PHOENIX - Deanna Kretchmer says her career path took a turn in February when she was laid off from a long-term corporate teaching job.
Then, about a month ago, while watching her favorite afternoon talk show, Ellen, she heard Ellen Degeneres' guest, Lewis Howes, a motivational podcaster. And at the end of the show, there was a plea from Degeneres to viewers who could use Howes' expertise.
"We asked people to write in, because I wanted (Howes) to be able to help people, not just listen to him on the podcast," Degeneres said.
As soon as the show ended, Kretchmer says her parents called to ask if she'd seen the show. She said she had. It was her parents who encouraged her to write in to the show.
She was already a fan of Degeneres, but now she was an even bigger fan of Howes.
"I thought he is talking right to me," Kretchmer said. "This is the perfect time. I just got laid off, and I've been saying I want to pursue this dream in health and fitness."
She poured her dreams of creating a fitness program for working women into a letter to the show.
"I was shocked that anybody called me," Kretchmer said. "But they gave me no inclination that I was moving forward in the process, or anything like that."
She received an airline ticket and a ticket to the April 19 taping from the show producers. By Wednesday afternoon, she was in a Burbank, California studio watching the show. And then, she says, she heard Degeneres reading a very familiar-sounding viewer email.
"I think I grabbed the lady's arm next to me," she recalled. "'That's me, that's me!' And the next thing you know I'm on the stage with Ellen and Lewis."
She got some quick advice from her new mentor, Howes, and then, like Kretchmer has seen dozens of times before, the show's stage manager dashed out with a gift. On this day, it was an over-sized check made out to Deanna Kretchmer in the amount of $10,000.
"It's different when you watch it happens to other people," Kretchmer said. "And when it's you, it's just a different experience," she said.
Forty-eight hours later, she said she still can't believe this was happening to her.
"I'm not other people," she said. "I'm just me, you know."