Mother’s Day 2015

Photo from pixabay.com

Photo from pixabay.com

This is my 2nd Mother’s Day (or third if you count the one when I was pregnant) and it still blows me away that I am a mother. I still feel like I am playing catch up with adulthood after having a good chunk of my adolescence interrupted by depression and bulimia. Now, I’ve been entrusted with the lives of two adorable mini humans for the rest of their lives. It can feel a bit overwhelming at times. Two years in and I honestly say, I am so grateful that I’ve been able to be a mummy. I love my crazy nerdlings – even when they trash my house trying to make themselves breakfast.

For Mother’s Day I received a brand new hair-dryer :D Nothing fancy but it’s something I wanted, my last one looks like the cord got bitten. Ethan made me an adorable card and some shimmery moisturiser. And, the boys baked me some choc-chip muffins. We decorated some photo frames for Grandma and Nana (Tim’s mum and my mum).

Crafting presents for Grandma and Nana

Crafting presents for Grandma and Nana

I’m so blessed to have such an awesome mum. I am one of 5 kids, I’m the 2nd eldest but grew up as the eldest of 4 (we have one of those slightly complex family setups). When I was 11, my mum became a single parent. She left my father, who was an abusive alcoholic. Most kids resented their parents’ separation, I was grateful. To this day, I am proud of her for that. I remember how scary it was for us at the time, so, I can’t imagine how much strength it took her. We live a state away from our extended family,except for one uncle who lived up here at the time. So, it was mostly us and her on our own. She did an amazing job and I really think she raised some great kids ;). We all graduated high school, some of us have gone on to further study, some have found their ideal career, some of us have had children of our own.

My sister and I have both given her grandbabies. I can only speak to my own experience but I often find myself referring to my own childhood for parenting advice. “What would my mum do here? What did she do with me and/or my siblings?” And, when I feel like I’m in over my head: “Mum raised four of us on her own, I can get through this moment”. She’s my parenting inspiration, in so many ways.

She’s also my motivation in my studies. She always encouraged my nerdy interests. Letting me spend my weekends at the library, buying me my first computer, and talking to me about the computer work she does. She taught me that gender is irrelevant in technology skills – in fact, I was genuinely surprised about the stereotype that IT and computers are a “boys thing”.  When I was younger, my mum attempted to get the degree I’m currently studying. She was getting awesome marks too – I remember bragging at school to my teachers. But, unlike me, she didn’t have the support of her husband (my father). So, I am getting my Bachelor of Info Tech for me and for her. “If mum can get HDs with 4 kids, I can while looking after 2″

How was your Mother’s Day? What influence has your Mum/mother figure had in your life?

Mummy is at School #9: Support

Things got really hectic here at the house of nerd. Tim’s job had him working crazy hours with little in return, the joys of commission-only positions. It was wearing him down and that effect was trickling down to the kids and myself. House of nerd became a house of stress. I started looking into entry level IT positions for myself to help with the finances. I sent out a few resumes but was not successful. I don’t have the experience needed. I am keeping my eye out for ones where there is full training and experience isn’t necessary.

Anyway, I was prepared to put my study on hold to go to work and help Tim out. Luckily for him, he found a full-time position as a salesperson (well I think it’s technically part-time but the hours are really good). He comes home from work happy and loves to tell me about all the cool things he has in store. Tempting me with cookware and furniture…practising his sales pitch on me.

But, during this whole time I’d say “I’m studying to get qualified so I can gain a professional career and contribute financially. But, if you need me to I can take a job in retail and put my study on hold”. This was met with an emphatic “No, you keep studying. When you’ve finished there will be no shortage of job opportunities for you. Not only are you female [in an industry trying to move towards gender equality] but you’re a female who is f-ing good at IT”

That support gets me through. When I feel guilty about splitting my time between textbooks and Lilah. Or, putting Ethan into day care. My husband is my biggest cheerleader. With playful quips like: “You’re a nerd” which is taken as a complement of course.  He’s going to talk to his boss about taking half-days or days off when I have exams so he can mind the kids.

But, last week I also received support from my university. Each semester they offer a $1000 book bursary/laptop scholarship to those experiencing hardship. Financially, I was struggling to afford textbooks. So, it was amazing to discover that my application was successful and I now have $1000 to go towards essential textbooks. ICT books aren’t cheap. This semester cost me $250 for 2 subjects…that’s a good chunk of my fortnightly income.

Having the support of my family and my university motivates me to do well.

Planned works

image

One project I had set for myself earlier in the year was to move to a self hosting site . I am pleased to say this is currently in the works.

I have installed a LAMP (Linux, Apache, mySQL, PHP) stack on my computer [a huge thanks to Digital Ocean for the tutorials]. I’m using Debian. So, I have a local server to test out my upgrades to the theme. That way I don’t bug my faithful users as a tweak things. I am very well versed in HTML and CSS but I’m still mastering PHP (incidentally – feel free to recommend any books/tutorials/websites).

I am still looking at my hosting options; any recommendations are welcomed.

I have also changed my URL. I have decided to use this site as an example of my skills. Dovah is from the Elder Scrolls and I didn’t want to risk any chance of litigation, should I decide montetise the site. Also, we are a family of four now. So, my url is now:

keiraowens.com

Please update the address if you need to in your readers/email subscriptions/favourites/links.

Mummy is at school #8: Careers Fair and Campus Visits

For those who may not know, I have been an external student at USQ (University of Southern Queensland) since 2013. I do all my subjects via the internet on StudyDesk and sit my exams at an external exam centre (mine is at a church). I’ve briefly popped into my local campus (Springfield) to pick up books and other material. But, I’ve not been to the campus where my degree is taught (Toowoomba)…until now.

careersfair

Email from USQ Support inviting me to the Careers Fair 2015

I’ve been studying for a few years now and I thought “Might be a good idea to find out where this degree will lead me“. It’s on a Wednesday so Ethan would be at kindy and we have a free inter-campus shuttle bus service. I had a chat with Tim who insisted I go. So, he arranged a day off to look after Lilah and it was settled: I’m going.

Oh god. What to wear?
My staples at home are nerdy t-shirts and daggy pants. I have a few nicer outfits to wear out but nothing that says “I’m a professional”.  I got myself a nice top and knee length skirt. I thought about trousers but I felt they made me look too masculine and I just didn’t like the look (I also have short hair). I didn’t want to hide my femininity.

Smart Casual wear at the Careers fair (photo by USQ Marketing team)

Smart Casual wear at the Careers fair (photo by USQ Marketing team)

I got up super early (like 4 am early) to get ready, packed some study materials, my resume, and my laptop. Cue the rain when we are due to leave. The one time I actually wear make up and it rains ;) Tim dropped me off to catch the 6.45 am shuttle bus.

I was very excited to discover the bus had WiFi

I was very excited to discover the bus had WiFi

I think I got more study done in that 2 hour bus ride (sans the kids) than I have at home. Wed is a study day for me so I didn’t want to fall too far behind. I have mastered the art of writing my notes in a moving vehicle – I often study on the train/bus/car when travelling.

Can I just say…Toowoomba, you are beautiful! Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live but gosh, it’s pretty nice out there.

I did the “new kid on campus” thing and downloaded the campus map and wandered around until I found a library and coffee. I was only an hour and a half early for the Careers Fair…so more study time!

Coffee and Study time @ the Hub

Coffee and Study time @ the Hub

I managed to have a good chat with the Australian Computer Society (Hi Des) before it was time for the IT, Engineering, and Science Q & A panel. I went in armed with a trusty notepad and pen. This fair was all about information gathering so I wrote comprehensive notes. (I have 5 A5 pages of hand-written notes from that 45 min session).  The main points I got from the panelists were:

  • Transferable skills like communication and adaptability are valued almost more than current tech skill levels
    • “Are you motivated?” and “Will you fit into the workplace team?” are what employers are looking for
  • Try not to be too rigid in your expectations
    • embrace change and be willing to learn rapidly
  • The industry (STEM – science, technology, engineering, maths) is becoming more pervasive and is changing rapidly
    • Be willing to learn new things quickly

After that, I made a beeline for the Student Services booth and got some great advice on my resume. The biggest thing I got out of that session was how to include my time as a parent who isn’t in the workforce. I maintained my study during my employment gaps but as I learned in the panel, honesty is key. Yes, I am not in paid employment right now but I am doing other activities to keep my skills relevant: this blog being one of them.

I got a professional LinkedIn photo taken (eagerly awaiting that one) and said had a chat to the various employers who had come out. I’m armed with loads of potential future employment choices – places I didn’t immediately think of like Heritage Bank and Australian Tax Office.

Overall, I got so much out of the day. I got to practice communicating in a professional environment. I now have a great resume and some ideas on how to make me more employable. And most importantly, I feel confident and excited about going into the IT industry. I felt like this is what I am supposed to do with my career. I’m bubbling with excitement and can’t wait to graduate and work!

Daddy got a new job!

A little break from the Mummy is at school series to totally brag.

A few months ago now, some things happened at hubby’s workplace and it resulted in him no longer working at the store or company. The family is working on moving past that moment in our lives so I wont rehash it here, nor will I give any details. Hubby works in retail and found himself trying to find work at Christmastime: after the Christmas recruitment had well passed. But that is all in the past now because he is now employed as a Salesperson.

Ethan, Lilah, and myself are all very proud of him!
It’s a much more professional position than his previous one so it’s weird seeing him in business attire every morning.

Now…back to the books

Mummy is at school: short snippet – “That’s not food”

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;
main() { 
...

It’s too quiet. Where is Lilah?

“Lilah? Where are you princess?”

What is that in your mouth?!

What is that in your mouth?!

I turn around and she’s eating some forgotten piece of really old food her brother has stashed in the couches/his room/the toybox. Now that she is crawling, climbing, and cruising she’s keeping me on my toes during my study days.

At least I’m getting experience with multi-tasking with programming.

Mummy is at school #6: Holidays

Another semester finished! And, I even get a month long break before heading into semester 1 this year. What to do, what to do?

CodeAcademy of course. Yep. I am using my down time to study. Where most people live for uni holidays, I sit eagerly awaiting the next class. Ethan still has kindy 3 days a week so I split my time between learning languages, housework, and gaming.

I have completed the HTML/CSS course, which had some new aspects as well as refreshing my existing knowledge. I taught myself HTML with a small book my mum had tucked away in her study. I loved that book. I was in high school, early high school, and made slightly embarassing fansites about my favourite Aussie comedians. I remember mastering iframes and working out how to remove the underline style from my links.

I have also finished their Ruby course. I loved that one. I got to see the theoretical knowledge from my subject realised in a practical sense. We learnt about software engineering outside of a specific language – but focused on Object Oriented programming. My big nerdy heart leapt with joy when I recognised the class, object, and attributes from my course. “I know this stuff!” I am looking at getting a book or two on Ruby programming to further my skills.

I haven’t just been studying during my holidays. We finally set up the Xbox One, Tim’s Christmas present from me and the kids. We’ve both been playing
Watch_dogs, although, Tim has just finished the campaign and I am way back in Act I. It’s not a game we can play while Ethan is awake/home so it is taking me longer to finish.

We have also been trying to go out for family outings more. Ethan has discovered the joy of Thomas the Tank Engine after a trip to the Rail Museum here. I’m thinking of taking him into the city on the weekend for a picnic and a ride on the ferries.

[Edit: Oops, seems I cannot count]

2015 – A year of possibilities

Hello 2015!

New-Year-fireworks-2015

This year I have opted not to make a resolution list. Life is so unpredictable and my new year resolutions tend to fall by the way side. I do have a few projects planned for this year:

  1.  To migrate from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site
  2. Apply for summer internships in the IT industry
    [I am a little nervous as I’ve been out of work for a few years now]
  3. Start building a portfolio of work – code, design, apps
    [Going to give this place a redesign]

As well as some ongoing things happening:

  1. Uni work – I am almost into my “2nd year”
  2. Maintaining a study/work/kids/hubby balance
  3. Working on my health – the osteoarthritis and my maintaining my mental well-being

I turn 29 in the middle of the year; the big 3 0 is fast approaching. I’m not dreading it; in fact, I think I am starting to embrace my age. My 20’s have been a bit of a discovery of who I am. I lost a few years chasing dreams that other people had for me. But, I feel like I have found who I am. I have reconnected with the nerdy child I once was. I’ve learned to love myself more and let other people into my inner circle. My relationship with my family is the best it has been. I’m also on the path to the career I want. I look forward to each new subject in my course.  This year is bringing some changes for myself and my family.

 

 

Mummy goes to school #5: Results

Results have all been released. I had performed well in my assessments through the year so I wasn’t expecting to fail any subject. But it was a pleasant surprise to see this on my transcript:

My academic transcript so far

My academic transcript so far

All High Distinctions for the year! I am taking the Communication and Scholarship course over the summer, along with reading my textbooks on Unix systems and C++ in preparation for next year. I think I did so well in these subjects because

a) I’ve developed a study system that works for me;
b) These courses are practical based and I can see the real-world application;
c) This is what I love;
d) I have my mental health stuff settled; and
e) I’m a bit of a nerd.

Having Ethan in childcare for three days a week also has helped me focus and do enough study each week for it to cement itself in my brain. I still dream about bash scripts and UML diagrams. Sure, I got frustrated at times but I really enjoyed my subjects. This degree isn’t just a means of qualification. It’s 6 years* of immersing myself in a digital world that I love. I feel that same giddy excitement I had all those years ago fiddling with my Commodore 64.

My husband has been really great at listening to my computer tech related ramblings when I get excited. He has also studied IT at a university level so I can pick his brains or at least brainstorm with him when I get stuck. I hope that my kids learn to pursue what excites them. I love being a mum and staying home to look after then and I also love working with computers and code.

_______
* I am a part-time external student so my 3yr bachelor degree will take 6yrs