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    Counting Her Blessings


    "This is a phenomenal job, but when I leave here I don't have a glamorous life," she says. "My idea of heaven is puttering. I just want to be home." On her wrist is a gold bracelet that her family gave her the night before she started on Today. The single charm on a simple chain reads We are with you. Love, Richard, Ben, Gabe, and Lily. "I've only taken it off once — and it was a terrible day," Vieira says. "It's never coming off again."

    Terrible days have been blessedly rare for her on the show. But glorious or difficult, all of them start at 3 a.m. "It's not so much the getting up, it's having to get up and bring something to the table every day," Vieira says. "The most difficult thing is to stay in the moment and be able to switch gears. One minute you're with Hillary Clinton or covering a mine disaster, the next minute you're baking a pie or talking to Kool & the Gang. It's like a roller coaster. It takes a lot out of you."

    And puts a lot back in. "There have been moments that meant a lot to me," she says of her first year. "The Virginia Tech story was moving and humbling." Talking to people involved in April's tragedy, after a student on a shooting rampage killed 32 students and faculty and himself, touched her deeply.

    On the lighter side, Vieira fulfilled a girlhood fantasy and became a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall for a day last November. "The people at NBC said to me, ‘If there's something you've always dreamed of doing, you can do it here.' The next thing I knew, there I was onstage, just kicking my legs and having a great time. That was so neat. It was thrilling!

    "One of the joys of this job is that you get to explore parts of yourself you'd never get a chance to express, and parts of the world you'd never get a chance to see," she says. Vieira has also traveled (with son Ben) to China, the prelude to her covering the Summer Olympics in Beijing. All this, and she's in her sixth year of hosting the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. "It's a little bit mind-boggling," she concedes.

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