Make More Memories

One week into the New Year, and many of us have hit our rhythm. We’re back from vacation, back at work. We’re bold enough to open the first round of bills and sick enough to hide or eat or re-gift the last of the holiday cookies (or throw them in the yard in a fit of pique). We’ve put away the decorations and put on our gym shoes, arrayed in a sense of renewed “what’s next?”…

At the gym we high-five each other. We sweat a little harder, check our new heart rate monitor, jog an extra mile. In the hallways and locker room we joke about our resolutions and bucket lists. Want to lose a few pounds. Want to bag the big project. Want to earn more money. Want. Want. Want.


There’s an invisible man at the gym. He’s the guy with the bucket. The guy with the rags. The guy with the spring in his step and the smile on his face as he sanitizes the sweat from the treadmills in between users. He sees us. He sees us recognize each other and wave soundlessly as our headphones blare playlists. He hears us. He hears our complaints about our jobs and our weight and our big project and our paycheck. He notices everything about us, but we don’t notice much about him. We’re watching ourselves in the mirror, worrying about how long it will take to forget our resolutions and wreck the things we want.

He wants us to notice him. He wants me to notice him. Because I have in the past. We collide at the water fountain. Where he’s sought me out. Read more →

Inspire is a Verb – The Mighty Molly Hutchins

I’ve been a fan of Mighty Molly for a while now, enraptured by her personal brand of kick-booty go-get-it. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter, where she regularly makes me laugh and occasionally terrifies me into trying something new.


Molly kicking off 2015 right with her 15th 5K
at Commitment Day!

I thought I might’ve gone off my nut last November when, inspired by Molly’s adventures in 5K running, I registered for the Turkey Trot 10K. I’ve never been a runner, struggling along at about the same pace most folks use for a leisurely stroll. It was crazy, I was mostly unprepared, and I showed up in zero-degree weather to run further than I ever had. A few freezing moments after stepping off, I realized that quitting was an option that would likely result in my frozen carcass being discovered roadside, sometime in April. So I didn’t quit. After crossing the finish line, I made my way home, ate three turkey sammiches, took a 45-minute shower that used up all the hot water in the neighborhood, and swore never again.

The next morning, I registered for a 5k. Within a few days, I’d registered for a couple more. A month later, I ran the Polar Dash. Now I know I’m completely crackers, and I couldn’t be happier. Currently, I’m registered for ten 5Ks, one 10K, and two OCRs in 2015. A lot of it is Molly Hutchin’s fault.  I called her to tell her so.  And to say thanks.  And to interview her for this blog.  Here’s how Molly answered the Propellergirl Questionnaire:   Read more →

Personal Branding – Shake What Your Mamma Gave You

It’s easier, I think, to market an inanimate thing.  Say… this pepper shaker.  Every morning, when you wake up, this pepper shaker is basically the same.  Same shape, same pepper, same shaker.


What if you are marketing your personal brand?  And say… every morning you wake up to you… the brand new you?  New shape, new pepper, new shaker?  What do you do?

You get comfortable with the uncomfortable truth that each of us is new and fresh and full of unexpected spice, each day of our life.  That we might not be able to contain or define the particular flavor of what we’ll bring to that day.  That we might need to speak in general terms about our vigor until we find the particular project where our pep might be best placed.

So…what to do? Read more →

Self-Respect or Sit n’ Spin – 100 Day Challenge Diary

When I was a kid, I loved my Sit n’ Spin. I would sit on it. And spin. And spin and spin and spin and spin AND SPIN. One Thanksgiving, I spun around so much that I missed supper. You know why. Sitting in one place and doing nothing but staring at one’s navel is dizzying at best. And you don’t get anywhere fast.

This is the diary of my 100 Day Challenge of Self-Respect. I’m sick of sitting and spinning when I should be making a beeline for the finish line. My journey is inspired by Matthew Trinetti. Here is his diary; he’s worth a follow. For transparency’s sake, here’s my progress in the categories of “fitnessy” and “writerly“:

Read more →

100 Days of Self-Respect

Have you ever jaywalked? Taken a shortcut to get from here to there? Dashed in a flash out in front of traffic, only to slow the pace halfway across to an insouciant saunter? Like getting to the other side didn’t really matter?

I have.

My resolution at the beginning of 2014 was “To treat myself with the respect I deserve, and deserve the respect with which I treat myself.” A pretty phrase that got me a few attagirls early in the year.
Read more →

Inspire is a Verb – Michael Anderson

As a storyteller, I draw strength and learning from the world around me so I can share it with you. Longtime Ninja Michael J. Anderson speaks here to the duty of doing:

Michael goes the distance to train with the best, so he can be better. Here he is, going the distance in the parking lot of CrossFit South Metro.

“So I make it into the gym today for my session with Robert McKeeman only to discover that I am not the only special snowflake in the place. As I prepare myself to do some featherweight box squats, I look over into the corner where the real lifting happens, and I see Eric under a bar full of heaviness. To my horror, I look down and see that he is an amputee. There he is doing beautiful, heavy squats oblivious to the fact that he has just destroyed my next excuse.

I have been special. I got the E for Effort just for showing up. I made progress and got the “Attaboy!” just for walking into the place. I made the appropriate faces to indicate that I am trying and that it hurts. I even grunt like the big boys sometimes so it sounds like I am trying.
Read more →

Thanks a Million – on Gratitude

“What you do if someone gave you a million dollars?”

The Boy has been writing in his journal, doing his homework.  Deep in thought, but now he’s stumped. The Boy is nine.

The Boy is not my boy, but we’re on a friendly first-name basis. He’s half of my favorite father-son team, a couple of rough-and-tumble pulled-up-by-the-bootstraps fellas. They have quite a time, these two. Some tender, some tough-love. Sometimes I get to observe them make their way in the world.

The Boy repeats. “What you do if someone gave you a million dollars?”

Dad shifts his focus from the class he is teaching, focusing on his kid. “You asking me?” asks Dad.

“No. I’m asking me.” The Boy furrows his brow and considers his pencil.

“Well?” prods Dad, “What’s your first best answer?” Read more →

The FISH! Philosophy in Kalamazoo-topia

I was there the day we decided Kalamazoo is Utopia.

uto·pia noun yu̇-ˈtō-pē-ə
: a place of ideal perfection

The event, hosted by the Downtown Kalamazoo Retail and Restaurant Association, was called “Connecting with Customers.” We laughed, we talked, we looked each other in the eye and decided it is possible to create utopia, in any community. I have a pretty big crush on Kalamazoo. They gave me a unicornfish.

Click on the unicornfish to see Deena in action!

Looks like they’re sweet on me too…I found this article, whereupon nice things are written around “creating an environment where customers feel terrifically comfortable saying ‘yes.'”.

Yes Kalamazoo. I heart you too. I meant it when I said you have a unique quality of being accessible. You’re irresistible. Keep doing that.

Read what Kathy Jennings, managing editor of Second Wave Media, had to say about following four steps that have become known as the FISH! Philosophy:
Be There! Play! Make Their Day! and Choose Your Attitude!

A Cup of Gumption

Today is that day. The day I need to be brave, step to the front, and speak for my people. I am more than a little nervous. I am the MC.

Master of Ceremonies is typically the tenor’s post, but he’s up at the lake or at a softball game or finishing up a daunting work project. Fortunately, I have his notes. Painstakingly prepared and perfect. Five pages of flair. Unfortunately, I don’t have my glasses.

Today is that day. The day I need gumption.

I sing with the TC Jazz Cats on odd weekends when we’re mostly all available. We congregate from remote corners of the music universe to volunteer in senior communities and care centers. We rock the cantina, as it were, with toe-tapping rhythm and smooth crooning. The residents love it, and we love them; the entire experience a real treat. I’m the new kid, still getting the swing of it, the spontaneity born of in-the-moment collaboration.

Today is that day. The day when I part with precious coin (four dollars and thirty-two cents worth – to be precise) on a spendy cup of gumption. A coffee treat.

The coffee shop is a treat for me. The place where I occasionally break my spendthrift habit of making plain, perfectly serviceable coffee at home. The place where I break the chain of isolation. The coffee shop is built on interaction; the fancy cup of caffeine is incidental, taking second place to the social boost.

“Today is that day.” I proclaim, walking in. “The day I pay you for a fancy cup of gumption.”

“Excellent.” smiles Coffee Dude. “What are we putting in your cup of gumption?”

Together we confabulate a coffee treat. You know the one. The fancy one. With whip.

“Name?” asks Coffee Dude, hands hovering over the register.

“You pick.” This is my favorite coffee shop game. “You pick a name, and I’ll be that person for the rest of the day.”

Coffee Dude nods. He likes this game too. He squints a little bit, considering. Today is our first encounter, and serendipity demands scrutiny. Coffee Dudette looks over his shoulder as he types my sobriquet into the computer. She smiles wide.

I step aside to wait for my treat, musing on the responsibility of venturing into unexplored worlds, of speaking up.  Of being amplified, in front of an audience, and maybe flubbing it up.

“Order up! Order for Princess Leia!”

I laugh. Out loud. Really loud. I’ve had some good coffee shop sobriquets in my day, but today takes the cake. I’ve been Adelle and Susy-Q. I’ve been Batgirl. I’ve been Shanaynay, which I liked so well I reused the cup until it disintegrated. Consistently, long after the coffee and the cup is gone, I recall the treat of interaction.

Today? Today is that day when what matters most is not perfection, but interaction and gumption. Honored and humored, with a grin and a cup, I float out the door. My mind plays the melodious refrain of Princess Leia’s theme song. And I am made brave.

A world of gratitude to Caribou Coffee Dude. I had a blast being Princess Leia.

What (and more importantly who) propels you?  Who gives you gumption? 

Musical Interlude:  I YouTube’d a lot of Leia themes before landing on this for your listening enjoyment, played with genuine gumption by the Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra, led by conductor Netta Hadari, a leader who loves his job.


Rise and Shine

Sunday sunup. Blurgh. Are you kidding me? Blinking unreasonably early. 5:30. Not even Hugh Jackman putting on a bucolic show in the old barn outside my window would make getting up at this idyllic hour worth it.

Well… maybe. It may be a beautiful morning. But I can’t tell. For one thing, it’s halfway dark. For the other, my windows are FILTHY!

A window is a wonderful thing. For you young whippersnappers, a window is how we used to gaze at the world before we found the “flat thing” (AKA electronic communication device) into which we currently face plant.

Today, I tell myself, is a big bright opportunity for fresh perspective. (This is how the motivator motivates herself to tackle a daunting task like washing the windows.) I dig in, but can’t figure how to get the storms off. And I’m too stubborn to ask for help.

For those of you in clement climates, “storms” are exterior plates of glass that protect your windows from the elements. “Storms” are another layer of energy efficiency. Very useful actually. And an apt allegory to my ability to armor up, add an extra layer of defense distancing me from the outside world when I feel like I might not present a pristine façade, or fall down, or look dumb, or not be in the know.

You wanna’ know what I know?
The less competent I feel, the more armor I pile on. Additional protective layers that provide me thicker insulation and isolation, and therefore make it tougher to ask for help.

You wanna’ know what I don’t know?
I’m elbow deep in squeegees and glass cleaner and I don’t know how to Wrassle. The. Dang. Storms. Off. These. Windows.

I’ve only wrecked one so far. Pretty good for just under an hour. Out of breath and patience, I sit down for a coffee and some perspective. Search YouTube for “How to clean a double hung window”, where I find this:

(I don’t know who this fella is, but he oughta have his own television show. He’s a hoot and a half.)

I get me some learnin’ right quick, and a laugh. I calm down and consider changing my name to Bubba. I still don’t know how to wrassle the storm windows from their casing, but I don’t care. Armed with fresh perspective, I take a fresh approach.

Go outside. Get a ladder. Shift to a new vantage point.

While I’m balanced on shaky ground, trying not to tumble into the soft patch of cypress between my cottage and the neighbor’s, or over-traumatize her yapping pug, she comes out to investigate. Turns out she has the same windows. And an owner’s manual. Which she offers to lend me.

We look at each other; shake hands across the short fence dividing our yards. I pet the pug, which remarkably stops barking and seems to like me fine. It is the closest we’ve been since I moved in. Up until now, we’ve just waved from a distance, through the window.

You go where you look, so look where you go.

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.

Oh, what a beautiful Mornin’
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way.