We Made It After All (almost)

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Sure, Mary Tyler Moore was Dick Van Dyke’s wife Laura Petrie. She was funny and aloof and a little nervous and always cute and she usually had dinner on time. We loved her when she said “Oh…Rob….” when something didn’t go quite right like when she burned the chicken. She was our mom or our aunt but never ourselves because she was older than us–she was in black-and-white and only on reruns.

To those of us working gals who are still working, however, Mary Tyler Moore is and always will be one person: Mary Richards, the single woman in full color on her own, the one who lived in the one-room Minneapolis apartment that we all wanted to live in. The one who wore bellbottoms and short-sleeved purple turtlenecks with big funky belt buckles and then as she got older shifted to all-one-color pantsuits that were orange or white.

Mary Richards had a first-best friend at home (Rhoda) and second-best friend at home (Phyllis). She had a good job, and during her time at WJM-TV she showed us how to deal with the doofus co-worker (Ted) and introduced us to the concept of a work husband (Murray). She learned how to be tough from a boss (Mr. Grant) who was the kind of person we always thought our bosses would be like when we started working. Some were, most weren’t.

Mary Richards dated cool men, many of them wearing the man’s version of those awesome bellbottoms. She got proposed to a couple of times. She got promoted. Her hair changed a little. And she moved out of Phyllis’ Victorian, eventually, to a high rise apartment. Just the kind of place we knew we would move  when we’d made it. She did it on her own, though. And we loved her for that. Mary was us, and we became her.

Congratulations, Ted Baxter.


Protected: Glass Ceiling–Still in Tact

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2016 Quincy Notre Dame Commencement Speech

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To the QND Class of 2016: Thirty-four years ago…just like you…I put on my gold graduation gown and walked with the Quincy Notre Dame Class of 1982. Senior year I dated the brother of your physics t…

Source: 2016 Quincy Notre Dame Commencement Speech

2016 Quincy Notre Dame Commencement Speech

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To the QND Class of 2016:

Thirty-four years ago…just like you…I put on my gold graduation gown and walked with the Quincy Notre Dame Class of 1982.

Senior year I dated the brother of your physics teacher, Mr. Damm. And I’m delighted to say that Robert Damm and I are now very happily married. To other people. I spent many days in the band and nights out with the sister of your Spanish Teacher, Mr. Obert.  And I’m happy to say that Judy Obert and I are still around to talk about it, and that she is my special guest today. I sat in class next to Nevin McNally’s mom Mary, Madelyn Vahle’s dad Tony and Chandler Shankland’s dad Greg. I watched Ben Welper’s dad Vic play basketball alongside Aubrey Reis’ dad Tony, who was football teammates with Parker Kientzle’s dad Fred. My mom graduated from here in 1957—actually she moved her senior year, but they invited her back for every class reunion. And we just returned from a road trip to Wichita in my sister’s SUV, while we were there we said goodbye to my Uncle Larry. He was a member of the Christian Brothers class of 1966, and his picture still hangs in the walls here at QND.

Actually, it’s not a coincidence that so many of our relatives graduated from here. Notre Dame is a unique and special place. A welcoming place. A spiritual place. Your parents know that. They wanted for you what they had….high school years you could look back on with fondness. So let them take a lot of pictures of you today. Smile and wear your cap and gown longer than you want to without complaining…and let them proudly post those pictures on their Facebook and Instagram pages and let them tag you. Maybe give them a “like.” Just one or two. 

Currently, my resume says I am the morning drive anchor for ABC News Radio…delivering hourly updates to stations across the country. I calculated that throughout my time at ABC, my years at WTMJ in Milwaukee, and in my role as a morning show co-host at a Classic Rock station in Champaign—Z95—Where the Z is for Zeppelin, I have told people what is going on at the top or bottom of the hour…more than 81,000 times. 

Those newscasts have included the First Gulf War, the Los Angeles Riots, the OJ Simpson verdict, the Columbine massacre, the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9-11, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, Arab Spring, the financial collapse and recession, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the Boston Marathon Bombings and most recently, the ISIS-inspired attacks on Paris and Brussels. It hasn’t all been depressing, though. I’ve reported on presidential elections, and New York City blizzards, and super bowls and opening days and and royal weddings. But it all started…with lunch menus. 

Right out of college from SIU-Carbondale with a degree in communications, I could NOT find a job doing what I wanted to do: be on the radio. So, I worked at the closest thing I could think of: A stereo store in Champaign where they sold radios. It was called “Good Vibes” and the TV commercial went “The best place to go for your car audio….good vibes….good vibes….” It was—THE 80’S. 

On weekends and after work, I would go around to all the radio stations in town and drop off my resume tape…I was turned down by every single one. Finally I drove 20 miles up the road to WRTL-AM in Rantoul. They told me I could have the job of reading school lunch menus on the air. They actually used to do that! And of course I said yes. Every morning…before going to work at Good Vibes…Good Vibes….I would drive up Highway 45…go into the studio…turn on the mic and say….today’s lunch will be macaroni and cheese, applesauce, green salad, tater tots, and milk (white or chocolate). The pay? Nothing. Unless you count experience, a foot in the door, and the chance to do what you love as pay. Let’s face it…when you start out…you’re not gonna make a whole lot of money doing anything….so why not do what you love and have fun doing it? It may…just turn into a career. 

It seems that our lives are divided up into stages. And at each stage, you grow just a little bit more. Until you eventually become your whole self. But the thing is—you don’t realize you’re becoming your whole self while it’s happening….A man named Allen Saunders is the one they say who actually wrote the quote—but John Lennon is the one who made it famous in his song Beautiful Boy: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Everyone’s journey is his or her own…and your experiences will be completely different than mine—and from the person sitting next to you. But here are a few things that just might happen to you…while you’re busy making other plans.

Your life begins…at Stage One: Birth through age 5. I call these The Please Don’t Ruin Me Years. They’re probably the most crucial to your development. If you’re NOT messed up by age 5…thank your family. You’ve got a pretty good chance of making it. 

Age 5-15: The Learning Years. You learn how to get along with people. You learn how to study. You learn how to be a teammate, a brother or sister, cousin, a friend, a student. You begin to learn a skill. Maybe a sport, a language, an art, music, writing, something you do that makes you just a little different than everybody else. 

Age 15-about 25: “The Figuring Out Who You Are Years.” You’re gonna like these years. High school was just the start. Maybe your eyes were opened up a little bit here at QND to things you never realized before. Brace yourself for what’s coming because it’s great. During this time, you will meet people you never imagined meeting—people who aren’t like you. You will hear music you didn’t know was out there, read books you didn’t know existed, and develop ideas you didn’t know you were capable of. You will be poor and you will learn to survive on ramen noodles and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. But you will usually find enough money to go out on Friday nights. You will have your heart broken. And even though it may break your parents’ hearts to know that they were maybe not the first ones you called to tell about it…you will realize the importance of having just a few really good friends in your life. If you’re lucky, you may fall in love. For real this time. And then—again, if you’re lucky– you may just have found…your best friend. 

Age 25-40: “The What The Heck Am I Doing Years.” You will begin working, you will learn how to manage that little bit more money than you had in college. You will deal with great bosses and horrible bosses and motivated co-workers and lazy co-workers and crappy hours and hours that you can live with. And you will make it work. You will learn to budget your money, including student loan payments. Yes, you’ll survive those too. If you decide to have kids, you will probably think you’re doing everything wrong…At first you won’t know how to change diapers, or deal with a fever or give an infant a bath, or know how to swaddle (nobody ever really knows how to swaddle). But with the help of that invaluable family and those loyal friends…you’ll get it. You will move from job to job and place to place, in search of a new tribe, knowing that your home tribe is always back here in Quincy or wherever, should you need them. 

Age 40-50: “The Oh My Gosh I’m Really An Adult Years.” These are the tricky ones. You may worry about how to pay for your kids’ college, how to cover the mortgage on that house you bought and those two car payments. You may get—no, you will get—stressed out at times. But….you will have more freedom, more respect, and more time. You get to see your kids become the adults you hoped they’d become. You start to become a mentor to others because now, they look up to YOU. How did that happen? 

After that…..well, I don’t have too much to go on. I’m thinking these will be the “Maybe I Didn’t Mess It Up Too Bad And Hey This Is Kind Of Fun” Years. I can tell you what I’m hoping for. I’m hoping that I spend this time my father. Doc Preston taught here at QND full-time during these years of his life..and they were among his happiest. Some people look upon those younger than them with resentment and jealousy. Others learn from them, guide them, and become younger inside because of them. My dad is one of those people. Be like him. Be nice. Follow the Golden Rule. That’s simple enough…right? 

As you embark on the Figuring It Out, What Am I Doing, Oh My Gosh I’m An Adult and the Maybe I Didn’t Mess It Up Too Bad Years…some things to think about. 

1. From comedian Louis C.K. Put down your phone now and then. Stare into space.  Be bored. This is not the advice of someone who laments that your generation is missing out in some way because you were brought up always being online. You are more aware and more connected to the world than any generation before you.  Your phone is how you interact, how you get your information, how you learn about things, how you pass on what you’ve learned to others. It is, quite simply how you communicate. However, it is also the source of endless videos of babies and bears and cats and people trying to eat cinnamon…so every once in a while, try ignoring all of it for a while.  While you’re doing your own thing, maybe, drop out of social media for an hour or a day or a week. You can always post things later…and you can always go back. But occasionally…just sit and do nothing. Some of your best ideas come when you let your mind wander.

2. From ABC’s Barbara Walters. Do Your homework. Whether it’s for a job interview or an interview with Saddam Hussein, know what your’e talking about. 

3. From Abraham Lincoln: Vote. You have finally earned this privilege…you’re old enough to walk into that booth and cast a ballot…and what a year to cast one. You don’t have to tell anyone who you voted for…but you have a responsibility to all the rest of us to take that privilege seriously.  Our 16th President said that elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds…then they have to sit on their blisters. Let’s not sit on blisters for four years, what do you say?

4. From my husband, David Landis. Remember that setbacks…are  almost always temporary. 

5. And from me. Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Listen to yourself. And most importantly, BE your true self.  At times it’s difficult to be your true self others say you “should” be this or you “should” be that. The only thing you should be….is yourself.

In closing…as you head out the door and onto your parents’ Facebook pages…a few things to maybe keep in mind as you take the world by storm—which, because you are QND graduates, you will, of course, do.

Work extra hours on the job. It’ll pay off in time. 

Embrace new technology and change along with it. Of course I realize radio is an evolving medium…today’s newscasts are tomorrow’s podcasts and beyond.  You make yourself invaluable when you offer to learn new things—and evolution is a part of life, so why fight it?

Don’t complain at work. Nobody wants to hear it. 

Volunteer for others. It makes you feel good inside. 

Don’t show up for job interviews late. Or early. Just show up right on time. 

Be a little cynical. It’s a tool that truthfully, you may need in life. However, 

Don’t be so cynical that you become bitter. And always wrap your cynicism with empathy. Try to think how others feel. 

Take time out every day to pray, meditate, or just take in some quiet. You’ll be amazed at what a positive influence it has on your life.

When you can, and when the news isn’t TOO depressing, sing on the job and at home. It may annoy your family and co-workers at first. But….it’ll make you happy. And when you’re happy, you make those around you happy too. They may even sing along. 

Finally Don’t give up. If something doesn’t work, tweak it and try again. Practice, and try again. Give it another shot, and try again. Take another stab at it, and try again. Do it one more time…and try again. You, Quincy Notre Dame class of 2016, are capable of changing the world. Now——go do it.  Congratulations, all the best. and good luck!

The Strangest Thing I Saw At the White House Correspondents Dinner

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Once a year, Washington DC gets to take off those sensible pumps and nude-colored pantyhose and let her hair down. Throughout White House Correspondents Dinner weekend, there are pre-parties and after-parties and brunches and seminars. There are lunch dates and dinner dates and hotel lobby drinks with old friends. The dinner itself is a weird mixture of journalists, politicians, movie stars, ad execs and corporate bosses. And people take a lot of photos. A LOT of photos. Sometimes of themselves.

Right before the dinner began, I had to run to the bathroom (shocking). In the lobby outside the ballroom, members of the color guard were lining up, before they marched in with the flag. These members of the Armed Forces probably didn’t expect to see this woman run up and take a photo of herself with them:


And maybe they were surprised to see her take another photo of herself:


And then one more:


After that, she took a break.


So she could concentrate on her selfies.




She must not have been happy with the way they looked….


Because just before the color guard marched in…..she marched back….


….And took another selfie!


Never underestimate the power of self-promotion in the form of a long black dress.


Broken Foot, Pt. 2

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Are you one of those people who likes to look at medical oddities? I am, and I don’t know why. I always stop at TV shows about operations and go to websites where unfortunate people have goiters or boils or weird rashes. I’m not proud of it, please don’t judge. With that in mind, though, you’ll understand why I felt the need to take pictures of the foot, about which you are, by this point, probably sick of hearing. But you asked for Part 2, so here it is, during Week 2.

Ginormous Foot.
Ginormous Foot.

By the end of week 3, the swelling had gone down a bit, but the green nail polish still looked awesome.

A little less ginormous foot.
A little less ginormous foot.

I got one of those big ole boots, learned to walk on crutches (thank you Sarah Sweeney and Wane Fisk for kicking me in the crutch butt), missed a week of work, and watched a little Scandal.


My crutches look slightly like Stonehenge here, don’t they? I like to think so.


Doctor says for another 2 weeks, stay off it as much as I can, but one does need to carry coffee, so I have added this to my arsenal. Think how much Tiny Tim would have rocked it with one of these bad boys. It looks even more Bob Cratchety by the fireplace, right? No, that’s not a roll of toilet paper in the glass reflection, it’s a roll of paper towels, but I’m too lazy to take another picture.


Time to move on! Can’t wait to get back to work because a new day means….new nail polish!

Toes are still bruised, but dang if that new color isn't nice!
Toes are still a little bruised, but dang if that new color isn’t nice!

Broken Foot, Part 1

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Behold, ye cursed Paddleboat
Behold, ye cursed Paddleboat

The trip started out so perfect. Dad was coming out…we had a lake house in the Catskills rented…and we were going to take him to #1 on his Bucket List, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The house was perfect–middle of nowhere. The thing I liked best was the”spotty internet” description. A week off the grid, heaven. There were boats–a kayak came with the place, we’d brought along another one borrowed from my friend Joan, and there was a paddleboat. Seemed like a nice paddleboat. At the time.

Day 1: Chilling at the house. Swimming in the lake, grilling, relaxing.

Day 1
Day 1

Day 2: Baseball Hall of Fame! David, Sam and I really aren’t a baseball family, but Dad loved it. And niece Beatrice did a pretty good job of imitating the the statues outside.

Day 2

Day 3: We did other things…but my favorite part of the day was taking a walk along a country road, as Dad told me what each flower and bush was. How did he know them all? He said he set out years ago to learn all the native wildflowers of Western Illinois…and most were the same here in New York. To me, this hour-long walk was the reason for the whole trip. Cooperstown may have been on his Bucket List, but spending a morning like that was on mine.

Day 3
Day 3

Day 4, day: Trip to Oneonta. Scenic drive, college town, a great bookstore, beer outside. Beautiful.

Day 4
Day 4 (day)

Day 4, evening: Looked like rain and for some reason, I felt the need to pull the boats in. Boats? Getting wet? How could that be bad? They’re boats–it’s what they do. Still, I went down to the dock, looked at both kayaks, and decided, nah, they’re too small…I’m going to pull in the paddleboat. The biggest, heaviest, most sturdy boat. The one that would survive a Catskills rain storm just fine tied up to the dock. Boat…being pulled in….by the rope in front….along the lake shore….it’s a little slippery….and Cheri’s foot gives way. Heard a snap as it buckled under itself right on the ankle.

Day 4 (evening)
Day 4 (evening)

….And she’s down. Tried to stand. Not happening. “Sam!” “Dave!” “Help!” “HEY! ANYBODY THERE!” All I could think about was that Andrew Wyeth painting–Cristina’s World–where she’s crawling up to the house and nobody’s there. Only, they were there. They were just inside. Watching Big Bang Theory. Because the Internet wasn’t spotty that night. Seriously, the first time the kids watched TV the whole week…and it’s when I’m on my butt, unable to walk. “Saaaaaammmmm” “Hellllllpppp!!!” Finally the screen door opens, they come running down, and realize I actually am pretty much hurt. After contemplating first using the kayak paddle as a crutch and then considering putting me actually IN the kayak and pulling me up to the house, David decides to bring the Forester down. Loaded me in like an old sow, took me up and off to the emergency room.

Day 4 (still evening)
Day 4 (evening) That’s not me, waaay down there yelling “Hellllllp!” But it could have been.

Day 4: night into morning: The emergency room back in in Oneonta was actually not terrible, except the guy in the bed next to us who kept moaning, “Ooooh….I need medication…..I’m in pain….why am I here…..?” That sort of comes with the territory in any emergency room, so we didn’t freak. It actually gave us something to listen to. The Australian doctor tried to explain to David how to put on the Ice Bandage. He kept asking her, how do you get the ice in the Bandage? Finally she had to tell him she was talking about an Ace Bandage, it was just her accent. Sam was texting Bea and Dad a running commentary from the waiting room, and when we finally left, the diagnosis was contusions, a bad sprain, and what looked like a bone chip or fracture. Problem is, there are so many little bones in your foot, they can’t tell much from x-rays. Turns out, my fracture was one of the mid-bones kind of close to the ankle. One of the talus bones. Once I heard that, suddenly, it started hurting. A lot. Maybe because Dr. Ice Bandage put it in an actual plaster-of-paris cast and told me to stay off it. She also gave me crutches and told me to stay off it, because, in her words, “Ya don’t mess with feet.”

Day 5: Morning.
Day 5: Morning.

To be continued……

Power in the Palm of Your Hand 

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Cafe, Upper West Side. Pretty crowded intersection, sitting inside along one of the windows. Several of us, at the tables, looking out, not much going on. Coffee, fruit, conversation, returning e-mails, checking Facebook. All of a sudden, a police car with lights on pulls up to the corner. That was followed by another squad car, then one of those vans, the ones we used to call Paddy Wagons, before we knew what that meant.

Two, three, four officers go into the building across the street…then two, three, four officers come back, with a man between them. His hands are cuffed behind his back. (On some news broadcasts, that person is referred as the “perp.” For “perpetrator.” That’s not only assuming the person being carried and cuffed is automatically guilty, it’s also cop-speak, and not something any normal person would say in any normal conversation. So, aspiring broadcasters, don’t use that word. Ever.) 

As the police officers turned the guy around, and checked his backpack, and asked him questions….each person in the cafe watched….then one by one, reached for a phone. And started rolling video. Right then, those windows turned that arrest into a TV screen. And those phones turned that arrest into an account of how that man was treated and how those officers acted. We knew it. And they knew it. And that’s the way it should be. That guy maybe did something really awful and deserved to be arrested by six NYPD officers in all. But we were there, with our phones, just to be sure. 


More Williamsburg Street (And Truck) Art

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