Friday, April 29, 2016

Night-shift Nursing

It’s almost May, which means spring is here. Which means the plants are growing, and farmers are farming…

And the lawnmowers are running.

I don’t think there’s anything I hate more than a lawnmower. Most people who work nightshift understand how horrendous they are, especially when they start right when you’re falling asleep.

If any of you have friends or family working night shift, there’s a few things you need to know.

1.       Nightshift = no predictable sleeping schedules. Unless you’re working every single night, there’s going to be days that you’re awake during the day, and others when you’re awake during the night. I have had a few coworkers who just stayed awake all night, but that’s a lot easier in big cities, when there are grocery stores that are open 24/7. Otherwise, there are days that you have to stay up late, or wake up early to get regular errands finished.

2.       Nightshift does not like to be called super early in the morning. I know that’s pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes, it needs to be said. Most of my family is careful not to call me too early in the morning, because they don’t know when I’m sleeping. If I don’t answer the phone, it’s because it’s on silent and I’m sleeping. Usually. Sometimes I forget to put it back on ring.

3.       Nightshift means that I’m not going to be free for all activities in the evening. Most people hear night, and they think sleeping time. I guess that could be true for some, but for nurses, it’s a full 12 hour shift. I leave my home at 5pm, so that I can get there on time, and get home at about 7am. That means that if I say I’m working during a party or activity, it’s because I’m working. Either that, or I’m sleeping. See number 1.

4.       Nightshift doesn’t always eat when you do. I’ve had a lot of experiences where someone invites me to eat with them around 6. That’s my busy time at work, and I’m not going to stop to eat. I eat a meal at about 4pm (my breakfast), midnight, and then a small meal at 7am when I get home. If I’m not eating a whole lot, it’s because my body isn’t prepared to eat at that time.

5.       Don’t assume that they’re doing it because they have no other option. I’ve been a nightshift nurse the entire time that I’ve been a nurse, and I honestly wouldn’t change it. I hate waking up early in the morning, and if I worked a day shift, I would have to wake up at 4 am to get ready. Honestly, I don’t know why people want to work days.

That’s my short list, but I’d love to hear from anyone else who works nights! What do you want your friends and family to know?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

April’s almost over! Can you believe it? 2016 is already 1/3 of the way through.

April’s a big month for me, just like July and November. April is Camp NaNoWriMo, which is kind of a spinoff of NaNoWriMo. Instead of separating into regions, you’re put into virtual cabins of up to 12 people, and you can make your own word count goal. I’ve done it before, and been grouped with strangers, and it was interesting, but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable talking to them online.

This year, our region decided to get a cabin together. It’s been so much fun, mostly because I know everyone in my cabin! We have multiple conversations a day, and we can encourage each other to keep writing. Plus, we can also meet in person, which makes it even better.

This month, I really wanted to do revisions on Commissioned. I’ve gone through one revision already, but I’d just gotten responses from my first round of betas, and there were a few things that needed to be changed. I also wanted to double check the voice of both of my characters. I printed off copies, separating them into Nara and Yaru piles, and then started revisions.

I started with Nara, and hers required the most revisions. My betas told me that her motivation didn’t make sense, and didn’t quite fit with her personality. It took me almost two weeks to finish her section, working as feverishly as I could on my days off. Then I got to Yaru’s point of view, and things started to click. Since I changed Nara’s motivation, his made so much more sense. Honestly, it only required a few tweaks, especially in the end and the beginning, but the middle was pretty solid. I finished his revision in one week.

I’m using this last week to go through, put the parts back together, and read it to myself out loud before sending it out to the next set of betas May 1.

So if anyone’s keeping track, that’s six months from November 1. In that time, I’ve written and revised 484,513 words. Almost half a million. I’m still kind of reeling. After deciding to make writing my second job, and devoting an actual amount of time to it, it’s kind of hard to stop.

How about the rest of you? How are your writing goals going? Any other goals for this year? 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dealing with Stereotypes

There’s no denying I look Asian. And there’s also no denying that most people have stereotypes about Asian people. They’re super smart, brilliant with electronics, short, take lots of pictures… really there’s an unending list. I’ve dealt with it my whole life, and occasionally, I’ve learned to embrace the cliché. Not because it’s true, but because it’s hilarious.

When I first became a nurse, I worked with some awesome people. Honestly, I’ve got to say that it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my life. Most of my coworkers were from Kenya, though there were a few who were from Nigeria, and a few from Zambia. In the facility, there were the Africans, the African-Americans, and the white management.

Then there was me.

They all knew I was Asian, and they all assumed I was the complete package of the 'total' Asian.

I had one particular coworker, who was almost the exact opposite of me. He was African, about six-six, and definitely intimidating. Me, not so much. I’m barely over five foot, and I’ve got the kind of face that makes people think cute, not scary. Whenever the two of us worked together, we had a lot of fun. We had an elevated nurses’ station (so no one could climb over and attack us) and when we were both sitting, you couldn’t see me, but everyone could see him. A few resident’s family members thought he was talking to himself.

I happened to mention to him, as a joke, a few weeks after working together, that I was a karate black belt. It was a joke for me, because people tend to assume that I know martial arts. Truth is, I took one day of karate and then went home and told my mom I didn’t want to go back because I had to hit people.

Apparently my co-worker thought I was telling the truth. Mostly because I hadn't mastered the skill of sarcasm yet. For months, whenever I asked for help, or needed anything, he was there. Other nurses complained that he would try to get out of duties, but not with me. It wasn’t until much later that I learned it was because he was afraid of me. Me! The little, short, cute Asian. Just because I’d made a joke about being a black belt.

Me, my first day as a nurse

It became one of our inside jokes, once he found out I wasn’t trained in martial arts at all.

Anyone else have to deal with stereotypes? Do they work to your advantage or disadvantage?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Living With the Disease: Infertility

As a nurse, I deal with a lot of diseases. Everyone has their own trial, and their own thing to endure. For me, it’s infertility.

In a few months, my husband and I will have been married for seven years. It’s been a crazy journey, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Soon after we were married, we decided we were ready to start a family. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen.

I’d dealt with some health issues over the years, and we realized that many of them were because of imbalanced hormones. For almost 2 years, I went through treatments to balance them out. After my hormones were stable, we started to try again. But after almost 2 ½ years, we still hadn’t gotten pregnant.

We went to a clinic, and our NP started testing, and we started treatments. I won’t tell you how difficult it was, or what kind of side effects came with them. It was a special kind of torture, but one we were willing to endure for a family. For six months, we lived like that. The expectation and the obsession almost drove me mad.

Finally, we were sent to an infertility specialist, and we started even more testing. We learned that it was more than one issue, and it was both me and my husband. Our chances are slim to basically none.

It might seem like that was hard news, but to be honest, it was easier to accept that we couldn’t have kids than I first thought. Dealing with the expectation every month, and obsessing over whether or not I’m pregnant was much worse.

About a year ago, we decided to try and adopt. We’re still waiting for someone to choose us, but we’re choosing to stay optimistic.

For any of you curious, here’s the link to our profile:

If any of you know if anyone looking for someone to adopt, please keep our names in mind. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Books I’ve Read This Year

Last year, I made a goal to read 52 books in a year. It only made sense, to write is to read. How else am I supposed to learn if I don’t watch other people do it? Plus, I love supporting other writers. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it to 52. I was close though. About 46.

So this year, I made a more realistic goal. 45. It seemed like a good number. So far, I’ve read 15, so I’m doing pretty well on my goal.

In January, and the beginning of February, I felt like I couldn’t find the right books. Everything I read didn’t quite resonate with me, which was unfortunate. I love reading, but there’s a few moments when no matter what I read, I can’t find what I’ve been looking for.

But recently, I have had some good luck.

Here’s my recommendations from the past few weeks.

Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

I’m not entirely sure how I found this series, but from book 1, I’ve been hooked. Waiting for this final book was a special kind of torture, mostly because I just needed to know what happened to Kestrel and Arin. There was a definite twist in the beginning, but she did it so well that I couldn’t stop reading. I’m not a fan of characters lying to one another for the sake of protecting each other, but lying is the entire story, and it works. I’d highly recommend the entire series.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

I fell in love with Alexandra Bracken when I read her Darkest Minds series. I didn’t think that I’d love any of her other books quite as much, but I was wrong. This one was nothing like her previous series, except it drew me in just as much. It’s a story about time travelers, and she addressed issues of gender and race in a way that I didn’t think possible.

Ian Quicksilver by Alyson Peterson

I met Alyson at LTUE, and her personality was so vibrant that I decided to read her book. Let me say, her personality bleeds onto the pages, and I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a book for a long time. I loved it so much I had to buy a hard copy so I could share it. You want a superhero story? This is the one for you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sport as a Culture

Did you know that culture isn’t just about race? It’s about religion, food, even sports. I don’t think I really understood that until I moved to Madrid.

I knew soccer was important. My boyfriend (husband now) and his family would watch every single Real Madrid game that ever played. The bars would be filled with cheering fans.

I was never much of a sports fan growing up. I didn’t know the difference between most sports teams, or sports in general. I knew that my brother played soccer on a junior league. I decided that for Christmas, I would get him a soccer jersey. I didn’t think it mattered what kind, just as long as it was a soccer jersey, right?

I went to one of the biggest soccer tourist shops in Madrid and went through all of the uniforms. The more I went through, the more l realized that most of the jerseys were ugly. Most were just black and white, no color at all. Finally, near the back, I found a jersey that had some color. It was red and blue, and perfect. I didn’t know who the player was on the back, and honestly, I didn’t care. It was just important that the jersey I gave my brother wasn’t ugly.

Turns out, it wasn’t a Madrid Jersey. It was a Barcelona Jersey, and my in-laws, the biggest Real Madrid fans in the world, were not impressed. When I sent a picture of my brother wearing a Messi Barcelona Jersey, they bought him a brand new jersey, one from Real Madrid, and with my brother’s last name and age on the back.

Over the years, I’ve learned that a little competition is fun. So I’m a fan of Barcelona, and it makes watching the games so much more fun. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Alzheimer's is not Amnesia

Today, I want to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves in literature. Movies, books, tv shows, all around the board, I’ve seen this, and it needs to stop.

There’s a perpetuated misconception about Alzheimer’s, and it actually harms the treatment and the attitude toward the disease.

Alzheimer’s is not just memory loss. It’s not some kind of selective amnesia, or amnesia where the person just forgets everything about their lives. Alzheimer’s affects every single aspect of the brain. Think about it. What do we do that isn’t affected by the brain?

Right now, I think that Alzheimer’s has become romanticized to some extent through media, showing us this disease where someone just forgets their loved ones. It’s beautifully tragic, and sad. But what they don’t show is that half of the time, other memories are lost as well.

When I worked in a facility specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia, every single one of my patients were affected differently. Some of them forgot how to walk. Some of them forgot how to use silverware, and some forgot how to talk. It’s a disease of regression, where they slowly lose all of the memories they’ve gained over time. The short term goes first, but soon, all of the rest of their memories go with it.

Which memories go last? The ones that are affected by emotions. There’s a reason why a patient may not know where they are, what they ate for dinner, but they still remember the name of their husband, their wife, their mother, and their children. There’s a reason why one of my patients, who couldn’t feed herself, who couldn’t remember how to speak, or how to use the toilet, still got a huge smile on her face whenever her husband of thirty years walked through the door.

It’s not amnesia. It’s a disease of regression, and the last thing to go is the things that are most important to them. Which is why, when I read a book or see a movie where an Alzheimer’s patient can play the piano perfectly, eat perfectly and never has an accident can’t remember the name of their spouse.

Alzheimer’s is messy, and it’s not romantic, not at all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Asian Enough

About a year ago, I read a book that I really enjoyed. It had all of the elements I loved, including diversity. There was one part that always seemed off though, and it was that the main character (half Japanese, half American) kept getting offended by the smallest things. At least, at things that seemed small to me.

Someone asked if she knew of any good Asian restaurants in town. She got offended, wondering why they would assume something like that. My first thought was, because you’re Asian? Plus, she’d already proved in the beginning of the book that she did know good Asian restaurants. Then she met the parents of her boyfriend, and they commented that her name was unusual. Both she and her boyfriend got offended. Again, my first thought was, but it is unusual. It’s a Japanese name.

It kind of bothered me that this book, one that I really loved, kept showing this person getting offended at every small comment someone made.

Oh how naïve I was back then.

Over the past few months, as I’ve been focusing more on diversity, and paying attention to how people treat me because of my Asian appearance, I’ve noticed that I’ve started acting the same way. I’ve started to get offended by small things that don’t matter, or jumping to conclusions that aren’t even there.

For example, I posed this to Facebook a few weeks ago:

Was that what the family meant? Probably not. In fact, many of my friends pointed out the flaw in my logic.

And that’s the moment I realized I’d fallen in the same trap. By focusing on my differences, I had a hard time realizing that not everyone is focused on that. Not everyone is out there, thinking about the fact that I look Asian. Of course it’s going to be something they notice, but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be obsessed with it, or even given it a second thought.

Which means I shouldn’t either. I prefer living a life where I assume the best of people, rather than the worst.

Monday, April 11, 2016

How We Obtained the K1 Fiancee Visa: Part 2

For those of you who missed the party, here’s the link to Part 1

After several months of waiting, we finally got approval from the USCIS for my petition for my fiancée to apply for a K1 Fiancée Visa.

Next step was filing out the next bundle of paperwork.

Hubby had to fill out:

  • Form DS-160
  • Birth Certificate
  • Police certificate from Bolivia and Spain
  • Medical Examination (including up-to-date vaccinations)
  • Affidavit for support (someone to help them out when they first arrive)
  • Evidence of relationship with fiancée
  • Fee (because, of course, you need to pay money)

It took a while to collect everything, especially since we were living in Madrid, and most of the documents we needed were in Bolivia. Trying to coordinate between Spain, Bolivia and United States was quite a headache.

Another issue we dealt with was the expectation of US vaccinations vs other countries. Hubby had to get revaccinated, and receive even more when he finally entered the US. 

With the evidence of a relationship, we had to prove we’d actually met each other and spent time together. We sent copies of confirmations of my plane tickets to Madrid, and we had to send copies of pictures of the two of us, time stamped, with different dates.

Once we sent all of that paperwork in, we had to wait several months before getting a response. To get the final approval, we both had to go into the embassy for interviews.

I know what you’re thinking. Forget everything you saw in The Proposal. The interviews were nothing like that. We had to go up to a window, in public, and talk through the glass. I had to again prove I’m from the US, and to prove our relationship was legitimate. We weren’t asked obscure questions. They basically asked the same information we’d already given in all the paperwork. They interviewed hubby in the same way.

Then we had to wait, again, for them to send the visa through the mail. This part seemed the longest because we were running against the clock. We finally got the visa two days before we flew to the US.

Before entering the US, before getting onto the plane, they went through the paperwork, in the airport. That was quite stressful, because we only had a half-hour layover in Ireland, and I was worried we wouldn’t make the flight. But they just wanted to make sure everything was in order and stamped and approved.

Once we arrived in the US, we had 90 days to get married. Since we weren’t even sure if we’d get the approval we wanted, it was a quick, crazy few months, planning everything out.

But it worked out in the end.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Patients That Changed My Life: Kathy

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 issues, I won’t use real names, but I want to tell you their stories. To read about previous patients, click here.

Back when I was younger, I had a best friend who died of cancer. To commemorate her memory, every two years, in August/September, I donate 12 inches of hair. I’ve been doing this for years. (Actually, this year will be the 8th time I do it)



I’ve never really thought too much about the recipients of my donation until a few years back. I had a new patient, Kathy. She had terminal brain cancer, and it took us several weeks to get a routine. Part of the difficulty was that because of the tumor in her brain, her personality was wildly different every time I worked with her. We both became frustrated: her because she wanted to do things the way she used to, and me, because I wanted to take care of her, and she kept trying to get out of bed and falling.

But once we got used to each other, and once we began to learn to trust one another, we developed a very strong friendship. She and I would talk at night, when I was done with my med pass, and I would go in to check on her often, especially since she was a fall risk.

One night, after I helped her, I turned around to close the bathroom door, and she commented on my hair. She said it was beautiful, and she wished that she had hair like it. She’d recently shaved her head, and was very self-conscious about it. It was an off-handed comment, one that I’m sure didn’t mean more than a compliment, but it made me stop to think.

For years, I’d been donating my hair to complete strangers, people who I’d never actually met. I started to consider donating my hair to her, as a token of our friendship. Before I had the chance, she ended up passing away, peacefully in her sleep.

She was a special woman, one who made me stop to consider the people I’d been serving without thinking. I’d been donating my hair in memory of my childhood friend, but now, I also remember Kathy, the patient whose entire life had been affected by her disease. A woman who wanted to feel beautiful again, even if she was, at least in my eyes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why I Need Writing Partners

Two months ago, I made a deal with my writing partners. We were all at LTUE, and after hearing different conversations about the importance of writing groups and writing partners, we realized we needed to do more. As we were driving home, we made a deal with one another. We all set a realistic goal to finish by April 1st, the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo.

After that, we met twice a week to write and work on our goals.

Now I’ve never really had writing partners like this. I’ve had beta readers, and I love them to death, but this is totally different. These are people who know me, my writing style, and my story intimately. I can ask them advice on literally anything in the writing process, and I hope they feel the same way with me. I can’t even count the number of roadblocks they’ve helped me get through.
Plus, it’s fun to have someone who understands my crazy brain.

A few weeks ago, I got a random text from one of my writing partners. She knows how much I love fairy tale retellings, and all she wrote was: What if Cinderella is a code name for an arsonist? That one question led to an hour-long discussion on a possible story from that idea.

A few nights ago, as I was mulling over a story idea, I found a shoe brand called the Golden Goose, which was exactly what the story needed. I was so excited, I immediately wrote both of my writing partners and we started talking about story ideas again.

So how did I do on my goal? I was enthused, and excited to work on my rewrite. I added a whole lot of stuff, and I ended up increasing the word count from 75,000 to 111,000. I was kind of shocked by how much I was able to accomplish, and I finished before my April 1 deadline. 

Final word count on 3/26

I’ve got to say, having writing partners makes the whole process much more fun, and definitely more enjoyable!

Monday, April 4, 2016

How We Obtained the K1 Fiancee Visa: Part 1

I met hubby when I was living in Spain. We dated for six months and a few months before I went home for the summer, we started talking about getting married. We decided to do it in Madrid because his family was already there, and it’s easier for my American family to travel to Spain than it is for his Bolivian family to get visas to enter the US.

The more we researched, the more we realized that a K1 Fiancee visa was a much better option than a K3, or nonimmigrant visa. Here’s the main differences:

K1 (Fiancee):

  •     This is when an American citizen marries a non-American citizen in the United States, but the fiancée cannot already be living in the United States
  •     All paperwork must be filed and approved before the marriage takes place
  •     Wait time (this was back in 2008) 6-12 months
  •     Work permit within 90 days, temporary green card within a year

K3 (Nonimigrant):

  •      This is when an American citizen marries a non-American citizen outside of the United States
  •      All of the paperwork must be filed after the marriage takes place
  •      Wait time (back in 2008) was 12-18 months until the visa is obtained, the spouse cannot move to the US
  •      It also takes longer to get a work visa/permit and a green card

Once we decided on the K1 Visa, the first step was for me to file a petition. This was the part that confused us the most. I thought we were filling paperwork for hubby’s visa. Before that could happen, I needed to prove that as his fiancée, I was an American citizen and petition the government for permission for my fiancée to apply for a visa.

Sounds pretty easy, right? I’ve been a citizen my entire life. But along with a 6 page form, called the I-129F, I also needed proof of citizenship. Notarized birth certificate, social security card, background check, all sorts of stuff. Along with all of that, I needed to give evidence that my hubby and I were planning to get married. We were told a receipt for the engagement ring is usually what most people use.

The problem?

He hadn’t proposed yet.

What I didn’t know was that he’d ordered my ring from Bolivia, and because of blocks on packages in and out of the country, even though he ordered it in July, it didn’t arrive in Madrid until December.

We started the paperwork in August because we wanted the visa by that spring. Fortunately, I had my wedding dress because I wanted to get it while I was in the US for the summer. So we used the receipt for my dress and the reservation for our wedding.

Once we collected all of that info (which was difficult, considering I wasn’t in the country), we sent it in. We finished it all in September.

After that, we waited for several months.

Part 2 coming next week!

Friday, April 1, 2016

I Work in Skilled Nursing

I’m a nurse. I went to a prestigious school, and I studied international nursing in Madrid for two years. I have my bachelor’s degree, which means after my name, I have the letters RN, BSN.

I work also work in a nursing home.

For the majority of my nursing career, every time I mention work, most people assume I work in a hospital. Don’t get me wrong, hospitals are great, but that’s never been my ideal work environment. From a young age, I’ve wanted to work in geriatrics. Unfortunately, geriatrics has a very bad stigma associated with it, with old people and dying and the smells…

In my graduating class of almost 300, I think I was one of three or four total who wanted to work geriatrics. The majority always wanted to work in pediatrics.

And I think that’s very admirable. There are many pediatric positions available, and children who need to be cared for. I know I could never do it. The pediatric rotation of clinicals was one of the worst I’d ever endured, just because I don’t like being around kids who are sick. It breaks my heart.

I like geriatrics. They’re often neglected, because people think they’ve already lived their lives. Children don’t visit as often, they’re all busy with their own lives. In my mind, the elderly have lived long lives, and they need someone to share their stories with before they pass.

The other reason why I love nursing homes (more commonly known as skilled nursing) is because of the revolving door. When I did clinicals in the hospital, I would see a patient once, maybe twice. Then they would go home, or go to a skilled nursing, or a TCU to finish their care. I kept them alive, I took care of them for a day or two, but that was it. In skilled nursing, I see my patients every single day. I get to know them well enough that I can see when there’s a change. I can see if they’re eating less than normal, or if they’re more tired, more confused. I can see the subtle differences that can prevent something more serious.

I like having the same patients for more than two or three days. And I love being the person who gets to hear their stories, and make them feel loved at the end of their lives. It makes me feel like I’m doing more than just covering a wound. I’m healing.