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Women's Health

Counting Her Blessings

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Perhaps because she has lived through public dissections of her own career choices, she's quick to defend Katie Couric, the subject of negative media scrutiny since taking over the CBS Evening News and failing to lift the show out of third place. "I think it's unfair to be put under the microscope the way she has, and I feel bad for her," Vieira says. "Things don't turn around overnight." Vieira says she knows how hard it is to move to a new job and get your feet planted. "There's a learning curve, and an acceptance curve, with everything. They hype and hype, then at the first sign of slippage, people start to write stories."

When I ask Vieira what she'd do if the time ever came when she wasn't a television journalist, she answers without hesitation, "I'd be a pediatric clown in the children's ward of a hospital." She did a segment about the profession on Today this year. "First, I observed the clowns in a hospital, and I thought, These kids are so sick, how do they do this? And one of the clowns said, ‘When you put on the makeup, you're the clown doctor.'" For the segment, Meredith, in clown makeup and costume, became Dr. Ditsie (a childhood nickname). "I forgot I was talking to sick children, and I had the best time. It felt so good. I made a difference and I got something out of it."

What Vieira brings to the table — the one in her gracious suburban home near the Hudson River that's shared by kids and husband, dog Jasper, and two cats, Felipe and Sweet Pea — are qualities that were well and wisely loved into being around her parents' table in East Providence, RI. Her mother, a homemaker, and her father, a doctor, were both first-generation Portuguese Americans. Vieira's three brothers — 10 years, 5 years, and 14 months older than she — probably helped determine her description of herself as "more of a tomboy than the princessy girl."

The hardest thing about the upcoming holidays, she says, is not having her parents at the table to share them. Her dad died in 1987, at 82, and her mom in 2004, at 90. Vieira lights up talking about them. "I was raised Catholic, but my mom was a real feminist who didn't like the male-dominated hierarchy of the church," Vieira says proudly. "She was tough about it. She went to church and was a believer, but she didn't like the trappings."

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