Mandy Boyle

NEPA-er with Moxie. Writer. Sometimes Actor. Nerdy Girl.

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Photo By: Victoria Robinson

Looking Forward to the Year Ahead

New year, big things, lots to think about and be grateful for.

I’ve always been fond of taking time to reflect on the past, revel in the present, and delight in the future on New Years. All too often, we find ourselves feeling like we need to be better, do better, and change so much in order to make the most of the year ahead. Looking at 2014 head on, I can honestly say that there aren’t many drastic changes or hardcore resolutions I’ll be making. 2013 was a hear of overwhelming joy, surprise, loss, laughter, challenge, stress, discovery, and so many other things. Each year is a new adventure and it’s what makes the start of it so exciting. There’s a blank canvas to be painted. And like all great artists, your technique gets cultivated with time.

I’ve learned a lot from the past year, and one of the biggest lessons was to focus on the small to get to the big. I’ve let myself down in the past by making promises – grand ones – to myself and then not living up to it. So, keeping that in mind and also taking into account what I’ve experienced in the last year, I’m thinking about small ways to take care of myself.

So, instead of making a New Year’s resolution, this year, I’ll be giving myself 14 reminders (it is 2014, after all!). When I’m feeling lost, out of balance, or unwell (like I am right now, presently nursing a hangover from a little overindulgence that came with one of the most fun and soul-warming NYE celebrations I’ve ever been part of), I can refer back to this list to keep me on the right path. There’s no one goal, just the promise of  feeling good and living, as Oprah would say, my best life.

Here are my 14 points I’ll be reminding myself of this year:

  1. Eat real food, in moderation. 
  2. Breathe deeply. 
  3. Move more. 
  4. Say “no” more often. 
  5. Make more time for relationships. 
  6. Tickle the brain.
  7. Remember to laugh.
  8. Get some fresh air.
  9. Be gracious and grateful.
  10. Align what I do with what I value.
  11. Decide.
  12. Learn from it all.
  13. Take breaks.
  14. Serve, both yourself and others.

Beyond these, I’m also excited about all of the things that will be happening in the coming year, like:

  • Returning to the Classroom: This time next week, I’ll be teaching again. Teaching is one of those things that I sort of fell into but enjoy, since I feel so strongly about having students learn things they can actually apply. It’s how I like to teach and it’s how I’ll approach my spring semester course in Web Presence Development. So, if I have any students reading this post, I just want to say that I’m very excited to be back – and I can’t wait for what this semester has in store. 
  • NEPA BlogCon 2014: SO MUCH AWESOME. That’s all I can say. We have BIG plans buzzing around in our brains for the next NEPA BlogCon. EEEK! More to come!
  • Writing a Play: I’m taking a stab at channeling my inner Moliere. I’ve never written a play before – most of my experience with theater is as an actor. I’m looking forward to trying something new and seeing what sort of characters I have hopping around in my head. But, I’ll give you a clue about what I’m writing: it’s a funeral and a comedy ala Death at a Funeral, but not quite.
  • The Vintage’s 5th Anniversary: The Vintage is truly one of my favorite places. I serve as the Chairperson on The Vintage advisory board and I’m thrilled to be in office during this time of celebration. The Vintage will have spent 5 years this January bringing art and culture to the region in ways I never would have dreamed possible.
  • Finding a Wedding Dress: Wedding planning is going well – I’ve got some post ideas cooking that will share my experience so far, but one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to in 2014 is hopefully finding a wedding dress. I’ve got my first appointment under my belt and I now know more about what I like and what I think looks best, so we’ve got progress!
  • Enjoying Another Season of Fresh Produce: Brent and I were generously gifted with another season of produce from our friend and favorite local farmer, Farmer Jon. His produce kept us rich in taste and nutrients all last summer and my mouth is watering just thinking about what might appear in this year’s harvest. YUM!
  • Taking on New Challenges at Work: I sometimes refer to my job on here, but if you’re not sure what I do, don’t worry – it’s a tough thing to explain. Let’s just keep it simple – I work with a team of internet marketers specifically geared toward helping small businesses succeed online. I enjoy my job and 2013 was a time of growth, change, and challenge. Looking ahead at the coming year, I’m excited at what plans we have in store and I’m so thankful and grateful for my coworkers, my team, who make coming to work each and every day wonderful.
  • Moving into Our First Home: Yes, indeed! Brent and I will be officially homeowners later this month. In a serendipitous turn of events, we’ll be making a family homestead our own. The house, which now belongs to my grandparents but will soon be Casa de Boyle-Pennington, has been in my family since 1946. It’s a cute Cape Cod with a lot of history and a lot of love. We’re so excited about this big leap, especially since this is happening so quickly, but it’s one of those moments that just sort of worked out for everyone in a way that can only be divine.

So, lots of good stuff going on! What’s on your plate for the upcoming year?

NEPA BlogCon

Good Talk

Talking. It makes all the difference.

In the past two months, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had quite a few great talks.

One was with my Dad, as we traveled to New York City together on his first visit ever to Manhattan, where we would see a Broadway show (Pippin), eat good food, and take in some of the sights. All day, we kept the conversation flowing, and it was nice. I talk to my Dad often, but that’s the first time in quite some time that we’ve spent so much time together in a day – it was a good moment for father and daughter.

Another was with Brent. We went to our favorite local diner, ate breakfast at about 8:00 p.m. and talked through what we wanted for our wedding, which led into more talk of the future, specifically, what we’d want in a house. Both conversations left me feeling less stressed about everything that’s happening (i.e. wedding planning, growing up, and all that jazz) and looking forward to what’s ahead. We now know what we want – and that’s one of the biggest and best parts of planning a future. There’s no better feeling than when you want the same things and you’re on the same page and you’re both excited about making it happen.

A third one was with my friend Alli. We went to brunch together and just chatted about things going on in our lives. We dished, dined, and laughed our whole way through the conversation. Those types of talks restore our inner light. You can’t help but feel happy when you’ve laughed and shared soup with a dear friend.

And a fourth was with an amazing group of people motivated to change Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was at a networking event for TecBridge – and well beyond your average meet and greet. We all left feeling driven, inspired, and ready to do something big. We talked about things we wanted to change. We celebrated big ideas. We gave each other hope and encouragement – this is where all great things start.

Between these talks, there were several more, and they all left me feeling AWESOME. It’s amazing how just talking can change your entire outlook.

Have you ever noticed how people just don’t talk as much as they used to? I’m constantly bombarded with emails and texts, which can be great in their own right, but sometimes, you just need to unplug and engage one-on-one. Those types of conversations leave us feeling energized and motivated. They help us sort out the important things and take notice of the fact that, hey – we’re human!

I’d like to issue a challenge.

This week, turn off your electronic communication methods, whatever they may be, for a few hours. Then, call up a friend and invite her for coffee. Or  give your Mom a call just to talk. Or make time to go for a walk with your significant other to talk about something that’s been on your mind. Do something that will allow for you to have good talks of your own – and then take a moment to reflect and soak it in, because it’s a simple thing in life that makes it even better.

I know I’ll definitely be giving this challenge a try.

Photo By: petuliadanner

The Wedding Vendor Dance

Photo By: petuliadanner

 

It starts off slow.

You scan for friendly faces, those who can be perfect partners.

You make a mental note of their names. What you like about them. What you think they can bring to the floor.

You take a deep breath. You approach and you ask.

A positive response! How exciting! You smile. It’s all falling into place.

You ask for more. Details. Details. Details.

Then it begins. One step forward, two steps back.

Now one to the side. And back the other way.

A spin, a twirl, and the sting of disappointment.

Then the burst of happiness when you’re perfectly in step.

Dancing through the wedding planning process sounds easy, right? What they didn’t tell you growing up or what you haven’t seen on Pinterest boards of all of your friends is the daunting task of choosing vendors. Above all, the negotiation. OH MY THE NEGOTIATION.

It’s overwhelming enough to be planning a wedding with so many choices, but when you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of vendors that you think you want to work with, it becomes a part-time job to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

From my own experience, I’m an exhaustive researcher. I look at everything from a hundred different angles before I make the decision. I have spreadsheets on my Google Drive that list all of the vendors I’ve looked at, those I’d consider working with, and those who I’m on the fence about. I read reviews. I dig for dirt. I check Facebook pages and Yelp pages and everything in between. I’m the bride who fixates on knowing every possible outcome, every possibility, before I make a decision.

It can be crippling.

Then there’s the sense of going back and forth between:

Yes, let’s be practical. Let’s just pick something and focus on what’s really important.

OR

Wait – do I really want this? Is this going to be right? What if it’s not right? TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE RIGHT.

Sweet Jesus. I’ve never had trouble selecting flavors of ice cream, but when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, suddenly I’m pouring over countless cells of data in a frenzy. It’s like I’m a female-version, less moody, and cutting-cheekbone-less Sherlock.

I got engaged in May. It’s now November and I’ve finally picked a venue and a date (after much poking and prodding).

The date was the easy part – Brent and I went back and forth between May and October, but something about October felt right. Serendipity and subconscious sentimentality led me to October 10. I didn’t consciously select the date ahead of time – I looked at a calendar, saw 10 and said, “Yes, this is perfect.” My cousin’s 21st birthday and my recently passed on grandparents’ anniversary. Being the scatterbrain that I can sometimes be (I’m horrible with dates and birthdays), I forgot about both, so it was a happy and heartwarming surprise to find those out. It’s going to be a great day.

The venue journey I’ll save for another post. I promise it’s a good thing, but I did have my share of anxiety.

Ah, yes, anxiety. Which leads me into vendor negotiation. The dance that I started this post with. I’ve gotten my first few tastes and I can say that it’s definitely my least favorite part of wedding planning so far. The waiting, the back and forth, the lack of follow up or response that causes you to throw your hands in the air and say, “F*ck it. I’m eloping.”

Here are some things that have helped:

  • Studying up on some articles for helpful advice.
  • Having a firm idea of your budget and a rough idea of your guest list.
  • Asking for recommendations for vendors who have a reputation for being good to work with
  • Thinking rationally. Seriously – you have to keep yourself in check and remember to approach it from a logical point of view. Yes, it’s emotional – but you can’t make your decisions solely based on that.
  • Taking a breather before responding to emails.
  • Being patient.
  • Remembering that the peak of wedding season isn’t going to yield the fastest response times
  • Recognizing that you have time and this is not a fire drill
  • Being gracious and direct.
  • Knowing what you want before you start talking.

It gets better. No, really, it does. Once you get past the initial communication hurdles (I can write books on this, I swear), it gets easier. But if you want to be successful in the negotiation, you have to be prepared to negotiate. Don’t accept everything at face value. Come in with a plan. Compare and contrast. Be firm and decisive. It’s okay to ask questions – and don’t be afraid to. If you’re not happy with something or aren’t satisfied, voice that concern – it’s not going to help you to stay quiet. Be polite, but also don’t be a pushover. Remember – you and your vendor stand to have a mutually beneficial relationship. You can be emotional – but don’t let your emotions steer you toward a decision you’re not happy with.

What I’m trying to say with this one is that I need to remember to not fixate and obsess (and if any of you readers are brides, this one is for you too!). I’m in flux between sweating small stuff and throwing tradition to the wind in favor of practicality. It’s a dizzying mix, but it’s one that I know will get easier with time. I just have to remember my footing and keep repeating my mantras. It’s going to be okay.

And hey, spazzing happens. It does. If you’re by nature a worrier, it’s going to happen. And if not, congrats! You probably have a much longer lifespan than the rest of us!

Just stay cool, don’t obsess over details, and don’t feel the need to throw hours upon hours into vendor research. Having done it, I can say that I did waste time because I knew going in what I didn’t want in a wedding. I didn’t want a hotel reception. I didn’t want something ornate. I didn’t want something rigid and overly traditional. I also knew my budget. But, I still looked at those venues and vendors anyway because there was a sense that I had to – how could I not know ALL the options?

Knowing all the options doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easier.

Forgive yourself for not knowing all the options – and go with your instincts from the start.

Stand your ground when you negotiate. Go in with a budget, a rough guest list, and an idea of what you want. Stick to it.

No matter what happens, the outcome is the same: you’re ending up married to someone wonderful and that’s what matters.

The 102 Things I Love

Gini Dietrich posted this on Spin Sucks earlier this week and I was intrigued. I love the idea of taking a few moments to be grateful for all of the things you enjoy, so, I’m going to give it a try.

This post is based on Judy Dunn’s “Can You Name 99 Things You Love in 10 Minutes“?

Setting my timer for 10 minutes – and….go!

  1. Brent, my Mister-to-Be!
  2. Annie
  3. My loving parents – my rocks. 
  4. My sister, Brianna, who is just a firecracker
  5. A job I enjoy
  6. The opportunity to teach
  7. NEPA BlogCon and the Fearsome Foursome
  8. Serving on The Vintage Board
  9. Cooking
  10. Getting the chance to act again as part of The Vintage
  11. Writing
  12. Citrus fruit
  13. Warm blankets
  14. A fantastic group of cousins who are like my brothers and sisters
  15. Being able to turn big ideas into reality with the help of some great people in our community, like TecBridge
  16. Toasted rolls for breakfast
  17. Air conditioning
  18. Wrinkle-free, clean clothes
  19. Green juice
  20. My cast iron dutch oven
  21. Getting letters or surprises in the mail
  22. My aunts and uncles
  23. Having had 25 years with my grandparents and 17 years with my great-grandparents
  24. My Samsung Galaxy SIII
  25. My iPad
  26. My laptop
  27. Our wall of art in our living room
  28. IKEA
  29. Target
  30. My running shoes
  31. Movies
  32. Reading
  33. Libraries
  34. Cafes
  35. The Office
  36. Parks and Recreation
  37. Mad Men
  38. 30 Rock
  39. Tina Fey
  40. Amy Poehler
  41. Reading the work of inspired people
  42. Malcolm Gladwell’s books
  43. Chocolate
  44. Popcorn
  45. Warm beverages
  46. Hard cider
  47. My face moisturizer that I use every day
  48. Fanciful Fox Soaps
  49. Little sample size bottles of fragrance
  50. Autumn leaves
  51. Pumpkin everything during the fall
  52. Macintosh apples
  53. Bacon
  54. Taking hot showers
  55. Waking up and feeling energized
  56. Massages
  57. Yoga
  58. Yoga pants
  59. Warm sweaters
  60. Boots
  61. My American Eagle jeans
  62. YouTube
  63. Sea salt
  64. A clean house
  65. Cuddling
  66. The Neverending Thread
  67. Social media
  68. Going to theater performances
  69. Music
  70. The sound of church bells
  71. Spotify
  72. Twitter
  73. Facebook
  74. Really good software or apps that make life easier
  75. YoungHouseLove.com
  76. Pinterest
  77. Thrift stores and flea markets
  78. Alexandra Franzen’s blog
  79. New notebooks that haven’t been written in
  80. Typewriters
  81. Old books
  82. Performing random acts of kindness
  83. Going to Wegman’s
  84. Trying new foods
  85. Candles
  86. Cardigans
  87. Really nicely scented rooms
  88. Cinnamon
  89. Jacket weather
  90. My leather jacket
  91. Confortable shoes
  92. Making people happy
  93. Shopping local
  94. Our favorite restaurants
  95. The chance to make every day an adventure
  96. Having a support network of people I don’t know how I’d do without
  97. Old family photos
  98. Playing games during the holidays
  99. Belly laughs
  100. Mint
  101. Getting my hair washed when I get it cut
  102. Diner conversations

Whew! That was harder than I thought, but a lot of fun – there’s so much to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Only Good Parts About Sick Days

The only good parts about sick days are the sleeping and reading time.

I’ve spent the past two days snuggled up in a blanket with Theraflu and a nasty cold. It’s given me plenty of downtime. I’ve rested, I’ve worked a bit, but mostly, I’ve done a mixture of sleeping and reading. It’s a good combination. I’m not a physician, but I highly recommend it, at least for your mental well-being. I’m ready to return to the real world now, Doc!

I’m through two and a half books so far on this plagued sojourn. Thank goodness I stopped at the library over the weekend – I was itching to start a new book but walked out with three, not knowing that Monday morning I’d wake up sounding like Emperor Palpatine.

The first one was Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. Having seen the movie, I’ve always been curious about the book. It was a light read. A few moments were quite funny. Nothing too serious. I don’t really like Bridget as a character – her obsession over her weight and her constant non-battles with her vices sort of annoy me and DAMN she needs to work on her self-esteem – but overall, I was lightly entertained by her journal of a year’s worth of worry, chocolate, change, and men. Normally, I’m a non-fiction kind of girl, but I like a light read in between so that I’m not totally bogged down in information.

Next up was I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron. Personally, I like her style of writing. I also enjoy her movies – When Harry Met Sally is in my top 10. She had a keen grasp on what women really do think about and I have to say, I enjoyed her takes on aging, food, and New York real estate in this quick page turner, which I plowed through in just an evening. It’s a quick read that will leave you feeling uplifted and slightly humored. I did, however, find myself touching my neck while reading that particular chapter. I can only hope that I’ll age gracefully – or at least with a good sense of humor.

Now, I’m about halfway through The White Album, a collection of essays by Joan Didion. I chose this book because I read that it was one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites. I love his persona and style of writing, so I figured if he likes it, it has to be good. So far, I’m intrigued. She definitely is unique – the way she describes things is truly an art form. She also has a knack for shocking you or sending a shiver down your spine just when you think you know what’s going on. The way this reads reflects a lot about the subject matter, which in this case, is about the turbulent times of the 60s and 70s in California. We’ve covered everything from the Manson family to a Black Panther Party press conference – and I’m interested to see what’s up next. Will probably finish this in the next day or two.

Afterwards, I’m returning to Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment. Unfortunately, I only got about 6 pages in before stopping about a week ago (my phone rang, the book was set down, and then a domino effect occurred) and wasn’t enchanted enough at that point to return, but I’m hopeful. I like a lot of his ideas and he’s a really cool guy.

So, read any good books lately?

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