1. What is your current profession? Why did you choose it?
RN, pediatric specialty. I love children with all my heart, and I’m a huge medical geek. I started out to be a pediatrician, figuring starting as a RN would give me a nice income through medical school and a good base. To quote a song from Broadway, though, “That’s how I got the calling, and it was bracing but enthralling.” I knew in my heart as soon as I did my pediatric rotation I was meant to be a nurse to children. I do pick up shifts with adults, especially those with disabilities, as needed to support myself, but pediatrics is my love. I’ve saved a couple of lives, something I try to be humble about, but the most rewarding part to me is walking through the door of an elementary school (where I’ve been full-time lately) and having children run to hug me just seeing me.
2. What evidence would you give for God’s existence?
I can’t convince someone who is bound and determined not to believe. But for me, it’s the tiny miracles. A healthy baby. Spring coming after a harsh Chicago winter. That sounds poetic, but I’m a writer; you’ll have to indulge me. It’s in the medical miracles. The things that we cannot explain. The premature baby who survives with no disabilities and no one knows why. And it’s in close calls I’ve had in my life. I joke that I often live life faster than my guardian angel can fly. But I’ve had some really scary close calls, and I always felt an invisible force at that “almost” moment. Since my parents might read this, I’ll decline to mention the details of the black ice and subsequent discovery that a 1996 Chevy Lumina was not meant to be an aerial vehicle. But as terrified as I was, there was a strange sense of calm underneath it. And there is no way according to physics that vehicle should have landed firmly on all four wheels, undamaged. Jesus, take the wheel, indeed. (Though if you watch the music video and notice the way her hands fly off the steering wheel, I’d like to point out that Jesus would appreciate it if you helped Him out by keeping your hands on the wheel.
3. Tell me about your childhood?
I was born a poor black child. (Steve Martin joke.) No, seriously. I was born to loving parents who were not exactly wealthy, but we got by. I happen to be a Caucasian female with Hispanic heritage, but that was irrelevant with the way I was raised. I was raised with the teachings of Martin Luther King, Junior, and the belief that all humans are created equal and equally loved by God. I was raised Seventh Day Adventist. I left that denomination in my teens due to the legalism in the church, but the core beliefs that were based on Biblical teachings stuck with me. One of my childhood heroes was Dr. Ben Carson, the neurologist. (I told you I was a medical geek.) I did reports on him whenever possible and read his books. He also happens to be an Adventist, and when I was 12, he was a guest preacher at the church we attended. My first celebrity encounter. He’s a very kind, wonderful man, so I’m happy to announce there was no let-down whatsoever.
My dad joined the Air Force when I was 2, and between him being a medical administrator and my mother a nurse, my love of medicine was well-fostered. I was always the “weird” kid, something that wouldn’t be fully explained until I was an adult. But I was a geek from the start. I loved Power Rangers, though I’d tape it, skip the battles, and get right down to the teenage soap opera of Kimberly and Tommy. Then came Emergency!, the paramedic drama. And X-Files. And so many others. At times, my obsession did interfere with real life, but my parents were good about redirecting me. My mom and I have some conflicts from time to time based on personality differences and differing views on some faith matters, but we do love each other. My dad and I are very close, and I’m pretty much his clone in personality. I spent most of my childhood on Air Force bases, mostly in the South. When we moved to Biloxi, MS in my early teens, that was really the first time I ever dealt with race issues. I made some wonderful friends down there, who have been friends for life. We were there for my teen years, and Biloxi will always own a piece of my heart. Plus, it was where I discovered my other love, theatre. (And no matter how many teachers got out their red pen, for live theatre, the British spelling is preferred and I insist on using it.)
I have a younger brother, and we fought bitterly as children, but we came to known and appreciate each other as adults. He’s a rockstar paramedic with a beautiful family.
4. You told me you’ve worked with people with disabilities. Why?
I’d say because I have a mild form of Asperger’s, but that’s not why. I wasn’t actually diagnosed until adulthood, after I started working. I began to suspect I was something slightly more than the average eccentric while working with autism disorders and recognizing myself in them. I bond with them very quickly and I have a knack for getting through to them because I understand on a soul level. As for why, it just happened, honestly. I did a special rotation in nursing school in pediatric psych because my psych professor noticed I had an aptitude for it. That led to working with children with disabilities in an outpatient setting. Eventually when I got into school nursing, the special needs kids needed the most care, and some of them require full-time nurses. I truly love it. Downs Syndrome is my extra-special favorite to work with, not going to lie, but autism is right up there. And many Downs individuals also have autism.
Looking back, I think I was being led in that direction all along. My dad even commented when I was younger that I tended to quickly befriend handicapped kids in school. I had a dear friend, Kit, when I was in elementary school, who used a wheelchair. My first boyfriend was intellectually disabled, with epilepsy. I describe him to others as Forrest Gump. He was “slow,” but he knew how to love. I honestly had to think for a long time before dating him because I didn’t want to take advantage of our friendship. But he was, honestly, the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. (We were teenagers, though, and my moving ended the relationship. I think of him often, though, and hope he found a woman who deserves him.)
5. I’ve heard some pro-abortion people say we should eliminate the burdens of our society, and they often include people with disabilities. What would you say against that?
I think some of those people have been burdened with relatives with disabilities with no support. It is by NO MEANS easy to parent a child with special needs. There is a higher rate of abuse, and though it’s horrible to me, I understand the stress. Our society needs to intervene and support those at risk. That having been said, the rewards are amazing. Yes, some disabled people of sound mind do become very bitter and jaded. But many more are wonderful, cheerful people who take life in stride. However, the abortion debate generally concerns those who are intellectually disabled, so I’ll focus on that.
I have never known any human with the capacity to love like a child with mental disabilities. They see the world as it truly is. They will take a dislike to those with malice in their hearts, yes. Sometimes (especially in autism), they take random dislikes. But it’s because something is triggering them, and making them feel uncomfortable, and they lack the ability to express that. Babies scream for no reason sometimes, but no loving parent ever thinks “man, this kid is just being a jerk.” Non-verbal kids do the same. But if you forge a bond with a child or a childlike adult, it is deep and intense. They bring joy to the world.
Back to my love of Downs individuals. First of all, they’re freaking ADORABLE. But just being cute isn’t reason enough. They are genuine, amazing people. They have a stereotype of being always huggy; this isn’t true. They can have bad moods and outbursts. So can any other human being. They get stuck in their ways, especially those with autism. I have a boy I worked with who about drove me batty with his “stimming” (a term for self-soothing behaviors that tend to be repetitive) with an ABC toy of his. It sang the alphabet and he would never get as far as G before starting it over. Sometimes you want to scream, “For the love of God, let the song finish!”… But when this same boy, who almost never spoke (by choice) came up to me when I was holding the toy hostage to get him to do some work, handed me his finished work, signed “please” (something he never did; he preferred the sign for “more”) and looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes and said, “ABC?”…well, my heart melted everywhere. And when I tried to help him with a new toy, and for the first time ever, he said “Me do it!”…I cried with pride. I always said if his parents didn’t love him so much, he would have come home with me.
6. What’s your favorite Bible verse and why?
It’s varied over the years. Senior year of high school, I listed it as one of the Psalms in my yearbook (I went to a Christian high school). Over the years, I’ve gravitated to the New Testament more. Currently, it’s John 14: 1-3, the “let not your heart be troubled” passage. I always know that no matter what, Jesus has my back.
7. Who is your favorite Biblical character besides Jesus?
Heh, that question made my mind go elsewhere. I found an old diary of mine from when I was 9 that asked “what is your favorite book?” Answer – The Bible. “Who is your best friend?” – Jesus. Clearly, religious training. I do wish I’d put down the answers that were not what I was “supposed to” say, just for the memories. But! Not the question. I like that you clarified “besides Jesus,” because He would have been it.
Honestly, gotta go with Mary Magdalene. The historical facts do suggest (along with an not-often-circulated statement from the Catholic church) that there might have been mistranslations back in the Middle Ages, and she was probably a land-owning woman (prohibited at the time and punishable by stoning) instead of a prostitute. But whether she was or not, her absolute faith in Jesus and her desire to follow Him is inspiring. The fact that she was the first He appeared to after the resurrection says much of their deep friendship. He WAS human when on Earth, and any human needs friends. The disciples were all His friends, but I consider Mary the overlooked disciple. The Bible doesn’t follow her after the ascension, so we don’t really know what became of her, but I’ve read many gripping historical fictions that follow her as she spreads the Gospel as well.
8. Is there anyone in your life who inspires you to be a better person? Why?
This is going to sound corny, but children, if you mean people in my actual life. My niece will be 2 in a couple of weeks, and it’s auntie pride, of course, that she’s super smart. But seeing the way children see the world, without prejudice until they’re taught it, is truly amazing. And I want to be the guide that they deserve, like the people who touched me in my childhood.
If you mean people I don’t actually know but would like to, Gabby Giffords. Her politics have no bearing on that. I’m one of the least political people I know. But seeing her fight to recover from a devastating injury and then inspire others while she’s fighting her own fight, like the late and amazing Christopher Reeve, is truly inspiring and makes me realize that my own problems are pretty trivial.
9. what is your denomination?
Non-denominational Christian. It is a pet peeve of mine that many denominations consider non-denominational folks to be wishy-washy, unable to really commit to anything. I laughed so hard at that when one of the girls in my graduating class, who’d done many mission trips and was clearly the most on fire for God in our class, mentioned she was non-denominational. I am fascinated by learning about the many denominations out there, and have visited many of their churches, though.