Excuse me, where did the time go?

I was expecting summer semester to be a real drag, due to the most difficult classes in the BSN course being in 7th semester.  Community Health, Mental Health, OB.  With the 5-week Neuroscience Trends class thrown on as the cherry on top.  SURPRISE.  It flew by, but not in an enjoyable roller coaster sort of way.  I find it ironic that Mental Health has contributed to the decline of my own mental health.

However, clinicals this semester have been truly rewarding, so I suppose I should be grateful in that aspect.  From teaching health education classes at the Y to working at Mercy’s Help Center to observing a C-section IN the operating room… my perspective on life has definitely shifted.  Nursing is all about community and support, y’all.  =)

In between classes, seminars, clinicals, and studying, I’ve actually had time to read a few more books!  Two of which I’d like to recommend to those of you who are avid readers who want to expand your to-read lists on Goodreads.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
(Sy Montgomery, published 2015)
In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
(Anne Fadiman, published 1997)
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia’s parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest, and the Salon Book Award, Anne Fadiman’s compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest. The current edition, published for the book’s fifteenth anniversary, includes a new afterword by the author that provides updates on the major characters along with reflections on how they have changed Fadiman’s life and attitudes.

Aside from reading, I figured out how to mod Sims 4 into a more enjoyable game.  I HIGHLY recommend MC Command Center, if nothing else.  Sims 4 does not have story progression enabled for the neighborhoods, but you can set autonomy and progression with MC Command Center, which makes the neighborhoods a bit more exciting and interactive.  I also added a few more mods before crashing the game, which is my sole goal when it comes to modding.  Mod till it crashes.  Good times.

In other gaming ventures, I finally tried out Bioshock Remastered and was 101% unimpressed.  It’s shinier, but only marginally.  The only reason I have the remastered versions is because I owned all 3 previously.  After finishing Bioshock Remastered, I was like, well, ok, and moved onto Bioshock 2 Remastered.  I heard that it was buggy, but was not prepared for the massive amount of bugginess I encountered.  I’ve been crashing every 30 minutes despite using all the fixes I had up my sleeve.  Not cool.  Would not recommend to anyone.  On Steam, the original Bioshock 1&2 come with the remastered versions.  Don’t even bother downloading them.  *apathetic shrug*

No other updates, Mercy College owns me right now.  See ya.

– J

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June Update

Where do I even begin?

Life keeps speeding along, and I often feel like I’m stumbling along a few feet behind.  I’m watching friends getting married, having babes, finishing degrees, traveling, and accomplishing amazing things – and I can totally understand why social media often has a detrimental effect on your mental health.  I’m usually content wherever I’m at, but sometimes it feels like I’m working my ass off and getting nowhere.  Comparing your life with other people’s lives is a risky undertaking.  0.5/10… do not recommend.

Nursing School:  Somehow I managed to pass spring semester (6th) – I thought I would be saying farewell to med-surg FOREVER, but found out that we have Advanced Med-Surg Concepts & Practice next semester (8th, and final).  Cue sobbing.  I would brush up on arterial blood gases, metabolic imbalances, and lab values, but summer semester (7th) has been brutal thus far.

OB is alright – I know far too much about pregnancy, birth, and newborns now.  If I ever had even an inkling of “baby fever”, it’s gone now.  Mom/baby clinical was quite an experience – instead of assessment/cares on one mom and baby, I had one mom and TWO babies.  Absolute chaos.  Adorable and rewarding chaos, yeah, but still chaos.  Up next… labor and delivery.  Hopefully I can keep my cool and not faint during a C-section or vaginal birth.  I have a chill demeanor, and would rather my dignity and reputation not be compromised by having to sit on the floor.  Give me blood, guts, and bodily excretions, but in the context of childbirth or blood banks I AM A TOTAL WIMP.  Moving on.

I originally thought mental health would be a relatively easy class, since I am in possession of multiple mental disorders.  Turns out personal experiences do not always translate well into professional practice.  I know you’re thinking, “Duh, Jo,” but hey, my optimism and ambition got the better of me.  All three tests so far have been solid Cs.  Despite hours of studying I haven’t managed to score above 80%.

Community health is surprisingly difficult.  45 hours of clinical, 45 hours of simulation/seminars/activities.  +3 hours of class/week.  I found that I enjoy teaching at the Y (whaaaat) – as many of you know, I try to be a strong advocate for vulnerable populations, so being able to interact with them was an eye-opening and rewarding experience.

Neuroscience Trends is a 5-week class that began last week.  I find the content immensely interesting, but with the heavy course load this semester, I’m not enjoying it as much as I would have otherwise.

I took the mental health HESI today and scored 905 (Mercy benchmark is 750, national benchmark is 900, I believe).  The school has a new policy where we have to complete a growth plan after HESI version 1 even if we pass it the first time.  MORE WORK.  OB HESI is next week… w00t!

That about sums up school.  School is 95% of my life right now, so if you’re expecting any other updates, prepare to be disappointed.

Books:  There is an amazing book club in Des Moines led by the fabulous Sherry Borzo that I try to participate in – usually I read the book and fail to show up at meetings because, well, school.  For May, they chose Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life.  I remember reading this book when I was newly diagnosed as having bipolar type 2, and it helped me realize that I wasn’t alone, and that other people struggle with the same disease and still have decent lives.  It’s a tough read, but also excellent in its depiction of one person’s fight to survive.

Sherry managed to contact Hornbacher and invited her to participate in a Facetime session with the book club.  I squeezed it into my schedule, and was fangirling the whole time Sherry was asking Marya the questions that were submitted.  Sherry is absolutely amazing, and invited me to come to the front and talk with Marya.  I was able to express my gratitude towards Marya and let her know how she affected my life.  There was a bit of knees knocking together and facial flushing.  I will NEVER forget the experience.  =)  So Sherry, if you happen to read this, thank you for giving me this opportunity.

In Other News: I’ve started journaling on paper again.  Highly recommend.  Blogging is great for refining my writing, but I feel more comfortable jotting down intimate thoughts and random vents in a (mostly) private book.  Two reasons everyone should do it: you feel a sense of relief once you scribble everything out, and it helps you see trends in your thoughts and behaviors that you would be oblivious to otherwise.

Well, I suppose that’s it for now.  I hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable summer!

– J

Aftermath

As someone who straddles the divide between white and Asian, I never really considered the implications of not being 100% Caucasian.  Sure, there was that racist parent in high school who wouldn’t let me stay in rooms by myself because she thought I was Hispanic (like that makes it better), and a few hurtful remarks over the years about my skin color and assumed heritage, but overall, I’ve been fairly well off.  My white privilege, borne of being raised in a primarily Caucasian family, was something I never quite understood until I was in my mid-twenties.

I used to be painfully shy – afraid of eye contact, afraid of confrontation, afraid of speaking my mind.  An unexpected effect of nursing school was that I began to grow a backbone and a conscience.  The embers of my passion for downtrodden people slowly flickered into a flame.  Advocacy has been heavily emphasized over the last 3 years, and I dabbled in volunteer work and establishing relationships with refugee families and members of other vulnerable populations.

As nursing school progressed, I began to realize that micro-aggressions towards POC and LGBTQIA individuals were happening all around me.  My tiny flame was fanned by my friends and my passion to “save” humanity (thanks, Mass Effect).  In servant leadership, we studied the words and actions of MLK, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many others.  I soon realized that my inaction was just as harmful as the aggressive actions taken by others.  So I began to advocate.  Small conversations here and there.  Big conversations elsewhere.  Questioning Facebook posts that I attempted to instill with as much love and dignity as I could.  I responded to ridicule and arguments with kindness.  I opened my mind and used compassion to see what others were seeing.  I paid more attention to the news, and learned how to debate intelligently.

As of tonight, I am no longer an idealist.  And I am acutely aware of the color of my skin, and the troubled past my culture has had in America.  In no way does this compare with the oppression and cruelty that the black culture has gone through in the last few hundred years, but I think I have managed to understand an inkling.

It hurts.

It is lonely.

It feels hopeless.

I cried – sadness and horror mingled.  How can humans treat each other in this way?  How can we ever heal?

It makes me angry.  For myself, and on the behalf of vulnerable populations around the globe.  I can understand why the rift between cultures is so large.  We are broken people.  Unable to accept differences because we feel threatened by them.  Righteous anger is not the only type of anger.  While I was trying to moderate the discussion, I could feel raw fury welling up from a deep part of myself.  I could have said something hurtful, thrown insults, mocked beliefs.  In a split second, I would have undone everything I have said up till this point about love.  Sometimes people are pushed to the brink and cannot hold their pain any longer, and animosity between groups of people grows.

To heal this country and to “Make America Great Again”, we need to love.  Have meals with each other.  Understand why people feel pain.  Acknowledge the horrible past America has.  Learn more about other cultures.  Appreciate our differences.  Advocate for one another.  Be a voice for the voiceless.  Acknowledge those who are brave enough to take a stance, despite strong opposition.  Lift others up.  Support noble causes.  The small actions we take will one day turn into a force to be reckoned with.

Don’t give up.  I promise I won’t.

Weekend Musings

Hey hey!  I haven’t forgotten about my blog.  😉  School + work = utter chaos.

Musing #1.
After sitting at a C- in my med-surg class for weeks, I finally boosted my grade by passing version two of the medical surgical HESI.  For anyone who is preparing for nursing school or HESIs, I’d like to recommend a few resources.

1)  RegisteredNurseRNshe has a Youtube channel and a website.  Both are full of excellent (and most importantly, FREE!) resources, and she explains concepts in a way that is neither condescending nor overly complicated.  If I hadn’t found her tic-tac-toe method of assessing arterial blood gases, I probably would still be absolutely clueless.

2)  Davis’ Med-Surg Success: A Q&A Review, Applying Critical Thinking to Test Taking – currently available for $39.76 on Amazon.  I’m not sure whether it’s the latest edition, but it has been immensely helpful this semester.  Medical-surgical classes are ridiculously broad, so you really need to focus on the basics of patient safety and care to succeed.  This book provides you with hundreds of questions over a variety of topics, along with rationales and study tips.  Note: there are several mistakes, so double-check with your instructor and class content if something doesn’t seem quite right.

3)  Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination – $63.60 new, $39.99 used.  While it’s definitely not a replacement for your dependable med-surg textbook, it helps highlight interventions and stuff you NEED to know about different concepts, disease processes, and patient care.  Also, probably about 3lbs lighter than a typical med-surg book.

4)  Mosby’s Pharmacology Memory NoteCards: Visual, Mnemonic, & Memory Aids for Nurses – $21.35 on Amazon!  What a steal!  If you’re a visual learner, or adore mnemonics, this is a handy study guide for learning the most common medications.  Pharmacology is a pain in the you-know-what, this can make it easier, and dare I say… fun?

Musing #2.
As most of you know, I made the commitment to eat cleaner and be more active.  Guess what.  It’s not easy when you’re in nursing school.  You gotta have action along with intent.  Soooo… I made it simple for myself.  While looking up recipes, I consider the cost and simplicity, along with the nutritional content.  Fiber + fat + protein = happy Jo who isn’t starving half the time.  One of my favorites is a simple vegetarian tortilla casserole.  I know you’re probably thinking, “HEY, veggie dishes aren’t satisfying,” but seriously… this casserole is the bomb-diggity.  Plus, if you’re not a fan of some of the veggies, you can easily modify the recipe!  Corn tortillas, yellow squash, big ripe tomatoes, salsa con verde (I promise it’s not terribly spicy), mozzarella + parmesan, a pound of spinach… is your mouth watering yet?  One serving size is a full QUARTER of the casserole, and contains a mere 370 calories, while packing a punch as far as fiber (5g) and protein (14g) go.  I treat myself with a dollop of sour cream on top (full-fat, I’m a rebel)!

Musing #3.
The last couple months, I’ve intentionally pulled back from social activities and communications in an effort to focus on personal growth and academic ventures.  While certainly not a good long-term strategy, it has given me time to assess where I am at in life, and what I need to do to achieve my goals and sustain feelings of contentment, without any distractions.  I’ve realized that I possess more inner strength than I ever thought possible, and my emotions and feelings are valid – I don’t need to hide anything.  Struggles, ambitions, fears, hopes… it’s all in the open.

Musing #4.
My cat is the cutest cat in the whole world.  Just look at that face and adorable feet!

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Musing #5.
Despite struggling with insomnia for my entire adult life, I basically slept through Thursday and Friday.  Thursday, I dragged myself off of the futon at 5:30pm to hang out with a friend, then went back to bed around midnight.  Friday, I dozed till 2:30pm.  I’m on the struggle bus this semester, but our last final is a week from Monday!  Sadly, I missed the 2 nice days of the week.  Yesterday, various parts of Iowa had tornado warnings, thunderstorm warnings, and winter storm warnings.  C’mon spring, we don’t want to immediately skip to summer and sweltering hot days.  Enough with this 20-30 degree nonsense and intermittent snow.

I don’t know how to write a suitable conclusion for a blog, so… see you later, I guess?

[insert incredibly witty title]

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Last year, I acquired a 365-day, 5-year journal.  I ambitiously decided to chronicle my everyday life through stream of consciousness ramblings and observations.  Alas, one paragraph for each day was not adequate.  XANGA I MISS YOU COME BACK.

And so… this is my new space for musings, reviews, ideas, fitness journey, experiments in the kitchen, nursing school thoughts, and overall dispensary for anything I think about and want to share with family and friends.

Comprehensive March Update

Fitness
After a couple weeks of anxiety and dealing with big life changes, my weight reached an all-time high: 178.2 pounds.  Comparison:  In December 2016, I weighed a slight 110 pounds.  Neither of these weights are ideal.  I could attempt to shift the blame onto my under-active thyroid, no longer working 12-hour shifts at the hospital, or trying a variety of medications to deal with insomnia (weight gain is a fun side effect).  But that would take away the focus from what I need to do about it.

In the past, I tried quick fixes, smoothies and shakes, intense workout regimens, expensive programs, and 1,200 calorie restrictions.  Guess what?  They didn’t work long-term.  Instead of trying the same method over and over again, I’ve decided to go back to the basics and start slow.  Small changes build over time!  I set MyFitnessPal to 1,700 calories/day, and will be buying a new pair of running shoes tomorrow.  Weightlifting would be my preference, but is not financially feasible at the moment, nor safe with tendonitis in both wrists.  I used to love running, and I bet with some discipline and commitment, I could grow to enjoy it again.

Mental Health
I’ve always been an advocate for self-care, but it has always been a difficult aspect of my own life.  For a couple years, I felt ashamed that I needed medications to function.  Lately I’ve realized that the medications are a large part of what has gotten me to this point.  Lexapro, for anxiety.  Seroquel, for mood stability.  Restoril, for sleep.  I’ve even started joking about my “daily cocktail,” because really, it’s not a big deal.  My mental illnesses are not going to just disappear because I want them to, or because I try REALLY hard not to feel anxious or depressed.  Part of self-care will tie in with my fitness goals: I need to fuel my body with nutritious food, and partake in regular exercise to ward off anxiety and diminish insomnia.

Nursing School
924 days completed, and 278 days left of this hellacious experience.  Every day I wonder why I chose the bachelor’s program instead of starting with an associate’s.  TOO LATE NOW!  So far, I have passed my Fundamentals, Nutrition, Pharmacology, and Pediatric HESIs (helps predict likelihood of passing the NCLEX (licensure examination upon completion of nursing program (I like parentheses))).  I scored 779 on the Medical-Surgical HESI (benchmark at Mercy is 850), so I’ll be doing remediation over spring break in an effort to boost my score on version 2 of the HESI.

Nursing school has been going well so far – this semester has been the most difficult so far, and I hear that summer semester is going to be completely bonkers.  Last semester will be a breeze – just gotta hang in there for another 5 months.  Right now, I’m sitting at a C- in Nursing Concepts & Practice 320, which is worrisome, but I utilized most of my tax refund in the most responsible way possible – I bought three review textbooks, a critical thinking nursing textbook, and pharmacology memory notecards.  If at all possible, I’d like to keep my GPA above 3.0 so grad school can be an option.

If anyone intends on going to Mercy for nursing, I’ll gladly show you where all the best places to cry are.  =)

What I’m Reading
Judas Unchained (Peter F. Hamilton)
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (Jenny Lawson)
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Siddhartha Mukherjee)
Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)
Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)