Frequently asked questions by readers

How did you come up with your original list of 50 Life Lessons?

The night before my 45th birthday I couldn’t sleep. I felt so grateful to get to turn 45. Two of my aunts died of breast cancer before turning 45. I got breast cancer at 41, so I felt lucky to get to grow old. I started thinking about all life had taught me on all the twists and turns and detours, then grabbed a journal and started catching these lessons as they poured out of me.

Why do you think your Life Lessons became so wildly popular on the Internet?

It still amazes me to get emails from Ireland, India, China, Brazil, Australia and every other country on the globe. People everywhere are hungry for the same food. They found something universal in those lessons that touched their heart and soul. 

Which lesson was the hardest to learn?

Lesson 48: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” I’m still trying to master that one. I’m better but not where I’d like to be. I still find it hard to speak up.

Who taught you most of these lessons?

Cancer taught me a lot of them. Life sent me a lot of teachers: My husband. My daughter. My friends. My family. A great counselor, a handful of wonderful priests and monks and a lot of ordinary holy people.

Who made up the rumor that you are 90?

I have no idea. One person sent it on an email forward and it traveled the globe. The last time I checked, there were half a million Google entries about me being 90. It is nice to get compliments that I look so young for someone 90. I was actually born in 1956.

How did you come up with the title God Is Always Hiring? 

I was originally going to call the book Finding Your Grail, but it took too much explaining for people to figure out what the book was about. Then one day I saw a tweet from minister Joyce Meyer and said, “That’s it!” God is Always Hiring was the perfect fit.

You have 11 kids in your family. Where are you at? 

I’m number 5. I’m mom’s favorite. But don’t tell the rest of them.

Where do you get your ideas for newspaper columns?

Writers are like bears: we feed on everything. Ideas are everywhere. Readers email them and phone them in. I read three newspapers a day. I listen in on peoples’ conversations at coffee shops. I read anything stapled to a phone pole. Ideas and stories are everywhere.

What do you do besides write?

Writing used to be my number one hobby. Now my three main hobbies are Asher, Ainsley and River, my grandbabies. Time with them is priceless. Then come writing, reading and archery. 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you always want to be one?

When I read the book “Harriet the Spy” in grade school I started spying on all my brothers and sisters and taking notes on their lives. Then I started keeping a journal. It became my home in the world. Writing helped me feel like I fit in the world. Still does. 

What’s the coolest thing you ever did as a reporter? Have you ever interviewed anyone famous?

I never met any major celebrities, but I did get to fly the Goodyear Blimp. Not just ride in it, but pilot it for about 15 minutes over a Notre Dame football game. It was a miracle we didn’t crash on the 50-yard line.

Have you ever written any columns you regret?

Yes. There were a few columns that needed more compassion and tenderness. 

Who are the people who shaped you most as a writer? 

James Taylor wrote a lyric in the song, Carolina In My Mind, about a, “Holy host of others standing ‘round me.” For me, that would include more teachers, colleagues, librarians, mentors, friends and family than I can name here. But here are a few special ones: 

  • Mr. Ricco, my 9th grade English teacher. Sam Ricco forced me to write a paragraph every day and made me fall in love with the classics.  
  • Bill O’Connor, a writer at the Beacon Journal, became my mentor and opened the door to journalism for me. Rich Osborne and Stuart Warner opened it wider.
  • Ted Gup taught me how to be a better reporter, and opened the door to an agent for me.
  • And the readers. The readers keep me honest. Still do.