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Powerful Women: Let's Talk – 70: Terri DeBoer

Terri DeBoer
Terri DeBoer

Terri DeBoer, WOOD-TV Grand Rapids meteorologist and author, is our guest on this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk

Terri DeBoer has been delivering weather for 30 years at WOOD-TV while also raising 3 busy children. How did Terri make her career decisions, what does it take to stay focused in one very public profession, and how does she find time to write a book? We talk to Terri on this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:


>> Produced by women about women. Powerful Women, Let's Talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world, transforming who we are and how we live.


Shelley Irwin: Terri DeBoer has been delivering weather for 30 years. Maybe, at least at wood TV while also raising 3 very busy kids. How did Terri make her career decisions? What does it take to stay focused in one very public profession? Plus, how did she find time to write a book? So she brought her book and we’ll talk about it. Terri, welcome to this edition of Powerful Women Let’s Talk.

Terri DeBoer: I'm so excited I don’t really consider myself as being super powerful, but I will gladly accept the title that you have bestowed upon me.

Shelly Irwin: You've made all the positive checks and here you are because yes, you are powerful. do you even remember your first days at Wood TV. I think, you know, sharing a forecast.

Terri DeBoer: Yeah, I do. I remember that.

I you know, my crew is kind of one of these where, you know we never go in a straight path. It's kind of this evolving journey and so I started my career as a television news reporter and anchor , went back to college a couple years later to become a meteorologist because I'd always loved the weather. And as I kind of looked at the TV landscape in the late 80's, I’m dating myself here, I just really saw that television stations were making a huge priority in trying to diversify their staff and so aside from the woman who is typically an anchor there really weren't a lot of females doing sports or weather and so I took this upon myself saying, you know, I always really loved the environment, the outdoors and I was passionate about science and math and so I went back to college. I got a second degree in meteorology and then made that pivot from news to weather and so I was fortunate enough I do remember my very first weather cast on television. I did a little 30 second cut into the today show. That was the debut and I just remember thinking, I had been on TV at that point for almost a decade and I'm just thinking at this point that I was flying without a script. You know, because the weather is all ad-lib and so I had to rely on my knowledge and communication skills to put together a forecast in 30 seconds and then, you know, that was 30 years ago.

Shelley Irwin: As a little Terri, did you like the sciences? Did you like the public? Did you enjoy the cameras and being the messenger? How were you shaped to enter this profession?

Terri DeBoer: Yeah, I always feel I was very good at science and math and it’s interesting now that I've added an author to my job title. If I even look back on those aptitude tests that they do, I scored lower in the language arts skills than in science and math and so that was always, you know. I had wonderful counselors along the way who kind of said this is a good way to measure

what you would be good at and science and math obviously are right in your wheelhouse but, I was also really a people person and so, you know, at the time, you know, this was before there was the Internet and before you know, there were a lot of opportunities to really see what other people were doing.

I thought if I need to do something that's around people, it almost can't be science-based and so it was so cool that then I was able to make that pivot in my career so many years ago to say I can do science, and math, and communicate, and be a people person. I can do all those things.

Shelley Irwin: And do you recommend that to a young Terri DeBoer, that's beginning her journey?

Terri DeBoer: I do. I think, you know, I always say that the happiest people and you know, this Shelley because I mean, you love what you do. The happiest people are the people who are able to do what they do every day because they love it and as a bonus, they get paid for it and it gets to be your job.

Shelley Irwin: Yes but, no job is without challenges. Would there have been challenges either in your early days or in staying sustainable for 30 years?

Terri DeBoer: I think, you know, early on, I didn't really I didn't have a clue on where it would go. As I finished my degree and made the transition from news into weather, that was the time I was getting married and so at the time the television news industry had you know, this is late 80's early 90's. You had very few options except to, you know, pack up everything and move to another town in order to expand your career and so that Terri was a little worried that maybe by making this commitment to start a family that it would be the end of my upward movement in my career and fortunately now, especially, especially in the 21st century, it's not mutually exclusive. You really can do it all, you really can have it, you can have both opportunities to advance and grow your career and your platform and have a good quality home life.

Shelley Irwin: Did you have a mentor and are young women asking for you to be theirs?

Terri DeBoer: I did have I had a lot of great mentors along the way. One I think one of the best and most profound connections I had early on at Wood TV with Diane Kanowski who was our general manager. I know you know Diane well. She was just a pillar in this community and like me, a working mom and she kinda understood the challenges and so any time I had a question I would go into her office and I would say, okay, this is that this is the mom Terri talking to you, this isn't the employee Terri, this isn't the meteorologist Terri and, you know, I need some advice, I need some guidance and she was always willing to change hats in our relationship and that was really nice and so for me now I do view it as a great opportunity to mentor other young women and to really help, you know. Especially as people are getting out of college and starting their careers and wondering what's their place in the media. Can I have a career, a sustaining career? Does what I do matter? There are those great options and to be able to really sit down and listen to these young women and some young men as they're going through kind of what are their hopes and dreams and aspirations and I'm happy that people trust me to be that person for them.

Shelley Irwin: When was it time to write the book?

Terri DeBoer: So I always wanted to write a book. I mean, I can remember so many times, especially during Art Prize because, you know, you're such a fixture walking around downtown Grand Rapids. Walking, running, skipping jumping. I would remember running into you and every time we would talk. I’d say “I want to write a book, I want to write a book,” and Shelly I really wanted to write a book and I always had that dream in my heart for about 40 years and so in January of 2020, I thought this is the year and so I took a flier, I emailed somebody I had met at a book signing who worked at a local publisher and I said I've got this concept for a book and we had a couple meetings and he kind of pointed me in the direction and next thing you know, I had a contract and a deadline which always motivates people.

Shelley Irwin: this January 2020. Isn't that called pre-Covid?

Terri DeBoer: Pre- Covid yeah. That was the beginning. So, I signed the contract and got the deadline given to me just as the world was shutting down. So, I said I had basically those months of Covid isolation with a mission because I had a manuscript to write and so I spent, you know, those months writing the first draft of what would become Brighter Skies Ahead: Forecasting a Full Life When You Empty the Nest.

Shelley Irwin: What’s it about?

Terri DeBoer: It's about the transition that was the hardest for me in my life of being an empty nester.

You know, I always thought that, you know, I really believe that the weather has so many similarities to life, you know, life unfolds in a series of seasons just like the weather. You know, we've got the beginning stages the growing up years, but which it's a lot like spring and then we move into the young adult season which is like summer and then we get into this busyness. You know, I did for sure with 3 busy kids which we call the juggling act season which sort of corresponds to fall and then that the next season, the empty nest season which, you know, it can feel like it's the winter like everything is cold and done and drab out there and I Shelley, I got to tell you I had such a difficult time adjusting to the empty nest. I mean, I loved the chaos of always having a million things going on and, you know, even getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night and you know, driving my kids to practice and then taking a nap in the back seat of my car while they were doing their soccer, or golf, or hockey work out.

Shelley Irwin: So that's the secret to success?

Terri DeBoer: Yes, exactly take a nap in the back of your car but, I was not ready for the sadness and the melancholy and almost the grief for me that came along with entering the empty nest stage and so I thought if I feel like this and you know, for me, I have a career I love, I'm still very much active, I volunteer in our community, I've got great friends, I’m still married to my same husband of all these years. My kids are you know, amazing.

Shelley Irwin: And what did you say Grandma.

Terri DeBoer: I'm a Grandma now too and I have a 3 year-old grandson Levi and so I thought if I if I just feel this huge a void in my life when I know I have so much that is full about my life, I know this has to be universal. This feeling has to be universal and so I ended up trying to find a book to read that would speak to me and I didn't find one that I felt hopeful and optimistic and joyful enough and so I basically wrote the book I wanted to read

Shelley Irwin: Is there a companion to it?

Terri DeBoer: There is and so I got busy and did a journal that goes along with the book and so they were both released on November 9, 2021. So this is it and I’ve got two more books I’m working on.

Shelley Irwin: Yeah.

Terri DeBoer: Of course, I am right? You know, you're going to love this metaphor but you know, it took 40 years to write the first book and once I did it and I realized that I could do it, I felt like the guy that was the first person to run the 4 minute mile, right. Once you do it, you feel like you can do it.

Shelley Irwin: Yeah.

Terri DeBoer: And so now I think I can do it again.

Shelley Irwin: So what's the advice back to the young woman that either wants to write a book. I mean, is does that when it comes down to? Is just do it.

Terri DeBoer: Just do it. Yeah, I think one hundred percent that's what it is, is just be willing to start and it doesn't have to be perfect. You know, I always think perfect is the enemy of done. You know, if you feel like everything has to be perfect all the time, you’re never going to do anything and so they're different compartments in our life where we feel like maybe we can do certain things and it doesn't matter how perfect it is, you know, for writing a book I felt like oh, this has to be perfect and at the end of the day, I had a great team around me had great editors. So, I wrote the first draft of the manuscript and then my editor had a month with it. I got it back and it was read, read, read I mean, it really was but, going through that process made me a better writer, you know, just tend to dig into it and so that was just a such a great part of the journey. I still can't believe I wrote a book like I look at it and I hold it

Shelley Irwin: And that’s you Terri DeBoer. Not on the front.

Terri DeBoer: Not on the front cover. Not yet.

Shelley Irwin: All right. We want to learn more about you. I'm going to refer to my notes. Here we go, fun fact she lived in a single wide trailer until you were in 8th grade.

Terri DeBoer: Yes. Yeah, my dad was in the Air Force and so as a result we moved around the country, a good bit and so my parents had a single wide trailer and I remember when my dad got back from Vietnam in 1969, we loaded up you know, took everything off the walls. They brought a semi and loaded up the trailer and pulled us to a little trailer parked right beside the Missouri River in Great Falls, Montana where we ended up staying until the Missouri River flooded in 1975 every 11 years there's a catastrophic flood in along the Missouri River. So, in 1975 they came in the middle of the night, and loaded up all the trailers on the semi-trucks and they pulled us and then we ended up finding a spot in the trailer park on the Malmstrom Air Force Base and lived there until 8th grade when my parents finally decided we're going to stay put in Montana for a while and bought a house and I actually visited the trailer park and the house Labor Day weekend last year which was so much fun. It was really cool to come full circle to make a little voyage and pilgrimage home.

Shelley Irwin: Why am I to ask you about Spam?

Terri DeBoer: Spam. Haha, okay. I like to consider myself a fairly healthy person but, I will tell you that Spam is one of my favorite foods on the planet. I love the taste of spam it's delicious. Have you ever tried?

Shelley Irwin: No.

Terri DeBoer: You never tried spam? Well, don't try it because you will and mean it's border line addictive. So anyway, so I think that would be my you know. If I was looking to splurge and allow myself to have kind of a cheat meal or whatever it would be spam but, until I read the back of the can and realized how much sodium and fat there is and so now I think I have not had spam and probably 8 or 9 years.

Shelley Irwin: Probably like a lot of foods like the cheese cake. Yeah, the older we get we can’t have that. Borderline addiction to dot, dot, dot, Hallmark movies. It’s not a bad thing I guess.

Terri DeBoer: It’s not a bad thing

Shelley Irwin: I don’t think they’re carried on your station.

Terri DeBoer: Well, no, but it is a dangerous way to go down the rabbit hole of a wasting time but, you know what they’re uplifting and then you always can predict exactly how they're going to end right. So, yeah, that’s a fun thing for me. So yeah. I love hallmark movies. Also, maybe borderline addicted to watching Ted talks on the Internet. You know. So I'm not sure.

Shelley Irwin: Positive addictions

Terri DeBoer: Yes, exactly. One fills up my mind, the other fields at my romantic spirit.

Shelley Irwin: Yes, there we go. What about Rockettes not being on your resume Terri DeBoer?

Terri DeBoer: Yes, well, if I had it my way, I would have been a Rockette. A secret for you. When I was in high school and in college, my first couple years in college, I was a majorette. We twirled batons, and rifles, and short flags, and tall flags, and did the kick lines and all that other stuff and especially when I was in high school, I really wanted to be a Rockette but, they have a minimum height requirement.

Shelley Irwin: That’s true.

Terri DeBoer: You have to be 5 foot 7 and maybe I could convince you that I’m 5 foot 6, but really it's 5 foot 5, and a half. So, I was this close to being a Rockette.

Shelley Irwin: And well, I think you chose wisely. If I was to give you a gift, you would ask for a book.

Terri DeBoer: Yeah.

Shelley Irwin: Tell me more.

Terri DeBoer: I love books. I love getting books. I love giving books. I think it's one of the most personal gifts you can give someone. When someone gives me the gift of a book I think, you know, they took the time to consider what they thought I would find meaningful, what would inspire me. I read almost exclusively non-fiction, I try to read fiction, which is so funny. The whole hallmark movie, you know, like, okay, you watch all these movies that are all these fiction romantic sappy love stories but, I just can't I don't have it in me to sit down and read one. So yeah, but I love reading non-fiction.

Shelley Irwin: Again, back to balance.

Terri DeBoer: Exactly.

Shelley Irwin: You somewhat answered this Terri but, are you looking back at your career with positivity? Or are you moving forward with positivity? Which is the answer and is that okay to choose?

Terri DeBoer: Yes. So it's you know, I every year I write instead of coming up with resolutions, I come up with a word that will be sort of that controlling idea. John Gordon has co-authored a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life and so kind of the challenge every year in December is to come up with what is the word and so I toyed around with it. You know, it's always difficult this was, you know, the 2021 word for me was “flexibility” which I think was good and the 2022 word I thought, you know, I wish I was better with technology when I started in television news, I was really good at shooting video and editing, you know, we had 3 quarter inch videotape and, you know, I was a very good editor but, as things became digital, I didn't keep up my skill set because I had all these other things. You know, the weather computers to learn and then *8 West* came along and so I thought, will 2022 be the year that I really start to dig in and learn more technology? And I think that's a piece of it for me, certainly but, what is it? I wrote the book and what's next? You know, kind of taking what I love about my career and looking forward and so my word for 2022 has been encore. What are you going to do for an encore? And you know, people always say that, you know what your encore? If you go to a concert, the encore, you know, especially people have been highly successful or have had some great hits, their encore is to revisit what was their best stuff. So is my encore year to go back and say what was it that I loved the most about my career and how can I do more of that or is the encore to find the something new that's next? So that's kind of you know, that's where I'm at with what I'm looking forward to about this year. Really, you know, kind of continuing to fine tune Who am I. You know, the most interesting thing about the writing the book and going through this empty nest journey for myself is that, you know, when you lose someone or you lose something, experts in grief will tell you that you need to go through basically a whole calendar year. You have to go through a whole year of experiences of holidays and just figure out a way to connect with what is a new normal and I have found that in the empty nest season for me. My youngest graduated from high school in 2016 and graduated from Grand Valley here in 2020 and you know, during the middle of the pandemic and then she pivoted right away into a master's program here at Grand Valley and so for me, it was a gradual emptying of the nest because she played basketball. My youngest also plays basketball.

Shelley Irwin: Very well, I understand.

Terri DeBoer: Yes, she's let's just say she is she was part of a great women's basketball team here, Grand Valley. And so for me, I think I've finally have this shift in my mind set that what I need to do is figure out who I am because for so many years my identifier primarily was mom. You know, I was a mom because I always felt such responsibility for the day-to-day operation of my family and every decision, every controlling idea that ever I had. That’s how I’d spend my time, my money, my efforts, any of that had to go into what was going to be that day to day support of the family and now I get to spend that time figuring out what is it that I want to do and it's hard to say that not seem like you're being selfish but, I really think that what that is, is figuring out what gifts do you still have to give to the world and how can you do that and so, you know, I really, really hope that if people had a chance to read the book or, you know, we're just a few months away from graduation. So, there's a whole new crop of people who are going to be entering this empty nest season in the next several months and just to find out that it's okay to be sad about the change that you're going through but, it’s every bit as okay to be excited about what is the new opportunity with your newfound freedom.

Shelley Irwin: See the stereotype Terri DeBoer is not sadness.

Terri DeBoer: Haha!

Shelley Irwin: So, thank you for sharing that.

Terri DeBoer: Yes.

Shelley Irwin: Are you reading a book now?

Terri DeBoer: So what I'm doing right now is I'm reading a couple of different books which I don't often like to do that but, the one that really is speaking to me and I probably spend the most time is Bob Gough. He is just a fabulous author and inspirational speaker, he wrote Love Does, Everybody Always. He wrote a book and that was released last year called Dream Big and it's really about how to take the dreams and the interests you have and really tried to super-size it and so that's the book that I'm really trying to digest right now.

Shelley Irwin: On your very last day of sharing the weather Terri DeBoer, will there be a blooper tape?

Terri DeBoer: Will there be a blooper tape? Of course. I feel like every day has plenty of new material for a blooper tape. Yeah, of course.

Shelley Irwin: A positive to you because we don’t see many. All right, what's name your book one more time?

Terri DeBoer: So brighter Skies ahead: Forecasting a Full Life When You Empty the Nest. The book and the companion journal are available any place that books are sold.

You know I always kind of thought, you know, maybe a great place for me to reach out to people are at some of those, freshman orientation seminars to the parents who maybe need a little bit of a something or a resource that will provide hope, peace, and a sense of newfound purpose.

Shelley Irwin: Add it to your list on top of the three to four hours of sleep. Thank you, powerful woman.

Terri DeBoer: Thank you very much equally powerful woman. I appreciate it. I’m so excited for you, Shelly and what you do all the time here at WGVU because you definitely are a wonderful voice for our community and congrats on 20 amazing years. How amazing.

Shelley Irwin: Thank you for that. That's it for this edition of Powerful Women, Let's Talk. I'm Shelly Irwin.


>> Produced by women about women. These powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more Powerful Women, Let's Talk? Get additional interviews at WGVU.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Please rate and subscribe. Powerful Women, Let’s Talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer Public Broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University. The views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.


Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The Shelley Irwin Show, a news magazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast at 9 a.m., features a wide variety of local and national news makers, plus special features.
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