I'm Mandy, a mother of a handsome handful of a toddler. I'm the wife to a relocated Jersey boy at heart for almost five years. I'm a "youngster" in "Corporate Legal America." I'm one-seventh of a dynamically loud and loving family. I'm a woman with newly-diagnosed hypothyroidism, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Metabolic Syndrome trying to find a course of treatment that works. I'm a twenty-something trying to find her way on a journey to discover faith, friends and fitness. Most importantly, I'm me. I'm just trying to figure out who that is exactly...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Forever Road...

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. . .And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Photo taken by Roob Photography.
On February 11, 2006 those words were spoken on one of the greatest days of my life. I knew that I was marrying my best friend and that in front of our friends, family, and God that we vowed to be one. I, quite honestly, have not understood the true meaning of those words until just recently.

Life isn’t perfect. It’s a rollercoaster. There are ups, downs, twists, turns, and bumps along the way. Our relationship has proven to be the same way. We heard that we would never last, and that the terms of our courting had set up our doom.

At the beginning of 2009, I was beginning to determine if those who did not believe in us were correct. There was no passion. No sense of belonging. No sense of that deep love we felt for each other. Did we move too fast? Did we skip key points of our relationship? Could I really spend the rest of my life loving this one man? Had I truly missed out on dating and was he the soul mate I said he was?

I know the same doubts were going through his head. Mistakes were made on both parts in an attempt to find ourselves. A lot of these mistakes were made on our parts to intentionally hurt the other person and to get back at them for making us feel the way we did. I know that I have not been innocent in our summer of “candy-coated demise.” Instead of trying to mend what was stretching and tearing apart my heart, my past, my future, I was trying to get that sense of belonging and being wanted in other places.

Before jumping to conclusions, there was no adultery committed in the physical sense. But in the mental sense, we were both to blame. But yet, we were putting the blame on the other. Instead of being there for him, I tried to get back at him. We were told about a book from a movie. We both put our hearts into the Love Dare, but not fully. It was when I found the book from the movie, Fireproof, and read it that I was changed. He then read the book. We watched the movie. We hashed out everything that happened.

And all the wrongs were forgotten. We rejoiced in the truth. We realized that we hadn’t protected or trusted. It was when we did that, with the help of hope, that our love persevered the hardest thing we had ever done. We didn’t give up on each other when it was the easiest thing to do. Many of our vices and temptations are gone now. We now know that there is no greater friend and no greater truth than in our spouse. We realize that mistakes are just that. Mistakes. Disposable.
Or so I thought.  Christmas Eve 2009 was one of the worst days of my life.  Prepared to give him a copy of the new Love Dare book, I found out that things had not changed for one of us.  The actions he was partaking in the past had reared their ugly head not even a month after our heart to heart.  For the first time in our marriage, I was fully ready to give up.  Take the ring, move out, but I get the child.  I spoke those words as I threw the book at him.
"Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave,
may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight
but it's something worth fighting for.”

You could have cut the tension with a knife.
Photo taken on Christmas Day 2009 by my father.
I'd like to think that those actions, along with long talks with our pastor and my father brought him to the light.  It's as if a switch has been turned on and he is a new man.  2010 has been a true blessing to our love and devotion.  Love is worth fighting for, if you have the right person to fight for.

Let me take this moment to say this. Blake, I now understand the true meaning of love. You have given me that. I fall more in love with you each day. You have given me the most amazing gift of your love and I am eternally grateful. I eagerly anticipate our life together, but I now realize that each and every moment must be cherished. I thank God for seeing us through the difficult times, and for helping us pave the forever road to our Happily Ever After.

"Don’t worry baby,
I ain’t no maybe.
Rain or shine,
this love of mine is for you
Let my arms remind you that
I’ll always be beside you
holdin’ on until this ride is through.
So away we go, down that forever road"

Photo taken by ShawnaMarie Photography


Thursday, September 16, 2010


When posting a comment to another blog, I realized that my comment would make a good blog post of my own.  This isn't just about weight loss, but it's about my training for life.

If you would have told me that at the age of 25 I would be married to a Jersey boy that I met on the Internet, the mother of a 2-year-old, and a Billing Assistant at a law firm, I would have laughed you out of house and home.

Let me explain...

My entire life I wanted to be a teacher.  I only played teacher with my friends, and I would never settle for being a student.  School shopping was often the highlight of my summer and I LOVED school.  I was not a "teacher's pet," but I genuinely loved helping my teachers.  I had everything planned out.  I first wanted to be a special education teacher.  I was accepted into a prestigious program at a good university.  Family tragedy hit, and I moved home.  When I transferred to a university closer to home, I dabbled in social work.  I was working with adults with disabilities, but realized that wasn't a career.  I went "home" to education.  This time, however, I went to early childhood education.

I was fully immersed into the program and got into the School of Education.  Excitedly, I started my first semester in the program and realized that there were so many politics that I could not handle it.

At the same time, I got a job to pay the bills as a Medical Biller.  I thought to myself that when my fiance' (now husband) and I had children, I could do that on the side and give up teaching for a bit to raise the children.  His mother did that, so I thought I could as well.

It hit me that instead of doing medical billing on the side that I could go to school for that.  So I did, and graduated from a local technical college with an Associate's Degree and a certificate.  I worked my way up as far as I could at my job, until my age proved to be a barrier.  Being 25 apparently meant that I was not management material.  It was then and there I realized that it was time for me to move on.

I started looking for a different position and a job recruiter asked if I was opposed to billing in a different field.  When I said no, she told me about a job billing for a law firm.  I shrugged and thought that there was no harm in going to the interview.  I interviewed twice and did not get the job, again because of my age.

Not discouraged, I began looking for other legal billing jobs because through the interview process my interest peaked.  I happened to find one, interviewed and the rest is now history.  I know bill for the second-largest minority-owned law firm in the United States.

I love what I am doing and I love that I can be a full-time mom and focus on one child (with one more in the future, God willing).  After our local school district laid off hundreds of teachers, I knew I had made the right decision.  After being a mom for over two years, I also realize I could NEVER be a stay-at-home mom.

Am I where I thought I would be?  Of course not.  I thought I'd have my Bachelor's and would be going for my Master's.  I never thought an Associate's degree would satisfy me.  I never thought that I would be working at a law firm.  But I also never thought that I would be happily married to a man from New Jersey with a beautiful child at 25.

I've quickly learned that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.

In the closing scene of the Broadway musical, Rock of Ages (starring one of my FAVORITE American Idol alumni, Constantine Maroulis), the narrator states that "sometimes the dreams you come in with, may not be the dreams you leave with."

Thanks to Elle for the picture!
Eye candy aside, that's how I feel about my life.  Whatever dreams I do have, however, are slowly turning into a reality.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Define "Plus-Size"....

This is Crystal Renn.  She is a beautiful model who is well-known around the world.  I do not hold that against her.  I do, however, hold the fact that she is known as "plus-sized" against her.

She is not plus-sized.  Anyone who thinks that she is plus-sized should be rudely awakened from their dreams.  The media for letting people believe she is plus-sized should be ashamed of themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to plus-sized...

I am plus-sized.  I always have been plus-sized and always will be plus-sized.  Even though I am losing weight, I will still be plus-sized.

I am round and proud.

I am not trying to lose weight to be skinny.  I am trying to lose weight to be healthier.  Let me get that straight right now.  I am not a skinny girl ready to break free from my shell.  I have hips and curves that I know how to use and would be lost without them.

The fact of the matter is that this is why there are eating disorders in this world.  Girls are being raised (by the media) that she is plus-sized.  And unfortunately, in our society, there is a stigma that plus-sized equals laziness, overeating and sloth.  Never do we think that there are genetics involved.

That is why I am writing this blog.  To prove that plus-sized bodies deserve plus-sized (and not narrow-minded) beliefs.  If I have even changed the mind of one person, I have fulfilled my purpose.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm so...

If you're a 90's child like myself, you know this Saved by the Bell video.  And you've laughed at it, undoubtedly.

But think about it for a second.  Haven't you ever felt like that?  Let's be honest here, we all have.

Examples, you ask?
-Graduating high school and going to college
-Meeting the one and getting married
-Having a baby
-Finding the perfect job

You are all excited at first.  Life is great and it couldn't get better...and then the anxiety kicks in.  What if college isn't all it's cracked up to be?  What if that person isn't the one?  What if I'm a horrible parent?  What if I do something to screw this job up?  Now you have completely scared yourself.

Well, my friends (and hopefully slowly growing faithful reading audience), I have managed to get myself into one of these pickles yet again.  Except I went from fear to hope to a combination of both (depending on the moment, quite honestly).

First, a little background.  Went to the doctor for a physical in June.  My thyroid level was extraordinarily high, so I was put on thyroid medication.  After discussing things with my mother, who also has thyroid problems, I went and saw her endocrinologist.  In addition to the perceived hypothyroidism my primary care physician diagnosed, I magically contracted Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and metabolic syndrome as well.  I hit the proverbial hormonal jackpot.

Two new medications and a threat to lose 80 pounds or else consideration for bariatric surgery later, and I am scared out of my mind.  Backed by a wonderful support system of family, friends, co-workers, and the like, that fear turned into hope that I could in fact do this.  I set up a profile on My Fitness Pal (MamaMandabear -- feel free to add me as a friend) and started really watching what I ate.  I also really started a fitness plan.  The elliptical is now my best friend (and watching SBTB this morning is what prompted this whole entry, actually).

I can't help but shake the feeling that I will fail, inevitably, as I always have before.  I lose the weight for a bit and then gain it all back plus an added bonus of a few more.  I don't want surgery.  I also do not want to go back to bulimia.

Being a bulimic was probably the lowest point of my life.  Sneaking around, shoving my hand down my throat, hiding the scars on my knuckles and blood shot eyes.  And for what?  Nothing.  I quite honestly have no idea what I was trying to accomplish.  Bulimia is not like it is in the teenage movies where the weight magically comes off.  I got nowhere fast, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't give it up.  It became my drug.

I thank God each and every day for Cristian.  Becoming pregnant with him helped cure me once and for all of my bulimia.  Without him, who knows how much longer I could have kept the charade up.

Bottomline, I want to be in this for the long haul.  So if you get sick of my posts on Twitter and Facebook, I suggest we end this friendship now.  Not because I am an attention whore.  But because I need support.  Support is my lifeline right now.

My wrist says FAITH.  I suppose I should have some in myself.  That's always been difficult for me.

So at the risk of sounding like a bad 90's sitcom.  I'm so excited.  I'm so excited!  I'm so...scared.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sooner or Later...

I watched this amazing video via Parenting on Twitter and it really made me think.  My life has become such a routine, I forget how things were.  Before Blake and Cristian.  Before my job.  Before bills.  Before graduating.  Let me just say it, before LIFE happened.  Somehow I am twenty-five and an adult.  How did this happen?  I don't think I authorized this!

But I did.  We all do.  When we look forward to tomorrow or the next day or Christmas or our birthday, we are wishing our lives away.  When we want a day to end and to never be remembered again, we are wishing our lives away.  I am not saying this to depress you.   Just to make you think.  After reflecting with some of my co-workers about 1990's trends and fads, we realized that we missed our childhoods.  When we were head-first in our childhoods, we wanted to be where we are now.  Too much wishing and hoping for the future does not allow you to enjoy your present to the fullest of your ability.  Now that we're here, we want to go back.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself things at certain times, would you? Would you go to your five, six, or even seven-year-old self? Your twelve or thirteen-year-old self? The pre-high school you? The bachelor/bachelorette you? The person you were before children? If you would, what would you say?

I would go back.  There are a few things I need to tell myself:

*At 7: That little boy calling you "fat" is not a good enough reason to starve yourself.  Do not do it.  You get caught and do not even get to spend the money you saved.

*At 8: He was a jerk for throwing your brother in the pool, but you should have known he was a jerk.  What a waste of a first kiss!

*At 13: These friends you have will not be your friends in the future.  Do not change yourself for them.

*At 14: You are smart, but you don't need to take special tests or have a special diploma to do it.  Do not worry high school away.  Enjoy it.  It all works out in the end.

*At 15: Do not stop being friends with Renee.  I can't even remember why you stopped being her friend in the first place, which obviously means it was not worth it.

*At 16: He's gay.  Do not take him to prom because he is going to ruin it for you.  Go alone.

*At 18: You should have tried to work your friendship with your best friend in high school out.  You tried to run away from the problem, but that did not work out so well.  You were supposed to grow up together, not separately.  You didn't always have to be best friends, but you could have settled for a friendship of some kind.

*At 19: Yes, he is scary. And you do not understand all of what he's saying.  And he won't stop touching you.  But Mom is right.  It does all work out in the end.  By the way, they are all lying about him because the little one is trying to break you up.  Watch out for her.  And for his "best friend."  They are both nothing but problems.

*At 20: There are two types of friends you should get rid of.  One being the kind you should have never had in the first place because she is vicious and nasty and will cause nothing put problems (except for meeting the future Godmother of your child).  Second being the kind that you grow up with but grow apart from.  Cut her off sooner than later and you will save yourself a world of hurt.

*At 21: Drinking that whole fishbowl by yourself was not a good idea.  Do not ever do that again.

*At 22: Enjoy your sleep.  You are making the right move by switching careers.  Your heart is in education, but not politics.  You will find your way to a great job.

*At 23: Take weekly belly bump pictures.  Savor your time at home with him.  Watch him sleep.  Don't wish he start walking until he's ready.

*At 24: He loves you.  He just has a lot going on.  Don't doubt that he cares about you, but make sure you take care of yourself.  Get your finger from down your throat.  It's not worth it.

*At All Ages: Don't eat for comfort.  Working out is hard, but there are ways you can make it more enjoyable.  Cherish your moments with Nana and Papa -- you are going to miss them more than you can ever realize.

I fell victim today of realizing I had fast-forwarded through my son's first years of life.  All of a sudden, he's a toddler reaching up for me and crying "Mama no go!"  If you know me, you know I could not be a stay-at-home Mom.  But I really wanted to sit with him and play all day -- at least the moments he's a good boy.  I can't let that happen.

Yes, I am working out and eating healthier for myself.  But I'm also doing it for him.  So I can be there for the long haul.  To enjoy all of the little things.

So I won't have to go back and tell my twenty-five-year-old self to live for the moment.  I, as a twenty-five-year-old, am going to do just that.  The dishes and the laundry and the bills and even sleep can wait.  Before I know it, he will be twenty-five.  I will have missed out on not only his life, but mine if I do not live.

In closing, my mom has a statement that she always says.  Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.  Stop worrying.  Just live.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Baby Steps...

Diets?  Been there, done that.  For most of my life.

Not anymore.

Yes, I said it.  I refuse to diet.  Why, you may ask, am I doing a blog about becoming healthier if I refuse to diet?

I am taking baby steps to become a healthier me, permanently.

With the help of this website, I am tracking my daily calories and exercise.  This is making me much more aware of what I'm eating.

Case in point.  Instead of going for two big plates of pasta and a small bowl of salad at a church dinner (more about that later) yesterday, I opted for the opposite.  I savored the pasta instead of inhaling it.

However, I am not going to deprive myself completely of ex-"trigger foods."  When donuts were brought in today, I took two Munchkins.  And tracked them.

Baby steps can seem like great leaps, however.  For instance, I downed my 8 glasses of water yesterday without thinking twice.  A little Crystal Light flavoring and I'm good to go.

Speaking of baby steps, it seems like yesterday when my Pooh Bear started taking his.  Today was his first day of preschool.  I really thought he was prepared.  We had been reminding him and coaching him for a week.  We got a new backpack, a new outfit, new shoes.  When he got there, he seemed okay.  Until it was time for me to leave.  He was not happy.  I know with time things will get easier.  And no, I did not cry.  It probably had something to do with him acting up before the big drop off.

Since it was his first day of preschool, it was my first day of a new routine.  Wake up earlier than normal.  Get both of us ready and out the door.  Drop him off at preschool.  Head to the Y.  Half-hour on the elliptical watching Saved By The Bell (90's TV seems to make the time go faster).  Shower.  Head to work.  Today ran smoothly, and hopefully (*knocks on wood*), it becomes the norm.

Half-hour on the elliptical went well.  I hope to increase the resistance and really make that half-hour work for me.  When I'm not laughing hysterically at how cheesy a show I idolized was, I do some thinking.

Today's thinking was about "The Learning Community (TLC)," a new program my church has started.  It's more than Sunday School, it's a real experience for both the children and the parents.  I was lucky enough to be considered as one of the teachers, and last night was our introduction into the program.  It was really nice to see everyone come together for a common good, despite our differences.  I am excited to teach the children, because I was an education major.  I did not want to deal with the politics, and now I am in an environment where I can teach without them.

So there you have it.  Today's lesson is about baby steps.  We all have to take our first steps before we start working in overdrive.