Today, I am Grateful for … TEDx

I have mixed feelings about “Big TED,” but I love TEDxSanDiego and many of the individual TEDx events all over the world. The TEDx organizers give so much of themselves, for free, in order to put on an event that they hope will make the world just a little better, and so often they do just that.

I am biased, of course, because my husband organized the first few TEDxSanDiego events and I saw how hard he worked to raise funds, vet speakers, coach speakers, figure out the technical sound and video issues required to create the best videos for uploading onto the TED site, find volunteers to help before and during the event, etc. And I was able to do nothing more than give emotional support, have patience with his stress loads and crazy schedule, and then enjoy the amazing event when it all came together.

Jake Schimabukuro making his magic

Through TEDxSanDiego and the TEDx organizers’ network I’ve been able to meet and get to know some amazing people, including Jake Shimabukuro, a virtuoso on the ukulele whose heart is as huge as his musical talents.

Maya Fiennes

And, after practicing yoga with Maya Fiennes DVDs every morning for more than a year, we were thrilled to practice with her in person at a “baby TED” TED Active several years ago. We were even able to have her lead some yoga workshops in our living room as a result of meeting through TED (that’s Maya standing in front of our TEDx sign in our yard, above, after one of those workshops).

Jack introducing the musicians for a TEDxSanDiego event

Each year TEDxSanDiego had an eclectic mix of musicians, artists, scientists, and thought leaders spent their time sharing their gifts and their wisdom and being along for the ride as a spouse of the organizer has been a gift for which I am grateful today. TEDxSanDiego has had speakers like Richard Dreyfuss, Martha Beck, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, Tina Guo, Ken Blanchard, Ben Sollee, James Fowler and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and many, many more who have touched my heart and inspired me to create community and give more of myself whenever I can.

This year’s TEDxSanDiego will take place at the end of March. The website should be updated in the next week or so to give more details about it — even before then you can scroll to the bottom of the website and sign up for the email newsletter and be the first to hear about the upcoming events. It’s sure to be another don’t-miss opportunity to connect, engage and transform your life!


Backup Singers

“20 Feet from Stardom”

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Today I’m grateful for the unsung heroes of the music I dance, cry, relax and write to … the backup singers. I watched the movie “20 Feet from Stardom” on the plane from San Diego to NYC and it was moving to hear the stories of these (mostly) women (mostly) of color who lent their magic and invaluable gifts of their voices to create so much of the music I know and love. And yet I’ve never before thought of their contributions and certainly haven’t given them the credit for the songs I love.

It’s the people in the background who give so much of themselves that if all were right with the world would get the glory, acclaim and success — at least as much as the stars receive. As someone who has worked away, head down, hoping that producing good work, exceeding expectations, giving my all would be rewarded only to find that, usually, it is not, I should do my part to always seek out those behind the scenes, to thank them for their contributions, to acknowledge their efforts.

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

My gratitude journal today, then, is filled with gratitude for the beauty and joy that these back-up singers have brought to our lives, for the sound they have created, for their bravely using their gifts to bless us with music that touches our souls.

Thank you, backup singers, with all my heart.


Buttermilk

Today I’m grateful for buttermilk.

When he was just a toddler, my mother used to trick my little brother by handing him a glass of “milk” filled with buttermilk instead of the creamy sweet whole milk he was anticipating. He’d take the glass, smiling, looking forward to a delicious treat of slightly sweet, smooth, rich milk and then make the funniest face, twisted mouth and wide eyes, when the sour, tang of buttermilk touched his tongue instead. OK it was mean but it was funny. And don’t worry, he got me back plenty when he got a little older.

This is not my brother; we didn’t have cellphones to let us easily capture all the moments back in the day. But you get the idea.

In addition to bringing back a memory that still makes me smile, I’m also grateful to buttermilk for the tang and depth it brings to my brown sugar buttermilk waffles (so delicious), and so many of the Southern dishes that were staples of my East Texas childhood.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

Buttermilk reminds me of my grandmother, too. Not so much because of her cooking but because of all the work required of her to provide the basics for her family. There was no carton of buttermilk at a store to be picked up waiting for her. She (or my uncle) had to milk their cows, then she had to churn the milk, and only then would she have buttermilk and the other dairy necessities required to cook the meals over an old-fashioned stove in the heat of a Texas summer with no air conditioning other than a paper fan saved from some outdoor church event. But gratitude for my grandmother will be another post, for another day.

Photo by Jefferson Lucena on Pexels.com

Today, it’s buttermilk. Tangy, tart, with the ability to add just the “je ne sais quo” to so many meals. To the soil that grew the grass that fed the cows that produced the milk, as well as the farmers, factory workers, truck drivers, grocery shelf stockers and cashiers required for me to access it. The sun that shone to grow the grass, the rain that watered the fields. All the little actions required to put 1-3/4 cup of buttermilk into my soon-to-be-eaten waffles this morning. Buttermilk, I salute you.


Musing on the Power of Breath

Breathe Sculpture, UCO

Since moving to California I’ve become more aware of my breath. I took up yoga, for example, where coordinating movement with breath is a core concept.

Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA on Pexels.com

When I learned to scuba dive, breath was a matter of life or death. I did not want to run out of air down there, and I quickly learned that my anxiety about dying underwater in all the many ways that could occur was lessened if I instead focused on my breath.

Photo by Pia on Pexels.com

Meditation is another practice I started after moving here, and again a prime way to calm the mind for meditation is to focus on your breath.  

By focusing on your breath, you can meditate anywhere. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Acting as well.  I took a voice class (meant to help with public speaking), and the first lesson and the first portion of each subsequent class we spent working on our breath, as without having good breath we cannot give voice to our thoughts or those of our characters.  I can only project to the audience in the back of the room by focusing on deeply breathing. Singing too, of course.

Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

If I am feeling down or anxious or worried, simply spending a few minutes to celebrate my ability to deeply breath helps remind me of how wonderful it is to have the seemingly simple pleasure of automatically taking in air.

Last time I was anxious and felt my stomach starting to get nervous, I forced myself to sit still for a few moments and relax and breathe, and it made all the difference.

When I gave birth to my first child, I used focusing on my breath, and on his passage to life, rather than an epidural to make my way through labor (though I went with the epidural for child #2).

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I sometimes imagine what it will be like when I take my last breath, or if, ailing, dying, knowing the end is near I will finally value the miracle that is my ability to breath in fresh air, and wish I hadn’t taken it for granted every other minute of my life.  Breath is one of those common miracles easily overlooked, but well worth honoring.