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.