“Gamble on yourself. I’d gamble on you.”

If you asked me whether I thought a quote from Modern Family would ever be the inspiration for a blog post, I probably would’ve said no, except if it was just hilarious and absurd and part of a “this made me laugh” conversation. (Or in reference to Cam’s “sleepclowning,” which made my childhood nightmares come true this week.)

But this week, there was a moment between Jay and Phil, which, if you watch the show, you know is a big deal.

Not from this episode, but another Jay/Phil moment.

The following conversation occurred as Phil was trying to decide whether to leave his steady job to become a partner at a new firm:

Jay: “Do you want this?”

Phil: “Yes.”

Jay: “Then gamble on yourself. I’d gamble on you.”

Cue tears. Maybe this is a message we are all waiting for, or one that we’ve been too stubborn to hear.

We’re waiting for the approval from our loved ones to take the risk, to make the leap, to double down on that hand on that big, hairy, scary dream of ours.

To accept that while failure is a possibility, we will be the better for it in the long run. We will learn from it. We will know better next time. And even if we do fail, our support systems will still love us. We are so conditioned to think that failure is the end, but really, it’s just the beginning. It’s the beginning of figuring out a new solution, a new path, a new adventure. If we succeeded at everything all the time… damn, that life would be boring, right? Probably rich and lucrative, but boring nonetheless.

When you go to Vegas, sure, it’s fun if you start winning right away. But eventually, you’re going to lose a little bit of money. It’s then that you start to appreciate the winnings. You’ve gotta take the risk, put yourself out there, and see what happens.

My family and friends have been nothing but supportive of me and my decisions over the past year. But I haven’t taken full advantage of that. I’ve been humbled by it, touched by it, but not quite as inspired by it as I should have been. They’ve all told me, in different words, that they are willing to gamble on me. That they would place that bet that I can hit the jackpot on this idea or that idea. That they have faith in me.

I’ve just been lacking that faith in myself. That ability to accept the possibility of failure. That fearless nature to put the big bet down, cross my fingers, close my eyes and see what happens.

Maybe it’s time to make that bet. If everyone else is willing to gamble on me, I should sure as hell be willing to gamble on myself. After all, I’ve got a lot less money to lose than most of the others!

Roots and Wings

I mentioned that I went to two concerts this weekend. The first was John Mellencamp with my parents, the second was Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers with three of my girlfriends.

This marked the fourth time I’ve seen SK (plus or minus the 6ers…once was a solo show), and I swear to you, they get better every time. They rocked it out last year when I saw them with my two best friends, and continued the tradition this past weekend. Only this time, it was a standing room only venue, so I got to fully experience it, bopping and dancing and jumping and being “those girls” in the crowd.

The power of music

Anyway, this isn’t about the concert, or about the band itself. This post is about the music. And the words.

I spent the last three weeks “studying” for this concert by listening to nothing but SK6ERS in my car. And I can’t even tell you how many times, as I was belting out the lyrics unashamed by the people who could see me through my tint-free windows, I was brought to tears or got chills when the lyrics actually hit me. Anyone who knows Stephen Kellogg’s music knows that he is VERY much about family, and that may be why I identify with his music so much.

One of the songs that’s meant the most to me lately is from their new album, Gift Horse, called “Roots and Wings.” I’m not going to write it to death, instead I want to share the talent of SK6ERS with you in its purest form.

Embracing my roots and wings

I absolutely LOVE this concept of “Roots and Wings,” and I am so glad that it’s something my parents have given me.

My roots are undeniable. I am a Baltimore girl through and through, and my life and my family here will always draw me back.

But my parents also gave me wings and have encouraged me to use them my whole life. I used my wings to head off to Elon, a place that became my home, a place I left my heart, and a place that formed me into the person I am today. I used my wings to spend a semester in Australia, a place that will forever make me smile, laugh and cry when I think about it. I grew more in my five months in that country than I did in any other time in my life. I learned to fly higher and stronger than ever before. I used my wings to move to Annapolis, where I was blessed with some of the best people I could have ever hoped to meet. I used my wings to quit my job, to dig myself out of a hole, and to take a grip on my life.

Through it all, my parents have supported and encouraged me.

They know that I’m looking to use those wings to take flight again very soon. To find my new home, my new adventure, my new calling. But they also know that they did a pretty damn good job raising me and that my roots run deep enough that I’ll always come back and never forget where I started.

I’m thankful for the fact that they gave me my roots and my wings and that they haven’t feared the changes that would bring.

Now if I could just convince myself to not fear those changes…

PS – If anyone watches the Sixers video and is wowed by the music (as you should be), they are doing two shows in Annapolis next month and I would love some company!

“Love you always and always.”

I am kind of in awe of the fact that I haven’t written in here in so long. And I don’t have any excuses for it, really. I just haven’t quite hit my stride recently and it’s taking a toll on my motivations. But anyway, I am back. And I have something valuable to write about today.

On the importance of grandparents

After spending a significant portion of the day on Sunday with my family, including my grandmother, I was drawn back to an email I received last week. She had just returned from a 10-day trip to San Diego, and she looked totally rejuvenated and lively. It made me think about how fortunate I am to be in touch with my grandmother, and to still have her be an active part of my life (and to just be active!).  I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of family in general lately, but this particular day brought me back to an email I shoved to the side last week.

A case of mistaken email identity

The email I am referring to is one I received  from an old woman in Canada. An email intended for her granddaughter, who is also named Lindsay.

I received another email from her in the past with the same mistake. Apparently her granddaughter and I share the same first and middle name, and she is under the impression that this email address belongs to her granddaughter.

The first time I got the email a couple months ago, I replied and let her know the error, and told her hoped that she would figure out the correct email address so she could get in touch with her granddaughter. And I thanked her for the motivation to send my own grandmother an email.

She sent another email the next day, asking if the email address belonged to The Other Lindsay. I replied saying, no, I’m sorry. This email belongs to Lindsay Eney. I apologize for the confusion.

And then I promptly forgot about it. Until July 5.

As soon as her name showed up in my inbox, I knew what it was without reading the subject or body of the email. My Canadian non-grandmother again. What I read made me immeasurably sad.

“I do miss hearing from you.”

That sentence was the third in this email. From what I can gather, there has been some sort of falling out in this family and this poor woman is just trying to reach out to her grandchildren.

She said she keeps running the situation over and over in her head, trying to make sense of it all, of how it happened and how to bring their family back together again. “Right now, we just have to wait and see what happens.”

She told Other Lindsay about her plans to go on a cruise to Alaska with her husband. She told Other Lindsay about her grandfather’s health and rest needs, and how the cruise would be a real restful holiday for them finally.

Grandma asked Other Lindsay about her new job, her new apartment, and whether she was planning to go back to school in the fall. She asked about her brother – whether she knew where he was, how we was doing, etc.

On the surface, these are fairly normal grandmotherly questions and comments. But this situation goes so much deeper.

“Love always and always.”

That’s how she signed the email. Not just always. “Always and always.”

I don’t know what happened in this family, and I never will. I feel a bit like an intruder on a private conversation, but it is a chance “meeting” that has had a profound effect on me.

Each time this Grandma talked about how much she loves Other Lindsay; how Other Lindsay is welcome to visit “ANYTIME;” how even if she doesn’t go back to school, it’s OK, because she tried her best; or how she never hears from Other Lindsay or her brother, my heart broke a little bit more.

This woman is obviously deeply saddened by whatever has happened to tear her family apart, but her love is still absolutely unconditional for her grandchildren. I can just picture her welcoming them into her home with a huge hug and a plate of warm cookies.

I think that is so representative of many grandparents out there. We may not call them or visit them enough (or in my grandmother’s case, email, text or facebook!), but whenever we come back, they’re always thrilled to see us and express their love in a way nobody else knows how.

Grandparents are special, and I think we take that for granted sometimes. I wish I could help my Canadian non-Grandma find peace and the affection she’s looking for from her grandchildren.

But all I can do is treat my own grandmother the right way.

And encourage all of you to do the same.

Take some time in the next couple days and call your grandparents. Send them an email with an update on your life, send a text that says, “I love you, Grandma,” or heck, poke them on Facebook. Video chat if you can, or even better, take them out to lunch.

We’re only blessed with them for so long, and they deserve the receive a return on all the love they’ve given us.

To my only remaining grandparent, my beloved Nana, I hope you know how much I care for you and what you mean to our family. Love you always and always.

(And to The Other Lindsay – please, oh please… get in touch with your grandmother. She loves you and misses you very much.)

All in the [Australian] Family

Last week over at the Go! Girl Guides, one of the Go! Girls, Rease, wrote about finding a family away from home while you’re traveling. Her post really resonated with me and couldn’t help but make me reminisce about the two Australian families I became a part of during my semester there. This has the potential to get lengthy, so I may just talk about the first in this one.

Family #1: The housing manager who opened up his home

The first day that I was on campus at Curtin, my friend Krysta and I were getting our orientation at Vickery House, where we would be living for the next five months. As the housing manager asked us where we were from and we told him Elon, he immediately said, “Oh, do you know Lisa Marie?”

It’s a small world after all

We determined that he was talking about my favorite sociology/women’s studies professor. She had actually told him beforehand that I was going to be at Curtin, but no one knew at that time that I would be living in his housing area. It turns out that he got to know Lisa when she was leading one of Elon’s winter term trips there years ago, and they’ve been in touch ever since.

From that day on, Krysta and I were in good standing with Paul. He immediately put us at ease about this experience that was more than a little bit daunting. Anything we needed, he would help us with. Anything he told the other Americans “no” about, he gave us a hearty “yes.” All of the staff in the office knew us by name and house number within a couple of days. He took us under his wing and it was only a matter of time before he extended an invitation to his home.

Amicable Aussies made us feel at home

The first time we went, Krysta and I took the bus to a main bus depot and then Paul picked us up with his precious little girl Savanna (6 years old) and their dog Bailey in the car. He took us to a nearby monument near Freo to watch the sunset for a bit and let Bailey roam around (or drag Savanna around).

One of the monuments at the park in Fremantle where Paul took us to watch the sunset.

When we got to the house, we got our first dose of Australian family life. Paul’s wife Deb greeted us with big hugs and lots of enthusiasm. Their son Sam (13 years old) was a little more subdued than Deb and Savanna were, and I can’t say I blamed him.

We started the evening out with some cheese, crackers and wine out at the picnic table. Little Savanna couldn’t wait to interrogate us about everything and was especially eager to give us a gift – pieces of red string that we were to wear around our ankles or wrists (we chose ankles) and not remove until all the color was gone from them. I want to say it had something to do with the Dalai Lama?? I can’t recall, it’s been a while. But it was a sweet gesture for such a young girl. We talked about Lisa, about how Krysta and I were getting along so far, and how we were always welcome in their home.

The power of a home-cooked meal

The food that night was phenomenal. I’m not sure if it was the actual quality of the food or just that it was the first real, home-cooked meal we’d had since leaving the States. There is something to be said for a real house, a real kitchen, and a meal prepared by a mom. We had our “family dinners” among our group of friends, but they were always just a smorgasbord of whatever was on sale and in our fridges that week. Nothing particularly gourmet and never really with that true home-made feel.

So when Deb presented us with a crazy-good chicken risotto, amazing potato bake, fresh vegetables, and I can’t even remember what else, we were thrilled. It smelled and tasted amazing. For dessert we had a pear tart a la mode. I still dream about that tart frequently.

When Paul drove us back to campus that night, insisting that it was far too late for us girls to be taking the bus back by ourselves, our hearts were as full as our stomachs. We had found a family to call our own for this time away from home, and here was Paul, who puts on this tough exterior in his job, playing a real father figure for us. We knew we would be back to see them again.

Round 2: The family was complete

The second time we went to dinner at Paul’s house, my housemate Fraser joined us (at Paul’s invitation). This time, it felt even more like a family affair.

When we got there, Bailey came running up with a wagging tail. Then again, so did Savanna. She clung to us and yanked us over to play Monopoly, Jr. with her. From our spots on the living room floor, we called in to Deb, who was hard at work in the kitchen. We offered our assistance, but she refused to let us help.

Ahhh Monopoly Jr. Classic.

So while she and Paul were putting the last touches on dinner, Krysta, Fraser and I played Monopoly, Jr. with Savanna and Sam. Sam was trying to keep Savanna from cheating, Fraser was getting frustrated at losing, and Krysta and I just kept laughing. It was like our little family was complete now with Fraser there. Krys and I had our big brother (even though I’m older than him by three weeks) as well as our little brother and sister. And of course our dog and Mom and Dad.

A great hangover cure: family and love

Deb outdid her last meal with this dinner. I’ve gotta say, it was a perfect hangover cure for those of us who had overindulged the night before. (Guilty.) And for dessert this time? The all-American apple pie a la mode.

After we helped clean up and do the dishes, we all settled down in the living room to watch their favorite Sunday night television – Grey’s Anatomy and Brother & Sisters. It turns out Krysta and I had a lot in common with them. As we joined their Sunday night routine, including tucking Savanna into bed, we truly became a part of the family. We were even given the task of muting the tv during the commercials, as they were accustomed to doing.

The place that brought me so many different versions of "home" and "family."

At the end of the night, it was much too late for Paul to drive us all the way back, so he called a cab for us. And insisted on giving us money for it. We protested ad nauseam, but finally he just slipped the money to Fraser and walked away saying “Good night, kids.”

When we got back to campus, Krysta went back to her flat to talk to her parents on Skype and Fraser and I went back to ours to chat with our housemates. I went from one of my families in Australia to another. And while I missed my family back in the States, I felt like I had really found my place there. Like I had found myself. And that family was a huge part of that.

Family then and forever

Sadly, we did not get back for another family dinner before leaving Oz. And I haven’t really talked to Paul and Deb and the kids since I left.

But I know that if I contact them if when I go back to Perth, I will absolutely be welcome in their house again. Once a family, always a family.

In fact, maybe I’ll contact them again soon just to catch up. I can’t wait to hear what antics Savanna’s gotten into in the past three years. And Sam should be getting ready to head off to uni in a just a couple years…crazy!

Dear Cody…

Happy 3rd birthday to my favorite little man!

Dear Cody,

I can’t believe that it has been three years since I got the wonderful call that I had a beautiful, healthy baby nephew waiting for me on the other side of the world. I was having the time of my life in Australia, but I couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to meet you for another month! I wanted to hop on a plane and come home right then, just to hold you in my arms!

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I was behaving well or that I was studying quietly in my room when Nonna called me to tell me I was an aunt. Nope, because I don’t lie to you.

The truth is, I was partying.

I was on a small island in the Indian Ocean. I had made some new friends at the hostel, enjoyed some beverages, tried to get some quokkas intoxicated. And then we went to the one bar on the island.

I had to go into the bathroom to hear what my mom was telling me on the phone. I asked the requisite questions, gave my heartfelt congratulations to her to pass on to your mom and dad, and told her to tell you I loved you and couldn’t wait to meet you.

And then I partied some more.

I told everyone in that whole damn bar that I was an aunt. That I had the cutest nephew in the world (even though I hadn’t seen what you looked like yet) and that it was killing me to not be there with you. Strangers gave a toast in my (and your) honor. The bar was cheering for little Cody back in the United States!

That night, after we all stumbled back to the hostel, I dug some coins out of my purse so I could use the computer to see the photos that Nonna was emailing to me.

I cried at the sight of your squishy little head

And at the look of pure love on my big sister’s face as she held you.

For the next month and seven days that I was still in Australia, I stalked photos of you as much as I could. I made Mom and Kristin send me photos every day. And I dreamed of the day I would finally get to hold you and say, “Hi, Cody, I’m your Aunt Lindsay.”

I will never forget the day I met you…

And not just because I had to throw out the shorts I was wearing because you pooped all over them. Within five minutes of being put in my arms. It’s OK, I’ve forgiven you by now. I know you just couldn’t contain your excitement at finally getting to meet the coolest aunt you could have ever wanted.

Cody, I wish I could put into words what you mean to me, and to the rest of our family. You’ll probably never fully know the effect you had on your mommy and daddy, on Nonna and Pop, and on me. But let me tell you this:

You changed us all, little man.

You brought us back together as a family and you opened us up to a kind of love none of us really knew existed. You were the first child for your mom and dad, the first grandchild for Nonna and Pop, and the first little munchkin would give me the title of “aunt.” You were a “first” for all of us, Code, and we can’t thank you enough for that.

And on top of that, you convinced your Aunt Linny that she needs to have kids someday. I wasn’t sure about it before, but once I met you, I knew that if I could love my nephew this much, I needed to have a kid of my own to share that love with too. That’s quite a ways down the road now (don’t start asking for a cousin yet!), but it’s because of you, kiddo.

Every time you come running at me with your arms wide open, a big smile on your face and a light in those baby blues screaming, “LINNY!!!” my heart swells.

You make me so proud…

Of you for being sooo smart and friendly and adventurous and loving, and of your parents. They’ve done an amazing job with you so far and I can only imagine what a wonderful young man you’re going to end up being.

I know you’re gonna grow up one day and your Aunt Linny probably won’t be so cool anymore. But I’m gonna try my damnedest to be a pretty awesome aunt to you for the rest of your life, buddy.

Whenever you need me, I’ll be there.

Happy 3rd birthday, Cody!

I love you always,

Aunt Linny