Mandy Boyle

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

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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?

Consider Yourself: At Home, While Stressed, and in those Cringe-worthy Moments

We all have those days where we want to sit down on the floor and cry because everything in the world just feels wrong.

I had one of those days recently, and as unpleasant as they may be, they’re good reminders. They help you distinguish good from bad, stress from serenity.

But sometimes, after those days, you get stuck with a case of the blues, the mean reds, or another shade of mood. I’m stuck there today, so it got me thinking about those places we go and those things we do to try to pull ourselves out of a funk.

When we give ourselves time to deal and we take care of ourselves, it can really make everything better – and I’m not just talking about feeling-wise. There are countless studies that talk about all of the negative effects of stress. When we try to reduce it, we extend our lifespans and improve our entire well-being. Coping with stress is something I’m always interested in learning about, so I’m curious to hear what you do when you get stressed.

Practicing self-care in particular is something I love to read about. Gala Darling talks about it all the time, and there are countless other bloggers out there that share ways they bring their lives back into balance – or at least take care of themselves when they know they need it. You’ve gotta take care of your self, darling. You just have to.

I have a few things/places of peace I turn to when things are rough:

One is food. Not so much eating, but cooking. Tonight, that was my chosen method of therapy. I came home in a foul state, feeling defeated and drained – but on the way home, I decided to take control of my bad mood and treat myself to something hot and comforting. I stopped for a hot chocolate with cinnamon. It put a small dent in my grouchiness – it was a start.

After coming home and letting the Mister know that I wasn’t in a good state (communication does wonders for stress, by the way), I took to my cutting board and didn’t turn back. Some time later, I had French onion soup with melted Swiss, fresh grapefruit juice in mason jars for tomorrow morning, and Meyer lemon lemonade.  Citrus – that’s another thing that lifts my spirits, both in taste and in scent. Cooking gives me a sense of calm and control – I enjoy it, no matter what the dish. Tomorrow, I’m making salsa and over the weekend, I’ll be roasting a harvest of squashes given to us by friends. And I’ll feel better for it.

Another is cleaning. When everything feels out of order, sometimes it helps to just bring the environment around me back into balance. I tend to clean in binges, usually on weekends, or whenever I get a nesting urge. After dinner, I did some chores and things felt even better. Granted, it was just cleaning the bathroom and straightening up the kitchen, but it made a difference.

Then, I decided to practice some self-care and take a bath with some lavender. The warm water helped me relax my muscles and get rid of the tension. Plus, the scent helped to wind me down after the straightening up spree. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of aromatherapy. I find that it works for me, so I try to incorporate it into my daily life to cut down on stress in those tiny moments where you don’t notice things piling up, but there they are. Adding to the weight, gram by gram, until something breaks.

When it happens, I usually cry. Crying is a natural, healthy thing. And when you’re done, you feel better. So, when you’re stressed, don’t feel guilty about crying. It just happens – and it’s totally okay. In tonight’s case, my tears only came from the cutting of onions – but still, it’s a small release.

Sometimes we like to talk things out. I spill the beans to those closest to me when I feel the pressure rise. It helps too, because then they know why you’re acting the way that you are and they can help you get through it.

Other times, we just need to be alone. Tonight, I’m in a state of needing some alone time. So I asked for it. Brent was incredibly understanding in the way that he always is, and I’ve gotten to work through some of my mess undisturbed. Don’t be afraid to ask for space. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re not in a good place and need a moment to breathe, think, and decompress.

Most of all, take care of yourself. You have to take care of you before you can take care of anything else. I’m trying to do that right now, so that tomorrow, I can wake up and shake my moody shade. So, I’ll leave you with some of my strategies for bringing things back into balance before I go off to two more places I find peace: watching a movie cuddled up with the cat and a good night’s sleep.

 

It’s BlogCon Week + How I Stay Organized

Woo hoo! It’s finally arrived!

NEPA BlogCon is this week and I’m super excited for what promises to be the best year yet. We have an incredible speaker line up, an improv group performing, sweet SWAG, and opportunities to help Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge even more. This day has been a year in the making, so, if you want to be part of it, get your ticket right now (we stop selling October 3). I hope to see you there!

As you know, the fall is a busy time for me. I’ve got BlogCon, The Vintage Board, an upcoming theater production (you really, really need to be there), some writing projects, plus all of those other wonderful things that go along with the season, like carving pumpkins and taking walks through the changing leaves.

One of the most commonly asked questions I get from friends, family, and even complete strangers is:  How to you keep your life organized with so much on your plate?

Well, the best way I can describe it is really organized chaos. I’m only so-so at personal organization. Just look at my car and you’ll see what I mean (it’s a holy friggin’ disaster). My closet is appalling most of the time. I’m awful at keeping up with household chores. This entire section of my life should be a different post. 

I keep a busy schedule, and there are some things that I do use to keep me on top of everything on my to do list, which actually segues perfectly into my first tool for organization:

Lists. I make lots of them. I make them on scraps of paper and in notebooks, which I carry three of in my purse. Lists serve as my reminders, as well as a sort of guideline. I write down projects I need to complete and mix in specific tasks that I can cross off easily, so I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

Google Calendar. For planning NEPA BlogCon and coordinating other meetings, Google Calendar is awesome. I get pop reminders in my Gmail, plus, I have it synced with my phone so that I get an alarm/reminder when something is approaching.

Gmail. I’m notorious for opening up a draft email and writing down random thoughts, to dos, and giving myself links of resources to read later. It’s sort of my catch all place and mobile swipe file. If you don’t know what a swipe file is, I highly recommend.

Pinterest. This is where I hoard things I want to try, resources I find valuable, and how-tos that I plan on using for my wedding. It’s been a huge, huge help with wedding planning because there are just so many resources there to look through.

Google Drive. I use this on the daily for updating spreadsheets (which I’m using for wedding planning), and for my activities with NEPA BlogCon and The Vintage Theater Board. This is where I do a lot of collaboration and as you can see above, Google tools are certainly a trend for me!

Task Widget. On my smartphone, I have a task widget on one of my screens that gives a to do list that syncs with my calendar. It’s wonderful. It’s my “hey! don’t for get this!” list.

Outlook Calendar. This is actually something I use in my 9 to 5, but it’s still a great tool. Because of the nature of my job, I often have a lot of meetings and phone calls throughout the day, so getting things done can be a bit tricky. I block off sections of time in a day or in a week to complete my other to-dos so that it doesn’t get scheduled over. I’ve found this really helps to keep me on track and on task, no matter how crazy work gets (and it’s always crazy in a good way!)

But beyond these tools, I also do something that I highly recommend for everyone to manage their busy schedules: know when to say “no”.

I’m not always the greatest at saying no, but in recent months, I’ve been more assertive about protecting my time so that I’m not overextending myself. Granted, it’s a balancing act and something that I always work on, but I’m much more conscious of how I spend my time after reading something that said:

how you spend your time should align with what you value. 

This really spoke to me, and since then, I’ve made more time for my fiance, my family, and my friends, instead of letting work or outside projects overwhelm me and take up all of my time. I’ve also trimmed away things that weren’t as important to me and started focusing my energies on things that I love, are good for me, are healthy, and make me feel happy. Because life is entirely too short not to be.

When I feel passionate about something, I usually over-commit because I feel so strongly about helping and having that thing succeed, whatever it may be. But, I’m trying to be better because ultimately, when I’m balanced, my projects are balanced too and they get the right amount of my attention.

What tools do you use for organization? I love to hear about them!

 

 

What 5 Improv Rules Taught Me About Blogging

Over the summer, I took an improv class at The Vintage as a way to help me think on my feet. Call it a step closer towards modeling myself after Liz Lemon. I’ve always admired comedians and improv seemed like a lot of fun (and it was!) so, I gave it a try. It was incredibly rewarding and in the spring, I’m looking to take the next level of the class, taught by the awesome Conor O’Brien of Unorganized Business.

P.S. If you want to see us in action, see the clip below – I’m in the blue and green flowered dress playing “Pet Peeves”. Before the fire alarm went off.

But besides being a great experience that had me laughing and smiling for hours on end, I actually took away some great rules that I can apply to other things, like blogging.

Here are the five core improv rules I learned in my first class – and how they apply to making your blog even better.

1.) Don’t Deny

Denial is what makes a scene go south and that was the first rule I learned in improv. When you refuse an offer made by your scene partner (e.g. the scene is in a Starbucks and you say, “No! We’re on a football field), the scene falls flat and you both look bad – and the scene doesn’t go anywhere. In blogging, don’t deny can work on two levels. First, don’t deny your voice and who you are. Know your brand, what’s important to you, and know that you are always on – and you have to flow with that if you want to be a good blogger. Secondly, don’t deny your readers by not allowing for them to share in a conversation, or by not blogging consistently, or by mistreating them (yes, there are bloggers that do this). Treat your audience with respect and they’ll help you. Finally, always do the “yes, and…?” I read somewhere to ask yourself five times “yes, and…?” to gain more clarity on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or what you’re saying. The same rule can be applied in both improv and blogging. Ask yourself, “yes, and…” to keep things going in a post you’re writing, an idea you’re developing, or a scene you’re performing.

2.) Don’t Ask Open Ended Questions

Don’t get me wrong – this is an essential things for interviews, but looking at this idea in the light of improv, keeping questions tight, or rather, keeping blog topics tight, allows for the audience to stay with you. When you start a post with nothing particular in mind, rambling usually tends to spill out. It’s tough for the reader to enjoy rambling, so it helps to know what you’re going to write about going in. I keep a running list of topics in note pads, or if I have a few moments, I start a draft and jot down a quick outline or a few words or sentences that I’ve already thought up. That way, when I sit down, I know where I’m going. How I’m getting there is half the fun.

3.) Don’t Always Go for the Joke

I’m a ham. I really, really am. As a sometimes actor, I tend to gravitate towards comedic roles where I can make people laugh. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. With improv, I had to flex my muscles to not go for the joke, which was a welcome exercise. When you force yourself to be funny, it so often comes off as not so. I want to be authentic when I’m in a scene for improv and I feel the same way about my blog. If I’m funny, it’s because it’s real. I try really hard to not insert humor on purpose. Anything I write is pretty much exactly what the voice in my head is saying. Sticking to the character, sticking to the scene, and staying present in the moment makes for humor naturally – and that’s what I’d like to go for here, too.

4.) Be a Good Partner

The people I worked with as part of my improv class were fantastic. They were so open, so eager, and so willing to try anything, which made for a great class. When you’re in a scene, you want to support your partner as much as possible so that they look better and as a result, you look great too. The scene works when you both feel comfortable, confident, and totally at ease with each other. For my blog, it’s about not making it too much about me. Yes, I’m a “life” blogger, but I always want to encourage others to share and comment on what I’m saying. I like conversations and I hope that this blog is a place for that. As a blogger, you want to tell a story, but you also want to spark a dialogue and hopefully contribute something meaningful.

5.) Tell a Story

This is what we do as people. We tell stories. In improv, we do it through words, movement, voice, character, and presence. In blogging, we do this by crafting words around topics that we feel compelled to write about. We write or we do scenes because we have something to say and we want to do it in a way that’s interesting – and gives something back to other people. I blog because I want my voice heard, but I also blog because I want people to enjoy what I’m writing. It’s a gift, a challenge, and a joy to be interesting.

If I get a comment, a visitor that stays for awhile, or a smile, or a laugh, or even just a moment of reflection on something I’ve written, I’ve done my job – and it’s just as rewarding as seeing an audience light up or totally engaged.

Braving Bridal Hoards

A glimpse of the expo. I do have to say that the Scranton Cultural Center did a wonderful job with the atmosphere.

Oh, my. Well, that was interesting.

I’m talking about the NEPA Bridal Expo. It was overly warm, overly crowded, and all kinds of awkward. Normally, I’m pretty positive about everything – but this? I sort of make a cringey face when I think back to it.

Sadly, I didn’t win anything. The whole reason I went was to try for door prizes and to get ideas. I wanted to check out vendors and learn more about some possible venues. I only walked away with one idea that I thought was really unique.  I was disappointed to only see a couple of vendors there that I had remotely considered for services. The rest were either way out of my price range or just not my thing.

Like, there had to be an entire row’s worth of hotels. Some were venues, others were just offering specials for couples needing rooms for out of town guests (which is great and all!), but I would have liked to see more diversity of vendors in that department. What about the event centers? The restaurants? The picnic groves? The non-traditional spots? The barns, taverns, and country clubs?

I would have liked to see more caterers present, too. Weddings are so much about the food and I would have enjoyed sampling or at least seeing more menus. I only saw one dedicated caterer (which is one that I’m considering) and a specialty candy and ice cream buffet provider. Sadly, there were no bakeries to be found.

There were some photographers, some travel groups, one limousine company, some DJs, one florist, a couple of spas, and a dress shop. Where was the diversity? Where were the untold vendors I hadn’t heard about yet? Was I expecting too much? Perhaps.

I also would have liked to see more budget-friendly options. So much just screamed…excess. Like, really – who needs a frigging laser light show or light up furniture? Or not one, not two, but THREE DJs for one evening? Seven open bars? I get it – it’s your big day, but can the brides who don’t have much to spend get the same attention? Can we have more budget-friendly vendors? Pretty please?

Okay, enough with the ranting. Maybe it’s limited for a reason. Maybe it’s expensive to get a booth. Maybe the vendors don’t see a great return and that’s why there are so few. I don’t know the reasons, but what I do know is that I really wished there could have been more options.

The whole thing wasn’t bad. The fashion show had its moments of hilarity, particularly with a little boy hamming it up as the featured ring bearer model. I got a couple of interesting swag pieces and a few coupons I might use. I made an appointment to try dresses in December to test the waters in that department. I spent time with my Mom and took advantage of whatever free food samples were present. You can never go wrong with chocolates, fruit, or mimosas bubbling over in a fountain.

But he entire experience reaffirmed that I’m really not like most other brides. The amount of vapid conversation I overheard was just incredible – it sort of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So much vanity. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was all sky high heels, perfectly coiffed locks, bitchy attitudes, and a disregard for budget. Rubbing up against each other in overcrowded aisles. With purses. OH MY GOD THE PURSES.

It’s sad that weddings have become so focused on appearance, rather than what the event is really about: the coming together of two people with those they love in celebration, community, and hope.

When I think about the best weddings I’ve been to, I think about how great of a time I had. I don’t remember the bride’s gown or what lighting concept was present. I never can think of what the wedding cake looked like. My biggest priorities as a bride fall in line with what I remember about weddings I’ve been to: good food, good music, and a good time had by all. And I know that my priorities aren’t the same as other brides – and that’s okay because it’s your day and your dime. I do, however, remember if the bride was acting like a jerkface or if the couple looked totally in love.

Thank goodness for my Mom. She spent the day wisecracking with gems like, “What’s with all this your mother crap? What happened to those days when they thought I was your sister?”, “Is that a booze fountain? We need one of those. We’re all about the booze fountain.”  and of course, my favorite, “Look at that action. Hot. Mess.”

She sums it up perfectly. This event was kind of a hot mess – but at least I feel better knowing  what I want and don’t want as a bride.

 

 

 

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