My TEDxNewport Experience

What a blessing and a privilege to speak at a TEDx event.

In 2015, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to speak at TED one day. The TED Conference is held annually in British Columbia, Canada where incredible speakers from around the globe share “ideas worth spreading.” After watching mathematician Margaret Wertheim’s 2009 talk The Beautiful Math of Coral a million times about hyperbolic math and crotchet I was hooked (see what I did there?). If you aren’t familiar with TED you can find information here: TED

TED started the TEDx program in 2009. This was where communities can put together events similar to TED but be completely independent of the main TED. The licensing requirements are exacting because they want to maintain the integrity of their product even with these independently produced community events.

I read internet news daily and I happened to catch that TEDxNewport was casting for 2018. I remembered watching a few of the talks from their 2016 event. I have a story to tell but is it the right story? Will it resonate? Then I saw the theme: CAPSIZED and I knew that I had to go for it.  When I cleared the first round and they needed more information it was a little easier. I was able to refine what I wanted to share – my idea worth spreading. It was exciting going through the process.

Around Christmas I was asked to provide a two minute video that showcased who I am as a person. The goal was to be easy and casual and show your personality. Since my chihuahua Sid Vicious cannot keep quiet for too long I held him in the video and spoke a little about myself and what my goals were with my TEDx talk.

The waiting to see if I made seemed like forever but it was only a couple of weeks. When I found out I made it I was so excited… until I saw the other speakers. I was struck with an instant bout of the I’m Not Worthy’s. It seemed like everyone was a doctor, lawyer, or advanced degreed scientist followed by published authors, foundation creators, and famous educators and historians.

Did I get the wrong email?

When we all met for the first time there was an immediate kinship with everyone. It was almost like we knew we were entering an arena together that will be very special and unique. We all had different stories to tell and our ideas – although wildly different – needed to be told. They were definitely ideas worth spreading.

The next 9 weeks were filled with speaker rehearsals and speech development. We worked with an incredible speaking coach who provided valuable insight and guidance. Then interviews and photo shoots and even a massive storm that knocked out trees on my way to Newport for rehearsal.

I consider myself a heart speaker. I draft an outline and speak from my heart through my outline. I’m not so much of a speech writer, per se. For TEDx I had to be a speech writer. I feared that I would come across as stiff or rehearsed. I also have a complete lack of timing that I had to pay close attention because TED does NOT play with time! I learned so much about myself and my abilities during this time. I can write a speech. I can still speak from my heart with my words. It took a lot of practice, a lot of filming myself, and learning what part of a story can be trimmed but still maintain the soul and the goal. It was definitely a process that will benefit every future speech I ever write.

TEDxNewport was on March 10, 2018, at the sold out Jane Pickens Theater. As we did our final prep for the stage I remember looking outside over an hour before doors were to open and there was a line down the street of people waiting to get in. It was amazing. Tickets were close to sold out before the speakers were even announced. Some of my quick acting friends got tickets and others were tuned in on the live feeds.

When it was my turn I took a deep breath and walked to the stage to stand on the famous TED red carpet and shared my story about radical self love. The lights were strong and I couldn’t see but a handful of people in the audience so I couldn’t tell if they were engaged.  I just laid it all out there like an athlete on the field. I gave it my all.

After the show so many people came up to me and told me how my talk affected them. They shared their struggles or the struggles of a loved one. People told me about how their friend had weight loss surgery and they thought it was the easy way out at first but after seeing what their friend went through that they understood that it’s not easy at all.

It resonated. People understood. I was humbled by all the kind words and comments. Each speaker shared their stories and I learned and grew with each one. It was the most amazing experience. Running a TEDx event is no small feat. It takes a village of talented people working in every possible discipline to put it together. Shout out to the entire team of TEDxNewport volunteers and staff because this event was outstanding from start to finish. I look forward to volunteering for the 2019 event.

Please take some time to listen to the other amazing speakers that day. The full TEDxNewport Playlist is on the TEDx YouTube Channel. Watch. Love. Share.

This didn’t tick the box of TED Speaker from my journal in 2015, but this was definitely the best possible place to start!

Thank you!

God and the Stupid Muffin

There is no doubt in my mind that God provides divine appointments. What some will consider serendipitous or lucky I believe has been put in place by the Creator.

Many know the story of my friend Kathy that I met at the NYC Marathon in 2016. The full story is in my book Food, Sweat, & Fears (no spoilers). There was also the day that I was feeling defeated after an 11 mile training run and my friend Jaime posted something on my Facebook wall that provided comfort and understanding when I needed it most. God places people where we need them, when we need them… especially when we had no idea we needed them!

This brings us to one day at Panera about 8 months after I had RNY Gastric Bypass. By this point I’d already lost 150lbs and I was doing well. I was out shopping and realized I hadn’t eaten in a while and there was a lot of fast food places and a Panera immediately around me. I decided Panera would be my best bet for fresh and healthy food choices. When I walked in the first thing I noticed is the large case filled with bakery items. Bagels, cookies, and breads of all kinds displayed lovingly. The line to order was long and as I waited and I couldn’t help staring at the display case.

Then I saw him. He was as beautiful as ever. Round with the tiniest hint of shimmer and flecked with raisins. This pumpkin muffin was positively calling my name. As the line winded down I was only closer to him. I think I broke out into a sweat.

Me: I don’t want you.

Pumpkin Muffin: Liar. You know you want me.

Me: I don’t. (I look away)

PM: Look at me and acknowledge you want me.

Me: (looking) Fine! I do want you.

PM: Then have me. I’m just one muffin!

Me: It’s NEVER one muffin AND I just had surgery! No! I could get dumping syndrome!

PM: (silence, just staring me down)

As much as I tried to ignore his obvious advances I was getting weak. Apparently, pumpkin muffins are like dogs… they can smell fear.

PM: Just try it and not everyone who has RNY gets dumping syndrome.

Now, the PM is making sense! I could try it. Maybe just take a tiny bite. How bad could that be? I don’t know anyone here! Who would know?

It’s just one stupid muffin.

I finally get to the front of the line and it’s shift change. Of course it is! I always get to places at the wrong time. If there’s a construction person ordering coffee for an entire job site I’m always behind them at the coffee shop. I’m frustrated and now I know I’m going to order that muffin! That will totally make this better.

IT’S JUST ONE STUPID MUFFIN!!

Just as I’m so looking forward to stuffing that muffin in my mouth and savoring every ounce of it – dumping syndrome be damned – a woman comes out to take my order.

Her: Hello! How are you?

I nearly passed out! The smiling woman ready to take my order is Mary Ellen, woman from my church who lives in our neighborhood! She knows me and I’m sure she knows that I had surgery! I couldn’t believe it! When did she start to work there? My heart was palpitating. Can I order the muffin like it’s for a friend? Maybe she doesn’t know what I can and can’t eat? Ugh! What should I do? I really want that stupid muffin!

When God speaks to me sometimes it’s the tiniest whisper in the wind and that gentle breeze of truth changes my heart. This verse was that whisper:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

This time, the whisper felt like a 2×4 to the head! Am I honoring God by trying to justify eating this muffin that has over half of my daily calories? I was one smile-from-a-friend away from sacrificing what I want most – my health – for what I want right now – one stupid muffin! After greeting her warmly I order my plan approved meal and went on my way. That was a seriously close call.

I thought of this divine appointment all the way home. I could see that God knew I was being tempted and placed Mary Ellen directly in my path.

In Greek mythology Sirens were bird-like women with beautiful voices who use their alluring sounds to entice sailors into destruction. The sailors would hear the song and follow it only to have their boats crash on the rocks. Food is my siren song that leaves my will and common sense crashing on the rocks. Food is absolutely everywhere and temptation never takes a sick day. I lose count of how often I think of food and how many times I have to say no to myself per day. I can’t think of how many times I pray for the strength to do the right thing. I’m just grateful to Jesus I have a place to take these temptations and anxieties!

I thought of this story today because I’ve been working on a project and praying for direction. I know what I’m trying to accomplish but I’ve been struggling on some key parts that have held up progress. Yesterday, my only plans were to go to church and meet up with Mary Ellen’s sister. Both of these events almost didn’t happen because I was sidelined by a horrible sinus infection for nearly a week.

Feeling better that morning, I made my way to church and kept my other appointment. These were both divinely ordained. In church, the Pastor’s sermon was directly related to what I was working on and I asked for his guidance on my project. We were both very much aligned with what I was sharing. It was exciting to know I was on the right path and had someone willing to keep me on the path.

When I met my new friend that afternoon it was a tremendous blessing. I’ve often spoken of the power of understanding and the joy that comes from a person who truly gets you. Our conversation will travel through my mind and soul for years to come. Turns out, she is also a person who could greatly influence my project and I had no idea the depth of her knowledge and skill. I didn’t need to know because God placed her squarely in my path on that day, at that time.

I’ve struggled for years with asking for help. I’ve definitely improved over time but sometimes I’ll end up hanging on to something way too long instead of just asking the question that could end the wait. As I reflected on the day this was the whisper over my heart:

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

And this time it really was a whisper.