Pop Goes My Cherry… Losing My BlogHer Virginity

Welcome to BlogHer14

Welcome to BlogHer14

Note:  I wrote most of this post, on the plane home from BlogHer14, five days ago. I was feeling energized, excited and enthusiastic to share the experiences I had there. But re-entry was not easy. I got home to all kinds of transitions and issues, and my writing has suffered all week… along with my emotions. Today, I’m trying to recapture some of the sparkle I felt a week ago, by finally loading photos, summarizing and posting this.

Also, please note the links here. If you click them, you can check out all the incredible bloggers and experiences I enjoyed at the conference.

First, There Was a Dream… Or At Least A Desire To Get Away:

I’ve wanted to go to BlogHer for several years. But, honestly, I’m not sure why. I’d read a few things about it, and it sounded cool. Because I blog, people often asked me if I’d been, and I began to feel like I should. But, if truth be told, I was a true virgin– when it comes to BlogHer. I’d visited the website; I kind of knew what it was all about; I wanted to be part of this thing that so many people buzzed about.  Like many virgins, I was both anxious to go all the way, and really nervous. There was lots of hype, but what if it wasn’t all I’d heard it would be? What if I found myself let down– Or worse, what if I gave up my virginity and ended up alone, and disappointed?

Unlike my first boyfriend, who promised it would be great, but left me feeling… well, let’s leave that for my memoir, no offense to said “first boyfriend.”  In the interest of full disclosure, at my age I’m not an easy lover. I’ve come a long way from that girl who followed my first boyfriend– blinded by love, into the world of adult relationships. I have a good life, and I’ve come to expect that when I pay as much as BlogHer costs, I’ll have my socks rocked. I’m not that woman who finds the sparkly good in everything– I’m a bit more pragmatic, despite my ability to also be swept away.

Do You Know The Way To San Jose? (and that song/joke got a lot of play…)

While I may not think that the cost was entirely worth the hype, BlogHer14 delivered in ways I had not anticipated, when I packed my carry-on bag (pragmatic, right?) and headed to San Jose, nine days ago. I signed up for the whole kit and caboodle, figuring that I might as well dive into the deep end, rather than dip my feet in the shallows, so I signed up for Pathfinders. I arrived knowing no one, and decided right up front to put myself out there and see what came of it.

“I’m here by myself. I plan to go to the bar for a drink and then get dinner out tonight. Anyone want to join me?”

I posted that message on the Attending BlogHer14 Facebook wall, with it’s nearly 900 members. Chirp, chirp, chirp. I got a few likes, but no responses. Admittedly, I was a little deflated, but I’m not afraid to eat alone, so I figured I’d dress up a little and head out with my Kindle.

When The Fireworks Started:

Then, just as I was ready to leave, I saw two posts from other bloggers. The first, from Lisa, said: “Just got in from Seattle. I’m staying at the Fairmont, and I’m sitting in the bar with a glass of wine. I’ll be here until 5pm if you want to join me.” Wait! I’m from the Seattle area; I like wine, and I was staying at the Fairmont. It was 4:41pm.  I’m on my way down! Where are you sitting? I desperately responded. The second post announced: “We’re on our way from San Francisco, anyone want to have dinner?” From Julie and Chloe. Yes! I’d love to join you; what are your plans? I typed. (hoping I didn’t sound needy in addition to desperate). I sent the messages and left with my iPhone, just beginning to feel the needy and desperate actually slither in a little.

When I got to the bar, my messages informed me that “Lisa” had gone to her room, but would come back down to the bar. There was a new response from “Tonya,” saying that she’d be right over too. There was nothing on the dinner invite. I grabbed a seat in the spacious bar at the Fairmont and waited. And then, it all began to change and unfold… in magical and surprising ways. Lisa (Journey Cook)– a marathoner, mother, traveler and cook– and I found each other and instantly bonded over our shared geography, similarly aged kids, and countless other dots that connected effortlessly.  Ahh, I felt the anxiety begin to melt; I began to relax.

Then Tonya (Women Do Everything) arrived– A fireball from the minute she walked in; Tonya is a home maintenance expert who exudes chutzpah and verve. I liked her instantly, and we kept finding each other all weekend. Right away Tonya informed me that Julie and Chloe had responded to the dinner post, and that they’d be meeting us in the lobby shortly. As I got to know Lisa and Tonya, I suddenly had dinner plans with two other women, who I hadn’t previously met. Hello and welcome to BlogHer14!

Lisa was tired and excused herself from dinner, but Tonya and I found Julie (Fabulous Blogging) easily, and Chloe (INSERT BLOG) showed up shortly after. While we all took a little time to get a feel for each other, it was remarkably easy. It felt like I’d met them before, and we all fell into easy conversation, easy restaurant choices, and an evening that organically morphed into a spirited dialogue on aging, home-improvement, sex, marriage, blog development, and the empty nest… to name a few hot topics. Julie is a web and blog designer, whose smile is equal parts impish fun and the ninja her business card promises. Chloe (Chloe of The Mountain) is a labor and delivery nurse, wise women and hot mama, whose sharp wit kept me dizzy all weekend. All three of them had been to BlogHer before, and as we talked and laughed and connected, I found myself more and more enthusiastic and hopeful, that BlogHer14 would not let me down. I’m not sure I could have imagined a more dynamic start to my weekend!

After the initial (and infinitely disappointing) Pathfinder day, the full conference started on Friday, and some of the big magic kicked in. There are two bloggers who I have gotten to know on-line, and have come to like very much. We’ve talked about meeting some day, but that day kept slipping past us… until this conference. Emily (The Waiting), was a Voices of the Year winner, and she’s been a wonderful support in my blogging, and a friend behind the scenes. Amy (Amy Reese Writes) texted me and let me know that her son would be competing in a sports event in San Jose, and asked if I’d meet her.

Hello Universe, thanks for that dollop of icing, on my double-fudge weekend.

Together, at last!

Together, at last!

I was thrilled! Emily and I met earlier in the day and felt an instant bond, which comes from late night chats online, sharing our writing, and feeling like we’ve already filled in the blanks. She was so much quieter than I expected– a true southern woman, with a charming accent and introvert demeanor that I didn’t anticipate. It was a wonderful surprise, and reminded me that there was more to learn about her.

me, Kylie, Emily and Amy

and it gets better… with: me, Kylie, Emily and Amy

Amy showed up at the conference center late afternoon and we laughed and erupted in happy connection. Again, having shared our stories on-line, there was a comfort level that made our meeting seem so much easier and organic.  I have come to envision so many bloggers as extroverts, based on their posts and online presence, and one big take away this weekend, was that our written voice is not always our in-person voice. Amy is soft-spoken, listens fully, and thoughtfully. Her smile sparkles in person, even more than it does on-line, and it felt easy and happy to connect the two images. Emily joined us eventually and we all shared a glass of champagne, and the selfies that dominated the entire weekend… BlogHer14 having designated it a “Selfiebration.”

If I Were To Leave You With One Kernel… But I Never Stop When I Should:

There were so many amazing moments over the weekend. But, this first night sums up what was for me the best part of attending BlogHer14, the easy, dynamic, amazingly real connections I made with other women, who I had not known in person before, or in some cases known of, just days before. Time and again, other women bloggers introduced themselves, jumped into fun conversations, offered advice, or shared glimpse of their lives. They made themselves vulnerable, sharing their stories (at Voices of the Year) or listening to others; they patiently shared knowledge, without worrying about competition; they laughed out loud and danced with abandon. I felt part of something so much bigger than I’d anticipated, and I was so grateful to be there. There was an ease and sincerity that is sometimes lacking when women get together in other venues and I wanted to soak it up for as long as I could!  I’ve been a parent of 3 kids for 24 years now; I’ve spent most of my life around other women,  and the women at this conference were so inclusive and positive, it was amazing!

Famous People Were There:

Me and The Bloggess... clearly a bigger thrill for me, but she was delightfully fun.

Me and The Bloggess… clearly a bigger thrill for me, but she was delightfully fun.

The weekend was highlighted by Keynote speakers at each meal. Teneshia Jackson-Warner started things out on day one of Pathfinders and was a wonderful surprise. Honestly, I didn’t know who she was, but her kick ass history impressed me, while her down to earth availability was refreshing.  The biggie for me was The Bloggess, who wowed me with her humor, vulnerability and down to earth realness. Having read her work for so long, I expected a celebrity of sorts, but her warmth and sparkle are what really pulled me in. She was generous about signing books– posing for a photo with each of us, and taking a moment to chat. I’m a bigger fan than I was, and really enjoyed hearing her speak. Arianna Huffington was much funnier than I expected and full of one-liners,  in an entertaining  interview with hottie Guy Kawasaki. She preached the powers of sleep, something I admittedly could use more of, and I her “No is a complete sentence” was a true “Aha” moment for me. Now, to convince my family…  Ms Huffington’s book signing was much more “wrangled” and rushed. Kerry Washington from Scandal was lovely in person, but not as interesting from a blogging/writings perspective. She was charming and very grounded, but I wanted more from writers.


If This Was Losing My Virginity, There Was Also Some Masturbation Involved:

I took enough Selfies to be permanently labeled “Lame” by my kids… Now that I’m home, I’ll give them that point. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as I tried to win a new computer, popularity, a date with Guy Kawasaki, and other sundry things that first timers want. My Twitter account, which is usually quiet and boring, was exploding with evidence of my virginal journey. It never occurred to me that other innocents were out there trying to turn their feeds off.

The Summary That This Whole Post Could and Should Have Been… But I Talk To Much:

There were big hits and there were big misses over the weekend:   I was touched by The Mrs’ (watch this video!) magic mirror and “I’m enough” campaign; I was insulted and bullied by Khloe Kardashian’s security team (as I innocently stood in a public pathway, and got myself pushed).  I met countless amazing women who get where I’m coming from. I wasted money on a Pathfinder day with two authors– one of whom was narcissistic and the other who was boring, and seemed unhappy to be there (neither of whom offered anything unique or informative, or anything that wasn’t read from their slides, or worth the extra $150). The food was lacking at times and the water was all together missing– there really should have been a hash tag #where’sthewater? or #gotwater? because it was blistering hot and there was no water to be found! But there were free slushies at the Sonic booth and free shots of flavored liqueurs and bottomless popcorn, in the Expo hall. I got to meet two women who I’d known on line and now count as friends, and was introduced to a new blogging friend, Kylie Minoque (The Life of Kylie), who joined this epic meeting, and helped make my second night fantastic too. There were secret deliveries to my room– something that equally weirded me out, and thrilled me.  I took selfies at every sponsor booth, every event possible… but I didn’t win any prizes. There was hours of dancing to Rev Run at the closing party, and shared Happy Meals with Emily. After a nine year hiatus from McDonalds, this was as good a place as any to go there again, and the best company possible.  When I got back to my hotel, the closing party was topped off with a jello shot party in a room filled with badass amazing bloggers like Chloe, Julie, Gunmetal Geisha (who has a real name, but I was star-struck), and Aussa. If I hadn’t been so tired by then, I might have stayed… and gone blind.

Oh yes, McDonalds made me smile... or, that's what I would say... to win prizes!

Oh yes, McDonalds made me smile… or, that’s what I would say… to win prizes!

The Morning After…

And so I’m home. My BlogHer cherry is popped and no one here gives a rat’s ass that I felt like a princess for a few days. It doesn’t matter that a few people said “Oh my gosh! You’re Tales From the Motherland!” (Seriously, that moment would have been enough), or that I loved spending time with so many cool new friends, or that I got lots of free swag (admittedly, most of which was not worth the $25 baggage fee, when my no longer pragmatic self had to shamefully check my luggage!), or that I felt juiced to learn new tech terms and figure some things out. No one cared that I got to meet Michelle Weber, my personal Word Press goddess (and fellow semicolon fan)– whose coolness in person is only trumped (a teeny bit) by her über- cool gravitar (deserving of 2 dots over the u).  No one at home cares what a gravitar is. So, there is re-entry; there’s the morning after.  There is this d post-mortem. BlogHer14 may not have been perfect for everyone, but for me it was a dose of much needed encouragement and fun, for the part of me that I most want to encourage. It was a boost for my creativity and passion, for my dreams and goals, and for four sparkly days, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone here thinks… either.

Other Posts I’ve written or enjoyed About BlogHer:

Putting My Best Foot Forward (Tales From the Motherland); Come Fly With Me (The Waiting); BlogHer14 Recap: Is This The End of BlogHer? (Chloe of the Mountain); Meeting Bloggers in Real Life (Amy Reese Writes); BlogHer: The Good, The Bad, and The Awkward (Aussa Lorens).  There are so many, but honestly, my week has been crappy really full, and I haven’t had time to write, read, or poop.

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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 400 likes this year), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief. © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks. If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.


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Putting Your Best Foot Forward, at BlogHer 2014

Live from BlogHer 2014!

Note: All feet were photographed with permission. No feet were hurt in the making of this post, aside from independent shoe selections.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a shoe girl. Some might even suggest I have a problem… perhaps a small addiction.  I prefer to view it as a deep appreciation for floor-level aesthetics. I’ve been known to meet new friends, based on their shoes. That may seem a tad petty to some, but I would argue that you can tell a lot from shoes; they’ve rarely steered me wrong. I’m certainly not hurting anyone. I’m not a hater; I don’t judge. I do like some shoes more than others, and I tend to be interested in the people who wear them. Let’s be honest here, I’m not alone in my pedal-ardor. (Yes, I did just make that up). I know that there are other women who enter Nordstrom’s shoe department with the same lustful enthusiastic expression. There are plenty of women who spend much more on their shoes and have a much bigger shoe collection than me; and, there are plenty of women who do not. But in the big picture, I don’t feel any need to apologize for this. To each his own, shoes.

Arriving at the 10th anniversary BlogHer convention, I was a bit unsure about navigating it all on my own. I didn’t come with friends. I only know of one other blogger who will be here– I can’t wait to finally meet Emily, at The Waiting. Another blogger I enjoy,  won’t be at BlogHer but will be in the area: Amy, from AmyReeseWrites. BlogHer 2014 is huge! I’ve been wanting to make it to the conference for several years now, and it’s so much bigger than I imagined! More people, more networking, more choices, and shoes beyond my wildest dreams! These ladies brought it, and from what I’ve seen on day 1 and 2, they put a fair bit of thought into their feet. Pedicures in every color, shoes in every shape, size and style!  It only took me about an hour inside the San Jose Convention Center to start gawking.

My feet were taking it all very seriously... walk, walk, walking!

My feet were taking it all very seriously… walk, walk, walking!

Then… I started taking photos. “Excuse me, can I take a picture of your feet–” My feet? “Well, your shoes?” This is BlogHer; these ladies have a sense of humor! They are open and curious– willing to play along. Many asked right away if I was planning to blog about shoes– they are also a savvy group; they got my angle pretty quickly. Others were confused, unsure, or simply unwilling to go along– “My feet look horrible!” (None did). “Oh, I don’t have a pedicure.” (Who cares? Not me!) But most smiled and planted their feet together, a few posing for good measure. Groups of women moved in together and shared their collective foot portraits. The few men I asked, were amused, but game. One assured me, “Wait until you see what I’m wearing tomorrow! This is nothing!” Given his style for today, I was instantly intrigued!

Several women had stories to tell me about their feet, or their shoes. We’re all bloggers; so we are inherently story tellers. “One of these toes isn’t real,” one stylin’ gal told me. I was mildly shocked, for one second. Maybe ten. I studied her toes, trying to maintain a cool demeanor.  They all looked real to me; they all moved. She realized the error and laughed, then clarified: she’d torn one of her big toenails off, gardening, and it had to be surgically removed. When she went for a pedicure recently, they were able to fashion a fake toenail that looks remarkably like the real one. I would never have noticed! Another woman shared that she had found a nail polish called Trolley Carpool. Since we’re near San Francisco, she thought it was perfect for this event.  I loved her enthusiasm! Some admitted that their feet hurt, while others shared that they’d chosen comfortable shoes based on previous BlogHer experiences– there’s a lot of walking here!

What amused me most, was that pretty much every one I approached was open to my somewhat odd request, and willing to go along. They were playful and fun to talk to, or completely practical– as if people ask to photograph their feet all the time. “Sure,” quick pose, and “thanks!” There’s an enthusiasm and sense of camaraderie at BlogHer that comes from having nearly 3,000 mostly women bloggers in one place. We support each other, and welcome the support in return. Folks are encouraging and excited to meet you. They are willing to answer a Facebook post (on the BlogHer site) and meet you for dinner on a whim, and then friend you on Facebook. There is a wonderful sense that you are with your tribe, no matter where we all traveled from. And a good many of us thought about our feet!

So, thank you, all of you bloggers who stopped to let me ogle your feet and your shoes. Thanks for letting me take your pictures. Thanks for saying hi, and laughing with me. Thanks for introducing yourselves. Most of you gave me cards, but I really have no idea which cards belong to people who let me take their pictures. If you recognize your twinkle toes here, and you’d like me to add a link to your blog, please leave a comment and let me know which tootsies are yours; I’d be happy to share the fun!

My feet, are going to bed!

My feet, are going to bed!

If you’re a shoe whore fan like me, you might enjoy this video. Warning, strong language, starting at minute 3, but Kelly always makes me laugh.


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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 400 likes this year), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief. © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

After the post: These shoes and feet were just screaming to be added!

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Friday Fictioneers: Smokin’, Babe.

friday-fictioneersWelcome to Friday Fictioneers, the best free show in town. Check out the other stories on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog, Addicted to Purple. Join us, or cheer us on. I always appreciate feedback that is constructive or kind. Please leave a comment.

I’m on my way to BlogHer 2014. If you’re going to be there too, please shoot me a message, and maybe we can meet in person!

©Marie Gail Stratford

©Marie Gail Stratford

 Smokin’, Babe (98 words)

“Seriously Gerry! You’ve gotta stop eating that shit!”

“Don’t make me choose, baby; I love the stuff.”

“You may love it, but I hate it! Look at my lips!”

“What’s the problem? I thought chicks were paying big bucks for pouty lips?” Gerry swatted Dee’s ass and grinned.

“You’re not funny! If I wanted duck lips I’d pay for them.”

“You mean, I’d pay for them…” He smirked again.

“Jesus! I hope you have heartburn; you deserve it smart ass.”

“Take it easy darlin’. I love my Sriracha, and I love kissing your puffy– err, luscious lips– Quack-quack!”

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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 400 likes this year), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief.

© 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

Any ads at the bottom of this page are not endorsed by Dawn Quyle Landau or Tales From the Motherland.



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Friday Fictioneers: Missing

friday-fictioneersI’m back! After 3.5 weeks in Scandinavia, I’m home and finally catching up on blogging, writing, reading, and laundry. Not in that order. It was an incredible adventure and I will be writing about it, over the next few weeks. So, if you’re interested in Iceland, Denmark, Stockholm, Vikings, Game of Thrones, or good rye bread, tune in. The Iceland posts are up already, but there’s so much to share!  In the meantime, I am leaving next Wednesday for BlogHer 2014 in San Jose, CA. If any of you are attending, please let me know; it would be so great to meet in person!

IMG_6042Speaking of meet and greets, I was very fortunate to meet fellow Fictioneer Björn Rudberg, while we were in Stockholm. He’s a busy guy, and I was thrilled when he and his wonderful partner, Charlotta, had some time to spare, on our last day in the city. We met for lunch, and while it was much too short, our time was a relaxed and lovely way to end my trip! My son and I both really enjoyed meeting them, and I hope we will have a chance to do it again one day.

Now, back to reality.  Friday Fictioneers is hosted by the multi-talented, and all-around good egg, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each week she presents a photo prompt, on her blog Addicted to Purple, and participants are encouraged to write a 100-word story; to visit the other stories and share feedback, and to do your best work. Visit her blog to read the other stories in this series, or join in the fun. This week’s photo comes from Adam Ickes’ hysterical photo. I always welcome feedback that is positive or constructive; please leave a comment and let me know you were here.



Missing (100 words, exactly)

“It doesn’t make any sense Sargent. It’s like they just evaporated!”

Detective Bill Jeffers held the thick file and scowled.

The case had consumed him for three years, but he was no closer to solving it than the day they’d found the Pryor’s deserted house– keys, wallets and cell phones sitting on the counter, but no sign of the young family.

“His business invoices suggest things were not going well, and a month earlier Jennie Pryor reported that someone rammed her car and fled.”

“But Tim Pryor vanished too, Jeffers.  Face it, these folks didn’t sneak off for alone time.”

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Note: This story was inspired by two recent stories in the news, of families who disappeared without a trace, and with little information. The first case, a CA family in 2010, was solved last year, when (sadly) the bodies of the parents and two young children were found in shallow graves. The second story, of an Alaskan family, is still unfolding.  In both cases, the adults and young children disappeared suddenly, and left few clues. My story sprung from reading those headlines… I’ve borrowed from the photo, but decided to be a bit more obtuse. Thanks for reading!

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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 400 likes this year), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief.

© 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

Any ads at the bottom of this page are not endorsed by Dawn Quyle Landau or Tales From the Motherland.




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Friday Fictioneers: My Ever Practical Boy

Here I am, again, in Denmark and trying to keep up with Friday Fictioneers! This week was a bit more challenging, with intermittent wifi and trying to type on my friend’s Danish keyboard. The next few days, we’ll be in Stockholm, and then home, later next week. Thanks for being patient, as I try to get to your wonderful stories… I always appreciate thoughtful, constructive feedback, so please leave a comment and tell me what you think! If you’re interested in reading more about my travels, check out my posts Incredible Iceland Part 1 and Part 2. I’d love to hear what you think!

Check out the other wonderful FF stories on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog, Addicted to Purple. Rochelle chooses a photo prompt each week (this week, Kelly Sands contributed) and then keeps us in line, with her wise words. Stories should be 100 words, with a beginning, middle and end, and we all make an effort to read each other’s stories. Join in! 

If I typed without effort, this is what it might look like with this Danish keyboard: I might have to tell you that youøre missing the ØquotationØ marks, or that the commas’ are not where they usually are… that there are symbols likeÆ instead of colon,  or € å ø § in the places where <i usually find my other symbols. When <i try to capitalize my i, it comes out like <i.  See, not easy! Next week… <iøll be very jet lagged, but happily typing from the home. What a grand adventure, but it will be nice to sleep in my own bed!  As always, thanks so much for you patience and kind support. 

©Kelly Sands

©Kelly Sands

My Ever Practical Boy (100 words, exactly)


”What about that one– do you see the dragon? There on the left.”

”That’s not a dragon, Mom, it’s a Raptor. See how the head is smaller and the jaw is powerful?”

Jake pointed to the outline of the dinosaur and continued.

”Raptors are related to birds, Mom. The bigger ones could tear a cow to pieces– if cows lived at the same time as dinosaurs.”

”It looks a bit like a komodo dragon, too… an angry one. Do you see it?”

”I think it’s just rain, Mom. Those are definitely storm clouds.”

”You’re so practical, kiddo. Let’s get inside!”

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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 400 likes this year), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief.

© 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

Any ads at the bottom of this page are not endorsed by Dawn Quyle Landau or Tales From the Motherland.


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Incredible Iceland, Part 2.

Iceland-political-map If you read part 1 of my amazing trip to Iceland, with my seventeen year old son, Little Man, then you know that we were on a break-neck schedule, and that Iceland was so much more than we ever expected. If you haven’t read Part 1, you should; Iceland is not to be missed!  Once we got moving, on day one, we realized we’d sorely underestimated how much we could do in four days and we were determined to fit in as much as possible. Horse-back riding, hiking, sightseeing, tasting, and climbing. On day three we woke at 4:00am and headed east for Skaftafell, a portion of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier on Iceland– representing nearly 1/6 of the entire island and one of the largest glaciers in the world! I’d been researching Iceland (minimally), before our trip, and had come across a combination Glacier Climb + Iceberg Lagoon tour, that = the Grand Slam tour, by Glacier Guides. It seemed to be a don’t miss thing to do; it was! No matter what you’ve heard about the infamous “midnight sun–” the all-night light that Iceland experiences in peak summer– it’s impossible to truly prepare for it. You spend all day trying to fit in every possible thing that Iceland has to offer (a tall order!), but getting to sleep at the end of long days, is no easy task! Our internal clocks were turned around, but as tired as we were, it was nearly impossible to settle down when it’s fully light out. Light slips through the curtains constantly tricking you into thinking morning has come, and each day it’s tempting to fit in one more destination, as you travel and the light shines on. The night before our big glacier tour, I couldn’t settle down, couldn’t get to sleep. The fact that I’d have to be up at 4am and drive 4.5 hours only made it even harder to relax… and before I knew it the alarm was going off!  Tired doesn’t begin to describe how I felt, when we got in our car and headed East. The roads were empty and there didn’t seem to be any enforcement of speed limits; I drove like a bat out of hell Mario Andretti with determination and solitary focus, while my co-pilot went right back to sleep! It was not easy, but the scenery was astounding! Ancient lava fields; lava covered with mounds of Dr. Seuss mosses; fields of cairns; soaring peaks; endless, black sandy glacier fields, and deep green valleys are among some of the amazing sites that kept me engaged and awake for my drive. I wanted to stop and photograph something, every other turn in the road, though I knew we had to get to Skaftafell in time for our tour.

I’d read that there was no lunch provided, and thankfully we found a Quiznos shop at a gas station, heading out of Reykjavic. It was lucky in that we managed to get lunch, gas and much needed confirmation of which road to take. Even with our navigational, it was reassuring to have our route confirmed, rather than try to read the dizzyingly confusing names of places in Iceland. One thing that we found every where we went in Iceland: very nice people! The Icelandic people must be some of the kindest, most helpful– some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met! We made it to our Glacier bus only ten minutes before departure and they informed us that we had to hurry and get our things on board to go. While we’d prepared from home, we weren’t really ready to jump on the bus, and exhaustion left me foggy and scattered. It was a blur as we threw on our hiking boots, grabbed our water bottle and got on board. The sun screen, binoculars and a few other items we’d planned ahead for, were left in the car. Luckily for us, it was a cloudy day, and fresh water (we would learn) was plentiful on the glacier!

Geared up and ready to go... that's the glacier, way off in the distance! This was work!

Geared up and ready to go… that’s the glacier, way off in the distance! This was work!

My husband is a climber. In fact, he is currently in Bolivia on a 3-week climb of some very high peaks. I am not a climber. Let me say that again, to be clear: I am not a climber. I prefer flat, winding trails, not ones that go up. Strapping on metal crampons and wielding an ice axe are not my thing–But I’m no weeny either. Thirty minutes later,  there I was headed up the enormous ice wall with metal spikes on my feet. I won’t lie, it was scary at times. Our guide was one more beautiful Scandinavian– let’s face it, they are unusually beautiful over here– but my focus was on the blue ice and deep crevasses that we had to avoid. The Icelanders are strikingly blasé about adventure and danger; I found it all a tad more alarming. While our guide was comfortable with the idea that if we fell into any of the deep holes along the icy surface, we were all wearing harnesses, so they could haul us out, I was not. I found myself very nervous for the first thirty minutes up or so. And then, I found my groove.

Below the spectacular icefall

Below the spectacular icefall

It was. Great. It was unbelievable! Hard work the whole way, but inspiring and stunningly gorgeous. I found myself overwhelmed by the close-up majesty of the ice, as well as its fragility. Our guide has been working on this glacier for 5 years and he had seen the ice melt back by alarming amounts. The photos of how much more ice there had been in the 1970s was that much more disturbing. Admittedly, I felt much as I do when I see clear-cut forest at home: a deep sadness for what we are losing on this magnificent blue earth, and so grateful that I could experience it.  What a thrill to be on the ice, exploring a history that is constantly changing! We filled our water bottles at one of the melting, rushing rives on the glacier, and that water was the best water I’ve ever tasted! We climbed to the icefall, which looked much like Khumbu icefall on Everest– stunning! The blue color of the ice, the formations, the mysterious quality of the scenery, is surreal and hypnotic. The sound of ice moving and creaking, of water melting and running down the glacier, in deep rivers that led to deeper holes. As a group, we snaked along behind our guide for four hours. My legs burned, my lungs did as well, as my heart rate went up and stayed there. In all, we hiked more than five miles up and down.  We lined up to look into a deep moulin (a hole that forms in the ice, often started by a rock and then made deeper by water melting a hole in the ice). This one was about 500′ deep and was thrilling and terrifying, at the same time, to look into. Our guide helped us across a thin, narrow bridge– one at a time, and then held us from behind as we looked into the hole– it was unreal! Have I mentioned that Icelanders are badass? They are. Frankly, being held by the back of my jacket, as I hang over a 500′ deep hole is scary; however, it was just another day at the office for our guide.  Badass.

It was an amazing day, and exhausting. It was four hours of hiking up, up, up and then working our way down, down, down… on four hours sleep. The ice axe was helpful in not losing my balance or in helping me leverage a little extra pull, but it was leg work… a day after the horseback riding, and on very tired legs.  Admittedly, there were moments when I just didn’t think I could do it, and others when I felt so exhilarated and thrilled, that I could have hiked on and on. The scenery was stunning the entire trip, the group fun and enthusiastic– from several locations around the globe. It was an especially amazing thing to do with my boy– something we will both, no doubt, remember for the rest of our lives. When we got back to the parking lot, we were immediately loaded into a 12 person van and headed to the iceberg lagoon. Driving along, it was miles of glacier fields: black sand, level flat and endless to the eye, on one side and the glacier on the other… it seemed that no matter how far we drove, the glacier continued.  The sheer enormity of it was truly unreal. When we pulled into the parking lot at the lagoon, the site was stunningly beautiful! A milky lake (sediment from the melting glacier) and spectacular blue, white and in some cases black/sooty icebergs floating on the still surface.

We geared up in our stylish red suits, and then hiked down to the icebergs...

We geared up in our stylish red suits, and then hiked down to the icebergs…

We all entered a large, open truck to get into our red space suits– or, that’s what they looked like, for our trip by zodiac, on the lagoon. Let me be very clear, some people looked much better in those suits than I did– my son for instance! I looked like a big red marshmallow! But they were incredibly warm. Toasty… even in the cold air. Then, it was another long hike down to the water. I was so exhausted by then, but I am sure I’ve never been anywhere like this lagoon– it was beyond amazing! We boarded the small boats, with limited talking… I think all of us were stunned by the size, color and beauty of the icebergs, in addition to the fact that few of us spoke the same language.

Yep, beautiful guides abound!

Yep, beautiful guides abound!

The tour consisted of a 30-40 minute in the boats, cruising around the lagoon, viewing individual icebergs and the lagoon at large. We paused twice as the glacier calved (when slabs break off) and the thunderous sound echoed across the water. The guides watched carefully, ready to pull away if the waves became too much. Our guide stopped at one point to pull a slab of ice from the water, and show us how crystal clear the ice was. He pointed out that the low levels of oxygen in the ice (just like the ice on the glacier) makes for the best ice in drinks! One woman on the glacier tour, actually loaded some into a Nalgene bottle, to enjoy with drinks later!  The colors were so beautiful, the time on the water so special. It seemed that no matter how many photos I took, none of them even began to capture what we were actually seeing– something I felt all day, as I tried to capture the experience.

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By the time we finish the tour, my legs were spent. The hike back up the hill just about did me in. I staggered to the van and I was out cold before we left the parking lot for the one hour drive back to our car. When I woke, we were back at our car and a two hour drive to the hotel, in Vik. Our lumpy beds were heavenly, after the endless day, but the hot tub– sublime!  Despite the bright night, I fell into bed dreaming of blue ice and magical landscapes that are other worldly. Each time I thought we’d seen the best… there was more. Part 3 will be our final day in Iceland. Check back to share more of Incredible Iceland.

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Incredible Iceland


I am currently traveling in Scandinavia with my 17 year-old son, Little Man. My husband was headed to Bolivia for a climbing trip with my 22 year-old, Middle Man, and I realized we’d have a lot more fun on an adventure of our own, than sitting at home waiting for them to get back. My son is a huge history buff, and Vikings are high on the list; we have close friends in Denmark, and our exchange student from 2 years ago, and her family, lives in Copenhagen. Denmark seemed a great option; the rest has been icing. There’s far too much to share in one post. This is part one of our grand adventure.

When my son and I put together our “Viking Tour–” a trip to Denmark with stops in Iceland and Sweden or Norway (we were free-falling; we left some of it open), Iceland was something that interested me, but mainly to see  the “Blue Lagoon–” Iceland’s Disney-like geothermal pools. I’d flown through Reykjavik a couple of times, on previous trips to Denmark or Europe, and the ads in the airport had long seduced me. Figuring there might be a few other things to see in Iceland, we added a four-day stop over, for free, via Icelandair. Big mistake. Big. Mistake!

Little did I know that we would fall madly in love with this volcanic iceland, and wish desperately that we had much more time to explore.

Upon arriving in Reykjavik, in what was late evening by our biological clocks, but 6am local time, we wearily got our rental car, plugged in the navigation (there was NO way I was going to try and navigate the vowel-laden locations on the map, without the reassurance of a dash board map), and headed to our hotel. It was 8am when we found the adorable OK Hotel, on the primo Laugavegur street, in downtown Reykjavik. We were starving; it was raining; we wanted desperately to eat and then nap, and I was worried about not impressing my 17 year-old son with my travel prowess. No doubt, I wanted to look solid and cool in his eyes. However, I felt like doo-doo, and entirely unsure of what we should do next. I was just beginning to question my free-fall itinerary.

The dining room in the OK Hotel was such a welcome site, and the lovely Icelandic young woman who waited on us, made us instantly feel at ease. She showed us how to feed the meters (harder than you’d think when not one word resembles anything you know), how to check in (there was no desk, but a number to call to register our arrival), and brought me the most delicious Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, wild mushrooms and spinach. Hello! At least I was well-fed doo-doo. After eating, we dragged our heavy bags up to the room– a quirky, cool room, with a lovely view of the city streets and harbor beyond– and fell into a deep sleep. What was suppose to be a one hour nap, quickly became 2.5, and I had to force us both up… and out into the gray, drizzly day.

And then, Iceland began to come alive. We got a little lost at first, but quickly found Hallgrímskirkja, the 244 ft church steeple and cathedral that dominates the city skyline. The enormous statue of Leif Ericson outside was a giant bonus to start our Viking trip. We wandered the streets, following our Lonely Planet map, to find the National Museum of Iceland next. Score again! What a gorgeous and very approachable museum. We spent about two hours exploring all of the displays, and soaking up the history and feel of Iceland. From there, were raced to the Saga Museum, hoping to find it before closing. The incredibly life-like silicon characters from Icelandic sagas are brought to life in this compelling museum. The stories were fascinating, but admittedly, I found myself staring at some of the characters, sure that they might move. At the end, my son got to try on real chain metal mail, and learned that it was in fact “very heavy!”  We ended our first very full day at a local restaurant that features a truly Icelandic buffet… including 3 varieties of whale. We were told that Minke is far from endangered, but it was entirely unappealing none-the-less.

Before going to bed, I began to piece together the rest of our time… beginning to realize that we couldn’t possibly do all the things we were beginning to want to do (should have done a lot more research ahead of the trip… but that’s a definite glitch in free falling), and that we’d need to get up early to get on top of our next day. However, we hadn’t really understood just how much the “midnight sun” would impact our inability to sleep. During parts of the summer, the sun literally does not set in Iceland; it is as bright at 5pm as it is a 2am. It makes sleeping very challenging, despite having been up for about 40 hours.

IMG_3496Our second day we found a quirky restaurant that Little Man found in Lonely Planet and then got on the road to explore the “Golden Circle.” First stop was Geyser (pronounces Geeser there). If you’ve been to Yellowstone, this is a disappointment, but it’s good to know that the largest geyser here is in fact higher than Old Faithful, and the drive there was astoundingly beautiful! The guide books warn that stopping to take pictures is ill-advised… clear to understand when you start to see that most roads in Iceland, IF they are paved, are two lanes. This is very challenging when you start to realize that every bend in the road is another “must have” photo op! We were blown away… dumb struck… amazed at the sites! Sheep abound, greener than anything I’ve ever seen (and I live in a land of green), the iconic Icelandic horses taking your breath away as they stand majestically in these stunning settings, endless fields of wild lupine, and landscapes that just take your breath away… it was all just incredible!

At Geyser, I became determined to get a ride on the Icelandic horses I kept seeing advertised and a young guy working in the shop told us to stop 7 km down the road. Thirty minutes later we were mounting our beautiful horses to ride to Gullfloss (Gull Falls)– waterfalls that are much bigger than Niagara and beyond description. I had almost skipped them, figuring we live around a lot of waterfalls at home– what was the point. When I told our guide that I was an experiences rider, I could see the skepticism cross her face. However, I have never ridden a horse like this! The Icelandic horses have an extra step in their gate, making it a 3 beat gate… and the most amazingly smooth ride of my life! My horse (whose name I could not pronounce) was spirited and determined to run… the entire ride. Little Man had only ridden a couple of times, and only on typical trail horses… neither of us was prepared for the joy of that 3 hour ride! At the falls, we dismounted, corralled our horses and walked down to see the falls… and then road back to the barn, passed one of the largest glaciers in the world– it covers 1/8 of the country! Having watched me post, and manage my very eager horse, and nearing the barn, our charming guide (Erin, in Icelandic), looked at me and said: “Wow, you can ride! Go for it!”  We ran the entire way back, and I had to stop myself from whooping! Three hours were gone in a flash… until we got down and had to walk. Note to self: when you haven’t ridden in say… a few years, a three hour ride will hurt later!

Our final stop of the day was Þingvellir (roughly: then-gla-vear), the ancient Democratic seat of Iceland, a very historical and spiritual place, and the site of yet another thrill for Little Man and I. Deep gorges, a walk along tectonic plates (an eery experience, when you really see how the earth has moved!), fantastic waterfalls and clear pools, and Game of Thrones… yes, as we walked along, I began to feel like I’d seen this place before– (Warning: spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen all the seasons)and like we might be watched. A few minutes later, we heard a guide explaining how the scenes from GoT, when the Hound approaches the Aery with Arya Stark. Yes! It was so clear… and suddenly we were giddy, and had an additional focus to our Viking Trip: the Game of Thrones trip. It would not be our first GoT site…


Beyond the incredible history of Þingvellir (a site where Democratic and legal decisions were made, officially, from 900-1798, and unofficially into the 1970s and mass gatherings were held), the geological landscape and the beautiful valley and lake were hauntingly special, almost eery, as the day got later and the sky a bit darker. Many of the tectonic rifts have filled with water, and there are areas where divers explore, and other places where you can wander and take in this other-worldly beauty. Our plan had been to head home on the early side, and visit the Blue Lagoon, but we were swept away, all day, and kept finding ourselves stopping at “one more site,” before heading back to Reykjavik– too late for Blue Lagoon. When we finally made it back to our hotel, exhausted and humbled by this place we’d planned to see in four days, we had already begun realized that we had grossly underestimated how much Iceland would capture our curiosity and breath.

I went to sleep at 1:00 am, the alarm set for 4am… to drive 4.5 hours to Skaftafell glacier, and the one big adventure we’d scheduled before arrival. We had no idea that we were about to be rocked completely!

(To be continued)

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© 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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