Sunday 26 November 2017

Graduation Ceremony - The Sage Gateshead, November 16th 2017

How to organise the tumble of my thoughts around graduation then?

I think this picture says it  best - happy, happy, happy!

Made the ever-familiar metro journey with hubby and child by my side this time, then abandoned them so they could do a bit of shopping in Newcastle, whilst I did the official bits of registering my attendance and getting dressed officially in the academic robes.  Mortarboards (or motor boats as my BFF calls them) are not permitted for the ceremony, they can be hired at extreme prices if you're so inclined for photos though.  (I was not so inclined..).  Had my first couple of 'moments' in this bit of time - firstly at catching sight of other graduates in gowns outside the Sage (our venue for the day), and then standing in the queue for my gown fitting.  I've said it a few times through this journey, but occasionally it all feels a bit surreal, like it happened to someone else.  As distance learning students, often the graduation ceremony is one of our first chances for personal interaction with other students in a physical location.

I chatted to a few of my fellow graduates while waiting for the family to come and join me, what amazed me as it always does is the sheer variety of stories we had about what drew us to the OU.  From the elderly gentlemen who'd retired and were trying something new, to the mothers and wives who, like me, felt the need to change their lives, a little more about that when we get to the ceremony itself though.

Then I got to have a happy hour or so celebrating with the family and BFF as we waited for the ceremony to begin...

Many photos were taken, and many feet were aching... discovered the choice of 'lady heels' was maybe not the best for the venue, but hey ho.  I bought a t-shirt cos it had my name on it (alongside the other 3 hundred and something graduates...)

And finally - we got our first glimpse of the graduation venue in the 'big hall' - I'm somewhere down there on the far right, if indeed I'd entered the room by the time this pic was taken:

It's strange - I'd been in the venue before for a talk, so I always felt like I'd know what to expect and how it would look - but it felt completely alien, in a good way though.  So we got to take our seats and settle in for half an hour with a bit of 'chamber music' from the band, everything from classical to local folk, to jazz, played out on a bit of brass.

I sat next to a lovely lady called Dawn, whose name followed mine on the t-shirt, and whose journey was similar to mine in length (13 years for her), as we all got increasingly more nervous about the walk up the stairs and across the stage.   Particularly after they showed a video of past graduations where some guy did a forward roll to receive his degree....gulp, I barely felt confident of walking across in my 'lady shoes'!

The ceremony was a game of 2 halves, with presentations top and bottom and an honorary degree conferred in the middle to a local teacher who did lots of influential work in teaching science.

Once again, the breadth of graduates surprised and delighted me, from a lady who rolled on and off in electric wheelchair, to a blind lady led on and off stage by her guide dog, to a lady who was in the process of fighting cancer and still proudly taking that walk across the stage, to a guy whose journey had taken 40 years!  Young and old, and middle aged like me, we were all represented up there that day.  The Chancellor who was presenting the awards (with a funky bit of pink in her hair) was finding it hard to keep her emotions in check at times.

And then it was my turn:

Hands hurting from all the clapping, I did manage not to trip up across the stage, even managed a little wave at the crowd (that being all the showboating I was capable of).  The ceremonial tube will be a good place for keeping my degree certificate, which actually arrived in the post a few weeks ago.  The tube also contained an OU alumni pin, as a reminder of the day itself.

And finally all that remained was to process out behind the Chancellor and the assorted bigwigs of the alumni present, and finish the day off with celebratory drinks before heading out for food with the family, including my lovely sister-in-law who turned up after work to celebrate with us all.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

T minus 1... And counting!

Well, it's nearly almost here now!  Graduation day tomorrow - yippee!  The final step on the OU road, and one I've looked forward to for so long, it seems almost unreal that it's happening.

I'll update again in the next couple of days with some pictures and feelings from the day, but I just needed to share in the buzz of pre-graduation excitement.

See you on the other side of the gown!

Friday 8 September 2017

What's next?

To answer that - I don't have an answer for anyone yet.  That question is still remaining mysterious to me too.

From a work point of view, I have a job I love even though changes are making it a bit of a roller coaster ride again.  Still no further forward getting the grade side of things permanently though.

From an OU point of view - only one more VERY IMPORTANT step to go - my graduation ceremony on 16th November.  Do I want more study?  I'll admit, there's a very small part of me that hankers after a Masters, just to say that I did it.  But I think it's unlikely to happen, the day job is requiring constant learning, which probably gives me (at times) more than I can take in at one go.  So for at least this year, I can give a definitive answer that no, I am not planning to add to my degree with more formal qualifications.

(Eeek - I have a DEGREE!!  Sorry, every now and then the 'bigness' of that hits me..mostly when I am blogging, bizarrely..)

From a home point of view, we have a family wedding in mid-October when my baby brother gets married (hen do sensibly arranged for this weekend so lots of time in between..).  After that start planning properly for the graduation ceremony and the 'C' word, cos apparently there aren't enough shopping days left to go before it... or so Facebook would tell me if I liked to listen...

From a 'mojo' point of view - hmm, I have a couple of cross stitch projects to finish, a graduation quilt to make (which did get started eventually but is currently on hold due to time-bound stitching), a 'bitsa' quilt to finish, oh and I might fit in some knitting.  I also have a software development project to play with when I feel like I can face a computer outside of the office again.

Trying to learn to be OK without an answer to 'what next?' is difficult for me, I think - this journey has been full of plans for that answer all the way along.  But I shall try and look forward to the unknown 'next', and to make my couch-potato moments productive at least with my craft projects.

From a blog point of view - I will figure it out as I go along, maybe a change of strap-line but I will need to find my own focus before I can share much of it with the world.

Whew - 3 posts in one day.... I had a lot to make up for, what can I say?  Thanks for reading.... :)

That Back To School Feeling

The schools went back this week, and my 'baby' started the comprehensive school!  So smart in his new uniform, and so far seems to be armed with a new positive attitude towards all the changes too.  I'm very proud of the way he's embraced it all.

September normally brings that back to school feeling for me too, the eagerly anticipated course materials dropping through the door just as I drop the child off at school.

So this September start is just WEIRD.  I can't think how else to phrase it.  I've felt such a slump since finishing the last module, like the normal summer slump but much longer lasting.  Without the discipline of the new module to begin, I have to admit to an awful lot of couch-potato moments lately.  I've been working on a cross stitch project with a deadline, which is slowly forcing me back into action, but I have to admit I am still finding it difficult to motivate myself.

I've changed teams at work too, which I have to admit is not helping the confidence levels either.  Might get round to updates on the 'other page' later, but as I am off on leave this week, I am leaving the office at the office and enjoying some time off.

Hopefully I can take some inspiration from Phillip's enthusiasm for the new school life, and kick start my own brain cells again with a bit of PMA.

An apology and an update!

Wow - I knew I had been off my game recently - but I have just realised that I have not posted here since mid - July!!  So my readers are left hanging as to my results... sorry about that folks!

Module results came out and I did much better than I had expected on the 'examinable component' - making the final result a Grade 2 Pass.  For a module that I had no real love for from the early stages, I'm impressed with that.

That also meant that my predictions were true for the overall result of the degree, I'm therefore the proud owner of a Bachelor of Science Honours degree, Upper second class (a 2.1 in real money...).  When I stop and take into account that I did this in my own time, mostly at my own expense, and whilst working and bringing up a family, it occasionally hits me just how big an achievement that actually is.

More in my next post about life after graduating... and the plans for what is next.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Is there any energy left?

Wow - for some reason I am completely wiped out lately!  No particular reasoning behind it, that just appears to be the way of things.

I'd like to blame the quilt, or the weather, or the child, but none of these things are really to blame. I just feel washed out for no reason at all.

Waiting for the final course results is of course not helping, it's like a 'side order' of stress while hoping for the best!  And of course, it being the last module, I need to pass it in order to finish off the degree.  So I will admit to a small amount of trepidation - I don't think I have done badly enough to fail, but I will still worry till the results are here and gone.

And then I can start to book graduation numbers etc.  Eeek!!

Thursday 6 July 2017

I love it when a plan comes together

Cue the A-Team music and start recording the montage.

Erm well...not quite.

But finally, I have begun the part of my OU journey that appears to have caused me the most trouble, or at least certainly had as many false starts as any of my modules along the way.

What gave me this much stress?   Deciding upon a plan for my graduation quilt, mentioned in a previous post.

Now, I knew only for certain that there should be frogs... As my reader will know, frogs are where the whole Object Oriented Programming world began for me.  So they hold a special place in my heart when thinking of the journey as a whole.  But how to incorporate the frogs, and what else alongside them?  How to make it significant and meaningful without being twee?  How to not make it into just a frog quilt, but something that told more of the tale?

I looked at frog panels, hmm too froggy.  I looked at frog pictures to quilt as outlines...either too childish or too complex.  Nothing was quite right.

Then, finally, after finishing up the last assignment and vegetation on the couch for (to be fair, quite....) a while, a Facebook group called Quilt As You Go! provided the answer I was looking for.  The idea behind quilt as you go is to break down the process and make smaller quilt panels then join them together to build a bigger quilt.  I'd been wanting another go at the process, so it appealed to me.
So the design is quite simple - strips of material including small amounts of froggy fabric will build up into squares, being quilted to the backing material as they go.  The modular nature of this appeals to me too, just like the OU degree it will have been built up piece by piece, and amount to an overall achievement in the end.  But each piece in itself is an achievement along the way.

So far I have 11 completed squares, the plan is to get to 16, lay things out on the bed and work out what the next part of the plan is.  I completed 17 modules to finish this degree, so a little part of me wants 17 pieces, but that's not a given or guaranteed figure yet.  I'm just enjoying being back at the machine for the first time in ages, with plans that should get me to the end of the quilt before graduation day in November.

More pics to come as I get my head round each stage of the process - and of course only 13 days until the final result(s) are due out too.  Whoopie!!

Friday 9 June 2017

What lies beyond? A big box of mojo please?

Well, the deadlines have come and gone, the assignment was submitted and the family holiday has been had and returned from.

And to be honest the blogger in me went a little quiet there, not quite sure what to say for myself as I was shellshocked or battle-weary or some such military thing, suffice to say I was knackered after so much intense study I couldn't quite think what to say beyond 'Phew!!' or what to talk about now there wasn't a next module to plan for.

But having had a week off to recover from the holiday, I'm ready to pick up the keyboard again, if only to remind myself how to type before I return to work next week!

So - now for Life Beyond the OU Basket. (or at least as beyond as one can get while awaiting the final results...)

I have to admit to a fair amount of couch-vegetation, such is the way after most assignments to be honest, so this one was no different.

But slowly, gradually, I am beginning to realise that there is actually still a bit of me left at the end of all this.

With the help of my BFF I am planning my graduation quilt which I've talked about in previous posts, where the two biggest hobbies in my arsenal come together.  Not too much about that one just yet, as I think that deserves a post of its own, it's been so long in the thinking...

But it's so exciting to finally feel the mojo returning, to feel that desire to sew and plan and make things.  I have to admit there's been a fair amount of trepidation around it all, I'd lost a lot of confidence in my making skills, having lain dormant for quite some time on a lot of crafts (I've suffered a fair few false starts this year, where I have been poised with ideas and then failed to make them happen, then gone off the idea before I even began.

And if I can get the crafting mojo happening, that may help the Weightwatchers mojo, as I will have other things besides food to occupy my hands and thoughts!!

Saturday 13 May 2017

The Big Red Button

Eek - it's done!  Having worked my butt/socks off on lots of extra daytime study sessions, the assignment is finally finished, and before my own deadlines too!

It's been safely parcelled up and set to one side, with backup copies made just in case.  Then it will wait a day or two, get passed through one last final common-sense check, and then - the button will be hit, sending it on its merry way to await marking.

It's still all a bit surreal, can't quite put together in my head that it's over - the OU study journey is finished, although there will be a most pleasant journey towards the graduation ceremony still awaiting me after the results.

Monday 8 May 2017

Overthinking and Dreaming in Code

Oh, you can tell the assignment is getting to me now - 3 nights in a row I have been dreaming of data analysis in Python.  Very frustrating, particularly as it never solves any of the problems and just wakes me up unrefreshed.

Today however in my studies, I was the victim of my own overthinking.  Spent 2 hours or more undertaking a chunk of data mining to predict some missing data from one of the EMA datasets.  Thought that I had 36 things to predict, so hey good practice with the data mining, right?

Err - not quite!  Turns out I had 4 things to predict, which I could find on a simple Google search within 5 seconds!  So this fact has also been written in to the final report as a warning to would-be users of data mining.

I have a couple more major tasks to do (statistical testing and possibly some data mining if I can bring myself to return to it yet again), and then a lot of pulling together and tidying up the final report and folder structure.

But feeling more positive now (thanks to some sacrificed time-off and weekend daytime study) that I will be finished in time for my own deadlines. (no choice about the module deadline as I will be on holiday by then and unable to submit it late).

And then - what next?  For me?  For my mojo?  For the blog?  It's always been about the OU journey from start to 'wherever' - now I am within a couple of weeks of 'wherever'.  Of course there's still that last walk down the aisle to Graduation too....roll on November ( - but not too quickly,  I want to enjoy that hard-earned time off...!)

It's still really odd not to have the next module waiting to be signed up for.  And unfortunately the OU courses are now out of my price range to do as a 'fun thing', so unless I decided to go down the Masters route (nah.... I'm done.....) then I will be 'done'.

Sunday 30 April 2017

Louder and Louder

... the ticking of that clock.  Ever and on.

Sat down today to put a proper start on some of the 'words' of my final EMA report, given that a lot of the choices I need to document are those I've already made by now.  If I can pull the majority of the background stuff together, then it should be a case of simply (hah!) slotting in the official findings of the analysis I've still got to do.

I have to admit, having a third or so of the words together is helping a little with the inner panic.  The fact that I shouldn't then have the whole 3000 words to write after I finish the analysis might help me to focus on the analysis in a more logical fashion.  My head's been fluttering about like some mad butterfly, one minute on one part of the analysis, then to another part entirely, never quite settling on any one flower.

I get the feeling I'm never going to feel entirely satisfied with the resulting report, as word counts have a tendency to do that to me anyway - I like to tell the whole tale and once I am restricted by a word count, that's not possible.  But hey, the way I have been feeling lately, I'll settle for having a logical and coherent report that answers the questions I need it to.

Apologies for such a fluttery flappy blog post, but I think that just completely describes my state of mind in these final few weeks of my OU studies.

Onwards toward the unknown!

Thursday 13 April 2017

Tick tock ...

Oh dear that countdown clock is ticking faster than I would prefer now.  On the one hand - yippee, the countdown heads towards freedom, from the world of study and deadlines and assignments etc.  On the other hand - it reminds me just how little time is left to complete the final EMA.  I remember being very happy that my final module had an EMA instead of a final exam.  Right now I think I would have preferred the short sharp shock of the exam.

Suffice to say, this final module has not exactly filled me with joy and delight.  There have been some satisfying moments along the way, but the very structure of the course has been difficult to balance with life.  Particularly a life which now has my working days being filled with learning.

The final assignment requires some data analysis, some use of data mining techniques and a formal report.  The data sets are based around the EU referendum, which I have to admit I was sick of the first time round.  And now I get to pull it all apart and try to make something interesting out of it.  Now anyone who knows me knows how little interest I have in politics, so they couldn't really have picked a worse subject to keep me interested.

Slowly but surely I am starting (I hope) to get a grasp on what I need to do.  But I will be very glad when the clock stops ticking and my OU study journey finally comes to a close.

And then - only one final part of the journey to take - the march of the graduand.  So excited to finally get to wear that gown and celebrate all the hard work!

Saturday 11 March 2017

A happy second....

Results are back for TMA02.  A damn good 81%.

I'm overjoyed with that result on two counts.  Number one - it's high enough to feel like it's a darn good result.  Number two - it's low enough that I'm just below a distinction.

(Does that sound odd celebrating the lack of a distinction?  Well - it means that I can simply do my best for the End of Module Assessment - without worrying is it good enough for a Distinction, good enough for a First?)

Not saying that I'd ever backpedal, cos that isn't my style at all - but I put SO much pressure on myself for TMA1 with the thoughts of a First in mind that I nearly lost my marbles along the way.
But now, as long as I do a damn good job and pass the EMA, I can go off to that graduation ceremony (in November now) with my head held high and celebrate a 2.1.

And I will be VERY VERY happy with that.  To have achieved my Honours degree, to that level, whilst working and bringing up my child - I will be a happy happy girl indeed.

Thursday 23 February 2017

2 (almost) down one to go!

OU progress has been slow and steady, definitely felt like I managed to understand more of what I was doing in the second TMA.

Putting the finishing touches to it over the next couple of days, but it should be submitted well within my own deadline this time, and give me a chance to pause and catch up a bit before cracking on with the EMA. (End of Module Assessment).

The EMA I can imagine is going to be a big job, but hoping to structure my time so that I can work through it in smaller bites.  Work plans and diaries and online planners at the ready folks....

Submitting this will mark 2/3 of the way through my final module.  I can't lie, I'm ready now to see what life on the other side looks like - it's been so long since I had a life without my studies that I've kinda forgotten what one looks like!  (The small glimpses in the summer hiatus don't really count cos I've always known the structure lay just beyond).

Right now I have no 'next course' to sign up for.  I have lots of things that I still want to learn (from a working and fun perspective), and I can't imagine that I would actually not be learning something at most points.  But not having a plan for it is Weird - with a capital 'W'.

Sunday 5 February 2017

The Sunshine after the Rain

Made some decent progress on the TMA tonight, with a lot of the pain I experienced in the first assignment helping to cement in the things I need to do (and get right) on this one.  Still almost a month to go, but - for the first time in this module - starting to feel as though that will be OK, that it is achievable in that timescale.

Had a positive buzz from last week out in the real world, updates as ever in Beyond the Basket.  I think that may have helped to fuel a decent study session today, so long may it continue!!

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Making sense of it all

Some days the lightbulb comes on briefly, the last couple of days at work have been a bit like that - I've not posted over on Beyond the Basket about it yet cos the clarity for me this week was kind of a combination of OU and work, so I felt like it sat better over here.

At work I have been writing database queries for the MongoDB document database that underlies our project, and my current OU study Unit is also concentrated around document databases, and MongoDB in particular.

One of those lightbulb moments where you're not entirely sure which part of your life influenced which, but felt like I was getting it a bit more on both sides because I was getting to practice it from both angles.  (hope that makes sense on screen, it did inside my head?)

It's SO nice on those rare occasions when the knowledge overlaps, makes me feel like the OU struggles after the long commute are all worthwhile, and not just for the end qualification.

So I thought I would share it with the world and myself, and celebrate the wins during this time of mid-course-blues.

Sunday 29 January 2017

Mid - course blues


I know I have posted similar in the middle of most of my modules, but I am just feeling frustrated and, while not quite 'bored' entirely, just left wanting in excitement about this module.

I need to keep up the progress and am doing so at what I feel is a reasonable pace, but I have reached that mid-point in the course where things just go a little stale and I need an injection of enthusiasm.  I dunno how else to make it happen, but am hoping that it will magically appear from somewhere, in the same way the Procrastination Fairy does.

I think that data and statistics are just not really my thing, despite having done that kind of work in the past, I think it was always the creation of spreadsheets and databases that gave me enthusiasm rather than the statistical significance of anything.

Off to walk to the shops now and see if I can buy some get-up-and-go!!

Friday 20 January 2017

Wow - the final countdowns....

Currently wading my way through the beginnings of TMA2, which up to now doesn't feel quite as awful as TMA1 (although I have started on it much earlier just in case).

But it has just come to my attention that there is now a final lifespan to the rest of this module (the timing of which came to mind when planning other family activities which will take place afterwards).  I realised when planning the fun stuff that the countdown we're working on for that also signifies the countdown to the end of my OU journey (well the studying part anyway).  I won't talk about the what or the how long here as this is a public forum but suffice to say that it's later this year....

The countdown begins....

Somehow the 'real' end always seemed like something so far in the future that it wasn't tangible, but now it has numbers attached to it.  Numbers that are real and tangible and reducing.  Wow - just!

I still can't quite imagine the structure of life without the studies, when that summer 'lull' ends where is the 'back to school' feeling going to come from?  Or will I hit couch potato mode for about 6 months first?  What am I going to read when I can't decide what to read? (some morning commutes it's just easier to decide to study than work out what Kindle book to start next...)

Those questions seemed so far in the future till 5 minutes ago....

Wow - graduation in October!  But that's for thinking on another day, after my head gets around this latest realisation!

Monday 2 January 2017

Welcome in the New Year - resolutions of a sort for 2017

  • Stay focused on what I've done not what's still left to do
  • Make plans and stick to them
  • Start assignments/EMA earlier than I would have done
  • Include daytime study in the plan
  • Enjoy the new challenges in both OU and the day-job!
More in depth over the next couple of days, but I felt the need to get something up there for my first post of 2017 at least!