Reflecting on Treasures.

Yesterday an article was published about me in The Sunday Times. A lovely article by a lovely reporter with a lovely accompanying photo.

And yet, for a variety of reasons yesterday I did not feel so lovely. I was, in fact, awash in melancholy.

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I’d gone to a moody movie with an equally moody score that sent me spiraling alone. Into myself.

I was aching for something. Something missing.

My thoughts turned to my grandpa. Robert Raven.

A man who had the kindest, twinkly blue eyes that matched the star-sapphire ring he wore on his right hand.

Above is a photo of Grampa and Grannie Raven and my mom. He may look ordinary to you, but if you look closely, you can see the extraordinary twinkle behind the glasses.

* * *

Grandpa was a man who could and would happily strike up a conversation with just anyone. A man who never met a stranger. He knew that a friend was waiting after the warm greeting, “How do you do?”

A man who, while not formally educated after high school, had a voracious love of reading about history, nature – in particular the red rocks and sage brush of the western United States, and people. He kept every single copy of National Geographic in pristine condition in a bookcase in the basement. I used to thumb through them when I’d visit. Learning about places I never thought I would ever travel to. But many, by now, that I have been fortunate enough to have even lived in.

We would take long exploring walks in the Indiana woods behind the home he had built and that he still shared with his equally kind wife, my Grannie, Dolores. He loved that woman so. And she loved him back joyfully. The bond those two humble humans shared is something I envy.

Right now, I can’t think of anything dramatic to illustrate the love they had. It was the composite of little things.

For me, my grandpa’s love was expressed through small moments that made lasting memories – during our walks in the woods.

Grandpa showed me how to make Sassafras tea from the root of a small Sassafras tree sapling.   He taught me how to find Morels that seemed to purposefully hide under the broad, low leaves of Mayapple plants.

The spongy mushrooms were so abundant; it was only after I had grown up and moved away from Indiana that I realized they were considered a rare, culinary delicacy. Maybe most important of all, he taught me to stop talking for a moment as we meandered amidst the trees, stand still and just listen.

Listen.

Grandpa Raven, or just Grampa, as I used to call him, wasn’t tall. He was only about 5’6” before cancer began to curl his body forward. But to me, especially after my own dad died when I was 11, Grampa was a solid, strong refuge.

His strength was his kindness. His natural curiosity and his enjoyment of others. He was a steady presence of comfort.

It’s been many years since cancer finally won over my grandpa’s inner strength. I still have his star sapphire ring that he bequeathed to me, his eldest grandchild. It’s a treasure.  My daughter’s middle name is Raven, in tribute to him. She’s an even greater treasure.

I hope each of you has a Grampa Raven.

Someone who shows their love and strength through consistent and confident kindness.

I hope you treasure them too.

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and at GinaLondon.com or with my terrific new strategic communications alliance at Fuzion.

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Back to the Future!

I arrived this week back to my adopted home country of Ireland.

In August, after I hosted a tech conference in Florida, I enjoyed most of the remainder of the month with my family.  (In the photo below I am with my sister, nieces and yes, my 8-year-old daughter Lulu was also happily in tow.)

edit family

So we were back in the US. In the heartland of Indiana. My birth state.  And, incidentally, the home state of Governor Mike Pence, the running mate of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I was surrounded by a forest of Trump/Pence 2016 yard signs.  The only Hillary Clinton sign I saw was in the form of an “I’m with Her” bumper sticker on the back window of a Ford that also had an “IRELAND” emblem on the bumper. Go figure.

Other American things of note I witnessed during our month-long stay at my parents’ peaceful lake-front home were:

1. Whopperrito: Since I’ve lived overseas almost a decade now, I am constantly teased about America’s obesity problem and many restaurants’ large portion persistence.  Enter this summer’s new offering from Burger King. It’s part Whopper, part burrito. Get it?  I swear I only saw the commercial. I have not sampled one. I promise!

2. No gun signs: Although tragic school shootings occurred when I lived in the US, (I covered Columbine for CNN, for example), the frequency and numbers have increased since I have been gone.  For the first time, this summer, I noticed signs prohibiting guns had gone up.  On grocery stores, restaurants, and here at the doctor’s office where I was visiting an ENT to examine my vocal chords (which are fine, by the way).  When I previously posted this photo on Facebook, an Italian friend asked, “Do they really think this sign would stop someone?”

3. Software for Marching Bands:  If you don’t know about summer band camp, you’re probably not an American! I once played clarinet and then was part of the flag troupe. Now, my high school-aged cousin, Meghan, who came to visit, is an awesome trumpet player in LaPorte, Indiana.  But the routines she has been practicing with her band, look NOTHING like the lame marching around we used to do.  Bands these days are highly choreographed affairs looking more like Cirque du Soleil interpretive dance! And, guess, what? There’s 3D software to help the directors guide the band members in formation.  Of course there is.  Take a look at this and I bet you’ll marvel the same way I did when Meghan showed me.

4. English usage tweaks: Here in Ireland, we put our groceries in “trolleys.” In the US, we pop things in a “cart.” We ask the waiter for directions to the “restroom” at an American café, but we’re more direct here in Ireland asking plainly for the “toilet.”  For back to school supplies, your American child may want a few new “erasers” while here in Ireland, I find myself giggling like a teenager when my daughter says she needs new er, “rubbers.” That’s right. That’s what the kids call erasers here. No, I don’t know if it’s the same usage for condoms. Let’s move on.

5. Tesla: I am thrilled to say I drove my first Tesla this summer.  A top-of-the-line “Model X” that my brother-in-law ordered three years ago.  It was amazing. So amazing, in fact, I’ll write more about that experience later. Stay tuned.

6. Songbirds.  Here in Ireland, I always smile when I see the cheery flicker of a Pied Wagtail. In Indiana as my mom and daughter sprinkled seeds on the deck even in summer, I welcomed being reminded of the cute chickadees, soft-grey tufted titmice and upside-down nuthatches that I had enjoyed as a child.

7. Tornadoes.  On Wednesday, August 24, Lulu and I were shopping at Hamilton County Town Center when the area’s tornado sirens went off – which mean a funnel cloud has been spotted. I grew up in Indiana so I’m used to these.  Lulu was frightened to tears.  A record-setting EIGHT tornadoes touched down that day. Many buildings were destroyed, but Governor Mike Pence (him again!) said it was a miracle that no one was killed or badly hurt. The power of nature always awes me. (This photo was taken by a family friend on that record-setting day.)

8. Lake swimming.  Here in Ireland, we’re surrounded by the bracing, icy waters of the sea.  It was a pleasure to relax and float in the much warmer water of Morse Reservoir after my brother, Brad, (who is a real-life yacht captain based in Florida, joined us the first week and took the helm of my step-dad’s speedboat) finished whipping Lulu and her cousin, my sister’s young daughter, around on the raft.

9. Family.  The hardest part about living overseas is that we’re far away from family. Thankfully we all gathered together.  Mom, step-dad, my sister and brothers and their partners. Cousins. Nieces and even my 101-year-old incredibly independent Aunt Neatie.  We talked, ate, drank, and laughed. Like family should.

(Grammie, Lulu, Grampa – on the lake, of course!)

And now, we’re back in our adopted home of Cork, Ireland.  And it’s back to work for me.

Back to meetings: I had a great one Tuesday with the head of finance of a major multi-national.

Back to news analysis:  I was on air Wednesday on national radio discussing Donald Trump’s surprising visit with Mexico’s president.

Back to speaking engagements: Next week, I’ll be part of a Dublin photo shoot to promote the national Network Ireland Awards event I’m excited to be a part of.

And today, my 8-year-old daughter, Lulu, goes back to school.  As she’s starting third grade,

it’s a “back” that’s actually a “forward.”

And that’s how I like to look at my own life.  Yes, holidays are over and it’s “back to work” but it’s also an opportunity to “move things forward!”

So, I’ll fondly remember the songbirds, boating on the lake and my family. And embrace the fun I’m embarking on now.  Hope you do too!

Now, get back to work!

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Sibling. What a clunky word.

Sunday was National Sibling Day.

What it is about the word “sibling”?? I don’t like it.  It doesn’t strike me as familial and warm.  It sounds more detached and stilted.

Like some sort of a mutant fish living at the bottom of the ocean’s largely uncharted Mariana Trench:

Fisherman off the coast of Guam today, discovered the body of a ghastly looking sea creature tangled in their nets. Scientists say it’s the rarely seen deep sea cucumber known as the “SIBLING.”

Or maybe a twig off of the branch of physics known as quantum theory:

 Stephen Hawking today will be lecturing on the inexplicable quantity of SIBLING photoelectron effects.”

Whatever you call them. They’re those people you teased, fought and played with as you grew up.  You may share good and/or bad childhood memories with them. Campfire songs. Parents hugging. Perhaps parents fighting. Christmas. Hanukkah. Ramadan. Whatever.

You may have grown up and grown apart. Physically and/or emotionally. Hopefully you have managed to maintain at least the latter connection.

Life is busy and hectic and sometimes it takes an official day on a calendar to remind me to stop and say thank you to a few of the most influential people in my life. Then and Now.  My brother, Brad and my sister, Andrea. (yep, that’s them above and below – with mom and dad and me – missing my two front teeth.)

So, as much as I don’t like that clunky word, “sibling,” I am ever so grateful that I can call them a word I feel that does sound appropriately gracious and genial.

While we’re on the topic, I am extremely grateful for the other incredible people in my life who may not be biologically my siblings and who may not be able to recite all the words to John Denver’s song, “Grandma’s Feather Bed” like Andrea and Brad can – but who, through their laughter, listening, encouragement (and sometimes wine), can certainly be classified with that word that goes much deeper than the ocean and cannot be dissected by even the top quantum scientist.

So, to all of you out there as I have grown up and away from Indiana, to Florida, Washington, Atlanta, Cairo, Bucharest, Paris, Arezzo and now here in Cork, Ireland: A hearty and heart-felt thank you to each of you I am proud to call much more than the word “sibling” – but as “friends.”

In gratitude, 

Gina

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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

The I’s have it!  Italy, Indiana and Ireland 

Yesterday, the family gathered at my parents’ house here in Arcadia, Indiana.

My parents' home in Arcadia, Indiana!
My parents’ home in Arcadia, Indiana!

I chose a simple red dress and came upstairs to greet everyone.  My sister Andrea, her husband Tony and their daughter Sophia were to drive over from near Cincinnati, Ohio.  My brother Brad was flying in from Florida and coming here with his girlfriend Leah and her daughter Kyra.  Friends-like-Family, Eric, Linda and their kids Maddie and Max were driving from over a nearby Hoosier town. My niece Patience and her mom Celeste were driving over from near Cleveland.  Even my 99-and-a-half-year-old Aunt Anita, aka Neatie, was here.  Party!

Lulu made the colored water
Lulu added the food coloring for the little centerpieces

My mom was already up in the kitchen wearing a bright lime green shirt and mixing up some home-made potato soup.   I said, “Potato soup! That’s perfect since we’ll be leaving later this month for Ireland.”  She just looked up at me and smiled.

It was right about then that my sister, in a green sparkly shirt, remarked that she and I were like Christmas since I was in red.

Right about then, Brad and Leah arrived, wearing bright green wigs and sunglasses.

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Brad and Leah!
Brad and Leah!

It finally dawned on me.  EVERYONE was wearing green.

The green gang!
The green gang!

And then I saw the cake in Brad and Leah’s hands.

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The potato soup was on purpose. This was not just a simple family gathering at my parent’s lake house on a sunny summer day.

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This was an Irish celebration for Scotty, Lulu and me as we prepare for our next adventure in Ireland.

Here's we are! (and yes, I have changed into something green!)
Here’s we are! (and yes, I have changed into something green!)

Here in  Arcadia, Indiana named after the Greek philosophy of living in harmony with nature and family – it’s certainly something I am drawn to no matter where I travel.

Andrea and Jerry unfurl the flag!
Andrea and Jerry unfurl the flag!

Warm hearts and loving families. In Indiana.  In Italy where we lived for three years.  In Nigeria where I spent the past month.  And yes,  I do so look forward to experiencing it in the verdant rolling hills of Ireland.

Thank you, family, for throwing us such a heart-warming party this weekend.

The ladies and the cake!
The ladies and the cake!

I cherish these moments.

Baci! Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

From Garlic to Gaelic

Here ‘tis friends: another official announcement in the adventure-filled life of Family Walsh.   Next month, Scotty, Lulu and I will be trading in our pasta for potatoes, our Chianti for Guinness and our espresso for tea as we pack up and move to:  (how’d you guess?) Ireland!

PicMonkey Collage

Scotty has been welcomed into a PhD program with University College in the lovely town of Cork – just a couple of hours south of Dublin – where he’ll be researching mind control. Really.  I am married to one interesting guy.

University College Cork, on the Emerald Isle
University College Cork, on the Emerald Isle

From the moment we arrived back in July 2011, we knew our stay here in Tuscany wasn’t going to be forever (although I had my fingers crossed that it might).  I will miss terribly so many places, things and – especially people in our beloved adopted hometown of Arezzo.

We love you, Arezzo!!
We love you, Arezzo!!

I will soon write more and lament in detail about the wonderful sights and sounds I’ll be so sad to leave behind.

However, since we’re not moving far, far, far away back to the US, I’m going to do my best to keep my chin up and say, “ci vediamo dopo!” – see you later! – and not good bye!  We’ll just be a short direct Ryan Air flight from Cork to Pisa away.

Tuscany to Tipperary
Tuscany to Tipperary

Ci vediamo dopo!

Baci, and póga!

Gina

 P.S. How is your summer shaping up?  Any plans to travel? What was it like for you the last time you moved? Planning to move this summer?  Share, Share! We all benefits from shared experiences.  Ciao!

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Different and yet the same

Lulu’s first trip to the beach was yesterday.  It just happened to be to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea in the shadow of an ancient fishing village complete with a small castle.  The town is called Castiglione della Pascaia which dates to pre-Roman times.

Castiglione della Pascaia

We went with her preschool buddy David and his wonderful mother Pavlina – who was gracious enough to invite us and drive us – past the sunflower fields and round bales of straw of the Tuscan countryside to reach the lagoon and then the hot white sand of the beach.

The sea’s water was warm and clear.  The beach was full – but not packed – with friendly families, energetic teenagers, and chatty seniors.  Lulu and David splashed in the waves, lounged in the inflatable boats Pavlina brought, ate pasta al pesto for lunch and made an entire sand village under our blue striped umbrella.

Lulu and David playing on the beach

Vendors passed by offering to sell bracelets and sunglasses and even knock-off purses.  I paid for a kind Senegalese woman to weave a strand of Lulu’s hair with three different colored threads into a bright streamer. All the little Italian girls seem to come back from a trip al mare wearing one of these as a sort of souvenir.

Lulu getting her souvenir weave

It was a lovely and memorable day.  And it made me think back to the beach where I had spent so much of my early childhood, Pine Lake in LaPorte, Indiana.  Not the vivid blue of the Mediterranean, Pine Lake was more seaweed green.  There were no vendors, no restaurants, no blue and white striped umbrellas and certainly no castle-fortressed villages looking down from above.

Instead, we had a small white clapboard house that my Aunt Neatie and Uncle Dick owned, a long wooden picnic table filled with homemade food and drinks.  Fresh lemonade from Aunt May, two kinds of potato salad from Great Grandma Stombaugh, macaroni and cheese and amazing baked beans from my Grannie and fried chicken from Colonel Sanders. My sister and brother and our cousins floated on rafts, swam and played like crazy.

They were also lovely and memorable days.  Different and so much the same. Because of love.

Lulu and the lovely day.

P.S. I would love to hear stories of your favorite beach days.  Or of those of your children.

Baci, Gina