Friday, June 21, 2013

Some Memories About My Mother

Living in Manhattan, our modes of transportation varied from walking, which we did often, biking, taking buses or subways, and the rare treat of haling a cab. 
There was more than one type of cab but the best were the large Checkered Cabs for these had pull down stools on which I could easily perch, separate from the broad and far more comfortable seats in the rear.
Of course this was before seatbelts were mandatory and getting away with such ridiculous and dangerous designs in vehicles was not frowned upon then as much as they are now.
We also were not required to wear helmets so, when my mother took me out on her bike, I had nothing to protect me if we were in an accident.  Not at all like Rerun in the early Peanuts strips where he is sitting on the back of his mother’s bike as she goes about her daily tasks.  No doubt, this was the easiest way for my mother to get us around when we had to go further than usual and certainly cheaper than taking a cab, especially one of those cool checkered ones.  However, bear in mind that she was dashing through the streets of Manhattan which has never been the most tolerant when it comes to drivers and cyclists.
One time my mother was driving along with me behind her when a woman in a car cut her off, nearly knocking us and the bike over.  “You stupid fucking bitch,” she shouted.  From behind her she heard me say, “Oh Momma, you mustn’t say stupid.”
You see, she had taught me that “stupid” is a bad word and one must never use it but had never explained that there are other bad words.  Which is why I thought, at the age of three, that when I dropped a dinner plate and it shattered on the wood floor, I should say “Shit fuck.”  After all, I’d hear my mother say it often enough any time she dropped something and it broke.
Usually, if we were unable to walk from where we lived to where we wanted to be, we would take a bus or the subway.  My mother says that the reason I have such an excellent sense of direction is because I often found myself standing beside her somewhere in Queens.  She was usually good about getting us where we wanted to be but when she got it wrong, she didn’t just end up taking us to the east side of Manhattan when we wanted to be on the west side but she would lose us on another borough of the city altogether.  I somehow knew how we ended up where we were and how to get us where we ought to be. 
No doubt she came to rely a great deal on my ability to get us home.
If I loved most to climb into the large rear seat of a Checkered cab, I also enjoyed taking the bus, especially at night on a clear, full moon night.  As we rode along, I would watch as the moon followed me, convinced that it was there for me and me alone.  I suspect most only children are narcissists and I don’t recall that my imagination included the thought that anyone else had as much attraction that the moon would shine its love with the same reliable commitment.  A row of buildings would hide it from me and then there it would be, when a parking lot interjected itself between, a moon large and bright, able to glow at night even when the stars were rarely able to give a shimmer.
Sitting beside my mother, I would pull her hand in my lap, palm up.  One by one I would unfurl her fingers until her hand lay there stretched out flat.  Then, I would curl each digit, beginning with the thumb, until I had created a fist.  I would repeat, opening and closing her hand, tracing the lines in her palm, measuring the tininess of my hand against her own, finding an endless treasure of distractions at the end of her arm until it was time to stand up and ring the bell telling the driver we were ready to get off at our stop down the street from where we lived.
A favorite story of my mother’s is a time when I was being a hellion, a three-year-old who simply would not sit still although she had already demanded I sit, especially when the bus was moving.  When the bus next stopped she reached out, grabbed me by shoulders and lifted me up before dumping me unceremoniously in the seat beside her as she said “Sit.”
To her surprise, I stayed in my seat, unmoving.  Staring at the passengers as they dropped their tokens into the machine beside the driver.  One tall blond man, young with longish hair, was walking toward us and then sat on the other side of me.  I continued to stare at him and when he finally looked at me I breathlessly said, “Hello people.”
That year my mother sent a Christmas card with a picture of me and “Hello People” at the bottom.  I wish she had kept a copy but none exists but she shares that story as an example of my innate flirtation, a personality trait that must lie encoded somewhere on my DNA.
The most common mode of transportation, naturally, was walking, a viable choice in Manhattan where one could easily walk from doorway to supermarket to laundromat to a coffee shop without walking a mile.  Most of my childhood, I lived within walking distance of a library and a bookstore and I didn’t take a bus to school until I was twelve.
Although I have no recollection of it, my mother walked me to preschool, where she had lied about my age to get me into the school earlier than I would have been allowed otherwise.   One time I remember there was a flood but what caused this flood I cannot say.  It was dark, so perhaps a blackout.  Or my memory could be merging more than one memory into another, a water main break one day and a blackout another.  Either way, I remember a man helping us maneuver through the darkness, using a flashlight.  I remember wading through water that whorled around my tiny feet as I waded through thigh high darkness. 
I don’t even know for certain that there was a flood and this is not some vivid dream I carried into my reality, as I did the goose stepping soldiers that I worried would one day knock down our door and take my mother away forever, soldiers in dark uniforms and shiny black boots.  A fear reinforced by the sound of blood pulsing in my ear pressed into my pillow.  Even now when I hear my blood pulsing in my ear I have to move my head before the panic rises. 
Always, my greatest fear was that my mother would disappear,  be taken from me or leave me behind somewhere and yet one time she did lose me in a store.  I hasten to interject that my favorite thing to do when we were in some department store shopping for clothes, I would happily weave in and out of the low hanging dresses and coats, pressing my face into the wool or velvet, the silk or pleated sheer fabrics with lettuce ruffles.  She thought I was close and wandered off while I played hide and seek by myself, exploring new textures with my cheeks and hands. 
One of the store clerks discovered me and asked me where my parents were. I looked around unalarmed and realized my mother wasn’t there.  The young woman took me on her shoulders so I could have a better view of the floor of the store but I didn’t see my mother anywhere.
As it turns out, my mother was on another floor, completely oblivious to the fact that I was still on the previous floor.  As soon as I saw her I announced “There she is.  Hi Momma.”  She was mortified; the store clerk probably assumed she was a negligent.  I was fine, was having fun and was now reunited with my missing mother.   

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Because You Asked

Earlier this year I mentioned I was giving myself a whole new reading challenge, one that involved my focusing on reading books I own.  No borrowing the latest, greatest from the public library.  Well, I’m still borrowing books for Bibi and I even borrowed a few crafting books (beading ones in particular but I’ll blog about those later when I actually start doing anything). 

I created a Pinterest board to track my progress and, now that I’m free from studying for the CPC exam, I am eager to get busy tackling the many books I have accumulated.  Someone who checked out the board noticed a few books they thought were “surprising” because they didn’t expect me to have certain interests, I suppose.

The ones that were perceived as remarkable were the books on drawing and calligraphy.  Like most children, I used to draw.  Unlike some children, this was something that was encouraged in me.  My father and my maternal aunt were both artists.  I even have a watercolor my mother did of me in profile but she later became interested in photography and later still quilting.

The lion offers a flower to a bunny?
But I digress.

I took classes at the Art Student’s League and one time I contributed a pencil still life drawing to a Girl Scout celebration, not knowing that it was a competition.  I was given a blue ribbon.  I still find that baffling.  Not as baffling, however, as the time when during a middle school art show and had one of my pieces sold for $50.  It was nice to earn some cash, I suppose, but I didn’t know that anything was being auctioned off so I rather resented losing something I had created for my own pleasure.

I stopped drawing after my children were born. I simply didn’t have the time.  I certainly didn’t have the resources to buy art supplies.  My love of pastels, my playing with charcoal, my curiosity about water color paints—all of these things had to be set aside.

I still had lovely penmanship, thanks to my mother. 

The message has some humor & sadness.

Seriously, she writes like this all of the time and this is written with a ballpoint pen.  Truth is, this is sloppy by her standards.  If she were trying to write neatly, it would look better than this.  Ponder that a moment and try to imagine being able to write this beautifully all of the time. 

I used to have a beautiful hand as well, albeit not nearly as elegant as my mother’s.  I had hoped to do calligraphy professionally someday and had quite a few resources, many of which have been lost along the way.  Or damaged.  I can’t even find anything that has an example of how beautifully I used to write and even now people compliment me on my penmanship all of the time. 

Truth is, I don’t get it. 

So there you go.  A context for some of my collection.  You can check it out for yourself and see if you discover any surprises.  In the meantime, be prepared for more book reviews because I’m reading and enjoying every minute of it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What My Workout Will Be For Now

Now that I’ve taken the exam and no longer spend my entire day studying, I am free to do other things.  Like housework and exercise.  Not that I had stopped exercising.  Far from it, in fact.

Before I left for my visit home, Rob and I were both exercising daily. When I came home, there was some vague talk about our getting back into the habit of really working out.  In the meantime, we were taking Snowdoll out for walks and I was exploring my morning yoga practice, challenging myself to move beyond my comfort zone.  I considered recommitting to my strength training but then chose to focus on my studying.

Then, on Saturday, I took the exam and, on Sunday, I began making plans on what I’ll be doing for the next few weeks.  Rob and I picked up a used copy of 10 MinuteTrainer and jumped in with both feet, literally and metaphorically.  It is a tough workout.  I started with the cardio and, frankly, I had to hold back a bit, not do as many repetitions or move more slowly.  I couldn’t even start the next 10 minute workout for lower body until I had caught my breath.  I seem to have acquired asthma and there are times when I struggle to breathe during our walks. 

This asthma is not necessarily new to me.  I always struggled with exercise-induced asthma.  It holds me back from moving beyond a walk to a full jog.  Even when I was young.  I won’t do the cardio workout each and every time.  Instead, I’ll use the bike.  I have a lot of fun reading to do (remember my reading challenge?) and I really want to keep mixing things up as best I can. 

So, as of now, my exercise routine includes yoga in the morning, a walk with Snowdoll, 10 Minute Trainer, the stationary bike, and various walking dvds.  Needless to say, I’ll be writing more about all of these things.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Warning of Words to Come

The next few days of my blogging will be an experiment for moving me into a writing comfort zone I had lost for a long time.  I may not ever achieve the same level of openness I enjoyed once before but that won’t keep me from at least trying to find my voice again.  I’ll be seeing what posts resonate with you.  Want to hear about my exercising?  I’ll write about that.  Want to read some of my creative writing?  I’ll share the random things I’ll be writing or have written.  More interested in my job search?  My meditation practice?  My day-to-day thoughts on what is happening in the real world? 

Between now and the end of the month, you’ll be hit with a hodge-podge of writing randomness which will be, truth be told, merely a tip of the iceberg of my daily writing.  I’m hoping that the next few days will be fun for you, my readers.  I know it will be fun for me.  And I can’t wait to see what you all like most.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

In Which I Retake the AAPC CPC Exam

Yesterday I took the CPC exam to become a certified medical billing & coder in hopes of opening doors and finally becoming gainfully employed.  It’s been a loooong road.

It began in autumn of 2011 when I took a few courses at Chattahoochee Tech—medical terminology, anatomy, and billing and coding.  I completed that course with a certification but one that amounted to little more than the paper it was printed on.  Still, it was a foundation.

One of the other students and I agreed to take the AAPC (American Association of Professional Coders) course for the CPC.  My study buddy and I were limping along, mostly because she was very busy and I kept waiting for her to catch up and then she was quiet.  I didn’t hear from her and all I could do was review what we had already studied together and try to slow myself down that way.  Eventually I caught up with where we had been and still hadn’t heard back from her so I just kept going. 

In autumn of 2012 I finally heard back from her, after her children were in school and she had some free time, wondering where I was in our studies.  Truth is, I had given up on her altogether, assuming she had decided it was all too difficult for her.  Besides, I really didn’t want to buy another set of coding books so I signed up to take the exam in December, as late in the year as I possibly could, to give myself as much time to study as possible.

And I spent the rest of last year studying and studying and studying.  I took the final exam and, when all was said and done, I completed the course with a 90%.  I was not particularly impressed with the course itself, finding the online experience rather tedious.  The few times I reached out to one of the tutors for help, they were useless.  Inevitably, they would reiterate what the rationale said, responding with rote explanations that added no meaning to what was already a point of confusion for me.  Nonetheless, I had learned the material well enough to get a 90% so I felt prepared for the exam. 

Then I took and failed the exam.

It is no exaggeration when I say that I had a bit of an existential crisis.  I had never failed at learning something before.  If I wanted to learn something, I did it.  I put myself through college and graduated with honors.  I had been on the Deans’ list and the President’s list every semester even as I went through a divorce and the challenges of being a single mother with three children.

How was it even possible for me not to pass this exam? 

So back to the books in January, with my buying a whole new set of coding books, something I had hoped to avoid, and taking what little of my birthday money was left over after paying for the surgery that killed Romanov and buying a set of dvds.

Laureen Jandroep
Laureen Jandroep’s Medical Coding Certification Review Blitz is brilliant!  The tips she gives gave me the confidence I needed to go into this exam with at least a little hope.  Truth is, I still didn’t feel like I understood the practice of coding better but she explained how to take the exam. 

I could go into the boring details of what she explains and how it makes a difference.  The quality of the program itself is a bit weird.  You have Laureen, in the corner of your screen, talking to an audience.  The angle of the camera has you mostly looking up at her chin and her nose.  But she is personable and she really knows her stuff. 

Anyone who is trying to take and pass the CPC exam would benefit from getting Laureen Jandroep’s dvds!  Or just sign up for the onlineaccess to the videos.  Seriously.

If I didn’t pass the exam this time (I won’t know how I did for two more weeks), it won’t be because of what she showed me.   If we all have something we simply cannot understand, no matter how hard we try to do so, I may have found it in medical billing & coding.  But if I passed the exam this time I know it is because of the tips she gave.  I’m not saying I wasted time taking the AAPC online course.  Not at all.  But it didn’t prepare me for how to take the test and the section reviews and even the chapter exams were not designed to mirror what is actually on the exam itself.  And I could bore you with how they differ but that would bore me in the writing of it.

The key here is, I took the exam and I am no longer going to consume every minute of my day and life with studying.  I’ll have all sorts of other boring adventures to describe—like the books I am reading and the excitement of taking Snowdoll for a walk around our neighborhood and frustration I feel when a woman my age sends me a text spelling good g-u-d which I would find reprehensible in a woman half of my age and find unforgivable in a woman my own age. 

Yes.  I am free and maybe I’ll even have time to read blogs again.  Reading for pleasure?  For fun?  I think I have forgotten what that feels like. 

In the meantime, every issue of the coding magazine from AAPC, I look for my former study buddy's name. I haven't seen it yet but it could be I've overlooked it.  I'm not sure.  I sometimes ponder sending her a quick email to see how she's doing.  Then I figure there's no point.  My life is so full right now and I doubt my encouragement would have any meaning for her.  I did all of this in hopes of improving my life and my future. Now I wait for the exam results and get ready for the real work:  finding a job.