Taking the Leap

29 09 2012

I jumped out of an airplane and I jumped back into my life. It’s now been a few years since I stepped into thin air, it will always be a significant mile marker on my creative journey. I was recently divorced and my daughter was about to move out. (For all you about to be empty nesters—don’t get too excited—those little birds you push out of the nest have a way of flying back into that safe nest.) The offer to jump was a gift from a friend for big birthday I was about to have.

It started with a casual conversation with my friend saying, “You may think I’m crazy, but I’m thinking of skydiving.” I didn’t think it was crazy and I replied, “Cool, I could do that.” He was surprised by my answer and said that if I’d jump it would be a gift for my 50th birthday. So we set the date and of course started telling everyone we knew. What surprised me was while his friends were in disbelief and thought he’d back out, my friends weren’t surprised and had no doubt that I’d do it.

I was always surprised by how others view of me differed from my own. Internally I was emotionally beaten up from what had been a difficult marriage. I felt once a woman became a certain age, she often becomes invisible to society. But others saw that inner Connie light shining, even if I felt it had dimmed.

I remember watching Peter Pan on TV when I was a little girl. There’s a point in the story when Tinkerbelle starts to lose her power and Peter Pan turns to the TV audience and tells them to clap to let Tinkerbelle know you believed in her. I remember standing in front of that TV and clapping and clapping and watching the light of Tinkerbelle get stronger and stronger. That’s what my friends’ confidence in me did in this stretch of my life’s journey. It made my inner light stronger. I am now no longer invisible.

Keep Moving Forward

The day of the jump dawned into a beautiful, cool, crisp spring day. You have to jump in tandem with an experienced skydiver and there’s a simple training they put you through that takes about an hour. Those details have become a little fuzzy. But I remember every detail of the jump itself. I was excited and keenly aware of the symbolism of what this jump meant for me. I knew in my core that I would land safely. Symbolically and in reality I believe that if you take a leap, the universe will help you land where you are meant to be. I wanted to stay present in every moment of this adventure.

There was friendly talk as the plane climbed into the sky. One guy joked about when people asked him why would he jump out of a perfectly good plane, he would reply that the plane is really not really that good as he pointed to where it was duck taped together. But that didn’t scare me. The diver I was tethered to wasn’t much of a talker, which suited my excited, yet contemplative state of mind.

The time came to jump. I had total confidence in who I was tethered to, but that moment of stepping out of the plane…hanging on the wing, feeling the cold wind in my face and knowing that I had to let go…was a moment of pure terror. I put my foot on the tiny step outside of the plane and held tightly onto the wing. I was full of fear and at the point of no going back.

Then I Let Go

And I let go of the fear and I only felt the exhilaration of free fall. I could feel and hear the wind whistling past and I felt the power of the fall against my skin. I could see for miles. Because you don’t have anything grounding you, there is not a feeling of a fear of heights like when you look over the edge of a tall building. I just felt the energy and adrenaline pumping through my veins.

Then the parachute opens. And you enter the Zen of the jump. The world become silent, timeless and you are floating in air. This was the unexpected part for me…the silence…and the floating feeling. Floating in a pool is lovely, but you still feel the pull of gravity. Once that chute opens, you no longer feel the gravitational pull. The seconds turn into minutes and you know it will be over soon, but while you are in this quiet space, time stands still.

I had been told to keep my legs up and to slide on landing. Soon enough I felt the ground beneath me. This was the biggest adrenaline rush of my life. I felt the power of that rush and the reality of the total exhilaration of jumping into my life.

Be fearless and take the leap.

Advertisements




Purple

22 09 2012

My Dad starring in and producing his own  tv commercial.

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, was a local character and would have been 81 today. He owned a TV and appliance business and did his own commercials. They were those classic “bad” commercials that were very local. The picture is from 1968. This commercial is from 1980.

He was, however, groundbreaking in his own way. As a teenager, when your parents are supposed to be invisible, having a Dad on TV was mortifying. A friend reminded me that when I was in high school, I would have him drop me off at the corner rather than be driven to the front door in one of his purple delivery vans. I’m now very happy to remember him as an honorable man and a great dad.

His building was known as “the large purple building on Airline Highway” The color came into being because he had one delivery truck and let an ex-con paint it because he was very affordable. It came back painted a “wild” purple color. But people soon started asking Dad if he had a fleet. A marketing accident that turned into a successful brand was born.

Right around Father’s Day a friend asked me to lunch. She had worked with my Dad after he sold his business and had a few stories she wanted to tell me. It prompted me to post the above picture on Facebook for Father’s Day. I got a ton of sweet and lovely comments and memories from people, some I didn’t even know.

My friend was fresh in her career when she worked with my Dad years ago. She told me stories of how funny and helpful he was and that he gave her real solid advice on being in sales.

Then she noticed I was wearing purple—Dad’s color. I had unconsciously worn that color and I’m so grateful she noticed. I have no doubt that my Dad was sitting in on that conversation and loving every minute of the attention he was getting.

I realize that I’ve even filled my house with purple. I was painting an accent wall in my home a very deep purple. I went to the paint store that was now housed in his old purple building. They kept trying to get the color right, but it took 2 hours of mixing and remixing. I felt his spirit was there and there I was getting purple paint and he just wanted me to stay there in that building for as long as possible.

Some people see butterflies when they feel a loved ones presence. I see purple.





A Perfect Moment

15 09 2012

Honoring Nine-Eleven

It’s been eleven years since the 9-11 attacks.  In today’s contentious political environment, it’s hard to remember how united we were then as Americans. I don’t remember right wing or left wing factions yelling at each other. I remember intense patriotism and people proudly flying flags. I remember that saying the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem would bring tears to my eyes. I remember how important it was to go to church because we needed to pray together.

I’ve written in previous posts about being a Girl Scout Leader. I wrote the following story eleven years ago, not long after the attacks. When I look back on my life at moments that stand out, this remains an intensely loved memory. The 6th grade girls in the story are now amazing 22-year-old women fresh in adulthood. I miss them and am still proud of them all.

Written 11 Years Ago

A Perfect Moment

I experienced a moment that was not only a great Girl Scout experience; it was one of those moments that you savor because you know it is special and fleeting. My 6th grade troop was on a 2-night campout at Camp Marydale that is in beautiful W. Feliciana Parish.

We were now among the big girls. We were sleeping in tents for the first time. These were permanent canvas tents with a platform wooden floor and cots with mattresses, which is not really roughing it. But, it had gotten down to the low 40’s that November night, which is very cold to all of us southern girls. We had signed up to lead the 7:15 flag-raising ceremony on Saturday morning. Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks, these ceremonies have taken on a deeper meaning and we really felt it was an honor to perform this ceremony. The girls organized themselves and had practiced late Friday night. Not only were we going to raise the flag, but also several girls who are in band had brought their instruments and they were going to play.

We got up at 6:30 a.m. and were ready despite being cold and still sleepy. It was a beautiful, cool, crisp morning without a cloud in the blue sky. Our breath left its presence in the air. Other troops slowly wandered up and we all formed a horseshoe around the flagpole. My girls marched in with the flag and a Scout gave the flag commands in a strong, clear voice and the flag was raised. After everyone said the pledge of allegiance, the band played the Star Spangled Banner. I was thinking of how proud I was of all these girls, many of whom I’ve known since they were Daisy Scouts in kindergarten. And I was so glad that I could have this experience with my flute-playing daughter. Just then, silently, as if not to disturb us, a flock of geese in a V formation, flew low over us, just above the flagpole. It was as if someone said “Cue the Flyby”. And it really sent chills down my spine.

It was a moment that transcended the ordinary. I have rarely seen so clearly the interconnected web of life as I saw that early morning. The patriotism, the mother/daughter bond, my role in the lives of these girls, and this fabulous display of nature were all so clearly on display. I was truly blessed with this awareness-raising ceremony.

 

Feel free to share your perfect moments.





100 Artists

9 09 2012

I’ve created a workshop on how to learn innovation through the creative process. There is a TED video that just didn’t quite fit in to the workshop. But it’s all things I like, it’s funny, quirky, extremely creative and helps me look at the world in a fresh way—I’d love to hang out with the speaker.

If you’re not familiar with TED, you should check it out. It’s filled with videos by experts in their fields. They are often mind-blowing, paradigm shifting talks that never fail to inspire me. I would love to help bring a TED conference to BR someday. I started a Lunch with Ted Tuesdays at my office. (All Ted Talks are under 15 minutes.)

I came across 100 Artists one day when I was looking for inspirations. If you watch it, you’ll get the gist of his talk in a few minutes if you don’t have the time or inclination to watch the whole thing. 

The artist Shae Hembray  talks about a biennale. I didn’t know what this was (an art exhibit that happens every two years). And the next day I was watching TV and there was a story on the most famous biennale in the world in Venice. So of course this is now on my bucket list.

What I like about the video is what I hope I get across in my workshop. To be fearless with your ideas and if something is not right that it’s OK to throw it away and go it a totally new direction. To push yourself and learn that magic often happens in “mistakes.”

I looked up the artist after watching the video and see that he had created a beautiful (and pricey) book of his biennale.  And was then surprised to discover how controversial this work was.

Where I saw fun and creativity and innovation, some saw disrespect and a mocking of “real art.” I then liked it even more, because isn’t art suppose to be something that you talk about and maybe move you out of your comfort zone.  And it inspired me and the creative team I work with and isn’t that what art should do? Unlike his critics, I believe he takes his work seriously—but he doesn’t take himself seriously. That also speaks to me.

I love the backstories he creates for each artist (that are all him). As he describes one artist he says, “It’s good she’s not real because she’d be mad I said that.” I guess she takes herself too seriously.

here’s another link in case the above ones don’t work

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/shea_hembrey_how_i_became_100_artists.html





Bread, Batteries and Booze

2 09 2012

Hurricane season in south Louisiana is the best and the worst of times. Those of us who live here are all too aware of the real human tragedy that happens in every storm. We know what can happen to us and that it can be the worst. Each storm leaves its mark and memories. I have friends who’ve suffered life-changing loss and I know I’ve been very, very lucky, something I do not take for granted.

I also know that nothing unites a family, friends and a community than the threat and the reality of a hurricane. It can bring out the best of human nature.  Maybe it’s this living on the edge that brings out the laid back, laissez le bon temps rouler, love of life, in this part of the country. Most of us look at this as a time to party. It’s time to clean out the freezer and make that huge pot of whatever while your home is full of people with nothing to do but eat.  Oh yea, it’s time to clean out the liquor cabinet too.  Grocery stores run out of bread, batteries and booze. It’s a time when diets don’t exist and it’s normal to have beer and Fritos for breakfast. Vegetables aren’t even sold in grocery stores when people are doing their prep—unless you need a head of iceberg lettuce for the burger you’re going to grill when the hamburger meat thaws out.

Hurricane Prep

We do things that seem strange to outsiders; like buy everything at the store’s hurricane section just because it’s already gathered for you. We may buy charcoal for a grill we don’t have. We buy vienna sausage even though we won’t eat it, because you always buy canned meat. You fill up your bathtub with water, even if you’ve been in every storm for 50 years and have never needed to use that water. You still bag ice even if you have a generator.  You turn your AC down to freezing and wear your robe and socks over your shorts and t-shirt because you want to keep the house as cold as you can when the power goes out. You watch way too much TV because you never know  when you may lose your connection and you have to keep constantly keep flipping back to the weather reporting.

Betsy

I was a little girl during Betsy.  It’s my first hurricane memory. What I remember is that the neighbors let their cat, Crybaby, out during the storm’s eye. (I now realize that if you’ve named your cat named Crybaby, he might get annoying cooped up with the whole family in the house over an extended period of time.) This cat must have thought he was in cat heaven, because after the storm the family realized he had gone and found every dead bird he could carry and brought them back to his family’s front porch.

Katrina

I know hurricanes can bring out the worst in people, but during Katrina I saw it bring out the best. I worked at Woman’s Hospital (and still do), which is where the babies were flown to from the New Orleans hospitals, and it’s where families were desperately reunited. The world media literally camped at Woman’s for weeks because that’s where the happy ending story was. I had my Girl Scout troop there helping. They organized the donated clothes that magically appeared from the staff and community, to bring to the patients and their families who actually did arrive  with only the clothes on their backs. The new Woman’s campus is a direct result of the impact of this storm. Katrina changed a lot of things down here permanently.

Gustav

This is the storm the media ignored at least in covering Baton Rouge. I had a friend who bought a generator for the elderly couple who lived next door. They wouldn’t leave their suffocating hot house because they didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.  I do remember the heat, the long lines at the gas pumps, the downed trees and the damaged homes. But mostly I remember friends taking care of each other. Helping the neighbor you didn’t know clean up their yard after the storm passed.

Isaac

Isaac will always be the first storm that my sweetie Steve and I weathered together. At the beginning when it began to dawn on us that it really was coming our way we had different visions based on our own hurricane history. Steve came with a generator (one of many reasons I love him). He had visions of being shut in, snug in our bedroom with the generator and window AC humming and staying there because it would be the only cool spot in the house. The rest of the house would be full of candlelight. He imagined we’d only leave the room to open another bottle of red wine or to get that bag of cookies. I sadly dashed that fantasy and let him know that it would be me, my mom, my daughter and her cat in the bed and he’d be on the air mattress on the floor with the dog! I say this now very quietly—because I don’t want to anger the hurricane gods—we never lost power.

We discovered that we both delight in watching the weather reporters, all of them needlessly standing in the wind and rain. To us, it’s like watching a comedy show.

TV news is told in 30-second sound bites and these reporters have hours and hours to spend reporting mostly rain. They run down the street to look at a bit of debris. They whip out a ruler to measure 2” of water in a driveway. They get giddy when the wind moves a street sign to point in the opposite direction.  They drive around looking for some story, any story, and the only story is the rain and they film the wiper blades as they shoot out the car window.

Read the rest of this entry »