The Winter Of Her Life

The ancient calico with the dusty grey feet slept atop what can only be described as a heap of forgotten junk.  The reek of motor oil and the stale warehouse air burned my eyes to tears, yet the wizened creature was the center point of my blurred vision and my heart skipped a beat as it always does at the sight of a cat.

The admonishments of the wiry woman with the smoker’s cough about the folly of leaving old gasoline in a lawnmower faded to a distant rumble on the razor’s edge of my cognitive horizon.  The crone of a calico had captivated me “body and soul.”

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Beating the Bootstrap Blues!

The trees were naked.  The grass brown as beached, dried seaweed.  The air held a bone chill and blew ice cold.  Back in late February/early March when I first encountered Twitter Bootstrap, these were the conditions outside my bedroom window.  I turned from the wintry, oppressed scene outside.  I faced my computer, fired up google and typed “What is Twitter Bootstrap?”

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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.

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.

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.