Defusing Explosions at Home & Work, Megan Keiser

Anyone working in the customer service industry can tell you one of the hardest parts is dealing with the irate customer, that customer who has seemingly saved up every ounce of disgust, annoyance, frustration, and disdain so it can be sent flying at the next unsuspecting customer service representative to answer with “Thank you for calling. How may I help you today?”

In the contact center world, defusing an upset caller is especially challenging. Great care is taken by the representative to respond effectively and appropriately to an irate customer. Not surprisingly, the same tools used to defuse angry customers can also be applied to our everyday lives in our interpersonal relationships, whether with a spouse, relative, friend, coworker, or child. Skills such as empathy, active listening, non-emotionally driven responses, and blame avoidance have a big impact in determining whether an interaction blows up in a fiery explosion, or cools off and gets snuffed out.

The first step of defusing is always to acknowledge what the upset party has stated and offer empathy. Empathy is a powerful tool. It’s the ability to place yourself in another person’s shoes to truly feel his or her frustrations as your own. Empathy is internalizing the feelings of the upset party and taking a moment to find commonalities you can share on his or her perspective of the situation. For example, the holidays are a time of joy and merriment, but can also be a time of high expectations and increased stress. Let’s say your sibling has taken on the role of holiday host for the first time and things are off to a rocky start (the turkey isn’t cooking properly, the kids are fighting mercilessly, and tensions are already mounting between Aunt Judith and Uncle Bud) and your sibling lashes out at you for not taking on the role yourself. Your first reaction might be to respond with, “You should calm down!” But remember to put yourself in your sibling’s shoes. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were responsible for hosting a lovely, harmonious holiday event and everything felt like it was falling apart?” A more appropriate response utilizing the tools of acknowledgment and empathy would be to respond with, “I can see you have a lot on your plate. What can I do to help?” Situation defused.

Second, active listening and asking follow-up questions are other critical elements related to our ability to demonstrate empathy appropriately. When we practice the art of active listening and asking follow-up questions, we show the other person we truly care about what he or she has to say and allow ourselves the opportunity to truly understand the issue. One of the biggest reasons people tend to get upset or stay upset is that they aren’t feeling heard. From their perspective, they are shouting and repeating the issue over and over again, but the person they are speaking with just isn’t acknowledging their concerns. This leads to great frustration. Practicing active listening allows you to truly hear what the root problem is, and asking questions allows you to further clarify and understand details that weren’t originally mentioned. In his book The 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work – Anywhere! author Bento Leal suggests that we “listen through the words to the essence of the message.” We can tune in to the essence of the message by noting not only the spoken words but also the look of frustration, anger, or worry written on another’s face, in their body language, or in their tone of voice. Reading between the lines like this may also help you identify the underlying cause of the frustration, even when it may not be apparent to the upset party themselves. Situation defused.

Third, ensure your own emotions aren’t impacting the words you choose to speak when responding to an upset individual. When being unfairly attacked or blamed for things, it is common to want to react to those comments by counter-attacking and immediately firing back some hurtful or accusatory statements. In his book If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like This Job, author Robert Bacal urges us not to get trapped in the “Crisis Cycle,” the unending loop of abuse and attack. To break this cycle, don’t take the bait. Before responding, take a deep breath or two to ensure your logical brain has time to weigh in prior to your emotions driving your responses. Other tips include using the upset person’s name, responding calmly but firmly, and refocusing on the actual issue. Actively listening, acknowledging, and repeating back what the upset party has stated gives your logical brain time to process. When we couple active listening with empathetic responses, we avoid responding with hurtful statements and stop the crisis cycle. Situation defused.

A last tip is to avoid getting looped into the crisis cycle by avoiding blaming statements or “you” statements anytime you are defusing. Using words such as “you” or “your” are likely to escalate a conversation rather than cool it down. For example, responding to a complaint with “You are the only one complaining about this” won’t defuse a situation. A more helpful statement would be, “I haven’t heard this complaint before; I would like to understand more about it.” “I” statements are generally much more effective when working through a heated issue. Situation defused.

These are just a few simple tips from the contact center world to defuse those tense situations. Putting these tips into practice will help enhance your interpersonal relationships, and ultimately lead to more respectful, fulfilling relationships. Remember to channel your inner customer service representative when you need to defuse.

Megan Keiser is the Human Resources Manager for Superior Contact, a business offering outsourced contact center services. She is a member of Superiorland Toastmasters, focused on communication and leadership skills, and is certified to administer and interpret the EQi-2.0 and 360 emotional intelligence assessments.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.


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Supercharge Your Holiday Shopping, by Steve Waller

This year, shop with a passion that does more than merely make your loved ones smile. Supercharged gifts make a difference in the world. Yep, you can help save the world by shopping!

Gift family and friends battery-powered appliances that replace as many gasoline engines as possible. Today’s lithium batteries are super-powerful, charge fast, and last a long time. Many simply have not tried the newest battery-powered products. Some gas guzzlers stubbornly refuse. In the old days, batteries were weak and unreliable, and those memories can prejudice fossil fuelers against batteries. But that’s changed. You can initiate change, and they will love the results.

Amazing battery-powered products step up modern living—more power, less weight, simple operation, reliable, convenient, great for the economy, quieter, less maintenance, lower operating cost, a healthier environment, and a brighter future. Wow!

Once you’ve committed to supercharged gifting, you can help those stuck in old fossil-fueled habits transition to newer, cleaner, easier, better ways to live. Your gifts cause the spark, but there is a specific strategy to follow.

Be smart about battery appliances. Learn if your giftee already has large battery powered appliances, such as walk-behind lawn mowers and/or snow blowers. If they do, and they are happy with them, go to Step 2 below. If not, opportunity awaits…

Step 1: Start with the biggest appliances. Quality walk-behind lawn mowers and/or snow blowers are more expensive, but they usually come with two batteries and a charger that you only need to buy once. The highest battery voltage is best. One battery charges while the other is working. The newest technologies should fully recharge a battery in about half an hour, faster than it takes to use up a charged battery, ensuring you’ll never run out of juice. And the same batteries can be used on other appliances.

Step 2 – If your giftee already has two batteries and a charger, shop for other gas replacing appliances that use the same batteries as those in Step 1 but this time, buy the appliance “tool only,” meaning without a battery/charger. New appliances without batteries are much cheaper. Objective – recycle all those gasoline engines.

If your giftee has no need for a mower or snow blower, consider any gasoline-powered product they might use regularly – leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, string trimmers, powered pole saws (for pruning trees), even chainsaws! Battery chain saws have amazing power, run quieter, and one battery lasts about as long as a tank of gasoline. Buy the first appliance with a battery (eventually two) and a charger, then add “tool only” items to the tool collection.

How do your gifts save the world? The International Panel for Climate Change, made up of thousands of the world’s climate change experts, published its most conclusive report last October ( that finally specified the dire consequences from burning fossil fuels. It states what needs to change and how much time we have to succeed. The bottom line is we must transition away from fossil fuels ASAP, and the transition must be completed in only ten years (by 2030)! Problem is, the report was almost ignored (again), so many don’t or won’t realize the need to change (

Hiking boots, skis, or snowshoes are healthier than gas-guzzling ATVs and snowmobiles. Swimming is healthier than a jet ski. Selling expensive recreational gas-guzzlers (and the truck that pulls them) frees cash for solar panels. In a household with two cars, one should be a plug-in electric. That is what has to happen. Supercharged shopping for a better future is the most admirable and valuable gift you can give. Do it.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Winter 2018-19 Issue is Out!

HH 46 Cover

Click here to find where you can pick your free copy up in the Central & Western U.P.!



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Spotlight On… Chloe’s Healing Arts for Women

What is Chloe’s Healing Arts for Women?
It’s my business for women that I’ve evolved to over time to incorporate more modalities. I started out with massage, then incorporated reflexology, Maya Abdominal Therapy, holistic pelvic care, cranio-sacral therapy. I like that it gives me the freedom to address what’s needed at the time for each person.

What prompted you to go into this field?
When I was little, my dad used to have me rub his feet after work every day. I also sang in my high school choir, and during our warm-up, we’d turn to the person next to us and give a back rub. I was shy about singing that close to someone’s ear, so I worked on giving really good massages. I began to have people who’d try to stand by me so I could work on them.

Later, I earned a Bachelor’s in sociology with a minor in anthropology. I was interested in becoming a naturopath with an emphasis in midwifery. I wanted to gain perspectives from all around the world and integrate different methods. I knew that I wanted to help people.

Even though people warned me against becoming a massage therapist, I began training while I was a college freshman. I found I was more comfortable doing something physically than communicating verbally, and it felt more satisfying.

My focus on women mostly began from dealing personally with menstrual issues. With Maya Abdominal Therapy, I felt more comfortable connecting with women. I also noticed my women clients were less likely to complain or tell me how they were feeling, that they seemed to figure their discomforts were just the way things worked, whereas my male clients were more straightforward about exactly what was going on in their lives. I wanted to serve women in a way that made them feel more comfortable, like they could really let things go, instead of carrying the weight of the whole world on their shoulders, or trying to be the glue that holds everyone together.

Because I often work with women in very specific windows of time, such as during pregnancy and post-partum, and with their infants, I found I wasn’t always able to get them in when they really needed the work, so I decided to shift my focus.

What is your background and training for this?
I’ve been a certified massage therapist for ten years. I find the body fascinating, which has led me to search for new ways to communicate with it through different forms of bodywork. I started with reflexology, learning in a clinical setting in a downstate hospital 7 years ago.

My first Maya Abdominal Therapy training in 2013 was the real game changer for me. I’m now a certified Maya Abdominal practitioner, with additional training in advanced prenatal and postpartum Maya Massage. I’ve studied under doctors, physical therapists, and midwives all over the country who are revolutionary in their fields. Through my studies with them, I’ve learned Holistic Pelvic Care to provide internal work to balance the pelvic floor, Innate Postpartum Care to understand the physiologic needs of postpartum women, cranio-sacral therapy for everyone and in particular for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and infant issues, Birth Healing for Pregancy, health coaching, holistic reproductive education and fertility awareness, and most recently Spinning Babies Aware, which allows me to help babies get in the easiest position for birth.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really love that people come in because they want to make a difference in their lives. The skills I have allow me to go deeper – to listen and respond to the body, to what it’s really asking for, as opposed to what my clients think they need or what I think they need. I definitely listen more with my hands than with my brain. I also really love that I’m able to spend time with people and really listen to what they have to say.

I really love working along the womb continuum, whether the person coming in ever chooses to have a child or not. I love that I can help people with menstrual issues, fertility, pregnancy, post-partum, and with their babies, and that it’s all related.

Everyone is here because someone was pregnant and gave birth. It’s a normal physiological process that much of the population goes through, but I knew very little about anything surrounding it when I became pregnant at nineteen. I didn’t know your body might be sore after birth, or that breastfeeding might be hard, or that being pregnant might take a lot out of you, or that postpartum women are really tired. I was also painfully shy then and had to get used to sticking up for myself and to listening to my own body’s wants and needs as opposed to what was being presented at the time. I want to be a sounding board for other women who also may have known little about pregnancy and postpartum conditions before. I think because I listen, I’m able to hear what they want versus what they think they need to do, so they feel heard.

What are your biggest challenges with your work?
I wish I had more connection with the medical community so more people would know that what I offer is an option. And as far as being an entrepreneur, even though I love it, I have to have more than one personality to get everything done. Even though I think communicating and marketing and accounting and stuff like that is fun, it’s also time-consuming.

Any new developments in your practice?
I’m very happy with my new location on Third Street, across from the Marquette post office. Parking is so easy and there are no stairs, so moms who have had c-sections and are coming in for help with breastfeeding don’t have to go up and down stairs carrying their babies in 30-pound car seats, or fit into a small elevator. It’s private, so you won’t hear other people’s voices. And the bathroom is handicapped-accessible, which is good if you’ve just given birth and are not feeling really strong.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I plan to do this for the next fifty years. I’d love to figure out a way that would work financially and time-wise to do home visits for new moms and babies. And I plan to always keep on learning.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Inner Nutrition: Friendships, Social Media & Authenticity by Crystal Stone

The importance of friendships is emphasized and promoted in our culture and social media, and is generally accepted as a necessary part of mental health and wellness. Indeed, the importance of friendships to support mental health has been well researched, supported, and reported (check out for more information). Many different kinds of friendships and levels of depth can be formed, depending upon the people involved and other contributing factors.

But what happens when a friendship runs awry? Or when a friendship that was supportive no longer seems to be? I’d like to dispel the myth that all friendships should be easy and require little-to-no effort to maintain, making it taboo to talk about when friendships struggle or tank. Friendship difficulties can become a shameful secret a person may harbor, perhaps similar to getting divorced from a spouse or estranged from a child.

Despite the positive value of social media, it is set up to champion “likes,” which automatically promotes those ideas popularly accepted by the culture, which may not be helpful in the long run. In return, an individual’s post may become buried despite its validity or relevance. This can lead people who may have helpful ideas contrary to the social norm to be invalidated by the very social system from which they are seeking support.

I enjoy and can see the appeal of social media, but it is not without its faults. For folks who have blurry boundaries, lack protections, and are still forming their conclusions about the world, social media can bolster psychological binds that are difficult for the uninitiated to recognize. For example I recently saw a very popular (22K likes) quote – “You’ll know the people that feed your Soul… because you’ll feel good after spending time with them.” Taken at face-value, I would agree, and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling about it. But let’s also take a critical look at how this contributes to the myth that friendships should be easy. Having challenging conversations typically does not feel good for people-pleasing or conflict-avoidant types, but this may be necessary in order to grow together. It may be worth spending time not feeling “good” for a while to talk (so long as it’s emotionally and physically safe!) about feelings, needs and other vulnerabilities. This is one important way emotional closeness is built. It may not be comfortable, but in healthy, reciprocal relationships, it is worth it.

The topic of friendships has always been a bit of a sore spot for me. There were times in my elementary school years when I was bullied for months. At other times, I was ostracized from my friendship group for reasons I found out later were unfair and the product of further bullying tactics. Those experiences, coupled with my natural shyness and sensitivity to the world, caused me to be extra vigilant for mean behaviors in others.

In order to cope with being bullied, I developed a way of putting other people first in friendships as I found this led to their being less likely to turn on me. I thought that if I treated them as more important than me, they might like me more. Even though I seemed to have some success with this strategy as a kid (and it strengthened my helping nature in the long run), as an adult I have come to value reciprocity and mutuality in friendships far more than simply staving off rejection by sacrificing myself to be liked. Nonetheless, learning that lesson meant I had to question many of the pithy, yet inspiring ideas our culture has about making and keeping friends.

Months ago, I experienced a falling-out with a friend. We had an argument (several, actually). Despite my best efforts to demonstrate understanding for her point of view, I couldn’t seem to elicit the same from her. The more excited I got about getting her to understand my perspective, the more she recoiled and hunkered down in her position. My patience and caring for her dried up in response to her extinguishment of the process. I felt shut down and dropped; she wasn’t being fair! Months passed with no further discussion. Life went on, but my feelings were hurt, and I grieved the loss.

I recognized this incident as an important growth experience. Moving forward, I embraced it and dove deep into understanding myself and what happened with a spirit of love and self-respect. I spent time nurturing other friendships and enjoyed a variety of social situations. I found an author (Ross Rosenberg, The Human Magnet Syndrome) who helped explain relationship dynamics in an interesting and constructive way that I found empowering and freeing when applied to myself. I cultivated my rich inner experience to be full of self-care, self-understanding, and empathy for others who have had experiences similar to mine.

The friend in question and I met recently in order to talk… and it went okay. We took turns talking, and we both seemed genuinely interested in what the other was saying. We’re not close the way we were before, and we’re not sure that this friendship will go in that direction. And however the friendship goes, it’s okay. Friendship may be a benefit in life, but if a particular friendship doesn’t last or remain as close, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed big time. Friendship is a type of agreement between two people. Life is not static, so such an agreement may naturally require change, bringing more or less closeness. Either way, it still holds value. As with most things, you can learn from any friendship in order to grow into a more authentic, engaged, and fulfilled version of you.

Crystal Stone, LMSW, CAADC is a mental health therapist in the Houghton/Hancock area. She specializes in trauma recovery and EMDR therapy. You can reach her at and check out her website:

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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A Senior’s Viewpoint: Women’s Rights through the Years by Karlyn Rapport

Our parents worked to make things better for the next generation. Are we?

In the late ’60s, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique raised awareness of inequities women face. At that time in Marquette, women could not have a library card, a credit card, or a loan in their name.

Changes have occurred, but women do not have equal rights. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution states men are guaranteed equality under the law. Women are not included. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) says:” Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Congress overwhelmingly approved ERA on March 22, 1972. Thirty-five of the needed thirty-eight states ratified this amendment, but we were unable to obtain the needed three states by the 1982 deadline.

Recently, Nevada and Illinois ratified ERA. A third state is likely to follow. Congress needs to pass legislation extending the deadline, recognizing the ratification of three additional states. It is unlikely this Congress will do so. In view of hard-fought gains, is it necessary? The ERA would clarify for all that sex discrimination in employment, reproductive rights, insurance, Social Security, education, and more is a violation of our constitutional rights as Americans. Legislation, court victories, and presidential executive orders against sex discrimination are not permanent. The ERA places the burden of proof on those discriminating instead of those fighting for equality. Now men have rights, but women have to prove they have rights.

In the ’50s, women could be teachers, secretaries, clerks, waitresses, and nurses. I was the first teacher in the Ishpeming school system allowed to teach while pregnant. The fact that I was one of three speech pathologists in the U.P and Ishpeming was sorely in need of my services helped. Now women can enter any field. However, women are confronted by a glass ceiling, a gender pay gap, a motherhood penalty, and worse. Pay inequity is a loss of family income. Each diminished paycheck affects future Social Security and retirement income as well. The 2012 Census revealed 17.8 million women or 1:7 live in poverty; low-paying jobs, lack of access to reproductive healthcare, and unaffordable child care trap them.

The Affordable Care Act allowed access to contraception, reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. These rights are in jeopardy. Access to reproductive health care is sex discrimination. Women and only women are denied control of their reproductive lives. Roe vs. Wade is under threat by a conservative Supreme Court. A woman’s financial security and her right to make the decision whether or when to parent a child is in jeopardy. In 1959, a dear friend suffered tragic losses of her husband and 3-year-old daughter due to carbon monoxide. She miraculously survived. She was 6 weeks pregnant. Two obstetricians and a psychiatrist recommended termination of the pregnancy, but the University of Michigan Hospital would not perform this medical procedure. I travelled with her to New York, where she paid a prosecuting attorney to protect herself from being charged with a crime. I know of others who died as result of illegal abortions. Recently an Arizona woman tried to have her physician’s prescription for an abortifacient filled because the fetus she was carrying died in utero. The pharmacist would not fill it. States have adopted 833 measures restricting women’s reproductive rights since 1995.

Violence against women remains pervasive. There are 1.3 million women victims of physical assault reported yearly. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates this is one quarter of the actual numbers. One in 6 women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.

In the late ’60s, a serial rapist attacked women on the bike path in Marquette. Houses posted red signs in their window indicating this was a place to run for safety. The perpetrator was eventually apprehended. The Women’s Center developed a team of trained advocates to assist women through the process of dealing with this trauma. The hospital began using forensic rape kits. The Women’s Center continues to offer support for survivors of sexual violence.

As a speech pathologist at MGH, I treated several patients who suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of domestic violence. Family members were afraid to provide shelter fearing reprisal by the assailant.

Members of the Marquette Branch of AAUW assisted me in bringing a Spouse Abuse Task Force together of people and agencies trying to help survivors of domestic violence. The Women’s Center, law enforcement, and the prosecuting attorney’s office were at that table. The Spouse Abuse Shelter, now Harbor House, is a product of this task force. The Women’s Center, its Harbor House program, and the Blue Print for Safety Program through the Prosecutor’s Office continue to assist survivors in rebuilding their lives and are focusing efforts to hold the perpetrator accountable.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization. This legislation addresses domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. VAWA supports and funds essential services for survivors and their families. This bill improves health care responses, and provides housing protections crucial to improving safety when survivors flee abuse. Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and their children. Urge legislators to co-sponsor this legislation and adequately fund it.

The Me Too movement gives me hope. Sexual harassment and violence persist. Now some perpetrators face consequences. Will such egregious behavior be tolerated?

The Equal Rights Amendment could provide remediation. All need to work for equality for all. Will we continue to allow women to be treated as second class citizens? My advice: Do research. Learn what the job is worth. Learn to negotiate an equitable wage. Work for ERA. Above all, vote on November 6 as if your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren depend on it because, in fact, they do.

Karlyn Rapport, founding mother of the Women’s Center’s Harbor House, is the Public Policy Representative for the Marquette Branch of AAUW and Michigan AAUW’s Public Policy Committee. She was Marquette County Commissioner for 6 years and is currently on Marquette County’s Board of Health.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Bodies in Motion: Dead River Derby, by Amber Kinonen


A muscled shoulder barrels into my chest, reeling me backwards. My butt smacks and then slides across the concrete surface. I scramble to my feet, but the same sweat-glistened shoulder flashes toward me again. I spin away only to have another opponent send me to the floor once more. However, I don’t give up. Instead, I think to myself, “Challenge accepted!” and rise. Even though this may sound like something from an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match, it captures less than ten seconds of a roller derby bout.

In 2012, I was invited to skate for Marquette’s Dead River Derby, also known as “DRD.” At first, I was surprised by the perception of derby girls: They are tough, wear booty shorts with ripped up stockings, throw elbows and fists, and have tattoos. As a teacher, scout leader, and mother of two, I was not sure I would fit in. Now, years later, I know that roller derby is no longer the banked track where women dramatically throw each other around. There is an abundance of contact; however, athleticism, strategy, and safety are valued. In fact, derby is one of the fastest growing sports for women with more than 1,200 leagues worldwide and attempts being made for it to qualify as an Olympic event. Why are so many choosing to play?

First are the reasons not to play. One is time. Derby requires hours of drills on skates to avoid injury, the complex gameplay takes practice to understand, and a league’s existence depends on members’ volunteerism. Another issue is money. Derby can be expensive as lots of gear is required for safety. Finally, injuries occur. Derby carries the same risks as other contact sports such as football and hockey.

However, there are also many benefits to playing. The most obvious is exercise. Practices are demanding with a mixture of stretching, footwork, endurance drills, core body exercises, and strategy skills. Therefore, many parts of the body are strengthened. A lot is done in a short amount of time, but the variation and support from teammates makes it not only bearable but enjoyable. In fact, I have to force myself to exercise on a bike or treadmill, but I eagerly burn calories on my skates for hours at a time. When I miss practice, my body feels it, and when I finish practice, my body is strong.

Other benefits are not so obvious. Derby allows a range of women to be involved. Some are thin and others curvy. Round booties can stop jammers, tiny ones can evade blockers, and anyone can choose to participate in a league. Women of varying ages can also participate. For example, the average age of skaters in the DRD is forty-three, which is higher than many other leagues. Backgrounds are also wide-ranging. Membership consists of teachers, business owners, accountants, college students, and stay-at-home moms. There is a place for anyone with determination. As we work to become an effective team, the diversity provided by derby fosters comradery unlike any experienced elsewhere.

Derby also requires the brain to work in ways a person may not be used to. I equate it to a game of fast-paced chess with contact. A skater must think critically and quickly. Skaters have to make gameplay happen in a matter of seconds to gain advantage over the other team. The track can be confusing because so much is happening; calculating and executing strategy requires awareness, mental strength, and focus.

Another benefit is a sense of accomplishment. When I first started, I couldn’t stand on my skates. Every training session was a challenge, but if I could race around the track a little faster or jump higher than the week before, I felt good. Now, I’m trying to jump the apex or pull off a pummel horse. I still leave practice awed by what my forty-one-year-old body is capable of accomplishing.

In addition, most people think that being tough indicates a lack of fear. However, derby has taught me that being tough means being afraid but doing what scares you anyway. It is a sport where even after years of practice, my fear of failure and injury is still there. Nevertheless, I skate. When a game is over, regardless of performance, I am satisfied that even though I may have been so nervous I gave myself a fever beforehand, I got on the track and worked my hardest.

Derby is not about a bunch of rogues who throw theatrical punches on the track. It is so much more. My children get to watch their mom, an athlete, working with an eclectic group of women as part of a team. They see hard work and determination from a mom who gets knocked down but, most importantly, gets back up, over and over again.

Amber Kinonen skates under the name of “Ripper” for Marquette’s Dead River Derby. She has been skating for five years. In her non-derby life, she teaches English at Bay College in Escanaba, Michigan and spends her remaining time momming her two children, Mason and Grace.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Amber Kinonen, Bodies In Motion, Uncategorized, Women's Roller Derby