Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lessons from Tim Russert

Ever since the untimely death of Tim Russert on June 13, I've been thinking a lot about the legacy people leave behind and the ways in which they touch others lives.

Though I reported on the television industry for many years, it was in the era of Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, so I never had the chance to meet Tim Russert. I can't help thinking that my life was a little less rich because of that, and not because of all the journalistic accolades that have been heaped upon him in recent days. No, the man I regret not meeting was the husband, father and friend that people spoke about so eloquently during his memorial service at the Kennedy Center.

Among those speaking were the famous -- Brokaw, Brian Williams, Governor Mario Cuomo, Maria Shriver -- and the less known, including a nun from his parochial school in Buffalo. All of them, though, spoke of the personal side of this man whom so many people felt they knew from watching him on Meet the Press and other news shows. They spoke of his exuberence, his genuine joy in politics, in life. And they talked about what a generous and giving friend he was.

Those are the lessons I want to take away from this man I never knew. I want to remember to live each day, if not to the fullest, then at least to the very best of my ability. I want to exult in the triumphs of my friends, share in their sorrows, and simply stay in touch in a way that lets them know I care. I want to laugh, to love, to take time for the things about which I'm passionate. These are easy goals to put down on paper, but far harder to live once the hustle and bustle of must-dos kicks in. Or maybe it's as simple as making those things must-dos, as well, carving out those few minutes or few hours for the things that bring us joy.

I can't imagine that most of us are busier than Tim Russert, that our jobs are more demanding. Yet, he found the time for these most important things in life and so can we. It's all a matter of priorities and focus and determination. No longer can love and laughter be at the bottom of the list. For if it's at the top, then everything else must surely fall into place.

I hope his father, his son, his wife understand that in sharing their very private moments of grief they've allowed Tim to go on inspiring not just the journalists of the world, but the human beings. Thanks for that.

Sherryl Woods

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The serpent in the garden

Okay, the snake wasn't in my garden, so we'll get to that in a minute. My garden seems to be riddled with hidden poison ivy instead. So, in my zeal to rid it of weeds the other day, I managed to make contact with poison ivy and Virginia creeper, both of which seem to be exceedingly fond of me. I'm less enchanted.

After weeding, I scrubbed down with Clorox, the preventative of choice in this part of the world. Apparently I missed a spot . . . or two. The first breakout, a tiny one, started on my hand. Then another patch popped out on my neck. No idea how it got there. Then on my waist -- from pulling on slacks and brushing against that skin. And on and on and on. I was using a spray-on treatment that stops itching, but not much else. Then a friend passed along a prescription ointment. The itching calmed but the spreading continued.

Under normal circumstances, I'd have toughed it out, but with a photographer coming on Monday to shoot new author photos, I concluded I probably shouldn't be covered with blotches from head to toe, so broke down and saw a doctor for a prescription. I have finally stopped spreading and the outbreaks are fading. I even dared to go back into the garden this morning to yank a few more weeds, staying far, far away from where I think the poison ivy is laying in wait.

All of this got me to thinking about how the universe somehow tries to balance things. Something as lovely and rewarding as gardening can come with a nasty alternative. Just ask my friend author Carla Neggers, who thinks there's a nest of snakes in hers. She believes this because her son found a baby snake curled up inside the newspaper on their front steps the other day. She's pretty sure the rest of the family is in the garden . . . which means she isn't going there. Boy, can I relate. If a snake crawled out of mine, I'd probably have to move, though I do have memories of my grandmother taking a hoe to a snake in this very same front yard many years ago.

I suppose we all have to learn to take the bad with the good. Are there things you love doing that you've given up because the side effects or negatives aren't worth it? I'd love to hear about it. And if any of you know of a surefire way to kill poison ivy without killing everything around it, I'd like that information, too. Soon!!!


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Friday, June 6, 2008

Cupcakes, dieting and more

As I was signing on to do a new post about something else entirely, I saw a headline about how to eat a cupcake. I didn't chase down the story that went with it, but I envision something along the lines of the various ways people eat Oreos or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

At any rate, it's the second time today that the subject of cupcakes has come to my attention. An earlier email from a friend reported that a couple of new bakeries specializing in cupcakes have opened in Denver. She also added that she'd bought cupcakes for a friend's birthday, but only eaten two bites of hers, which is, I suppose one way to eat a cupcake and diet, too.

I couldn't help thinking, though, of the lengths we sometimes go to in order to deprive ourselves of a treat because we've all become so incredibly conscious of good health, obesity and dieting. Two bites of a cupcake -- unless it was awful and truly not worth the calories -- seems extreme to me. After all, it may well be the only cupcake she's had or will have this entire year. Why not indulge for once?

Even as I thought that, though, I realized such thinking is probably exactly why she weighs little more than 100 pounds...and I don't.

Now, I certainly don't advocate indulging in cakes, pies, ice cream, chips or whatever at every single opportunity, but I do sometimes think we've become so obsessed with dieting that we don't allow ourselves to enjoy our favorite foods, even on special occasions. If we do have a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie at the start of the summer season or a hot fudge sundae on a hot afternoon, it's usually accompanied by a healthy serving of guilt. Now, really, how wrong is that?

Instead, how much wiser is it to allow ourselves the occasional indulgence without guilt? The sense of deprivation is the first step to tossing in the towel on healthy eating. I know if someone told me tomorrow that I could never again have a slice of pizza, it would be the beginning and end of any diet plan I was remotely tempted to follow.

I think the French, with their love of sauces and rich desserts, may have it exactly right. Eat anything and everything, but in moderation. I suppose under that philosophy two bites of a cupcake would qualify, but in my way of thinking one cupcake would be moderation enough...for the month or the year. One a day is probably excessive. One a week might be okay, as long as you didn't also have one slice of cake, as well, one slice of pie, candy and a sundae or two on the remaining days of the week. We all know what good nutrition is. We all know what our bodies and our weight goals can tolerate. We just need to get the guilt factor out of there and some of the enjoyment back in.

Or so it seems to me. Feel free to share your dieting tips, experiences, favorite food downfalls by clicking on comments below. Of if you'd like to share more than a quick response, send me an email at and I'll post your response as a guest blog.


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