How did you come up with this 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 the lessons as they poured out of me.
Why do you think your Life Lessons became so popular on the Internet?
It still amazes me to get emails from Ireland, India, China, Brazil, Australia and practically 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 people, everyone of them holy.
Who made up the rumor that you are 90?
I have no idea. One person sent it on an email forward and it went viral, traveling around the globe. The last time I checked, there were 427,000 Google entries about me being 90. It is nice to get compliments that I look so young for someone 90. I'm 54 this year.
How did you come up with the title God Never Blinks?
I was going to call it The Fifty or 50 Life Lessons, but it sounded too generic. My agent loved the words in Lesson 15: "Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks." What's funny is she didn't even know that all my life I had felt as if God had blinked and missed my arrival.
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 is my number one hobby. Reading is number two. I'm almost always reading something, poetry, novels, biographies, short stories, magazines. I also love to cook, garden, listen to country music and play with my grandson.
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.
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 of a "Holy host of others standing 'round me." That would include more teachers, colleagues, librarians, 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 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.