A few things: February/March 2023

“Mom, WTH. Why am I in your TEDx talk. And how’d you get a TED talk, anyway?

That’s what my son wanted to know. And in case you want to know, too, I’ll tell the story (it’s short), but first, a wee tribute to a terrible dog.

Almost three years to the date after we said our last goodbye to batshit crazy but much beloved Charlie Brown Dog, we helped the terrible but also much beloved Yoda cross the rainbow bridge, too.

Arriving unexpectedly in our front yard in September 2010, Yoda was cranky, loud, smelly, and completely adorable. He danced like a circus dog, high up on his hind legs, when he wanted a treat. He thought he was big, even though he never topped 20 pounds.

From the moment my daughter scooped him up in her arms, more than a dozen years ago, until she said goodbye to him on FaceTime last week, he was the epitome of a loyal companion to all of us but to her in particular. The big dog, his morning wrestling companion, won’t be the same without him.

Aside from having a completely disgusting ruptured (and inoperable) tumor on his rear, he was his best self until the very end. The vet techs gave him a full bowl of cheese cubes and about 50 bacon treats before he got The Medicine. He was literally licking his lips with great satisfaction when he slipped into the great beyond. Who could want for more?

And now, onward we go.

The first time I sent a proposal to be in the lineup for TEDx-Memphis, organized and hosted locally by the terrific.New Memphis Institute, my topic was about thank you notes and how they are tangible gratitude. I’d written a piece along those same lines for a local publication, and I wanted to turn it into something more, so I thought, “TED talk – why not?” I made it far enough in the process to earn a free ticket to the event, but not all the way onto the stage.

In the years that followed, I didn’t have another clear idea for a presentation so I didn’t give the conference much thought. Also: work + motherhood. And then the pandemic….

Last October I got an email from someone at New Memphis saying I’d been suggested by a colleague who’s active in the local philanthropic community. “What did she say I should talk about?” I asked. “Oh, she didn’t; she just said you’d had an interesting life and that we should ask you.”

Okey dokey.

So I thought to myself, “Self, if you’re going to get only one chance to get in that red circle spotlight, what idea do you want to get people thinking about?”

Didn’t take much thinking, that one.

I sent a link to the post I’d written years ago, titled “How Art Might Save the World,” and then we were off to the races. By which I mean, off to the hours of research, rehearsal, writing, re-writing, re-rehearsing, and editing.

In case you’re curious, hours and hours and hours of work go into those 10-15 minute presentations. Hours.

No notes allowed. No teleprompter. And the delivery is supposed to match a certain style that’s not quite extemporaneous but also not canned performance. Got it?


Was it worth it? You bet. I got to do nerdy research about art, neuroscience, human development, and artificial intelligence. (If you want to know more about some of this, links follow, below.)

And the story about my son? It’s a true one. Listening to him talk with his friends on the way home from the Blue Dog exhibit taught me something about art that I hadn’t ever considered before. It helped me understand why walking around a museum often helped me work through a completely unrelated problem I was having at work. It led me to Dr. Eric Kandel’s work and sparked my interest in neuroscience.

And that’s how I landed the talk, and why my son was a part of it.

Selected Reference Links

How Art Began

Cave Paintings in Indonesia May Be Among the Oldest Known

What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art

The Lascaux Cave Paintings (Bradshaw Foundation)

What does the world’s oldest art say about us?

Marcel Ravidat is Dead at 72; Discovered the Lascaux Cave Paintings

The evolution of the brain, human nature of cortical circuits, and intellectual creativity

Other reading

As I shared in January, my book group read Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This, a book that I’m still not sure how to describe. The first part is, as a friend put it, “tough sledding.” But the second half is … brilliant. Actually, the two parts together are brilliant — though it’s really hard to believe that until it proves out. Terrible review, I know. But the book really is masterfully written and constructed, I promise.

In a lovely coincidence, here’s David Brooks on The Power of Art. (NY Times)

How Julia Langbein found comfort in chaos: After a Family Tragedy, French Food Markets Just Made Sense to Me. (bon appétit)

For something completely different, how about Adam Grant on assessments, science, and the very unscientific MBTI: “MBTI, if you want me back, you need to change, too.”


Here’s the deal: I’m “cooking” a lot of salads. I’m making salads because I’m making lunch to take to work, now that my work-work is too far away for me to pop home for lunch (and the only “food” place near my new work-work is Wendy’s, which I won’t be eating, thank you very much). So, I don’t have any great recipes to share here. Today. Maybe next month? We’ll see.

Over and out, for now.


  1. And, that’s why NJ needs an audience at least sometime during the year. When she played her version of songs from home weekly through Meta she would say that she didn’t feel musically fulfilled.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, wow!! Jennifer, I was so impressed by your speech! You did great! Loved the subject also. I admire your courage, AND I’m a little envious. 😊 It is a dream of mine to do a TED talk someday. I think I know what to do it on, but that may change.
    I have a new (old) venture that I have started. I have known Sign Language for many years, and I have used what I know in several ways, including working with deaf 3rd graders at Ky School for the Deaf in the 90s. It has stayed in the back of my brain all these years, and now I’m back in school (again) bc I am a perpetual student and crave learning new things. What I know is all self-taught. So I’m going to get my certificate at the very least and possibly my interpreter’s license. I need to assess the commitment for that bc it’s big. It’s not impossible, but it will mean sacrifice for another 2 years, which will go by one way or another. Maybe I’ll talk about that….
    You Rock! And I feel so grateful to have connected with you and know someone who did a TED talk! Yah! Loved LOVED your speech… did I mention that?? ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m trying to implement some new habits. One bite at a time, which is hard for me because I tend to want to do all the things all at once. So baby steps… maybe some will stick, lol! Starting back with my blog is one. Then there’s a list! Always a list!! 😁


Comments are closed.