Megan Alexander, ONE MORE HUG

Megan Alexander, ONE MORE HUG

Zibby Owens: I’m here today with Megan Alexander who’s an Emmy-nominated national news correspondent on Inside Edition, the number-one syndicated news magazine TV show. She has covered football for CBS, acted in the TV show Nashville, appeared in several films, and executive-produced the feature film Heartbeats. She is the author of Faith in the Spotlight: Thriving in Your Career While Staying True to Your Beliefs, and a new children’s book, One More Hug, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. She also hosts the podcast “Inspired with Megan Alexander” and cohosts the sports podcast “Women Talk Sport.” She hosts the Inspirational Country Music Awards each year from Nashville, Tennessee, and currently splits her time between New York and Nashville.

Welcome, Megan. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Megan Alexander: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Of course, what a pleasure. Your children’s book, One More Hug, I have to say my kids now request over and over again. I’m not just saying that. They love it. Every time I read it out loud, I start crying.

Megan: Thank you. That’s the ultimate compliment.

Zibby: I’m like, .

Megan: I do too. I’m crying too still.

Zibby: Why don’t you tell listeners what One More Hug is about?

Megan: When I was thinking about writing a second book — my first book was about faith and more of a guidebook for young adults. When I was thinking about my second book, I got some great advice. Write what you know. What’s going on in your life right now? I started talking about my son, who at the time was in kindergarten and was having a lot of anxiety getting on the school bus. He kept running back to me for “One more hug, one more hug.” He must have asked me for five or six hugs. What started as being first in the line to get on the bus, by the time he was done running back for all those hugs, he was the last little boy to get on the school bus. This went on for almost two years, kindergarten, first grade.

At first, my husband Brian and I were sort of hurrying him along, like, “Come on, time to go to school. Let’s go,” quick little hugs and then pushing him on his way. Then we realized, oh, my gosh, we need to slow down and cherish these moments and just be there for him. It became a little saying in our family where when he’ll ask for one more hug, we’ll say, “There’s always time for one more hug.” That happens at bedtime. That happens when Mommy needs to travel for work. That’s how the book came about. I was telling my editor that story and she said, “Megan, that is your next book, One More Hug.” She said, “You need to write about that.” In the book, we take the boy not just through childhood, but also into high school and then when he’s going off, supposedly, to college. You can always come back for one more hug. He still asks for hugs.

Zibby: I know. That was so nice. My son was literally walking out the door today. My husband was like, “Aren’t you going to give your mom a hug?” He’s like, “Oh, yeah. Right, right.” I’m like, really? You have this whole beautiful book, and I can barely get my kid to turn around.

Megan: You’re like, “Come here, give me that hug.”

Zibby: I found it interesting, in the book you actually cited this study from Child Trends, a leading nonprofit research organization, saying that “Children receive life-long positive outcomes when their parents express warmth and affection to them.” This seems like an obvious point. The more you’re nice to your kids, the better off they’ll probably be most of the time. Yet, is there always time for one more hug in the craziness of day-to-day life? It seems like there have been many times where I’m, like you used to be, getting people — “Okay, enough snuggling. Now it’s bedtime.” How do you know when to draw the line? When do you stop your hugs? Do you have a hard stop at five or six?

Megan: That’s a really good question. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been asked that question. For Chase, my son on whom this book is based, it was about five. Then he was good. He would literally run back for about five hugs. Then at bedtime, both Chase and now my younger son Catcher probably call out for two or three one more hugs. By four or five, my tone is a bit more, “Okay, time to settle down now. Time to turn off the lights.” Honestly for me, I try to just put down my phone and appreciate that moment. As a working woman, I’ve got to say, I wasn’t always that way. I absolutely hurry my kids along at times. It was really a realization of this isn’t going to last forever. I’m a young mom. I have an eight-year-old. I have a four-year-old. Now I have a baby. I’m seeing it go by like that even just with my eight-year-old. I’m getting really sentimental.

As a reporter, you try to figure out the who, what, where, when, why. I want to be the best mom I can be. I have a lot of fear as a mother. I’ve had this conversation with my husband and friends numerous times. I feel comfortable interviewing celebrities, CEOs, top newsmakers. I get very scared when my sweet little boys look up at me and ask me a question I don’t know the answer to. I’m really worried about being a good mom. In this season, it’s been slowing down and going, maybe it’s just a hug right now. I don’t have to have all the answers even though I want them. I want to do the best that I can. It’s been slowing down to give those hugs because I’m trying to give them what they need in the moment.

Zibby: Yet you’re already giving them what they need without even trying.

Megan: I hope so.

Zibby: No, it’s true. Not to say I know so much more because I have twelve-year-olds. What do I know? The stuff that the kids really need is not the stuff that will come out of your mouth maybe one day and not the next. It’s just that sense of you loving them. No matter how busy you are, you’re going to give it to them.

Megan: I hope so. You brought up a good point with the research. With our little boys, you do see — I come from a family of girls. My mom is one of three girls. I have an older sister. Having boys, you start to notice that media and culture and society wants them to dry their tears quicker than I thought would happen with sports and with activities. “Be tough. Suck it up.”

Zibby: You could call it the shake-it-off syndrome.

Megan: Shake it off, absolutely. I found myself going, oh, my gosh, I don’t want him to stop expressing his feelings. I think there’s a way we can teach our boys to still be tough and yet express that need for affection and love. Ultimately, doesn’t that make the best husbands and fathers, if our guys can still express their emotions? Everything going on in the world today and wanting our boys to still feel like it’s okay to show the tender side of them, that’s been going through my mind too. I want my eight-year-old to know as he’s beginning to look around the playground and see that boys are supposed to toughen up a little more, it’s okay to still share your feelings. That’s, again, a season that we’re in right now and where my heart was when I wrote this book. I want him to know it’s always okay to come back for a hug.

Zibby: You wrote a song to accompany the book also. You play the guitar at bedtime? That’s amazing.

Megan: Yes. Well, I’m very basic. I just know your basic chords. I quickly learned, growing up when I took guitar lessons, that all the Beatles songs are four chords. You can play a lot of music by just knowing your basic chords on guitar. Once we put together the book and the manuscript was ready to go, literally my next phone call was to my friend Michael Oaks who I worked for fifteen years ago in Nashville. He’s an incredible singer/songwriter, one of my first jobs. I called him. We’ve stayed good friends. Then I called my friend Lucas Hoge who’s a country singer in Nashville and also a great songwriter. I said, “We have to write a song that goes along with this book. The emotions, let’s do a sweet children’s lullaby.” We put it to music and put together a music video. My son has a little part in it. Both of my kids are in it. We tried to express this story of One More Hug in a musical way, just one more way to express what we want to give our kids.

Zibby: Why not? If you have the skill, that’s amazing.

Megan: Music’s a part of our routine too. Bedtime, like you mentioned, I play the guitar for my boys and sing to them. That’s a way for me to connect with them. It was a logical thing to do to accompany the book.

Zibby: When I first read that, I was like, oh, my gosh, I barely know my own name by bedtime. The fact that you’re whipping out the guitar and composing music, I was blown over.

Megan: Some people tell creative stories to their kids. For me, it was just, let’s pick up the guitar and start singing. Everybody has something.

Zibby: I’ll take that. Yeah, everybody has something.

Megan: Some parents tell jokes. Everybody has a little something.

Zibby: Go back a little bit to your first book. How did the idea for that book come about? What’s one of the main takeaways from that book for people who haven’t read it?

Megan: That book is called Faith in the Spotlight: Thriving in Your Career While Staying True to Your Beliefs. I’ve been in the entertainment industry now for about fifteen years. I got an email a couple of years ago from a pastor in Seattle, Bothell United Methodist Church. I was born and raised in Seattle. A pastor emailed me and said, “I have a church full of young, ambitious women of faith. They want to go after their goals and dreams, get that corner office, climb the corporate ladder, maybe work in entertainment, but they don’t want to sell their soul to get there. They look at pop culture and they think, I don’t want to do all that. Is there a way to still achieve while maintaining my faith and values, how I was raised?” He said, “I know of you. I don’t know of that many people in the entertainment industry that have maintained their faith. Would you come speak to these girls?” I’d gotten that email before. I felt like it was just yesterday I was that girl sitting in church with big dreams wondering how it was all going to play out.

That got me thinking, let’s go to the bookstore and find a book I can refer to these young women. I found a lot of good books for men on being a Christian businessman or bringing your faith into business for men. Then I found a lot of great books for being a mom or a wife with a faith-based set of guidelines, but very few for the young, working, ambitious female. It was that lightbulb moment where I thought, I need to write it. I really don’t see any books, and I’m looking for them myself. I sent out ten book proposal letters. I got nine rejections and one yes from Simon & Schuster to write that book. I say to anybody listening, if you want to write a book, all it takes it one yes. I could’ve been very discouraged after four, five, six. The ninth letter comes back. They said no. Then I got that tenth letter that was a yes. Hold out for one yes, everybody. That’s all you need. You probably heard that from other authors too.

Zibby: I have, but it never gets old.

Megan: Hang in there. The book came about. It’s been a way to give a set of guidelines and inspirational stories and advice, and practical advice. I wanted it to be meaty. Let’s really talk about body image. Negotiating, what do you do if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation? I share the story of when I was asked to wear a dress that I wasn’t comfortable wearing on national television. Maybe you’re on set for a movie and they want to push the scene more than you’re comfortable with. What are you going to do? It’s not just me. It’s a lot of people I know in the industry.

Zibby: What do you do?

Megan: I said no to that film. That was an independent film a couple years ago. It was the final scene. It was a love scene. The script called for just a romantic close hug. We were on set and the director said cut. He came over and he said, “Let’s just do a little bit more. Let’s do this. Let’s do that.” He really started pushing it beyond what I was comfortable doing. Everybody’s staring at you. What do you do? I never discussed that in college. I never went over that with my acting coaches or teachers. It was more technique. I got uncomfortable. I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t think so. I really like what’s in the script.” He looked at me and he went, “Okay.” We ended up being fine in the movie. It was filmed that way. That’s a positive instance. There was another time where I had to turn down a role. They said okay. They gave it to somebody else because I wasn’t comfortable. I tell young people, try to know who you are before you get into this industry. Parents, try to run those scenarios with your kids. What would you do if this happened or that happened? How would you decide? What would be your response? I talked about very little of that when I was studying to be in this industry. We’ve got to talk about it and give examples. Everybody’s comfort level is different. Mine is different than this girl or that girl. Just find out what works for you.

Zibby: But everybody has one, so just being aware of what to do in that spot. That took a lot of courage to be able to say, “Look, no. I can’t do that.” A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to say that.

Megan: I was going to say if it had happened ten years ago, I don’t think I would’ve had the courage. It happened a couple years ago when I was already thinking about these sorts of things. It’s important to talk about it early, early, early. Talk about this stuff in junior high and high school.

Zibby: This is not just good for people of faith. I’m not Christian, but this is a great book for my children too. This is a book for anybody, anybody’s who trying to adhere to any good values in life, right?

Megan: Totally. What’s your comfort level? What do you believe in? What are your black and whites? What will you not compromise on? Absolutely, just knowing who you are and what you want to represent when people see you. I had Beyoncé’s vocal coach about a decade ago. I took a voice lesson with Beyoncé’s vocal coach in Nashville many, many years ago. I saved my pennies and I took one with her. She was super expensive. She literally said to me, “Megan, who are you in this industry? Who is Megan Alexander?” I said to her, “I don’t know. I was hoping you could help me.” She said, “Megan, we can’t tell you who you are. You need to decide. If you don’t, somebody else will decide for you. One day you’ll wake up, look in the mirror, and not be crazy about what you see.” Awesome advice. That applies to so many situations, just defining who you are.

Zibby: Could you answer that question now?

Megan: I’m somebody that, I want my family to be proud of my work. I think about my father. I think about my grandfather, my friends. Young women that I know now are watching me and reading my book, I want them to be proud of the work that I do, whether it’s in print form or on television. I like to do inspirational work, inspirational content. I like there to be some redeeming factor to the art, some story that’s being told or a moral of the story. I think that’s important. Still trying to fine-tune it. As a mother, I’m aware my little boys, and soon my baby girl, will be watching Mommy. What does that mean? I want them to be proud of my work.

Zibby: Did your podcast come as an offshoot of this inspirational endeavor?

Megan: Absolutely. So many inspirational stories, I find, get left on the cutting room floor in media because there’s just not enough time for all of them. I said I’ve got to create an outlet where I can tell some of these stories and interview these people that are doing awesome things. I just told you before we started here, I’m so grateful for podcasts and the opportunity to get this content on air. Anybody can do it and can tell these stories.

Zibby: It’s so true. Tell me more about your podcast. How often do you record it? How are you fitting all this into your life? I know that’s an annoying question. How do you do it all logistically when you split your time? You’re between Nashville and New York. You’re doing this podcast and hosting. You’re doing a zillion things.

Megan: The podcast is kind of on hiatus right now once I got pregnant. I have a two-and-a-half-month-old baby girl at the time that you and I are talking right now. I knew I needed to cut back. It was just a little too much.

Zibby: Good, I’m happy to hear that. I’m like, oh, my gosh.

Megan: I just tried to record a bunch and then have them in the can and tried to put one out every other week. Maybe I’ll start it up again someday. I really enjoyed doing it. I love what you do in terms of picking moms’ books.

Zibby: You’re really good. I listened to your podcast. I really enjoyed it. You mentioned in one of your podcasts with somebody, some hairdresser you had on the Upper West Side. I have to ask you, also, who that is because that is not so far from here, and I love your hair.

Megan: You’re so kind. That is Cher. Shout out to Cher at Dramatics on the Upper West Side, 72nd.

Zibby: No way. Stop it. Dramatics? No way. That’s so funny.

Megan: Yes, I just stumbled in once and said, “Will you help me out?”

Zibby: That’s been there forever. That’s why I’m joking, like when I was in high school.

Megan: Dramatics is a chain that’s all over Manhattan.

Zibby: Going back to how you do everything, aside from stealing your hairdresser, podcast is on hiatus. Do you have a general framework, like, “I’m only going to do this amount of work”? Are there things you turn down? There must be.

Megan: Absolutely. I am part time with Inside Edition now. For the last couple years, I only worked for them a couple days a week, which is very helpful with all this other stuff that’s going on. I get a lot of work done on the plane. I commute from Nashville, Tennessee, to New York City. I’m flying all the time. It’s a beautiful thing to have two hours of uninterrupted time.

Zibby: I love plane time. I will stay on a plane for a week. I’m like, don’t bother me. This is amazing.

Megan: I wrote both of these books basically on the plane. A lot of people are annoyed that you have to turn off your cell phone. I see it as a gift now. Yes, you can still get Wi-Fi and so forth. That uninterrupted time is huge, whether to read or to write. A lot of it has been commuting or in the car in the city when you’re going from one store to the other. I try to be intentional with my time and take advantage of it. Traveling has ended up being a way for me to focus.

Zibby: I totally agree. Do you feel like you let any balls drop?

Megan: Yeah, you can’t do it all. I’ve shared this with people before. I heard this lady say this once at a conference, she said, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all perfectly.” That is so true. There have been times where — a couple years ago, I was covering Thursday Night Football for CBS. I was in Denver covering a Bronco’s game. I FaceTimed with my husband who was taking Chase, my oldest son, to a flag football game that I was missing. A lot of people would go, “Oh, my gosh, an NFL game. It’s the Broncos. It’s so exciting,” but I was missing my sweet son’s flag football game. He was like, “Mommy, where are you?” There are trade-offs. You’ve got to go, gosh, I can’t miss the next one. Then I’ll say no to other assignments because I want to be there for my kiddos. My husband and I are constantly getting out our calendars and talking and saying, “What’s going on here and next week?” and doing that juggle that so many people do. My parents are very involved. Grandparents are big in our life which I’m so grateful for. They’re very involved with the kids too. If Mommy can’t be there, Nana can be there, which is wonderful. You just have to turn things down sometimes. There’s been a couple different speaking gigs that I’ve been asked to do where it was just one too many weekends away. You need that time together. I do the old-fashioned pros and cons lists. Let’s talk about this and what’s going on there. It’s a dance that we all do.

Zibby: Do you feel like you’ve been getting to a place where you’re the one who might need the hug?

Megan: Sure. I will say it’s harder as your kids get older. I’m sure you can relate to this. My eight-year-old needs me the most now of the eight-year-old, the four-year-old, and the baby. Well, of course the baby needs me, but you know what I mean. Emotionally, it’s getting harder and harder to travel as much for my eight-year-old. That’s another reason why this book is special because he really still wants those hugs. It’s just a dance that all working families do. I don’t think it’ll ever be perfect. I’m not sure that I have it all figured out. I feel like every day I’m trying to figure it out all over again.

Zibby: I hear that.

Megan: There are days when I forget things at school. My husband and I will get an email from our teacher. “Today, you were supposed to bring this form. You were supposed to sign this field trip form.” We’re like, we’ve got to get back to the bulletin board in the kitchen so we can remember everything. We try to keep a sense of humor about it. Otherwise, it’ll be overwhelming.

Zibby: I feel like people listening will think, oh, my gosh, this glamorous life that you live. You’re out there. You’re on TV all the time. You’re around all these celebrities. How do you do it? What’s it really like? Did you always want to do this? What would we not expect from what your life has turned out to be? What would people not know?

Megan: First of all, Inside Edition, yes, we do do celebrity interviews. The other half is real news. I’ve had to cover school shootings, natural disasters, difficult medical stories where a child’s going in for surgery. We do a lot of medical miracle stories. I’m there with people when they’re at the top of the world, top of their game, and also when they’re at the lowest of lows. If anything, it’s a privilege and an honor to see how people love on each other in hard times. I covered this Sutherland school shooting — actually, it was at a church. The Sutherland Springs school shooting outside of San Antonio, Texas, a couple years ago, incredibly difficult. I really observed that these Texans were teaching us how to grieve in the way that they cared for each other. Neighbors were stationed in the driveway of other neighbors who had been affected by the shooting. They were just talking to people and serving as gatekeepers for the media and saying, “Hey, they don’t want to talk right now. We’ll let you know.” I thought the way they were loving on each other and caring for each other was really a lesson in how to grieve and how to love your neighbor. I felt incredibly honored to just witness that. It makes me want to be a better neighbor myself.

For me, celebrities are people like anyone else. I just try to connect on a human level. Talking about your kids is a great icebreaker, or talking about family or traveling. I try to connect with people. At the end of the day, they’re humans too. Yes, we see them in glamorous moments. I’ve also seen celebrities where their kids are asking them for their attention or interrupting something. They’re being a mother or a father. You realize, wow, everybody’s really human. We all go through the same things. The behind-the-scenes moments are some of my favorites, which we don’t always get to show on TV when it’s a quick two-minute story.

I’ll end by telling you that something that was really cute that happened. I covered the CMA awards recently, the Country Music Awards in Nashville. There were all these celebrities coming down the carpet. You’ve got Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood and Maren Morris and all these celebrities. Then I saw, in the distance, this woman in all black. She was like, “Megan!” I was like, “Oh, hey.” She’s like, “I’m Grayson’s mom.” I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m Chase’s mom.” To make a long story short, my son goes to school with her son. She’s a publicist for all these big celebrities. We just connected on that cute human moment. I came home to Chase, my son. I said, “Guess who I met on the red carpet tonight?” My whole family thought I was going to say Taylor Swift or something. I was like, “Grayson’s mom.” He’s like, “How cool!” It’s fun to have those moments. That was much cooler to my son than any celebrity, that I met his friend’s mom.

Zibby: What’s coming next for you? You’ve done this children’s book. You have your first book. More books? What’s next?

Megan: I just talked to one of my fellow songwriters for the song “One More” on which this book is based, One More Hug. We are thinking about putting together a children’s album of children’s lullabies, all originals. We would need to write them, maybe one or two covers. I thought it would be fun to do one or two Disney songs just acoustic vocal. I’m thinking about a children’s album, which would be so fun and sweet. Putting on those songs as we’re tucking our kids into bed, bedtime lullabies, that’s on the horizon.

Zibby: Very fun. That’s great. Do you have any parting advice, I know you gave some already, to aspiring authors?

Megan: The best advice I got was write what you know. This is a story about me and my son and our relationship and his need for one more hug, which I think so many parents and grandparents can relate to, other people too. If you want to write, write what you know. What’s going on in your life right now? What’s your season of life? Keep it simple. This is a very simple book, One More Hug. That would be my advice. Write what you know. Keep it simple. All you need is one yes, so hang on for that one yes.

Zibby: Excellent. Thanks, Megan. I really appreciate you coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Megan: Thank you for having me, Zibby.

Zibby: No problem.

Megan Alexander, ONE MORE HUG

One More Hug
By Alexander, Megan

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