Going for Gold

Memories are made and stars are born at the Olympics, and even someone who’s been a star since birth can shine bright enough to leave a lasting impression. The Queen of England proved that recently when she officially became a Bond Girl with her dramatic entrance at the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympic Games, joining the excited spectators in the coliseum. The Queen herself, however, didn’t look all that excited.

“She looks mad,” my 11-year-old son said when the cameras showed her without a smile in the audience several times.

“Give her a break, Sam,” my nine-year-old daughter replied. “She’s old and she just jumped out of a plane, didn’t she?”

While the Queen’s acting debut will stand out as a highlight for me, I know there will be many more to enjoy as well.

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is always on full display when the world comes together to present the best of the best. My first memory of falling in love with the spectacular event was back in 1976 when I first laid eyes on a 14-year-old girl named Nadia Comaneci.

I remember being in the living room of my house, sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching our old black and white TV after my mom had called me in to see the women’s gymnastics. I was immediately amazed, not just at their beauty and skill, but at their pint-sized proportions. Some of them – Nadia in particular – didn’t look much older than me.

I hadn’t seen or heard of her before, but I would soon never forget her when she became the first gymnast to score a perfect ten and instantly became an international superstar. For years my friends and I would pretend to be Nadia, re-enacting her sheer brilliance in our imaginations.

I was nine years old at the time – the same age my daughter Daisy is now. A budding tumbler herself, it’s not surprising that her favourite competitions to watch are the gymnastics, even with the men and their “gross hairy armpits.”

“Seriously,” she said covering her eyes more than once when different athletes reached for the rings. “That is not attractive!”

Yet soon enough they wowed her with their power and precision and she’d just sit in awe with the rest of us.

What’s breathtaking about all of the Olympic athletes that manage to make it to this level of greatness is what we will never see: their grueling journeys in getting there. Whether they’ve come from the ghetto or royalty, their passion, perseverance and unwavering will to win is inspiring and motivating to Olympian hopefuls, as well as to the millions of people like me.

“As simple as it sounds,” Mary Lou Retton, another Olympic superstar once said, “We all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we’ve been given.”

I have no doubts that Queen Elizabeth, and my daughter Daisy Elizabeth, would agree.

More columns, blogs, cartoons and videos can be found at LoriWelbourne.com

The introduction to the introduction

After almost three years of writing a column that’s accompanied by a custom illustration, I got to see the wonderful work of my cartoonist come to life in a whole new way this week.

With two years of producing short videos under my belt, I’d been itching to create an animated introduction to the On a Brighter Note series. Once I met local animator Todd Ramsay and saw some of his fantastic work, I knew it was just a matter of time.

A big fan of Jim Hunt, Todd said he’d be happy to work with us.  I called Jim to ask if he’d ever had any of his cartoons animated during his impressive 30-year career.

“No,” he replied. “But I’ve always wanted to.” It was just the answer I was hoping for.

I know I should have been satisfied with the weekly cartoons he was emailing me, and I easily could have been. Every time I open one of his attachments it feels like I’m opening a wonderful gift that will significantly add to my story in a way that I never could. But the idea of seeing one of his drawings move and start to sing made me want to move and start to sing too. So I did.

“I’ve written a jingle that I’d like to record,” I told my new music producer friend, Bob Gabelhouse, when I went to his studio.

“Can you sing?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Like a banshee.” But that didn’t matter. The animation was intended to jive with the column, and how can I write a column about my life and not use my own voice for the song?

While I tortured BiG Audio Production Studio with my limited vocal abilities, Jim delighted the animator and me with four crisp, clean cartoons. The rest was up to Todd Ramsay to work his magic and breathe life into our vision.

The first time I saw the finished animation I immediately watched it again, and then again and again and again. The sound of my own voice made me cringe, but the visuals on screen were poetic. For someone to take the image in my brain and make it appear before me in a way I could never have done on my own is a wonderful gift that I’m so grateful to receive.

And it’s a gift I’m used to getting each week. Not just with Jim Hunt’s brilliant cartoons, but with Jason Woodford’s editing of my videos. Often we run out of the time and resources to get the videos exactly as I envision, but we get a heck of a lot closer than if I were doing them myself.

On a Brighter Note has required the skills of others since its inception three years ago and I’m proud and full of gratitude to have worked with some amazingly talented artists along the way.

My video this week showcases a few of those people. It also serves as a great example of what could happen should you ever trust me to tell your side of the story. To see that video with it’s new animated introduction, please visit LoriWelbourne.com