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I’ve always like overhearing other people’s conversations.

When I’m out at restaurants, I often find myself picking up on tidbits from neighboring booths. An old man griping to another about Social Security. A mother telling her child where pancake syrup comes from. Two people awkwardly making small talk on a a blind date. It’s always been so interesting.

Photo By: Dingxiang Lin

I don’t usually ever comment or chime in. I smile quietly to myself and listen, taking it all in, maybe trying to put myself in another’s shoes. Sometimes I think about how this conversation should be written down and turned into a short story or a movie, but I never once open a notebook to do so. I think that’s what I enjoy most about it – it’s a quiet moment of appreciation and unknowing connection with other people. I’ve never met you, but I can relate to you and what you’re saying. Or if I can’t relate, I’m willing to learn.

Earlier this week, I got the chance to travel for work, so my eavesdropping habits took me 30,000 feet above my normal territory.

On the plane, two women sat behind me. One lived in Los Angeles and was home for a week to visit family. She worked in a lab, rode horses, and said her coworkers were straight out of The Big Bang Theory. The other was visiting from Houston, returning home to see a friend. Both asked questions about the other’s life. They laughed. They commented on how the shopping in NEPA sucks and how they’re always surprised at the difference in thinking they see when they come back. They both felt that NEPA was “sad”, “depressing”, “frustrating”, and “backwards”. They noted how their loved ones in respective cities have to “retrain” them to act, feel, and speak “normally.”

This was something that I didn’t like overhearing, yet it’s something I’ve heard all too many times before.

Photo By: Marzena

The notion that Northeastern Pennsylvania sucks is not a new one. We have our fair share of problems. Bankrupt cities, high unemployment rates, slashed funding for social programs, politicians lining their pockets, and a river of corruption running under the surface. Socially, we come from diverse backgrounds and share histories firmly rooted in coal mining, immigration, and getting through hard times. Sometimes, this gives us the sense that there’s never progress being made and that we’re always five years behind everyone else. We have a tendency toward depression and addiction is as prevalent as the churches. But we’re also hardworking and pretty friendly. We do a lot more than we give ourselves credit for and there’s a growing number of people who believe that NEPA isn’t so bad. I consider myself to be one of those people.

Photo By: smata2

We all grew up hearing the same things. We’ve been told to get the hell out of here and go somewhere you can “make it”.  Apparently Philadelphia and New York were our only other options for civilization. When I was a teenager, I wanted to live the dream of being a writer with a cat, a perfectly made cocktail, and a cozy apartment in Manhattan (nevermind the cost, the challenge, and the rest of the city I glossed over in my big idea). I thought “The Valley” had no room to grow into something truly remarkable and turned my eyes to New York. When you’re a teenager, you think you knew everything – you really didn’t.

When I began my college search, I looked out of state. I got in, but at the time, my great-grandparents were ill and I wanted to be at least in driving distance in case anything happened. They were such a big part of my life, so I turned my search for a school back to Pennsylvania. I found Marywood and it ended up being the best deal for my heart and my wallet. So I stayed. They passed away. Time did too. But it was okay, because I didn’t ever feel resentful of my decision. By that time, I was fortunate to have found other people who opened my eyes to the idea that you can affect change and live the life you want, no matter where you live. It was a revelation – and it’s made me a happier person ever since.

Photo By: revblake

I’ve fallen in love with NEPA over and over again since making that choice. I’ve learned more about my history. I’ve explored new places. I’ve built a life here – and it’s one that I feel proud of. And I’m thankful to have met others who share this love and unyielding sense of optimism for where we live. (Also, pierogies.)

Despite what you’ve been told, there are always things happening here – good things, too. If you say there’s nothing to do here, you’re not looking. And if you see something is lacking or if there’s an opportunity for something amazing, make it yourself. It’s how NEPA BlogCon, The Vintage, Whiskey Bacon and so many other wonderful things came into being. Be part of something.

The two women I heard on the plane reminded me of something I already know: your entire life is not governed by your zip code. You can do what you love, create what you imagine, learn what you are dying to know, and try new things every day, no matter where you are. I’m lucky – and thankful – to be living here. And I hope on their next trip home, they can fall in love again with NEPA like I did.


Birds and Pigs

Photo By: Hsiang Chang

Desperation, thy name is Angry Birds.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been breaking up my breakneck schedule with games of Angry Birds. I’ve never actually played the whole game through, but I find that it’s a nice distraction when I need give my brain a break. Well, sort of.

When I got a new phone, I went through the Google Play store looking for apps to download and when I found Angry Birds again, my enthusiasm for it was renewed. I had forgotten I even had it on my old phone. Now was my chance to get back into it and actually play the game through until the end.

I told myself, “Hey, it’s just a game. This’ll be fun.”

“You can just relax and play for a little while,” I said.

“It’s just birds, pigs, and physics – what could go wrong?”

What the what was I thinking?

For weeks, I’ve sacrificed sleep and sanity to play Angry Birds. I’m embarrassed to even say how many nights it was that I’ve squinted in the dark at my screen, trying like hell to get those damned TNT boxes to explode in just the right way so that I can knock out those little green demons and earn more points. Oh yeah, and when you’re actually done beating a level, it’s all like, “Nah, you weren’t that good. It took you 2 hours just to beat this one level – so you only get a star.”

Only. one. star.

You have to be kidding me.

Then, I reached my tipping point. It was a stressful day at work, I wasn’t feeling great, and I was sleep deprived already from working on a project. I needed a release. I needed some time with Angry Birds.

So I played. And I got stuck. I played this one level over and over and over again – FOR DAYS. Days, I tell you! I couldn’t do it. One little piggie was always left, grinning at me. My blood pressure rose. My face had to be twisted into some fierce grimace between pain and rage.

That’s it. I’m doing it.

So I did it. I caved and sprung for “The Mighty Eagle”.

Best damn 99 cents ever.

Photo By: Alexei Petrenko

Now instead of killing myself to beat an unbeatable level, I use that sucker to just explode away my problems. It’s a nice feeling of pure destruction. But, there’s a part of me that feels guilty. Am I taking the easy way out? Am I giving up? Am I just another lazy American spending way too much time on her cell phone?

Probably, but sometimes, it just feels good when your screen looks like this:

Photo By: Vince Viloria






Thankful Thursday: Scent

Today, I’m thinking about scents and feeling really thankful for my schnoz.  Smelly smells can sometimes be a good thing. Plus, you know what they say about sense of smell being one of the most powerful triggers of memory.

Here are some of my favorite smells – and feel free to share a comment with your own!

To start off with, CITRUS!



Photo By: Judy Ringrose



Photo By: Keith Taylor



Photo By: michelle


New notebooks.

Photo By: madivelour


New and old books.

Photo By: Tilly Lettice

Sunshine (yes, it does have a smell!).

Photo By: ZY is freedom

These are just a few of my favorites – which ones are yours?



Wedding Planning Mantra #1: I Will Not Be a Bridezilla

Photo By: Lyn Gardner

When we first got engaged, my Mister-to-be and I spent a weekend watching “Bridezillas”. Like most Netflix rabbit holes, “Bridezillas” sucked us in for what probably amounted to several hours. We watched, we cringed, and swore up and down that we wouldn’t let that kind of crazy seep into our own wedding plans.

My name is Mandy Boyle – and I’m pledging to not be a bridezilla.

But I am looking to document my wedding planning experience here and hopefully, have some fun doing it.

I’ve written for wedding clients as part of my job in internet marketing, so I’m familiar with the territory. I’ve read all about tips, tools, color palettes, and inspiration boards. I’ve seen the craziness. I’ve also seen the overwhelming amount of products and resources that are available to brides looking to plan that special day. This may give me an advantage, but I’m certain I have just as many questions, frustrations, and concerns as any other bride.

My blog has always been a place for me to express myself, so while I’m finding myself shaking my head or nodding in agreement throughout the wedding planning process, I think it might be nice to have a place to talk about it (outside of family and friends).

So, the “Getting Hitched” category of my blog will be dedicated to just that. I’ll share my thoughts, my trials, my moments on the brink, and the journey leading up to the big day. There will likely be blood, sweat, and tears. There will be times when I’m completely out of my mind (tell me I’m being stupid).  Becoming a bridezilla may be tempting…but I will try to resist.

Deep breath. 

Let’s begin the Tales of a Twenty-Something, Mostly Reasonable, Scared Shitless Bride a.k.a. How to be a reasonable, budget conscious human being while planning a wedding in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Mantra #1:  I will not be a bridezilla. 

I will not scream, scratch, and cry on national television. 

I will not make unreasonable demands of my friends and family. 

I will not attempt to burn, maim, punch, kick, or kill my fiance. 

I will not lose my shit at every available opportunity.


Support The Vintage Theater

I don’t consider myself to be an artist. I’m not a painter, my drawing skill tapped out in junior high, and I can’t read music. But, I appreciate art and in my life, the arts – particularly the performing arts –  have always held a very special place in my life. In so many ways, performing arts have made me, well, me.

They were there for me to engage with when I felt bored by my other studies. They challenged me to be confident, to have presence, and to form a voice. They allowed for me to be a different person and become a character when there were times in my life when I would have rather been anyone but myself (and in the end, they taught me something about myself that made me return stronger than ever). They introduced me to a world that I fell in love with and people I fell in love with. Some of my greatest friendships are touched by the performing arts.

While I may not be a full time actor, I always make time for theater. I attend performances whenever I can and I can’t tell you how many times I’d look at audition calls and feel this tugging in my gut urging me to go. But I never did until this past February when I stepped onto a stage and into the shoes of Charlotte Lucas in Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride & Prejudice.  Before P&P, my last performance was when I was in college – more than 6 years ago. There was always a conflict, too much on my plate, or a frightened sensibility thinking that local community theater was a club and I wasn’t a member. Joining such a wonderful cast put  my concerns to rest and opened my eyes to a shimmering, vibrant arts community that I’m honored to now consider myself to be a part of. Scranton’s Vintage Theater made it possible and is the foundation of this community. But The Vintage can’t do it alone – it needs your help to succeed.

In the past few years, I’ve been honored to become a more active part of The Vintage by attending and hosting events, becoming part of it’s theater troupe, and now, serving on its board. The space and its mission mean so, so much. They aren’t just nice to have in the cultural fabric of Northeastern Pennsylvania – they’re necessary in every way. I’ve never met such a passionate group that is so open, understanding, and welcoming. The Vintage wants to cultivate a strong community in support of the arts. It caters to all ages. It welcomes all artists and types of expression. Having something like this in our community is a gift and I hope more people realize that. But, without your support, The Vintage cannot exist.

I’m asking you to do something for me and please, make a donation to The Vintage. If you’ve just read my blog for the first time or if you’ve known me for years, even giving just $1 a month can mean the world to them and to me.

The Vintage has served as a venue for the visual, performing and literary arts in Scranton for nearly five years. In that time, it has:

  • Hosted over 2,000 musicians, actors, playwrights, artists, etc.
  • Held over 1,000 different events / performances / exhibits
  • Given over $200,000.00 in stipends to local artists/ performers
  • Hosted artists/performers from every state in the continental U.S., as well as seven countries

It needs YOU to continue its mission. A stable income for this space will allow for it to continue to do wonderful and (I can’t say this enough) necessary work in our community for the arts.

Here’s where you can go to donate:  https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=8397. The Vintage is a member of Fractured Atlas, which means that your donation is 100% tax deductible. A few dollars every month is tremendous gift, not just for me, but for the entire arts community in NEPA.

When I’m not optimizing websites, writing here or in other places, or firmly planting my nerdy roots as a co-founder of NEPA BlogCon, The Vintage is where I’m spending my time. It’s where a large part of my heart is and I hope you can open your heart to it too.