Yes, I’m Still Studying

Once again…back from hiatus. I ended up having to extend my medical billing/coding program. There was simply no way I was going to complete the program by May 18. Now I have until September 18 and, truth be told, I’m still not convinced it’s going to be enough time. I’m feeling overwhelmed and not at all prepared to take the final exam. I’m muscling through, but I’m feeling insecure. I still have 250 “files” to code in this review/practice section (the last part of the program before the final exam), so here’s hoping it all comes together somewhere along the way.

Julia Sorel once said, “If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances.” I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little scared that this educational chance I’ve taken is going to blow up in my face. The stubborn side of me will finish my studies. I’ll get through it – we’ve paid for it and I’m not a quitter. I’m just a little worried about whether or not I’ll have retained enough of it to be successful in the field.

And what of my book? The extension frustrates me because it means my characters have to wait that much longer for a resolution to the limbo in which I’ve left them. My main character is pregnant and her husband just walked off the page. I think I might know how I’m going to bring him back, but I haven’t gotten a chance to plot it out because I’m too busy trying to remember when I need to add a Z code to my primary diagnosis code and whether or not my procedure code needs a modifier.

I’ve always been one of those people who prefers to juggle 3 or 4 projects at the same time. I want to do everything and life is too short to not do it all at once. Certainly, I’ve felt insecure before and I’ve come out the other side with flying colors. I know I’ll come out the other side of my studies personally enriched by the experience and that alone is worth the price of admission, isn’t it? Being able to earn a living coding medical files while sitting on my sofa would be the frosting on this particular cake.

I do love frosting.



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I’m writing this post from my day job. I had to make The Drive to a store 20 miles from my house, so I left super early. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that it’s been FOREVER since I updated y’all on how the book is going.

It’s not going.

Not stopped forever, just for right now.

Besides, the character who walked away has still not decided he wants to come back.

I decided my husband is right – I have to focus on getting through my education. I am supposed to have the program completed by May 18 and that’s going to be a struggle. I’ve only just gotten to the actual coding part of the course (everything else I’ve been doing was medical terminology, pathological conditions and treatments) and it has been challenging. My older brain needs more time to put all of this together, but I don’t really have the luxury of time. I’m taking a week vacation from work in April to try to get as much of the school work knocked out as possible.

I do, however, have another book idea taking shape in my head, so there’s that.

So, hopefully, in a month or two, my focus will return to the book and my wayward character will give me a break and come back to the story.


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Writing hiatus

Since the hurricane, I’ve been a little AWOL, I know. It’s been a little bit about the holidays and a little bit that I think I’ve written myself into a corner. Mostly though, it’s been about a 1000 page medical terminology book that I’m right tired of looking at.  I’ve been taking some of my husband’s advice and just trying to bulldoze my way through it. Everything else has taken a back seat. My plan is to finish the book by New Year’s Eve. I have three chapters left. If I do a chapter a week, I can happily float into 2017 having moved on to anatomy & physiology.

The terminology has been daunting, to say the least. I feel overwhelmed and I don’t feel like I’m retaining much of what I’m learning. I haven’t gotten to the “all of a sudden it will click” yet. Certainly, I won’t have to know every single term I’ve learned. If I work in a dermatology office, for example, I won’t need to know what a pulmonary parenchyma is (which is good, because I don’t ~ I can’t even pronounce parenchyma).

On the writing side of things, I’m reading an interesting book on the history of Charleston called, Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City and it’s been a slow read, but terribly interesting as I imagine my characters living on the streets of the author’s pages. It has confirmed my imagination isn’t too far from something that could certainly have happened in the way I’ve described. Knowing this, I’m more confident moving forward that I’m not a complete idiot. This will be a great resource for editing later.

If I ever find my way out of my medical terminology hole. And bring my protagonist’s husband back. When last I visited with them, he had just experienced the end of his hope and walked away from his life. I wasn’t expecting him to leave and so far, he hasn’t asked me to take him back. I’m trying to give him his space. It’s going to be a challenge, because he doesn’t get his hope back. In fact, he dies of diphtheria in a couple of years. But Shhhh! Don’t tell him or he’ll never want to go back.  He must come back. He has some loose ends to tie up…

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My First Hurricane

I now understand why the natives make light of hurricanes. You have to or it will make you lose your mind.

The meteorologists brought Matthew to our attention before the storm had even earned a name. We’re talking weeks of weather segments on every local TV channel giving us the latest update about where the storm was currently and where it “might” possibly go next. For a storm that started somewhere towards Africa, traveling about 12 miles an hour, the average local has time to sell their home, pack up, drive all their worldly possessions to Ohio, then unpack and settle into their new home long before the storm will cause a ripple on the beach.

Anyone who has lived along the coast for any length of time knows this. I learned quickly that if the natives talk less of hurricane parties and more about boarding up windows, we’re screwed.

I haven’t lived along the coast for that much time and I was worried from the very first spaghetti models showing Matthew coming right up along the coast.

Once the Weather Channel got involved, I was updating my life insurance beneficiary – no sense in it being my husband because, according to the Weather Channel folks, we were all going to die. I understand having to take the storm seriously, but it seemed a little bit to me like this was their 15 minutes of fame and they were darn well going to make the most of it.

I can’t speak for everyone, but my husband and I only watch the Weather Channel when there’s a weather crisis somewhere that might affect our family or friends. Because our local meteorologists weren’t on 24/7 (until the storm actually got to our shores) we were often forced to watch the Weather Channel if we wanted to know how our friends in Florida were faring. I think the Weather Channel knows this so they better hit the ground running and give us the best storm coverage they can muster up.

I didn’t see/hear this myself, but one of our friends watching the coverage from Wisconsin said one meteorologist (I’m not sure what channel he was watching) basically said anyone who doesn’t evacuate should put their social security number on their arm in permanent marker so the body could be identified later. WHAT!?

Even though it was my first hurricane, it seemed that a storm not scheduled to even make land fall (at that point) could be so serious that you better make it easier for the morgue to contact your next of kin.

Certainly Hurricane Matthew was serious and it did a lot of damage, but I don’t think it warranted that bit of gruesome advice. The storm was more deadly in Cuba, Haiti and other islands in the Atlantic, but for the U.S., the magic marker advice was a bit heavy-handed. I hope that person was reprimanded off air.

Nevertheless, the impending doom and gloom of Matthew was a train wreck I couldn’t turn away from. I didn’t write, I barely went to work (in fact, three days before the storm arrived, the governor declared mandatory evacuation of the coastal communities, so I didn’t go to work because various roads were closed). We stocked up on water, non-perishables and batteries just like everyone else. We bought a generator and took the flag pole down off the porch. We sat down with our TV tuned to the Weather Channel, changing the channel only for our local news. We went to the Waffle House because that was the only place open.

Seriously, they never close.

The waitresses were talking about who was scheduled to work on Saturday (when Matthew was scheduled to visit our slice of shoreline). We asked them if they were for real going to be open during the storm. One of them nodded her head, “The windows might all blow out, but we’ll be here.” I turned to look at the two walls of nothing but floor to ceiling glass windows. My jaw dropped straight into my chocolate chip waffles.

I spent several days with a migraine headache surely caused by the fact that I slept little more than 4 hours a night for almost a week. By Friday, my husband and I decided that waiting was the worst part.

I found the whole thing hideously ominous. The sun would be out, but on the TV, we could see Matthew blowing into Florida and bending palm trees in half. It was a little bit like watching ourselves inside of a horror movie. We knew Jason was coming…he was around the next bend…but he had all the control. We were tied to a palm tree in the middle of town and had no choice but to wait him out.

Friday night we slept in shifts. If something happened, one of us would be awake and aware. Not that either one of us could sleep anyway. I think that was the scariest part for me. Why do these things always come to town under cover of darkness? You can’t see the wind swaying the trees to the point of pulling them out of the ground. You don’t know if the water rushing down the road is also creeping silently up to your front door. It’s harder to be pro-active when you can’t see the enemy coming.

Fortunately, we made it through the storm with only a few shingles missing from the roof and a broken gate on our fence. We can see cracks in the ground where one of our trees had been swinging in the wind. Thankfully, it didn’t come down. That tree will be removed – hopefully before the next storm blows our way.

Hopefully, there won’t be another one for many years.




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Summer Reading List Success

At the beginning of the summer, I was inspired by a fellow blogger to post my summer reading list. Labor day weekend officially being the end of summer, I thought it would be appropriate to see how I did.

My summer reading list:

I skipped American Dreams because I hadn’t realized it was a part of a series.  And not the first book of the series. I also read a book not on the list called, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, because I felt I needed to break up the reading list a little bit with something light.

Right now, I’m in the middle of Breaking Night, and I have Beautiful Day, Case Histories and Charleston! Charleston! left to be read. I didn’t do to bad, if I do say so myself.

My next goal is to have these last three read before the end of the year. Charleston! Charleston! is the size of two books, so it seems fair to give myself a little extra time to get through it. I am excited to read them and move on to the rest of my bookshelf!

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I’ve Actually Done Some Writing Today!

As of today, I have 50 pages written. I felt pretty good about it too, until I realized 50 pages was only 22,179 words. What a let down. I was imagining 50 type written pages turning into about 100 book print pages and thinking, Whew! I’m really getting there now.  And then I checked the word count for this post and thought, that’s it?

my chair

My writing chair today. The pillow is because my back still hurts.

I know that has their November writing challenge where 50,000 words means you’ve written a book. Crap or not, you’ve completed it. So, I suppose I should be excited to be halfway there?

But still, all the time invested, the trials and tribulations to get my butt into the chair and actually pound out these pages…well, it would be more gratifying if the word count was up there a little further. I don’t know how much further…maybe 30,000?

jack helping

Jack’s chair, while he “helps” Momma write. Seems wrong, doesn’t it?

But then again, I’m only part-way through the story I want to tell and if I had too many words already, I might start to panic that I would end up with some ridiculously huge book and have to spend an inordinate amount of time cutting.

I just stole my chair back from the cat.

Well, actually, he got up and left, so I regained my chair on account of the fact that he was done with it for today.

Same thing, right? As long as I get my chair back.


Word count: 22,179


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Post Olympics Writing

The Olympics was every bit of the distraction I expected it to be. I love gymnastics and I watched our ladies kick some butt!  Congratulations to Simone Biles ~ you’ve rocked it! You’re the best in the world and we couldn’t be more proud!

I’ve also been knee-deep in beach volleyball, cheering on Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross on the road to the bronze.

Sadly, living on the east coast, these two sports were usually televised well after my regular bedtime. Olympics coverage goes until midnight for me and I’m up every morning at 5:30. This has not lead to gold medal performances. Although you would think, for as poorly as I sleep anyway, it would be same old, same old. Come to think of it, that must be how I’m still getting through the days without my boss walking into my office to find me face down on the desk, snoring into my delinquent tenant worksheet.

Because a lack of sleep by itself isn’t a good enough reason not to write, I also found a way to mess up my back. I don’t know what I did – in fact, at first, I thought maybe I slept wrong. But it got worse as the days went on and I could hardly sit long enough to use the bathroom, let alone try to sit long enough to write coherently. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor and while it’s not 100%, it’s much better than it was.

The not sitting thing has also affected my studies. I’m in chapter 5 of my medical terminology book (only 20 more to go – whee!) but it’s difficult to study when you can’t sit long enough to read a paragraph.

Yesterday, CareerStep sent me an email advising that the book has a ton of information and I shouldn’t worry about learning it all in one swoop (I’m paraphrasing of course). Concentrate on the basics and it will all come together over the course of the book – plus, as a medical billing and coding specialist, I will always have reference materials available. Obviously they thought that my being away from the computer for over a week had something to do with my studies.


Actually, that email came at the perfect time because I spent the entire day getting myself through chapter 5.  I was writing flash cards about skin conditions and medical treatments and diagnostic tests. Finally, I had to stop – partially because my back could no longer take the folding chair I was sitting in (even though I was sitting on a pillow). It was shortly after that when the email arrived. It took the edge off a little bit, but I’m looking ahead and worrying about taking a state sponsored test at the end of this. I can’t imagine I’ll be so lucky that it will be open book. I know I should focus on the steps to get there (small, doable goals) instead of jumping straight to the finished product, but I’ve always been this way. I look at the final goal but I rarely make step-by-step goals to get myself there. Then when I get frustrated and feel I’ll never get there, I walk away.

I do the same thing with my writing. I suck at coming up with smaller goals that will lead me to the last page.

Even more than that though, is my habit of taking on too much. Right now I work full-time, I’m in school and I’m trying to write a novel. With a two-hour round trip commute to work. I also have flower beds that need some love, genealogy projects I want to dig into, craft projects in various stage of complete, and a cat who will settle for nothing less than my undivided attention every second of every day as long as it’s not his nap time.

The little brat sleeps while I’m at work.

Did I mention I’m also a perfectionist? My husband suggested maybe the book needs to be put on hold for now. Just take it off the table completely and focus on the job (so we can keep our house) and school (because there is a deadline to complete the course). The perfectionist in me says, No, you can do it – you just need to budget your time more efficiently. And that leads me back to making small, doable goals.



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