29 Dec 2011

Groups

I was a skater boy.

Ha! In my dreams!

I spent most of the time between the ages of 15 and 22 wishing that I could skate. Alas, I have neither the balance nor skill to stand on a wheeled board and whizz around town, let alone make the thing jump and flip. I have spent my life since the age of 22 wishing that I could do free running.
I am 26. I have had two children. I weigh...too much, according to my BMI and indeed, clothing size. I will never be a free runner.

But it is with the skate scene that I have always most strongly identified. I wore the big, baggy jeans, the skate trainers, the band shirts. I still do, most of the time, though my jeans have become more fitted at the waist and my shirts less immense. I used to bleach my (already fair) hair regularly, until one day it went horribly wrong, and I dyed it bright purple to cover up the...greyness. This left me with a pinkish tinge for about six months and put me off dying my hair. I did recently dye it bright red. It looks awesome, but damn it's high maintenance. I will never be as scene as I used to be. This should be a blessing.

At school, I knew everyone, had very few real friends and a whole LEGION of bullies. I had that sort of face, you know - an ugly one. I grew into it eventually, but it took til I was about 16 for most boys to recognise that I was actually a woman, by which time I was in my DOOMED relationship with my future husband. I put my faith in computer games and books. Still do.

It wasn't until I met my future husband's peer group (and thus, him) that I found myself fitting in at all. I had two lives for a time, half with my exciting, punkrock boyfriend and company, half with my intensely academic schoolfriends. Then I ditched school at 17, and gave myself wholeheartedly to the skate scene and accompanying music. It was the first adult decision I ever made.

I still sit, from time to time, belting out Strung Out and Lagwagon, wishing that I could keep putting on gigs, meeting people from across the country, feeling part of my social group to the extent that I was the heart of it. Instead, I bring up my two kids, read far too much, cook and spend evenings looking at psychology courses on openlearn. Which is what I'm doing this evening, reading about how we classify ourselves into 'us' and 'them'.

As a teen, 'we' were the skaters, the misunderstood, the heroic and the artless. 'They' were literally everyone else. Parents, chavs, goths, adults, disapproving, accusing, wanting us to change, never understanding that to do so would be to deny ourselves.
Now, 'we' are the mothers, the homemakers, the people bedding into lives that we like to believe are solid and then crack open at a moment's notice. 'They' are the free, unshackled by children, by bills, responsibility and obligation.

Sometimes, I pity the teenaged for their lack of experience, and insight. Mainly I miss being that age myself, with the freedom and opportunity to do exactly what I wanted without fear of what might be.

I'm only 26. I feel twice that.

5 Dec 2011

Mental obstacle

I haven't written in an age!

It's December. I've started recieving OU emails on an almost daily basis. My course materials are despatched on 13th January. That's like...six weeks.
My Christmas shopping is complete. My 7ft Christmas tree is arriving this week. The access arrangements with the boys' father are sorted.
Oh, and my eldest is having his tonsils out on the 30th.
Erk.

You see, everything else takes a backseat when you have surgery looming. He is 2 and a half. He seems quite grown up, compared to his baby brother. But he is not. He is tiny. He can count to 13. He can speak reasonably coherantly. But he has no idea what is looming.
He's already anxious about Christmas - A MAN IS COMING DOWN THE CHIMNEY? EH? - even though he simultaneously is excited. His favourite thing is Mickey Mouse. He's only just sleeping in his own bed every night and still regularly falls out. He is still in nappies.

And they are going to induce a coma, intubate him and stick a scalpel down his throat.

It's worrying on so many levels for me, and I can't let him see. He has no idea. He gets scared when he has to go to the doctors anyway (he's had tonsillitis 15 times in two years) and isn't fond of hospitals. He's never been operated on before. It's best that he knows nothing. And I will be there, every step of the way, as will his father. I have had a tonsillectomy myself, I know the procedure well and I am not especially anxious about that objectively. But he is my baby. Subjectively, I'm shitting myself.

Meanwhile, his breastfed, clingy baby brother will have to be looked after by family while I'm stuck at PCH for two days.

It's not going to ruin Christmas, and I shall be bloody glad to get rid of the infectious, insidious things for the new year. But it's a massive mental barrier blocking my ability to ready myself for study, or indeed anything else.

25 Oct 2011

Practicalities

My OU funding got approved at long last and I finished registering to start my course. Woop woop. My start date is 4th February, which will come round quick once Christmas is out of the way.

Christmas, when childless, is an occasion to get presents and wasted. And you can do that WITH children, but not until you've made them believe that you are, in fact, an elderly, bearded fellow with a penchant for chimneys, and spent your entire year's savings on making sure that aforementioned bearded fellow has left them an impressive heap of presents. It's not all about the presents, it's about the magic. Magic is expensive. Who knew?
As my child quota doubled earlier this year, I have more Christmas to arrange than usual, but I'm actually really looking forward to it. It's my eldest's third christmas and the first where he'll be able to understand a little of what's going on, which is contributing to my Christmas-magic related anxiety.

Anyway, spurred forth by my OU acceptance and unusually healthy bank balance, I bought myself a spanky new Dell Inspiron all-in-one to work (and play Sims 3) on. *bounces up and down*. Now all I need is a computer chair and a printer and I'm GOOD.

Oh, and co-ordinated stationary, naturally.

9 Oct 2011

The office

I live with two very small children. They monopolise my house, utterly. They both sleep in my bed, so that too is monopolised. I do things like de-toy the living room when my toddler's in bed, so it feels more like my own space, but since I usually sit up with the baby in the evenings, I'm still not child free. There is only one room in the house devoid of the trappings of offspring and that is my study/office/library/chillout room.

I deliberately got a three bedroomed house so I could have a room JUST for me. This may sound selfish, but I need some space. We all need some space. The boys have a double bedroom between them, but sleep in my bed anyway, so my bedroom is not my own. It has taken me some months (four, to be precise) to organise my study into a workable space, but today, I completed it, spurred on by the arrival of my course textbooks, sent by the wonderful and generous Vickie.

I haven't quite completed it. Currently, I have a desk, a keyboard, a stool, three huge (and full) bookcases and various scrapbooking supplies. I have some pictures to hang. The desk has integral drawers and shelves.

I need:
A desktop computer, including monitor, keyboard and mouse
A lamp
General stationary supplies
A printer, preferably incorporating a scanner
A ludicrously comfortable computer chair

I have a bit of money saved up for this, but I need a bit more before I can get it all. Especially the chair. Chairs cost a bloody fortune, even on Ebay.

I made a cockup with my application for OU funding. I didn't read the part of the notes where it said to get the passport copy certified. *facepalm*. So, hopefully, my brother in law will certify it for me. The list of potential certifiers is ridiculously exact. For example, a teacher can certify it. However my friend who is a school nurse, cannot.

Ah well, I'll get that sent back and I might actually feel like I'm getting somewhere! The abiding panic at the thought of actually Doin' Learninz has abated somewhat.

3 Oct 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

Why do some couples stay together, and others fall apart?

I DON'T KNOW, OPEN UNIVERSITY. WHY ARE YOU TAUNTING ME IN THIS FASHION?

Ahem. The fact is, I know why me and my ex failed. A lack of communication. I wanted to settle down, be a family, raise my kids and do the whole 'grown up' thing. My ex was not. Not even close. He wasn't ready to stop being the focus of my attention, couldn't understand why I needed to give my time to my child/ren instead. We never properly discussed it, just tried to batter each others square peg into our own round hole. No innuendo intended.
Then, I finally got pregnant again and I think he saw that we'd be getting worse and ran the fuck away to someone who was more willing to be devoted to him. It's very narcissistic, although you could argue that so is reproduction. You like yourself so much, you play god and produce someone in your own image, then fight them until they're adults to try and make them just like you.

The truth is, with me and my ex, that we could've loved each other to the death, but neither of us would have been happy. We suffocated each other. We could've stayed together for the kids, but they would have had to witness our combustion on a weekly basis. It'll have been a year next week, a year in which I have moved away, become financially independant and had our second child. It's been a very rough, painful year.
It was like an amputation to start with; I felt like there was part of me missing, an empty hole where he'd been. And, as with an amputation, I felt the itch there all the time. It was like he was dead, because the man I married had gone completely. I didn't know him anymore, it was so disorientating. I couldn't rid myself of all the 'what ifs' and they do you no good at all.

Now? We still see each other regularly, because of the children, and we don't fight. We don't even argue. I'm not bitter - what's the point? I have my beautiful little boys, and they are reward enough. I know what not to do next time, I know what behaviour to watch out for in a partner.
And I know who I am now. I'm not just someone's other half, not just someone's mother, not just a cook and dishwasher. I'm me, and I quite like me.

16 Sep 2011

Rules of attraction

Adult relationships. That's the latest part of my pyschology intro course. Ugh.
My history either points to me knowing FAR TOO MUCH about the natural lifecycle of an adult relationship or NOTHING, because I have failed. I am Getting Divorced. I have known the happiest day of my life and watched it fall apart, all for a lack of communication. I saw this unit coming up slowly and didn't know whether to dread or anticipate.
According to this, a relationship requires attraction, and attraction stems from similarity, proximity and physical appearance.

Now, proximity. I have had two significant relationships in my life, including my marriage. Both have started long distance. Now, my marriage started in a bar in Boston. We had mutual friends, who owed us a blind date favour. We were thrown together. There was attraction, and a vast amount of adolescent lust. My more recent relationship stemmed from going to the same school, but the courtship occured primarily online. Ah the internet. Is there nothing it cannot do? So I have flouted the conventions of finding the familiar more attractive.
Similarity. Well, that's obvious enough. If you share no interests, no common thread, what do you talk about? Music tied me to my husband, and a similarly puerile sense of humour. Other than that, we had some fiery disagreement and since we were young, pretended interest in each other's hobbies to get along better. My boyfriend and I have practically everything in common, except religion and politics (which must never be discussed between friends). Similarity should equal a self-esteem boost, reducing the process of attraction to something of an ego-trip.

The most obvious basis of attraction is physical attraction. It's not ESSENTIAL, but it damn well helps. Apparently, men think women want financial security and women think men want sex. Me, I like security of a different kind. I like to know my partner won't bugger off with another woman. Maybe men interpret that as "I will be faithful to you, but if I'm not, I will buy you off handsomely".
Oh, I'm sorry, I'm doing that bitter thing again. Ahem.

Sexual attraction is all interlinked to fertility. A woman is most attractive (and possibly most viciously hormonal) when ovulating. She is also at her randy best. The human body is amazing at optimising fertility. Men, being fertile at all times, don't experience such fluctuations. LUCKY MEN. Apparently, men are attracted to women with a waist measurement that is approximately 80% of their hip measurement. Also, skinniness is only prized in cultures where food is not difficult to obtain. Suntanned skin is allegedly becoming unattractive due to the connotations of skin cancer. I knew my day would come again. Pale win!
We seek mates of similar attractiveness to ourselves. Idealism has little place in a long term relationship.

To summarise, your ideal mate is probably the guy you've been working with for two years, who always makes you laugh, who has pretty eyes and who shares your cultural references. Go on, ask him for a drink.

14 Sep 2011

Conceptual memory and schemas

Evidently, our minds hold information more readily if it's split into categories. The example given in the course is a random list of words, which are remembered more easily if you already know that the words fall under one of four categories, of which you are given the names.
Schemas follow on from this, as your mind forms and then stores information into categories (schemata), as you go along.

My mind is a maverick and refuses to conform to this ideal of conceptual memory. I have a massive knowledge of medical terminology, primarily because I understand the latin prefixes, roots and suffixes, but also because I picture the body part or procedure when I am remembering the word. Colonostomy? Mmm, bag in the colon! Rhinoplasty? Change that nose!
I once remembered the entire skeletal system by re-learning the old "Knee bone connected to the thigh bone" song with the proper words in place of knee bone. My ability to name almost anything in terminology gets annoying - ask my boyfriend.

No. Not like that.

I've always had trouble learning things systematically. Taking the terminology idea, you're SUPPOSED to learn it by body system. Therefore, all the bones and fractures are learned under the skeletal system etc. When I've done courses on terminology, and given courses on terminology, this is how I've learnt/taught it, but it's not how I hold the information myself. My memory of it is far less specific and visualised.

So, I have a visual memory. I suppose that's good to know.

13 Sep 2011

Improving memory

I have always been something of an adoring Derren Brown fan, since Trick Of The Mind was first shown when I was a teenager. It may all be sorcery and witchcraft, but he's mesmerising. I gobbled up both his mainstream books, having little interest in the practical aspects of magic. One thing that really stood out for me was the memory technique of linking things to remember with strong visual images. It was the basis of the more complicated memory palace, as described in Hannibal by Thomas Harris - at the time, one of my favourite books - only, I couldn't think of a single practical application for such a technique.

Last night, while idly working my way through another unit on the psychology course, the same memory technique was recounted, with an exercise to remember a shopping list. It gave the list of visuals to produce, so I quietly sat and thought about them, then utterly forgot about re-testing myself later on and dragged my exhausted hide to bed.

For some reason, the exercise came to mind again this afternoon. I have no idea why, I was just sitting watching Waybuloo with my boys, and I thought "Hmm, wonder if I can remember that list".

And I could. I remembered every single item on it, vividly. From opening the door with a banana handle, to a tap that poured chocolate instead of water; that list was imprinted on my memory by the simple act of thinking about some images.

If only I could actually apply it to real life, I might be able to implement it some way to benefit myself. As recounted earlier, my memory is pretty shocking. There are whole years of my adult life that consist of nothing more than wisps of fragmented memories wafting about my brain, lacking any cohesion. One of the only ways I recall many events is by the detailed diaries I've kept over the years. Where there's no diary, there's no memory. If I could adapt my memory into a more visual experience, I might actually retain information.

Huzzah!

12 Sep 2011

How to think

I need to learn to think again.

When you have small children, your mind takes on a new routine. Mine centres around mealtimes, and how long til the next one. With breastfeeding a small, times between feeds are BUSY, feeding time is a nice sitdown in front of the TV. Feeding a toddler is more "how long do I have to entertain this demanding child before I can get on with the next meal?". Out of the twain, babies are definitely easier. Such is the joy of domestic drudgery, that I struggle to find the time to think of anything other than my children or basic housework/personal hygiene that needs taking care of.
This situation is exacerbated by being single. Sometimes, I go several days without having any face to face interaction with another adult. Watching Cbeebies all day drains me of any coherant thought. "Ah, Show Me Show Me...today we are learning about opposites. Oh good, I'm a little shaky on those now".
Also, memory loss. There is something about birth that mindwipes all that has gone before. I cannot remember being childless, even though it was less than three years ago. I cannot remember only having one child, even though that was less than five months ago! I cannot remember what it's like to be in a full time work routine, what I did to fill the hours, how I wasted all the free, childless time. Now my only childless time is about twenty minutes before I go to bed, when they are slumbering. But even that time is spent with me constantly on the alert, wondering which one will wake up first.

All this is not conducive to thinking.

So, to break me in, as aforementioned, I'm doing some courses on the OpenLearn part of the OU site. These are free short(ish) courses on various subjects at various difficulty levels, with no credits available. I've started with a course called Starting With Psychology. It has absolutely nothing directly to do with Health and Social Care, but it's something that I've always found interesting. It's supposed to be eight hours long, but I'm an hour in and up to the third part (of six). So far, I've learnt about dividing the corpus callosum, and now I'm on memory and memory improvement. Now, THAT might be useful!

11 Sep 2011

Preparation (I may have bitten off more than I can chew)

Initially, I was jut going to do K101 - An Introduction To Health and Social Care, and see how it went. My financial application arrived and I sent it off merrily. I got accepted onto the course, all was well.

But then I had delusions of grandeur and convinced myself to try for a BSc in Health and Social Care. Erk. Erk. Erk.

So, my course begins on 4th February. I have already obtained my textbooks from a lovely friend who did the same course a few years ago. I now need to get a desktop computer and printer. Oh, and pretty stationery. I have a lust for matching, beautiful stationery. And a desk. Oh, and a computer chair. I moved house three months ago and actually have a dedicated library/study in my spare bedroom. It's purple. So, I must create an optimal working space. Any excuse...

And academically speaking, I need to make an effort to prepare my brain. I have a toddler and a four month old son. For most of the last year, I have been pregnant or being woken up in the night for MILK. I've lost my ability to concentrate fully, to sit and read a book for a length of time, to write properly, to absorb information. 'Tis the lot of any new mother, but being single as well has exacerbated it since my every waking moment and most of my sleeping moments, revolve around a demanding toddler and a little baby. My ex doesn't yet have my baby because he's exclusively breastfed. However, come February, he should be having my toddler regularly overnight and my baby for days out. So, I shall have suitable time to learn.

However, I haven't done any independant studying for so long that I need to break myself back in. So I'm doing a few OpenLearn courses to make me think. I'm also trying to read more. Since I had my youngest, I've probably read one new book. I've mainly been re-reading non challenging fare. I need to get back into the habit of reading and absorbing.

I want to do well. Since my personal life failed so tragically last year, I feel the need to prove myself in other fields. I should add that I do have a rather splendid, supportive boyfriend, but he lives many miles away.

I have major wibbles about once a week, which is absurd because I have five months to panic madly and I have demonised this to such an extent that it cannot possibly be that bad!

My educational excuse

So, where does one begin on the slow easing back into a receptive state of mind?

My post-spoonfed-GCSE education was, as previously mentioned, a bit rubbish. This was partially because of my first few months of year 12 being plagued by distractions. I got my first real boyfriend, who inconveniently lived 40 miles away. My maternal grandparents died within weeks of each other and I was needed at home to help look after my myriad younger siblings, including a very young baby (who's now 10, which makes me feel ancient). I just didn't get into the studious vibe that would have got me through that first year. It didn't help that I decided to do five essay based A levels - English Lit, English Language, Theatre Studies, Religious Studies and General Studies - and I utterly and entirely loathed my lit/lang teacher. We rubbed each other up the wrong way and I skived virtually all her lessons. I still got a B in my lit exams, but I had already dropped out by then, so it was to no avail.

So, it is with a sense of extreme trepidation that I embark on this renaissance!

All About Me

Greetings!

I'm Soph. I'm considered a mature student, at the grand old age of 26. I don't feel very mature. In fact, I feel woefully childlike. This suits me well, as I have two young children. Jimmy is 2, Jack is a mere 4 months. During my second pregnancy, I split up with my husband which means I am now that awful stereotype - the single mother.
I've been in full/part time employment within the NHS for almost eight years, starting as a receptionist, ending as a data analyst working in enhanced services and QOF, and notes summarising.
I'm taking a break from work for a few years to try and make sure my kids grow up reasonably well rounded. They require my full and ardent attention, to be both mother and father. However, it goes against the grain to sit, inert, doing nothing.

Ultimately, I want to go to Anglia Ruskin and study midwifery at Peterborough (my home city). Alas, I am currently unqualified for this. I got a glowing 11 GCSEs, but sadly sucked at A levels, gaining two Bs and 3 Ds at AS level and then ignomiously dropping out in favour of boozing and boyfriend. The boyfriend I married. See above for how that turned out. Study hard kids, it's ultimately worth it, tempting though the paaaartaaaying may seem.

I checked out the course requirements and lo! They do not accept AS levels in lieu of A levels, but they do accept OU credits. 120 in fact. "RIGHT", said I, rushing to my netbook and signing up immediately..."I shall succeed for once".

Well, you never know!