Thursday, August 4, 2016

A parable

There was once a girl in love with her outfit. She was especially pleased with how adorable she looked as she headed off to work.

Walking to the metro, she loved how her sleeves fluttered in the breeze. On the metro, she appreciated how her red lips complimented the colors she was wearing. Walking to the office from the metro, she acknowledged how her shoes set off her pants and top.

She smiled at everyone.

Only at the conclusion of her long commuting journey, in the elevator with another person, did she notice with surprise that she had a three-inch hole in her pants.

And then she sat down at her desk and crossed her legs while speaking on a conference call.


Crotch. To. Knee. All the way. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip.

And that, my friends, is why one should always keep an extra outfit at one’s desk. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tragedy and love

After any terrible tragedy, especially one borne of hate, illuminating, hopeful messages of love surround us—poignant, often defiant notes that try to fill the deep, dark void that such an enormous act of hatred creates. The message in all of them is clear: everyone deserves love.

Love is the only way we get through dark times. It’s what props us up and holds us steady when it feels like everything is crumbling down around us. Tragic events make us hug our loved ones a little tighter and take stock of what’s good in our lives. It’s what we cling to when the despair around and inside us feels so raw and endless. It’s the light that keeps us moving forward.

I am lucky to have really wonderful friends and family, terrific people that I love and support with everything I have. Their happiness genuinely and wholeheartedly is my happiness and their struggles my pain too. My heart fills and aches as theirs do. I can feel their love for me span the miles that sometimes separate us. I can feel it when they show up for me, however stubborn or silly I may be acting or however absurd the circumstance I’ve roped them into is. I can even feel it more powerfully when they lean on me in their tough times, when they need my help. 

Always, and especially in times following tragic loss, I am overwhelmed by gratitude for having all these people in my life to love.

My heart is full with them and with my puppy, who has quickly become my beloved and enduring sidekick and has taught me so much about my own personality as I see it mirrored back in him (apparently, it's true that dogs take on their owners' characteristics). Aside from his insatiable desire for social activity, little Lolly’s capacity for unfailing love for everyone he meets once or a thousand times is a reminder to me to keep putting love out into the universe. There’s no reason not to, and it causes so much joy.

It sometimes strikes me that Lolly is the only one who would notice if I didn’t come home. I don’t hate being single, most times I really love it, but sometimes I wish for a human partner to share accountability, passion, life. And, especially in light of unpredictable tragedy, someone who would know if the unthinkable happened to me one day and I didn’t come home. Because, let’s face it, the unthinkable seems to be happening more and more in this world. Wouldn’t it be nice to know there’s someone who would know to look for me?

National tragedies, even local tragedies, create lasting wounds in people, anxieties and sadness that have the potential to really take root, even if temporarily. One of the anxieties that glows brighter for me at times like these is knowing that if I were caught up in a random, senseless crime, there’s a good chance no one else in my life would know I had been there. No one might know to look for me.

I’ve heard over and over from many people that they don’t like to set their friends up because there’s a chance it could go very badly, and they don’t want to be responsible for that. But, isn’t there also a chance it could go very well? Wouldn’t you want to offer your friends the possibility of it going well? I’ve found in my vast (too vast, probably) experience dating that set-ups almost always go better than online dates. At a certain point in our lives, set-ups and online dates are really the predominate way people meet, but there seems to be a lot of reluctance to do the setting up.

As we’re all looking for some way to contribute a little more to the amount of love out there in the world and to help in the aftermath of senseless crimes, I’d ask that, first, you donate blood, time and/or money for the victims and their families who so very much need and deserve our help, and then that you think about your friends who might also be looking for a little more love in their lives. Set your friends up. Give them a chance to have someone know when they come home at night.

Monday, July 6, 2015

"There's been an accident in the pool"

You know how sometimes you go to the pool and hope not to get a lot of attention because, say, you've just come from an all-you-can-eat brunch (and brunch was after a spin class where even the instructor said afterwards, "Wow. That was really hard!" so you ate everything, twice)? And then something happens and you have ALL the attention? Yeah... That happened yesterday.

I love the pool. I love swimming. I love sunning. I love reading and listening to music. I love trying to pretend all those kids at the pool aren't there by sipping cocktails and blasting Taylor Swift in my earbuds.

Then, the sun goes behind the adjacent building, and it's my cue to get in the water. I throw off my headphones and sunglasses and slip into the pool trying hard not to make a splash or otherwise draw a whole lot of notice to myself. (Right?? The one time I'm not trying to be center of attention! If there is ever a time I'm trying not to be noticed, it's in a bathing suit after stuffing my face, that's for sure.)

Huh. I'm the only person in the water. All the families must be packing up to head home. All at once.

Then I hear a child's alarm, "Uh oh!!! There's someone in the pool!"


All eyes are on me. All of them. Every eye. All over my brunch-inflated, whale-sized floatation. Then, they're all talking to me; well, the ones who aren't staring, mouths agape at what I've done or the bitchy, gay couple that's in a fit of giggles are talking.

"Miss, miss? There's been an accident in the pool. We're not swimming right now."

Always apropos, I say, "Oh shit!!!" and jump out.

Then I get the story.

How did I miss a kid POOPING in the pool, miss everyone else noticing it and extricating themselves and their 100 kids each from the water and then sitting around chatting about the proper way to handle POOP in the POOL?!??!?!

Something to think about, I suppose, as I spend the next 4 days in the shower.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A shameful public admission

Ladies and gentlemen, I failed ballet in college.

Yep. Failed. Ballet. 

This is ridiculous for a few reasons. 
First, who fails a college class?! That kind of thing matters. I had never failed anything before. 

Also, it was a one-credit elective. To fail a one-credit, elective class you really have to try. 

And finally, and probably most notably, until almost that point, I had been training pretty seriously to be a professional ballet dancer. 

What?! How did I fail ballet?! 

Well, I just didn't go to the class. And, how could I have been expected to?! It was a morning class!! (Well, 9:55, but in college anything before 11 was considered ungodly, especially on mornings after party nights. We'll gloss over the fact that by senior year one could argue that any night was a party night). My body also doesn't perform as well in the morning*. 

Plus, I had taken the class twice before when I was a freshman, and I hated the class. It was full of modern dancers. Modern dancers!! (Read that with your most sour, sour face--but jokingly.**) Because of their position in the minor program, they had to be in the advanced ballet class regardless of ballet ability or lack thereof, as was the case. So, let's just say the class had trouble keeping my interest.

The problem was that I needed that one elective credit to graduate. 


Similarly, as a business minor, I had to take corporate finance. I hated that class too. Hated it. So, sometimes maybe I let myself get more wrapped up in handling sorority business than learning about business business. 

And, thus we land on what we might consider one of my crowning life achievements.

Inevitably, I was able to convince my ballet teacher to let me write a couple papers to pass the class and, thus, graduate. They were 3/4 of a page each. About ballet, a particular passion of mine. So, I created for myself a super taxing assignment, you know?

I also persuaded my corporate finance teacher to give me a C. I'm positive I bombed the exam. But, you know what? My final grade still ended up a C. Boom. 

The moral of the story is that I got a great education in college in talking my way into  things I wanted or needed. And that, my friends, set me up far better for my career in public relations than silly courses like corporate finance (though now that I work with a lot of corporations, I could stand to have some of that knowledge...) and ballet. 

You see, kids, I've now made a career out of convincing people to do or think things. I might even say I'm not half bad at it.

Sometimes it pays to slack off. You might discover where your real talents lie.

*- Especially when it's recovering from a hangover.

**- Ballet and modern dancers are not typically friends. There's a longtime, unacknowledged sort of feud between the two art forms. We used to try and convince our modern teachers to allow us to have a "relaxation" class--which was basically just sanctioned napping for an hour--to avoid actually having to do modern dance. It often worked because modern teachers were usually into that mind-body connection, rejuvenation stuff that budding ballerinas were too uptight to appreciate. But I'm sure modern dancers are all lovely people.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dr. Jenny and the phone consultations

You know I'm a hypochondriac. (Ok, and all of these.) Fortunately for me, my mom's a nurse. And, my brother's an EMT. And, my dad was the medical guy on his Green Beret and Delta Force teams. So, I'm covered when I freak out about my latest perceived, terrible illnesses and impending death.

My sister has recently become a veterinarian. And, what do you know?! I am a first-time dog owner!! Hooray for the (actually not at all accidental on my account) serendipity!

As you can imagine, taking care of myself is tough work, but taking care of someone else too?! DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE! I don't know how parents of human babies do it! So many terrible, awful, horrific things could happen to my baby pup!! And, you just never know when they might occur. The whole world is a death monster, conspiring to get the little love of my life!

So, naturally, I have my sister on speed dial. Here are a few of the phone calls and FaceTimes--you know, if there is something I'm pretty sure she should examine--I've made to Dr. Jenny.

Jen!! The breeder said to take Lolly's collar off him when he goes to bed in his crate because he could strangle himself. I JUST LEFT HIM AT HOME ALONE WITH HIS CRATE OPEN!!!! Is he going to strangle himself?!?!?!!?

Jen! Lolly's poop is weird!!

Jen! Lolly's poop is weird but in a different way than before!

Jen! Check out this picture of Lolly's crazy weird poop! Is it supposed to look like that?!?!

Oh my gosh, Jen! Lolly's poop!!!
[The poop call happens a lot. Jenny said to me one time, "Why are owners so obsessed with their dogs' poop?! When I told her that everything you read about puppy wellness says that changes in their poop are first indicators of something being wrong, she said, "Kern*, how different does your poop look from time to time? Do you call your doctor every time it's different??" I mean, I might, if I were related to my doctor...]

Jen!!!! Lolly's making this crazy throat sound! DO YOU THINK HE CAN'T BREATH?!?!?!?! It almost sounds like he's got something in his throat--OR LIKE HIS THROAT IS CLOSING UP!!!! Oh, so you think he's just clearing his throat. So, that happens to dogs too, huh?

Jen! Jen!!!! Lolly's got weird goopy eyes! It's so gross!!! Here, let me send you a picture! DO YOU THINK HE'S BEING ATTACKED BY A MEMBRANE-DEVOURING BACTERIA?!?!?!!? Yes, there is pollen all over the ground. So, allergies you think, huh? Huh. What?! Give him Zyrtec?! Like I take?!?! That doesn't sound right... You're sure? Really sure?? Really, really sure dogs can take my human medicine?!?!
[Dr. Jenny actually said, "Poodles are known to be prone to allergies. You know, because they themselves are hypoallergenic! Har har." But, really.]

HOW DO YOU DO THE PUPPY HEIMLICH?!?!?! Is there such a thing?!?!?!?! Well, no, he's not choking right now, I'm just wondering in case he does choke one day. Reach into his throat and pull out the object he's choking on?! You can do that?!?!

Jen! Lolly is eating a whole tennis ball!!! Like, eating it, not just destroying it like he normally does. Is that going to get stuck in his stomach or in his throat?? DO I NEED TO DO THE PUPPY HEIMLICH?!?! Or, will it just come out in his poop?
[LOTS of poop questions when you have a puppy.]
How do I know if Lolly's cold, Jen? Do you think he needs one of those puppy coats? Of course, I have a rain coat for him, but does he need a winter coat?? That's true, he does have A LOT of fur...
Jen, Lolly is sniffing another dog's poop. Is he going to get sick from that?!

Jen!! Lolly's balls are HUGE!!!! Like so, so, so huge!!! Are they supposed to be that big?!?! I mean really, they're enormous for such a little pup. Look! Look, Jen!! Look at how enormous Lolly's balls are!! No, really! LOOK AT THEM! C'mon, Jen! Just look at them! I mean, one day they were just tiny, little, pea-sized balls, and now they are MONSTROUS!!! I'm pretty sure he's got whatever that disease is that inflames testicles. ...Huh. So, that's boy puberty?
[When Dr. Jenny neutered Lolly, I tried to get her to acknowledge again, in person this time, that Lolly had remarkably large testicles. She refused. But, when the vet tech prepped him for surgery--I got to watch the whole surgery and prep as a perk of being the vet's sister--the tech exclaimed, "Whoa! Now, those are some sizable gnards!" Vindication.]

Hey, Jen. How's it going? Having a good day? So, Lolly got into my bag and ate half a 12-hour Sudafed. Is that a big deal? WAIT!!! WHAT?!?!?! THAT'S A BIG DEAL?!?!?!?!?! IT COULD KILL HIM?!?!?!?!?!?!? WHAT DO I DO?! WHAT DO I DO?!?! WHAT DO I DO?!?!?! No, I don't have ipecac syrup or activated charcoal!! Oh, hydrogen peroxide will make him throw up too? I don't have that either!! NEIGHBORS!!!!! NEIGHBORS!!! HELP!!!!!! OH MY GOSH!!! LOLLY NEEDS IMMEDIATE AID!!!!!!!!!!!
[And, then I spent the next hour watching Lolly throw up and picking bits of Sudafed tablet out of the puke to piece back together to make sure we got it all. THANK GOODNESS for kind, close neighbors!]

This was our "I'm so glad you're ok" and "Glad Jenny did that whole vet school thing" shot

I'm so fortunate that Jenny became a vet. Could you image me doing this whole "parenting" thing without a safety net?! Thank goodness for pet insurance for frequent vet visits, right?!?!

*- A nickname attributed to me by my dear, sweet sister in high school because I was, at the time, quite a happily without a nickname. And, naturally, since I hated it, it has stuck for all these twenty-fygwmumbleskhe years. It's actually short for Kernwaller** because, sure.

**-Note from aforementioned sister: "Kern" is actually short for Kernwaller, Shot Caller," which should add further clarity. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Love your 20's while you've got them!

I have the gift of being able to pass life wisdom on to quite a few young people, eager for guidance and knowledge from their wise elders. Ok, I'm getting old, and many of the people I know are not yet.

It is a responsibility I take seriously, letting them know what's ahead. I'd like to think they greatly value my wise advice and come to me with wide eyes and eager souls, enthusiastic to drink in all that I can impart, having been there, having seen what life can throw at a person.

As it turns out, no one listens. As the youthful do, they hear what might happen and deny it will ever happen to them. I know because I was that way too.

How many times did we ignore the adults occasionally taking our ballet classes recreationaly who said, "Never stop dancing. You can't pick it up again like you once were able to." "Pshh!" I thought. "That's ridiculous! I take breaks for holidays now, and get right back into it when I get back." Of course, here we are, having stopped dancing for happy hours, career aspirations, finding a social life, and the body revolts when I try and go back to ballet classes.

I want to shake that previous me and say, "Foolish kid! Things change! Your body changes! Love what you have now; it will never be like this again!"

And so, I share with my friends still in their twenties what will happen in a similar spirit of preparedness and appreciation for what I know they're taking for granted, as I previously did. It's not until they hit a milestone I've warned them about do they start to take heed of all I predict, though, and then they get scared. They should be scared.


At 27 and a half, you start to notice a difference. It's subtle. Things just aren't the same as they used to be. Hangovers are a bit worse. Metabolism slows almost imperceptibly. Gravity starts to let you know she exists, and she sees you over there.

At 30, you hit the wall. Gravity proves she's a little bitch. You realize you probably shouldn't be eating or drinking as manically as you used to. Maybe, if you don't have kids yet--or maybe even if you do--you'll try and hang on to the drinking and partying of your 20's, but you might hate it more now the next day. Or the next 3 days.

Every year after 30 increases the rate at which you slide down that wall you hit at 30. It gets ugly. And, it gets faster and faster with each passing year. You clamor for footholds to stop or slow the meteoric descent: trying to wear the same clothes you used to, taking a trip to the hard-partying locales you used to frequent to try and re-grasp your youth. But, it all ends in the same way. You wake up one day and your perky, round, full boobs--once your pride and joy--seem, well, deflated (and that's without kids!). All your pants are a little tighter in the waist, even if they fit the same everywhere else. And, you think you might actually die after your youth-reviving getaway. For an entire week afterwards. 

It's a sad, sad day when you make such decisions as needing to wear "age-appropriate" clothes, that maybe all your bras should now be push-ups, that Mexican food is no longer a daily option (perhaps the hardest of them all!)...

It all hits home in small but significant demonstrations of your disappearing youth. You can no longer charm the boys at the Genius Bar into loving you and giving you preferential treatment. The guys at the Mexican restaurants no longer give you extra sour cream in heart shapes on your food (not that you should really be eating that extra sour cream anymore. Oh, all the sadness!). No one notices when you walk into a bar anymore and aren't clamoring over themselves to buy you drinks. You can't actually remember the last time you were in a bar. Well, not past midnight, at least.

I hear it only gets worse, too, as we get closer and closer to 40 and then to 50. So, seriously. Listen to me, kids. Live it up now, while you still can! Let go of your body-image hangups and love your body before it gets a little harder to and you reminisce about theses days you're in now. Unfortunately, it's coming. It's for real coming.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dogs are love magnets. Or so I've heard.

We went to a really fun barbecue at Cabin John Regional Park last weekend. There's a great dog park at Cabin John, so there were a ton of people with dogs there. Lolly had a blast, as he always does when there are people and/or dogs around. Such a social, little bugger, that one! I don't know where he gets it!

As we were all leaving, we happened upon a guy with a yellow lab he had had for about two weeks. Suddenly, all eight of us girls and Lolly descended on him, cooing about the dog.

"Aw! What a cutie!"
"How cute is your dog?!"
"What a little love!!"
The guy said to us, "Wow! I should have gotten a dog a long time ago! I never got this much attention before I had him!"

I guess it's true what they say: guys with dogs are way more attractive than guys without. And, guys with dogs get a lot of attention from the ladies. So, single guys, do yourself a favor and get a dog! For real, it works.

But what about for the ladies?

Sure, Lolly and I get a LOT of attention when we go out. Lolly is certainly a charmer and wants everyone to know. These are the types that coo over us, though:
  • Families with small children
  • Moms trying to get their kids to not be afraid of dogs
  • Older men with their wives who are here on vacation and left their dogs who look just like Lolly at home
  • Homeless men
  • Other dogs
  • 20-something girls
  • 30-something girls
  • Teenage girls
  • 40-something girls
  • Other poodle owners
  • Old, old men with poodles (one guy we see occasionally even pushes his elderly poodle around in a stroller. I turn my nose up at that now, but talk to me again when Lolly's little joints are arthritic!)
  • Gay men
  • Men out with their girlfriends/wives/fiances
  • Men who inevitably say, "My girlfriend would love this dog!"
  • Men I then later see with their wives/girlfriends/fiances and sometime their own dogs
So, as it turns out, Lolly is not the love magnet I was assured a dog would be. Nary a love connection has been made since I got the little pooch.

Perhaps my mistake in date-attraction ploys was getting a curly, prancy dog. Lolly certainly tries his little heart out, running up with those pet-me, love-me, little, puppy eyes to everyone we see (I mean, really, a half mile walk takes like 40 minutes as Lolly turns on the charm for every, single person).

I wonder how Lolly's friend Stella The Great Dane's mom does in attracting suitors when they're out for a walk.

The key, I've decided just now, is to train Lolly to reel in the eligible bachelors. We've got to get some kind of routine down, like when Adam Sandler uses the kid in Big Daddy to manipulate women. This will totally work. Ah, another time life takes lessons from Adam Sandler movies!

Hey, Lolly! Come here! We've got some work to do!