Day One

I got lost.

Terribly lost, dizzyingly lost, as I drove to my very first day of Codeup’s programming class.

At this point, I know what you are thinking.

“Haven’t you been there before?”

Answer: Yes.

“Haven’t you been there several times before?”

Answer: Also… Yes.

“So….?”

So my terrible sense of direction coupled with near crippling excitement and anxiety combined to create a spectacular fail on the highway.

I missed my exit… by a long shot.

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Toward The Sun, Rising

The tidal splash of sound caused my heart to leap every time. My ears would drink the harmonies like a desert landscape absorbing the inundating monsoon rains.

With a deep breath I would prepare to add my fanfare to the glittering orchestration, but in truth I really just wanted to sit back and listen.

I just wanted to let the waves of music lift my heart from its doldrums, up and up.

Music can do this.

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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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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.