Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It’s my lucky day!

I knew today was a lucky day. I just knew it! Maybe it was because it rained last night or because the blue birds came to my feeder or because my first two California poppies bloomed this morning. Whatever the reason, I began preparing for my special day. Today I decided to accessorize my typical morning attire – pink pajamas - with a turquoise necklace. And instead of cereal, I fixed myself French toast with maple syrup. And then I waited…

At 7:44 it happened. My bug doctor appeared.

Kelly and I were best friends in elementary school. In addition to being fashion designers (for our dolls), magazine publishers (for the 4th grade), underwater ballerinas and Mexican hat dancers, we were bug doctors! This meant rescuing, diagnosing and treating our many bug patients. Often treatment involved removing a leg or two and occasionally other forms of surgery. We spent weekends and vacations together involved in all sorts of adventure until eventually boys became more interesting to us than bugs.

By high school we ran in different circles. She was a brilliant student and an excellent writer. I could never fathom what those English poets were trying to tell me, but I was enthralled by math and astronomy and physics.

After high school I heard that Kelly went to UT and was in a sorority there; the same one her mother had been in, in fact. I went off to a different school and continued exploring my wild side.

And just like that 10 years went by.

So this morning I was sitting on the couch, sipping coffee and replying to students’ emails, when opened one from a Kelly A.

I woke up in the middle of the night the other night thinking about you for some

Ah, another wacko email.

And just as I was about to delete it – it came to me. This was my 4th grade best friend.

I knew it was my lucky day!

Saturday, February 25, 2006


shouts Mark, a musician in the Air Force, as I enter the classroom. And so begins my Thursday night pre-algebra class. Pre-algebra includes topics that most people learn in junior high, but at our college it draws fifteen hundred students each semester. Nobody takes this class for fun; they take it to move beyond their current life situation.

Miranda is a fifty-year-old mother of four who is tired of doing manual labor for a living. She wills herself to stay awake for our three hour night class.

Jeff hasn’t taken a class in twenty-three years, but he’s tackling this now because he wants a pay raise at his job as a machinist. The next step up for him requires an associates degree.

Maria wants to go into nursing. She sits by herself on the right side of the classroom, works diligently and isn’t afraid to shout out ‘Stop!’ when she can’t follow one of my steps on the board. She also keeps the time for us – letting me know when break should be and how much longer until class is over.

Ronelle, a strikingly sincere man, never finished high school. He spent his youth in all of the wrong places – and has the tattoos to show for it – but now he’s turning his life around.

Hadji is one of my many students from Somalia. He’s clearly had a good education, but he struggles to remember all of the intricacies of factoring, order of operations and how to work with negative numbers.

Cuizon is from the Philippines, where he claims to have taken Calculus. He’s forever trying to solve more complicated problems than the ones we do in class, but he still sometimes confuses equations with expressions.

Tozi just joined our class last week and I haven’t learned much about her except that she has a beautiful accent and completes her work without difficulty, sometimes even helping Jeff with his.

When I get to the front of the classroom I shout back:
“What’s 2 raised to the zero power?”
“One!” they respond.
“What’s 20 divided by 0?”
“What’s the area of a rectangle?”
“Length times width!”
…and so we go for several minutes. I’m actually astonished at their memories.

Last week we learned about negative numbers and order of operations. This week we introduced polynomials. You know the kind: two x-squared plus six x minus three, for example. “Let me solve it! Let me find the value of x!” Cuizon shouts from the third row. "We can’t solve it," I explain, "it’s not equal to anything; it's just an expression."

“Well, what IS x?” Ronelle wants to know. "Think of x as a place holder," I tell him. "For example, you know that you will earn $10 for every hour that you work. Your formula for how much money you make is $10 times x, where x is how many hours you work. The formula works for any number of hours that you plug into x."

Ronelle was skeptical about this explanation, but he conceded that it made sense. “By the end of the semester will you please tell us how to figure out what x is?”

As the evening progressed we solved more problems and learned new techniques for working with polynomials. At one point Maria crossed the room to give Ronelle a note card to help him remember sign changes when multiplying negative numbers. Then later when I wrote problems on the board, the students clamored to be selected to solve one in front of the class. And whenever someone would make a mistake Mark would give them a friendly correction-yell, "Remember buddy, a negative times a negative is a positive!"

Prealgebra is not a class most professors sign up for, but it's one the new guy inevitably has to teach.

I've discovered that with its incurably persevering, charming and eclectic students it's one of my absolute favorites.

Just wait till we learn fractions!

*all names have been changed

Friday, February 24, 2006


The great Coffee House Tour of 2006 is temporarily suspended.

John comes home tonight from three weeks abroad. For my last evening of anonymous pleasure, I ate el authentico Tex-Mex. It’s hard to find good Mexican food – read lots of meat and cheese – in the alfalfa sprout capital, but we actually did it! This treasure is just 2 doors down from the VMars coffee house. Who knows, maybe someday it will make it into the show.

When I emailed John about my internet addiction and nascent blog he was thrilled – and then mortified. “You can’t say anything to hurt my presidential bid!”

Well, I think John can do that all on his own. (But that's another story.)

When IS this run for the White House anyway? This is the same line he used to lure me five years ago, and my oval office carpet designs, china patterns, and wardrobe dreams continue to linger. A girl can only wait so long for her presidential power fulfillment. (Imagine the pedicures!)

At least John and I are finally getting married. For years I feared I would be the first First Mistress.

So, for the remainder of my last lonely night I will sip my latte, read my book and then Annie and I will head for the airport!

A Few of My Favorite Things

(in no particular order)

T-shirt sheets
The sound of rainstorms on a tin roof
Finding a perfect sand-dollar
A good pinot noir
Taking early morning walks with my septuagenarian French neighbor
The smell of rain
Annie and Piper asleep in my lap
Laughing out loud
Being wrapped in John’s arms
The smell of fresh cut grass
Finding books from Amazon on my front porch
Star jasmine
Feeling the cool grass under my bare feet
Little flowers reaching toward the sun from a crack in the side walk
Western blue jays at my feeder
Skipping and dancing along the sidewalk while listening to old blue eyes on my ipod and walking the dog
South African biltong
Red shoes

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Little Orphan Annie

I made it three miles and was finally in the cool down phase. I like to run late at night when no one can see me. As I rounded the corner to our house, I saw a flurry of activity – grey forms dancing across the street. And then I heard the yelp. I ran towards the activity just in time to see a small grey bundle scamper under the neighbor’s car. I’m used to seeing coyotes around the neighborhood.

They come up from the canyon in the late night and early morning – searching for dinner in the form of cats and small dogs. Perhaps that’s what I heard, I wasn't sure. I tried to coax the animal out from under the car, but to no avail. So I went inside, showered, and turned in.

Two days later my neighbor was trying to leave the house but couldn’t get a scroungey little dog out from beneath her car. My other neighbor – the doggie expert – came to the rescue; She discovered a grey, hopeless little figure, with big sad eyes, bleeding from her side. This was Annie.

Two surgeries, several baths, and lots of TLC later she's the gorgeous girl in the picture below.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

President's Day 2006

This is how Annie and I spent President's Day.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Weevil's Uncle (a continuation from last night)

Weevil’s uncle turned out to be a former professional soccer player from Peru. Now he’s in his last semester at SDSU completing his civil engineering degree. He also salsas and would like to take me dancing with him.

I took the longest route home possible.

Which is it, you ask. Do I want to meet people or not. Perhaps I’m just an extrovert in cyberspace.

When I finally got home, Annie was thrilled to see me and served up half an hour of ‘Please rub my belly. Please rub my belly.’ Followed by ‘Let me lick your face.’

And that was Saturday night.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I think I'm addicted to the internet

It all started around the time K.A. got in touch with me. She googled me, she said. She discovered where I went to school, what I do for a living, where I live. It got me wondering what else is out there.

It was after I read the latest Charles Krauthammer article. Where I found his links to blogs. I started clicking on all the ones with names that caught my attention: Stacked, Waiter Rant, Crazy Aunt Purl,… Once I was at eBlogger I hit Random Blog and just started reading.

And in a weird way it made me feel less lonely. Online I found people who made me laugh, who are smart and interesting, who share some of my own thoughts and feelings. How many such people might I find in an hour, in two hours…

It could take my whole life to meet just a handful of people like that in person in San Diego. Isn’t it ironic that by becoming more insular – glued to my laptop, sitting on my couch – I might actually be becoming more connected.

So I shared this thought with my best girlfriend J. She struggles with the same problem, though perhaps worse – being stuck in mommy-ville inside a cookie-cutter suburb of Houston. She, however, has made friends with one of her fellow bloggers.

So I started one. I started my very first blog.

At least leave the house, she said. You can still be glued to your laptop, but try doing it from inside a coffee house for a change. And what do you know? My first night out I met another professor who teaches at the same college I do.

Now I’m on night two of the great coffee house tour of 2006.

This is the one they show on Veronica Mars. Where Keith met up with Veronica’s counselor. And it’s a completely different crowd from last night’s trendy, urban spot.

There’s the:
· odd gay couple - skinny white guy and large Chinese man, each with a laptop, comparing computer code it looks like
· middle aged man and woman - talking cheek to cheek
· middle-aged Hispanic studying a big book - and definitely looking out of place (Maybe it's because I just watched a VMars episode, but he looks like he could be Weevil's uncle)
· cute young college girl, with requisite laptop, and older (~40ish) man
· pensive high schooler (sitting next to me) working on a homework assignment
· high school basketball player
Maybe everybody just looks young to me - now that I'm getting (slightly) older
· lonely 30-something writing in her journal - NOT ME
· I'm the cute "I can't believe she's 30-something" curled up on the couch with her new blouse on. (The one she treated herself to at Nyla's yesterday.)

And that's all I can see from my cozy corner.

So, I’m ready. Where are all the people who are supposed to read MY blog? HERE I AM. I’M READY FOR YOU.

Some Background

I live in southern California with my dog Annie, cat Piper, and fiancĂ© John. I’m a college professor – love my job and the socal lifestyle. But it hasn’t always been so.

I’m originally from Texas (as is John) and I used to have a terrible, horrible job in industry, which never-the-less earned me plenty of money. (Like Opinionista says, “It’s pretty fascinating, when you think about it, how we’ve built a society based on making yourself deliberately miserable in order to achieve success and supposed happiness?”) So, one day I just quit.

Around that same time John’s dad had been diagnosed with cancer and was on his own personal mission to fight it in every possible way. While John and I were visiting his family in a small suburb of Houston, we did what most people do for fun on a Thursday night – we went to a school board meeting. John’s brother is a board member, so we got kick out of heckling him from the back. (Should they or should they not allow Coca-Cola vending machines….)

At the end of the meeting I jostled my way through the crowd over to the high school principal and asked her for a job. Two days later I was teaching math at the local high school. (Which, by the way, is located on an old farm road next to a cow pasture.)

John and I thought this was a good opportunity for me to do something I’ve always wanted and, at the same time, be able to help his mom and dad. So while John returned to our apartment in socal, I settled in to his old room at home with his parents.

Living with John’s parents for eight months was its own special kind of adventure. The stories below capture just a couple of the many unforgettable moments I enjoyed with them.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Video

King Richard comes rushing into my room. “Oh Karon! We have a serious problem!”

With shirt off, white cotton briefs poking out the tops of his blue jeans, and the end of a catheter dangling just below his collarbone, he frantically heads toward where I’m sitting. “Something terrible has happened,” he continues, panic spreading across his face. I can hear Billie Sue and Helen talking excitedly in the background.

“You’ve got to help us,” he implores.

“Okay.” I will stay calm and assess the situation, I tell myself. I know I can remember how to get to the nearest hospital. “Where are you hurt?”

“I’m not hurt. It’s much worse than that.”

I look up at him, confused. Is it Helen or Billie, I wonder?

“We can’t find the video from the hospital that shows how to clean the catheter.”

“That’s it?!” I ask incredulously. “That’s all that’s wrong?”

“Oh, it’s terrible! We returned the movie to the video store, but it’s still here, and there’s just the box of the hospital tape. How will we clean the catheter?! That tape cost $15!” The words flew from him in a frenzy.

“So, let me get this straight. The cancer tape accidentally got returned inside the movie box and the movie tape is still here?”

“Yes. It’s terrible. What are we going to do?”

Now, THIS, I could definitely handle.

In 10 minutes I was back from the video store with the movie returned and the treasured tape in hand. We watched the tape, cleaned the catheter and all went off to bed relieved. Until King Richard called me.

“Karon, did they charge us a late fee?”

I Think the Chemo Fried Your Brain!

Billie Sue announced that we were having Burger Tex for dinner tonight, and I was sent out the door to pick it up. Usually these burgers are a Friday night treat, but we got lucky early this week. By 5 o’clock we were all sitting around the kitchen table sipping coke from our Styrofoam cups and eating burgers and fries straight out of the Styrofoam containers.

I relayed the news I heard about the school hiring an experienced math teacher for calculus next year. It relieved my sense of obligation to stay in Houston next year instead of joining John out in California.

King Richard turned to me with his jaw dropped open – displaying a gooey, white lump of mashed up burger bun – and a look of pained confusion on his face.

“She’s going back to California when the school year’s over,” Billie Sue explained as if to a slow child. “You don’t think she’s going to stay here without sweet little John do you?” I had accidentally called John that in one of my conversations with her and she showed no signs of forgetting it.
“Yes, as much as I love it here, I want to be with John.”

KR pointed vigorously to the table. Sometimes the food and the ‘talker’ are just too much to handle so he resorts to pantomimes to help bridge the gaps in his communication.

“Do you think John should live here, too? We could be like All in the Family,” I teased, and KR nodded contently.

“John has already worked harder than most people do in a lifetime. He needs to quit work immediately.” The philosophy of life through the lens of cancer has been interesting to discover from King Richard. But Billie Sue displayed no interest in the philosophical.

“Are you out of your MIND? And live on WHAT?”

“People focus too much attention on making money. You really don’t need all of that,” he continued.

Her body jerked back away from his as she glared at him, “I think the chemo fried your brain!”

Just then the phone rang and abruptly ended our discussion.

After Billie Sue had left us for the quiet of the den I showed KR what I had scribbled on my napkin - I think Chemo fried your brain. He looked at it disapprovingly. But I told him the quote was just too precious, that I had to write it down. “I mean, when are you ever going to hear a quote like that again?” I asked.

“Tomorrow,” he grinned. And after a pause, “I hope.”

John's Family

The Garrisons
Originally uploaded by Pink Sunshine.
Billie Sue, King Richard and sons Glenn and little John