Search and Seizure

Inexorability challenges our incredulity.

I knew it was coming; I simply didn’t want to believe it.

It began with moderate, involuntary quaking. Pupils blown, her whole body pulsed and jumped like a small fish out of water.

Accepting only then what was coming, I held her close. In times of the inevitable, this is often all we can do for the ones we love.

My cat MaryGold suffers from epilepsy. Prior to this episode, which took place on Sunday February 15th, her last seizure was Thanksgiving Day of last year. It is easy to get complacent when that much time passes between seizures. It is easy for insidious hope to whisper, “Maybe she is cured?

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MaryGold is not cured. I held her on Sunday as she trembled. This was the tremor before the earthquake. I positioned my hands and got a good hold on her. I knew the magnitude 10 quake was coming. After five minutes of preliminary pulsing, it hit. 

My poor baby’s entire body was racked with massive, violent jerking. Saliva poured from her little mouth. Urine escaped her little body. Her muscles fired randomly, her body contorting into nightmare poses.

I held her through it. It was all I could do.

Calm and peace crept upon us “on little cat feet.” The fierce jerking subsided. MaryGold’s body began to still. Soon the involuntary movements ceased altogether.

A seizure feels like it lasts a lifetime, but in fact it lasted about 30 seconds.

I held her as she passed into her post-ictal phase, which for MaryGold means she immediately went to sleep. Exhausted by her body’s exertions.

As for me, I cleaned up and got back to what I was doing before the seizure hit.

I was searching, searching for a good tutorial on how to use Twitter Bootstrap.

Twitter Bootstrap is described as a framework that is meant to make creating websites easier. It has pre-created blocks of code that you can copy and paste to build and style your website without having to do everything from scratch.

It sounds wonderful, but I am struggling to make sense of it- hence the search for a good tutorial. In my Sunday feature, Bootstrap Blues, I challenged myself to make a basic website about my cats using Twitter Bootstrap. I now feel that this might have been too ambitious.

I have a basic working knowledge of Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). This is the “language” that gives all websites their structure. I am also proficient with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This gives websites their styling and visual appeal.

The problem I am having with bootstrap is that it seems to require more than just a basic knowledge of HTML/CSS. Every time I try to follow along in a tutorial, I get lost in unfamiliar HTML tags and attributes.

It looks like I have to strengthen my skills in HTML/CSS before I will feel comfortable using Bootstrap.

I thought this framework was supposed to make life easier?

Still, I hope to have some kind of website to share with you guys on Sunday. Be sure to check out the Sunday Skills part of my blog this week for the URL to my nascent website. No promises that it will be perfect, but I am determined to try to create something to share.

As I write these words, MaryGold is in my lap. The seizures have passed for now, but the search for aid in using Twitter Bootstrap continues. Wish me luck.

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Every Woman Is A Star

What is it about the night?

Memories recur unbidden. They walk again, spectral, ethereal. Little ghosts that haunt the unseen fissures of our deep subconscious.

What is it about the night?

I was up again last night. Late. I set aside nine days to practice Git and GitHub. Yesterday was the 9th night. I felt the need to cram in just a little more knowledge, so I was up watching a very informative YouTube tutorial series and practicing along with the videos on my command line.

This is my life lately. Find a YouTube tutorial. Watch a snippet of video. Pause the video. Type the commands I just learned. Un-pause the video. Repeat. I do this for hours until the golden (elusive) light of understanding dawns in my mind and flows through my fingers onto the keyboard. Sometimes, the information is obtuse and the golden light remains obscure.

This happened to me last night. Having wrapped up my tutorial on Git, I moved on to the next topic I need to cover prior to Codeup Bootcamp. I need to learn HTML/CSS and something called Twitter Bootstrap. I already know HTML and CSS. I taught myself on codeacademy. However, I am clueless regarding Bootstrap. I went to their site, tried to download it. Got a list of files and was stuck.

At this point I stole a glance at the clock. 2am. I sighed. I have to be up at 5:45am for work the next morning.

The slippery eel, DOUBT, began to slime its way across the vulnerable vista of my heart and mind.

“Maybe I can’t do this?”

“Perhaps I’m not smart enough.”

“There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to scale this learning curve.”

“You will fail…again.”

Frustrated with Twitter Bootstrap, I closed my computer with a dejected sigh. (I sigh quite a lot actually.)

I lay down in bed. Closed my eyes and that is when I thought of my father.

What is it about the night?

Estranged, I do not often think of my father- not in any significant way. But last night a nocturnal memory whispered from a distant time.

Every Woman Is A Star

My father was writing a book. I have hazy memories of a typewriter and correction tape. I have hazier memories of a never finished book entitled, Every Woman Is A Star.

I have no idea to this day what that book is about. But that title! It cannot help but inspire.

I remembered that I have a degree in physics, another obtuse male dominated field.

I remembered my degree in philosophy, metaphysical and erudite.

I remembered that I teach mathematics, hardly child’s play. I remembered and remembered.

I am a star. Or at least I have the potential to be.

This thought banished the eels. They slithered away into the darker swamps of my mind.

I know they are not gone forever, those slippery eels of DOUBT. But the title of my lost father’s book banished them for the moment.

Just think about that. Every woman is a star. A bright illuminating celestial presence. Able to overcome any obstacle, able to rise after any defeat. Able to soar and soar and soar.

Perhaps this is what my father meant. I will never know. But it helped last night. And I went to sleep with a smile thinly painted on my lips.

The Noble Cat

Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly. ”

~ Arnold Edinborough

A quiet room. Dust motes playing a slow game of tag in a ray of golden light.

An old tome. Opened to the middle.

Three cats, filling the room with the sweet rumble of contented purring.

And me, bent, brown eyes scanning left to right and back, left to right and back, down the crème white page.

The scene I described above is my ideal state because I absolutely love to learn. Acquiring new knowledge goes far beyond the practical for me. Yes, I learn to apply my knowledge to novel situations. Yes I learn to help solve relevant problems.

But I also learn just to know. I learn because I am deeply curious at a fundamental level.

In the end, I think that explains my participation in Codeup.

I was awake last night at 1:00am- the witching hour. What was I doing? Learning.

I was watching a tutorial on using Git from the command line on YouTube. I only have today and tomorrow left in my schedule to study git, so I am spending extra time on it. (You can find the schedule I am referring to in my post Tick. Tock. Tyranny.)

Technology evolves at the speed of light. Staying current requires one to constantly learn. This is what appeals to me the most about computer programming.

Today I would like to hear from you. What are you curious about? At the start of the New Year, did you set out to learn some new skill or master some new craft?

I would like to start a conversation centered on curiosity and learning. Share what you are learning about in this moment or something you hope to learn more about in the future.

Please share in the comment section or join the conversation on twitter. My handle is @SounJa. Use the #TheNobleCat.

The absolute best thing about blogging is the opportunity to learn from each other.

 

Running The Gauntlet

Here is what I have learned.

In the pivotal moments, there are no hands to hold.

The wind blows cold and you are alone. And you must be strong.

If you have been following my humble quest, I realize that you probably have some questions. You may be wondering,

What is the name of this programming boot camp anyway? She never refers to the camp by name!”

 I contacted my program, explained the nature of my blog, and asked if it would be ok to use their name in my blog posts. You see all this time I have been uncertain about whether or not it was appropriate to single out the program by name.

To my surprise, they were thrilled with the idea of my blog and had no reservations about me using the name of the program.

So (drum roll please!) I am a proud member of Codeup, an elite professional school for computer programming!

You may also be curious about the application process.

“How does a person get accepted into a programming boot camp in the first place?” 

There are several computer programming boot camps popping up all over the country like mushrooms after a rain. Each one has its own requirements for admission.

Codeup has several phases to its application process.

First I had to fill out an online application that included an essay question. This was a herculean task for me. I am that person who will rewrite a sentence 50 million times until it sounds absolutely perfect.

I reread my essay until I had it memorized and subjected my family to countless recitations. It literally took me a week of crumpled up discarded rough drafts and late nights staring at a blinking computer cursor to write that simple essay.

Second, I endured a telephone interview. This should not have been a big deal, but I am just as bad about interviews as I am about essays.

Third I had to take an Algebra test. (Remember asking your math teacher, “When am I ever going to use this?” Well you just got the answer-The next time you want to change your life.) The test was timed and covered a wide variety of topics. As an Algebra teacher, this should not have been an issue. Accept that I am me and anxiety might as well be my middle name. I fretted over this test like one would stress over a diagnosis of cancer. “What if I fail it?” “How embarrassing would it be for an Algebra teacher to fail an Algebra test?”

I did not fail the test.

In fact I did well enough to advance to the next stage of the application process: the logic test.

By this point I was petrified! Another test? I almost went into cardiac arrest over the Algebra test and I am good at Algebra. In college I got a C in logic. To make it even more “fun” the logic test was also timed!

To this day, I don’t know how I made it through that test but I did. I thought that I had come to the end of the gauntlet. Surely they had enough information to decide if I was worthy.

Nope. There was one last obstacle: The Instructor Interview

I sat alone in my car, listening to the chill wind howling outside. By that point, I had already been through so much. I really needed to do well at the instructor interview to seal the deal.

Alone in my car on the day of the interview, I took deep breaths, mediated, counted to ten, and yes I even prayed. I remember noticing the silence of my car, but for the pounding of my heart and the rushing of my blood in my own ears.

In the moments that matter, we often have to succeed or fail, sink or swim—Alone.

I got out of my car, braved the artic blast and shivered in my suit on the way to the designated interview site. I wish I could say I was shivering because of the cold. I walked inside, took a deep breath, flashed a confident smile and firmly shook the hand of the interviewer.

Spoiler Alert!

I did just fine during the instructor interview. There was nothing to fear (except bone crushing failure.) I got a call that same day telling me that I had been accepted into Codeup.

They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have always had my suspicions about the veracity of this claim.

Instead, I would say whatever doesn’t kill you leaves an impression upon you. This impression can have any number of effects. It won’t necessarily make you stronger, but it just might.

For me, my Codeup journey so far has revealed my pent up anxieties, but it has also sharpened my focus.

I ran the gauntlet and I survived. Am I stronger, smarter, better, greater? I honestly don’t know.

But I am here. I am writing to you. And I am determined to see this thing through to the end.

Tick. Tock. Tyranny.

“There’s a time for us,

Some day a time for us,

Time together with time to spare,

Time to learn, time to care,

Some day!”

Confession. I’ve never seen West Side Story, but when I hear the song Somewhere my heart swells to bursting just the same. Particularly it is the second verse, the one that I have quoted above that gets me, right in the soul, every time.

I am a slave bound to the clock. Each morning, my alarm persecutes me with its shrill, persistent voice at 5:45am. Then again at 6:30am to remind me to administer phenobarbital and Keppra to my epileptic cat MaryGold. Then again at 7:00am to insist that I get out the door and on my way to work at the local high school. Once I get to school, every 50-minute class is signaled by yet another bell, counting off even more seconds that slip through my grasp like sand culled from a fragrant beach. In the evening, I arrive home just in time for still another alarm, this one set for 6:30pm to remind me that it is time once again to administer MaryGold’s medicine. After 6:30pm I have 3 hours and 30 minutes before my 10pm alarm dictates that it is time to administer MaryGold’s Zoni, again for her epilepsy. From here I have a two-hour window before MaryGold’s final medicine administration at midnight. As you can see, my time is largely bracketed by work on the one hand and caring for MaryGold on the other. Continue Reading

And The Liebster Goes To…

Mine is a hamster-running-in-a-wheel kind of life. Spinning, whirling, twirling from one responsibility to the next- individual moments are an indistinguishable blur.

But every now and again, something happens that stops the wheel for a moment. The dizzy world crystalizes into a jeweled reality and an instant opens up for reflection.

A moment like that just happened to me because my blog has been nominated for a Liebster Award. This achievement has momentarily ceased the constant rotation of my whirl-a-gig world. Though it is a digression from the usual posts on this blog, I have been handed a moment for reflection and I’m gonna take it. Continue Reading

Diverged

Diverged

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth

Before me are two paths and how I hate a duality! As I am one being, in one body with one mind, dualities inevitably lead to dilemmas. Physically, I can only move in one direction at a time, forever leaving the other option to rot in the land of “What Might Have Been.” And that question. That haunting, tearing, immobilizing question.

What do I choose? Option A or Option B? Door Number 1 or Door Number 2? The Road On The Left or The Road On The Right? North or South?

The vexing truth of duality is this: though there may be two, you can choose only one. And what you do not choose becomes a fertile ground to cultivate regret.

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same

If you are listening, oh how I long for unity! For one. For the clouds to part and one radiant path to present itself before me. No choices because I inexorably choose the wrong one. No forks in destiny’s road. Just a clear ribbon of endless light with a sign post saying “This way and only this way.!” No tricks. No possibility of doubt. No regret.

But we know this doesn’t happen. Every road seems to dead end in a fork. Leaving us to choose. That devastating blessing: choice.

And so I make my choice. I choose web development.

I choose computers and bits and bytes and programs that don’t work half the time, and websites that amaze all the time. I choose quiet but for the tap tap tapping of keys in the semi darkness because I have been working all day at my terminal and the sun is gone now. Or it is early morning and the sun cannot yet be convinced to rise.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

~ Robert Frost

 

I don’t know why life makes us choose with no guarantee that we have chosen the right.

The only thing I know is the unity I long for will never materialize. We live in the age of endless options, and you simply cannot choose them all.

It is my fervent hope that “somewhere ages and ages hence” I will not be telling this tale with a sigh. With women drastically underrepresented in tech, I am definitely taking the road less traveled. Will it “make all the difference?” I am certain that it will. The only question is will it be a difference I can live with?