This American is now driving on the LEFT side of the road and what she learned is something we can all … “Whoa! BEEP! Crash!”  

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I’m an American now living in Ireland where everyone drives on the left – or as some less generous folks might say – the WRONG side of the road.

Although we managed during the three years we lived in Italy to not own a car, it really wasn’t feasible here.  So, last month, my husband and I steeled our nerves and bought one.

Driving is something I had long taken for granted.  I have been guilty of tapping and talking on my phone, applying makeup, even writing notes while driving.

But now, with the ink barely dry on the sales contract and the new ignition card (it’s not a key) in hand, I am faced with getting behind the wheel on the opposite side of the car and driving on the complete opposite side of the road – making turns and everything– FOR THE FIRST TIME.

I picture Mr. Toad and his wild ride.

My heart is pounding. Oh-my-gosh is that a round-about? I have to turn to the left to enter it, right? I mean, correct?  Oh, no, I need to be in the other lane, this is a turn-only lane.  Oh-my-gosh the oncoming traffic looks like they’re coming RIGHT AT ME.

Okay.  Breathe.   I MUST be alert. Vigilant.  This is no time for complacency.

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The first couple of days are a challenge.

For instance, residential roads here in Ireland are incredibly narrow.  A single lane sized street will actually be intended for two lanes of traffic with the added hazard of cars being parked along the sides.  Shoulders do not exist.  Drivers will take up the full roadway until they see a car heading their way, then one will need to try and pull over to let the other head on through. It’s makes for a fantastically jerky driving dance, but somehow it works.

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Perhaps it’s because, here, drivers are very polite.  If you signal your intention to merge into a new lane, the car behind you will actually slow down to let you in, not speed up to close the gap like I am more used to!

I continue to take is slow and I’m getting more sure of myself every day.  I am learning a new skill and improving my confidence along the way.  It’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

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What challenges are you facing today? What project or endeavor is out there that you would like to do, or know you have to do, but are afraid to try?  What is holding you back?

Sure, you might be scared, but go ahead.  Go slow.  Be alert.

The people around you might be more encouraging than you imagined beforehand.

The only way you can accomplish something new – is to start. Even Mr. Toad managed in the end.

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

Kim Kardashian’s Bum

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Ah, the power of a headline.

Ms. Kardashian,  that (er, what to call her?)  – “ubiquitous media-personality” – was a hot topic on this morning’s radio talk-shows here in Ireland – and likely all over the Western world – due to a new photo shoot for New York magazine Paper in which she bares her ample backside – and more.

The images, just released yesterday, have already launched a  sturdy stream of internet memes with people parodying and er, cracking wise about her posterior posing.

After all the photos of this woman’s bum since she first launched onto the scene with her sex-tape back in 2007, why, oh why, seven years later, would another round of nude photos garner more than a collective shoulder shrug? As the radio DJ asked this morning,

Why is this woman famous and why is she in my life?

But instead of pondering that question a moment longer –  which of course, can be answered simply as “duh, sex sells,” I’d like to examine some headline writing tips that can be gleaned from all this silliness.

  1. Pique your readers’ curiosity – Admit it, you were curious about those dang photos. Maybe you indulged fully.  Maybe you completely resisted. Maybe you quickly peeked because you were piqued. Writing a headline that makes readers curious to learn more and turn to you for answers or insight, is a great way to build an audience.
  2. Link your cause to a celebrity or a news item- Obviously, you don’t have to always link your relevance to someone who is more famous than you (as I shamelessly have),  but I can tell you this week alone I saw more than a dozen writers referencing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to wear the same clothes every day as a launching point for their own observations.  In campaigning, we call this finding a solid “third party advocate” – someone who supports your message and is highly visible.  In the same vein, linking your point to a current hot news event or topic is common sense – but too often a missed opportunity.  
  3. Be emotional and/or fun – Most of us will welcome a quick read if it appeals to us emotionally. Take here, for example: For a few moments today, you got to shake your head, roll your eyes and think about the silliness of Ms. Kardashian’s photo shoot.  And you got a few headline writing reminders along the way.  Not bad.

Yesterday, one of my clients, who has been closely monitoring the analytics of his recently-launched blog, remarked that he sees massive upswings in the number of hits he receives depending on the style of headline he writes.

So, whether you’re writing blogs, white papers or even preparing a presentation – where “headlining”  will become part of your introduction – spend time strategizing about crafting an engaging beginning.  A dynamic headline is what compels your audience to  sit up, pay attention and take interest in what lies ahead.  Or, as in Ms. Kardashian’s case, what lies behind.

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Are you going to miss your train?

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How do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel?  Do you stay with a project or endeavor too long? Or not long enough?

This week I was in Dublin – where a lot of the rest of the world was also gathered for the highly-touted Web Summit.  I had just finished giving a communications presentation and was in a taxi to Heuston train station.   What should’ve taken only a few minutes’ drive, was nearing an hour.  We sat unmoving.  Snarled and stuck in the jam-packed Temple Bar district.  I remarked aloud to my driver, “Well, I better look up the next train since we’re clearly going to miss the six o’clock.”

“Never say Never!” he quickly replied.  Gerald Murphy was his name and already from our conversation in the cab, he had demonstrated his indomitable Irish spirit.

I looked at my watch.  We had just ten minutes.  Even in regular traffic, we’d be unlikely to make it in my opinion.  I began to tap in Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) on my phone.  The next train didn’t leave until half-past nine. I wouldn’t get down to my home in Cork until almost midnight.  Ah well.  Some things you can’t control.  I’d call my husband later and let him know.  I wasn’t angry, mind you.  Simply resigned.  To my mind, missing my train was a done deal.

But not to Ger (as he had brightly told me to call him), “I’ll turn right here and zip past the lot of ‘em!”

As he zigged and zagged, I continued tapping and thought of an article about reining in one’s optimism recently featured in the New York Times.  The writer stated that “positive thinking often hinders us.”

Her point was that we shouldn’t be blindly optimistic, but rather strive for a more realistic, balanced approach.   I agree.

Then suddenly, as if an Irish fog had swiftly lifted, the train station was clearly in front of us.  Ger zoomed over to a side parking lane right next to track eight where my train was still waiting.   “You’re going to make that train, Love!”  he chirped.  He was already up and out of the car, opening the boot for my small suitcase.

I glanced down.  Two minutes to spare.   Ger may be right!

That NYT article also stated that “positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.” For that,  I don’t agree.

Ger didn’t slack off. Instead, he pushed on.  Positive thinking didn’t trick him into believing he had something he didn’t  have.  Instead, in the face of difficulty, it may have been the very thing that kept him determined to keep going – to keep striving.  To NOT give up.

Simply THINKING positively and NOT DOING anything, is of course, not enough.   You’ve got to keep going. Keep driving to your goal.  Yes, the trick is not to only imagine smooth, open roads.  Picture the traffic jams, too.  And then strategize how you will  manoeuvre through different routes.

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I grabbed my suitcase from Ger and handed him the fare- plus a healthy tip.  Then, right before I started running, I made sure to express my sincere gratitude and wish him all the very best.

And after the kindly Irish train attendant had leaned out and signaled to me that he saw me and that I could stop my sprint, I did make that train.  With seconds to spare.

Thanks, Ger, for reminding me to never say never.

Blarney, not Baloney: Communication Lessons from Kissing the Blarney Stone

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Yesterday, my husband and our six-year-old daughter, Lulu visited Blarney Castle – just a few minutes’ drive from our newly adopted home of Cork, Ireland.

We "Heart" Blarney Castle!

We “Heart” Blarney Castle!

In case you have been living under a rock and don’t already know, the 600-year-old fortress is famous for a particular piece of carboniferous limestone with the legendary power to instill the communicative gift of Blarney upon anyone who kisses it.  Blarney, as defined in humorous postings in and around the castle, is very distinct from Baloney.

To reach the stone in question, you must first climb 110 narrow, slippery-from-Ireland’s-perpetual-autumn-mist stone stairs to the top of the castle tower.

Yes, you have to climb to the  tippy top!

Yes, you have to climb to the tippity top!

Baloney is “praise so think, it cannot be true.”

While Blarney is said to be  “flattery so thin, we love it.”

Once you reach the top, you then must turn and face away from the parapet and kneel backwards looking out high above the green rolling hills of the valley.  Next, begin to stretch your body – almost back-bend-style – against the castle wall.

Baloney, they say, is telling a 50-year-old woman she looks 18.

But Blarney is asking an older woman how old she may be, because, as you tell her, you want to know at what age women are most beautiful.

A friendly Irishman (yes, that’s redundant) named Dennis helped us put one hand on each of the two metal support rails to steady ourselves as we  stretched our heads downward to the extremely difficult to reach gift-giving stone  – and smooched away.

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Various Blarney Stone kissing contortionists

Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses, he never misses to grow eloquent; ‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber or become a member of Parliament, a noble spouter he’ll sure turn out. ” – Francis Sylvester Mahony

Perhaps our new words will be a bit smooth, but they will also be words that are kind and caring designed to bring a smile to our listeners’ faces and leave them feeling more valuable and valued than when we first began.  Nothing wrong with that.  It reminds me of another lovely sentiment I have also heard from my new Irish friends:

It costs nothing to be kind.

Whew.  So, the perilous gymnastics required to kiss the Blarney stone were well-worth it.

Except for our six-year-old.  Lulu said she already knows how to talk a lot and will kiss it another time. Truer words may never have been spoken. And that’s no blarney.

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Here’s looking at you from Blarney Castle!

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

Storytelling. It’s not just for bedtime!

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Lulu, our six-year-old daughter, loves bedtime. Unusual for a kid? Not at all. Because, for Lulu, bedtime is also story-time. Lulu loves stories.

Right now, we are reading Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. He and his baby foxes are tunneling toward Farmer Boggis’ Chicken House Number One. When she was a toddler, she adored Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad are Friends. The classics endure!

As a business professional, classic storytelling should become your love too.

Whether you think of them as illustrations, anecdotes or analogies, they are all variations of story-telling which you should use to bring any presentation’s theme or point to life. Stories are memorable. They trigger your audience’s brain to remember the points connected to it.

Here are some of my story-telling tips!

1. Have a solid beginning, middle and end. Sounds obvious, but be clear. These are mini presentations inside your larger presentation.

2, Be descriptive. Colorfully and powerfully describe the scene. Was it raining? What were the emotion happening? Use action-packed words. For example, why “run” when you can “charge” or “scurry” or “lope”?

3. Include conflict and resolution. What was the problem or the challenge? What happened?

4. What’s the lesson for your audience? You likely learned something from your story, but make sure and connect the lesson out to your audience too. Never forget what’s in it for them!

Magic illusionist designer Jim Steinmeyer, in his essay Conjuring Takes a Bow,implores performers to always:

Start with a plot…it may seem daunting to you.. so ‘Theater 101’ but there’s nothing pretentious about it. Jokes have plots. Songs have plots. Listen to the lyrics of a good song, and you’ll find that it has a premise, development and a resolution.”

So, too, should your story. Remember, every good presentation is a performance. Any point or fact you make can be illustrated, strengthened and reinforced by a personal story.

Make it captivating, colorful and compelling and your audience will love you for it.


Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Ebola – How well are we communicating about this?!

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This Sunday, I arrived home after spending three weeks leading communications training seminars in Nigeria.

Yes, that means I was in West Africa – where the media continues to headline as the epicenter of the “Deadly Ebola Outbreak.”

And yesterday, I received an email from a parent of one of my daughter’s school friends who happens to be a doctor here in Ireland.

I would suggest you call your General Practitioner and inform him you have been in Nigeria. Ask him if they have any procedure in place to deal with you in the case you have any symptoms during the next 3 weeks.

Should I?

I was in hotel conference rooms and professional office buildings conducting training sessions with business executives and other leaders.  I didn’t step near a hospital nor attend any funerals. Certainly I witnessed no one exhibiting any of Ebola’s well-publicized feverish symptoms or violent vomiting or bleeding.

But I did fly on commercial airlines.    Before my flight, airport staff stopped every passenger and took their temperature with a small plastic laser gun.  I was 36.6 Centigrade.  I was let through.   On the British Airways plane to London from Lagos, the flight attendants announced prior to takeoff they would go through the cabin and “spray something for disease.”   Their aerosol cans spritzed out some sweet-slightly-chemically-smelling stuff.  What was it exactly?   The attendants didn’t say and they most definitely did not mention Ebola by name.

When we landed in London, the customs officer didn’t ask me anything about my visit in Nigeria.  Perhaps because he knew that  last week the Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention echoed what Nigerian officials were saying the entire three weeks I was in-country: that the disease is contained and there are no new cases.  (World Health Organization numbers say Nigeria had only 20 cases and 8 deaths, dramatically fewer than what is still going on in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.)

But then today’s New York Times today describes Thomas E. Duncan, the Liberian who flew to Dallas last month and who  notoriously has become the first Ebola case diagnosed in the US, as flying “while he was contagious.” 

Did someone fly near me who was contagious? I swear I didn’t knowingly get anyone’s drool or whatever-other-kind-of-fluids you can imagine on me during my flight or my visit.

As a former CNN journalist who now teaches about the power of words, why did the NYT say Duncan was contagious on the flight?

Especially when, just a few paragraphs later in the same article, it goes on to say he developed symptoms five days after his flight and then quotes officials as emphasizing

 there is no risk of transmission from people who have been exposed to the virus but are not yet showing symptoms.

So which is it? Was he contagious on the flight when he apparently had the virus in his body, but wasn’t showing symptoms? Or did he become contagious only after the disease progressed enough that his body began to manifest the tell-tale symptoms of fever, diarrhea and vomiting?

I don’t ask this to be glib.  The media has a responsibility to report this as accurately as possible.  To help spread the correct information.  So others don’t unknowingly spread something far worse.

Like me, I guess.  That nice lady and her son sitting next to me on my flight – who were headed to Texas (yes, Texas) – seemed healthy enough. But were they possibly contagious?

I don’t know.   I really don’t know.

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Ebola. A bit of perspective.

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I am writing with the TV on.  The latest CNN report is talking about U.S. President Obama’s pledge to send three-thousand troops to help fight the “deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” 

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I am writing in a hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria. In West Africa.  As a veteran journalist, I know there is a tendency for the media to oversimplify.  In spite of our 24-hour-news-cycle, there is somehow not enough time to provide deep context or broader perspective on a given story.  Instead, what we get are dramatic  headlines  designed to captivate viewers  – and the notion of a virus like Ebola is certainly one that lends itself to fear.

Needless to say, I have friends who urge me in emails and on Facebook to “be safe.”  “Be careful.”

I am.

A former CNN colleague and current Facebook friend of mine now works for the World Health Organization (WHO).  She assured me that since Ebola is NOT an airborne virus, as long as I am not cleaning up the vomit or diarrhea of an infected person or touching an infected corpse, I will be fine.   I can promise you I will not be doing either.

You are right, however, that this illness is a very serious thing. As the news continues to say, this is the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history. Liberia is particularly struggling.

Nigeria has also reported cases.  But here is the perspective I promised in my title:

According to the World Bank, there are 245 million people in the 15 countries that make up the Economic Community of West Africa .  A whopping 174 million of them live here in Nigeria.

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The Ebola outbreak –  from WHO recent figures  – looks like this:

Guinea – 771 cases, 494 deaths

Liberia – 1698 cases, 871 deaths

Nigeria – 21 cases, 7 deaths

Senegal – 1 case, no deaths

Sierra Leone – 1216 cases, 476 deaths

That’s some 3,707 cases out of 245 million people.  

(The Democratic Republic of Congo last week reported 62 cases and 35 deaths. But they’re not a part of West Africa geographically. )

So, here in Lagos, a bustling mega-city of around 21 million, people continue to work, play and live pretty normally.

Commendably, they are also taking new precautions against the spread of the virus.  When I landed late Sunday, informational FAQ posters were everywhere.

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A sample of the posters at the Lagos airport.

Immediately after disembarking the airplane, each of us passengers lined up to have a doctor shine us with a temperature-taking laser.  (You may recall, Ebola first arrived here after an infected Liberian diplomat flew from Monrovia to Lagos and collapsed in the airport.)  In addition, hand sanitizer dispensers have been added to every building lobby I enter.

The line of passengers getting temperatures taken at the airport.

The line of passengers getting temperatures taken at the airport.

Today, as reported in the Nigerian Bulletin,  President Goodluck Jonathan said there are no more active cases in Nigeria.  Yes, seven people did die, but the remaining others have recovered. He proclaimed, “ The virus is under control.”

I met up with a longtime friend last night.  John Walker and I used to work together at WTTG Fox News in Washington, DC.  Now, he’s with the Voice of America and here to train journalists at Channels TV.  I’m here working with other professional groups.  Imagine us meeting again after all this time in Lagos!

Longtime DC friends reunite in Lagos!

Longtime DC friends reunite in Lagos!

We laughed and caught up at the popular local restaurant Yellow Chilli.  The place was filled with other patrons – who watched the football match on TV and enjoyed themselves.

Before entering, each of us had had our temperatures laser-checked by the hostess.

It’s good to be careful.

Till, next time, take good care, everyone!

Copyright Gina London 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

 

 

 

Welcome to Ireland! Or, er, Failte!

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We’re one week into our new home here in Cork, Ireland and it’s funny how the more things are the same, the more they seem different.

We now live in Ireland!

We now live in Ireland!

It’s called the Emerald Island for a reason.   You might think a simple color would not be enough to market an entire country, but as Lulu and I looked out upon the landscape stretched out before us as the bus drove us to the coastal village of Crosshaven, the word “green” is what kept coming to mind.

Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.

Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.

“It’s like Indiana,” Lulu said, reminded of my rural home state where we spent much of this summer getting reacquainted with family.

What with its cows and farms and pastures, indeed it does.

And yet it doesn’t.

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The architecture is different.  You’ll see fewer wood frame homes here and most are slathered in a gravelly cement coating.  Grey seems to be the predominant color with neighborhoods accentuated by a few bright creamy yellows.

Unlike Paris with a patisserie on every corner or Tuscany with a trattoria or pizzeria on the same; here on every corner blooms a pub.

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Just a few of Ireland's assorted pubs

Just a few of Ireland’s assorted pubs

The interesting names painted on the signs outside may vary but the interiors are relatively the same. There are cozy, dark wood tables and chairs, and a collage of photos, paintings or other knickknacks covering the walls.  Menus so far seem heavy on things fried.   I haven’t had a salad in over a week but I have had plenty of cod and chips.

A sneak-peek inside this pub.

A sneak-peek inside this pub.

The "pickleback" is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice.  They tell me it's terrific. I wouldn't know!

The “pickleback” is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice. They tell me it’s terrific. I wouldn’t know!

As for the language: “Everyone speaks singy-English and says ‘Grand.’” Lulu has observed.

I can read every billboard and every newspaper. I can overhear conversations in the pub and understand them. The words don’t blur into a faint white noise like when we lived in Italy.

Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte

Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte

We moved into our new apartment a week ago today. It’s tiny but cozy and within easy walking distance to Lulu’s new school.  We had a nice visit the first evening from our landlord Liam, who, like every Irishman I have met so far, is a very easy-going and humorous person.  Having an enjoyable conversation – even when it is mainly about the heating, washing machine and other apartment things – is so much easier when you speak the same language.

In the short single school week Lulu has attended so far, she has already gone to a birthday party and had two separate play dates.  I have already been invited to go out with some of the moms this Friday to a chic trendy restaurant on the River Lee named Electric.

The people here are so kind and cheery, we make friends just by saying, “Hello.”

The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.

The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.

And yet, the ease with which it is all happening makes me pang a little for the rush of being in Italy.  There, I felt an extra sense of accomplishment after even the littlest exchange or transaction I managed successfully.  I sort of miss it.  There are no extra points for clearing the language barrier for me now. ;)

Hmm.  It has been unusually sunny every day since we have arrived.  I better wait until the legendary Irish rain arrives before I am convinced there will be no major challenges here.

Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?

Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?

As my lovely Italian friends would say, “Piano, piano” – take it slowly.   Or as my Irish friends might say, “Tis no bother at all.”

Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!

Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!

No matter where you are. Another day presents opportunity for another little adventure.

To adventures great and small.

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Prairie Pride!

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We made a trip this week to Conner Prairie and took an incredible adventure back in time.

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Lulu and her lamb Lili, both dressed in period clothing, prepare to travel back in time.

Affiliated with the Smithsonian, this museum-park leads you through a meandering journey of pioneer life in Indiana before and around the time it became a state in 1816.

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Lulu and I practiced tomahawk throwing with a real descendant from the Lenape, or Delaware, Indians who lived in this area before and during the fur-trading days of the early 1800s.

Cause every girl needs tomahawk lessons!

Cause every girl needs tomahawk lessons!

Down the lane, real-life historians, artisans and craftspeople recreate a pioneer village from  1836.   They never break character as they demonstrate their handiwork and weave delightful stories about the goings-on in the town.

Pioneer Wheel of Fortune

Pioneer Wheel of Fortune

Before entering “Prairietown, Lulu spun a wheel which determined she would be a local artist in the village. As such, she had certain tasks to perform and answers she needed to discover by asking questions of the other villagers.

We had to ask those questions in present tense and never let on that we were really visitors from the future.  (I asked “Mrs. Zimmerman” at the Golden Eagle Inn, for example, if I could take her picture with my “brand new camera contraption” and she pulled out a large wooden box with a lens on the front and a mirror inside that projected a reflected image on a piece of paper that could then be copied in pencil as the newest camera she had recently received from her brother in Europe. )

Lulu smiled with her from behind the Inn’s bar.

Would you like some Elderberry wine?

Would you like some Elderberry wine?

Lulu was given the chore to wash  some vegetables at the Inn.

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She also patiently learned how to hand-dip a beeswax candle.

Each beeswax candle takes dozens of dips in the hot wax to reach the right size.

Each beeswax candle takes dozens of dips in the hot wax to reach the right size.

She sang folk tunes with “Mrs. Campbell” and her “Sister Laura who is visiting from the big city of Lexington and doesn’t like this little town at all.”

Lulu sang songs with these lovely ladies

Lulu sang songs with these lovely ladies

She rolled dough and cut out noodles with the spinster lady (at the ripe old age of 27!) who lived at a cabin with a dozen or so real young turkeys wandering in the backyard.

This is a bit different than when Lulu helps Daddy make tortelli!

This is a bit different than when Lulu helps Daddy make tortelli!

And Lulu spent about 15 full minutes creating her own custom stencil designs.  I didn’t mind.  The magic wheel had designated her an Artist after all.

Artist at work. I think the pink boots add inspiration to her work.

Artist at work. I think the pink boots add inspiration to her work.

Although we lived for the past three years in Italy, that inspiring land of the Renaissance where history reaches out to you from every street in art and architecture, our experience exploring Conner Prairie was an exhilarating hands-on event.

Village carpenter Mr. McClure, Lulu and Lili.

Village carpenter Mr. McClure, Lulu and Lili.

The idea of role-playing with the pioneers obviously resonated with Lulu who didn’t want to leave the “land of the olden times.”

Grammie and Lulu at the Golden Eagle Inn.

Grammie and Lulu at the Golden Eagle Inn.

And for me, it was an important opportunity to be reminded how proud I am of something I never earned.  It was simply bestowed upon me the day I was born.  Something that could too easily be taken for granted while I was encompassed by the grand history of Italy.  Something that my forefathers worked hard to create and died to protect:  My Hoosier and American heritage.

Thank you, Mom, for taking Lulu and me to Conner Prairie.

Gina

P.S. What’s your heritage? What makes you proud? What makes you appreciate other cultures?

You CAN go back home. But you won’t have enough time to do everything you want….

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I can’t believe it.  After living in Italy for three years, my first visit to the United States is drawing to a close.  This trip back home again to Indiana: the state where I was born, grew up and where my mom and step-dad still live has just one full day left.

My parents' Indiana lakeside home

My parents’ Indiana lakeside home

I landed on American soil on July 18.  With more than a month ahead, in addition to feting with my family, I thought I had plenty of time to reconnect with everyone.   I had so many plans!

Scotty, Lulu and I drove up to northwest Indiana to visit my college-buddy-like-a-brother Sam Wakim and his family for a combined dentist and friendly visit.

Sam and the fams!

Sam and the fams!

I zipped over to La Porte, the town where I was born, and toured Pine Lake where I spent  happy summers with family, and peeked at the house Grandpa and Grannie Raven had built and lived in forever.

Pine Lake in La Porte, Indiana

Pine Lake in La Porte, Indiana

If you look closely, you can see "Gina Andrea Brad" written in this bit of sidewalk that is still at my old grandparents' house - commemorating the births of me, my sister and my brother!

If you look closely, you can see “Gina Andrea Brad” written in this bit of sidewalk that is still at my old grandparents’ house – commemorating the births of me, my sister and my brother!

I had dinner with my fire-chief cousin and his family.

Cousins! Cousins!

I met again with Eric Schneller, the first friend I ever made at Indiana University when I first sat next to him in my freshman biology class.  I had dinner with ADPi sorority sisters Beth, Dottie and Elizabeth.  We moved beyond the shallow ties of youthful sisterhood to wiser bonds forged through surviving the unexpected twists and painful turns real life often deals. We are still hanging in there, but I am not kidding when I say we laughed and we cried.

Sorority Sisters then and real-life sisters now.

Sorority Sisters then and real-life sisters now.

I had dinner with a couple of close youth group friends, Anita and Curt, who got married shortly after high school.  They openly shared the incredible ups and downs that tried and ultimately strengthened their enduring union.

Curt, Anita and me

Curt, Anita and me

And speaking of my school days, I had dearly hoped to travel to Randolph County to the tiny town of Farmland to visit with the friends who were instrumental in creating the many colorful memories I have of my childhood.  We’ve kept up virtually on Facebook, and I wanted to reunite with them in person.

But the weeks flew by and I didn’t make it happen.

I also didn’t get a chance to reconnect with my cousin Debbie and some other people I had envisioned seeing.

But I did get to hug a lot of my immediate family including Mom, Jerry, Andrea, Tony, Sophia, Brad, Jayson, Patience, Helena, Sam, Celeste and my ninety-nine-and-a-half-year-young Aunt Anita aka “Neatie.”

Many of the awesome members of my family!

Many of the awesome members of my family!

We have had boat trips on the lake.

Boat trips, yey!

Boat trips, yey!

C'mon in- the (green lake) water's fine!

C’mon in- the (green lake) water’s fine!

 

We have had bonfires.  We have had dinner parties. We have had cake, cookies and Mom’s famous chocolate chip coffeecake.  Have I mentioned the mountains of ice cream?

Lulu LOOOVES ice cream.

Lulu LOOOVES ice cream.

Did I mention that even though Lulu has already eaten her weight in delectable Italian gelato, one of her new favorite places in the world is Dairy Queen?  Okay, we have had too much eating, I must say.

But we simply have not had enough time to do everything I hoped.

To everyone I saw, I love you and am so glad we were able to see each other again.   To everyone I didn’t get a chance to see.  I am sorry I missed you.  I do miss you.   Please come to see us in Ireland.

Tonight, as Lulu and I looked out across my parents’ backyard on Morse Lake, the setting sun was shimmering on the water.

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“It looks like diamonds. Real ones,” Lulu said.

“Yes, Lulu,” I replied,  reflecting on the memories of the past four weeks.  Although I didn’t get to see and do every single thing I had hoped to when I first arrived, the glow of my time back here in Indiana has been shiny and priceless just the same. Like diamonds. Real ones.

Morse Lake and the things that memories are made of.

Morse Lake and the things that memories are made of.

Love to you, no matter where you are!

Gina

P.S.  How was your summer?  Did you spend it with family? Friends? What’s in store for September?  Let me know!

 

 

 

 

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