Former KARE11 news anchor Joan Steffend was doing her part to increase peace before tragedy visited Newtown, Conn.
Her latest book, "Peace In, Peace Out," invites you to make similar contributions on pages left blank. "The simplest things you could ever do to find peace within yourself, and share peace with other people, are in the book," she said. "I have the things that I consider my wisdom. But everybody's so different, so the last half of the book" is where readers can jot down what gives them peace.
The massacre in Connecticut has many of us wanting more peace. "What do you even say about something like that?" she asked. "I feel like [anger's] not serving us. It's an easy way to offload the anger and sadness, because it's so huge and so wrenching. We need to see what we can do in this moment with our lives. We don't live in Newtown, but we live in a town. We need to respond to each other the way Newtown is responding. All of a sudden, everybody there is family, watching out for one another. We are the tool we have to change the world."
I interviewed Steffend at her home, decked out for Christmas the way you would expect from the person who hosted "Decorating Cents" on HGTV. The four-legged being that gives Steffend lots of peace, Charlie the puggle, made an unceremoniously peaceable entrance into the sit-down part of my startribune.com/video. Like Steffend's first book "... and She Sparkled," her new book comes from the metro's Tristan Publishing.
Q You know these books are kind of sappy?
A The book may be sappy, but if everybody did the simple things in the book, that would make the world a better place. I don't consider them sappy. They changed my life. I consider them going back to the very, very basics. Taking people back to the starting line. It's not saying you have to go out and create a charity, go to India and change people's lives. It's saying: The starting line is you. Your authentic nature. We have a choice to put good energy into the world or negative energy. Why do you think that's sappy?! What else do you think is sappy? Christmas is sappy? My dog is sappy? I want to know!
Q This isn't about me.
A Remember, I was a member of the media. I can make it about you!
Q You're too sweet to have ever flipped off anybody.
A Yes I have. I can honestly tell you that I've never flipped anybody off in traffic. But I have flipped off my lovely husband quite a few times. Your boy, Joe [Brandmeier, director, producer and owner of Moving Pictures]. I would say about 80 percent of the time it was done with a smile.
Q I'm told that you've been called your own priest.
A I was told that by somebody about 10 years ago. The more I think about it, the more it's true. I used to do Bible study. I used to go to church every Sunday. That's how I was raised, but it seems like I got happier and happier the more I just allowed my connection to God to be my connection to God. So yeah, I guess I am my own priest. I'm happier than I've ever been, making less money than I ever have. Is this going to be sappy? I'm connected to all that is, all the time. I made the effort to be connected to God. Yeah, it is sappy, isn't it? See, this is driving you nuts! We want to talk about the finger!
Q Have you always been a Goodie Two Shoes?
A I have tried really hard not to be a Goodie Two Shoes at times in my life. In junior high school, you could see the cool girls, the ones who were kind of tough on each other. I tried that for a while. It did not work very well for me. I think I'm inherently optimistic. I'm sappy and inherently optimistic and a Goodie Two Shoes. My husband, if he sees a "Don't Step on the Grass" sign, he will step on the grass. If I see a "Don't Step on the Grass" sign, I move to the other side of the street.
Q Tell me about the biggest jerk in broadcasting with whom you've worked.
A Ohhhh. It was somebody, I don't know if you'd remember her name, an anchor back in the day at KARE11. She just decided that I was competition and so she wasn't going to speak to me and she was going to create ill will around me. I just was quiet with it. Didn't play the game back, and it kind of dissipated; and she left shortly thereafter. I held on for 17 years at KARE11 by being very quiet, keeping my nose clean, doing the work they asked me to do, never asking for more money.
A How do you know about that? [Laughter.] I was going to give my first speech on "... and She Sparkled." I was going to talk to the Midwest Booksellers Association. I had almost no time left, and I stood in front of my bathroom mirror thinking, "I'd probably look a little more pulled together if I waxed my eyebrows." So with absolutely no time I waxed my eyebrows, and I have to give my first speech on my first book I ever had published with one and a third eyebrows. So I penciled that baby in, and it's the one not covered by bangs. I had to announce it in front of the whole group. Everybody who came up to me afterwards was just staring at my eyebrow. How did you find out about that?
Q You have one of those mellifluous voices. How can I learn to speak like Joan Steffend?
A Oh, stop. That's so funny. I will listen to myself, and I don't hear it. I don't hear something mellifluous. I hear the flaws and, man, she took a breath there. I feel I'm a bass.
Interviews are edited. C.J. can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9's "The Buzz."