I graduated!

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The hat stayed on.

The pipe organ featured heavily and loudly during the ceremony. Two hated those parts. But he survived.

My careful military precision travel planning paid off. All of us ended up in the right places at the right time and I handed the guest tickets over with no stress needed!

I might write more coherently and fully about it all another day. For now, I’ll just say that I loved it; I’m bloody proud of myself, and the best sound in the world was hearing my three children cheering at the tops of their voices as I stepped on the stage, from right up in the furthest top row of the highest gallery.

All the hard work was well and truly worth it, just for that sound.

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Another day, another set of logistics

Giving myself a few minutes to sit and blog in the middle of a busy day. I feel like I’m just running constantly to catch up with myself at the moment and that is not likely to change for a week or two yet!

Part One: The Past Week Or So In The Prev Household

I’ve been continuing my mission to get and keep the house safe, hygienic and pleasant to live in, with varying levels of success. The bad weather has led to an enormous backlog of laundry, which has been lying around the house in piles (huge pile in the kitchen: dirty washing in a queue for the machine; huge pile on the dining table: clean washing in a pile for the iron; huge pile in basket in living room: clean washing a little nearer to the actual ironing process: little piles on sofa: ironed clothes waiting to be put away).

However, Two and his dad did such an amazing job on his room last Saturday that it inspired One and I to make a start under her bed last Sunday. This continued across the floor this past Saturday, and then, six binbags later, on Sunday I moved a bit of furniture around to give both girls a dedicated section of room each. We are very proud of ourselves. All the children now have real bedrooms to relax in, instead of rubbish heaps with no visible floor. Their rooms were the final frontier of the Great House Sort Out and so everywhere now is reasonable and being kept on top of. This is major progress (as long as you ignore the laundry piles…).

Part Two: Saying Goodbye To A Special Lady Yesterday

Yesterday morning, my wonderful mum arrived early to take over the school run so I could get in the car and drive for over 2 hours to Doncaster in order to attend a celebration service for the life of ‘Auntie’ Pat Willimott who has been a friend both online and in real life for seven years now.

I was so glad to be there along with 17 other people from our corner of the internet, all wearing touches of lime green and representing many many more who weren’t able to make the journey. I think Pat’s friends and family were surprised and pleased to see how many lives she had touched across the country, and how very loved she was by us all. (Her husband was less surprised as he knows many of us well and was in fact wearing a lime green tie for the occasion!).

It was a wonderful service; the hymns were sung with gusto even through our tears (you’ve got to love Methodists for a good sing in all circumstances!); the eulogy, written by her husband Steve and read by a friend, was full, apt and had everyone nodding and smiling throughout, and the photos which were projected onto a screen gave us all a flavour of Pat through the years – and her enormous smile which shone out of every photo from the earliest baby picture to the most recent.

I was reflecting as I drove home just how lucky I am to be a part of this special community of people, drawn together initially by our love of a series of children’s books, but so many close, loving, supportive friendships have developed over the years. I watched during the service as people held onto others for support as they cried, and so many hugs, love and laughter afterwards as we gathered together to share food and memories of Pat. These are people I can be completely honest with about what is happening in my life, and not feel I have to put any sort of ‘face’ on. We are an amazing, caring bunch of people and Pat had a lot to do with that ethos developing. She will not be forgotten, and will be very much missed in so many ways.

I arrived at Mum’s house at 4pm, where two of my children were waiting for me, having driven home, exhausted, drained but so glad to have gone. Sank onto her sofa with a welcome cup of tea and then suddenly remembered that I had to take Three back to school for 5pm for a performance, and she would need feeding first! Lots more rushing around ensued, including collecting One from an appointment along the way. I eventually collapsed into bed about quarter to ten, having abandoned the washing up for the morning!

Part Three: Today’s Complicated Itinerary

Today is Graduation Day for me at the Bridgwater Hall in Manchester! Very exciting, but ridiculously complicated as my mum and the children are coming to watch, but we have to travel separately so that they can finish school and I can still get there in time to don my cap and gown.

Various stresses surrounding today:

a) (This is leading the field at the moment for some reason!) Will my hat fit? Did I measure my head accurately when I had to type the numbers into the website? Will it be too tight and give me a migraine? Will it be too loose and fall over my eyes? Will it be far too small and just fall off when I ascend the stairs to collect my certificate? Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to this dilemma…

b) I looked at someone else’s graduation pictures from the same venue, on facebook, the other day. The place was totally packed. One child isn’t dealing well with crowds of people at the moment and became quite anxious at the sight of them all on the photo.

c) Another photo depicted a huge pipe organ which appeared to dominate the entire hall (Mum assures me it really isn’t as huge as all that!). Two, who is almost certainly on the autistic spectrum, is absolutely terrified of organ pipes. To the point where he has had to stay outside, out of sight of them, on a number of occasions when we’ve visited churches or cathedrals. I am now having visions of my mum having to cope with two children both having panic attacks for unrelated reasons…! Though I have warned Two about the organ pipes and so it won’t be a terrible shock. I might lend him the ipod touch for (silent) distraction therapy.

d) We have a 15 minute window between mum and the children arriving in Manchester and me having to be seated in my place with all the other students. During this time I need to find them and hand over their guest tickets so they can get in. Late trains could jeopardise this somewhat. I probably should be more anxious about this than about the hat, but the subconscious is a peculiar thing. 😉

Part Four: The Rest Of The Week

Tomorrow morning: volunteering in year 4. Tomorrow afternoon: attending school musical extravaganza performance with mum (watching Three singing songs from the musicals with the rest of year 3, among other musical delights). Tomorrow evening: helping at Cubs (I think, must check). Thursday morning: sign on. Thursday afternoon: housework especially laundry sorting. Thursday evening: take and collect Three from school again for evening performance. Friday morning: volunteering in year 4. Friday afternoon: One and Two break up for their summer holidays! Saturday morning: One’s Grade Three violin exam. Saturday evening: Meal out at the Chinese buffet with Mum, J and the children for my 40th birthday. 🙂 Sunday: Aaaaaand relax (I hope).

I’ll say one thing about life – it’s certainly not dull at the moment! And I have wonderful friends and family to share it with.

This blog post got derailed and I can’t think of an apt title!

I have had the email from our course leader to let us know that all of our marks have been officially confirmed by the university.

Therefore I am very very proud to announce that I have achieved a Merit in my Foundation Degree in Supporting Teaching and Learning. I am absolutely thrilled to bits with this, particularly as only a couple of months ago I was almost sure I was going to have to give up the course for a while and start again in September.

I have struggled so badly this past academic year with family and personal issues, but have improved my time management skills hugely, out of sheer necessity. I have learned so much, both in course material and about myself and my capabilities. My confidence in myself has increased enormously.

Now I just need to find a school willing to give me a job!

……………………………………….

I am so tired this evening. To quote myself, talking to Three as I put her to bed: “I am just getting to the stage where I need to sit down with a cup of tea because if I don’t, I will fall down instead, and cry.” I’m so glad it’s Friday and we have a quiet weekend planned. It has been a good week, but a busy one with lots of extra bits and changes to routine which, along with a run of night’s of poor sleep, has just done me in completely.

………………………………………..

My blogging was just interrupted by a phonecall from mum, with news from our home town which I need to get my head around. I don’t want to explain in detail on here yet but a building which was a hugely significant part of my childhood and our family will apparently be disappearing soon. I’m really shocked and upset. I can imagine my dad and my grandpa turning in their graves just across the road from it all.

I think I will stop blogging for now and go and sip my tea quietly…

5. Bird

Disclaimer before I post this photo: I cheated today!

I’ve been so busy doing my research study that I haven’t been anywhere to see any birds or even looked out of the window! So I nipped through my photo folder on the laptop and found this:

It is a gannet, near Bass Rock, off the east coast of Scotland, and I took the picture while on a boat trip last August. I had to look through all my photos of that holiday to find the one I wanted, and had a huge grin on my face remembering what a fab time I had!

In other news, I’ve spent six hours working on my research study today and am slowly getting there. I am very proud of how hard I’m working, and actually really enjoying the time and space to get properly to grips with it all.

4. Fun

Oh great, I thought. Today’s #photoadaymay prompt is ‘fun’ when all I have planned is packing the children off for the weekend to help their dad get married and then getting my head down to some serious college work, now I’ve come to terms with the fact that this research study really isn’t going to write itself!

However, surprising as it may seem, I actually really do love getting stuck into the college work, particularly when I have such a large chunk of time dedicated to it with no distractions, and so I have to confess that I have been having fun with it today!

And now for a different kind of fun. I’ve phoned my favourite takeaway (as soon as I said what I wanted she said ‘Ah, is that Helen?’ *grin*) and will be collecting my special fried rice in 15 minutes. The TV is set up and ready for Would I Lie To You and other BBC comedy, and I intend to relax, revel in being all alone and then see how much of this research study I can write tomorrow!

2. Skyline; 3. Something you wore today

2. Skyline

The view from my back garden yesterday early evening.

3. Something you wore today

My college ID badge with memory stick attached. On that memory stick is a presentation about my research study (The research study I haven’t finished writing yet, yes…). I designed, wrote and created the powerpoint entirely from scratch today; it took me three hours of hard graft and I was really nervous about turning up with my scribbled post it notes to read from, feeling very unprepared.

It went fine. I have got a whole set of little notes with peer feedback on them, and the verbal feedback from the tutor was really positive too. 🙂

This Foundation Degree is very nearly at an end now – after two years of work, I have one more week to get the last few things completed and handed in.

I have utterly amazed myself with the things I have achieved this past two years. Studying at this level, as a single parent of three children, was a big risk – I had very little confidence in my ability to cope, especially given the fact that I messed up my degree 20 years ago, and I only had myself to look after back then (wasn’t doing a particularly good job of it, mind you…).

There have been numerous times, during this past year in particular, when I have seriously considered packing it all in, or somehow deferring to complete the course next year when things have settled down at home a bit. But I am so, so glad I stuck it out. I’ve almost, almost done it now.

And I am so ridiculously proud of myself you can’t imagine.

#photoadaymay