Six Confused Women

…Sat at their desks and discussed how they “talk to their audience”. One in particular struck a chord with me – I know I need to sell, but I’m also putting myself out there for my audience & sharing a bit of me.

One of the ideas was to use snapchat to share “behind the scenes” peeks at what she does.

So at the risk of showing you how little I currently move from my 9sq ft, here’s my snapchat link – I’m going to give it a shot showing you behind the scenes of an online tutor & writer with the added twist of working for yourself when you’re sick.

See you there!

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What I’m Doing With My “6 weeks off”

I think we can all agree that I’m not great at winding down. So if anything I’ve geared up this summer with some exciting stuff.

I’m rebuilding my website & moving the whole thing to WordPress which is a whole learning curve in itself (you can check out it’s progress at www.TeachAllAboutIT.school).

I’ve been interviewing people for a blog series that has now launched on the site called Paths To Success. It’s been really fun recording a tonne of interviews & developing them as blog / podcast episodes. If you have a career story you’d like featured get in touch!! Seriously – this series is just fascinating & I’d love to hear from you 🙂

I’ve been recording more of the awesome audio series Dark Dice with Fool & Scholar Productions. It’s an absolute honour to be working with these absolute dudes (even if the time difference does mean I end up with Jet Lag without leaving home!). If you haven’t listened to their current stuff, I can’t recommend it enough!

And to top it all off I got a message out of the blue last week from a producer at the BBC asking of I’d write some sections for the Computer Science Bitesize section… Two days & one interview later and I’m writig the whole AQA section! For the flipping BBC!!

We’re only a week in… So next time someone asks what teachers do with their holidays, here’s a list 😉

Why I’m Quiet

Hey guys. I know quite a few of you pop in here regularly to say hi (I’m still bemused by the ongoing stats!).

I’m not actually being completely silent, but instead have been flat out classroom teaching, tutoring, and blogging with my professional hat on!

If you fancy seeing what I’ve been up to, I’m in full glorious Technicolor over at www.TeachAllAboutIT.uk

It’s been a total whirlwind this year & I’ve just popped on to say whoooo! My tutoring business had it’s 1st birthday this week. How very exciting!

That, and I promise to write something not to do with teaching soon…

Sleep is For The Weak

I watched an interesting and yet terrifying documentary on Netflix today called Take Your Pills. If you’ve not watched it, please do. It’s a worrying window into how kids cope with the academic pressures ladled onto them. There were also so many ambitious adults on there who are taking Adderall to stop burnout. Some had progressed to taking low doses of LSD, with stories of people in their 30s having exhaustion induced seizures and being called / emailed at the hospital for work they hadn’t finished.

(For point of reference Adderall is an ADHD drug similar to ritalin – both are amphetamines, but adderall is closer to methamphetamine)

Ironically, here was me watching this in bed in my pyjamas at 10am on a Wednesday morning. I’ve worked every day for the past 14 days and by Tuesday morning found myself wrapped in a blanket at 7am staring into my mirror instead of getting ready for work, after another “fun 4 hour sleep” unable to put makeup on because I was so tired & woozy. Technically I should have called then, but I felt too guilty to call in sick. My pain levels exhaust me, but I don’t want to “use them as an excuse” – the internalised ableism is almost audible around me at times like this.

As my workload went up, so did my pain levels amd my ability to cope dropped – I already have a heafty painkiller routine, but the morphine levels have risen recently. I had a bit of a stark awakening when just before a stream on Monday my shoulder popped out (fully dislocated with a torn muscle). Mr Geek returned the joint to it’s rightful place & I asked for “some morphine please”. This sparked much hilarity from my friends on camera who witnessed a totally calm woman politely request strong narcotics. From most people I’d get upset, except I know they intrinsically get this pain threshold thing – I don’t scream & wail because I’m not scared. It hurts like a motherfucker & still does, but I know why and how to solve it, and precisely how bad it will get. Staying calm stops my muscles going into spasm & helps the joint back in. Much love to Jo & her meditation techniques for this.

Anyway, knackered lots of pain etc. so in bed on my “day off” before tutoring starts. It occured to me that I was utterly confused by the concept of not being able to focus – these people wanted to push through the tired & work faster, longer, better. And were using amphetamines to do it. They are literally taking drugs to have the unpleasant side effect of my adrenal dysfunction. WTH?!

I made a list of things I’ve achieved over the past 7 days to show the effects of skidding through life in constant fight or flight:

7 days of stuff I’ve done

Learnt how to code with basic Unity & Cardboard VR

Made & released a simulation App for my department’s charity den (go look & download to raise money for our local homeless shelter!)

Written a draft short campaign for the roleplaying group I play with (3000 words & counting) based around Tudor / Medieval Sussex folklore.

Created ink drawings for a couple of characters.

Scruffy witch with long teeth stands holding a fish

Ginny Greenteeth – river hag, notorious for dragging people into water.

Joined in 2 roleplaying streams totalling a collective 6 hours (no regrets!)

They’re not on YouTube yet, here’s one we made earlier!

https://youtu.be/YcDgJos28sE

Created an ink drawing of one of the characters from our game stream.

Drawibg of a Young man in a long coat running with a flaming torch in one hand and a dagger in the other

Lamb the SaltGypsy from our Salt & Thirst Campaign with BloodThirsty Puppets

Worked at my teaching job for 32 hours + a few evenings of marking

12 hours of online tutoring

And a blog post.

….

Now in a list, I looked at that and thought “wow! I’m a fucking superhero!”. No brain, you are not. You are skimming years off of your life by not slowing down even when limbs are literally falling off and you’re crying from being tired. What my brain is failing to mention is:

The sketching is done at 1am when I can’t sleep because my CRPS is playing up & my leg feels like its on fire

Much of the middle of the night suddenly awake cold swears stuff is due to panic dreams where I can’t escape from a fire. Subconsciously I know this is because the alarms broke on Friday & we’re just waiting for an engineer & there’s a plan in place, but I don’t like feeling vunerable & not in control. Being nervous = extra adrenalin.

The streaming is my socialising. I do this from bed because sitting in a chair is too painful after work. I’d rather cut a boob off than not join in.

Same goes for tutoring. Big pile of pillows in bed. I enjoy it & it’s paying for the holiday which the girls & Mr Geek deserve so much after giving up life to accomodate me all year.

I loved creating the app, but the all consuming fear that I’d let people down if it wasn’t done meant that by Sunday morning I was covered in hives (I still argue that it was worth it)

……………………………

So the brain & I had a serious talk having been placed into a salted bath by Mr Geek who now just looks at me like a concerned pet owner does at a cat that keeps pulling it’s fur out.

I can’t keep going where the adrenalin rush pushes me. I can’t shrug off every conversation where Mr Geek tells me to rest more and stop working, or at least saying yes to more work. I can’t survive on less than 25 hours sleep per week.

Something has to give, and with a leaky heart valve we’d rather it wasn’t that. Also, that’s not a very rock & roll way to go.

The brain needs to stop flooding me with adrenalin and I need to be sensible and take a few days off. I’ve cleared my diary for the whole 4 day Easter Weekend, much to the dismay of my tutees (downside of self-employed tutoring is they genuinely believe I’m on 24 hour call).

  • Even if it snows, we are going to a National Trust garden.
  • I’m going to sit in Mr Geek’s lap, tangled up together with all the tech off and read for pleasure
  • I’m going to paint with TinyPants on a hill.
  • I’m going to watch sharknado with beanpole

I’m writing this downas a line in the sand. As a very loud, but wise man who never followed his own advice once told me: 49% work / 51% family.

– work emails are no longer on my personal device

– My tutoring books are closed

– Working on a Sunday is now emergencies only

– Anything past 7pm needs to be completed from bed

That seems like a reasonable step towards not breaking my head.

Escapism

So here’s the thing. I make a lot of jokes about goofing off & not trying too hard – all of these things are basically pure fantasy. I love my job. Teaching is in my bones and I find it nigh on impossible to switch off.

I work “part time” now, by which I mean I am contracted to work 4 days each week, spend my day off marking & prepping, and tutor 4 evenings & Saturday mornings. Part time = 45+ hours each week. When I’m not working, I’m mulling something over about work. So I needed a distraction that wasn’t generalized ranting on Twitter.

I’ve blogged a lot before about the need for pacing and work/life balance, but I just suck at it. Take right now as an example – it’s past midnight & I have a meeting tomorrow (today) with someone who I really want to approve of me as a teacher (fuck. I’m 38 & have been doing this a decade. Why am I still seeking approval like a puppy?!). Ok, I’m mainly awake because my knee dislocated, it’s swollen like a balloon, and liquid morphine keeps me awake.

So yeah, here I am at peak anxiety with pain levels that are piercing through the usual drugs & a top up of 20ml morphine. Anxiety does not help with pain, so I learnt to meditate.

I ought to mention that I’m equally shit at meditating because my brain gets bored. I sit here & do a “body check”. Breathe in……. Breathe out….. Breathe in…… Toes…um… Shit. I can’t feel my toes! …. Calm down dickhead, we haven’t felt our toes in years. Oh yeah…… Breathe out…..

I place myself somewhere calm….. here I am dancing gazelle-like through the fields of my mind… getting to know my new roleplaying character…. Clear your mind…. Nope…. And relaaaax…. Nope.

Because actually where I get to relax is inside my head creating stuff. As a weird only child, I spent ages in my room building home made maps & villages where the stories I told to the people in my head took place. I was generally far happier chatting to made up people than real ones. Mr Geek shares my love of sitting quietly with little plastic figures & watches from his office as I bring my imaginary friends out to play with others.

It’s been decades since I created something more personal than cool learning resources. I’ve sunk all of my creativity into developing CSI style codebreaking resources, Elma the Elephant hexadecimal colouring, Game of Prolog, Revision Twister… But over the past few months the games have crept back in. First came Warhammer, then Bloodbowl (if you suck at meditating, try painting teeny little orcs for weeks on end), then over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to join some roleplaying games online and have just started a weekly campaign.

Before you back away from the nerd, hear me out.

Today was Game Zero – working out who we are, our back stories, the world around us & how we gel as a team. What I remember from teenage games was us as kids picking the warrior woman with the massive tits and distracting guards with nipples (and frankly nearly killing our shy DM who barely looked at women let alone knew what a real boob looked like). Instead, what we got was a game that lets us test out our psyche.

“What do you want from this character?” Holy crap, that’s a deep question. By this point I was already invested so just went with it.

In a group of just four, one is seeing what it’s like to have real faith, one is living knowing that they will die, one is merging being a young soldier with hidden disabilities, and another a manchild rebelling against caring parents for the greater good of those around him. This is heavy stuff – not your average elven archer skipping through the forest in suggestively shiney tights. I have to hand it to Blood – she unpicked our characters until they were real. We all know at some point a specific character is going to die, and yet we’re going to willingly get attached. Self-preservation mode has pressed the eject button & has shot itself through the ceiling.

So here we are, instead of meditating and clearing my mind to reduce pain, I’ve created Pip (Lady Philippa Billingworth), a genetically modified soldier with the anger issues of an orphaned teenage girl, topped with a mutation causted by the faulty collagen gene already in her body allowing her to bend & break her body seemingly at will. She’s the angry, frustrated internal me, albeit with a 7ft much more functional body and weapons. That can’t be a good idea…

To see what we’re up to & some of the other weird and wonderful activities from the guys, check out these links:

You can find me on Twitter at @I_Am_Spanners

Please do check out the Bloodthirsty puppets at either their website or Twitch (where you’ll get points for watching which you can use to mess with the game play!)

www.bloodthirstypuppets.co.uk

Bloodthirsty Puppets Twitch Channel – Regular games of various fun. Catch me every Monday at 7.30pm GMT, and watch along with me on Friday Night Spiced at 8pm GMT (unsurprisingly on Fridays), plus plenty of others.

And of course, I can’t do an intro to me being allowed to play with tese guys witbout mentioning ‘the hot one’

Skaggeth Twitch Channel – this guy is an absolute dude.

My Stupid Stories

When I glance over my blogs and photos of myself and Sherlock between the years ’04 and ’15, I am faced by so many which present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave. Some have previously seen light in my blogging, and others would not be deemed suitable for the musings about my dear friend, whilst a few would identify her kindly nature that betrays the aloof and analytical body that she wishes to portray to the world. This particular story will do just this.

The year ’15 had furnished us with a multitude of work, resulting in her resettlement in Ireland and my fast decline in health and the resultant confinement to this wretched perambulation contraption; these two facts bear no correlation, but remain noteworthy for the purposes of the scene. Sherlock had since purchased a substantial property, acquired some Strange objects to fascinate her and begun a collection of historical automobiles which in some otherworldly fashion crossed to the other side once in her possession. All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none of them present such singular features as the strange train of circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe.

It was New Years Day of ’16, and as a coincidence also my 36th birthday. All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even here in the sheltered Downs of the South we were forced to raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life and to recognise the presence of those great elemental forces which shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilisation, like untamed beasts in a cage. My mood had reflected that of the weather, having been detained from my bed by our guests the night previous to celebrate the appearance of the New Year. With much fuss and confusion, I agreed to join my gathered family members that morning and acknowledge the passing of another year on this earth. I was presented with a most unusual gift by Mr Geek containing a cryptic message within the intricate silver workings of a beautiful necklace. I identified the chemical composition as dopamine with haste and assumed that this was a reference to my current use of the painkilling substance morphine, to which dopamine is so closely linked. This necklace offered me a clue to things which I had not the presence of mind to see.

image

As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney. I received a message from my dear absent friend wishing me well with a “I hope you have a happy birthday Sherlock”, supposedly alluding to the evenings entertainment as well as our pen names for each other. Perhaps it was my contrary mood, but with I as Watson, this was not wholly accurate. Being aware of the imminent requirement to leave my residence in order to attend a social event some miles away at the theatre, I was very much inclined to cry like the child in the chimney myself.

Looking directly at Mr Geek who was busying himself readying my clothes for the evening, I said “I am tired my dear. Do you think it wise to go out this evening?”.

“Watson! We have made fast plans and we will not dissapoint the others” He scolded, and continued to help me dress. I determined that I would wear both my new necklace and bracelet which was half of a whole that I had shared with Sherlock the Christmas hence. On affixing my necklace, I discovered that my bracelet had vanished from my bedside cabinet and was nowhere to be seen.

It was with a heavy heart, and an empty wrist that we departed for the theatre at which we were to watch the annual Moffat production which I had previously enjoyed each year with Sherlock. The loss of this simple silver piece ignited a sense of loss that had previously been well hidden.

The collection of my sister-in-law and her good man served to lighten my spirits as we travelled to our destination. “Will there be additional content, do you think?” Suggested Ms Bouffet.

“I would believe so.”

“I hope” she said, “that the content may be earlier than that for the general populous. Or at the least with additional detail.”

“The timing would indeed suggest so”

My conversation was lacking and as such was noted by my travelling companions who asked after my health. I was indeed in a substantial volume of discomfort and explained that my demeanour was due to the ineffectual medication. I did not allude to my earlier emotional state over a simple bracelet as this would have made me appear quite unhinged.

Upon our arrival at our destination, I spent some considerable time talking with Ms Bouffet’s good gentleman, discussing several shared interests and his plans for future detective work. Engrossed in this most fascinating of conversations, I was to be surprised my a pair of hands appearing over my eyes!

Initially fearful as my vision was robbed from me, my emotions were quick to change upon hearing a familiar voice from behind asking “Did you miss me?”.

Refusing to believe my own senses, I turned my chair around and discovered that trusting my reactions was a fruitful venture. “Sherlock!” Cried I.

“Hello Watson.”

image

My beloved Sherlock had flown hundreds of miles over the New Year festivities at at the behest of Mr Geek to surprise me at my own birthday gathering. I could not have been happier.

The group, Sherlock & I located our seats at the first opportunity laden with a sugar coated feast that would see us through several performances and settled on to thoroughly enjoy the visual and cerebral on screen delights bestowed upon us by Moffat & Gatis. We were not to be dissapointed and whilst I may not be physically able to move to the edge of my seat anymore, nonetheless there I remained.

As the evening drew to its inevitable end, the mood remained high. It would seem that all were aware of this plan and had played their own parts, sending messages wishing a Happy New Year “from afar” and leaving discreet clues.
I had been the only one not to put each of the pieces together and deduce their plan.

image

“And necklace with dopamine.” Explained Mr Geek, “So you will always be happy.”

Sherlock looked at me with her eyes as sharp as ever. “Elementary, my dear Watson”.

Footnote:

My Dearest Sherlock,

Thank you for flying all the way here just to see me on my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a better present and seeing you utterly made my day. Extra points for spending the following day in ridiculous onsies and making plans to take over the world.

I also owe thanks to Messrs Geeks for buying tickets, looking after children & keeping such an enormous secret. I will be over to see you soon larger & hairier Geek and will give you such a hug! I miss you just as much xx

Putting several hundred miles and a sea between us doesn’t stop the four of us being the best of friends.

Yours as ever & without condition.

Watson.

For authenticity, and a particularly nerdy reference to the episode, some snippets were taken and adapted from The Five Orange Pips from the original Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Novel in November – Obsessing over Word Counts. @NaNoWriMo

Well, we’re over the 3000 word mark, but to hit that all important 50’000 words I need to produce at least 1740 words each day! At my current rate, I’ll be finished by 30th December. That’s not a novel in November is it?

More caffeine anyone?

https://thehippygeek.wordpress.com/novel-in-november/