rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I have booked this morning and tomorrow morning off work to attack the current essay crisis.  (tbh, if I tried to solve it with an all-nighter I'd end up taking time off to recover from that, this seems less foolish)

3 hours, assignment open, go.

Update:

I managed 2.5 hours with a short break after the first 90 minutes.  There's ... a lot more of it than there was, but also a lot left to do. That is what this evening and tomorrow morning are for. 

Stages of my assignment writing:
  1. outline
  2. structure
  3. hatred
  4. spitefully filling in structure
  5. grudging admission of interest
  6. absorption
  7. completion
  8. wow, that was a really interesting topic!
I am solidly in stage 4.

(and now it is raining and I have to walk to work imminently)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I just registered on, and paid for, the four remaining modules to complete my business degree by September 2017.

I have a plan and it is a feasible plan and it has contingencies in it if I can't hit that deadline, so here we go.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This is articulating a lot of stuff I've been thinking over, especially the last month or so, about my priorities as I start getting "back to normal".


1. Health and fitness
(content note: exercise, weight, mental health)
Read more... )

2. Immediate family

The children have coped admirably with all the disruption and uncertainty, but they're both showing reaction in different ways. I want to give them lots of security and support and attention and stability. I plan to take a good look at our daily and weekly and seasonal routines with that in mind. 

I suspect some additional goals and tasks will come out of couples counselling.


3. Work

The cliché is that a brush with death provides revelation and motivation to chuck in the job and go follow a long-held dream etc.  My revelation from being ill so long is that I really like my work and I miss my job and my colleagues very much, and I want to go back as soon as I feel able.  Probably in a phased-return way so I don't go from zero to full time immediately.  Anyway, the time to start that conversation with work is probably a week or two into next year when this chemo cycle should be finished.


4. Studying

I'm studying with the OU under transitional fees and the qualification I'm working towards will be discontinued at the end of 2017. It is just possible for me to finish on time if I work hard from now until September 2017, and especially hard for the nine months Sep 16 - Jun 17. I've decided to give that plan a try but drop the workload if it's too much.   If I don't manage to complete by September 2017 much of my course credit is transferable to the replacement qualification anyway.


5. Family, friends and community

The care and support I've received while ill has been amazing and much appreciated.    I've found it too easy to let connections slide, especially when busy.  So I'm going to put some time and effort into maintaining connections (socialising, letters, emails, calls, blogs, even dratted Facebook), and into making that work part of my daily and weekly routines.



Two things notably absent from the list above:

1. Reading.

I won't stop reading entirely, it's too much part of me to read whenever I can. But studying will take up much of the time and effort I'd otherwise spend reading, and that seems a fair trade-off for now.


2. Politics

I'm finding it very hard to engage with politics at the moment: anything more than the most superficial attention to current events leaves me emotionally drained and exhausted.  Maybe that'll improve as I recover, but I don't think the five things I am choosing to prioritise will leave me much time over anyway.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
What I've read
Mostly comfort-reading: I was predictable and went for Kushiel's ChosenKushiel's Avatar to follow up Kushiel's Dart.  I also picked up and demolished the next in the Eloisa James Regency farcical romances: The Taming of the Duke, ditto one of my extensive to-read pile: Sleeping Tiger by Rosamunde Pilcher.

I mentioned the new novella Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold already: I've reread it once since and it's still very good.  On second viewing I was struck by Penric's essential kindness to people around him and how this ultimately works to his benefit, rather like Cordelia Naismith.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of a new Lia Silver book being released: Mated to the Meerkat is a delightfully funny shapeshifter romance and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's pretty short, but it was also only 99p, and it brightened yesterday morning and lunchtime considerably.  Worth every penny, A+, will read again.


What I'm reading
I continue to enjoy updates from [personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan greatly, and I'm still making my way through A Girl and Her Fed archives in fits and starts.  I'm also listening my way through podfic of your blue eyed boys, mostly at bedtime to stop myself staring at bright light before sleep, and I'm very much enjoying the reader's voice and interpretation. It's a slower way of taking in the story for me, and I find I realise details and turns of phrase I hadn't in the rush of reading it myself.


What I'll read next
For the next few evenings at least, my next assignment for the OU takes priority.  Thrill at costing methods! Gasp at budget variances! Despair when numbers don't reconcile!

After that, who knows? I feel I should round up some enthusiasm for Hugo reading before I completely run out of time to vote.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I've just been ill, and busy, and ill some more.  Did you know that it's entirely typical for coughs to last up to three weeks? Well now I do.

Studying is mostly progressing in bitesize chunks; I've missed a few days while ill, but also picked up once my brain came back, so that's passed the first test of "is this really sustainable?".

My colleague's funeral had a very gratifying turnout; the funeral service itself focused heavily on the afterlife I don't believe in, but I drew a lot of comfort from fellow attendees, and exchanging stories at the wake.   Her family very kindly let me pick out some of her things from the flat they were clearing out.  I focused on books on topics we had in common and came away with more than I would have expected: I was amused when one of the business texts I'd picked out was referenced in my studying a few days later.  Now I just have to find time to read it before finishing the course.

Running is on hold until I stop coughing, which cannot happen soon enough.  Also I missed the 20th anniversary alt.fan.pratchett meet / Pratchett wake, but at least Tony and Charles got to go.

Eastercon is imminent; my mother-in-law arrived tonight and Tony and I will leave the children from Friday morning to Monday evening.  I've not even been away from Nico overnight yet; I have been away from Charles a few times for the length of a conference, but Tony was with him for all of them.  I am nervous and excited and hoping it all works out well.  Mobile phones make the prospect a lot more bearable.

rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
My new course doesn't start until next month, but I've had the textbooks for a bit over a fortnight and have been studying since they arrived.

I don't have much time to study.  (This article, Why time is a feminist issue, is so true to my life it's painful: flow? what is flow? sorry I have to break up an argument over crisps, what were you saying?).  Over the 15 month break I took from studying, I very slowly and painstaking carved time out of my week to run regularly, to talk to my parents regularly, to do a minimal bit of political activism, to read more.

What was killing my study before was trying to do it in big chunks at the weekend: interruptions and immediate needs ate up the big chunks, and then I would have an essay crisis.  My revelation was from software development: studying is hard, so do it more often.

My goal is to do an hour a day, every day.  In one go if possible, or 2x 30 min or even 3x 20 min.  Do it in nibbles, but keep doing it, day in and day out, until it's done.  There are ebooks of the textbooks and most of the time I can cuddle a toddler to sleep for 20 minutes reading about accounting just as easily as reading about werewolf marines.  (Less entertaining though.)

I'm supposed to do 10-12 hours a week, but 7 hours a week is better than nothing, and I read fast.  The other important part is letting myself stop when I've done an hour, and do something else, because there'll be more study time tomorrow.

That's the theory anyway.  It's been going well for the fortnight I've had the textbooks, but I won't be counting it a success until I've turned in the first couple of assignments on time without crisis (good marks would be good too!).

Gulp

2015-03-01 15:25
rmc28: (glowy)
I have registered for OU study again after stopping for a year.  I'm going to be doing B292: Management Accounting from next month until September.  If it goes well, in October I will retake the business studies module I deferred last year.

It is going to be hard to fit the study time in around work and children and running, but I think I'm convinced it will be possible.  The children are that bit more self-sufficient, and I am that bit less tired, and I really want to do it.

In the meantime, it's about 18 months since I finished studying Financial Accounting and I'm going to spend a bit of time in the next couple of weeks reviewing that course and reminding myself of the basic concepts.
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
On Monday I finally took the step of deferring my current study module with the Open University.    I'm simply not managing to get the necessary study hours in, and faced with another approaching deadline, I could see only another horribly stressful ten days for the whole family (like the last essay crisis), resulting in another probably-mediocre mark.  I decided the trade wasn't worth it.

By formally deferring I get a fee credit against a re-enrolment on the same module in the next two years (in practice, either Oct 2014 or Oct 2015).  I need to study something in each academic year to stay on transitional fees until 2017, but apparently this deferred module counts for the current academic year, so I have a breathing space.

The qualification I'm on formally expires at the end of 2017, and not all the modules I have studied may be eligible for its replacement.  So although I have made things easier for myself now, I will need to study much harder later, or spend rather more money.  Or both.   Or change my goals.

My plan is to work on incremental improvements to my / the family weekly routines over the next few months, and make an assessment at the end of June as to whether I can realistically sign up to studying again or not.    I'm feeling a mixture of really relieved I don't have any more deadlines for a whiile, and really gutted.  During 2013 I cut back on a lot of things in order to keep studying and now I've stopped studying too.  

I think the fact it's taken me from Monday to today just to have time to write about this indicates some of the problem.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I managed to submit the latest OU assignment at 1am today, a whole 11 hours ahead of the deadline, and am feeling only mildly sleep-deprived.  It's still eaten all my spare time for the last ten days, with associated stress on everyone.   It was still an improvement (in both time management and output) on the previous assignment, so hopefully I can continue improving in block 3, which starts on Saturday.  Tony has been immensely supportive, but I think we would both prefer I didn't inflict essay crises on the family every 5-6 weeks. 

Amusingly, a chunk of work in the assignment was on the concept of continuous incremental improvement.  The point has been taken.

Anyway, I skipped my run yesterday to finish the assignment.  Today I took the time to find and pack up my running kit for work, but managed to leave it behind.  There isn't time to go get it AND run at lunchtime, and that was my last chance if I wanted to run 3 times this week.  Bah.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Next one is in June next year.  Next one I will actually have done a reasonable amount of study each week, and more than a half-assed go at revision, and will have a stronger grasp of the material (rather than writing "it's the one with the snail" about a certain case).

My hand is really not happy about writing near-continuously for 3 hours.  Handwriting was noticeably worse at the end.

Time to take a look at the next module (it formally started last Saturday).

rmc28: (BRAINS)
My Financial Accounting exam is a week tomorrow; it's 14 years since the last time I took an exam.

I am not (yet) panicking.  Nor am I doing enough studying / revision.

I won't fail, but if I don't get a bit more urgency into the exam preparation I have no hope of matching my marks on the continuous assessment portion.  My memory is much worse than it was in 1999 & I suspect my handwriting is too.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Work
I restarted work! Mondays and Tuesdays only. Tony is not working on those days, and brings Nico to me at lunchtime. We heat up lunch in the little kitchen microwave and sit together at a table in the foyer of my building. I eat and cuddle my baby and feed him, and most times I also take him off to the ladies' loos and change him, and almost always I get to show him off to a passing colleague or three. And then I give him back and go back to the office and work for another 4 hours.

I love it: being back at work, feeling useful and competent, but not having to go too long without my baby cuddles, and getting to do a big feed rather than a big pump at lunchtime. It's not quite as good as the conference creche but it's SO much better than going all day without seeing my baby at all, and a huge improvement on the work pattern we did with Charles where I went from 0730 to 1330 without my baby 5 days a week and didn't see Tony properly except at weekends.


Running
All the updates are on [community profile] c25k but basically it's going well and I am liking it more than I thought I would. I've had a cold this weekend which has kept me indoors and I am missing it more than I expected.


Study
Going well, though I have been less good at getting in my weekly hours since starting work. There was a tutorial yesterday at Hill's Road and I was too ill to go, which annoyed me.


Charles turned 6 last weekend and we held a party at home for some of his schoolfriends (note for future reference that "colouring in pictures" which I'd thought of as an easy-to-join-on-arrival activity kept the assembled children happy for nearly an hour). He asked for an Angry Birds theme and we did our best, including commissioning this most excellent cake from [twitter.com profile] planetxanna (it was delicious too):

Pay cake #1: Angry Birds. On time! on Twitpic

He seems to be enjoying year 1 of school and certainly it is stretching him a bit harder than Reception. We are supposed to get him to read out loud to us for 10 minutes a day and we probably manage it 80% of the time. He has started spontaneously reading out random signs on the street and titles of books we leave lying around. It is really, really cool to see him starting to use this skill as a tool for himself rather than just something we or school ask him to perform.


Nicholas is three months old, almost certainly teething (dribbling, gumming hard down on things), smiling at people with great enthusiasm, failing to sit up but wanting to, sleeping midnight to six most nights plus several other naps each day, continuing to breastfeed plentifully and remaining beautifully baby-chubby. He is getting the hang of hitting and grabbing things on the baby gym but would mostly rather be held/carried in a sling.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
So far on my day off I have:
  • Done the morning school run, which always raises Tony in my admiration for managing it every day.  (It will be my job for much of maternity leave and when working part-time, so I will need to get better at it.)
  • Obtained lucozade for the silly "lucozade challenge test" .  Still hate lucozade as much as I did when pregnant with Charles.
  • Walked to doctors for blood test following above.
  • Returned unread and overdue library books: I am still struggling to make time to read for fun.
  • Walked home again.
  • After a short rest, cycled to Histon and picked up a hire car for the weekend.
  • Packed surplus eggs to take to sister-in-law
  •  
Still to do:
  • Pack for weekend and family wedding
  • Pick up Charles from school
  • Pick up Tony's mother from Stansted
  • Drive to High Wycombe (M25 at around 5pm on a Friday, what could possibly go wrong?)

Tony & Charles have new suits for the wedding.  I have failed utterly to find a dress that I like so am improvising with palazzo trousers, a pretty top and a jacket.  I'm not going to be as smart as them, but at least I have a really obvious reason why.

My bump seems to be growing daily; my appetite has got silly; and I have started having Braxton Hicks contractions.  It took me a while to be sure that's what they were, but a series of them yesterday evening convinced me.  They don't hurt (at least, they don't hurt me) but can be surprisingly distracting: the muscles around the belly all tighten up involuntarily for a while and then relax.  With Charles they didn't start until much later, but perhaps my body wants to get ready nice and early.

I have three weeks left of work and am very ready for the break,.  I've still got slightly more to do than is realistic in that time, but it should all be doable or delegatable now.  I've caught myself eyeing up cleaning & decluttering tasks around the house, which is unusually houseproud for me, so probably early manifestation of nesting.  There's still two weeks of local election campaigning and a final OU assignment to finish before I can start on that, though.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I have lots of things I want to write up, including but not limited to:
  • clothing for pregnancy
  • research notes on home birth after c-section
  • the confusopoly of child-related benefits
  • charitable giving
But what I am utterly failing to write is the 1000-word essay which is half the next assignment for my current OU course.  Yesterday I did the bits round the edges (set up the references, read through the textbook and noted useful snippets and page numbers, found at least one external reference just to show effort) but I haven't yet worked out what I'm going to say and how I'm going to say it.

The good thing I discovered at 10pm last night is that the deadline isn't noon tomorrow.  It's noon on Friday.   Better than making the error in the other direction!

The Sherlock DVD arrived last night and is taunting me.  I don't dare put it on until the essay is written.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I had two OU assignments due within 2 days at the end of November, and got the marks back for both this weekend.

I did one early, for DB123 - Personal Finance and got a higher score than expected, with which I am really pleased. Now to keep up that standard ...

The other assignment, my second and final for D172 - Contemporary Wales was done at the last minute and in a huge rush between bouts of pregnancy illness. It also got a better mark than expected (all I really needed was for it to pass, and I lowered my expectations accordingly in that last week) but certainly the tutor noticed what I already knew, that it was not as good as I "could" have done. There is more detailed feedback my perfectionist self has not yet been able to read, though I will before I write the next assignment.

Tony said "are you trying to get high marks or just to pass?". As high as I can.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I got my first TMA in with 14 hours to spare: approximately 3 hours of typing up notes, 5 hours of moving notes around and expanding until I had a coherent essay, 1 hour of tracking down all my references (done over the weekend) and 2 hours on Monday evening of inserting references, formatting, and similar "administrative" editing.

I've just got the mark back: 75% which is a high pass, but well below the 85% threshold for a distinction. I'm pretty pleased but I'm taking note of the areas for improvement highlighted by the tutor (missed some references, included one area very sketchily when I could have left it out entirely and expanded another that was a bit weak). I want to do better for the second TMA.

Last week's study topic was the Welsh language and the associated nationalism movements. I found myself wondering how silly it would be to use some of my optional course credits on the OU beginner's Welsh course, to get beyond the road-signs-and-greetings level I've got to with family living in Wales. Who else do I know who I could talk with if I did?

The next module (DB123 - Personal Finance in context) starts soon, and the website opens on Thursday, which will give me access to the course timetable so I can plan my study for that too. Meanwhile it's half-term-at-home for me, Tony & Charles and I'm planning to take advantage of the extra free time.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
School's closed for teacher-training, so I've taken the day off to do the childcare

Done:
1. Lie-in (8am before I woke: luxury!)
2. Go into town and look at queue for the University Chancellorship election
2a. Vote if queue is not too long
3. Go to St Ives on the guided bus, as Charles loves buses and now that we have the white elephant it would be a pity to waste the millions spent on it. Also I have never been to St Ives in my 15 years living here so it'll be an adventure.
4. Routine doctor appointment
5. Meet up with the lovely [livejournal.com profile] emperor in the Carlton for supper.
6a. Drink and gossip all evening while Charles snoozes on a comfy seat

To-do:
6b. Go home after supper, put Charles to bed, and get more OU done.

I'm indebted to [livejournal.com profile] atreic for her thoughtful post on the Chancellorship, and the discussion she hosted there (now including contributions from one of the nomination committee). Also to Ian Jackson for discussion in the pub last night; without either of those I would not have made time to go and read all the candidate statements and come to a decision on how to vote.

Also I have a mild essay crisis looming for my first Open University TMA: the deadline is not until Tuesday but my job is pretty tiring and exhausting at this peak time of year so I need to submit the TMA by Sunday night or it won't be done. I've done most of the reading, but I need to write up my notes and structure them into something approximating an essay. Tony's going to take Charles out doing fun stuff tomorrow so I can focus on getting it done: my personal preferred deadline is to submit it by tomorrow evening so I can go and socialise with a clear conscience. Let's see how that works out ...
rmc28: (charles2011)
Swishing umbrella

The umbrella is not part of the uniform, but did you see the weather today? There are two more photos under the cut.
he's nearly five already )

Also today I completed the work for week 1 of my 12-week OU module, D172. So far I'm really enjoying it, both the content and the activity of studying.

I'm currently being a bit old-school and making handwritten notes in nice ringbound notebooks with funky erasable pens, but I'm almost certainly going to transfer the notes into Scrivener for putting together the TMAs. From the small amount of noodling I've done with it so far, Scrivener is massive overkill for this module. On the other hand, that makes this module a useful introductory project for Scrivener. The 30-day free trial is very nice, especially being 30 days of use, not 30 wall-clock days. I should be able to complete the module before I have to decide whether I want to buy it.

I am trying to get ahead of schedule on D172 as a) LibDem conference is in less than 2 weeks, and will eat up most of a week, and b) my next course overlaps with this one by 4 weeks and I'd like not to overlap the study if I can avoid it. If I get through all the weeks as fast as this one it won't be a problem, but contingency is my friend.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I just paid the last nursery invoice for Charles and cancelled their direct debit. He starts school full-time on Monday week, with two half-day sessions next week. We bought All The Uniform the weekend before last, trekking around ASDA, John Lewis & M&S to get it all. He's looking forward to it, I think.

Tomorrow I start my first OU course (D172, Contemporary Wales). I'm pretty excited about it: got my study book, got my timetable, got some pretty new notebooks and pens, got my learning head on.

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rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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