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.