Tuesday, August 26, 2008


So I originally wrote this for my "About Me" section of Facebook a couple months ago, realized it was way too long, saved it... and forgot about it. Might as well publish it here.... so this is me in a nutshell!...

First and foremost, I am a huge nerd, and I’m OK with that. I love words, editing, reading and everything that goes into the publishing/production process. Someday I’ll write a book, although I’m not sure about what. I’m a news hound and need to check out multiple news Web sites daily. I am obsessed with Facebook, MySpace and the Internet—really, it’s bad. I have a great job—I am very lucky to have a wonderful boss and awesome coworkers (love my talks with Kerri, Nicole W., Colleen, etc.). I am really starting to love traveling, and I am beginning to get over my fear of flying – yay!

I love my original nickname Mander (thanks, Teri-Ann) that has now become my primary name to many people. I love it so much that I try to insert it into whatever I can (“Everybody Loves Mander,” “Farmer Wants a Mander,” etc.).

I have been an official Philadelphia resident, living in a beautiful apartment in an awesome apartment complex with my so-so roommates Ter and Gilmore, since March 2008. I love being back in the city, and in a better section than Olney (yeahhh Roxborough!). There is so much to do in Philly. Although, I do admit, part of me misses the Lehigh Valley – never thought that would happen!

I enjoy doing things many 23-year-olds do, including getting dressed up and going out—always creates good stories to tell and rehash later! But I also enjoy a relaxing night in just as much—I’m fine watching a night of crappy reality TV (love the boob tube—again, it’s bad!) or movies (Bill Wine is my idol).

I also love music—I’ll listen to pretty much anything! I constantly have to be listening to music—at work, when I’m working out, driving or just hanging out in my room. My iPod was probably one of my most important purchases (along with my gorgeous car, Inky). Cover songs are the best!

Growing up has been interesting for me. I don’t feel 23, and I desperately miss La Salle. I am so excited for all my friends’ weddings and babies, but it always reminds me of how old, but also irresponsible, I am, haha. I’m still learning how to take care of myself—I can’t imagine how all you with husbands and babies do it! I really want to get a puppy, but even that sounds like too much of a responsibility.

I don’t enjoy drama in my personal life, though I feel like there’s always something going on in my friends’ and family member’s lives (really, I could write a soap opera). I really hate boy drama… I’m looking for a straightforward, kindhearted guy with a good sense of humor. If you’re out there, call me, haha!.... No, seriously….

I have been trying to “quit” soda on and off for many years. Right now I’m in an “off” period.
I am a big junk food addict—I love me some chicken fingers and fries… and chicken caesar salad. That might as well be junk food, for how many calories there are in it! Additionally, I’m attempting to become a cook… send me some simple recipes, please!

When I can, I will talk about or reference The Office or Friends, especially if a similar situation arises. I also enjoy talking about my cousins Gehrig, Sammy and Gavin, and the somewhat funny (or odd) wisdom of my little brother Brandon. I also tend to talk about celebrities like I know them—I’m obsessed with pop culture. I really need to do something productive with all this knowledge!

Other things I love: deep convos with Polly and Tanya, advice from Des, shopping with JM, girls’ nights with Becky and Nicole G., joking with my sister Emily, watching TV with Gilmore and Ter, and catching up with people from high school and college (message me and let me know what you’re up to!).

My mother is the most important person to me in the entire world. She is so amazing—so selfless, sweet, fun, supportive. She has been the best mother and the best friend I could ever ask for. My mom was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (an aggressive type of brain cancer) in April 2007. She has changed very much over the past year, but I know her love for me (and mine for her) hasn’t. She has made me into the person I am today, and if I can be just half the person and mother she is “when I grow up,” then I’ve achieved my goal.

Overall, I’d like to think I am a kind, quirky person who is a good friend, daughter, sister, employee, etc. I strive to be the best I can be in all those areas. Also, I’m obviously long-winded. The End.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes: My little brother's growing up!

So a few people have requested an update... I've been wanting to write for a few weeks now, but life has been crazy. A little over two weeks ago, my mom fainted one morning and was rushed to the ER. Turned out she just passed out because she had a vasovagal attack, where your blood doesn't get to the brain fast enough and you pass out. She was in the hospital for two days and they let her go.

On Thursday she was taken to the ER again because she was shaking and lethargic. They found out yesterday her port, which was installed so she could easily get chemotherapy, was infected. She also has a urinary infection, and there is bacteria in her blood. So the docs are pumping her with antibiotics until the infection's gone. They removed the port. She's expected to go home in a few days.

Needless to say, all of this has been very stressful on my family. I really deal with things differently every day. Some days I have a lot of hope and trust that the doctors and God will do all they can to help my mom. Other days I don't feel so confident about things. I try not to have a "woe is me" attitude, but it's hard sometimes. I don't think there is anything worse in the world than seeing the one person you love more than anybody in the hospital. I spent the whole day with her yesterday, and it was definitely a role reversal. I held her hand when the doctors and nurses poked and prodded her... something she used to do for me. It's all so surreal... sometimes I just pause and think, "This can't possibly be my life... this isn't happening to my mom, this isn't my family." But the truth is, no family, no person, is infallible to cancer.

But anyway.... throughout everything, my little brother Brandon always keeps us laughing. Those of you who don't know my brother are missing out... he's a real treat! (This picture is kind of old, but it's one of my favorites... I have it at my cube at work. He's 7 and picking the nose of a warthog statue at the Philadelphia Zoo. Priceless). He's always been quite the entertainer. He loves to crack horrible jokes, and when he was younger he used to treat my friends with renditions of pop songs. A few weeks ago, he gave me a 5-minute lecture on why it's better to be born a vampire than be turned into a vampire via being bitten. I paid attention for about 30 seconds.

Now he's a 13-year-old Guitar Hero-playing, Japanese-anime watching 8th grader... who just recently found out Santa Claus isn't real (Emily was the unfortunate bearer of bad news... but we couldn't have him going into 8th grade still believing... that's just setting him up to get stuffed into a locker). Despite him getting older, he hasn't gone through that "my older sisters are lame" phase yet. Every time I come home to visit, he greets me with a big hug. Last weekend he told me Emily and I are his role models. I absolutely adore him.

But lately I realized he's not a little boy anymore. This is hard for me to accept, because we have a 10-year age difference and I was always his second mom. I changed his diapers and watched Barney with him... I can remember him pretty well as a little boy. But now he's as tall as me (I've always known that, despite being the oldest, I would one day be the shortest Koehler kid). He also has a little peach fuzz growing above his upper lip. The boy who used to say "oy!!!" every time he heard a bad word from someone, or even on a movie or TV, is now cursing in front of me. Where does time go?

Recently he has become somewhat of a babe magnet... which is the hardest bit for me to comprehend. His biggest admirer is our new next-door neighbor Nancy, who is going into 6th grade. They hang out in our backyards and go in the pool. She calls him a lot.

Last weekend Emily told me that Nancy called one day. Brandon had left his cell phone in another room, so Emily ran to give it to him before it stopped ringing. He ignored her call. When Em told me that, I got upset. My brother will not be a douchebag to girls, I thought.

So the next time I saw him, we had a little talk. I told him to be upfront with girls about his feelings, and that it's horrible to blow them off. He listened to everything I said and assured me he had called Nancy back. I asked him if he liked liked her, and he said no... he only likes her as a friend.

Me: "Well, have you told her that?"

Brandon: "Yeah... twice! But she doesn't get it. She keeps asking me if I like her as a girlfriend."

Me: "Well, do you think you might start to like like her down the road?"

Brandon: "I don't think so. The older guy and younger girl thing never works out anyway. I mean, you've seen Saved by the Bell."

Me:"..... uh.... what are you talking about????"

Brandon: "You know... in Saved by the Bell: The College Years, Kelly likes her professor... but he ends up breaking her heart. It never works out to like an older guy."

Me: ".........."

Let this be a lesson for you, ladies.... courtesy of my 13-year-old brother and the creators of Saved by the Bell: The College Years.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thoughts on Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

I think I jumped on the Jodi Picoult bandwagon last summer. I've read a few of her books, including The Tenth Circle., Vanishing Acts and Picture Perfect. I really enjoy what a great storyteller Picoult is -- she creates very real, interesting characters, and you always seem to learn something about a certain topic in her books, too. For instance, in her book Plain Truth, the reader learns pretty much all she ever wanted to about the Amish -- and then some.

But none of her books have affected me quite like Nineteen Minutes, the story of a school shooting and what this tragic event does to the lives of those involved. One of the reasons I think this book resonated with me so much is because school shootings is something very real for our generation -- and something that really affected me.

On April 20, 1999, the day of the Columbine High School massacre, I was at home sick. I remember being on the couch, watching MTV, when John Norris interrupted whatever mindless show I was watching to report on the shootings. I remember having an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.

A couple hours later, I went on AIM and was chatting with my friends who were in school that day. There were all these rumors flying around about someone bringing in a gun to our school the next day.

Despite physically feeling better, I was extremely afraid of returning to school the next day because of all the rumors going around, so I faked sick for an additional day and stayed home again.

Nothing happened the next day at school, although I heard security was heightened. That night I admitted to my mom that I was scared to go back to school. And my mom, being the smart cookie she is, told me something I often need to remind myself. She said that you don't have control over these things, and you can't live your life in fear. "There is only one April 21, 1999 ever. You never get that day back. You need to live every day to the fullest." (The irony of her saying this isn't lost on me... I pray to God this is how she lived her life, and she is happy how she spent it, because she technically can't live her life to the fullest anymore).

Even though what she said helped me and I went back to school, I was still scared. Throughout 8th and 9th grade, we had quite a few bomb scares at Northampton High School. And every time, even though I knew they were happening because kids just wanted to get out of school early, in the back of my mind I would be wondering if something was really happening -- because, of course, a school shooting could happen anywhere.

My generation (we're being called the "millenials") has grown up in fear, with school shootings and 9/11. It's so horrible that a place that should conjure up images of safety and security, a school, can be a place of so much violence.

Even after I graduated, that feeling hasn't left me. It was May 2006. I was 21 and interning for East Penn Press. My boss Deb gave me the morning off, so I was watching TV (again, I know) when my sister called me. She said a student had brought in a gun to school, and they were evacuating. She couldn't get a hold of my mom or dad, so I had to come pick her up. I remember starting to shake as I drove less than 5 minutes away to our high school. All the kids were being held on the football field, and it took some convincing to let me take Emily home. (It helps when everyone knows that your mom's a teacher!)

Even with "increased security," a boy brought various weapons into school using a musical instrument case. He supposedly only wanted to hurt himself, and he is currently on probation.

Another great point Nineteen Minutes makes is that sometimes kids react this way because of being bullied in the past. The book also addresses the issue of popularity and unpopularity. I always wondered about this, too... what makes certain kids popular? Who decides that? Are they more popular because of the way they look, dress, talk? Because they play sports or have nice cars? What makes someone unpopular? Again, they way they look and dress? Maybe they are on the debate or chess team, maybe they actually like school. Maybe they don't want to drink. Sometimes I think about the way some of the "popular" kids in my high school treated the "unpopular" kids, and it makes me cringe. Thankfully, none of the treatment was on the same level as that in Nineteen Minutes... at least, as far as I know.

Anyway, the book is so wonderful -- beautifully written and sad, even though it can also be a bit corny at times. It's full of surprises, and really makes you wonder who the real "bad guy" is. I love how everything comes full circle at the end... watch out for a special scene with the shooter's dad teaching a college class. If you're a Picoult fan, and even if you're not, I recommend getting this book... I promise you, it won't be a boring read, and it will certainly make you think!