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31 Minutes of Magic

One time, in the middle of a painful breakup, my coach told me that one day, even moments like these would seem wondrous.   I sort of knew what he meant…but mostly I wanted to tell him to shove it.

My heart was hurting and I didn’t want to think about anything but that.  I was quite happy in the murky muckety-muck of my post-break up mood, thank you very much.  But even in the midst of my tears and wondering how I was going to face the day on Monday I could see some wondrous things emerging right before my eyes.  My sister was uber-supportive…not that she hadn’t been before, but this was in a new & lovely way.

When my friend Eric texted to see how I was dealing with the break up.  When I responded with “I could use a hug.  And a sandwich,” he showed up with both.

Sometimes a sandwich is like a hug with a slice of ham in the middle.

I knew I was surrounded by love…but it took losing love to find that out.  To see I WAS surrounded by love that I hadn’t recognized before…and to really, REALLY get it.  I told my coach he was right…everything (even break-ups) can be wondrous if we choose to see them that way.

This memory came flooding back to me when one of my very best penny finders, the fabulous Ms. Ellie, sent me the following e-mail message a few weeks ago.

Sometimes we are able to find our way out of the muck & into the wonder when a friend brings us a sandwich (and a hug).  Other times, it’s a penny (or even a DIME) that reminds us, “Yeah…there is magic in my life…and I’m going to let it in!”

Many thanks to Ellie for agreeing to share this story as it is personal & full of raw emotion.  But that’s just the kind of girl she is.  And probably why she finds so many pennies…she’s open to the magic.  May her willingness to share her story be the magic that helps you see the wonder in your own life!!

A Note from Ellie:

Hi Leslie,

WOW! Have I had a crazy few weeks?!  Please bear with me as I recount the longest penny story I’ve ever told.

It all started at the end of January.  I met a guy online and we went out…it went really well! We were seeing each other every few days for a couple of weeks.  It was GREAT!  Not a way I’ve ever dated before…but it was so much FUN!  There were voices in my head saying “Stop!” And then there were voices saying, “Go! Go! Go!”  I went.

It was unbelievable!  I allowed myself to let go and I let someone in for the first time.

Fast forward to last night.  We had a date but things were definitely weird.  I just felt it.  I was so uncomfortable at dinner. I couldn’t figure it out (or I didn’t want to).  When we left the pub he said the dreaded words…”we need to talk.”

And then it happened.  He broke up with me.

I wasn’t even sure it was a “break up” since we’d only known each other for 19 days (yes I counted among the tears last night).  He said he couldn’t handle a relationship right now.  I yelled a little…tried to question him a bit (I just didn’t see this coming). But that was that.  It was over.

I went home and freaked out accordingly.  I’d never had any one break up with me before.  Mostly because I’d never allowed myself to get into a situation where someone had the option of breaking up with me.  Big step, big life moment.  But it really hurts!

I reached out to a good friend and unfortunately, she caught the brunt of my heartache.  She let me scream to her over the phone and sometimes she screamed right back.  Very cathartic.  I felt a whole jumble of emotions…embarrassment, foolishness, and a bit of idiocy.  Eventually my friend told me to shut up and realize what this experience did for me and what it means.  Everything happens for a reason!

Anyway, this morning I woke up for another crying session around 5AM.  At that moment, I decided not to go to work today.

I decided to have a day for ME.  My heart was hurting and I needed time to let it heal.

After bumming around a bit, I decided it was time for breakfast.  I jogged my mind (and my appetite) to figure out what I wanted.  Then it hit me…French Toast with caramelized bananas & strawberries.


And I knew just the place.

Next I needed to find a friend.  I could have gone alone, but I knew I needed some good human interaction.  I signed into g-mail and saw my friend Jason online.  Perfect.  He’s an old high school friend and even though we don’t hang out one-on-one much anymore, we’ve always been close.  I checked to see if he was available and he was, so we made a plan to meet for breakfast.

I think this breakfast ranks in my top three of all time.  Good food for sure…but even better was the AMAZING conversation and insights.  It was just what I needed.

We were still talking up a storm when we finished breakfast so we decided to go for a walk.  I check my parking meter and see I have 31 minutes…perfect time for a nice walk around the Square.

A walk designed by the 31 minutes left on a parking meter ended up being just what was needed to see the magic in a situation that felt less than magical!

We set off and while we were walking and talking I found two pennies!  Then I found two more!  I told Jason all about The Penny Project and you and the ½-dollar & $7.00 I’d found already in 2011.  He loved it! And it fit right into what we’d been talking about at breakfast.  Growing, learning, observing, manifesting…amazing.  And then I found some more pennies.  And he found a DIME!  We kept walking and talking and then…I found a DIME!

By the time we got back to his car, we’d found 29 cents (2 dimes & 9 pennies) between the two of us.  By the time I got back to my car, I’d found two more pennies.  31 cents in a 31 minute walk around Somerville.  It was the greatest penny find I have ever experienced.  It was TRULY magical.  MAGICAL!  You are magical and the work you are doing is so important.

By the way…Jason is hooked! So enthused about the whole project!  I’m going to send him your website and he is going to keep finding pennies!  I’ll send you his dime with my next stash!

I hope you are having a fantastic Friday! 



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Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.  Not only am I blessed with daily reminders of the abundance in my life by the pennies that find their way into it…but the people that come with them are often amazing teachers with powerful messages to share!  Sharon Leman is one such woman!!  She’s a brilliant coach, speaker & story-teller who’s message is one of loving yourself and the power you tap into when you do this.  Could there be a better message?!  Me thinks not!!


Sharon Leman Founder, IgniteAbility Coaching & LOL--Leader of Love



So without further ado…let me introduce you to my amazing friend & teacher, Sharon…and what SHE learned from pennies this week!

Sharon’s Story:

I have to tell you a remarkable penny story.

Yesterday, I was filling out an application form that asked me the question “what makes you special?”  At first blush, this seemed to me to be a very difficult question to answer.  So, I enlisted the help of my coach to help me through this and other questions such as:  What is the most creative project you have ever worked on?

What I discovered was a deep well of things.  I felt remarkably settled and bursting with energy because the exercise allowed me the opportunity to take good stock of myself.  And, the most surprising thing was that I was humbled by the experience – the very opposite of my fear that the exercise would feed my ego!


Mary Baker Eddy--Author of the book "Science & Health" and founder of the Christian Science Religion.


I rode this settling and exhilarating energy throughout the day.  That evening, I had some time to reflect on the idea of being “Rich in Spirit.”   I was inspired by a quote from an incredible leader and pioneering woman named Mary Baker Eddy, known for her groundbreaking ideas about spirituality & health, which said:

“The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood …”

What struck me was the realization that I am rich in spirit!  This realization felt especially important because I had been looking at my bank accounts and they certainly don’t reflect my richness, which was getting me down.

Suddenly, I realized that as long as I spend time worrying about how much money is in my bank accounts, I’m using up the energy I need to fulfill my life’s purpose and actually turning away from my richness of spirit.  When I am grounded in my richness of spirit, I feel wealthy.  Knowing this, I can claim with conviction, “I AM RICH!”


Finding the pennies was like a God-nod, a Universe flirt signifying abundance!!


Well, this morning, I’m walking with a friend and telling her the story I just told you, and just as I’m finishing the story, we round a corner and she stops me, bends down and picks up two shiny pennies – one for me and one for her!  It was like a God-nod, a Universe flirt, signifying abundance and opportunity in the face of two shiny new pennies!  They’re even dated 2010!

The synchronicity of that event reminded me that I must keep my focus on the fact that I AM rich in spirit, we are ALL rich in spirit, and that once we know that, everything else will fall into place!

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“The secret of vast riches begins with a penny”

That’s what the fortune read in Grace’s cookie when she went out for a girls’ dinner at Pei Wei the other night.  Of course, she couldn’t resist sending me a picture of the actual fortune…which I ADORE!!!  I’d share it with you here…but apparently this program doesn’t speak “bitmaps.”

But what I can share with you here is that this philosophy is exactly how The Penny Project has unfolded over the last three fun-filled years I’ve been doing it…one penny at a time! 

What I’ve found is that by focusing on the little things, the next step, or just sharing my joy about where I am right NOW in the penny journey…bigger, better things have unfolded.  In fact, by sharing my penny bliss in the leadership program I’m in, I’ve been invited to attend the Social Entrepreneur Alliance Summit in San Francisco later this month.  I’ve even got some fancy-schmancy new business cards printed up for the event that convey the best things really DO come in small packages! 

My goal is to work with non-profits & small companies doing great things to help them find the “pennies” they may be overlooking in their environment (staff skills, connections, untapped resources).  Won’t that be fun?!

So, don’t go out today looking for a million dollars or wondering if you have the ability to find/earn something that big.  Instead, go out KNOWING there are pennies all around you and that noticing them is the first step towards a life of good fortune!

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Broken up by year...and one segment for change found on a particular trip. I love a dedicated penny finder! Thanks, April!

Oh how I love when friends send me pictures of their finds!!  Last week, my friend Illeny posted not one but TWO pictures on The Penny Project Facebook Page.  And then today,  I woke up to another picture from my friend April!

We met last week for drinks & to catch up and as soon as she walked in the door she said, “Damn!!  I forgot the pennies!”

BUT…here they are in a picture…which warms my heart just as much!  And the note that came with the picture spelled out just when & where the change came from!

  • 2010– 2 dollar bills. 4 quarters. 5 dimes. 3 nickels. 19 pennies.
  • 2009– 16 pennies. 1 nickel. From la trip over thanksgiving. 1 dime. 1 nickel 1 penny.


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Below is a note I got from my friend Carolyn…and you know how I love hearing other people’s penny tales!   What makes it even better is she sent a picture of the penny AND the one she found in the driveway the next day.  Double the fun!

From Carolyn:

It might be a penny...or maybe not. But I should check...'cause it might be a penny!

Here’s my not nearly as impressive penny tale — I now find myself unable to overlook a penny (despite trying) ……..I was in the parking garage of Stop & Shop — 3rd floor, carrying a computer bag, coffee mug, heeled boots, coat, scarf — and rushing.  As I was getting in my car I looked over and thought it might be a penny……loaded my bag, mug into the car and closed the door — wait — it might be a penny — I opened up the door — leaned out a bit — kind of a circle, pretty dirty, no — close door — no, open door, it might be a penny….get out and walk towards front of car — guy getting in car sees me & thinks car trouble — as I appeared flustered and unsure (door open/close/open) — says “hey do you need a jump?” — I replied “No I need this penny” — snatching up a ratty old dirty penny and jumping back in the car — ok Leslie — I got you a penny!  Next time, I’m going to pretend the car doesn’t start and get the jump – I’m just sayin’ 

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Are you ready to increase the return on actions in your life? Do something outside your "norm" without worrying what others will think. It might be a "penny in the grate" moment & bring you more than you could have imagined!

On the walk between the metro & my office today, I passed a grate I have passed many times.  I knew there was change down there but before today had not been inspired to dig it out.  But with spring in the air and my mood being good…I decided to throw caution to the wind (and kick pride to the curb) and settle in to see what I could dig up. 

Now, I should mention I have done this before…at the very same grate, in fact!  But that was deep in the dead of winter and I was dressed in sweats on my way back from the gym, so some passers-by probably mistook me for a homeless person.

But today, I was in a suit, headed back from a ceremony at The Pentagon.  Maybe my attire and knowing I was just hobnobbing with a bunch of military big-wigs gave me the extra push I needed to dig into this grate without fear of being mistaken for being  homeless.  Or…mabye I’ve just gotten used to doing what I want when it comes to pennies and not worrying about what others think!

The more I thought about it…the more I realized I was actually excited to dig up this change.  I settled in, fully SITTING on the grate so I would be comfortable during my excavation!

Unlike the previous time when people shook their heads and walked by…a guy actually stopped to see if I had dropped something and needed help.  Well…no, that wasn’t exactly what was going on.  I told him I was working on a project and was actually ok.  He seemed satisfied with that (and I was satisfied not to explain myself more than necessary so I could carry on with my task).

I pulled out the chopsticks I’d grabbed from a Japanese takeout place in a nearby food court and went to town digging money out of this grate.  I started with the dimes first.  Small & profitable…gotta love that!  Then I moved onto the pennies.  When I thought I was done I got up and walked the length of the grate to see if I’d missed anything.  Sure enough, I found TWO QUARTERS.  Wahoo!!  After digging those out I had a grand total of $1.04.  I was so excited I immediately posted a picture on my Facebook page with the following message:

“Walking down the street today I passed by a grate with tons of change below. Unable to resist the temptation, I stopped at a food court, got a pair of chopsticks, and dug out $1.04. Never mind the fact I was cross-legged on the sidewalk in a suit…I was going to get that change! Sure I looked silly…but I also got… a 104% higher return than I get from picking up a penny on the ground. Seems worth a little silliness to me!”

I was quite pleased with myself and loved the idea that my return was so high for being willing to look a little silly.  Don’t we all pass up opportunities sometimes for fear of looking silly (substitute the thought that holds you back here–I don’t want to be wrong, hurt, foolish, misled–you get the idea)?  Well, I for one don’t want to do that anymore…and this was a small step in the right direction!

This thought only improved when a friend who is clearly a better mathematician than me replied to my Facebook post with:

“Technically, that’s a 10,400% return on a 1 cent investment…”

Are you kidding me?!  Setting aside my fear of looking silly increased my return by over 10,000%?!  How is that even possible?!  And why have I not tapped into this sooner?!

Lessons like this are EXACTLY what I love about picking up pennies.  So simple, yet so powerful. 

So what will you do with this simple lesson?  Better yet…where can you set aside your fear of looking silly (or whatever acts as YOUR  limiting fear) to increase the return in your life by %10,000? 

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Pennies & Judgement

Some of the things we do don't serve us...and we might be better off burying them & learning new behaviors!

The other day I was on the metro at about 10am (this is after the work rush…about the time the stragglers & riff-raff–myself included–drag themselves out of bed to see what kind of trouble they can get in that day).  During my commute, I was approached by a woman who was a bit scary looking.

Scary is a strong word here…she was actually just very different from me. Long dreadlocks, backwards hat, & loose-fitting hip-hoppy kind of clothes. And in reality, she wasn’t actually approaching me…she was just leaning over me to read the metro map on the wall of the train.

Even so, I half-instinctively zipped up my purse (which had my wallet & ipod right on top) as I didn’t want to be stupid about leaving those things just hanging out in plain view. I’ve been with friends who were pick-pocketed and it is no fun…so I thought I was just protecting my stuff to avoid a similar situation.

As the woman backed away and sat down, I realized I had made a snap judgement that was totally unfair to her. I didn’t know anything about her and assuming she was “scary” or might take something from my purse just because she didn’t look like me was not a fact I was not particularly proud of.

I thought back to an exercise I’d done as part of a leadership retreat called “Bury the Weapon.”  The exercise was based on the Native American tradition of Tribal Chiefs burying their weapons when they came together for peace talks.  In our version of the exercise, we had to list behaviors  we used as weapons and talk about how burying them might make us more successful. 

I thought back  and remembered that judging others was one of the weapons I buried. Although I had apparently felt it necessary to dig it up for this metro ride.

A bit disgusted with myself, I stood up to exit the train at my stop and realized this woman was right behind me. We both walked up the escalator and headed in the same direction. This continued until I stopped to pick up a penny I spotted under one of the planters on the sidewalk (there is literally nowhere I won’t look or go for a stray penny). Right as I leaned over to pick up the penny I heard a voice behind me, “You go girl! If I would have seen it I would have picked it up first!”

It was the woman from the train!

She went on to tell me how much she loved pennies and that she always went out of her way to pick them up. She was also headed to the courthouse (I had jury duty, she had to pay a parking ticket) and we ended up walking and talking about our best penny finds all the way to the front door.

She was actually quite lovely and not at all what I might have imagined if I had stuck with my snap/WRONG judgement. We even got a good laugh inside when I found 11 cents in the security screening area and she said, “Damn, you are good!”

The whole interaction was a reminder that we have a choice in how we view those we encounter…even if it’s just for a short time. Are they obstacles in getting to our final destination more quickly or do we see them as more than that. Gifts. Teachers. Fellow human beings just trying to get to their destinations too! 

When all was said and done, this woman walked away laughing and hopefully had a better day after our interaction. I know I did…and I was nicely reminded why it was I buried the weapon of judgement in the first place!

And all because we bonded over pennies.  Now tell me THAT wasn’t worth more than a cent!

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