Saying good-bye to a great man

Just a few words in this post. I’m on my way to San Antonio to say goodbye to and remember Paul Erwin. The entire Erwin family is inspiring to me. Paul started The Winston School, a school for kids with average and above intelligence who struggled in mainstream schools because of their learning differences. His first wife was my English and language arts teacher. She always reminded me of what I thought a lady in the Renaissance would be like. His oldest daughter is a childhood friend who was a killer debater, sharp as a tack, kind, and in possession of one of the best laughs I know. His other daughters are two of the three Dixie Chicks. No one in this family shies from opinions, education, and class.

I’ve done the math. My friends’ parents and my own are aging. I already lost my dad. Saying goodbye to Mr. Erwin is just as much a part of saying goodbye to my childhood as it is to him and his memory.

I lost my dad last year. I almost forgot to be sad at his memorial because I got to see my old childhood friends again. That helped me. I hope it helps his family today, too.

Sigh.

 

Glitch, please.

Last weekend, I attended a Girl Develop It (ATX) meeting called Intro to NodeJS. I have a list of Node tutorials and am making my way through them. They are all helpful, but nothing beats having a human there to immediately notice a furrowed brow or a raised hand. Oh, but wait. There is something just as great: Glitch. Glitch is a Fog Creek baby, so it’s the baby sibling of Trello, FogBugz. (Trello is now part of Atlassian, so I still consider it a sibling, but an older one who got married into another family.) They have a look and style to their projects that is inherently playful. It is no surprise to me that the people behind those other projects came up with Glitch.

I come to software development from teaching. I still do teach. I hope never to fully leave it. I do not think kids or adults will learn as fast if you do not encourage copying, playing, breaking, and tweaking.

Copying? Heck yeah. Copying and saying it’s your own? No. However, you are foolish not to take something finished and excellent (for the most part) and copy it. Feel it being created with your own hands. For art, a child trying to imitate daVinci will probably not recreate the master, but she will look at how proportion is used. Maybe even realise that the eyes are not at the top of the head. In a forward to a collection of his favourite short stories, David Sedaris said that he used to type his favourite paragraphs to get the feel. There is a difference between copying to learn and copying to take credit. If you don’t know that difference, I don’t know how to talk to you.

In our tutorial, we used Glitch. We could see our changes immediately, remix (think fork) our own, add npm packages easily and not bother with installing, … When I’ve thought about trying something for Node as I learn, I kept thinking that everything had to be huge. It seemed daunting. All I want to do is practice with require, extends, Express, etc. I love my tutorials and can code with a parallel project, but what if I want to start from nothing. Where can I see it happen? Do I have to create a file structure I may or may not want to keep around? Glitch allows me to copy others by remixing and then from there I can adjust the code to see what breaks it or what changes where. What happens when I do this? Or that? I can even get code from GitHub that I like to play with on Glitch. (Full disclosure: I have not tried that, but it is something they say I can do.)

Playing is the other thing I believe in as a teacher. Playing is a child’s way of manipulating. We don’t play on the streets. It’s not safe. We also don’t play with code by creating a file structure and installing every possible package just in case we need it. Just thinking about that stresses me out. If I know exactly what I am going to make, then I’m all about my Sublime, file structure, packages, and away I go. But when I just want to play and have no idea where I’ll go with it? Glitch, please. Need Lodash? Easy. Add a package and move on. Want help from friends who are ahead of me in what I’m trying to learn? Invite them to help and code with me. They don’t even need to be near me.

I still have a lot to learn with Glitch. I have not had all the time I’ve wanted to play with it, but I try to return to it daily to learn something new. During the week, I am so loaded to the nostrils with challenges that my weekends may be the best time for extended Glitch time. I think I’ll replace my Daily CSS Images challenge with a Sandbox Challenge and have an hour of Glitch and an hour of Codepen so that I can code with the freedom of screwing up.

All that praise aside, the best part is that it’s created by awesome developers to help the n00bs like myself get better. How stinkin’ nice is that?

 

 

 

Unstucking

I have narrowed it down to these for my last Sketch illustration for my trip-planning app:

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.38.08 AM

It has to be iconic enough to be recognisable and easy enough to make into a scene with eggs. I’m leaning towards 101 Dalmations or Life of Pi. I have not seen the movie, but I read the book. I do not care if you like the movie or not. I do care about making this less taxing for me. I could do The Lion King, but I am one of the few who did not like being beaten over the head with the symbolism. Subtlety, please. That goes for you, too, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 101 Dalmies might be a cop out. Life of Pi is the only one that is about traveling with an animal. Sadly, most of the dog and cat flicks set off my cheesedar. I also have to consider making the eggs look like their counterparts without too much help. Lesson learned from my Harry/Sally scene. Babe and Charlotte’s Web might be too complicated. We’ll see.

I don’t count at the gym

I don’t count at the gym. Not asking for support. I’m just saying that I do not count. Literally. I do not waste time saying “1…2…3…4…” I know how to count. I mastered that before I mastered not scratching my bum in public. (Who really masters that?) If I’m at the gym, there’s no reason I cannot use that time to go over lists. Currently, these are my lists and time markers:

  • for time when I can’t look at my watch or see a clock (45 – 60 seconds): recite the 50 states
  • for time when I just do something until I cannot (eg. planks): map (currently working on Africa)
  • for 12-15 reps: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100, 121, 144, 169, 196, 225
  • for things I do slowly or very little of (eg: push-ups or heavier weights): “H hydrogen, He helium, Li lithium, … I’m only up to oxygen. As I memorise them, I’ll recite them chunks of 5-10  as the earlier ones get memorised. Later, I’ll switch to German.
  • for later after the elements, capitals (states and countries), and presidents.

You have not had fun at the gym until you grunt BORON or KOHLENSTOFF. Not so sure I want to grunt BUSH in a gym. I doubt anyone would assume I’m going over the presidents.

Just file this under ways I keep myself from ever being cool.

Sorting, bagging, keeping, and deleting

My dad is the first parent I’ve lost. I always thought grieving a parent would be more like constant crying. If I was alone but not crying, I was doing ok. When I’m in public or talking to others, I probably don’t look any different than I did before. I can fake happiness, but I don’t feel fake by doing so. If I fake it, and you laugh, then I laugh and feel better. Should I say, instead, “acting”?

When I am alone, I expected to be in tears most of the time. I’m not, so I thought this meant that I was on the road to recovery. I had the movie version of grief in my head. It’s all loud and messy. Maybe it is for some, but it isn’t for me. Like drowning. Most people think it’s loud and the struggling swimmer flails her arms about. Drowning is quiet, and that’s what my grief feels like. I look around at books, projects, my laptop, and see only a blur. When I sit down to work on old code or a tutorial, I don’t know where to start. I just stare at the laptop. I have plenty of code to work on. I could tweak. I could redo. I could start over. I could follow #100DaysofCode or do a Wes Bos tutorial. Or I could feel so overwhelmed that I shut the laptop and try to nap.

chocolate and vanilla cake with happy birthday poppa on topMy dad died four days before his birthday. On his birthday, some of the family gathered at my dad and stepmom’s for cake and ice cream. I found my stepmom’s sister in front of a pile of my late stepsister’s costume jewelry. Everything was a mess and dumped in a box. I sat down with her and sorted earrings to find pairs. I started with the larger ones and moved down to smaller studs. As pairs were matched, the pile got smaller. After the earrings, we moved to singles: pendants, rings, brooches. The final challenge was untangling bracelets and necklaces. After a few hours, we had order. We bagged and sorted. We went through and took what we’d like or what reminded us of Mel. The rest would be given to charity, and anything of value would be sold to help fund her sons’ education.

While everything I had been doing before the deaths of my stepsister and my dad might look like a tangled mess, I can get through it if I take a small amount at a time. Re-enter with the easy stuff. No time to prove anything. No one gets a medal for returning to normalcy first. As the simple and small tasks get completed, move on to more complicated tasks and code. Have a clear idea of what I’m working on so that completion is not fuzzy. Vague is not your friend. I have messes, and they need plans.

Mess: code, dev skills

Plan: I’ve reset my 100 Days of Code plan and am abiding by its set of rules. Starting with old homework assignments. Moving to completed code that could use better styling. Return to tutorials. No plan here. If I just do one a day, that’s fine. If I do more, bonus, but one a day is fine now and forever.

Mess: fitness

Plan: 5k to 10k app. Gym 3 days a week. Moving back to 5 days a week. Walking 10 minutes a day moving to 30 or 3×10.

Mess: job applications

Plan: One a day every other day. Moving to 1 a day, 5 days a week. Goal would be 3 a day for 5 days.

Mess: Creative side being ignored

Plan: 15 minutes a day to do something with fiber. Moving to 30 on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends. Slowly. Read fiction before bedtime. Blog once a week. I don’t care what about, just write. Move to 3-5 days a week but not always about coding.

Mess: I miss my dad.

Plan: I don’t know.

What can stop a coding streak?

I thought nothing could stop me. Although new to coding and frustrated looking for a job in a city that is saturated with developers of all levels. Because I find great joy in learning, trying, retrying, crying, and solving, I thought nothing would really stop me from coding every day, especially while I’m on a coding tutorial binge. I mean, I love this! I stay up too late to do it. The only thing I regret is not having enough time for spinning (wool) and making things out of glue and cigar boxes.

Until I learned on 14 January that my stepsister died by suicide. I think of it as her addicted self stole her sober self’s chance at life.  For a few days, coding tutorials were a welcome distraction. Stay busy. Busy busy busy! Keep up with JavaScript30, ES6 for Everyone, and What the Flexbox. Busy busy busy. I did well to keep myself together until I drove myself up to Dallas to be with my family. There’s nothing to distract the mind on I-35. It’s a miserable ride on the best of days, so I called my dad to talk about M. I unraveled steadily, and by the time I hit I-20, I could not see through my tears.

I thought I would have days of crying, but I had only one. What followed were days filled with sighs, deep breaths, and lethargy. I slept a lot. I slept while sleeping and while awake if that paradox works for you. I felt like I was running through syrup. While in this fugue, I did nothing with my mind. I brought books, my laptop, plans for apps; I was prepared to take a break from grief with coding. It didn’t happen.

No matter how much I obsess about hashtags and tweeting what I’ve done, I was not prepared for this. It’s been a few weeks now. Her service is this weekend, and I will read Gone From My Sight by Henry van Dyke. M is not diminished. She is just not here, and now I’m starting over. Who said it, the Benedictines? Always, we begin again. I’m not a spiritual person, but as an adult who fights ADHD daily, I see this less as a gentle rule from monks as a daily huddle cheer. Along with not being spiritual, I’m also not a football fan, so I’m just mixing all the metaphors without any clue. M was both spiritual and a rabid Cowboys fan. She’d appreciate my attempt at footballery. I’m not where I was before with the amount of time dedicated to coding (improving, learning, reinforcing), but I’m upright with my laptop tap tap tippety tapping because always I begin again.

Good-bye, M. You were loved. You are missed.