When We Were Wonderful.

No answers. No suggestions. No advice.

With the ongoing deadly attacks from ISIS, (the horror in Mali is unfolding as I type), today I offer only a few heart breaking observations and questions.

When did the men who are steering this barbarity become so filled with hate?  So cruel? As my seven-year-old daughter, Lulu, asked me, “Why do they like being mean?”

Over the weekend, she and I took the train to Dublin.  An early celebration for her birthday later this month.

We arrived at our hotel Friday evening and squeezed in a mommy-daughter swim before they closed the pool.  We were warm and dry in our fleece jammies when room service arrived – plus a special ice cream with a candle in it for the almost-birthday girl.  And then the news of the Paris attacks also arrived via the TV.

“Turn it off, Mammy,” Lulu said, using the sweet Irish version of my title. “I don’t want to spoil our dinner.”

She wasn’t being insensitive. She’s too young. Too in the moment of her own happiness.  Obviously, turning it off doesn’t make it go away.  Those precious innocent lives that were cut down have been gone a week now.  And they’re never coming back.  And neither are those from Beirut, from the Russian plane crash, from Syria, from the many other bombings, the beheadings. The grisly list goes on and on…

The next morning, when I came out from the shower, Lulu had drawn me a picture in pencil on the hotel stationery.  Along with the clouds and the lead grey rainbow were the following words of promise:

I love you Mammy, and I’ll try my best to be wonderful.”


Her endearing note and the dreadful attacks have nothing in common, really. And yet it made me pause.  When do young children whose hearts are naturally filled with joy and play and dreams – children who want to be wonderful – turn into angry, resentful, and terrible adults?

It may be younger than you think.  Some psychologists point to nine as the pivotal year for the onset of typical adolescent rebellion. Other studies show children may experience so-called “conduct disorders” exhibiting a severe lack of empathy or caring for others much younger.

And, according to reports, ISIS is capitalizing on this.  The Guardian, this week, excerpted from the ISIS manifesto or playbook stating,

Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach ‘moderation’ (wasatiyyah), security and avoidance of risk.”

National Public Radio, just yesterday, ran a story from Afghanistan which told of a school run by the Islamic State. There they were, teaching students words like Jihad, Kalashnikov and Infidel.  Doing show and tell with a machine gun. Watching videos of the atrocities they’ve committed. Indoctrinating children (only the little boys, actually) as young as three. Three?!?

I am saddened by the horrors ISIS is inflicting through its wanton attacks.

I am also saddened by the horror they are teaching and spreading. ISIS: Stealing children’s wonder. Their desire to be wonderful.   And replacing it with fervent hate for people they have never met.

Somebody cue Louis Armstrong please!


Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 






Happy Easter – and There are no small parts…

I have a confession:  When my seven-year-old told me she had been given the non-speaking bit role of “Forest Dancer” in her school’s Easter festival play, my first inclination was to angrily protest.

Rockboro Primary  Easter Festival Play. School, Cork, Ireland.
Rockboro Primary Easter Festival Play. School, Cork, Ireland.

(Note! This is NOT merely the musings of a mother on her young daughter’s first school play, there is also a lovely lesson for business and life here, I promise.)

I imagined walking up to her first-grade teacher saying something like:  “What?! MY daughter deserves MORE than a puny role as ‘tree fairy who protects the princess’ which was clearly made up just to give every kid a part. Lulu should have been the princess herself, or at least a character with one line of dialogue! How dare you!”

Of course, I said nothing to the teacher. To my daughter, I smiled down said something supportive about how she was sure to be a great “Forest Dancer.” Still, inwardly, I worried about her sure-to-be-damaged tender self-esteem.

But, my daughter wasn’t upset about her small role at all.   She was actually excited about being a “Forest Dancer.”

“I am creating my own dance moves to guard the princess,” she happily told me one evening.

She applied twirls and flourishes she had learned in her after-school ballet lessons. Then she studied her face in the mirror and announced she would like to wear her hair swept into an up-do complete with a ring of flowers.  We shopped for an appropriate “tree dancer” outfit and came up with a leafy dress the teachers liked so much they urged Lulu’s “tree dancer” partner to buy a matching outfit just like it.

When the day of the Easter festival arrived, amid tables of hot cross buns, pastel-colored cupcakes and walls plastered with hundreds of pictures of bunnies and chicks, my little daughter proudly took to the stage.

Her little ballet moves were adorable and for a moment I thought of the background dancer in a recent production of The Nutcracker who hilariously upstaged the featured performers.

Lulu, aka, "Forest Dancer," guarding the princess.
Lulu, aka, “Forest Dancer,” guarding the princess.

Lulu didn’t go that far.  She simply brought to the performance all that she could.  She wasn’t envious of the girl who did play the role of the princess. She had a great attitude. She was encouraging and encouraged in return.

I was the one who needed to have my attitude checked.  When we’re offered something we may consider “beneath” us, how do we react? With frustration? Anger? Are we indignant or are we gracious?

The way Lulu handled herself, reminded me of the Stanislavski quote that:

 There are no small parts, only small actors.

So, no matter whether in an Easter festival play or in business or in life, remember all the world’s a stage. Give every role your best.

Fun and friends after the play!
Fun and friends after the play!

And Happy Easter!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


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

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.


“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!


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





My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style

Lulu has been practicing a string of Italian songs in preparation for her school’s Christmas Concert – set for later this afternoon.

Although I am still not fluent in Italian, the repertoire includes a ditty about Moses, Jericho, something with a lot of “Hallelujahs”  in it – and then, rather out of the blue, the rousing 1960’s Gospel songOh Happy Day!” Yes, she sings it in English, but slightly off-key and with the cutest Italian accent ever.

Aliotti Elementary kids have been hard at work at school and Lulu has been practicing a lot here at home too – singing while she sets the table, singing in the bathtub, before she goes to bed, you get the idea.

Last night, she grabbed a baton and began “conducting” a choir of her stuffed animals.  She sang pretty loudly. I didn’t hear much from them, however.


Lulu will be joining her fellow classmates to sing in an impressive 11th century stone church in the historic center of our adopted medieval town here in Arezzo.

The 11th century pieve where Lulu and her classmates will be singing
The 11th century pieve where Lulu and her classmates will be singing

It’s called the Santa Maria della Pieve and it is festooned in columns and carvings and stands guard overlooking the town’s main pedestrian shopping street, Corso Italia.

Pieve04There’s even a gold-cased relic inside that supposedly holds the head of Arezzo’s patron Saint – St. Donato (who apparently was beheaded up the hill near where the duomo now stands and his head rolled down here! – His body is enshrined up at the duomo.  I am not making this up!).

St. Donato's head.
St. Donato’s head.

Tour groups often stop in front of it and get lectures from their flag-holding guides.

When I was a kid, I sang in a few Christmas concerts. A couple in my tiny school’s auditorium or gymnasium. A few at the tiny little Methodist church we attended in Parker City, Indiana

But never in an eleventh century Italian church – complete with Saint’s head.

Oh my.

Merry Christmas, tutti!!

My Advent Calendar – Christmas ITALIAN style!

jumbo wands 2 sw
The “Boy, Girl, Wands” trick – husband Scotty in tux, daughter Lulu assisting in hat, me in green and Lulu’s “boyfriend” Max – is the hapless “victim” of this trick!! 😉

silverstones posterWhen you’re married to a comedy entertainer-actor-magician – (I’m talking about one guy, mind you, not three) – it’s never a dull moment.

swords sw

Today’s “Italian” style Advent Calendar posting features some of the fun-filled moments during our recent performance of “Meet the Silverstones”  This mad-cap show was conceptualized, written and directed by my husband Scotty Walsh – who also played the lead role of magician “Professor Silverstone.”

the prof and kato sw

As you can see above from the devilish delight with which Professor Silverstone has just impaled his valet Kato after knife throwing “without even practicing”  – Scotty’s character is just a little off-beat!  He’s a flavorful mixture of  famous stage magician Harry Blackstone – from whom we adapted our names – to swashbuckler Errol Flynn  to “Gomez” from the Addams Family – the original and incomparable John Astin‘s version, of course.  the Silverstons 3 swAs much as I would’ve loved to have borrowed from Morticia Addams for my character, as a magician’s assistant we wanted someone a little more giddy – so I drew from the lovely yet dingy comedy of Gracie Allen instead. 

the Silverstons swTogether, we performed a mentalist act – in which I somehow really do manage to perform feats of clairvoyance – to the extreme surprise of the audience I’m sure!  And Scotty performed a wide-range of elegant illusions – but wrapped up in a lot of farce and comedy.  Our unique and custom musical accompaniment was provided by our friend Sam – who stoically performed as “Samuel Samuel.”

The final bow - Lulu STRETCHING to reach!
The final bow – Lulu STRETCHING to reach!

We played for two evenings in two separate venues – each night to a packed house. And although the show was in English, we did this all in our adopted town of Arezzo, Tuscany – hence – I am including it here among the Advent Calendar posting for – Christmas ITALIAN style!

A great evening of family fun – performed by my family.

Seems pretty Christmassy to me!

Buone Feste!

Baci, Gina

Advent Calendar – Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Christmas ITALIAN Style! Today’s Advent Calendar post features a evening of Christmas card making at Arezzo‘s darling children’s bookstore: La Casa sull’Albero “The Tree House” !!

When you travel with kids, pop into a children's bookstore and see what activities they have planned - could be a fun and inexpensive opportunity!
When you travel with kids, pop into a children’s bookstore and see what activities they have planned – could be a fun and inexpensive opportunity!

This place does great activities for children in a cool colorful space.

Luilu and her friend Zoe get serious about Christmas card art!
Luilu and her friend Zoe get serious about Christmas card art!

But what I really liked was that one of the finished products featured a sun-glass sporting Santa playing an electric guitar!!

A lovely "cervo" in the winter woods.  And a rockin' Saint Nick!
A lovely “cervo” in the winter woods. And a rockin’ Saint Nick!

 Jingle Bell Rock Italian Style!

Buone feste, tutti!!

Baci, Gina


Another first.

Her first word was “button” (referring to those little things on a computer, not what helps you fasten a coat).

lulu walking

Her first steps were at Parc Georges Bressens  right outside our flat in Paris.


Her first day of elementary school was this September here in Arezzo, Italy. And now, Lulu has achieved the latest milestone in her life – getting her ears pierced!

Our daughter has been asking (otherwise known as clamoring, begging and cajoling) for the past year  – ever since her friend Cassandra got her own ears pierced.

Lulu and Cassie. Two girls with four pierced ears.

Since we’ve been living in Tuscany for the past two and a half years now, I really don’t know what all the  little girls in the United States are up to.  But here in Italy, while It’s not quite the tradition to get their ears pierced in infancy like some countries,  it’s no big deal for very young girls to be sporting small post earrings in their little lobes.  Probably, it’s great training for the long swinging chandelier earrings many of these girls will wear when they grow up to be fashion-conscious Italian belle donne!

Ma certo!  Italian ladies do like these earrrings!
Ma certo! Italian ladies do like these earrrings!

And so, finally, as a present for Lulu’s sixth birthday – which was officially yesterday – we walked down the Corso Italia to a nearby Gioielli (jewelry) shop for the momentous occasion.

Daddy and Lulu walking to the jewelry shop..
Daddy and Lulu walking to the jewelry shop..

I had already inquired about the process with  the charming older couple who run the shop.  They assured me everything was sterile and “pharmaceutical.”   Meno male (thank goodness),” I thought.

Lulu picks out her earrings from the shop's selection
Lulu picks out her earrings from the shop’s selection

The wife drew little dots on Lulu’s soft pink ears and her husband prepared the dart gun.  (What do you call it exactly?)


THOOP! The first teeny brilliant sparkly flower-shaped earring was in! Lulu shuddered and her eyes opened wide.


“Did that hurt?” I asked.

Un poco (a little),”  Lulu stiffly replied.

What our kind shopkeepers hadn’t explained to us -and what I hadn’t imagined – is the time it takes to load up the next dart gun can also become a time for the child victim, er customer, to reflect upon the pain.

Will she agree to the second hole?
Will she agree to the second hole?

“Sometimes the little girls decide not to get the second one done,”   the shop owner told me as he took the next earring shooter out of its plastic case.

“Uhm, Lulu,” I started, wondering how this would turn out, “are you okay to have the second one shot in?”

“Yes, of course!” Lulu looked at me as if I were crazy.  This kid had been asking to have earrings for the past year and she wasn’t about to stop at just one.

“Meno male,”  I thought.

And, then, with another quick THOOP!  it was all over.  Lulu had two little shiny flowers in her ears and we had experienced another first in her young life.

Ta-dah!  Another milestone achieved.
Ta-dah! Another milestone achieved.

Happy birthday, Lulu.

Happy birthday, Lulu!
Happy birthday, Lulu!

Although I confess I have the cartilage of my left ear as well as my belly button pierced (shh!), but – with the all the tongues and noses and eyebrows out there, I am crossing my fingers that Lulu’s first piercing will be her last – at least for a few more years!

Tell me about a recent (or not so recent) milestone in your child’s life.  Do you feel that mixture of joy and pang like I do during each of the steps along their way…?

Till next time,