Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:


See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Introducing... The Twelve Blog Posts of Christmas!

Hi guys!

I hope you’re all well, wishing you so much joy at this the most special time of year. Yes, Christmas is fast approaching, and it’s my absolute favourite holiday, season, day, month... I just love it. For me, Christmas begins when I go to church with my parents on a Saturday evening and it’s time to light the first purple candle on the Advent wreath. I certainly don’t see Christmas as purely a religious holiday, but the magic is always alive that evening and it does remind us how our favourite festival began. A hush falls around the whole church as we watch the flame travel from taper to candle, and the congregation smiles at each other because everyone knows just what it means.

Preparation for Christmas has begun.

I’ve decided it’s time to share a few more bits and pieces of my life with you, my readers. I talk about myself a bit, but I’m always careful not to share too much for many, many reasons. This is still going to be the case (and trust me, you’re not missing much), but throughout the Christmas period I’ll be doing twelve blog posts, the “twelve posts of Christmas”, or maybe “blogmas” (I’ll decide tomorrow), which share my experiences of this very personal time of year. I intend to take lots of different pictures and talk about all the different aspects of Christmas I love.

I’m hoping to have the first post up tomorrow, when it’s officially December, and you can expect most of the others throughout the month. However there are two posts which will have to wait till after the big day. One will concern Christmas presents, so of course I can’t give away the surprise, and the other... the other is something very special indeed. It’s a wonderful gift that’s coming our way but we’re not sure when it will arrive! I can’t wait till it does... It could really happen any time in the next six weeks. That’s all I can say right now...

I’ve always seen Christmas as a hugely private time. Only the closest people in my life know just how I celebrate Christmas. Without giving too much away, I’m going to share a few little pieces with all of you in the hope that you will have something heart-warming, interesting, maybe a bit funny to read, and that you’ll get to know me a bit more than just “the-girl-who-loves-writing-and-baking-and-used-to-have-a-curvy-spine-but-it’s-OK-now.”

So, happy beginning of Christmas everyone, and I hope you enjoy the Twelve Blogs!

Lots of love and glad tidings,


Catherine Ann x 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

How I Study... Irish (Oral)

Right, that’s enough persuasion. Down to business!

So, the exam is made up of the oral, which will take place in April and makes up 40%, the listening test which is integrated into the written exam and is worth 10% and the written papers 1 and 2 which make up the remaining 50%.

More information on the syllabus and marking scheme can be found here.    

It’s well worth looking at resources like this and keeping the marking schemes in mind when you prepare for the exam, so you can prioritise when studying.

I could write for years about this, as I could with other subjects, so I’m just going to include a few basic points that work for me when I go over various parts of the course.

ORAL:

        1) The Poetry:

I have printed out my own copies of all five poems (which can be brought into the exam). I then listen to recordings on youtube by Marcus Lamb and pencil in any pronunciations I may have got wrong. Then I record myself reading them out and make sure I have them perfect. This is a part you can really do well on: it’s all down to practise until you’re confident. And guys... try and put in a little feeling.

2) The Sraiths:

OK so these are the bane of my existence, having to learn 20 and only ever being asked one... but enough of my moaning. My class does them in groups: we get a picture each to work on and we come up with four or five sentences. We always have to include a seanfhocail. Our teacher then checks them and prints them out for us. What I then do is pick out what I actually can learn. If there’s a ridiculously complicated sentence I’ll leave it out or replace it. Then I write them out for myself, which helps me revise, and record myself reading them once I have the pronunciation right. This is a bit cringe-worthy, especially when you’re listening to a song on your iPod and “Comortas Cor na Scoile” shows up unexpectedly, but listening to them really does help.

This is because I’m an auditory learner. I learn by listening. It’s worth finding out which of the three main kinds of learner you are: auditory, kinaesthetic (learning by doing) or visual. This can be useful in studying all subjects.

Another point to note is that there are many similarities between the sraiths, so you can get away with using the same familiar phrases a few times. Some class favourites are “thainig an lá mór faoi dheireadh”... and you’ll find that, in at least half the stories, “an griain” tends to be “ag scoilteadh na gcloch”. This can make them seem a little easier.

They’re mind-numbing, I know, but again here’s something you can get points for just learning off by heart. I’m not saying it’s right or easy, but that’s the way it is.

3) Greeting:

There are a few points of the greeting you can learn my heart too: name, date of birth, address etc.
If you really work at these three things, you’ll feel a lot better come exam time. They are the first three parts of the oral, so if all goes well you will be a lot more comfortable when it comes to the actual conversation part.




...These three things you can learn off, but for everything else it can be a bit unexpected. The examiner can ask you anything they want really, so it’s up to you to prepare a few things likely to come up. These might include: social problems, your plans for university or college, and lots of personal stuff such as hobbies and interests...

Keep a copy (notebook) for your oral work with all keywords and phrases you might use. A problem many of us come across is: “I don’t even know what to say in English!” so make sure you have some opinions about things like littering, etc, and choose a hobby you’d like to talk about. Know the words for all your subjects at school and things like that.

This all sounds very vague, but remember the point of the exam is to test your ability to communicate in Irish. So if they ask you about, say, hurling, and like me, you can’t tell one end of a hurl from another, prepare some phrases like “I don’t know much about that” and then proceed to tell them what you are interested in.
For example, in my summer test I told my teacher all about this blog, facts about which I had prepared. Because it was an interesting topic, she spent a lot of time asking me questions on it, most of which I had already prepared answers to. Think of something you could talk about for a while.

I like to practise by imagining having a conversation with someone in Irish: what are they most likely to ask me? What would I say in return? Take turns “examining” your friends, too. My Irish teacher holds an after-school club once a week to practise speaking Irish. If you have a resource like this, use it. And don’t be shy in class, either. Try asking questions in Irish, remembering of course that everyone else is just as nervous as you are.

Some sample questions to try answering are found here.

The day before the oral, I intend to speak as much Irish as possible to get myself in the right frame of mind. I’ve found even when preparing essays and such, immersing yourself in the language really helps. I hope my Irish and French exams are widely spaced apart!


Best of luck everyone, and wish me the same! Let’s all knuckle down, there’s only a few weeks lift till Christmas! If I’ve left anything out of this post please let me know, and as always remember that this is just how I do things. I’m not an authority on the matter and if you’ve got a way that works, stick to it! Perhaps you could even share it with the rest of us? 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How I Study.... Irish (Introduction)

First things first: thank you all so much for getting me over 8000 views. I’m so grateful for the reception my blog has received. When I began I was positive that the only people reading it would be myself and my parents... maybe not even them... so when I find people consistently reading my work, and sometimes (just sometimes) actually enjoying it... That is more amazing than I can say.

To celebrate 10,000 views I’m going to have a competition and make another little announcement too... I can’t wait to get there!

Today I want to talk about the bane-of-your-existence that is Gaeilge. If you don’t know what Gaeilge means, then I’m sorry, but we have a huge problem here and it’s best if you don’t read on.

I am eternally grateful that I didn’t study Irish in primary school. When I moved, I was just going into First Year. Technically I would have been exempt from Irish (which is compulsory for most people), but my parents really wanted me to learn it. I can’t say that’s something I resent: I have always loved languages.

I am given to understand that the reason most people don’t like Irish is because it’s not very well taught in primary schools. I don’t know from experience, but a lot of people seem to believe this. Sometimes when pupils move on to Secondary they begin to enjoy it, but for many the stigma, the “boring, useless” stamp is still attached. That’s such a shame as there are some really great Irish teachers in our secondary schools, who are clearly passionate about the subject and try their best to make it enjoyable. I know because I’ve got one!

There’s also the idea that there’s no point in learning Irish, and I can really relate to this. When learning French, for example, you can totally picture yourself in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, the Ivory Coast... speaking French to people! But perhaps the idea that maybe one old man somewhere in Clare Galway won’t understand English isn’t incentive enough. But learning a language, believe it or not, is not just with a view to speaking it. Learning another language teaches us a lot about our own, and it’s really good mental exercise.

 Irish isn’t as useless as you might think, either. There’s a whole TV channel in the language, for goodness’ sake, and there are even a lot of programmes in Irish made by the BBC. There’s also a radio station... really, if the media is your thing, you’re making yourself so much more desirable by learning Irish. Then there are government jobs and primary or secondary Irish teaching...
Regardless, even if you’re going to forget every bit of Irish the day after the exams, it’s a cross the vast majority of us have to bear, so we might as well give it our best shot.


Hm. I seem to have wasted a lot of words persuading you to study, and none actually helping. I think I’ll separate these posts into various parts... part 2, on the oral exam, coming tomorrow! J

Sunday, 24 November 2013

My Inner Control Freak and Me....

We interrupt this school and study-based series to bring you some urgent feels and a small epiphany. Catherine Ann needed to get something off her chest. Enjoy!



This may either come as a total shock to readers, or a boring non-surprise to friends, but I am the world’s biggest control freak. I come across as easy-going to strangers, a result of a half-shy, a quarter-polite, a quarter-oh-so-English thing... but beneath the surface there lurks a monster who has to have everything exactly just so or else... terrible things happen.

Lately I feel like that control has been slipping ever so slightly. After several months, probably over a year actually, of everything going right, everything being in its place, things have begun to fall apart just a little. There have been a few personal things that have made me feel like I have less control over my own life.

Then there was today. Today it all came to a head.

I’ve been working on coursework for my Leaving Cert History for the past months, after my first attempt last year was a bit rubbish. I wasn’t worried, though. I have until April and I’m finally beginning to get the hang of historical, factual essay-writing. Last night, I spent an hour and a half on the main essay part. Everything was going to plan, everything was under control... yes, just the way I like it. I got the last of the research done and typed everything up. My facts were factual as can be, my structure would have blown your mind, and I concluded the crap out of the conclusion.

I got up this morning all ready to follow the Sunday study timetable I’d planned for myself. A part of this—after working on maths for an hour, no less—was to read out my essay to mum and then print it off to bring in for my teacher. I was pretty excited, actually... this was the final draft! I’d almost done it! With luck, I’d have it all written up soon and could forget about it by Christmas.

I opened the document and began to read out the first paragraph while mum nodded along, ears on me and eyes on the housework.

I stopped. Hadn’t I edited this sentence last night?

I scrolled down.

Where was my conclusion?

It hadn’t saved.

I don’t know whether something went wrong with the saving, or if I just forgot (which it pretty plausible: I finished at about 11pm and was still in an emotional state from Doctor Who), but whatever happened, all my hard work at polishing and perfecting was gone.

In my disappointment and stress, I compared the event to several that have taken place recently, and there was a feeling of lost control, scuppered plans. The feeling that you’ve got your whole timetable written out, literally or metaphorically, and then someone’s come along and ripped it up in front of your face. How do you react? Do you scrabble around for the pieces on the floor, cry at the loss of control, or just accept it?
Accepting is difficult, but I tried to remember a life lesson my family learned a few years ago. After a similar series of unfortunate events, my dad told us he’d come to a single conclusion:

We have no control over our own lives.

No matter how hard you try, things will always get in the way. When I was little, I used to think with childish selfishness that I was living my life, that everyone else—parents, friends, people in the street—were other characters in my show.

I think we all realise by now that this isn’t the case. We’re all part of something much bigger, and it’s impossible to just walk on along a straight path—there are hundreds of alleyways and lanes and bridges where other people intersect with you, and these are accompanied by rocks and potholes in your own road.
Don’t try to drive around in circles or get overcome by road rage, and don’t stop altogether. Just cruise along and realise that it’s not the end of the world.

Me? I am trying to stick to my plans and my goals, but I’m also going to ride with the rough patches. It’s OK to relax just occasionally, take a pit-stop, if you will. (Are we still enjoying the metaphor?) So I’m not going to work on that history project today. Just for now, I’m putting it out of my mind.


Sometimes you just have to sit back, screw up your timetable, make a cup of tea, put on a Made In Chelsea re-run and involve yourself in all their silly little problems... because that’s simply all you can do. 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

How I Study... Biology and Business.

Hi there everyone!

I’m currently writing the draft of this post in my “blog book” while waiting to get my hair done, in the hope that when i get home I can type it up, then squeeze in some study before my appointment at the optician’s.
Sound familiar? Life always seems to go that way. With everything happening all at once, at full intensity, relentless...

I say relentless. I’m actually sitting on a lovely comfy sofa watching someone have highlights done and wondering if my coffee will come with a biscuit.
But you see my point. There never seems to be quite enough time to do the 5 million hours of study you had planned at the beginning of the year. The only solution is to set aside enough time and use it wisely. I spoke a little in a previous post about preparation and motivation. Now I plan to explain how I study specific subjects.

These posts will be based around preparation for the Irish Leaving Certificate, but they may be of interest to other students. They’re not necessarily “tips” –we all learn and revise in different ways, but this is how I study and you might like to try some of my methods.

The subjects I’m taking are English, Irish, Maths (all compulsory over here), Biology, Business, French and History, all at higher level, with a view to carrying on English and History at university. As I’ve mentioned before, my parents both used to be teachers, so if you’ve got a specific question for myself or for them, just email catherineann.mk@gmail.com.

Now, to business... and biology. I’ve chosen to lump these two together as there are a lot of similarities. They both consist of a set course to be learned (and, though I hate this side of the education system, learned by heart...), lots of solid fact, relatively short exam questions... and both are extremely vocabulary-heavy.
Perhaps you’re doing another subject that falls into this category, like the written part of the Home Economics course.

First of all, the vocabulary. You’ll notice you have a lot of subject-specific terms which you need to know. These may be highlighted in your textbook, or else a list can be found online from the syllabus. I have separate notebooks for my vocabulary and definitions, which I write out, make sure I understand, and revise. We had to do this for Business Studies class, but I found it useful for Biology too. I’m all about transferring the skills...

Learning the vocab is a great place to start—it will be easier to follow the class if you actually know what the teacher is talking about, lots of information follows on from these definitions, and indeed there are many short exam questions which will ask you to define a term.

Another thing you’ll find with these subjects is that most of the information can be remembered in lists, for example the elements of a valid contract or the features of prokaryotes. My Business teacher is a huge fan of mnemonics, which for me only work sometimes. If you have words like Capacity to contract, Intent, Consideration... etc, you can learn a list of letters and maybe do a rhyme or something to suit. But for many other things, I prefer to use a logical list, with one thing following on from the other. I have all my biology and business chapters summarised into list and definition form... and that’s pretty much all the information I’ll need. I also like to write down a number, e.g. “4 points on this”, so I can see in the test if I’m missing anything.

This can be helpful in biology diagrams, which are pretty much the bane of my existence. My drawing is horrible and I’m by no stretch of the imagination a visual learner, but what I have found useful is to draw out my diagrams in a separate copy, label them, and write the number of things I’ve labelled. For example, if a plant cell comes up, I know I need  to label six parts, which can be listed as: the nucleus, cell membrane, cell wall, cytoplasm, chloroplasts and vacuole. Even if you hate diagrams like I do, it’s best to practise them again and again... sorry about that.

Try to relate things back to your day-to-day life, too. Don’t be afraid to apply a little logic here and there. For example, we are currently witnessing a recession. If you are asked about the effects of unemployment and can’t remember what your textbook said, then just think for yourself. What’s happened to people you know if they have lost their jobs? What are the effects of this?

In Biology, also, we study the world around us. I studied the respiratory system a few weeks ago, and found it helped me revise if I took a big breath in, and asked myself, what is happening in my body right now? Then I’d breathe out (obviously) and think of the same. This helped me to really understand what was going on, and once you understand something it will be much easier to remember.


I could go on forever, but it’s time to leave this blog post here and go and get pampered for a while. If you have any questions or advice of your own, don’t hesitate to comment or send in an email. I’m sure my teachers will be giving us lots of advice in the near future, so I’ll definitely share it on here when they do. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

NaNoWriMo... A “Tip” Down Memory Lane...

Ahahahahaha. Sometimes, I simply crack myself up. I “fend la poire” in fact... that’s French (I sincerely hope) for “I split the pear” which is like “I split my sides laughing”.
Horrific puns and a Modern Languages lecture aside, I’m delighted to tell you that the first week of NaNoWriMo is over. Even though it wasn’t possible for me to take part this year , I’m still ever so excited about this.

It means that for a whole week, thousands of people all around the world have been imagining, creating, working on their novels simultaneously. Together for the past week they have created characters, painted unique settings, spent an hour or so immersed in their own world... all at the same time, all part of something much bigger. There’s something pretty wonderful about that.

By my estimation, those efficient bunnies among us will have reached around 11,700 words if they are working at pace. Some may have reached 20,000, some maybe 100. But they’re all working towards two very distinct goals: to reach 50,000 by the end of November, but also simply to enjoy writing and gain something from it. For me, the latter is so much more important.

You may have already read about My NaNoWriMo Experience but I thought I’d share a few little pointers. I am by no means an expert, but regular readers will know that I love giving advice about things whether I have a clue about them or not!

I did reach my 50,000 words though, so I have some experience in the feild of writing nonsense for 30 days. It was a pretty stressful time with all my other commitments, but here’s how I did it.
·        
SWEETS! Just as Edmund sold out his siblings for Turkish Delight in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, most of us are hugely affected by the incentives and temptations a tasty treat brings. I used food as a huge incentive. I’d reward myself a Haribo every 100 words during the week, and then would stock up on junk food like crisps or chocolate for marathon night-time sessions at the weekends. Needless to say, I didn’t lose any weight in November... but hey, winter was upon us, insulation and all that. Another trick was to whip up a cake and put it in the oven. My favourite lemon drizzle cake  takes about forty minutes to cook, so I’d set the timer, write for forty minutes, then be rewarded with a gorgeous cake at the end.

·         JUST KEEP SWIMMING... The key here is to keep writing, writing, writing, even if you don’t feel like it’s any good. For once, you’re being judged on quantity rather than quality. Every word you write helps you get to know your characters that bit more, and you always learn by doing and improve. Write. Rewrite, but of course don’t delete. Just keep going. Who knows? You might hit on a great idea.

·         GET EXCITED. I read somewhere once that the first thing you should do when you’re writing a novel is tell people you’re writing a novel. Of course writing’s a huge personal thing, it can even be a bit cringey at times, and you might not feel like talking about something so private, but trust me... nobody’s going to laugh at you. When I told people about NaNo, they were actually very impressed I was taking on the challenge, and had all kinds of questions to ask. Use this opportunity to take pride in your favourite hobby. Talk to your writing buddies if you’re lucky enough to have them, but also to your parents and other friends. Tell them what twists and turns your story is taking and it will get your imagination flowing and enthusiasm pumping!

·         CHECK YOUR WORDCOUNT. I had a nightmarish 30th November 2012. I still shudder to think about it. There I was, with my 50,000 and something words all saved on my laptop. I was bursting with pride and ready to submit my huge chunk of novel and see what the ceritifcate looked like. I’d been staying up late, I was tired, I was sick to death of the very sound of my keyboard... but I’d done it.
Or so I thought. I copied and pasted into NaNo’s official wordcounter, but whatever way they were counted, it only added up to about 49,500. I very nearly snapped, I can tell you now. I had about an hour and a half to submit my novel before the deadline, and I’d fallen short! What was I going to do? In the end, I had one of my characters write a strongly worded letter to NaNoWriMo about it. She was just as infuriated as I... was she to be trapped in my laptop forever? Moral of the story, paste in your words a few days early to count them... just in case!

·         TURN THE MUSIC UP. I saw this picture recently and it made me think of NaNo...




When I began thinking about the novel I worked on for Nano, some years previous, I heard a few songs that reminded me of a character, event, the setting etc... so I started writing them down. Before long, I had my very own “soundtrack” to the story. It seemed to convey how my characters might be feeling, or how the story was playing out. I listened to this playlist throughout NaNo and it really put me in the mood. Find some “writing” songs and it might help you... it worked for me!


I thought it might be fun to publish the soundtrack here at Unlucky For Some for you to view. Then you could look up the songs (or perhaps you already know them) and try to guess what the story is about... we could make a little game of it, if anyone’s interested.

Just a thought!

Happy novelling,


Catherine x 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Scoliosis Update and Site Recommendation!

As you can probably guess from the less-than-exciting title, this is a little space-filler post, sidetracking me from my work on NaNoWriMo tips and studying. My only explanation is that I had SO MUCH TO SAY to you guys!

First, any of you who read my Scoliosis Story might be interested in an update. And for those of you who aren't... well, it's my blog and if I want to complain about my life occasionally (in the name of education of course), you'll have to bear with me ;) 

To be honest, I haven't thought much about my back lately... which is a great sign! But two events made me a little wary of my health in that regard. The other night a group of us stayed over at Crow's and when I woke up in the morning I was... shorter. I know. My first thought was, of course, that Bambi had put a spell on me in my sleep to make me shrink, but in fact my height does vary a little when my muscles don't get the rest they deserve. After stretching, or having a proper night's sleep flat on my back, I'm generally taller. If this doesn't happen, though, I can be a little stooped. This hasn't happened much since before the operation, so it worried me ever so slightly. Especially since incident number one... 

A few days before, we'd played hockey in PE. I was really proud of myself for actually taking part no matter how many times my knees got bashed (six). The thing is, you have to sort of bend in hockey in a way I wasn't used to, and I've never really learned how to do it properly. Everything was fine till around nine o'clock that night when my back got a little sore. Then I tried moving around and it got even worse. I'm no stranger to this, so I took a painkiller and alternated between lying on my back and getting up to exercise a little. 

Sadly, things were even worse the next morning. I had to get up for school but every time I even rolled onto my side I was in intense pain. It was like a burning sensation across my back, followed by an ache which intensified as I tried to sit up. I took more painkillers (which I hate to do, but sometimes it's necessary) and my mum had to help me get dressed.

I was nearly in tears at the thought of school. Luckily, Phoenix came to the door and when she saw how bad I was she brought my stuff out to the car and carried my backpack for the entire day... (Can I just say, if you're going to have an operation, bring her, she's awesome). 

By the end of the day, I'd loosened up considerably. Mum commented in the car that "this never would've happened if you exercised more".

I'm not sure I agree with her there, and I was much too hopped up on paracetamol to be in the mood for advice right then, but I can see now she might have had a point. Possibly.

So today, I took Bambi's advice and went for a run.  I still got a bad feeling at the top of my spine, like a ton of bricks was attached to my vertebrae, but I'm hoping that if I keep up the gentle exercise it should help a lot. It's so important for anyone, not least post-op scoliosis patients, to keep up their exercise and make sure their body gets a good stretch on a regular basis! 

I'm also hoping that getting out and getting active will help me sleep a lot better, which is so important as my exams creep ever closer. I think back to those days in the summer when I'd come home after a long walk or a swim in the river with my friends and flop down on my bed, exhausted, ready to fall straight asleep. That's really what it should be like every night.

My run today, hopefully the first of many, wasn't exactly the most fun I've had in my life. It was freezing, not exactly picturesque, and I'm positive the cows next door have it in for me... but I'm not going to let that stop me.



Aside from this update, I wanted to quickly recommend a website for you guys. I'm currently wading through the UCAS application process, which is how you apply to go to university in the UK. From searching various questions with varying degrees of frustration, I've found the site www.thestudentroom.co.uk to be really helpful and I highly recommend it. They're not even paying me, I swear. It's got everything you need from GCSE (that's Junior Cert) level right through to university or college, as well as other information, for example on health and relationships. I really love the forums and threads where you can pose all your questions to people who are in the same boat as you. I think as it's aimed mostly at older teens, Leaving Cert and college age, you don't get the nasty comments and fights like you would on Facebook or Youtube. It's just genuinely nice people who want to ask for and seek advice. I've become a huge fan and it's helped me loads with my UCAS application. Just thought some of you ought to know ;)