I went to visit family. We first went to my uncle’s house for dinner and had some amazing soup. It was cheesy, and potato-y, and reminded me of home. I don’t tend to make a lot of recipes that I grew up with, mostly because of my husband’s different tastes in food. However, during dinner, he leaned over to me and whispered that it would be okay if I made that soup at home.

Later that week, we traveled to my grandma’s house, and to our surprise, we were served the exact same meal. We didn’t complain because it was so good, but it made me start to think.

My aunt is my grandma’s daughter, and she grew up with the foods that my grandma made. She learned how to cook from my grandma. It makes sense that they would have similar tastes and that they would serve similar foods. Whenever I have dinner with my dad’s family, we have fresh made bread, and usually homemade jam with it. I love their amazing food, but it’s not what I grew up eating for every meal.

My mom cooks very differently than my aunt and grandma.

One of the things I remember about my mom’s cooking is that she loves to barbeque. Even during the winter months, she had my little brother shovel a path to the grill so that we could have salmon or steak. I remember one time, when I was home alone with my dad for Father’s Day, I made lasagna because that’s the kind of thing my mom would make. When I told my grandma about it, she commented on lasagna was so fancy and she’d never made it before.

Because I lived in a different country, my tastes in food have drastically changed from when I grew up. I eat a lot more rice than I did growing up, and I use a lot more spices and flavors that I used to. Even so, something as simple as cheesy, broccoli, potato soup can bring back the best of memories. I love how food can be a heritage, and how even the simplest things can bring back our past.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nursing and Time Management

Nursing school prepares you for a lot of stuff. You’ve got to remember medications. What class of medication are the beta blockers? What do the lols do again? Then you’ve got to remember how the body works. The way that each system of the body interacts with the other. Now if your kidneys are malfunctioning, how does that affect the heart? And what do you do if they go into liver failure?

There’s so much to remember, and in the short time that you’re in school, information is being crammed into your head as fast as physically possible. Until you think there’s no more memory space left.

Then comes the day you take the NCLEX, the day that terrified me beyond anything else. Trying to recall everything I’d been taught for the past four years? Staring at up to 275 questions and hoping that I finish above the line? That’s the kind of pressure that nursing school prepares you for.
Here’s what nursing school doesn’t prepare you for: Time Management.

No one cares how well you did in your classes, or how well you did on the NCLEX. In fact, when I was doing my preceptorship, I remember sitting with my preceptor and her friend and they were talking about another nurse. She was really struggling, and she just couldn’t seem to get her work done on time. They commented on the fact that she was a straight A student, and they were both C students in school. The difference was that they knew how to manage their time and prioritize their work.

Grades matter very little in the real world, unfortunately. I remember when I was training a brand new nurse who was really struggling. I was in a facility where the nurse was in charge of twenty patients. That included wound care, medications, notifying doctors and assessments. There was a never-ending list. She couldn’t keep up, and usually, her morning med pass would finish right when she needed to start her noon pass.

I sat down with her and told her my biggest lifesaver. At the beginning of my shift, I look over my list of patients. I go through their medication times and then put them in order of who needs it first. Then I work down the list. Obviously, things change, but as long as I have a general game plan, it makes the day much easier to survive. That way, even if there’s an interruption, I know what goes next on my list once things have calmed down again. I also told her to cluster her care. Does she have a dressing change? Do it when she takes the pills in. She’s already in the room, and that way, she doesn’t have to backtrack to do all of her dressings later in the day. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to go through the list and write it out, but it saves so much time in the long run.

Now that I work in the hospital, I still do the same thing. It’s a little different, since I know that at any point, I could have a discharge or admission, but it’s the same general concept. I have to be aware of the time I’m given and what I need to do within that time. Then I make a plan and work toward it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hair Donation

Guys, I have a confession to make.

I am susceptible to peer pressure.

I know, shocking right? I mentioned several months ago that I donate my hair. This started years and years ago, back before I was a true teenager, and at that point, we didn’t have the internet quite as available as it is now. Wikipedia didn’t exist, and we didn’t google everything. Actually, I’m pretty sure any research I did do online was through Encarta.

Anyway, at that point, there was really just the big name if you wanted to donate your hair: Locks of Love. And that’s where I donated. I never questioned whether I was donating to the right place, or whether there was even another option. But after the last time I donated my hair, I had several people start to make comments. I heard people tell me that Locks of Love was a scam and that they didn’t even give hair to children.

The closer I got to donating my hair, the more worried I became. What if I donate to the wrong place? What if my donation doesn’t even mean anything? What if it just arrives to the Locks of Love warehouse and they burn it in some kind of ritual? (Okay, I didn’t worry quite that much.) But I started to research different companies that accepted hair donations. I think I might have researched a little more than was necessary, but I was curious.

I can see why people are a little disillusioned with Locks of Love. But I don’t think it’s all their fault. Most of us, when we do something that selfless, want to know that we’ve made a difference. Locks of Love is one of the only companies that is willing to take any hair. Whether it’s been colored, or permed, or if it’s greyed or bleached, any hair is acceptable. And they’re willing to take shorter hair too. Ten inches is the minimum. Most of the other companies are very specific. Nothing dyed. No shorter than 12 inches. Some even say that there can’t be any grey hair.

Here’s the thing. Hair that is damaged can’t be used for wigs. It’s just a fact. So yes, Locks of Love doesn’t use all of the hair that’s donated to them. But they also don’t have the higher standards that the other companies have. At least, not up front. I kind of applaud them for helping people feel like they’re doing good and helping others.

Oh, and then there’s the whole outrage about the fact that Locks of Love doesn’t donate to just cancer patients. I know, right? What other kind of children are there?

Cancer is a devastating disease. I’m not going to deny that. But there are other diseases out there that can be just as cruel. There are some kids who don’t even go through chemo or radiation, yet they still lose all their hair. And some never get the chance to grow it back. Don’t they deserve some hair too?

The last big argument that I’ve heard is that they charge the children for the hair. The hair that was donated to them in the first place! There’s a huge process that goes into making wigs, and from what I’ve seen, it’s quite an expensive one. They charge for the process. Hey, they’re a non-profit company, but that doesn’t mean that they can function without an income! There were some companies that I researched that wouldn’t take hair donations without also receiving a monetary donation as well. Every company deals with the cost in a different way.

Even with all of that information, I did decide to use a different company. The reason was very personal, and had little to do with Locks of Love, or their supposed reputation.

So here’s foot number 9! Uncolored, undefiled by chemicals other than shampoo and conditioner.