Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17th already!

St. Patrick's Day today and a chance to have a 'wee' breather. Had planned a lie-in but seem to have got so used to getting up before seven that my body decided that sleeping until 8 o'clock was plenty.

The past ten days or so have been really eventful. For once, I've been doing lots of things that don't involve study. So much for planning to get stuck into studying at the beginning of the month.

Last weekend was 'Itzacon' - the annual convention for the NUIG Fantasy and Sci-fi society (Fansci). It has to go down as the best weekend I've spent on campus so far. I helped out as staff for the event, particularly on Sunday when the fairytale theme meant I transformed into the village witch for the whole day. Some might say I didn't need to change much but I did get to wear my beautiful hooded cloak and cackle a lot.

As soon as convention was over at 6pm, it was time to get cracking on the project for the week. I was persuaded to throw my hat in the ring for the part-time Students' Union elections as Mature Student Officer. It was tempting to add a crossed out 'IM' in front of the title on my posters but I managed to resist that one! Polling was on Thursday so that meant spending all week plastering every noticeboard with campaign literature; handing out flyers here, there and everywhere and going into large lecture halls to do what are called "shout outs". Thankfully I had the help of some wonderful people and yesterday, all our hard work paid off when I won a large majority of the vote. I am so grateful for all the support and kindness shown to me this week - college life is rewarding in so many different ways. I was actually moved to tears on polling day when one dear, darling girl persuaded me to take a break and forced a chocolate eclair on me to get my sugar levels up!

Somehow or other I actually managed to stay on top of my reading and only missed two lectures all week! Have to get organised today and sort out the house, laundry and emails before heading out for some St Patrick's Day fun and games. Guess I need 24 hours of 'something completely different' because procrastination time is definitely over now. Have to get assignments done and then prepare for the exams in May.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

So many little time.

Saturday is here again and, after what felt like a fortnight's work rolled into one week, had planned something completely different for today. We had a few days of beautiful, dry spring weather so getting outdoors after being cooped up studying was in order. So much for plans. Instead of cutting the grass and pottering in the garden, back comes the rain! It was too much to hope that winter was gone. We have hail and sleet forecast for the next few days.

Oh well, indoor pottering will have to be the order of the day. Have the house to myself for a few hours so can catch up on cleaning and listen to some music. Once the place is looking nice and tidy, it may tempt me to curl up on the couch and get some reading done. I've been too exhausted lately to do anything in the way of work after getting home in the evenings and, although I never seem to stop working, a small backlog is building up again. So many little time.

With less than a month to go before lectures finish, the exams will be on top of me in no time. The garden will have to wait. There's a little matter of a high bar to be cleared again. It's head down and work constantly from now on...after the rugby tomorrow of course!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not again!

Oh no! Have an essay due tomorrow and I've only managed to write a fraction of the 1,500 words expected. After carefully completing the necessary reading, once again I find that it's all sloshing around in my brain but won't organise itself properly in order that it can flow out through my fingers onto the page.

If I were at home this morning, I'd probably find myself doing housework or laundry as a distraction tactic. However, having to attend lectures means that I'm stuck at a desk in the Library, completely unable to switch off the 'little grey cells' so they are whizzing around like moths at a candle instead of behaving themselves.

It's not that I don't know what to write, or that I don't want to write - I'm writing quite happily here and submitted a few hundred words for Creative Writing a short while ago; it just seems to be a surfeit of disorganised thoughts. I've even been working on a Prepositional Calculus puzzle for Logic in an attempt to switch to the analytical track and leave the creative process to itself!

Do I go home and see if location is the problem? Do I take a walk into town? Do I miss the 3pm lecture in Critical Theory so I can stop worrying about breaking off from work to attend class? I'm certainly not going to get much done as things stand.

Will walk away from the laptop and see what comes to me.....

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I'm in a quandary. Nothing to do with college but, depending on how I deal with the situation, it will have implications on all aspects of life, including academic plans. Something of an ethical nature has been brought to my attention which, as a philosophy student, I am trying to address logically. However, all the propositional calculus in the world doesn't change the fact that a difficult decision will have to be made once I have all the premises laid out properly. There are times when being so analytical is problematic but now I do have the tools with which to work things out.

As you can gather, the Logic course is going well and, while I'm struggling a bit with the new calculus, the practical applications are being integrated into my way of thinking. The Critical Theory essay due on Wednesday is bound to include valid arguments!

The academic week was a very busy one all round. I eventually finished my first mid-term essay and got it submitted with 40 minutes to spare. Reading-wise I'm almost up-to-date and I'm nearly ready to start writing the next assignment. Throw in the voluntary work and a nice bit of typing 'as Gaeilge' for somebody and it's understandable that I tended to collapse into bed early every night. Tuesday, I fell asleep on the couch straight after dinner and on Wednesday I couldn't even string a coherent sentence together by the time I got home!

A complete change of pace is in order this weekend. I'm home in Mayo with all the family and we shall do 'normal' things together. For once, the weather is fine and a long walk on a beach or two is definitely on the agenda. Some reading will have to be done but I think it's time to switch off and let the batteries recharge.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Growing and changing

A sunny Saturday is trying to lure me from my desk and I'm sitting here fighting with myself over what to do. Of course there's an essay deadline on Monday, but there is also the dog (and yours truly) in need of some fresh air and exercise. As I write, the thought of strolling across the park and a game of 'fetch' on the way to get something nice for brunch seems to be the best compromise. I will walk off the calories that will be eaten later; my bitch won't spend the day giving me soulful looks; and a clear head will write better (I hope).

Now that's decided, it's just a matter of getting one more cup of coffee on the inside and suitable clothing on the outside and we'll be off. While I'm sipping, can get some more of this blog written.

Earlier today, it dawned on me that being in college has changed me enormously. No way am I the same person I was two years ago - sometimes I'm not sure of who I am at all. Of course there are bits of me I recognise, but the way this student is evolving keeps on surprising me! Apart from increased confidence, I'm far more organised that I ever thought possible, something which even my lecturers have commented on. Interpersonal skills - never a strong point - seem to have come out of nowhere and I like to think that I'm a more approachable and likeable person than before.

After I'd got over my divorce, my sister told me that I had become the person I should have been if I hadn't married. Maybe the 'new' me is the adult that would have grown up in that parallel universe?

I always swore that I'd be like Peter Pan and never grow up. I doubt I'll ever lose the inner child but as I get to know this 'mature' student, it's not so bad becoming an adult after all!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love is...

Seeing as how it is almost St. Valentine's Day, it's a good time to share something which came up over, what I call, the mature students' breakfast table. A few of us who get in early congregate at one particular table in the canteen and have interesting and sometimes bizarre conversations.

The other day I mentioned how much I love university and was told by one classmate that 'love' and 'university' were not words which he would combine in a sentence. This, to me, was very surprising because, as regular followers of this blog will know, I'm loving my college experience.

Yes, I know there are times when I'm tearing my hair out under pressure to produce thousands of words in a short space of time, or when I get upset because things seem particularly difficult, but that is the nature of any relationship. My children drive me nuts at times, having a long-distance relationship is frustrating, but that doesn't mean I love my nearest and dearest any less; the same goes for NUIG. Of course it's not all plain sailing; of course it takes hard work; of course there are times when I want to metaphorically 'break it off', but in the overall scheme of things, being a student in my chosen university makes me far happier than any other career I've ever had. To me, that is love.

Compared to some of the personal relationships I've had in the past, this love-affair with college is truly romantic. For most of my life I have dreamed of being an undergrad in the same way young girls dream of meeting their 'Mr Right'. What a potential disappointment was in store for me when I finally made it 'up the aisle', or to be more accurate, received my place in NUIG! It could have gone horribly wrong if my new situation turned out to be nothing like I'd dreamed. Luckily for me, college is living up to my expectations and a long-term 'marriage' to academia is in progress.

The first few weeks were a bewildering, honeymoon period with emotions all over the place, however, with effort and hard work, the relationship developed its own routine and I was able to settle in comfortably. Now I can't imagine leaving this amazing world where I can live happily and securely, doing and sharing all the things I love best and also having friends to moan with when it's needed. If only relationships with the opposite sex could be this easy! During the holidays, I miss being on campus yet don't fall to pieces because of dependency issues. The beginning of term is like meeting a loved one at an airport - all excitement and joy at being reunited without thinking about the adjustments and effort that will be needed later.

In some ways, this affair with college closely mirrors the one that I have with my 'significant other' - a mature, happy relationship which blossoms because the lessons of the past have been learned and, by applying them to the present, joy and contentment flow from purely living in the 'now'. Being middle-aged makes one more tolerant and less judgemental in almost every aspect of life and so problems can be solved or difficulties accepted without too many tears or tantrums. Love may have come late for me (in more ways than one) but at this moment I can honestly say that it's what I feel.

Being loved, there are times when one's partner delights you with extravagant expressions of their feelings. This happened last weekend, when NUIG celebrated its hard-working scholars at a special ceremony. Yours truly was one of the many mature students in receipt of a lovely certificate and a cheque on the day. As I queued to ascend the steps to receive my award, I was shaking with nerves, thinking that my name was included on the programme by mistake and that there wouldn't be anything for the President to give me! Maybe a little more faith in myself is required - in college and in relationships because, not only did my beloved NUIG give me a 'Valentine's' gift, but my guy surprised me by travelling to Ireland to be with me at the event. He is staying until the 14th, so this weekend is going to be for concentrating on my human love...

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, January 27, 2012

Can anyone teach me to pole vault?

The end of another week and now I've got all but one of my results from last semester. Surprised and delighted with them but also a little worried. Managed to improve on last year but am thinking that I've gone and set the bar a little too high now. Having broken the mystical '70' in English, do I have it in me to keep up the pace? There's only one way to find out - just do it.

Being a cold, wet and miserable Saturday, nothing will tempt me out of the house (not even football) and, once I've finished procrastinating, will settle down to read. Waiting for me are Aristotle, Hume and Descartes for Philosophy modules, and Marie de France, Hazlitt, Wilde and Arnold for English, as well as three Medieval mystery plays. Secondary reading will have to wait until during the week, methinks!

Of course the housework will have to get done first so my that study area is clean and tidy; the grate needs cleaning out so I can light the fire and be warm while sitting reading and preparing meals to fuel the 'little grey cells' is essential. Is that procrastination? I can take it further by deciding that the fridge HAS to be cleaned out today or it really is time to clear out my inbox...

NO! NO! NO! It will take only a few minutes to bring the fire from last night back to life, make a snack and a coffee and clear enough space on the table for the books. If I want to get over my self-raised bar, there's only one way - keep on working. That is, unless there's someone out there who can teach me to pole-vault?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I spoke too soon!

Knew this would happen - we've suddenly been given a heap of reading to do for all courses and it was only yesterday that Blackboard got its act together and gave access to reading lists and links to all the online articles. Why do I always open my big mouth?

On the writing front, we had our first Creative Writing Seminar yesterday and I think it will be even better than I had hoped. Was as nervous as anything but we have the most amazing writer/lecturer: a polyglot Fullbright Scholar no less! We're going to be learning about writing from the publishing as well as the practical side and it should be the kick up the behind I need to put pen to paper more often. At the end of class we were given a topic and then told to write continuously on it for six minutes. I couldn't get over how the words flowed and, if you are interested, part of our course is to put what we write on the class Facebook page. Check out the page: "EN284a Writing Commercial Fiction".

This morning is 'Click and Connect' day so I've come in early to get some reading done for this evening's lecture - Hazlitt essays. Loved him in school and have a beautiful book of his poetry which I picked up many years ago in a poky second hand bookshop in England; one of those wonderful Aladdin's caves with shelves all over the place and nooks and crannies to explore.

Really can't stay here and chat so I'll leave with a 'vignette' from yesterday...

While working in a computer suite, a student very kindly gave me a lolipop, saying: "We have to look after our matures". And I thought I was still only a young one :-)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

The end of another week and I'm starting to find a rhythm to the new term. It's strange not having any early lectures and that makes it hard to motivate getting up in the mornings. At least we are now getting serious reading to do and time in the library is beginning to become part of the routine.

The new extra-curricular activities certainly make the days fly. This was the first week of the 'Click and Connect' programme. It's a short computing course for complete beginners which uses student volunteers to assist the tutor. As I've done this sort of thing on-and-off for years I figured it was a good idea to put my name forward. It's lots of fun and very rewarding. Most of the people we are teaching are in my age bracket or older and I'm enjoying showing them the 'magic' (as one lady called it) of computers. When keyboard skills are as natural as riding a bike, finding ways to explain the basics to someone who has never even used a typewriter is actually very humbling. What we take for granted can be a huge hurdle - even holding a mouse correctly is a new skill for some. These wonderful people, who want to be able to contact loved ones abroad, book holidays, pay bills, get access to the 'WWW' and even download knitting patterns, have so much to share with us. Coffee breaks are an education in themselves! One absolutely amazing gentleman has offered to come and fix a few things round the house for me and I'm going to prepare him some letterheads and standard letters to assist him in his new digital correspondence. All of us 'assistant tutors' are loving the experience and look forward to meeting our pupils again next week.

Another new departure for me is getting trained in the Socs Box. This is the hub for all the college societies and another learning experience and social outlet.Some of the slides on the campus tv screens next week will be mine :-). The staff and other volunteers are a lovely bunch and it's nice to be in a busy office environment again as well as get to meet lots of students I'd only known to see.

Work wise, the new courses are absorbing and not as heavy on the reading as last term - yet. Friday afternoon Ethics seminars are probably going to be the most fun and Modern Philosophy the hardest but, as we all agree, NOTHING can be as bad as Phenomenology. English is only warming up but I'm looking forward to the Creative Writing seminar which begins on Wednesday. As ever, the new semester brings new insights. I used to believe that my brain couldn't learn well in the evenings but, as I'm filling up a lot of my days with other things, necessity means that I've had to study after dinner and, much to my surprise, it's only been my preconception that prevented me from opening the books rather than flop in front of the goggle-box. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Now it's my 'mothering' weekend and I have brought my youngest teenager to Galway as a treat. We're heading off to leave a book back to the library and mooch around some shops before our favourite joint past-time of watching football. Time to put on my Liverpool shirt and venture forth

Farewell for now :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An amazing day

It didn't start out that way. For some reason, after eventually drifting off for a couple of hours sleep, at 4.30am I was wide awake at the same time as being exhausted. Needless to say, when the alarms went off shortly after I'd finally nodded off, it was a case of 'I'll get up the next time it rings' and ended up sleeping soundly at last and missing my morning lecture. What got me out of bed was a friend ringing unexpectedly to say he was in town and wanted to meet up. By the time he got to the house the kettle had boiled and the first caffeine of the day started to take effect.

The phone rang - my eldest son, who doesn't usually ring unless he wants something - had opened some mail which had arrived at the home house for me. To my amazement he telling me that I'd won a small scholarship for my 1st year results. I get to dress up and go to an awards ceremony and everything! Just as well I was at home when I got the news because it was such a wonderful bombshell. If only my dad was alive to go to the event with me. I can picture his face beaming with quiet pride at the success of another of his children.

The rest of the day went great - even got my first choice for English Seminar (Creative writing) and meetings and lecture were good. However, my overall emotion is one of gratitude - for the genetic heritage of my parents and grandparents; the fantastic education I was given as a child and the support and encouragement of my amazing family and friends. Without all the people behind me I'd never have got where I am now and this scholarship is as much down to them as the work I did last year.

Now just keep pushing me to continue the effort for the next 18 months :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No... I wasn't dead!

I'm sorry for being so neglectful of this blog. There are lots of reasons why I've done no personal writing for weeks but no good excuses (if you know what I mean). At first it was a matter of trying to get five essays written and studying for the one and only end of term exam on History of Philosophy. Despite all the study I'd done during the semester, when it actually came to the point of doing the essays, it was like my mind went into total 'freeze' mode, just like a computer - all the data was inside, correctly filed, but the operating system went on the blink. Despite knowing what had to be done and being aware of time slipping away, I seemed to be as calm as a millpond; no feelings of anxiety that the essays wouldn't be completed on time (or that they'd even be sub-standard). It was a very strange place to be in.

Now I'm not going to bore you with details of my mental health; suffice to say that the little grey cells were too busy worrying about a load of things that had nothing to do with college and the part of me that has to be kept under control with a little white pill and lots of determination every day had somehow managed to shut the rest of me out. Eventually I roped in some outside help and made the most of the NUIG Health Promotion unit and the de-stress programme. Would recommended it for everyone as, after the first treatment and a good chat (and a cry), I got a few hundred words written that afternoon!

Once the floodgates had been opened, on all fronts, the end of term flew by and before I knew it Christmas was here. Had a lovely time at home with all the lads for two weeks and completely chilled out. Did a little study but mostly let my mind do its own thing while I got on with the serious business of making and eating lots of delicious food for us all and being 'Mum'.

Now it's a week into the new term and a whole new set of modules and timetable to come to grips with. Have two compulsory courses in Philosophy this semester so have chosen the History of Ethics to go with Language & Logic and Modern Philosophy. In English I've picked Literary Theory and Criticism and, for fun, Medieval Drama with Frances McCormack. Just waiting with fingers crossed to hear which Seminar they give me this time round. If I don't get one of my top 3 choices I'll go nuts!

What else is new? Well, I walked in every day bar Friday (twice on Wednesday), only to develop sciatica in my left leg... so much for trying to get fit. The Philosophy Society has got off to a great new year and I'm looking forward to our showing of The Meaning of Life this week :-) Tomorrow I start a new volunteering venture - tutoring people in basic computer skills.

Yep! I'm back in the land of the living.