Monday, January 30, 2017

One Day at a Time

Years ago, back when my husband and I first got married, we spoke Spanish at home. We met in Spain, and we spoke Spanish over there. In fact, he was the one who taught me Spanish. So it seemed natural to keep speaking Spanish once we came to the US.

Hubby started taking ESL classes through the community, but even with that, it seemed like his grasp of the language was very slow. He was having a hard time adjusting to the new culture, and even finding a job. We went to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving, and she gave us advice that really changed our lives.

She told us to speak English at home. We’d tried before, but I became impatient with him, because he couldn’t express himself well. He also found it easier to switch to Spanish if he couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. We told her that it was too hard to just switch to English.

Her response was:

Just do it for one day. For one day speak English at home. And when you’ve done it that day, then do it the next day. Take it one day at a time until it becomes natural.

We were a little skeptical, but we decided to try it. She’s a very wise woman, and we wouldn’t lose anything by at least trying. We tried for one day. It was a long, exhausting and frustrating day, but we got through it. At the end of that day, we realized that we’d spoken only English for one day. Then we tried the next day. We spoke English for the second day, reminding ourselves that it was one day at a time.

After a few weeks of our ‘one day at a time,’ Hubby started to have amazing progress in his English class. Suddenly, he started shooting through the levels, passing the tests, until he took the TOEFL. (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and did well. Six months later, he was attending classes at the community college, and then a year and a half after that, he transferred to a university.

It was amazing to see the results of one day at a time. It was work, and yes, it got frustrating, but we worked through it. Baby steps sometimes makes a huge difference.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

NaNoWriMo Research

One of the reasons why I love writing is because I get to learn about so many different things. Research is a real thing, and I feel that the more I write, the more I get to learn. Last November, for NaNoWriMo, I had three separate books planned, which mean that in October, I was in full-blown research mode. Here’s just a few things that I got to research while I was preparing for NaNoWriMo:

Prosthetics (focusing on climbing prosthetics and materials)

How to play poker

Origin of Gargoyles

Native American Smoke Signals

Hunting techniques of foxes

How to escape quicksand

Types of screwdrivers

The Walking Dead TV show

Popular Bing Crosby songs

Pearl Diving



Climbing Competitions

It’s so much fun to research, and even more fun when you’re able to apply it into your writing. I’ve fallen down several black holes of research where I find such random and wonderful things to learn.
What are some of the things that you’ve had to research for writing recently?

Monday, January 23, 2017

TV Accents

I’m a huge fan of crime shows. I love getting into the heads of the criminals, and trying to see if I can figure it out for myself. Usually, I can’t solve the crime, and a lot of small details fly over my head, but I love watching it come together.

Another reason is because they bring in so many supporting characters. There’s always a new criminal, a new murder, which means a new list of suspects and family members. The other day, I was watching Criminal Minds, one of my favorite shows, and they were investigating a serial killer who was following migrant workers. The entire camp of workers was Spanish speaking, and several required a translator so that the agents could question them.

Then they questioned the suspect’s brother. He was an older man, Mexican, but as I was listening to the interrogation, something stuck out to me. The man’s accent was almost non-existent. Every once in a while, it would come out, but for the majority of the time, he spoke clearly, in full, English sentences, without hesitating, and with confidence.

Now, I’m not saying that that’s impossible, but I have several friends who are Latino. My hubby’s from Bolivia, and he still has a super thick accent, eight years after coming to the United States. And he speaks English fairly well. He’s almost got his bachelor’s degree, so he’s in an English speaking environment almost all of the time. Yet there are still times when I struggle to know what word he just said, and there are times when he doesn’t find the exact right word to express himself.

When he’s nervous, his accent gets even thicker. He struggles to think, just like anyone in a stressful environment. So for me, watching this Mexican immigrant, who lives in a purely Spanish speaking community, speaking full, completely, barely-accented sentences in a different language, while under investigation of the FIB, I didn’t believe it. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Communicating with the Doctor

As many of you know, about six months ago, I made a transition in my career. I’ve loved geriatrics, but I started to feel like I needed to try new things, and push myself as a nurse. It’s been quite a transition, and I’m pleased to say that I’m starting to feel like I’ve got my own pace now, and things are great.

What’s been most fascinating is the transition from thinking like a long-term nurse to thinking like a hospital nurse. There’s still a few habits that I need to drop, but I’m definitely doing better.
One of the biggest adjustments has been my relationship with doctors.

In skilled nursing, your patients are fairly stable. Even those who are on the TCU or rehab side of things, they aren’t critical. You’re not going to be doing blood draws on them every day, and you aren’t going to be monitoring for a catastrophe. You’re really in the mindset of reporting any abnormalities. Along the same lines, most of the patients in a skilled facility are going to be the patients of the same doctor. One who usually has several other jobs, which tend to take priority. The biggest decision a nurse can make is:

Is this worth bothering a doctor for?

Usually, the answer is no. Especially when you’re working night shift. Even then, I’ve worked in enough facilities that I’ve had multiple doctors give us the instructions that anything he needs to be contacted about should be given to him in bulk. A patient wants eye drops? Hopefully you can wait until the doctor comes in… in three or four days. Patient’s weight fluctuating? Well, the doctor will be in on Wednesday. Hopefully they don’t lose too much more. We’ve had doctors request that we don’t call them for anything, except an emergency, and even when a patient dies, half of the time, we can’t get a hold of their doctor.

In the hospital, that’s not how things work. You’re always communicating with the doctor. If you’re wondering if you should report something to the doctor, you’d better stop wondering and just report it. Any small changes could be an indication of something bigger. Suddenly, I have doctors actually asking me about a patient, asking their latest labs, their vitals, how much they ate, things that they need to know to make sure the patient can heal enough to get back home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Christmas Hallmark Cliches

December is over, which means that with Christmas, we’re now done with the Hallmark holiday movies. I can’t be the only one who binge watches those over December. Hubby thinks that it’s hilarious, since I hate the terrible dialogue and obvious plot holes, but it’s like I can’t look away. I get frustrated by the story, but I want to keep with the ‘feel good’ experience.

That being said, there’s definitely been several clichés that I’ve noticed pop up in various movies, so I thought I’d share my top Christmas movie clichés with all of you.

1.       Santa’s helper, or the angel, or random person who interferes with a person’s life without any warning at all. Or explanation.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would be really annoyed with some random person if they suddenly turned my life back ten years, or forced me to relive a day over and over until I finally got the Christmas message. I mean, who gives them the power to decide that this person needs to learn a lesson? It almost makes me think of Krampus, the evil elf, who comes and punishes children who were naughty. Just let them learn the lessons on their own!

2.       Everyone is in a broken and irreparable relationship.

Holidays are apparently for finding love, but there’s no way to do that if you’re already in a relationship! So cue the controlling, domineering boyfriend, or the clingy, over the top girlfriend, just ripe for dumping! And why would you want to dump him/her? Because the love of your life is just around the Christmas corner. I mean, I get that the holidays aren’t fun to spend on your own, but seriously, why is everyone is such a bad relationship in December? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

3.       The workaholic, focused-on-her-career woman who just needs to understand that love is around the corner.

And obviously, she should stop focusing on her career because that’s not within the Christmas spirit. It always seems that there’s a story focused on a woman whose boss is over the top and forces her to work Christmas with the promise of a promotion if she just gets this one thing done. And of course, it can’t wait until the holidays. Enter the love interest who shows her that a career isn’t everything. In fact, it’s probably not important at all. Cue the happy Christmas music. I actually yelled at a movie because a woman chose to completely leave her job because she could have a family. Why can’t you do both?

4.       Insta-love. Boy meets girl, boy and girl have an amazing night together, and now their lives are intertwined for forever.

I’m not a fan of insta-love in general. The holidays are short. Three, four weeks max? That’s not enough time to decide that you’re destined to be together. Maybe you should spend some time… I don’t know… when you’re not hopped up on candy cane sugar? Real relationships are about compromise, and dealing with the world, not avoiding it because it’s Christmas. Once the lights are put away, and the songs in the department stores are back to normal, the magic could wear off. Then you’re back where you started, in that broken, irreparable relationship that only blossoms in the Christmas season.

So those are my top clichés for Christmas movies. And don’t get me wrong, I still love them, even though I don’t always know why. What are your top clichés for Christmas movies? 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Watching Gender Inequality

I feel like we hear a lot about gender equality. How women deserve to be equal to men, how they deserve equal wage, or better job opportunities. I’m definitely not one who’s against gender equality, but I guess I’ve never really been a recipient of inequality. Not enough to make me sit up and notice.

But a few months ago, I went to two banquets with hubby. They were back to back, and both for soccer leagues. Hubby played in the men’s soccer league and he coached one of the girls’ soccer teams, which meant that he was invited to both.

The first banquet was for the men. It was in a very nice, beautiful dining area of the school, where there were matching dishes, and plenty of chairs for all the players and their spouses if they had any. An hour later, we ran across campus for the women’s banquet, which was in a crowded gym, and they had to cram as many people as they could around a table, since there wasn’t space. And my husband’s friend (another coach) had to find a chair because they didn’t have any.

At the men’s banquet, they had a microphone, and they had the sports chairperson talk to them, and answer any questions they had about future seasons, and the future of soccer. During the women’s banquet, they didn’t have anything to cut out the noise, so the assistant chairperson had to shout, and she didn’t open it up for questions, probably because she wouldn’t have been able to hear them even if she did.

At the men’s banquet, they had trophies for the top six players and the MVP, all engraved with their name and their award. At the women’s banquet, the top six players and MVP were all awarded mini-soccer balls with their name written with sharpie on it. And they weren’t even brought up to the front and awarded it, the balls were thrown to them.

As an outsider, it was astounding to watch. I wasn’t in the girl’s league, or in the boy’s league, but I was one of the only people that went to the banquet for both. None of them knew the difference. The girls seemed excited to be celebrating together, and were happy with the general experience, but that may be because they didn’t know what had happened an hour earlier. For the first time, I actually saw the gender inequality that I’d heard about so much. It’s so easy to live in ignorant bliss of what you’re missing out when no one tells you what the other side is getting. And it’s so easy to believe the others are getting the same thing as you when no one talks about it. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Patients that Changed My Life: Donna

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.

This patient was back before I became a nurse, when I was a CNA working in an assisted living. Assisted livings aren’t nursing homes, they’re mostly for people who need a little bit of assistance but can mostly survive on their own. As patients grow weaker, or sicker, they move to nursing homes.

I didn’t really understand the nuances or differences. In an Assisted Living, you’re supposed to encourage them to be independent for as long as possible. One of my patients, Donna, had early onset Parkinson’s, and she had a difficult time eating. For those of you who work in the medical field, and especially in long care, you know that we have all sorts of tools to help people like Donna. There’s the weighted silverware, which makes it so that the tremors are more offset, there’s the lip plates, which are almost like bowls, so that you don’t have to scoop the food, you can push it against the lip, and there’s nosey cups, which makes it so you don’t have to tip the cup back so far. There’s obviously much more than that, but those are the basics that I’ve seen used.

Now Donna had been working with different therapies, and she had weighted silverware and a lip plates, but even with that, she would spill food all over the place because of her tremors. She sat at a table with three other women, and I noticed that after a while, she stopped eating. She was so embarrassed by the fact that she made a mess that she refused to eat.

I served them their food every day, and we all noticed as she became more frail and weak. Finally, one of her tablemates asked me if I would be willing to feed her. Of course, I said yes, and I sat down with her, and she was able to eat almost half of her meal, which was more than she’d eaten in weeks. 

Later that week, I heard one of the other CNAs talking about it, and how Donna was now dependent on someone to feed her, and that if I hadn’t done it the first time, she would have done it on her own.
It kind of broke my heart to hear that. In a therapy standpoint, and looking back at it, yes, she probably would have kept trying at least a little more, but the fact was that she would wait until the dining room was cleared to even try. And by that point, the CNAs were eager to clean up so they could get on with their next chores. She always felt rushed, and she was so embarrassed that she put aside her own health, her own needs so that she wouldn’t annoy the people around her.

I started bringing snacks to her, little things that she could eat without using silverware. Now I know that they’re called finger foods, and I worked in a facility that actually had that as an option for those who had a hard time using silverware. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it in any other facility that I’ve worked in. It’s an inconvenience for the kitchen to prepare a meal purely of finger foods, even if it makes it so that the patient is able to eat better.

It’s still hard for me to see patients who struggle to eat, or healthcare providers who are so busy looking at the bottom line or the health side of things to realize when dignity is being compromised.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Giveaway with Valerie Bodden

Hey everyone! I want to introduce you to my wonderful critique partner, Valerie Bodden, who just barely signed with Jane Dystel of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret!

Hey Valerie! Let’s start off with a generic question. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

That should be an easy one, right? But somehow, it never is! Let’s see. I’ve been writing children’s nonfiction for the school and library market for 12 years now and have written more than 200 books about everything from history and biography to bugs and roller coasters. I’m also a mom of four and a wife. So busy times – but I love it!

I love that you write children’s nonfiction! How did you get into that market?

I always loved writing both fiction and nonfiction, but I actually kind of stumbled into the nonfiction market when my husband and I were newly married. There happened to be several publishing houses in the area, so I decided it was time to go for my dream of being a writer/editor. I will always be grateful to that publisher (Creative Education, which I still write for) for giving me my first chance in publishing.

You’ve been doing nonfiction for quite a while then. What’s the biggest difference you find between that and writing fiction?

Both offer their own rewards and challenges, but I think the biggest difference lies in voice and intent. With my nonfiction, I’m working to present facts in a compelling manner that will keep readers interested, without ever losing site of the information I’m relating. But in fiction, even though there’s still plenty of research to do, I want the facts to be woven in so seamlessly that readers don’t even notice them. That, and the fact that I can completely make things up in fiction, of course.

Tell us about the book that you’re hoping to publish.

It’s called DROWNING IN AIR, and it’s a young adult contemporary novel told from dual point of view. Calli is a swimmer trying to do everything while taking care of her dying mom. Noah is a heart-transplant survivor taking risks to prove his life isn’t some cosmic mistake. I think the story is a little bit heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful, and I hope it shows that sometimes our greatest strength comes in making ourselves vulnerable to others.

How long did it take you to write and revise before you started querying?

I started this novel for NaNoWriMo 2014 – my first NaNoWriMo! I finished the first draft by early 2015. Then I set the book aside as I was swallowed with nonfiction deadlines. I came back to it in the summer to revise, and somewhere during that time, you read it and gave me great feedback (including keeping me from making a really embarrassing mistake about heart monitors!) and I revised again. By early 2016, I thought I was ready to query, so I sent out a small batch but then got sidetracked again by deadlines. The first queries didn’t result in an offer, but based on feedback, I did another revision this past summer. By fall, I was ready to query again, especially after polishing my query letter and first 250 words in the Nightmare on Query Street contest. So about two years, on and off.

I was so excited when you had me read through it! I thought you did such a great job of showing teenagers trying to figure themselves out, especially when they have to deal with illness too.

Thank you!

Did you base it off real experiences, or were your characters inspired by someone you know?

Fortunately, I have not personally gone through the struggles my characters face. But I’ve known teens who have cared for sick parents, sometimes without much help. So that really sparked Calli’s storyline. And Noah’s storyline occurred to me when my daughter’s class made gifts for a young boy with cancer from another school. I started wondering what that boy would be like when he grew up – how does a childhood illness like that impact the rest of a person’s life? And what would happen if they ever met? Of course, I took those initial seeds and expanded them into something completely different and unrecognizable, but that’s how it all started.

I’m so excited that Noah and Calli’s story is going to be out there! How did you react when you finally got an offer for representation?

Thank you! Reading that email took my breath away. And only my preschooler was home to confirm that the email really said what I thought it said. I kept telling her I couldn’t believe this was happening. Fortunately, she just went along with it, giving me big smiles and nods, like Mommy acted like this every day. After I talked on the phone with my agent (which still feels a bit surreal to write) it took a while for everything to sink in – I mean, like days. But then my family took me out to dinner to celebrate and that made it feel a bit more real. It’s been really fun to see how excited my kids are about it. I didn’t think it would matter much to them, but they’re so happy for me, which is sweet!

So I guess the biggest questions is: How do you find time to write with four kids?

Haha! I do a lot of juggling around naptime, bedtime, and any time I have to take them to practice or somewhere I’ll be waiting a while. Plus, my husband is incredibly supportive and takes care of things around here as much as possible when he’s home so that I can have time to write. It’s gotten easier in the past year or so with my daughter in preschool part time, but it’s still a challenge. Fortunately, I love what I do, so that makes it worth the missed sleep.

I’m glad, because you definitely wrote something I think a lot of people are going to love!

Aw, thank you! I hope so!

Congratulations on finding your agent! I hope we hear more good news in the near future!

Thanks so much Krista! You’re the best.

And it looks like you have something planned to celebrate too, right?

Sure do! I was helped by so many people in making my query and manuscript shine, and I’d love to do the same for someone else. So I’m giving away a query and first 10 pages critique to one lucky winner.

I can speak from experience. Your critiques are fantastic!

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Krista! I’ve had so much fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Our Lucky Winner is Megan Cutler! We'll be sending you an email with the specifics! Thanks to everyone who participated! 

Valerie Bodden is the author of more than 200 children’s books. Her books have received favorable reviews from Booklist, Children’s Literature, Foreword Magazine, Horn Book Guide, VOYA, and School Library Journal. Valerie lives in Wisconsin with her husband, four children, one dog, two cats, a growing collection of fish, and miscellaneous bugs that her children have ‘rescued’ from the outdoors. She spends most of her time writing or wrangling children and animals. Visit her online at

Monday, January 9, 2017

Moana: Portraying Culture

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to see Moana, the new Disney movie. I was excited to see it, mostly because I’d read so many articles from different people of the Polynesian culture who had spoken for and against it. I was curious to see how the culture was portrayed, and if the characters would feel natural, not forced.

I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not going to talk about the storyline, since that’s a completely different thing, but I’m going to talk about the culture, and Moana herself.

I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously, I’m not from the Polynesian culture, and so I can’t speak from firsthand experience, but I thought that they did a really good job of showing a new culture. Showing one that has history and background, and not making it feel like it was a anthropologic study of the culture. They had music, and food and even a portrayal of death, which I thought was fascinating.

It’s so amazing for me to see that portrayed in a movie, especially one for children, since it shows them that people come in all shapes and sizes. They all still have families and hopes and dreams. Counting through the Disney movies, there aren’t that many that portray non-European cultures, but there’s definitely been an increase over the past decade.

I’m excited to see what the next decade of movies brings. I want to keep seeing more and more cultures represented, so that my children know their stories, and understand the importance of accepting everyone.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Goals

 It’s a new year, which means that everyone is focusing on their goals for 2017. For me, I try and look at different aspects of my life, and make a goal for each one.

With writing, last year, I wrote out specific goals, setting deadlines for each, and I’ve got to admit that it really helped me stay on track. This year, I’ve done the same, giving myself deadlines and dates to finish different edits/rewrites and outlines. I’m super excited for this year!

Last year, I fell short of my reading goal. I read 33 published novels, and 3 unpublished. But that’s okay, because I have another year to try again! This year, I’m hoping to reach my goal of 45 novels.

Besides a few personal goals, my other big one is to learn how to play the organ at least decently. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while, and I decided that this year is my year.

So how about the rest of you? Any exciting goals for 2017?