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 clich├ęs 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!!!!