Mornings with TED

An unfortunate day for this fellow

An unfortunate day for this fellow

Some days I feel like this unfortunate fellow.  Like a fish out of water. Like I don’t belong. Here. In middle-earth Alabama.

After nearly three years I am still struggling with the fact that this is where I live. Mind you, I love my house and am supremely grateful that I have a beautiful roof over my head.  Plus, I have met a few folks here that are genuinely lovely people. Still…’s Alabama.

I am mindful that some days are rather lovely…when I don’t think too hard about the place but rather more about…well…anything other than the place.

TED is helping too.

I am beginning to love my mornings because they are with TED. We’re together for about 55 minutes each morning. All my attention is wrapped up in TED, and often it spills well into another an hour particularly when I’m feeling extra needy for stimulation ….

Brain stimulation that is.

What else were you thinking?

I’ve started listening to TED Talks via my Stitcher Radio App each morning as I walk The Poodle. For those of you who aren’t in the know: TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED , (founded in 1984) is actually a global set of conferences run by a non-profit foundation. TED Talks are a compilation of a plethora of scientific, cultural and academic topics often told in a storytelling format that never fails to engage the listener. I’ve yet to turn off an episode out of boredom! Speakers from around the globe share their knowledge and insights on a given topic at the annual conference series. Each speaker literally has eighteen minutes to share their knowledge and ideas as entertainingly as possible.  On Stitcher, I listen to the TED Radio Hour hosted by NPR’s Guy Raz. Mr. Raz guides listeners through an hour of a themed TED topic and his interviews of TED speakers are as interesting as the TED topics.

Someday, I’d love to attend a TED conference but I doubt that would ever happen.  Attendance at a TED conference is by invite only and costs thousands per person; it’s a good thing one can access TED talks online for free!  TED welcomes a mighty impressive range of speakers from around the world to the TED stage. There are prominent scientists, authors, medical professionals and technology gurus as well as other notables from former Presidents (e.g., Bill Clinton), former prime ministers (George Papandreou) to neuroanatomists like the incredible Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.   She survived a massive stroke at the age of 37 and amazingly documented her eight-year recovery in rich detail in her book Stroke of Insight.  Here’s her TED Talk:

Online at one can positively lose themselves for hours on end in the dizzying array of TED stories, over 1900 TED talks, enough to tempt and tickle brain cells for years!

And, through all these early morning hours that I am spending with TED, I’m even coming to a deeper understanding of myself. For example, just the other day I listened to a TED talk about Play. Listening to the episode was illuminating and certainly made me think more about the critical importance of play in our lives even into adulthood (how didn’t I understand this?).  It was interesting to learn how play shapes us and what happens to us in the absence of play during childhood (let’s just say it’s very disturbing).  I’ve never felt particularly young and light-hearted; I’ve been a serious soul since as long as I can remember anything.  So it made perfectly common sense to hear that kids who experienced more episodes of all types of play (and there are many) in their young lives (even play that involved video games, which BTW, in moderation makes kids smarter) were more creative and empathetic individuals. The TED Talk gave me much to ponder upon, so much so that I called my sis and shared one of my insights I had gleaned from that TED talk.

My sister is ten years younger than I.  She rarely had a babysitter as I was the one who took care of her; changing her diapers, dressing and bathing her, as well as entertaining her as best I could, given that I didn’t have a lot of exciting play experience under my belt.

“I know why you are the creative one in the family,” I said.

“OK…um why?” asked sis.

“Because I played house and school with you when you were just a tyke. Remember how I’d spread blankets in the hallway upstairs, just outside of your room–you weren’t even walking yet– and we’d have pretend tea parties and the like?”

“Um…no. I don’t remember.”

“We’d even play with your dolls together, remember? And jacks too, at least once, if I recall when you were older?”

“No…I don’t remember.”

Sigh.  I’m trying to get some credit here!

Like me, sis has some childhood amnesia. Mine more severe than hers, but still it’s there all the same. It was our way of surviving the mess of our parents. No telling what would come spilling out if we chose to undergo hypnosis in psychotherapy! I say some things are probably best left unearthed.

Still I believe that my sis benefited from my awkward attempts at play when she was a baby. She grew up to be a very creative and beautiful soul. She paints and does amazing at various craft projects.  My creativeness?  I didn’t play much with anyone other than myself–and there certainly wasn’t much frolicking and rough-housing with parents, so I suppose it explains in part why I’m good at drawing stick figures and not much else. I do have, however, a deep appreciation for art and beautiful things.  Aesthetics are crucial to my sense of comfort and well-being.

Thank God I found TED. I don’t need psychotherapy to get me through any deep-seated questions I have about myself or the world around me. I have TED.  One could argue that I’m becoming a better person because TED nourishes my mornings.

So…. let’s see.  What do I want to learn about tomorrow….

Hmm.  I scan the list of titles online.  How about: Depressed Dogs and Cats with OCD-What Animal Madness Means For Us Humans.

Perhaps I’ll learned something useful about The Poodle’s annoying licking habit.

The possibilities are deliciously endless with TED.

So, until the morning, I’ll go about my daily grind smiling as I do as I’m getting a little better at play.  Really I am. I’ve got a MONK bobble-head on my desk that will nod to that.

Bobble head and other desk distractions

Bobble head and other desk distractions

p.s. For the record, The Poodle is not “mad” but he makes a certain someone batty when she hears that repetitive slurping-licking sound in the middle of the night.

“Click and Clack” Bliss

Another sleepless night tossing and turning…flipping and flopping….as that perpetual video in my mind refused to fade to black not even for a moment.  Well…not until around 3 a.m. that is.  Unfortunately, my body clock is set to awake at precisely 5:00 a.m. on most days (no matter what) which means I “enjoyed” about a whole two hours of sleep.  A cat nap after lunch surely is in order….

Yep…I’ve got a world of stuff on my mind…not just my stuff, but others as well.  And yes,  I’m all too cognizant of the fact that I shouldn’t complain about any of it; I’ve got it pretty good despite the whole living in “middle earth” thing.    There are poor souls on every continent who face trials and tribulations far greater and more challenging than mine…unimaginably horrific trials for many, as in for example, those who survived and those who didn’t from typhoon-ravaged Philippines.   My heart is heavy for those souls.

Determined to shake my sleep-deprived fog and this heavy heart I headed out the door earlier than usual with the poodle.  I just wasn’t in the mood to be gym-bound and figured a shot of fresh air would be far better for my soul than four walls.  Sure enough, a power-walk outdoors was just what the doctor ordered!

We (poodle and I) are just back from a lovely three-mile walk and my spirits are certainly much the better for it.  It’s a lovely fall morning here in “middle earth.”  There’s a strong breeze and the air is crisp but not cold,  The poodle’s fluffy ears were nearly sticking straight back as we headed down the hill straight into the wind.  I think he’s smiling just to be out in the fresh air.  I found myself lost in watching leaves of brown, red and orange helicopter down from the trees ever so gracefully despite the strong wind.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue and, for now at least, I’m able to put aside the worries of the day and feel pretty darn good.

Another reason for my uplifted mood?  Two words. Car Talk2  Car Talk.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi....also known as Click and Clack

Tom and Ray Magliozzi….also known as Click and Clack

I’m listening to a Car Talk episode on NPR; it’s playing on my Stitcher Radio phone app.  I’ve been listening to “Click and Clack,” the Magliozzi brothers since I was in my late teens living in Colorado.  The radio show features two brothers of Italian ancestry (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) who offer their advice and expertise on all things pertaining to cars….and then some.  Callers dial in to the show and describe their particular car problem as in….“My car is making a ____ fill in the blank noise:  So what’s the problem and how do I fix it?”  Often the conversation spills over to things other than cars such as relationship issues, food…and, well…you name it…all of which adds to the wonderful flavor of the hour-long show.

Here’s the thing.  The Magliozzi brothers are terrifically funny!  Their humor… goofy,  wise cracking, and most often self-deprecating is never boring.  Their insight, as well as the lively interchange with their callers, is such a breath of fresh air in a world filled with too much negativity and madness.  Not only that but their laughs are like beautiful music to me.  Let’s just say there is a whole lot of laughter …sometimes side-splitting in nature.  It’s the kind of laughter that often causes tears to roll down the cheeks not to mention piglet-like snorts flying all over the place.  I love it!

If you’re in a bad mood….a sad mood….if you’re cranky for any reason all you have to do is listen to Car Talk.  Mind you, in the thirty years that I have been listening to the show I’ve learned little about cars and automotive repair!   Mostly it’s in one ear and out the other…like a lot of things with me I’m afraid!  But that’s not why I’ve been a loyal listener to the show for all these years.  I listen because I literally crave the laughter.  I listen because it lifts my soul to a place of happiness particularly in times of despair and anxiety.

Car Talk got me through the tremendous stress of my undergraduate college years when I was trying to take care of my mom and my baby sis –and myself as well–while handling a full course load at college.  I paid my way through college, barely making ends meet with jobs at McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Every day was fraught with worry but not for an hour on Saturday mornings!  No siree!  All I had to do was tune-in to Car Talk and for an hour I was transported to a happy place laughing with the Magliozzi brothers and the callers who would call in with their car-life problem.

Running surely saved my life when I was going through a divorce years later when I turned 40 but there’s no question that Car Talk came in a close second.  That show turned tears of sadness and pain into deep belly laughs (snorts and giggles included).

Which is why I nearly had a stroke when I heard the news last October.  Tom and Ray are retiring!  Um…say what?  Wait a minute!  Guys….Click and Clack…You simply CANNOT retire!  Unacceptable!  Besides….I just moved to freaking “middle earth” and I cannot get through this chapter without you guys in my life!  I  know….pretty selfish, don’t you think?  I’d rather they keep entertaining me than retire.

Fortunately, re-runs continue to air on NPR.  I’m hoping they’ll continue until the day I kick the bucket.

So today, I was able to rise up from that sleep-deprived fog and find my bliss in something so simple and sublime as the comedy and laughter of two old guys from Boston, Massachusetts.

Mille Grazie (a thousand thank-you’s) Tom and Ray…. for the laughter!