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.)

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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

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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!

 

 

 

 

A Day to Celebrate!

Have you ever tried a red velvet deep fried Oreo cookie?  Neither have I.  But I could have!

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That’s because we traveled to the heart of the heartland.  The apex of all-you-can-eat hearty-heart-attack fantastic funnel cakes, elephant ears, corn dogs and cotton candy:  The Indiana State Fair!

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At first I happily thought I had found the Wine barn.  Then I realized an important letter was obscured by a tree.

PicMonkey Collage

Today was Pork Day.

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And so naturally I had to have a Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork Sandwich.

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Thank you Dwayne, the kind representative from the pork stand.

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And thank you, Carla Comer Peacock, an honest-to-God girlfriend of mine from Monroe Central High School I ran into (we’re friends on Facebook so we recognized each other!!) who helped me get the pink pork-chop T-shirt Lulu is sporting (and the AWESOME pink Indiana Pork hat she isn’t wearing).

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Yes, we went to the livestock barns.   I pet a giant turkey.

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Lulu and her cousin Sophia were a cute little chick and bunny.

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We awed at World’s Largest Hog.

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And hammed it up at the “Make Your Own Post-card Booth” at the Soybean Barn.

state fair fun!

Since state fairs revolve around agriculture and celebrate the livelihood of farming,  indeed, there was a soybean barn… and a corn barn… and a completely recreated pioneer-era working farm.  It was a great fun and learning experience.   For example, the tractor-driven trailers that transported the too-tired-to-walk are fueled by those ubiquitous Hoosier soy legumes.   Cool-beans!

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The Department of Natural Resources sponsored a Catch-and-Release pond and a Butterfly Pavilion.

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We had no takers at our kissing booth.

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But Lulu and Sophia were both very much “Wanted!”

wanted

In the afternoon, as we were ready to go, I saw my friend Carla again. She asked my husband whether we enjoyed Indiana – since we have lived in Europe for so long.    Of course we enjoyed ourselves.  We’re constant tourists.

We revel in all things terrific.

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Who wouldn’t enjoy a lemonade made from inside a giant plastic lemon!

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With love from the Indiana State Fair!

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Baci, Gina! 

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Yes! It’s a Thankful at Thanksgiving Time Post!

All righty, fellow Americans, it’s that time of year again to gather around the table to give thanks.

Even if you’re not American, you’ve probably heard of it:  It’s our fun-and-family-filled (do these two really co-exist?) annual event in which we all eat a little too much and perhaps drink a little too much:  Thanksgiving!

Tradition has it, it started waaay back in the 1600’s when the Pilgrims gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts; thankful for a bountiful harvest. But for us,  when the dozens of us – Mom, Dad, Grannie, Grampa and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins arrived at Aunt Neatie and Uncle Dick’s house in Fish Lake, Indiana – we thought less about any harvest and more about eating, playing and, of course, football.

Here’s Aunt Neatie and Uncle Dick serving up the turkey at a family Thanksgiving… 😉

But, in the spirit of Thursday’s holiday and because it’s the obvious hook for this week’s blog, I am hereby going to tell you a few of the many things I am thankful for.

First, the most obvious: Family.  They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.  Maybe they also say something about your nose, but that’s gross.  Anyway, I am so grateful for my family. I have a mom and step-dad who have steadfastly loved and supported me over the years. We haven’t agreed on everything – but we always have kept the concept of “unconditional love” in the forefront.

Here’s our little family – before Lulu when we lived in Egypt.

My sister Andrea and my brothers Brad and Jayson all get along.  We have completely different lives and we don’t talk every day. But I know that if I ever were in dire need, they’d do whatever they could.  I’m confident they are assured of the same from me.

My husband, Scotty, is my best friend and partner.  In our seven years together, we have lived in Denver, Cairo, Seattle, Paris, Baltimore and Tuscany.  That’s more than some couples do in a lifetime!  And, of course, there’s Lulu.  I never knew what I was missing all those years before she came along.  What a joy. Frustrations too, but mostly, mostly joys.

I’m thankful for family

Health.  Second, or maybe even tops on the list, has to be health. You can have everything, but without your health to enjoy it…  this year has been a trying one for too many of my friends.. battling illnesses or dealing with the fallout from the struggles of family members.

Humor.  That’s it. The third and final thing I’ll list here today, next to health, is humor. The number one thing I believe your must have to fully experience well-being.  I don’t mean the ability to tell a great knock-knock-joke or leave ‘em crying at a comedy club; but the grace to find a silver lining or funny moment in the midst of despair.

Life’s short.  Soon we’ll be back around the sun again and looking inward at yet another Thanksgiving time.  Maybe we’ll have remembered to spend more of the trip being thankful the rest of the year too!

Okay, now who’s going to be in the big football match-up this year?

(Not that I’ll be watching from here in Tuscany, mind you!)

But happy Thanksgiving y’all and hug your family!

Ciao!

P.S. We’ve all got something to be thankful for, right? Share it!