Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mama's Got a Brand New Blog!

Happy Mother's Day!

2 years ago I started this blog.  I needed a project. Something to play with.  A new creative outlet.  A place where I could vent my frustrations and tell my stories, and so Mandyland was born.

Mandyland has helped me rediscover my love of storytelling.

It's helped me find my voice, and what my niche should be in this great big blogosphere.

It's led me to a project that feels exactly rightly me.

Even more right than a blog with my name in the title.... go figure.

I know I've been gone awhile from Mandyland, but it's because I've been busy incubating a new creation.

Today, on the day we clebrate Moms everywhere, I'd like to introduce my brand new baby,

I told you Pep Talk Polly would be sticking around!

I am thrilled to present my brand new blog.  If you like Mandyland, I guaranty you will LOVE Pep Talk Polly!

Be sure to stop by "Not Actually Polly" to learn a little more about the fun you'll have with Polly.

While you're there, be sure to check out my very first post.  To celebrate Mother's Day I'm interviewing my Mom.  One of the most positive people I know, who hates one of the most positive  activities I know.

It's the perfect way for a Mom in your life to spend a couple quiet minutes, so be sure to tell your friends!

Thank you so much to all of you have followed my journey so far!  I hope you'll follow me on my next adventure. 

Lot's of love,


Friday, March 23, 2012

Does Your Soul Dance?

Pop, Country, Heavy Metal, Punk. If you're breathing and have a pulse, chances are there's a type of music that has you nodding your head, and tapping your toes whenever you hear it. A good beat, some fun lyrics, and the next thing you know, you’ve got your own private dance party.

Or, if your childhood was anything like mine, a dance party in the kitchen during after dinner dishes. Seriously, the best party in town, just ask my siblings!

Music plays a vital role in the human experience. It connects us and helps us express feelings and ideas in a way like no other. Yet even knowing this truth, until recently it hadn’t occurred to me how truly powerful a force music can be.

Have you ever felt your soul dance?

Just before Christmas, Mr. Man and I attended our first Mumford & Sons concert. Fans since first hearing their music on the radio, we impatiently endured the opening acts, until finally the big moment arrived.

The stadium lights went dark, and the jostling crowd was left in total darkness, excited, anticipating, breaths held.  Then, slowly out of the darkness the voices came.

If you can, click the link below before reading on. They opened with this song.

For the first two minutes, we all listened in the dark.  There were no fancy theatrics, no lasers or smoke, just the dark and the melody.  I felt the goose bumps rise, and a strange aching begin in my chest.

As the rhythm quickened, and the beat grew stronger, the stadium flooded with light. There, standing before the crowd, were four average guys, with simple instruments, and strong melodic voices. Singing of love and redemption, singing from their souls.

Love, it will not betray you,
Dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free.
Be more like the man,
You were meant to be.
The beat, the cadence, the words, as I listened the ache in my chest spread to my throat.  My heart raced and I felt close to tears. Nodding my head and tapping my feet, I was struck with a clear and brilliant certainty.  

My soul was dancing.

My background is Scottish, Irish and English, but I never lived in these cultures.   I lived in Newfoundland as a small child, but I don’t remember much.

Yet, this music.  So rooted in the places of my heritage, stirs a longing homesickness in me that I can hardly explain.  The beat of the drums and jig of the fiddle connects to a memory never realized and long forgotten.  When I hear this music, I feel the need to dance and sing and laugh.  To be surrounded by friends and family, raising a glass to health and happiness.
So, the next time you are mindlessly swaying to the rythm of your favorite music, take a moment and really listen.  Maybe, just maybe, if you pay close attention, you'll feel it too.

The pure joy of your soul dancing!

Enjoying the nuances of life,


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bedtime Stalling Tactics

I love L'il Critters! 
As I write this Miss M is yelling my name from the bedroom. This has become the nightly norm.

For many of you the phrase, “Someday I hope you have children, and they’re just like you!” might ring a bell. Not that I was a perfect child, but I can honestly say I never actually heard this uttered.

Yet, here I am. With a child, and she’s JUST. LIKE. ME.

For as long as I can remember I have always had a love hate relationship with sleep. My parents used to say it was my fear that I would miss something really fun that kept me awake. Whatever the reason falling asleep quickly and easily has always been a struggle for me. It seems the minute my head hits the pillow, my brain goes into overdrive, concocting brilliant creative ideas, that leave me plotting and planning late into the night. 

Up until about a year ago Miss M was a champion sleeper. If she was tired she would announce to whoever was listening that she wanted to go “night-night”. Then suddenly some vital developmental switch was flipped and we were introduced to the  Bedtime Stalling Tactics.

Perhaps you recognize a few?

Questions: Once tucked into bed, with parents backing out the door the child will have various life or death, must know the answer now, or they couldn’t possibly go on, incredibly important queries. Miss M’s favorites have to do with if she will be going to her sitter’s in the morning, what we are having for dinner the next night, and most importantly if she will have to take a nap the next day.

Like I said, LIFE OR DEATH!!!

Stuttering: Your previously speech capable child will suddenly develop a stutter while asking the aforementioned “life or death” questions, or in Miss M's style, 

“Wait, Mama! I have to tell you something… um… um... but, but, but.”

Sure that the longer she draws the statement out, the longer she’ll get to stay awake, my cool response is, 

“Enough! Get your BUT to sleep!”

Excessive Affection: Your child will suddenly crave affection as if you were leaving town and never returning. This one’s a tough one, because what parent can possibly turn down a hug and kiss from their child.

Especially one with Working Mom Guilt! Can children smell guilt as well as fear?

As Mr. Man and I are tucking the blankets around her and turning off the reading lamp, Miss M will plead for one more kiss, one more hug, “a BIG hug this time”, lots of kisses…. *sigh*

The Perfect Sleeping Conditions: Suddenly every single aspect of your child’s sleeping environment must be perfect, or they won’t possibly be able to fall asleep. Have you ever heard of "The Princess and The Pea"? Well in our house, we have a Princess, but instead of a stack of mattresses, and teeny tiny legume, we have,

“Mommy the bathroom light needs to be on, and the hallway too, and don’t forget the nightlight... Daddy, door open please, oh… but not that wide, and No! More, that’s not wide enough, and actually I changed my mind, please turn the bathroom light off, and where is my teddy-book-dolly-flashlight-water…”

Then finally we come to the slam dunk of all bedtime excuses,

The Nightmare: Having fertile imaginations and a limited understanding of the world, all children are prone to nightmares. When your child is scared and screaming, any parent will find themselves on their feet in a heartbeat, racing to save the day. Except, when the child figures out it’s an easy way to dodge actually going to sleep. With a stunned look on her face the message is,

“How can you possibly send me back to bed, when I just dreamt of killer teddy bears trying to eat me alive!” 

While Mama’s "heartless" reply is,

“It's only been 3 mins since I kissed you goodnight for the 1 millionth time.  You haven’t had time to  even fallen asleep yet. Nice try short-stack! GO TO BED!”


How about you? Can you relate? Are you a parent who has encountered some seriously ingenious bedtime excuses? Or do you remember throwing some zingers your parents’ way?  The stage is yours, I love hearing your stories!

I’m thinking of investing in a stack of mattresses. At least they would keep her in bed!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Taboo Tuesday!

It's my very first Taboo Tuesday over at the SKORCH Network, and I'm so excited! This is such a big step for me, and I can't wait to knock it out of the park!

For its debut post, Taboo Talk is challenging the idea of Flattering. Good, bad, empowering, destructive? It's a whole big can of worms, so be sure to pop over and join the conversation!

Jessica invited me to write a column for her online baby, SKORCH, months ago. When she first brought up the idea during one of our bestie lunches, I felt honored. SKORCH has a massive following, and the idea of being trusted with creating content for this well-known brand was thrilling.

And terrifying!

Did you know that procrastination and fear often live together?

Every time I’d start writing an intro, or article for SKORCH, I’d end up snarled in self doubt. Hating every single word I put on the page. Judging, judging, judging….

See over Christmas I had an Ah Ha moment. At a party with family I hadn’t seen in forever, I was making the small talk rounds, participating in the “Where do you work?” and “What are you up to?”, when something inside me kind of clicked.

While listening to my cousins talk about finishing their medical residency, or entering into their masters program, I realized, I wanted something BIG to share.

More than just working as an office assistant, more than just being a wife and mother. I wanted to be a published writer. Someday, I wanted my parents to have the opportunity to brag that their daughter was a published author.

So, starting Jan. 1st, I got serious.

It started with taking a fabulous writing class, that helped me let go of my judging, and get back in touch with my love of writing. It’s amazing how much more easily everything comes when you are having fun!

Then finally, after working hard to build some content, I was ready. Taboo Talk launches today, and I have a few more reveals coming later this month. For the first time in a long time I feel in the zone, inspired and on the brink of something big!

So, in honor of flattering, and all good things to come, I thought I’d share the outtakes from the Taboo Talk photo shoot Jessica and I did on Friday.
Enjoy the laugh,


Waiting during light check... jeez modeling is boring!

Hmmm... how shall I take over the world?

Ohhh, robots! Of course!
Ack!  My nose is itchy!

Must not destroy my make up!

SERIOUSLY! We didn't get the shot yet?!?!
I like to think this is a picture of my soul.  Look it's even glowing!
And then, after all was said and done, an unexpected gem.  I love this picture!  Thank you Jessica!!! XO

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lucky Girl

Multiple high priority projects demanding my attention at the day job.
Desire to finally pour onto the page, a few of the story ideas now swarming around inside my head.
The Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Friend thing.

Not enough hours in the day, resulting in subsequent overload and shut down.

Until I received this…

This is an email from Mr. Man.  Mr. Man works an incredibly busy job, where he barely has time to scratch his ass.  Often when I receive emails from him they are pretty cryptic, as he only has a nanosecond to type them.  Usually it drives me crazy, but this time...

Is this Motivation to help get me through the projects at work?

Motivation to remind me that I have what it takes to succeed?

A cheer reminding me that he loves me and I rock, thereby Motivating me to continue rocking?

I think I’m going with all of the above.

Don’t hate me because I was lucky enough to catch a man like this,


Friday, February 17, 2012

Introducing Pep Talk Polly!

It's February.  It's grey, and today I’m struggling.

With the exception of the dark times of Little Miss Pessimist, I try really hard to remain optimistic and moving forward every day.

I DO NOT post negativity and “pity me” status updates on any of the social networks, and generally hide or block those that do.

My motto is please don’t drop your drama in my space.

I have a 3 year old with enough toys to cover the whole state of Washington, so it’s safe to say there is no space for you to leave your drama anywhere near me!

The only exception is made for Friends and Family in need. Whenever someone close to me is feeling sad or stressed or confused or lost I am there.

Anytime, Anywhere, Anything. They can call me and I’ll listen and be there.

Wait a minute... that’s a song isn’t it?

Actually truth be told, it doesn’t always have to be just friends and family. Clients, co-workers, friends of friends, acquaintances in my writing class, random shoppers at the grocery store…

It doesn’t matter who it is, or what their situation, if I sense they are struggling with something, my knee jerk reaction if to offer them some nugget of wisdom or advice. Something to help highlight the silver lining hidden within the personal grey cloud they are struggling under.

Then advice given, they can skip merrily on their way, and take their drama with them. That’s a fair trade right?

In fact I offer positive advice (both solicited and annoyingly unsolicited) so often that the other day I had an epiphany and wrote this down in one of my notebooks,

“Just Call me Pep Talk Polly!”

My super hero persona? Perhaps. One of the voices in my head? Certainly not!

Now, here’s the ironic part.

I am notorious for giving pep talks to each and every needy person I come in contact with, and generally feel obliged to point out the positive in any horrible situation I come up against, but I am completely incapable of doing the same for myself.

Even though I strive to recognize the good and positive all around me, sometimes I feel kind of lost.

My dreams and ideas seem too big, and I feel so small and insignificant. There are so many amazing talented people in this world, and I feel pretty normal and mundane. Sometimes, I have a hard time believing I will ever rise above and succeed.

Sometimes I really need the swift kick in the pants that only Pep Talk Polly can deliver.

It’s REALLY hard to practice what you preach.

While I’m struggling to walk-the-walk , I think I’m going to keep Pep Talk Polly around for a while. She seems cool, always good for a laugh, doesn’t take up too much closet space. I think we’re going to get up to some very entertaining hijinks together here in Mandyland. Best to stay tuned!

How about you? Got any alter egos? Or maybe you need a smack from Pep Talk Polly? Don’t be shy, we love to hear from you!

Naming the voice in your head isn’t crazy, right?


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Trophy's in the Mail

In recent weeks, I’ve noticed a few acts of parenting posted by friends on Facebook that went above and beyond the call of duty.

One Mom and Dad stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to blow up a bazillion balloons for their son’s birthday. Once they had them all blown up, they snuck the lot into his room and upon waking the morning of his big day, he was greeted with an ocean of balloons.

Then during the rare snow storm we were recently hit with, a father got up in the middle of the night and built a snowman in the front yard. The next morning when his 5 year old daughter woke up and peeked out the window, she spied a snowman completely surrounding by foot prints. Her only explanation was that the snowman must have been dancing to celebrate the arrival of the snow.

As I smiled over these moments, it made me remember a story of when one set of MY parents had deserved a medal.

It happened when I was 13.

My parents had recently finalized their divorce and my Dad was dating a woman name Michelle who had two young girls.

In an attempt to bring us together and let everyone get to know each other, the adults had decided we were all going camping.

The first few days of the trip were wonderful. We kids were getting along well and having a great time.

Then it started to rain.

Having lived in the land the Rain calls home for over 4 years now, I understand that oftentimes, you can simply ignore the rain and refuse to allow it to ruin your fun, but this was not that type of rain. Unlike a mist or light sprinkle, easily tolerated, this rain was epic.

Think monsoon, rainforest, Noah and his Arch! It was a downpour guaranteed to soak you to the center of your soul in seconds.

Not long after this H2O with attitude descended, we were ushered into the biggest of the tents, while my parents secured the campsite. I think maybe they thought, given the strength of the onslaught, the storm would quickly blow itself out and we’d be able to resume our regularly scheduled program. Looking out the mesh windows, I had my serious doubts. I could see my parents rushing about, their faces set in annoyed determination as, without the slightest sign of letting up, the storm raged on.

As my parents worried about damage control, my mind focused on an entirely different dilemma. Besides the obvious possibility of being washed away, the rain had thrown a serious wrench into the evening’s entertainment. The three other kids sitting in the tent with me ranged between 6 and 9 in age, and they had been promised smores.

As anyone with children knows, once a promise such as this is made, the child can think of nothing but the ooey, gooey, melty, chocolate and marshmallow, wrapped in a blanket of crispy golden graham cracker to come.

“Oh sweetie, look! It’s a rainbow!”

“What? Is it time for smores?”

“Hey, how about we all go swimming?”

“And then we’ll eat smores?”

“Who wants to catch a chipmunk and take it home as a pet?”

“Can we name it Bob…. And feed it smores?”

Sitting in the tent my 13 year old self instinctively knew it now fell on me to keep everyone happy, entertained and focused on ANYTHING except the s-word.

Except it turned out further distraction was unnecessary.

As I sat wracking my brain for something fun for 4 children to do in an 8 x 8 water logged pop tent, the entrance flap folded back and revealed Michelle dressed head to toe in a yellow rain slicker and holding a scarcely cooked, slightly mushy smore.

My parents had promised smores, and not even high water was going to stop them!

As we watched, my Dad and Michelle ran back and forth between a barely burning fire and our sagging tent to deliver one soggy treat after another.

To this day, I have no idea how they kept the fire going?

This was just one instance of brilliance in parenting that I remember. Being lucky enough to have two sets of amazing parents, I could probably write a book!

So how about you guys? Had an especially brilliant parenting moment that you are proud of? Or do you remember something your parents did that was awesome? I LOVE hearing your stories!

Remember, sharing is SEXY!!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

As Long as I'm Living....

Tonight, like many nights of late, Miss M called out in the dark. Her tearful voice full of fear called out to Mommy and Daddy to protect her from the monsters.

Shuffling into our room, hair tousled, eyes bleary, Miss M crawled into our bed to escape the terrors lurking behind her eyelids.

Gathering her into my lap, a bundle of blankets and softly hitching breath, I held her close. I whispered the nightmares wouldn’t get her, that Mommy and Daddy would make sure they couldn’t.

Despite her cries, I carried her across the hall to her room. Hysterical in my arms, frustrated and over tired, her despair broke my heart.  Sitting on the edge of her bed I rocked her. Back and forth, back and forth, I murmured soothing sounds.  Shushing and swaying I attempted to the drive the monsters away.

As I rocked, out of the dark a trembling voice whispered, “Mama, I want to go to the rocking chair.”

With a quiet affirmation I eased off of the bed and carried my life’s love to the chair in the corner of the room. The chair I'd spied in a random thrift store while still pregnant.  The chair I’d purchased on the spot, had the saleswoman wedge into the backseat of my car, and then spent hours painting the perfect shade of apple red.

Approaching that chair, Miss M’s tiny arms around my neck, I felt my heart flutter with excitement. It’d been forever since we’d last snuggled and rocked. My nights spent cradling a sweet suckling babe, were now replaced with a bedtime routine far more busy and boisterous.

Settling into the chair my sweet one leaned against my chest, long legs dangling on either side, now gangly arms tangled in the blankie snuggly wrapped around her shoulders. With our bodies properly arranged, I slowly began to rock, back and forth, back and forth.

My hand, as if possessed of its own memory, silently fell into the well-known rhythm, up and down, up and down, feeling her strong back, and its steady rise and fall.

As we rocked, her solid weight on my lap, my thoughts began to stumble.

“So big, when did my baby get so big?”

With feet moving the chair, fingers massaging her back, I began to hum Brahms’s “Lullaby and Good Night”. I don’t recall this song from my own childhood, but from the moment I brought Miss M home from the hospital, I've been humming this song. To sooth, to calm, to cure, to relax, no matter the situation I have instinctively hummed this tune.

Rocking together, locked in embrace, my little girl who can count to 20 and sing her ABCs. Who helps me feed the cats and insists on brushing her teeth "all by herself." My beautiful daughter, so smart and so independent, nestled against my chest, eyes closed, breathing steady.

Leaning my face over her soft hair, I kissed her smooth forehead. Leaning back, still rocking, still humming, and the realization hit me. Like a stinging elastic snap in my brain, four seemingly innocent little words.

“Not a baby anymore.”

Holding back my tears, I squeezed her just a little tighter, desperate to freeze her in this moment just a little bit longer. Yet, the words repeat.

“Not a baby anymore.”

That swaddled little peanut I brought home from the hospital has grown and developed into a full-fledged little girl. With her own ideas and indestructible opinions, she’s come through the first stage of her life, and is ready and excited for the next.

Not a baby anymore, a big girl now.

The thought repeats, "a big girl now", and yet a small insistent voice inside is not satisfied.  Piping up, it calms me.

“She will always be your baby,” it whispers “always.”

Slowing the rock of the chair, I shifted my baby into my arms, and carried her over to the bed.  For now the terrors are gone, and Miss M is at rest.

My baby, my sweet one, my life’s love, asleep and dreaming dreams of color and light.

Smiling, I turn and leave.

No matter how big she gets, how much she learns, or how many new things she discovers, she’ll always be my little baby, and I’ll always be here to help her keep the monsters at bay.

As soon as I got Miss M back into her bed, I was so inspired that I wrote this post. It was partially influenced by one of my favorite children’s books by Robert Munch entitled “Love You Forever”.  Not that long ago Miss M and I would read it together, and when the mother rocked her baby “Back and Forth, Back and Forth and sang", Miss M. would rock and sing with me.

This book has always been one of my favorites, and could make me teary at the drop of a hat.  Now that I am a mother myself, it holds a new place in my heart. A place of undeniable truth.

"I'll love you forever

I'll like you for always

As long as I'm living

My baby you'll be."

Trying not to blink,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's a Tough Job But...

Most of the time being a parent is great. Miss M’s kisses and silly stories make Mr. Man and I smile every day. I mean look at this face!

But sometimes being a parent just sucks.

No, I’m not talking about the new wonderland of tantrums and attitude which rear their ugly heads in a child’s third year.

FYI for those of you without children… the terrible twos got nothing on what a dear friend of ours has referred to as the…

Satanic Threes

Oh yes I actually yearn for the “Days of Mo”.

Nope, I’m talking about the times you have to say NO when you really, really don’t want to.

It happened to Mr. Man and I on Sunday.

For weeks now Miss M has been asking us to take her to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).

Miss M has loved OMSI since she was an infant. The interactive exhibits are everything an active and curious child could want, and every parent in the Portland/Vancouver area knows it.

Mr. Man and I hate crowds, and on weekends OMSI is a mad house.

So whenever Miss M has asked to go to OMSI on a weekend when Mr. Man and I would rather have a root canal than fight the crowds our response has been,

“Awww, sorry Sweet Girl, OMSI is closed today.”

Yup, we are expecting our nomination for “Parents of the Year” to happen any day now.

But this past weekend was different. In a fit of working parent guilt, we promised Miss M that if she was a good girl at Gram and Gramps house, we would take her to OMSI.


Except, when we arrived at Gram and Gramps the next morning to pick her up, the telltale signs of sick were written all over her face. Her eyes were red rimmed and running. Her nose was congested. She had a cough, and her cheeks were flushed with the beginnings of a low grade fever.

After big hugs and kisses, and announcements that she had been a very good girl she asked,

“We going to OMSI now?”

Well, crap. We both knew OMSI was the last place Miss M needed to be. She needed to be at home, in her PJs, cuddled on the couch, with her blankie watching movies.

Did I mention that sometimes being a parent sucks?

We waited until we were in the car on our way home to talk to her about it. We suggested maybe we should wait until next weekend to go to OMSI, when she was feeling better and could have fun playing.

Familiar with the 5 Stages of Loss?

Denial: “But Mommy, I’m not sick! I wanna go to OMSI!”
Anger: “But Daddy, you said if I was a good girl, we would go to OMSI!”
Bargaining: “Mommy, maybe we could go to OMSI for just a little while, and then go home… okay?”

Then Depression, and this one was the worst, as it completely broke my heart.

Mommy and Daddy had promised, and she was really excited, and she’d been such a good girl… and Mommy and Daddy had PROMISED.

With her little chin quivering with frustration and sadness, and her sweet voice trembling as she insisted she wasn’t sick and she wanted to go to OMSI, we had to be the responsible parents and stick to our guns, because that is what being a parent is all about.

It’s not about your child liking you. It’s not about doing what’s easy. It’s about doing what is BEST for your child, even if it breaks your heart into a million pieces.

On Sunday I listened to Miss M cry with disappointment.

I told her that I understood she was sad, and I was sorry.

I explained that sometimes we get sick and it ruins the things we want to do, but that when we are feeling better, the fun things are still there waiting for us.

Daddy and I promised, with a capital P, that we would go to OMSI the following weekend and play for as long as she wanted.

I did my best to help her understand, but in the end, Miss M is 3, and so she cried.

So, how do you help a disappointed little girl move from Depression to Acceptance… the final stage of loss?

With distraction! We offered Mac and Cheese and a new Scooby Doo movie, instead of OMSI.

Like I said… Parents. Of. The. Year.

With lunch and a new cartoon to veg out in front of, in no time all was right again in the toddler-verse.

Well, except for the nasty bug that got a whole lot worse and that now Daddy has too.

Thinking about investing in medical masks,


How about you guys? Ever had to be the bad guy, even though you really didn’t want to? Any comments, feedback? I love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Las Vegas of Europe

Opened coffee creamers, Adam Sandler movies and European adventures.

It was one hell of a summer. Never one of those silly girls who declare after a week of dating that she is “in love” I felt totally out of my element.

Because I was…


In. Love.

After a mere two weeks of dating I knew this was it. This was the man I was going to marry, and Mr. Man knew it too.

But life is not like the movies. We knew to give our future the best chance at success we needed to wait. Our hearts may have said, go, go, go…

But our heads were much smarter.

After all, I was only in Europe to work and bum around for the summer. Then it was back to my studies at The University of Ottawa. I’d only completed 2 years of school and I still had 2 more to go.

Yup, I have never been blessed with good timing.

So after the requisite romantic weekend in Paris, it was time to say good-bye and brave the whole new world of…

The Long. Distance. Relationship.

Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnn.

It was a long two years, but thanks to surprise (and not so surprise) visits, really expensive long distance bills, choppy barely coherent webcam sessions and my summer work furloughs, we survived. We came out the other side knowing distance HAD made the heart grow fonder.

Watch out... I’m just full of clichĂ©s tonight!

We got engaged after our first year, and when I finally returned to Europe for good, we knew we needed a plan. See, in order for me to accompanying Mr. Man to his next station we had to have a marriage certificate (not to mention easing the whole immigration process), but being located in Europe a big wedding was out of the question. We just wanted to get “the piece of paper”, and have our “big day” later.

After a little research we knew that getting married in Germany was completely out of the question. The bureaucracy and complicated translation required was just way too much work! But how about eloping somewhere fun and new instead?

Finally we settled on Scotland. My maiden name being MacNeil and my Mom’s being McLeod, Scotland seemed perfect.

And FYI, as the title of this post suggests, it’s like the Las Vegas of Europe.

Well, minus the gambling and singing Elvis.

We simply sent in our required paperwork and documentation, with our requested wedding date, waited and few weeks and, VIOLA! One easy-peasy courthouse wedding.

We arrived in Edinburgh the day before our official day, and did the tourist thing. We scoped out the Royal Mile and the castle. Upon rising the morning of the big day we decided to cram in just one more attraction before the big “I DO”. Believing the tour was a mere 20 minutes we chose the creeptastic “Mary Kings Close”. A guided tour of a portion of the city that was walled up during a time of plague, it was reportedly haunted and definitely intriguing.

As we followed the Guide through the dusty twists and turns of another time, hearing one chilling tale after another, we lost all sense of time, and when we emerged an hour later squinting into the afternoon sun our only thought was, “Sh$t! We’re going to be late for our own wedding!”

Barreling into the hotel room we tore through our luggage, hauling on the bits and bobs of our simple wedding attire, and in 20 minutes we were back in a cab and hurtling towards City Hall. Out of breath and slightly sweaty we rushed into the appropriate office, and were greeted by the calm smiling face of our Justice of the Peace.

“Relax loves, we’ve got loads of time!”

She ushered us into her office, got us a glass of water and asked, “Do you have witnesses?”

“Umm…. we were told we could find them here?”

“Oh, absolutely! Shall I go find them, or would you like to?”

Pointing out that this was our first time and we didn’t really know how to go about finding witnesses, she told us to sit tight and rushed from the room.

15 minutes later she returned with two women.

“These will be your witnesses. Julie and Julie… they are on their lunch break.”

Greeting the newest members of our wedding party, we quickly went over the paperwork and having confirmed the details were correct followed our Officiate into a small room, with a podium. I gave our camera to one of the Julies, asking her to take pictures, and then took my place in front of Mr. Man.
We joined hands.

Simple vows were exchanged.

Rings were given.

A kiss was shared.

And in the blink of an eye I was officially Mrs. Man.

We celebrated in true Scottish style with a Steak and Haggis diner.

I still can’t believe that was 8 years ago. It was our first adventure as man and wife. We’ve had MANY MANY since, and I know we have MANY MANY more to come.

And I can’t wait!

Time flies when you’re having fun,


Monday, January 23, 2012

Boy meets Girl

In honor of 8 years of marriage, I thought I’d share, the crazy mixed up tale of how Mr. Man and I met, fell in love and eventually “made it official”.

Like most everything in Mandyland, the story is far from normal!

Mr. Man and I met in Germany. He was a serving member of the United States Air Force, and I was a Canadian Military Dependant. Mr. Man was stationed on the same NATO Base as my Dad.

Upon arriving the summer of 2001, to work and bum around Europe, my life changed forever.

We met the first day I arrived. Bleary eyed and fighting jetlag, I’d agreed to join my parents in attending a friend’s BBQ. When we arrived, my parents began introducing me to everyone, and amidst greetings and handshakes, I spotted Mr. Man across the yard.

It was NOT love at first sight…

But I was interested…. just not in that way. My first thought on spying Mr. Man was,

“Finally! Someone my age to hang out with!”

See, up until that point my sources of companionship were looking bleak. My choices were my parents, who although always a blast (see Oh, Oktoberfest? Um, Ya!), were… well… my parents. Or, my 18 year old brother and his stoner buddies…

I was 20… and not a stoner in ANY stretch of the imagination…



Now you understand my excitement.

My story of that evening is that Mr. Man and I chatted, and got to know each other a little bit. He talked about going to the clubs later, and I responded that I was totally jetlagged, but maybe another time. It was friendly, nice, and mostly normal.

I vaguely remember a line of conversation centered on wearing a fez and driving a tank…. So ya, definitely MOSTLY normal.

However, if you ask Mr. Man about his impressions of our first meeting… apparently, I was a bitch. Short, shutting down his attempts, cold…
I call bull and insist to this day I was charm personified… well, jetlagged charm at the very least.

As the evening wound to an end, I followed my parents to their vehicle and bid adieu to Mr. Man. I was secretly peeved he hadn’t asked for my number, but I figured we’d run into each other eventually. After all, the base wasn’t that big.

Fast forward about 5 days. Having not yet secured summer employment, and thereby lacking in further social introductions, I was BORED! In a country where the television was all in german and Facebook did not yet exist, I’d resorted to… puzzles.

Yup, you heard me… puzzles.

So, when the phone rang I was sitting at the dining room table attempting to assemble 1500 pieces of obscure European countryside, secure in my party-of-one status.

Imagine my surprise, when my Step-Mom called out that it was for me?!?

Well, I guess I wasn’t as repellent as he claims, because it was Mr. Man, calling to ask me out! After agreeing to call him when I was ready, I had just one question,

“How did you get my number?”

“Oh I asked Paul.” (A friend of my parents and his superior)

Hmmm, interesting. He got points for initiative!

Hanging up the phone, I turned to find my Step-Mom hovering right behind me.

“Who was that?”

“Umm, Mr. Man… you know from the BBQ?”

“How did he get your number?”

“Paul gave it to him.”

Cue Michelle, calling Paul, to rip him a new one for giving her daughter’s number out to strange men. I think she was joking… mostly.

About 45 minutes later, I was ready to roll, and called Mr. Man to pick me up.

“Great! Where do you live?”

“Gangelt, on Mecator Strasse, just off the traffic circle in Gangelt.”

Ha, that’s right! After only one week in Germany I knew exactly where to tell him to go. Just call me a master of directions! Drop me blindfolded in the middle of a field, without compass and map, and my keen sense of direction will guide me back! That’s right! I was practically a savant!!!

“Which traffic circle?”

Um, what? Which traffic circle? There was more than one? There are traffic circles all over the area? Oh, really? Oh, hmmm, well…

(I should probably confess this was only the first of many adventures resulting from an overly confident belief in my “keen” sense of directions. A story for another time…)

At this point, all the members of my family who had lived in Germany for MORE than a week, were out. It was just me and the dog. So, I cobbled together the best directions I could manage, which were generally useless, and had faith that Mr. Man would find me.

And thankfully, he did.

And we had ice cream and beer.

And I spilled my coffee creamer all over the crotch of my pants.

Which, although embarrassing, led to Mr. Man opening my creamer for me for the next 2 months.

During which time we were inseparable.

Which led to…

More to come,


Thursday, January 19, 2012


*cough* *sneeze* *sniffle*

Oh, it’s been a week!

That’s right, it’s plague time again in Mandyland.

Currently everyone is fighting some sort of crud…

Except our sweet angel…


Plague Carrying Mini Beast…

Depending on how you spin it.

Miss M. is generally doing okay. But Mr. Man and I had it bad.

As my Dad says,

“We had couds in our nouds”

On Monday we were all down for the count. Mr. Man, Miss M. and I spent the day laying on the couch, drinking orange juice and watching movies.

However, being responsible adults, Tuesday we had to haul our butts out of bed and get back to work.

Blearily, I made my way into the office, checked messages, got the update from the boss and decided around 9:30 that coffee needed to happen ASAP. Quickly grabbing wallet and coat, I made my way to my favorite local coffee slinger, Lotus & Bean.

Even when I’m feeling crappy this place makes me smile. Their Mocha’s are delicious and the owner Jen knows ALL her regulars by name. As soon as I walk through the door Jen, or a member of her amazing staff, is greeting me with a smile and asking if I want my usual. .

Oh and the apple fritters…. Don’t even get me started on the crispy-fluffy-tasty-divinity of the apple fritters!

So, greeted by smiles and the mouthwatering smell of coffee, I eagerly placed my order and as the last words left my mouth I had an epiphany…

It was official, I’d been assimilated.

Let me explain.

Among the commonly held beliefs surrounding Pacific North Westerners, I find two hold amazingly true.

1. You always know a native by the fact that they walk around in the pouring rain sans umbrella. Wholeheartedly convinced that if they simply ignore the rain, they won’t get wet.


2. They have taken your average cup of joe up about 100 notches, and they are very particular about personalizing it to their exact tastes.

When I first moved to the Portland area, my coffee order usually consisted of pointing to the menu board and choosing what sounded most interesting.

But now….


This is my usual order…

A Venti, non-fat, no-whip, extra-hot, Mocha (and sometimes I ask for an extra shot).

For those of you who don’t speak coffee, that means I want a…

Big as you’ve got, Mocha Latte, made using non-fat milk, heated till it screams for mercy, with no whip cream added to the top (and an extra shot of espresso added, for those days when I need a little extra get up and go).

Like I said... assimilated.

Now if I could just stop giving myself away by commenting “It’s raining cats and dogs out there, eh?

How about the rest of you? Ever had a moment when you felt like you’d officially adopted the native culture of where you’re living? I’d love to hear your stories of assimilation!

Until next time, enjoying my fancy cup of joe,


Friday, January 13, 2012

Stuck in Traffic

Since I live in Vancouver, but work in Portland, “Stuck in Traffic” is a phrase I utter almost every day.

Whether it’s morning or afternoon, the traffic between the two cities generaly sucks ALL of the time.

Yesterday’s commute turned out to be an extra specially awful brand of suck…

I hate sitting in my car doing NOTHING…

So, I grabbed my camera out of my bag…

Now I know why Jessica is always taking self portraits in her car. The light is amazing!

Besides, when you’re going ZERO miles an hour, what else is there to do!

Happy Friday!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Personal PSA...

Happy 2012!

Although we’re a few days in now, I’m feeling so excited for the New Year filled with amazing opportunities and exciting adventures. The slate is clean and the outlook bright. I have so many goals and projects on my dance card, that I can hardly contain my excitement!


Lately, it’s been hard to maintain focused and positive, when I feel like I’m drowning in…


Despite, my past tangles with Little Miss Pessimist, I have been embracing my inner optimist and feeling good!


As I leave work after a long day, I walk into the parking garage and see a piece of white paper wedged into my car door. Retrieving it, I read the angry scrawled letters,


The right tires of my vehicle are barely 6 inches over the line.

Shaking my head at the unnecessary and nasty message from the self-proclaimed parking police, I crumple the note and throw it onto the seat next to me.


As I lounge, looking for a little entertainment, I am confronted with a Realty TV invasion. The variety is staggering, and each is more humiliating and demeaning than the one before. Participants subjected to bullying by expert judges, the worst moments of human nature celebrated, and genuine heartbreak broadcast in glaring HD.

(I know there are some shows that are inspiring and uplifting, but sadly they are the exception and not the rule.)


Desperate to escape, I open my laptop, and pull up a recent CNN opinion piece. Written by a fellow working Mom, I can immediately relate to her honest confessions. I identify with her longing, doubts and insecurities. I admire her courage to share her fears with the world. As I finish reading, I scroll down to the comments, and what I find sickens me.

“Stop whining…”
“Who cares…”
“How offensive…”

Nasty comment after nasty comment floods the screen and I am heartbroken for the women who had so sincerely bared her soul.

With the new social media culture and anonymity of the internet, it seems everyone has embraced their inner Playground Bully.

Whatever happened to, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”?

When was constructive criticism replaced by name-calling and nastiness?

I completely acknowledge every individual’s right to their opinions and beliefs. I support free expression and the passionate exchange of ideas. I believe that through discussion and debate opposing sides can gain perspective and valuable insights from each other.

But hate, sarcasm, belittlement and patronizing should never enter the conversation.

See, it’s not just that I believe in manners and polite civility.

It’s more than that.

I believe the seemly innocent negativity that begins with a snide comment here and unnecessary judgment there, eventually mutates, grows fangs and turns to sinks its teeth into the creator.

As individuals attacking the weaknesses in others, begin to recognize the same weaknesses in themselves, an unrealistic idea of perfection is formed, leading to the judgments and hate turned inward.

How can they ever achieve their idea of perfection when they are so obviously stupid, ugly, poor, fat, uncool, untalented, uncultured....


Sound familiar?

Well this year I say ENOUGH!

This year I encourage everyone to eradicate the sources of negativity in your life.

If it’s not constructive, or offering positive feedback, then disregard.

In turn, aim to offer only constructive criticism and support to others.

Don’t allow the negative, bullying culture into your world.

And if the idea that positive actions attract positive outcomes is true…

Then we should all have an amazing 2012!

Pimping the positive vibes,


Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Mom

57 years ago today Ruth and Rod McLeod welcomed to the world their first child, Karen Jean McLeod.

25 years later, she became my Mom.

Then 28 years after that, she was by my side as I became a Mom.

Here she is with the teeny, tiny Miss M.

My Mom is quite possibly the most loving and positive person I have ever met. She is ALWAYS there when I need her, and always dolling out exactly the medicine I need.

If I need a shoulder cry on, her arms are spread wide.

If I need to whine and complain, she’s there to listen. Uttering caring words of understanding, and then giving me the swift kick in the rump I need to take action and fix whatever the problem may be.

She helps me understand that I am not a super hero, I am not perfect, and that I can’t control everything.

When I begin spinning out of control, rapidly rising off the ground and into the stratosphere of the unrealistic.

Piling on too many expectations.

Being too hard on myself.

Trying to make everything perfect.

My Mom is there, reaching out, grabbing me firmly by my big toe, and hauling me back down to earth.

Whether I like it or not.

She has instilled in me a love of the written word and a passion to create.

Growing up she was never without a good book, and she was always exploring new creative outlets.

Ceramics, knitting, needlepoint, and most recently quilting.

Her creations are gorgeous and I treasure every gift she creates just for me!

Her smile is genuine and her laughter contagious.

I love it when I can make my Mom laugh!

My Mom is beautiful.

She is bursting with a loving kindness that only further enhances her physical beauty.

My Mom's love of her family is unconditional.

She tells me I’m amazing and talented and smart.

She says, I never cease to amaze her with my ideas and goals and dreams.

She encourages me to never give up.

To dream. To believe. To act with the certainty that I have what it takes to achieve anything.

My Mom is my rock.

And today is her day.

So, Happy birthday to my amazing mother!

Enjoy your day, soak up the attention and know you deserve it all!

Wish I could be there to celebrate with you!

Love you!!!!