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10Questions Post: Hint: She leaps tall buildings in a single bound....

This week we have a bonafide Superwoman on the 10Questions.  Things she's done?  All made of stuff you'd see in the movies, AND she's also Super Inspirational.  AND she's beautiful, but super nice so you have to like her.

Q:  What's your name, and what do you do?
A;  My name is Mandi Thomas, and I am a mom of two girls, a wife, a personal trainer, and I am also in school to be a firefighter.

Q:  I think all of that is pretty cool and I happen to know that you are a pretty tough cookie.  You have also had another interesting profession while you were in the military.  Tell me about that.
A:  So, my job was Human Intelligence Collector, which is a fancy term for an interrogator.  As part of the requirements to be an interrogator, you have to learn another language, so I learned Russian;  I am fluent in Russian and in Interrogation Skills.

Q:  Wow!  So how has being fluent in Interrogation Skills helped you in your everyday life and as a mom?
A:  It's been really positive.  I'm good at building rapport with people, and not for bad reasons, but I like to know what people like so I can relate to them, and I can do that fairly quickly.  You learn what people's motivation is and how to relate to other people.  As a mom, kids are great because there is no motivation behind lying;  for them, it's when they get in trouble.  I find that adults lie for other reasons.

Q:  What people may or may  not know is that I know you because of your husband, who is my former student from my high school teaching days.  How did you and he meet?
A:  So Brett and I met when we were learning Russian.  I was an interrogator for the Army and he was an eavesdropper in the Marine Corps.  So I remember the first day of class walking in and scanning the classroom and seeing this GORGEOUS Marine in his uniform with these bright blue eyes, so I walked over and sat right in front of him.  We didn't get along right off the bat, because the Marines have this sense of pride about them, because of their service, and they should, because they work really hard.  But I think that the teachers of the class saw the potential we had as a couple, so they made me his tutor.  So we would meet every day over the course of a year and never dated during that time.  Our teachers were native Russian speakers, not military, so it wasn't like the military was setting us up.  But we started dating, and the rest is history.

Q:  One of your claims to fame is being a firefighter's wife.  Tell me about Brett.
A:  He is amazing!  He is an engineer in the fire department, he's a paramedic, and a SWAT medic.  That means that he goes out with Alachua County and Gainesville Police when they go out to serve warrants for human trafficking, meth labs, any kind of murder charges -- any time they go out for something like that, they have to have two SWAT medics just in case they're needed.  So there is an elite group of medics that go out with them, and Brett is one of them.  The police department does not have their own medics; the medics that go with them are the fire department's medics.

Q:  You have two beautiful daughters, Finley and Ayden.  What do you find that each of their "ness," or thing that they are naturally good at, is?
A:  Ayden is just makes people feel happy. When she was little, people would also say, "there's something about her." When she's with you, she makes you feel like there's no one else in the room.  Finley is the most kind and thoughtful and generous person.  Not just as a kid, but as a person in general, very sweet, doesn't like to hurt people's feelings.  I'm very lucky to have them.

Q:  So how did you decide to be a firefighter?
A:  I love training, but there's no retirement in it.  Looking into the future, I wanted to be able to do personal training, I have a special needs daughter, a service animal, so I wanted a job that was as flexible as training.  One night, I went to an awards banquet with Brett to see him receive an award, and there was not a single female that received an award all night!  It gutted me because I don't feel like female firefighters get enough credit.  It's a physical job, but also very mentally challenging.  I sat on this for about two weeks, and then I decided that I would do it!  It's not to prove anything, but I know I can do it and I want to do it.  Brett was completely behind me and a month and a half later, I was enrolled in fire school.

Q:  You have a dog that has an Instagram page!  Tell us about that.
A:  Summit is my 8 year old's service dog.  Ayden was diagnosed a few years ago with autism.  She is the first person in my life that I have been aware that has autism, so when we learned about the program I never imagined we could get a service dog because I thought that they would only go to families whose child has severe autism.

How we got Summit starts with a shopping trip -- Ayden and I were shopping and a store we went to had puppies in an enclosed area.  Ayden had the chance to play with them and I asked, where did these puppies come from?  I learned that they were part of a program that trains golden retriever puppies to be service dogs for people with autism.  Right away I knew that this was a sign from God directly.  I didn't think we would be eligible for a dog, but I called the very next day and set up an interview to talk with the organization.  I was surprised and pleased to learn that we were chosen to receive a service dog!  We started training the next week.

Q:  You are a beautiful woman, and you have a number of beautiful tattoos.  Tell me about this.
A:  I don't really have a philosophy, but I have been different my whole life.  I've had every color hair, I was a jock in high school but hung out with the skaters because they were the black sheep.  I say do what makes you happy-- if adorning your skin with color makes you happy and gives you that expression, then do it.  It bothered me as a young mom  that there was an immediate stigma that I was not a good mom since I had tattoos.  I finally got a tattoo that says SAVED on my arm.  I feel like that if a person wants to know about Christ, that they are probably drawn to someone that looks like them.  So if a person is more comfortable with tattoos than a person without, then that's my opportunity to share Christ.

Q:  I think you are a great role model, because you are strong, intelligent, goal-seeking, and truly care about people. And you just happen to be beautiful as well.  What advice would you give to young girls (and moms) today?
A:  It would have to be just to be strong and to be unafraid.  That can go for everything.  I'm getting ready to go into a man's world, training to be a firefighter.  As a firefighter's wife for 9 years, and I know what I'm up against, but I knew I could do it.  I believe that there is a purpose for whoever you are, whether you're a man or a woman.  I may not be as strong as them, but I can do some things that they cannot.  It's modifying things.  I do the same things, but I may do them differently.  So I guess my advice is to never be afraid to do what you want to do, even if you're the only girl heading to do it.  Find a way to do it yourself, you'll inspire more people, but never let being the only girl hold you back.  

Moms, take care of yourself.  Moms are selfless but what happens a lot is that we take time for everyone else in our lives but not for ourselves and you can lose your identity.  I am a mom, but I don't identify as mom;  I am Mandi, who also happens to be this and that.  Just remember who you were before you were married and a mom.  Find a hobby and be yourself.  If you don't, you'll hold a grudge and be ungrateful.  Just remember who you are and don't identify only as a mother.  Our families will be better for it.  I went from this super cool job as an interrogator and jumping out of airplanes to being a mom, and I wanted to do that 100% as well.

Check out Mandi, Summit and more at:
Instagram:  SummitTheServiceDog

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