Category Archives: On mid-life

The one about the menopause – when Agnus Castus is not enough…

For nearly ten years now Agnus Castus has been all I needed to deal with the various symptoms of PMT, but now the dreaded change is upon me and the hot flushes and low mood sent me on a search for a solution. Check out what I did on my new Youtube channel:

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An open letter to Ann Saunders (Former Deputy Head Teacher – Sittingbourne Community College)

Dear Ann,

I don’t know if you will even remember me, but you gave me my first teaching job in 1995 after I responded to an ad in the local paper to teach GNVQ Health and Social Care.

Teaching was something I had always wanted to do, but without a degree I didn’t think I had a hope in hell of securing a position. At the time I was a registered nurse with a toddler and new baby, married to a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers and living on an army base in Chatham. I am not sure what possessed you to take on an unqualified and completely inexperienced novice like me, but you did.  Looking back I must have driven you mad arriving in your office every morning to show you my lesson plans and a bombard you with a million question, but never once did you act like I was a nuisance – even though, as Deputy Head, you had a zillion things to do. The eighteen months I spent at Sittingbourne Community College made me surer than ever that teaching was the career I wanted to pursue. You also saved me from certain death by mother and toddler conversations (I was never cut out for full-time motherhood). You generously gave me your time and nurtured the teacher within. I was in total awe of your ability to manage a class of boisterous fourteen year olds without ever losing your cool – and vowed to one day be as good as you. I particularly remember one student on the Child Development NVQ course who claimed to be psychic and remarked on more than one occasion that she had a strong sense of twins when we were together in the same room. Disinclined as I am to believe in the mystical, I chose to believe in her assertion – daring to hope it meant that you saw yourself in the untrained, but eager me.

It was with a huge reluctance I left Sittingbourne. My husband, John, had been posted to Hameln, Germany (the town where the Pied Piper stole all the children).  I cried on and off for days at the thought of leaving the UK and a job that I loved, but as we celebrate twenty-two years of marriage and he supports me on yet another life-changing adventure, I can honestly say I would follow him to the end of time and beyond.

In Germany, with teaching jobs in short supply, I returned to my first career of nursing, but kept my skills up to date by using my NVQ Assessor qualifications. As you know I was studying for a psychology degree (OU), which I finished in the final year in Germany in 1999. My husband left the army and we bought our first house back in my home county. We arrived in the UK just in time for my graduation. I was presented my 1st Class honours (BSc) by Cherie Blair – when Tony Blair was still riding high and we all believed this prosperity and peace would last forever. Armed with a degree and the invaluable teaching experience I gained in Sittingbourne, I trawled the papers for a teaching job – despite still not having a teaching qualification. Another wonderful teacher, Mr John Brandon, Head of Mark Rutherford Upper School in Bedford, gave me that chance and funded my training to reach Qualified Teacher Status.  A year later I repaid his faith in me and started Mark Rutherford’s first psychology department (which is still going strong today). I spent four years at the school developing my teaching and middle management skills and completing a Masters in Research Methods. I also learnt to control my classes without losing my cool (most of the time). Five years later, in 2004, with my children entering middle school and the addition of a cat and dog, plus another house move, I applied for Head of Department at a well-respected local school and got it.

In the ten years since, my two children have grown up and left home, one to Warwick to study philosophy, and one to Honduras to work as a teacher volunteer (now returned and off to UCL to study languages in September). The cat and the dog have gotten a bit decrepit (and been joined by a scruffy rescue puppy) and I have somehow reached my forties and have too  many grey hairs. In that time I have mentored five student teachers (one is now a head of department) and built a thriving, successful department as well as enjoying the challenge of enhanced roles in learning and teaching . I have taught psychology to hundreds of students and have finally mastered the art of behaviour management – almost 🙂

At forty-three it is time for me (before it is too late) to say goodbye to my role as a classroom teacher and begin a new and exciting career. A career that would not have been possible if eighteen years ago you hadn’t hired a twenty-something nurse whose only classroom experience came from watching Dead Poet’s Society (five times).  A week ago I accepted a place on the Doctorate in Child and Educational Psychology at University College London (UCL).   I am incredibly fortunate to have been offered only one of 11 places from a field of 300 applicants! In three years’ time (all going to plan) I will be a Chartered Educational Psychologist and have the skills and professional standing to enable even more positive change in the lives of young people.

So thank you Ann Saunders. Thank you for everything – it all started with you 🙂

Your humble student (and spiritual twin),

Juliet O’Callaghan

Me and my son in 1995
Me and my son in 1995
me and both my children in 2013
me and both my children in 2013

A review: My top ten for 2013

Time to review my list for 2013, one month in:

  1. Get an agent- well, I jumped. MS is sent.
  2. Get a publisher – depends on 1.
  3. Fast twice a week – yup, still doing it. Still feel great. Husband starts it tomorrow.
  4. Meditate regularly- not once. I really must start doing it again. Make time.
  5. Enjoy the moment (live in the present) – always trying, but would help if I meditated.
  6. Worry less (see no. 5) – nuff said.
  7. Read more books – reading two at once, currently. Spent a great train journey, immersed in Sadie Jones, Small Wars.
  8. Write more (instead of procrastinating on the internet) – well I’ve sent the MS and my friend and I are challenging ourselves to write something new each month and put it in our shared dropbox.
  9. Keep blogging- love my blog.
  10. Accept change is part of being alive and embrace it – I’m getting on a plane to Honduras! And looking forward to it.

A list: My top ten for 2013

  1. Get an agent
  2. Get a publisher
  3. Fast twice a week
  4. Meditate regularly
  5. Enjoy the moment (live in the present)
  6. Worry less (see no. 5)
  7. Read more books
  8. Write more (instead of procrastinating on the internet)
  9. Keep blogging
  10. Accept change is part of being alive and embrace it

What’s your top ten for 2013? Please share.

Anti-aging secret:but which is it?

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20121222_170401An age spot on my left cheek has completely disappeared, and the seborrhoeic keratosis (benign warty growth) on my back, which the doctor said was due to age, has fallen off. On top of that the form of arthritis I have suffered from since childhood, ankylosing spondylitis, which necessitates taking Voltoral daily, seems to have put itself in remission. I haven’t taken a painkiller for over two months, and have not once woken with back pain or stiffness.

What the hell is going on?

Two major changes took place in August at around about the same time. My wonderful, energetic, annoying, make-up and clothes borrowing (stealing), daughter, left home and is currently living and working in Honduras. And…

I started the 5:2 diet. Which means I eat normally five days a week, and fast on two days (one 500 calorie meal).

So which is it that has led to the turning back of time?

Well, the daughter is back in August 2013, and I intend to keep fasting twice a week for the long term, so I guess this time next year, I will have my answer. If the age spot is back; I am out of energy; have a back covered in warty growths; and am popping pills for pain, then the only option will be to kick the daughter out for good.

Anyone else tried the 5:2 diet? If so what changes, aside from weight loss, have you noticed?

Endings…

I seemed to have reached a few of these recently.

The end of my novel; and with it that magical time when you can dream about what it might be, rather than  what it is.

The end of my husband’s holiday; no more lazy days, long lie-ins and rambles across the field to the pub for supper and a pint, or a cheeky Pimms in the garden at four o’clock.

The end of the Olympics; and with it, the feel good stories in the press about how good it is to be British (though teachers still got a bashing, I note).

And for me, the end of an era, one, which at times, I fervently wished would end. Then before you know it, and before you are ready, it does. Just like that.

Yes, my daughter has left home*. When I go to bed at night, no longer are my family safely tucked up under one roof. No longer am I the first person she will talk to in the morning, or turn to when she is upset about school work, or ecstatic about exam results. I have been relegated. Left at home with her teddy, who, not so many years ago, she wouldn’t go anywhere without. I am cut adrift. Floundering; wanting to return to the middle, to the happy chaos of knowing what I was doing and why I was doing it, even if I never had the time.

When she got on the plane to San Pedro Sula last Sunday, she took a big chunk of who I have become with her. Instead of feeling joy in having a clean bathroom and all my clothes in my wardrobe (not hers), I am engulfed in a melancholic sense of everything coming to an end, which, of course, everything does.

Or does it? Do things ever end or just transform into new beginnings?  Or more eloquently put:

 “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca

If I am too busy mourning the end, might I miss the beginning of something else? Something just as good, but wholly different to what I have known before?

The end of the novel, heralds the beginning of the next one, which will come out the way I see it in my   head – this time.

The end of the Olympics, heralds the beginning of the Para Olympics and the legacy of 2012.

And the end of my daughter’s childhood, heralds the start of a new and exciting beginning as she explores Central America and learns who she really is (and how to do her own washing).

And me, well, today I am going to mourn, shed a few tears while walking the dog in the woods. Endings are hard, even if they are beginnings in disguise.

But tomorrow, I will embrace the beginning of a life with grown up children and the opportunities that affords me.  My daughter’s life is just beginning, not ending. And, when she comes home next August, the same but different, we can begin our relationship anew, with, I live in hope, a mutual appreciation for keeping a clean and tidy bathroom.

As for the end of holidays – never a good thing, but there is always the beginning of the next one to look forward to.

What endings have you reached? Can you see the beginning, yet? I would love to hear from you.

*My daughter is volunteering in Honduras, teaching English. You can find her eloquently titled (not) blog here.