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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Postcards from the US: Do the Irish toss rocks and roll cheese?

“I know the Irish toss rocks, right?”

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Cesar put this question to me yesterday when I mentioned I lived in Ireland. “That’s like one of their big sports.”

“What?!” I replied, shaking my head and laughing.

“I saw it on TV. A bunch of guys with red beards so I figured they must have been Irish,” the 27-year-old explained.  “And cheese rolling too. Great big flat wheels of cheese. But then again, maybe they were Swiss. The cheese and the people. I don’t know. I saw it on ESPN.  So it has to be something.”

“Listen,” I was practically rolling and gasping at this point, “I don’t know where to begin. I know a bit about the GAA (Ireland’s sports league, the Gaelic Athletic Association) but outside of hurling I haven’t heard of rock tossing as an Irish national sport. And you’re on your own on the cheese bit.”

Cultural exchange

For me, the best part of traveling is not the new architecture, foods or landscapes, but meeting new people.

Anyone. My Haitian-born taxi driver, Louis, who is now an American citizen but reached Miami on a boat in 1997 with 146 other people fleeing the chaos of their country.

Luciana, my Diplomat Resort Hotel concierge who upgraded me to a suite and whose father was an Argentine diamond miner. Before he died, he made an exquisite ring embedded with six pea-sized diamonds that she proudly wore and that I admired.  I also commented on her name and she shared that her mother was from Italy. Since I lived in Tuscany for three years, we enjoyed a quick chat in Italiano.

Luciana’s incredible kindness radiated in such a way you hardly noticed the six-inch scar winding along the left side of her neck from the cancer surgery she endured last year. She teaches grade school children how to recycle and take better care of the environment in her spare time and was recently named one of her county’s 100 “Outstanding Women” for her work with the schools and with the Boys and Girls Club.

When you ask new people about themselves, you get a chance to be informed andinspired.

And, in the case of Cesar, you sometimes get a chance to have a cultural exchange.

As my audio technician, this guy was already more familiar with me than many people – since the lavaliere microphone I wore for the global tech conference I was hosting – had its cord connected to a receiver attached to a black Velcro garter that Cesar fastened high around my right thigh.

I thought it only fair that I get to know him a bit better too.

First off, when I asked how he preferred to have his name pronounced, he said he didn’t mind.  He gets it both ways.  His mother, who is from the Dominican Republic, calls him “Say-zar” while his American father calls him “See-zir.”

He spent the first 17 years of his life in the D.R., and moved over to South Florida to go to college and to live near his dad who came back to the US after he split with Cesar’s mom.

With three brothers and a sister, Cesar is the baby.  Teasing, I asked him which sibling is his least favourite.  At first he smiled as if he might divulge a story, but after the momentary hesitation he diplomatically declared he liked them all equally.

Who will he vote for?

He also declared he had a great interest in the upcoming presidential election. Yes, he’s registered.  He is planning to vote.

He and a lot of his young male friends were Bernie Sanders supporters during the primaries.  They especially liked Sanders’ pledge to tackle college debt.

Now he’s not sure what he’ll do.  He said he can’t believe the things that keep coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. But he doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton.

I asked him to tell me one thing he really liked to do – besides watching rock tossing on ESPN – and he revealed he shared my passion for travel.

Cesar was curious to learn more about Ireland.

“The Irish drink a lot, don’t they?” he fired off. 

“Many enjoy the odd pint,” I demurred.

“Can you do an Irish accent?!”

He really pressured me on this one, cajoling me with a string of “C’mon’s!” and “Just try’s”. But even after living for nearly two years in my adopted country, the fact that there are so many variations of dialects combined with the other fact that I’m just no good at imitations helped me manage to duck his repeated request.

He also asked me about the weather in Ireland.  In South Florida, we were coming off of a couple of pounding thunderstorms.  I told him it rains like that a lot in Ireland.

“That’s okay,” he brightly replied. “I like the rain.”

“It also averages about 15-17 degrees Celsius which is about 60 Fahrenheit.”

“Oh,” said my new Dominican Republic-American friend,” That’s too cold.”

So for now, anyway, Cesar may continue to learn about Ireland through TV. But perhaps I can recommend the National Geographic Channel in place of ESPN.

P.S. Should I tell him about Irish road bowling??

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Throughout August while I’m back in the USA, I’ll be writing postcard portraits of people I meet.  Their perspectives on life, Ireland and the US Presidential election.

Please Follow me and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Star Spangled Spanner

I’ve lived outside the US for several years and often write about my cultural, business and gastronomical experiences in other countries.  It’s with great pleasure then, that I put a different spin on things today – and share a perspective on my own country through the writing of my dear Irish friend and newspaper columnist Suzanne Brett. july 4 #3

(and if you’d like to read her column as it appears in the on-line version of the Cork Independent, click here!) 

After enjoying a few hours of premier class treatment, I again touched down on American soil last week after an absence of a few years. Like so many others, I’ve endured a heavy dose of Celtic Tiger blues but I’m beginning to feel like I’m in remission.

Anyway, myself and G, (my very well connected American bestie, who’d accompanied me and arranged the whole shebang) quickly checked into our hotel, changed into our glad rags and grabbed a cab.

Security was tight as we approached the residence (hint – it’s completely painted white) and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive but also a lot excited.

The scene was so surreal. Only a few hours earlier I’d been elbow deep in laundry back home in Cork and now here I was, dressed to the nines, sat in the back of a taxi watching as US security personnel, using those mirror on a stick thingies, checked out the undercarriage of the car.

And by the way girls, I’d be lying if I said I’d have taken offence to these lads checking out my actual undercarriage … if you know what I mean. But I digress.

After examining our invitations and passports, checking us off against their list and confiscating our phones, the cab was finally waved through and we made our way up the beautiful winding driveway. Everything was pruned, landscaped and shaped to perfection.

It was kind of everything I’d expected it to be from years of watching programmes like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The West Wing’. Those Americans certainly know how to impress, I’ll give them that.

G was taking it all in her stride and remained utterly un-phased by the entire adventure. Granted though, she’s a past master at this kind of thing having actually sat down and interviewed Clinton and Bush among others over the years. However, she handled me with consummate skill and ease and any feelings I had of being the country bumpkin visiting ‘the big shmoke’ were entirely my own, as she couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my awestruck-ness.

Being 4 July, the event we’d been invited to was taking place on the back lawn, and as much as I was desperate to have a nose around inside, I knew it wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. We were escorted around the side of the house and invited to partake of the spread of different foods and beverages sourced from the fifty states of the Union.

As I enjoyed a glass of delicious Kentucky bourbon (and I don’t even drink whiskey) and munched on a New York burger I simultaneously made small talk with the Kenyan Ambassador.

In between bites and sips, I was introduced to captains and captainesses of industry, all of whom seemed to have Irish connections of one kind or another. And pretty soon I started to feel like I actually belonged in such rarefied company and august surroundings.

I finally realised I’d become separated from G and in the process of searching for her, I happened to bump into a charming man who introduced himself before asking if I was enjoying myself.

We got to chatting and spent a wonderful half hour before he excused himself and disappeared into the crowd, shaking hands with people as he went.

The following day I Googled the names of some of the people I’d met. Finally, I searched Kevin O’Malley, the lovely gentleman I’d chatted with, just to see if he was anyone of note.

I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling I experienced on discovering he’s the American Ambassador to Ireland!

And me, having spent the evening in his beautiful Phoenix Park residence and enjoying his hospitality without so much as a go raibh maith agat! #Cringe #Gobdaw

Thanks, Suzanne! We had great fun, (or “craic” as you Irish would say), didn’t we?!  Let’s do it again next year!

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, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Gina’s recipe for Pear Scones

I know I regularly write about how to improve business communications, but since I firmly believe we don’t have a professional life and a personal life – we just have a life – I am taking this moment to share something from my life – that I find pretty tasty!

scones 2

Since moving to Ireland, I have discovered scones are an integral part of life.  If it’s morning time and you walk into a café, a coffee shop or a diner, there will be scones.  One of the companies I am consulting with at the moment has a monthly communications meeting from all the department heads.  Before the employees walk into the conference room, they pause to take a scone from the heap of them on the long table out front.  The typical trifecta of flavors are “Brown” with wholewheat flour, “Fruit” – which usually translates as raisins or currants, or “Plain,” uhm, which is plain.

Scones are served with fresh whipped cream, Irish butter or jam to be slathered on.  And they’re not just for breakfast, either.  The first time I met someone for afternoon tea, the waitress asked me, “Would you like a scone with your tea?”

I like the scones here.  They’re not the dried out, flattened biscuits that are passed as scones in other parts of the world.  They’re dense yet still moist.

Interestingly, I have never had a pear scone here in Ireland – that I didn’t make myself.  I’ve been baking mine for about four years from some recipe I found online when we lived in Italy long before I ever imagined I would be moving to Ireland. I don’t remember the official source, since I hand-copied the recipe and the slip of paper now lives in my recipe box.  So, I don’t claim to have created this recipe, but I am happy to share it with you as “mine.”

Without further ado, here is my recipe for Pear Scones! Slainte!

Gina’s Pear Sconesscones

2 Cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ Cup white sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¾ Cup diced fresh pear

5 tablespoons cold butter

1 Cup cream (or half regular milk and half vanilla yogurt, which I have substituted when out of cream – and it worked great!)

Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter until tiny crumbs.  Stir in diced pear and the liquid. This dough is pretty sticky – but that’s fine. Turn out onto floured service and lightly knead.  I put it then into an 8 inch cake pan and cut into 8 wedges.  Sprinkle top with white sugar –(I prefer caster sugar, which is really fine white sugar you can get here in Ireland/UK easily –  if you have it.)

Bake at 220C/400 F for 12/15 minutes

I cut mine in wedges although all the scones here are round.  I suppose you could easily cut the dough with an overturned and lightly floured glass if you’d prefer the round shape.

Et voila! I hope you like them.

Cheers, and happy life!

Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.  

Motivation Matters.

I’ve read Tony Robbins’ books and they’re ‘drivel.’

Those are the words a person I know – and respect, actually – wrote to me this week on Facebook after I mentioned I’ll be sharing the stage with the world’s number one life coach.

Robbins and I are both speaking at Dublin’s incredible Pendulum Summit, which is a 3000-person, sold-out conference of several speakers – capped off by a five-hour master class by Robbins – dedicated to motivating and inspiring professionals to push past fears, take risks and improve and empower their lives.

And tonight, at the Speakers and Sponsors dinner before tomorrow’s conference, I met Tony for the first time.  Dublin’s innovative photographer, Conor McCabe, was there shooting pictures loaded online in a stunning simultaneous process that he is leading the way on.  Robbins took his time working the room. He unhurriedly went to every single table greeting and talking with every single person in there.  gina and tony.jpg

Okay, if you’re a naysayer, I know it’s what he may be “expected” to do. But as I met him, he didn’t seem perfunctory or assuming a role. He asked me questions and appeared to really listen to my answers.  His expression seemed kind. His eyes were on me – not looking around or over my head at who was next in line – although at 6’7” he easily could have!

I was impressed. I look forward to hearing what he has to say tomorrow.

As a veteran CNN correspondent and now current communications consultant, I have interviewed and/or worked with thousands of newsmakers, business executives, politicians and thought-leaders.  They all seem to benefit from encouragement and motivation.  Every one of them.

Ninety-nine percent of my Facebook friends wrote that they thought it was exciting that I’d be meeting Robbins. But there’s always someone out there who discounts motivation, isn’t there? I respect that my friend mentioned above felt comfortable enough with me to tell me his views and he certainly has his right to his own opinion.

But, why the negativity I wonder?

I suppose if you’re great at self-motivation or self-empowerment, you don’t need, seek or want encouragement from others.  But for those of us who aren’t lone wolves, who appreciate a wing-man, cheerleader or coach, I’m thrilled and honoured to be a part of this event.

Do you like motivation seminars? If so, why? If not, why not? What motivates you? I’d love to know.

In the meantime, here’s to Ireland’s Pendulum Summit. A motivational way to kick off the new year!

And, for me, I truly hope, many more returns!

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Renew Your Hope for the New Year

As I was leaving the cafe here in almost always dampy-misty-drizzly Ireland, I first held open the door for an elderly lady.

rainbows_and_temples.jpg

She smiled up at me as she walked into the dreary outside and said, “Here’s hoping the rain stops soon and we get a burst of precious sunshine.”

I smiled back at her and nodded.  But inside my head was surprised. I thought a bit cynically, “Man, that lady must’ve been around for at least seventy years. She should be used to this perpetually grey weather…

…how funny she’s still making comments about hoping for sun.”

The lady at the café is like most of my Irish friends and acquaintances. They who keep, as they will tell you, “getting on with it.”  They who continue to take care of business, their families and their lives. One eye turned upward in hope of a glimpse of precious sun.

I am certain we have all had our share of emotional rain.  This year, in particular, with so many deadly shootings and terrorist attacks across the globe, it’s not overstating it to bemoan that we have endured more than our share.

And yet, there’s still hope.

Just a couple of days ago, as it began to roll out its holiday “year-ender” pieces,The New York Times took a moment to reflect on some of the brighter moments in 2015 in an expression of hope for sanguine things yet to come.  

So no. The lady’s sentiment was not funny at all.  After I considered that encounter a little longer, I realize hers is only way to be. Unceasingly hopeful.

Simple hope is not enough, of course.  We also have to take positive steps toward realizing the benefits that the vision of hope plants within us.

What are you hoping for? Great. Now in 2016, what are you going TO DO about it?  What active steps? Incremental successes toward a defined goal.  Now is the time to begin.  To achieve what you hope for.

No matter how much rain, we must remain hopeful that the sun is around the bend.

You know the saying,

You can’t have a rainbow without first some rain.

It seems especially true to me leaving here in Ireland.  The land of rain.  The land of rainbows.

Here’s to a 2016 full of hope and positive action!

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

The Opportunity to See Puffins!

What will you do when opportunity presents itself?   Whether in business or not, it’s all the same, isn’t it?  After all, you don’t  have a professional life and a personal life; you have a life.

Yesterday, I took a boat two hours off the southern coast of Ireland to an uninhabited island known as Skellig Michael.

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Skellig Michael as we approached from John O’Shea’s fine boat.

It’s uninhabited by people – but very much inhabited by 10 thousand puffins.  Yes, the alluring little sea bird with the striped orange beak and matching webbed feet with harlequin-marked eyes nest in burrows all over the craggy rock mountain which juts some 750 feet high out of the Atlantic.   The steep island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also a place I have wanted to visit since I first learned about puffins as a little girl growing up in Indiana, which as you all know is surrounded by corn fields not the ocean.

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A Puffin ready for his close-up!

Since we moved to Ireland last September, I have been talking about my puffin dream to everyone I met.  A few told me they had visited the island. Many more had not. But, like me, said they dream of going. One day.

Then suddenly, a friend whose family owns a summer home on Lamb’s Head, texted me with the opportunity to stay at the house.  The timing was now.

Was I willing?  Would I pack up, grab my seven-year-old daughter and pop into the car? Drive the two hours along tiny coastal roads I have never traveled on to a place I have never been? Book a boat trip by ringing  a captain I have never met  just one day prior? Inquire about space? Ride two more hours on said boat? Trek up to a remote spot in the middle of the sea?

We did it! We made it to Puffin Island, aka Skellig Michael, Ireland.

But I have other work to do. But, my daughter would miss a day of summer camp that has already been paid for. But. But. There is likely always going to be a but!  But what if you just do it?

Which is what I did, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this.

Yesterday was a lifetime experience for my daughter and me.   It was a glorious, sunny day  and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves simply watching the birds.

Puffins are treasures, Lulu proclaimed.

unnamed (6)

There was an elderly man on our boat who told us that although he has lived in Ireland all his life, he had never taken the opportunity to see the puffins. Finally he was doing it. Almost too late.

Maybe yesterday wasn’t the perfect time, but it was the time.   Maybe seeing little waddling puffins is not part of your dreams.   But what is?

Lulu, using her stuffed Puffin named
Lulu, using her stuffed Puffin named “Muffin” as a decoy, tries to entice a real puffin. It didn’t work!

When the door opens , will you hesitate, or will you rush through?

(Carpe diem, baby! And a huge, heart-felt thank you to Noelle Barry for the use of her home and to John O’Shea, for an A+ boat trip!)

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.