My Coding Adventure: An Update

I didn’t have a chance to watch a movie over the weekend, but I like having a post up every Wednesday, so this week, you get an update on my Google Scholarship.

TL;DR: I quit. Kind of.

Here’s the full-length story.

I spent so much time this summer trying to make minor progress on this course, and just fell further and further behind. Then school started, and I realized I’d spent so much time coding, I had literally nothing ready for school. Typically, prior to the first day with students, I have all four classes planned out for an entire semester. This year, I had the first four days planned.

And once I got back into the school routine and remembered how exhausting it is, and then catching the virus that will not die (I’m still hacking up a lung at least twice a day), I just couldn’t bring myself to spend time or energy trying to program an arcade game (the next project in the course).

So I notified the program director that it was time for me to bow out. I told her I was grateful for the opportunity, and that I learned so much–including how I want to proceed with my coding education–but it was time to leave.

And rather than bouncing me from the program, she looked at my coursework. She said I’d made good progress. She said she didn’t want me to give up, and offered to hook me up with a peer tutor, so I could try and at least get the third project done.

I sat on her message for a week.

Then Sunday, I decided it was time to respond.

“Thank you for your message, and while I appreciate the opportunity…”

And I couldn’t finish the sentence. I couldn’t fully quit.

So I deleted the last phrase, and instead told her I would start up again the week of September 24 and see how much I could get done in the last month. She wrote back that she was so glad I made that choice, and at some point next week, I will meet with a tutor for 30 minutes and hit the reset button. Or maybe code a reset button. Who knows.

I’m not entirely convinced I made the right choice, but it’s only a month, and then I can reassess at the end of October what my next move is.

Birthday Gift Ideas, 2018.

My birthday, historically, comes with fraughtness after fraughtness, with the now-added bonus of serving as the official end to my summer. But this year’s birthday is shaping up to just be a random day. This year, my birthday falls in the middle of an imperfect scheduling storm. Nothing special happening, because most of the special people are busy or out of town.

Last year, I requested that for my birthday, people spend time doing one thing they really loved but never made time for, and to compliment someone they’ve been meaning to praise.

This year, my request is a bit bolder.

  • Call an elected official about an issue that troubles you. (If you don’t have any possible ideas as to what could trouble you, hmu and I will offer some suggestions).
  • Put your elected officials’ phone numbers in your phone. Local or national level, I don’t care.
  • Donate to a charity. Not sure which one? Charity Navigator can help.
  • Donate to a political campaign–but only after you visit the candidate’s website and verify s/he aligns with your values.
  • Subscribe to a local newspaper. So many of them have great introductory online offers, even!
  • Do something kind for someone else.

If you are so inclined to send me birthday wishes, let me know what you did! And because I’m not always a fan of “shout it from the rooftops” when it comes to doing nice things or being civically engaged, DM/PM/TM/email/carrier pigeon are all acceptable forms of communication. It would be great to hear from you.




20 Years Home.

Eighteen months ago right here on this blog, I announced that I would spend every Sunday writing about my LDS mission in Quebec. That lasted for about three Sundays and then I let other things get in the way of my writing.

But July 1 marks 20 years since I returned from the Great White North, and I must admit—at more than one point in the past 18 months, I’ve measured my life now by what my 20-years-younger-self thought my life would be.

When I got home from my mission, the only future I saw for myself was marriage and children. It was all I wanted, and to be honest, I saw my mission service as pre-payment for that life. I sacrificed 18 months of music, film, sports, time with family, dates, and school, and the least God would do for me is provide that future I dreamed about since I was five. Right? RIGHT?

Except we all know two things: 1) He didn’t, and 2) That’s not how He works anyway.

Every now and then I feel extreme shame and embarrassment that I never got married. It’s not like I didn’t try…I mean, I wrote a book about it, if you want that whole story…so a couple of weeks ago I thought maybe I needed to quantify, somehow, what the past 20 years have been like for me.

In the 20 years since I got home from my mission, I:

    • Graduated from college
    • Started a teaching career
    • Scored a master’s degree
    • Saw the following in concert:
      • Indigo Girls, Dixie Chicks, Sarah McLachlan (yes, Lilith Fair lol)
      • U2
      • Depeche Mode
      • Harry Connick, Jr.
    • Traveled to Japan
    • Drove all over the United States multiple times, by myself
    • Played piano for 9 musicals, twice as lead pianist
    • Performed a solo in a musical about women in Jesus’ life
    • Fell in love three times
    • Coached a group of speech students to state champions in their event
    • Started a podcast
    • Wrote a book and somehow convinced someone to publish it
    • Watched 66 of AFI’s top 100 movies
    • Read hundreds of books
    • Made dozens of wonderful friends
    • Visited Apple Headquarters
    • Presented at several national conferences
    • Earned a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities
    • Selected as an ASNE Journalism fellow—three times (they kept accepting me even though the first two times I had to bail on the program)
    • Landed my absolute dream job of journalism and popular culture teacher
    • Selected for a competitive coding scholarship (totally failing at that, but that’s a story for another time)

I’m sure I’m leaving out other significant experiences and accomplishments, but I’ll stop here. Because here’s the point: I did not envision any of this. Not one bit. My tunnel vision on July 1, 1998 was limited to marriage and babies. I look at that list and if I hadn’t lived it, I wouldn’t believe it. 

In three weeks, I’ll celebrate another birthday. In the weeks that followed my mission, my nana died, my dad retired from the Air Force, I met a guy I dated for the next six months (and of course, wanted to marry), I turned 25, and my littlest sister got married. It was a lot to process, and honestly, I’m not sure I really did.

So at the risk of “tempting the wrath of whatever from atop the thing,” here’s hoping the next three weeks before my birthday are more calm than they were 20 years ago, and that the next 20 years of my life yield more of the same.

Collateral Learning.

At the end of every school year, I talk to my classes about collateral learning. I tell them that I realize they have six or seven teachers who, for 10 months, tell them their class is vitally important to their lifelong success. And then I tell them, almost like it’s a secret, that for me, I’m more interested in their collateral learning. What did they learn this year about time management? Friendship? Setting boundaries? Identifying passions?

Yes, math and science and social studies and English and the arts and journalism are important, but what did they learn about how to live a fulfilling life? That is equally important.

This morning at 2 a.m., I thought about collateral learning in my current schooling. I’d been working on a JavaScript lab for nearly 7 hours, and while I’d asked for help and identified minor bugs, the lab still wasn’t passing the autograder.

It’s 2 a.m., an hour I hadn’t seen in who-knows-how-long, and I’m tweaking bits of code in hopes of being declared worthy, and I’m failing over and over and over again.

Oh, let me be clear: the code works just fine in simulators. In code validators, I’m getting zero errors. The people who helped me say they can’t find anything wrong with the logic or syntax of my code. It’s just the class automatic grader that doesn’t like something about my code and refuses to pass it. And since the autograder is a robot and can’t point to a specific choice I made, I’m a little stuck.

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 2.09.52 PM

Same errors for seven hours. I mean… just give up, amirite?

So at 2:12 a.m., I finally shut my laptop, turn on my meditation app and think: what am I doing to myself?

I haven’t written anything since starting this class. I haven’t practiced the piano. Haven’t practiced the music for the choir I’m singing in this summer. Haven’t read anything for enjoyment (because let me tell you, while informative and helpful, reading about JavaScript is not really enjoyable right now). Haven’t seen any new movies, haven’t binge-watched any TV shows. Haven’t edited any podcasts, organized my real or digital life, or seen any friends.

(I have gone to Jazzercise, so at least that’s something.)

What am I learning, exactly?

So before drifting off to sleep, I resolve to reevaluate my goals for this class. I make a list of things I need to do today, and things I want to do. And I go to sleep.

I woke up this morning with collateral learning still on my mind, and in the past month of working on this class, I’ve learned that I am not the best about self-imposed boundaries. It’s always been hard for me to say no to people, so this should not come as a surprise, really. But I didn’t think I would ever work on something for so many hours and be unable to set it aside, take a break, and do something that brings me joy.

I’ve learned that–right now, at least–I enjoy web design more than web development.

I’ve learned that I need to track my time spent on this, I need to plan more things in my days so my time with the class is more focused, and I need to be a tidge more forgiving to myself when I’m slow to grasp content.

I’ve learned I need a break.

We Interrupt These Six Word Stories…

This school year, I’ve composed a six word story about each day. While at school, I am on the lookout for the funny, the inspiring, the poignant. Some days I have too many six word stories to choose from. Some days, there’s nothing.

And then there are the days when the six word stories I could compose would invite speculation or questions. Today was one of those days. The only things I could think to write must exist in my personal journal, and most likely will live only in my memories and perhaps an occasional conversation.

It didn’t help that I woke up sad, so some of today’s events just augmented that sadness. I started to panic a little because spring break has started, and breaks are notoriously difficult for me.

And then this post popped up in my Facebook memories.

I can’t quite articulate how much work it is to keep my depression in line. Work I often do not want to do.

Here’s a scene: at 3:00 p.m. today, I’m sitting in our office with Stueve, and students are milling in and out of our office, grabbing equipment and asking questions. I know I should eat my yogurt and granola, because I know I should go to Jazzercise at 4. But I don’t want to do any of those things. And I say it out loud, I don’t want to eat my yogurt and I don’t want to go to Jazzercise.

I want Cheetos and Ding Dongs and an 8-hour escape to Stars Hollow.

And the student sitting in a chair in our office said, “You should eat your yogurt and you should go to Jazzercise because you know you’ll feel better if you do.”

She’s right. I know I’ll feel even marginally better if I do. So I eat my yogurt and I go to Jazzercise, and I feel marginally better.

It’s the first night of spring break, and here’s what I know: writing will help, and scheduling time with friends will help, and working a little will help, and watching movies will help and of course, yogurt and Jazzercise will help make sure the next ten days won’t send me into a spiral.

So here’s today’s six word story: Some days, you do what’s necessary. #EvenWhenYouDontWantTo.