Mandy Boyle

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

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Dresses 2

I Said “Yes” to the Dress

I wasn’t on the TLC show, but I did have my very own moment of saying “yes” to a garment that I’ll wear over a year from now. Not just any garment, though – a very, very special one.

Finding a wedding dress ended up being a breeze, which I’m thankful for. I’ve heard horror stories about countless dresses, scary fitting rooms, loaner bras, and a constant feeling of overwhelm.  I’ve also heard about all of the craziness that comes with being a bride, bringing anyone to an appointment, and having to make a decision. Wedding dress shopping sounded like it was going to be like a reality show, for real.

Thankfully, nothing like that happened to me. Sure, I had the loaner bra, tried on a bunch of dresses, and felt defeated when I left my first appointment feeling like nothing looked good on me. Those three-way mirrors, man. They get ya!

My first appointment, back in December, was at a been-there-forever bridal shop in Dunmore called Head to Toe Bridal. I made an appointment with them after going to my first wedding expo and wasn’t sure what to expect. My prep work for the appointment consisted of watching Say Yes to the Dress and reading up on “X Things to Know Before You Try on a Dress” or “Know Your Body Type: Choosing the Perfect Dress” and whatnot. What can I say? I’m a nerd who likes to research everything.

I walked in with a larger than average entourage in tow: my mother, my grandmother, two of my aunts, my maid of honor, and a gaggle of cousins. It was delightful for me (because they’re all important to me) but I’m not sure how the shop staff felt.

We got a brief tour of the stock, I got to walk through and flip any dresses I wanted to try on, and then the attendant assigned to me got them all spiffed up. She was super nice and very encouraging. I was petrified that I was going to get someone who was going to make fun of my purple tights (don’t worry – my family did) or express disapproval at my style preferences. Sorry, no P’nina Tournai sheer stomach panels or spilling cleavage for me. My kingdom for a neckline that doesn’t plunge!

I pulled a handful of dresses on my own – a couple tea length, one or two long ones that were non-traditional, and one that the salesperson recommended. My family browsed alongside me, pulling dresses they liked for me, which was an adventure to say the least (but in a good way). I tried on satins, ruffles, and some things that made me look preggers. See some photos below for your viewing pleasure. Don’t mind my awful faces. These were candid and taken on a cellphone.


A lot of losers, and only one left me feeling slightly pleased (the one with the tan belt). The worst part of trying on wedding dresses, for me, was finding out which cuts were unflattering. Heavy dresses made me feel heavy. If there wasn’t enough structure, I felt like an aimless blob draped in some manner of polyester or chiffon. If there wasn’t enough support, I felt…just gross.

Worst of all, I had my heart set on finding a tea length dress. It was what I pinned most frequently to my Pinterest board. When I thought about the dress I wanted to wear in my head, it was tea length. It was playful and elegant all at once. I wanted to be Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelley all in one (a slight departure from my normal Liz Lemon-dom). I wanted to be a real lady, dammit! And so, with every failed tea length, I felt my dream of pretty shoes and showing ankle slip away.

It’s an emotional roller coaster ride. On one hand, you’re feeling excited and hopeful about finding that magical dress that you slip on and don’t want to take off. On the other, you’re forced to get to know your body and see what looks good on you and what doesn’t. You also encounter some really shitty dresses that you fell in love with in the photo but try on and just want to cry. It’s a lot of emotional extremes – no wonder brides are shown going bonkers during this experience!

And there isn’t an article or an episode of a style-focused TV show that can prepare you for that. It’s an interesting dynamic for sure. There’s a lot of pressure and focus put on the dress, but it’s just that: it’s just a dress. Sure, it’s a dress you wear on a special day and it makes you look and “feel” bridal, but man, people laser in on it.

I decided to wrap things up and try again later. After all, I was buying a house – I had a lot going on and my mental energies needed to be put there. I promised to make an appointment again in the spring, once things had settled and I was in a  better frame of mind.

And I’ll admit, I was feeling discouraged. Trying on 15 or so dresses in my first appointment was a bit of a daunting task. Nothing was fitting right. I didn’t feel comfortable in anything. In my sane frame of mind, I knew that it was just the first appointment. I reminded myself to not lose hope and to remember that I would eventually find the right dress.

But doesn’t it suck sometimes? All the pressure? The build-up and expectations over finding a single garment that is supposed to reflect you on one day? I’ll be honest, it does.

I took a few months off. I focused in on paint colors and unpacking boxes as we settled in to our first home together. I didn’t think about the dress at all until a few weeks before, when I remembered that I should probably make an appointment so that my family and friends could plan around it.

I picked a date – May 3 – and started planning. It was going to be a busy weekend. A yard sale, the Dirty Girl Mud Run, and family visiting all in a few days. After the mud and grit was rinsed out of my hair, I headed down to David’s Bridal for an appointment with my mom, mom-in-law, grandma, and maid of honor.

We walked in and instantly I was pleased at the selection – it felt like there were more options within my budget already. We started pulling dresses, some of which I had found on the website when I was browsing a few nights before. The attendant, who was a firecracker personality, coached me through the picks.

We started off with a beautiful dress that was way too heavy. Then through a few unfamiliar silhouettes, some picks from the website, and a dress my family chose for me to try on.

 Dresses 2

I tried on 8 in total before it came down to the final three.

The first one was empire waisted with little cap sleeves, a bit of bling at the bust, lots of lace, and a flowing a-line silhouette. Very pretty. Then, there was a lace and tulle confection that I liked and was similar to the one I had liked best at my first appointment. They became maybes. I figured I would end up trying them on another time before deciding if I wanted to take the plunge.

But then, oh, then there was THE DRESS. It was the last one I tried on. It was tea length (SWEET MARY MOTHER OF GOD, THANK YOU!) with lace and an illusion neckline. It was a find from the website and I was in L-O-V-E. Game over. This was it.

I pranced out of the dressing room with a smile on my face. To seal the deal, they added a belt, shoes, and headpiece. Every time I looked in the mirror, I just blushed and glowed like a Christmas tree.

Everyone wanted to hate it, but they couldn’t. They signed, shrugged, and said, “It’s you, alright!” I got a little teary, but it wasn’t the earth-shattering emotional breakdown they make it out to be. I felt light and happy. I didn’t doubt my choice. This was it. This was exactly how I wanted to look as a bride.

And so I said, “yes”. It’s now hanging in my upstairs closet, waiting for next October to arrive. (not pictured anywhere above, for the sake of tradition, superstition, and the fact that Brent said he wants to be surprised)

Let’s hope finding shoes and headpiece is less monumental!

DISCLAIMER: Don’t worry, my Mister knows some details about the dress and has seen all of the photos above before, but he won’t see THE DRESS till the big day. I have to admit – we had a lot of fun looking at the dresses that were absolutely hideous together!

HOLY WHOA. I haven’t posted in awhile.

In the midst of moving, adulting, working on NEPA BlogCon and The Vintage Advisory Board, teaching, and host of other things, I forgot about you, Bloggy McBloggerson.

Photo By: Victoria Park

I’m so, so sorry.

Well, only kind of. I’m happy that while I was away from you, I was out living, doing great things, and really putting some of my new years resolutions to work.

But, I didn’t take the time to share. Or to hold myself accountable by hitting publish.

And for that, I really truly am sorry.

Because I missed you. I know, I know. You’re upset and feel neglected. I don’t blame you, I would feel that way too.

Let me make it up to you.

Things, Things, Things

January was a month of things.

Big Things. Like buying our first house and all of the stuff that comes with it, like moving, DIYing, and unpacking.

Small Things. Like the pleasure of having a dishwasher (I’m seriously in love) and not having to have three blankets on the bed to stay warm because your new place is well-insulated and you control the heat.

Too Many Things. Like having to pack and move a monumental amount of crap. Living without it for the past few weeks has actually been refreshing. I think it’s made us even more aware of things we can cut back on and be happy with.

Odd Things. Like the sounds our new refrigerator makes. They’re not bad sounds, but just different.

Busy Things. Like getting back in the classroom and having 160,702,370,558 things to accomplish around the big move (along with life in general). Oh yes, and work was insane for most of this past month.

Happy Things. Like my now cheery yellow kitchen (it’s a joy to cook in) and FINALLY having our first couch, thanks to the generosity of Brent’s mama and papa bear.

So, if I’ve been out of reach, stressed, or shorter than usual, I’m sorry. It’s been crazy.

As for my new year’s points, I’m doing better than anticipated. Since moving into our first home, Brent and I have been more conscious than ever of money. This is a good thing because it’s encouraging us to save aggressively and one of the side effects of that is cooking a lot at home.

The weeks before moving were full of takeout, simply because most of our kitchen was packed or we were too tired/lazy/busy/overwhelmed to try to cook anything. By the end of it, all I wanted was a homecooked meal.

This week and last, we’ve gotten busy in our new kitchen, whipping up family meals for the visiting parents, as well as ourselves. I’ve cooked every day since moving here pretty much and it’s WONDERFUL. It’s working wonders toward my point of “Eating real food, in moderation.”

I’ve found my portions are more in check and I’m thinking strategically about what to buy. Although, we did just have a monster grocery bill but that had more to do with restocking our kitchen after moving. I’ll be interested to see how things go once we get on a regular schedule with cooking and such.

Moving has also gotten me focused on my “move more” point. I did a lot of painting, moving, shelving, cleaning, and whatnot over the past few weeks and I have to say that it feels really good. When things calm down, I want to head back to the gym and keep this momentum going. Also, having a house has had me more focused on general housework/upkeep tasks so that’s keeping me busy too.

February is going to be a good month – I just know it. Getting back to a normal pace will be lovely, and to top it off, I turn 26 this year, so I’m anxious to start my 26 random acts of kindness to celebrate. Last year, I did 25 and I loved every minute of it, so I want to make it a habit each year.

I’ll be sure to document them again!

Whew! I feel like I just ranted a lot. What have you been up to?

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.

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