What Almost Was

What the hell was I thinking?

We are often the architects of our own destruction, haplessly knitting away, creating just enough rope to hang ourselves.

Luckily the universe (or God, or Karma, or chance) takes pity upon us and intervenes, saving us from our own self-destructive tendencies.

Here is what almost was.

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Flip the (Java) Script

The parallels are apparent.

Again I am in a Barnes and Noble, books surround me like dust motes in a sun ray.

Again I bypass the fiction, unknown characters beckon to me from closed covers begging to be cracked open, their stories set free.

Again I am accompanied somewhat reluctantly and again we head for the technology section.

Ostensibly the two moments in time are identical, but only ostensibly.  A ocean of time, space and circumstance separate me from the last time I was in a Barnes and Noble searching for a book on programming.

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A Website’s Journey: mineplusnine.com

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step….whatever the f*** that means.” ~ From the movie Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire

While studying to become a teacher, Bloom’s Taxonomy is crammed down your throat.  The taxonomy has many purposes, but it can be used to ascertain the depth of student learning.

The lowest level of mastery according to the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy is simple remembering.  Can you recall new terms pertaining to what you have just learned?  Can you provide accurate definitions of these terms?

This is the level of rote memorization.

The highest level of the revised taxonomy is creating.  It is considered higher-order thinking to use something you learned to create something novel.  You are operating on this level when you design, write or formulate something original inspired by something learned.

I am beginning to view my burgeoning technology skills through this lens.  I love working with HTML and CSS.  I want to challenge myself to operate on the highest level of Bloom’s, so I have decided to create my own website from scratch.

I have been working on this site for sometime and I am finally please with the result.  My original plan was to build the website using Twitter Bootstrap, but that is a bit beyond me at this moment.  Instead, I built the site using only HTML and CSS that I wrote myself.

However, getting a site onto the internet takes a few steps.  Today I would like to share my website’s journey.

Step 1: Get a hosting service.

Simply put, a web hosting service is a company that will provide you with space on a server. This allows your website to be accessible via the World Wide Web.  I selected a service called A Small Orange.  I chose them because they were highly recommended in the book I am reading on HTML and CSS.  A Small Orange was described as “the perfect starting place for the new web content publisher”.  That is me.  Signing up with A Small Orange was a snap.  I went to their website, created an account, selected a domain name, and purchased my service for $50 a year.  I was even able to purchase security for my new site at the same time!

Step 2: File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

Now that you have web hosting, you need a way to get your HTML/CSS files from your computer to your web host’s server.  You can do this via a File Transfer Protocol (FTP).  To use FTP, you need an FTP client- a program used to transfer files from your computer to a web server.  Again, I went with one of the FTP clients recommended by my HTML/CSS book.  I am using a client called Classic FTP.  Classic is easy to use with a great interface that makes it really simple to transfer files from one place to another.  I am completely new to this process and had no trouble at figuring it out.

Step 3: Get a Text Editor and Write Your Website!

Now you are all set to go.  The only thing you are missing is a website to publish!  This part is the most fun.  First you must decide what your website is going to be about.  I decided to make a website about my family’s nine cats! Next you need to design your website.  What do you want it to look like?  I designed my website on paper first, sketching out the layout and deciding on a color scheme.  Finally it is time to write the code.  To do this you will need a text editor.  I am using Sublime Text 2 because it has a lot of great features.  But if you use a Mac, you can also download TextWrangler which is free.

Step 4: Publish your website!

My website is www.mineplusnine.com. I hope you will check it out.  It is still under construction.  Right now I only have the home page.  I have not yet created the individual pages for each cat.  That is coming soon! Right now the page is static.  As I learn more about JavaScript, I hope to make the site more dynamic and interactive!

Door #1 or Door #2?

If you read my posts Puss in Boot(Camp), Search and Seizure, and SnapDragon’s Tale, then you are aware that I am a cat lover.

What you are unaware of, what you cannot possibly know is the depth of my love for cats. Since childhood they have enchanted me and I have devoted my efforts to rescuing them whenever possible. In fact, my brother and sister used to call me The Cat Protector. Actually, they still do.

Which is why the sudden, violent, accidental death of my cat Orion was such a tragic and traumatic event for me. To make matters worse, Orion died because of a decision that I made.

This horrific event took place when I was 13 years old. Today I am 30 and I still cannot discuss the details without crying. My eyes are welling up as I type these words so I will not go into further detail regarding the manner of Orion’s death. Suffice to say she died afraid and she died alone and it was all my fault.

Orion’s death and my unintentional role in it have had a curious effect on me in my life since the incident. Since Orion died because of a decision I made (I would do anything to go back in time and change my course of action) any time I have a major decision to make, I freeze.

I feel suddenly helpless, almost infantile when faced with a major choice. Fear’s cold had grips my throat and my anxiety shoots through the roof. Why? Because just like with poor Orion, I am terrified of making the wrong choice.

Right now, I am faced with a major decision that I need to make. Every time I think I have made up my mind, I waver, back peddle, and fall again into cloudy indecision.

So here are my choices. Codeup is offering two different bootcamps. They have been truly wonderful and professional throughout this entire odyssey.  They told me that because I am already accepted into the program (see Running the Gauntlet) I did not have to reapply. All I have to do is tell them which camp I want to attend and I will be good to go.

Sounds easy right? But I am stumbling, gnashing my teeth, and losing sleep over deciding which camp to attend.

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Door #1: Night Front-End Bootcamp
Cost: $8500 (100% financing available, $1,000 women’s scholarship available.)
Duration: 4 months
Class Meets: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 5:30pm-9:30pm plus alternating Weekends
Techskills: HTML/CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, WordPress
Begins: March 23rd

Pros: This camp meets in the evening. I can go to work during the day, and study programming at nights. This camp focuses on HTML and CSS which I love!

Cons: No back end development is covered. It will be extremely difficult to teach all day, then turn around and program all night. I run the risk of burning out.

Door #2: Day Full-stack Bootcamp
Cost: $16,000 (100% financing available, $5000 women’s scholarship available)
Duration: 4 months + 2 months of optional mentorship
Class Meets: Monday-Friday 9am – 4pm
Techskills: Proficiency in PHP + JavaScript + Laravel + jquery. Exposure to MySQL, Linux, Apache/nginx, cloud deployments
Begins: June 5th

Pros: This camp covers both back and front-end development. This camp starts while I am on summer break from teaching so I will not have to work while I am learning programming. The syllabus includes HTML/CSS.

Cons: The camp is longer than summer vacation. To finish it I would not be able to return as a teacher for the 2015-2016 school year. This camp is more expensive.

Codeup is really willing to work with me and both camps have their advantages and disadvantages. Before the two doors, I feel the old familiar paralysis. Which would you choose? Why?

Our old demons are the hardest to slay. I feel the weight of that truth as I glimpse Orion’s specter and attempt to choose. Door #1 or Door #2?

SnapDragon’s Tale

“There are songs that come free from the blue-eyed grass, from the dust of a thousand country roads. This is one of them.” ~Robert James Waller from The Bridges of Madison County.

SnapDragon came free from the little girl who dwells across the grass and believe me when I tell you that he is a song. His melody is motion so swift, my mother refers to him simply as “The Golden Blur.”

The unexpected cancellation of Codeup’s evening Full-Stack Bootcamp has left me dumbfounded. As I struggle to regain my balance and chart a new course, it helps to remember that unexpected events quite often evolve into welcome departures from the ordinary. They may even transform into blessings.

Case in point: SnapDragon’s sudden arrival into my life.

It has a hot day in July of last year. The heat was searing and seemed to emanate from all directions. My brown skin glistened with droplets of sticky sweat. Like a hot dog in a solar oven, I baked in misery.

My air conditioning chose the middle of a heat wave to quit working. On the day I met SnapDragon for the first time, I was roasting in my bedroom desperately awaiting the electrician whom I had called to take a look at the AC.

Finally the doorbell rang. Oppressed by heat, I slid off the damp sheets and made my way to the door and salvation.

I was expecting a man. So imagine my shock when I found the little girl from next door who is no more than six years old.

I recall thinking that the little girl was somehow extraordinary. The heat didn’t seem to touch her. No sweat beaded her tiny brow. Her long brown hair blew angelic in the stifling breeze. Her small brown eyes didn’t even squint to keep out the harsh light as mine did. Resolute, she looked me directly in the eye with none of the bashful squirming of most children her age and spoke clearly.

“You have cats.”

It was a statement. Her elfin voice, though slight, left no room for discussion.

“Yes, I have two. Their names are Puss and MaryGold.”

Do you want a cat?” 

Five simple words and yet to a cat person like me, those are the most beautiful words in the English language.

Without waiting for me to respond. She turned and began to walk away. Somehow she knew that I would follow.

When we arrived at her house, the little girl walked in announcing

“I got the lady with the cats!”

When her mother saw me sweating at the door, it was clear to me that she hadn’t sent the little girl. The mother was just as surprised to see me as I was to find myself in that slightly awkward situation. I can only assume that the little girl heard her parents discussing what to do with a kitten that they had in their possession. Having seen my cats in my window, she must have decided on her own volition to go and get the only cat person she knew—me.

The mother explained that they got a kitten for the little girl, but the family dog was going crazy and kept trying to attack the kitten. They had tried and failed to safely integrate the two animals. With no luck they were looking for a new home for the kitten. Then came those beautiful words again, this time from the mother,

“Do you want a cat?”

“I really shouldn’t take another cat.” (But my heart was already made up.)

Can I see the kitten?” (Once you see a kitten there is no turning back.)

The mother disappeared for a moment, and returned with a tiny gold and white miracle.

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I knew the moment I saw him.

“What is his name?” (I gazed, already in love, into his frightened eyes.)

“Freckles,” the little girl responded.

“Is it alright if I change the name?”

Freckles is now SnapDragon and he will be a year old next week. I now have a trifecta of feline perfection dwelling with me in my home. He has been a handful, (I sometimes call him The Terror) but somehow he has been integrated with Puss and MaryGold and we are all finding our way through the world together.

SnapDragon bears a notched ear, which is the universal sign of a stray cat that has been captured, neutered and released. I do not know his story before his time with me, but I know that he has come to me from “the dust of a thousand country roads.” And he has become my love story.

SnapDragon is my living, breathing reminder that change is not always bad. The unexpected can change your life in ways that are additive. A change in plans is not always a harbinger of doom.

With SnapDragon in mind, I choose to embrace the Curve Ball that has been thrown my way. I will commit myself to this new camp and timeline and perhaps when more tales are written, the story of Soun-Ja and her programming Bootcamp will be one of them.

Curve Ball

Long I’ve endured the gale force winds,

Tears cutting tracks upon my gritty face

Hands hard pressed, knees bent I pray

And pray and pray

For the eye of the storm.

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“Hello?”

“Mom, its me. I have breaking news.”

“What is it?” “Are you ok?”

“I’m not sure. Mom, my Bootcamp is gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean…gone?” “Are you certain?”

“I’m looking at the Codeup site right now. There is no longer a link for the Night Full-Stack Bootcamp.

“Check again my daughter. I will check as well.”

We both poured over the site that night. Finally we came to the same conclusion. Codeup is no longer offering an after-hours Full Stack programming Bootcamp.

I began to hear the high-pitched whine of my dream escaping like air from a shiny red balloon.

Until that moment, I had it all figured out.

When oh when am I going to learn? When I have it all figured out, it is about to change.

I should have known.

To verify what I was seeing online, I called Codeup.  They confirmed my suspsicion.  The camp has been cancelled.  The reason? Low enrollment.

Disappointment doesn’t come close to expressing how I felt when I got the news. I didn’t realize just how much I was looking forward to starting class until now. Why is it when something is snatched away from us at a moments notice, we want it all the more?

The camp I originally signed up for was an evening full-stack course. This means that we were going to learn front-end development (like how to make a beautiful, interactive website) as well as back-end development (like how to create and maintain databases in addition to much more.) I was going to lean HTML/CSS Javascript and JQuery as well as PHP.

It was going to be quite the commitment. The camp was going to be 9 months long. We were going to meet every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as every other weekend. I was going to have to do this while working as a math teacher.

But that option no longer exits.

So here is what I have decided to do. I am going to switch camps. Instead of going to camp after work, I’m going to do the full time, full stack daytime Bootcamp. The daytime camp meets Monday – Friday from 9-4pm.

The next daytime camp begins June 8th. This works perfectly for me because the last day of school is June 5th. So I will have all summer to work on my programming skills.

The downside? Well the camp is 4 months long. This is longer than my summer vacation from school. So I will have to do some deep soul searching about my job. I can’t teach and do this daytime Bootcamp.

Decisions will have to be made.