Wonder Woman Lives

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

In a world where the attention-grabbing headlines are all too often negative and tragic, it’s a perfect time to examine a blossoming narrative in sports. I’ll admit it’s near and dear to my heart: women barging into the center ring of the circus and stealing the spotlight, earning respect across the board. Women in sports are trending!

What a summer it’s been for female athletes on the international stage. Carli Lloyd sparked Team USA to World Cup glory with an amazing run in Canada, capped by her stunning hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the final. The highest-rated soccer broadcast in our nation’s history was watched by an average 26 million people, topping even men’s games from the last World Cup. Serena Williams captured both the French Open and Wimbledon singles’ championships, putting her in possession of all 4 Grand Slam titles at once. It’s the second time she’s accomplished the feat, but nearly unheard of at age 33. Ronda Rousey stayed undefeated by knocking out yet another challenger in less than a minute. Her last three UFC bouts have barely lasted 60 seconds combined! And on the sidelines, the trend is just as powerful. A year after she was hired as the NBA’s first full-time female assistant, Becky Hammon coached the Spurs to victory in the Summer League, also a first for a woman. The Arizona Cardinals brought Dr. Jen Welter on board to work with inside linebackers during preseason and training camp. Already a ground-breaker in her playing career, she made history as the NFL’s first female assistant. Only a few months earlier, Sarah Thomas earned a job as the NFL’s first female referee. Most recently, the Sacramento Kings tabbed Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman to serve as one of their assistant coaches.

Notable feats all of them, and this group of Wonder Women is to be celebrated. I’ve enjoyed watching the biggest names in sports and entertainment jostle for room on the bandwagon. Movie stars, musicians, NFL quarterbacks, and NBA MVPs all want to rub shoulders with the athletes. And all eyes are trained on the new coaches to see what they can offer in a man’s world. In the spotlight, each of these women models honesty, humor, and grace. “Just because something’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Leadership has no gender.” No wonder Gregg Popovich wanted Hammon on his staff. While she’s focused on coaching and winning, the magnitude of the moment is not lost on her.

Blazing a trail is never easy. To be the first at ANYTHING requires strength, perseverance, and confidence when support falls away. The one carving a path through a forest must inevitably fight through the overhanging branches of criticism, the uneven ground of resistance, and the shadows of uncertainty. Carli gets blasted on social media for caring more about her newfound celebrity than her soccer training. (None other than Kobe Bryant jumped to her defense.) Serena is hounded mercilessly for being too muscular and not thin or feminine enough. Unbelievable! (See my previous blog post: “Role Model, Not Supermodel”) Ronda is denounced for preying on weaker competition. And I hear the same tired line from a cross-section of listeners whenever I talk about women’s sports: “No one cares.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. But our society is reluctant to change; many are slow to accept women in roles where they’ve only previously seen men.

As a pioneer in sports radio, I grapple with similar challenges. More than 15 years in the business, including 10 at the network level, yet every fall, I hear from tough guys who won’t accept a female talking about football. A recent message suggested I should “stop embarrassing myself” since I never played the game. Ha! In this age of social media, every fan can share opinions, and very rarely are they held back. Women in sports radio and television are directly in the line of fire and judged by very different standards than our male counterparts. The glass ceiling is real. At more than one previous job, I was counseled to be more like the men on the radio and to downplay the qualities that emphasized my unique perspective as a female. One former boss even told me to stop smiling while I was on air because as a woman, that would damage my credibility. Breaking new ground is often a lonely venture. Very few see the extra work and determination behind the scenes or the blood, sweat, and tears poured into the effort. The journey is filled with stops and starts, trial and error, failures and face plants, resets and do-overs. But all the pitfalls and missteps make the eventual breakthroughs that much sweeter.

Recognition of a trailblazer can take years, even decades. It’s very rarely instantaneous so it’s hardly motivation. Seeking the approval of others usually ends in disappointment. Instead, I am constantly pursuing an array of lifelong dreams, a passion for my craft, a desire to be the best, and a goal to inspire others. I love how Coach Welter puts it: “I want little girls to grow up knowing that when they put their mind to something, when they work hard, that they can do anything.”

Not all women are created the same; not all women are created to fill the same roles or travel the same paths. Carli Lloyd, Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Becky Hammon, Jen Welter, Sarah Thomas, Nancy Lieberman are all distinct individuals. Different colors, shapes, sizes, and ages with a broad range of strengths, talents, and abilities. But each possesses the heart and soul of a champion, the ability to shrug off failure and criticism and keep pushing upward until the glass ceiling is shattered into a million pieces. Each is proof that Wonder Woman is not a myth. She’s alive and kicking.

 

Role Model, Not Supermodel

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

When I set out on this radio course, the idea of being a role model never crossed my mind. I’m not sure anyone ever envisions stature or influence…at least I didn’t. It’s only in the last few months, after receiving an email from a father whose daughters love listening to my show, that I began to chew over the idea. Is it my responsibility as a public figure? If it comes with the territory, what do I want people to see, hear, and notice when they tune in or interact with me?

By definition, a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” I’ve always believed it’s best to emulate people we know personally…to find role models among those we can speak to, ask questions of, interact with on a regular basis, and watch closely. For me, the first person who comes to mind is Mom. In addition to her love and support, I learned strength, humility, compassion for others, and the art of conversation. She raised two kids by herself and did it while changing careers and juggling multiple jobs. Despite her struggles and heartache, she never quit; and she consistently practiced the grace and love of Jesus. Other role models include my grandmothers (one now at 93), my high school English teacher, a former pastor, several father figures who cared for me, a godly friend who’s also an NFL agent and faces the same hurdles in her line of work that I do in mine. Mentors that we know on a personal level carry the greatest impact. And we need role models for the various life stages. As I wait to become a mother to my own children, I’m blessed to watch and learn from several confidants who double as amazing moms: my best friend since junior high who never seems to lose patience with her boys and another longtime friend who uses truth and transparency to raise her adopted babies. These lessons will serve me well when my time comes, and I’m grateful for them.

Even though I never started out to be a role model, people are watching, listening, and paying attention to my every move. In the new age of social media, they’re also commenting on EVERYTHING I say and do. I can choose to ignore those facts or I can try to turn it into a positive and sieze the opportunity to be a role model. In my opinion, it’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Even as I wrestled with this idea recently, two names came to mind: Deanna and Lauren. By far, my nieces are the number one reason I can be thankful for my singlehood over the last 15 years. I’ve been able to cultivate amazing relationships with two smart, funny, sweet, caring, genuine, thoughtful young ladies. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. And while my brother and his wife are great parents who’ve raised them the right way, I cherish the chance to be a role model to them. I want to show them it’s a gift to be a strong, independent, intelligent woman following her own path; that it’s a blessing to be different; that faith in God, family, and yourself provide a solid foundation for everything else.

Another ideal I desperately want to mirror for my nieces is one I believe all young women need to grasp: it’s NOT about how you look! As a female in sports broadcasting and a woman in our superficial society, far too much of the focus is on outward appearance. Even though radio is not a visual medium, I am bombarded by comments about my face, my hair, my body, my clothes, my height, and my weight. NONE of those things matter in radio; and of course, my male counterparts aren’t subjected to the same feedback. But during an average week, I’m branded everything from gorgeous, sexy, and beautiful to ugly and fat (along with names I’d never repeat). It’s ridiculous…as though I’m some insecure teenager who requires validation from gawkers or will be crushed by the opinions of total strangers. As a role model, I want my nieces and other young women to know it’s your heart, mind, and soul that count. Far more valuable are your brain, education, ability to communicate, determination, perseverance, confidence, sense of humor, zest for life, compassion for people. Yes, I care about my physical appearance; but I’d rather be described as healthy and fit with a ready smile. Role model, not supermodel. Realistic and relatable, not airbrushed and unattainable.

The concept of perfection is another I want to shoot holes through as a role model. While I am a perfectionist and hold myself to the highest standard, I also recognize there is no such thing as a perfect job, perfect marriage, perfect family, perfect friendship, perfect body, perfect woman, or perfect life. The truth is life can be flat-out HARD. It totally stinks sometimes. I’d rather demonstrate poise under pressure and peace in the midst of chaos. I’m trying to show humility when I stumble and forgiveness when others do. Respect in the face of disrespect, kindness in the face of insults, logic to counter extreme emotion, integrity in place of dishonesty, transparency instead of secrets, faith in the midst of a storm, love for the unlovely. Since I’m nowhere near perfect and frequently fall short of these marks, I also need to practice saying I’m sorry and starting over when I mess up.

What kind of role model do I want to be? The kind who realizes the platform and remains humbled by the opportunity. For my nieces, friends, dads of young girls who follow my career, and listeners who pay attention…and because my mother, grandmothers, and so many others have done the same for me, I choose to embrace the responsibility of role model.

 

 

 

 

Play-by-Play Madness

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

I can’t remember the last time I was THAT nervous to tip a basketball game. I’ve done play-by-play for countless college games on both TV and radio, perched courtside for conference championships and NCAA tournament battles, called the action inside some of the most celebrated venues in the country. But as the start of the 2015 Big East Women’s Championship drew closer, it felt like the first time. There was absolutely nothing I could do about the knots in my stomach no matter how many texts I got from loved ones or how many pep talks I gave myself. It didn’t matter that I was as prepared as I could possibly be. The nerves weren’t going away until I was sure I could handle the stage: my first ever play-by-play assignment for the Westwood One Radio Network. An opportunity more than 15 years in the making. In the last decade, the only other time I was comparably nervous was the night we found out Navy SEALS had finally hunted down Osama Bin Laden. I was literally shaking in my ESPN Radio studio every time I turned on the microphone to tell the audience the mastermind behind 9/11 was confirmed dead. That was history, a significant event that affected our entire nation, and I was honored to convey the news to so many. The magnitude of that occasion could not be understated, and I wanted to offer as many details as I could with the perfect amount of respect. When people ask me about the biggest moments of my career, I always go back to that Sunday night. On the surface, it’s almost laughable I would feel similar emotions over a college basketball game, but there was no downplaying the importance of that opening tip in Chicago.

My first play-by-play memories are from my bedroom in the Concord, New Hampshire, house where I grew up. I would listen to my beloved Boston Celtics on the radio while doing my homework because we didn’t have cable TV out in the woods. I would also sneak a little radio under the covers to listen to the Denver Broncos when they played on Monday Night Football. I was supposed to be sleeping, but I couldn’t turn off the action until I knew if John Elway led my favorite football team to another win. Not only did I grow into a huge sports fan, but I also fell in love with radio play-by-play. I was fascinated with the idea that I could describe the action on the court or field in such a way that listeners didn’t feel like they were missing anything, even though they couldn’t see it with their own eyes. I began telling family and friends (as a teenager) that I wanted to be the first female Johnny Most, the first woman to serve as the radio voice of the Celtics, and I’ve been churning toward that goal ever since.

As a grad student at Syracuse, I sat in the stands at women’s games and did play-by-play into a handheld recorder until the manager at the campus radio station finally let me do a game for real. What a thrill! A few years later, I shared play-by-play duties for the Lebanon High School boys’ basketball team in upstate New Hampshire. The team battled into the state championship game, and the Boston Globe sent a reporter to Lundholm Gymnasium at UNH to do a story on the only female in the state doing play-by-play. When the spread came out, my family bought a dozen copies, and Mom laminated the article and photos for me. I still have it packed away somewhere. I used to send a copy of the story along with my resume and tape when I applied for jobs. The next stop in my journey was a town near the Oklahoma panhandle with more cows than people. Woodward was culture shock for me, but I served as News & Sports Director for a radio station with a 100,000 watt signal. I called games year-round: high school football and basketball and American Legion baseball. Then it was onto Oklahoma City where I dabbled in softball play-by-play for the University of Oklahoma at the Women’s College World Series. My first college action, and I had very little idea what I was doing, ha! I’m grateful for the experience and the chance to stretch myself; but at that point, I decided basketball was my niche. The next few years carried me back to New England where I did games on TV and radio for the University of Rhode Island as well as the Big East. I’ll never forget being courtside in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse, the same arena where I screamed and yelled for the Orangemen as a student and the same campus where I sat in the stands with my handheld recorder. Full circle.

My big break came in 2008 when the University of Hartford hired me to travel with the women’s basketball team as the voice of the Hawks. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti put that program on the fast track, and I was privileged to be along for the ride. An upset of #5 Duke in Chicago; trips to UConn, Ohio State, Louisville, and Notre Dame; holiday events in Cancun and Florida; buzzer-beaters and battles for conference supremacy; America East title tilts; 20 straight wins; and a trio of NCAA tournament games. My 6 seasons with Hartford catapulted me into the fire and prepared me to navigate every possible play-by-play challenge. And yet there I was, moments away from the opening tip at the Big East Women’s Championship on Westwood One, as nervous as a rookie. It was the culmination of a lengthy journey, my first network radio play-by-play, my first chance to prove that I belong courtside with the best. It took about five minutes of game action before I settled down. It’s a good thing I had the players’ names memorized because I couldn’t see a thing on the charts in front of me. Once I got into the flow of the game, I was in my element as always. But the magnitude of that moment was not lost on me. I’m so grateful for all the family and friends who listened across the country and bombarded me with texts of support and encouragement. They knew how much it mattered to me, too.

In a few days, I get to experience another “first.” I’m thrilled to be part of Westwood One’s coverage of the women’s NCAA regional final in Oklahoma City Sunday night. The winner heads to the Final Four. Without a doubt, the single biggest moment of my play-by-play journey. More than 20 years after I did my homework next to the radio while Larry Bird buried jump shots, this broadcast is another dream realized. And instead of feeling the nerves, I absolutely can’t wait! Bring on the Madness.

Entertaining the Masses

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

Hard to believe it’s been a full 7 weeks since we launched the newly expanded version of After Hours with Amy Lawrence. The nights are absolutely flying by, and it’s not just because we’re having a blast. I’m definitely enjoying myself–and I’m so thankful to be part of an enthusiastic, creative team. Time is also flying because we’re using every single show to improve the product, appeal to new listeners, and expand the brand. We want to package the right mix of humor, information, opinion, production, fun, phone calls, personality, and social media. Keep it moving and keep it fresh; make it entertaining. Those are the goals; that is our stated mission. But HOW? How do you take a plain old sports radio talk show and turn it into appointment listening? The million-dollar question!

Earlier this month, I was honored to represent CBS Sports Radio at a talk radio conference in Atlanta. The only female on a panel of 6 hosts from around the country, I was asked to share insight on the entertainment aspect of what we do. To get organized, I used the flight to Georgia to put my thoughts down on paper and came up with far more than I expected. All these years of experience definitely aren’t going to waste, ha. As I scribbled my notes, one idea prevailed over all the others. The key to captivating a network audience is being unique and different, delivering a product listeners simply can’t find anywhere else. For me, that starts with passion and a contagious energy. It’s not an accident that I’m always ravenous after wrapping a 4-hour show. I pour everything I have into my work every night, burning calories the whole time! It’s also important to be genuine, authentic, relatable, inviting, inclusive, and conversational. Each of these qualities helps to court a national audience, no matter what the topic.

To finish our panel discussion in Atlanta, the moderator asked us how we set our shows apart from the other available options. He reached me last and qualified the question. “Apart from the obvious, what makes you different, Amy?” Yes, my gender alone makes me noteworthy. Being a woman instantly attracts attention. It also invites extra criticism. A double standard will always exist. I have to be more knowledgeable, more prepared, more polished with fewer mistakes where my male counterparts are naturally given the benefit of the doubt. When I was relatively new in the business, I had more than one boss suggest that I downplay what made me different, that I try to blend into a world dominated by men. One manager told me to stop smiling so much while I was on the air; another said laughing would take away from my credibility as a female. It took awhile for me to realize I don’t need to hide or cover up or de-emphasize my distinct perspective and approach to sports radio. In fact, that’s what makes my shows entertaining. There isn’t anyone else out there quite like me. Equal parts sarcastic, salty, emotional, and irreverent, I refuse to take sports too seriously. While there are sobering topics like domestic violence or major injuries, sports generally provide an escape for fans. The majority of the time, the subject is not life or death, so why treat it that way? I want to make listeners laugh, and I want them to know I will laugh at myself. I’m not perfect (it’s impossible to be perfect while hosting 4 hours of live radio per night), so I make fun of the fact that I always mix up my cliches or have trouble remembering dates.

By expanding to 5 shows a week, we have time to experiment with creative ideas. One of our most popular is the After Hours “Hall of Flame,” born from a mistake I made on the air. Typical! “Hall of Fame” came out the wrong way, and now we have a brand new Hall for the most outrageous and laugh-out-loud-funny sports rants, tirades, errors, and filibusters. We’ve also introduced “Hump Show” (middle show of the week) and “Bite Me” (most compelling audio over 24 hours). Listener favorites include “Ask Amy Anything” (sort of) and “Nerd Alert!” (impressive stats to make geeky the new cool). We threw a Super Bowl pregame party complete with chili cook-off and vintage football jerseys. Our “Question of the Night” frequently travels outside the lines. Who doesn’t want to join in the “Great Bacon Debate” or the “Worst Sports Apologies of All Time”?? I never stray too far from the games and events, though. In the first few weeks, we’ve touched everything from NFL to college hoops to NBA to golf to the college football playoff to NASCAR to hockey. February’s always a fun month to show off my versatility.

In the end, the creative use of features, music, production, guests, phone calls, social media, and outside topics falls flat if I can’t convince people of my knowledge and credibility. Entertaining the masses eventually boils down to who I am, how I deliver my opinions, and how I relate to a diverse audience. To date, the response is overwhelming. Even when the feedback is negative, people are investing enough time to develop a strong reaction. The show is grabbing attention across the country because I finally learned the most critical ingredient for entertainment: never fit in when you were born to stand out. The treasured poster I hung on my wall as a kid spotlighted a small white flowering tree in the midst of a forest sea of green leaves. The caption? “To be different is often a wonderful thing.” I had no idea the power of those words over the course of my life and my career.

Just as the title of this blog indicates, my form of radio is unconventional, unique, and always passionate. Me in a nutshell.

 

Best is Yet to Come

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

As we turned the page to 2015, I couldn’t help but feel excitement over a blank canvas, a chance to begin again. I spent the first few days chewing over my ideas for a blog post…about a fresh start, positive attitude, and gratefulness that we get to hit the reset button every January. I was planning a mini-pep talk to encourage us to move forward with great anticipation. And then I woke up to a text telling me Stuart Scott had died. It felt like a sucker punch to the gut. Even now, it’s still hard to believe he passed away. I always knew if anyone could beat cancer by sheer will, it would be Stuart. He attacked this disease all three times he was diagnosed, finding motivation in his family and friends and a job he loved, and fighting back with a vengeance. He literally gave it everything he had.

A cultural icon for sports fans and athletes of this generation, Stuart was a superstar in the broadcasting industry. He helped to usher in a new, hip, cool era of SportsCenter and left his fingerprints all over this business. Plenty of people wanted to BE him; yet in my encounters with him as a colleague, he was kind, friendly, unassuming. Above all else, he was an inspiration. Like thousands of others, I was reduced to tears listening to him accept the Jimmy V Perseverance Award in July: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live. Live! Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you…The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do is be a dad…I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters.” Those weren’t just words for Stuart. He walked the walk. Even as the cancer and treatments took their toll on his body, he showed up to work and did his job with the same energy and gusto. I was always amazed that he could muster the strength for MMA training sessions immediately after chemotherapy. Who does that?? The same guy who said a few short months ago: “Fighting is winning. Not quitting…not saying, ‘Oh I have cancer. I can’t do anything. I’m just going to lay down and cry a pity party for myself.’ That to me is the only way you lose.”

Even with his awesome attitude, with a heart and mind equipped to fight and inspire, with all the support of his family and friends, Stuart couldn’t add another year to his life. How is that right? How is that FAIR?? The obvious response is that life is not fair. Nothing is guaranteed. There is no way to be sure we’ll wake up tomorrow. Some of us may be forewarned of death, but we can’t be sure of that either. The idea that you can fight so hard and live the right way and yet only survive to 49 years old…it’s heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and discouraging. I can understand how some live in fear, afraid to take any kind of risk. And it’s not only battles with cancer that rip your heart out. If you watch the news these days, you know our world is rife with tragedy: plane crashes and disappearances, senseless terror attacks, school shootings, domestic violence, deadly wars overseas, and horrific natural disasters. Beyond depressing…almost like the odds are stacked against us. But one thing I know without a doubt: we can’t truly live while worrying about when the end will come. In order to create an existence with impact, we have to adopt Stuart’s philosophy to fight like hell, attack every day and every challenge. We have to believe the best is yet to come.

Not every day is extraordinary. Not every week gives you the opportunity to change your life or leave an indelible mark. Not every year is one you cherish and look back on with fond memories. Some days, weeks, and years are flat out hard. We slog through them, wondering if we’ll ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why I always love turning the page on January first: it’s a chance to fix the mistakes I made the year before. But HOW do we keep moving forward and building on the past? How do we make the most of the time we’ve been given? Instead of my resolutions,  I’ll call them reminders, my ways to ensure 2015 is NOT just another year.

Laugh a LOT. Don’t take myself too seriously. Try new adventures. Stop procrastinating those phone calls and emails I need to make to family and friends. Don’t make excuses. Choose my battles; not every battle is worth the effort. Let it go. Refuse to waste time fretting over the small and inconsequential. Smile at everyone. Take time for a kind word. Pay attention to the world around me because it’s BEAUTIFUL! Stop to help when I’m in the right place at the right time. Go with my gut and rely on my instincts. Don’t listen to the negative or the destructive or the people who want to tear me down. Share my heart, my struggles, my wisdom. Pray more. Be open, genuine, transparent, gracious. Forgive myself when I mess up; forgive others even if they never ask. Reach out. Make new friends. Sing loudly. Remember who and what really matter. Dump the pride; stay humble. Don’t be in such a hurry. LOVE with all my heart and soul. Cling to my faith and God’s promises. Know there’s ALWAYS hope; it’s never too late.

With no guarantee of tomorrow, I will stay thankful for what I have and count my blessings in this moment. And I WILL believe with my whole heart the best is yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face Value

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

The night before the night before Christmas, I felt a strong urge to call my 92-year-old Grammy Helen in rural Wisconsin. I usually talk to her on Christmas Day while she’s spending time at my uncle’s home, but this call couldn’t wait. As soon as she answered the phone, I knew something was off. My grandmother never complains, ever. She said she hasn’t been feeling well, so she drove herself to the local clinic where the doctor suggested a few tests. As a result, Grammy told my uncle not to trek halfway across the state to come get her. She’s weathering Christmas largely alone in her little apartment. She may drive the two miles to church if there isn’t any snow on the ground. But since she hates to inconvenience anyone, she won’t ask any of her friends to come visit or pick her up. Not on Christmas…because she knows most people have their own family gatherings scheduled. It breaks my heart to think about her sitting by herself on this special holiday. I wish I could drop everything and make my way to Wisconsin, but it’s just not possible. Of course, I’ll call her and other family members will call her, but she will still be alone. It’s a stark reminder that not everyone is surrounded by loved ones this holiday season…not everyone is full of joy and peace…not everyone enjoys Christmas. For some, it’s the exact opposite. They dread this season with all of its hustle and bustle, parties and events, get-togethers with friends, emphasis on family. Instead, it’s a reminder of what they don’t have or what they’ve lost. The holidays are a struggle instead of a celebration, a season to survive. Neighbors, colleagues, friends, even some of our own family members have braced themselves for this time of year. We may not recognize their personal pain; they may be like my grandmother who would never admit to being lonely on Christmas. But when we dig a little deeper, not everything is what it appears to be on the surface. Not everything can be taken at face value.

I recently heard a speaker at a ladies’ event talk about how the holiday season heightens whatever emotions you’re feeling at the time. If you’re in a positive place in your life (new relationship, new baby, new job or promotion, financial gain, prosperous year), Christmas will enhance your joy, peace, contentment, and excitement. But if you’re struggling through a difficult wilderness stretch in your life, the holidays can magnify your sorrow, despair, sadness, and depression. More than likely, you don’t even know if your neighbor, co-worker, or friend is fighting a battle. No one wants to bring everyone else down and spoil the party this time of year. Better to plaster on smiles and join the holiday march. But not everything is what it seems. So many are contending with private pain that threatens to overwhelm them. In the last few weeks, two of my friends have suddenly lost their fathers. Another friend’s sister passed away with very little warning. Still another lost her grandmother unexpectedly. Others I know are bravely battling cancer or debilitating health problems. One of my best friends in the world is facing her first holiday season since the break-up of her marriage and trying to make the week perfect for her young boys even as she remembers holidays past. Then there’s loneliness…a category all its own this time of year. When so much of the emphasis is on getting together with loved ones, it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t have your own family or someone with whom to spend the holiday…like my Grammy. If you’re moving forward after a broken relationship or still waiting for the right relationship to come along, loneliness at Christmastime might be the worst kind. There is no hiding from it. Anyone who’s ever wrestled with loneliness knows it can be debilitating and threaten to drown you.

My biggest struggle over the last six months has been financial. I’ve been trying to sell my empty house in Connecticut while keeping an apartment in New Jersey, closer to work. You’d be surprised how quickly money flies out the window when you’re responsible for both a mortgage AND rent payment. The money disappears in no time, and there’s never enough to go around. I’ve spent hours figuring out how to cut expenses, even necessities, to make ends meet…and I still can’t pay all the bills. I’ve considered moving back home and navigating a four-hour round trip commute, and I’ve wondered whether I made the wrong decision leaving my house behind and taking my job with CBS. I’ve felt like a big fat failure. The whole situation has been frustrating, disheartening, and humiliating. To work so hard yet continually fall behind is unbelievably discouraging. Thankfully, I’ve recently signed a contract to sell my house, but I will need months to get back to even financially. It’s changed my approach to Christmas. I love finding the perfect gifts for my family and surprising friends with packages, but I was unable to spend a dime on presents this year. It’s forced me to remember what Christmas is truly about…and how I can GIVE to those around me without spending money.

Most everyone we meet is fighting a private battle, managing personal pain. We don’t always know the struggles of those around us, but we CAN lighten the loads of family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers. It means not being so wrapped up in our own holiday hustle that we miss opportunities to share the true spirit of Christmas. It means looking beyond face value and understanding not everything is what it appears on the surface. Compassion, empathy, joy, kindness, consideration, tenderness, patience, caring, concern, grace, and mercy are the perfect gifts. A Bible verse says it best: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

Merry Christmas!

 

How Did I Get HERE?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

You may not believe this, but I never really wanted to be a talk show host. This wasn’t part of my grand plan. Looking back now, I couldn’t have dreamed up this journey if I tried. If I could have seen the road ahead of me, I would have been too overwhelmed to handle it anyway. Twenty years ago, I had zero designs on being a talk show host. Ten years ago, I wasn’t very good at it and only saw it as a means to an end. Five years ago, it felt like the walls were closing in and my options were drying up. So how in the world did I get HERE??

On January 1st, After Hours is moving! My CBS Sports Radio show will expand to five episodes a week, Sunday through Thursday nights (or Monday through Friday mornings on the East coast). Therein lies a huge part of the challenge. In this time slot, it’s primarily a West coast audience to start; toward the end of the show, it morphs into mostly morning commuters on the East coast. I LOVE that! I also love going into work at night–sifting through the various storylines in the immediate aftermath of all the action. Sunday nights during NFL season are my absolute favorite, and I won’t be giving that up. On a personal note, I’m looking forward to Saturdays off from work since I’ll get to see my family and friends a little more often and since my church meets on Saturday evenings.  But the most exciting part? Since my hours won’t be all over the map, I can actually settle into a regular sleep pattern! Wooooo! So many reasons to be thrilled for this new challenge. It’s the first time at the network level that I’ll be responsible for my own talk show five times a week. That comes with a growing audience, expanded platform, increased scrutiny, higher stakes, and loftier expectations. I can’t wait to dive right in! I also can’t help but smile every time the thought pops into my head: how did I get here??

Twenty years ago, I was telling everyone who would listen that I would be the female Johnny Most someday. The first woman to ever do radio play-by-play for the Boston Celtics. That was my dream. It’s STILL my dream. But two decades ago, I didn’t have the first clue about how to make it happen. After graduating from Syracuse with my master’s degree, I just wanted a job. My professional journey started in Rochester, New York, where I read the news headlines at the top of every hour overnights on the weekends. I convinced my boss to let me do the sports updates on Saturday mornings after my shift for free. I worked mostly as a news anchor and reporter the first six years of my career. I picked up play-by-play when I could, but news paid the bills. In 2002, a small start-up outfit in Norman, Oklahoma, hired me to host a sports talk show. I was terrible at it. No training, not much support, a newbie and an outsider trying to build an audience among men who didn’t want a woman telling them about their favorite teams. I got fired a year later. Next stop was co-host of a morning drive talk show at a Providence radio station. Got fired after a year there, too. A variety of factors went into those pink slips (one of the stations went dark soon after), but I wasn’t very good at the talk show thing back then.

Ten years ago, I still looked at talk shows as a way to earn a paycheck and support my play-by-play habit. But then ESPN Radio started offering me fill-in work, and I began to realize how much fun hosting could be at the highest level, expressing my opinions and debating them with others. I got bit by the bug and found a new passion, but I still wasn’t very good at it, ha! I barely recognize the girl who first showed up in Bristol, Connecticut, in 2004. It was my first real training and guidance toward developing into a host who is equal parts knowledge, preparation, personality, and versatility. But the national stage also included a type of pressure and competition I never faced before. I had to learn on the fly and improve rapidly or I wouldn’t last. Even when I DID find a foothold, I could never get comfortable. Industry changes, management changes, philosophy changes–they’re all cyclical, and they didn’t always work in my favor. Five years ago, the opportunities were drying up and I was stuck in a role that didn’t suit me. But by then, I was confident in my abilities and driven by a passion that never waned. I knew all I needed was a chance to prove what I could do on the air. CBS came calling two-and-a-half-years ago and gave me that chance, and I’ve spent every day since then grateful for bosses who believe in me and give me these wings to fly.

I never wanted to be a talk show host. This was never part of the plan. Looking back, there were dozens of moments when I could’ve packed it in and chosen an easier path. I’ve been fired, taken out of rotation, passed over for jobs time and time again, rammed my head into the glass ceiling over and over, and heard the gloating when I stumbled. I’ll never forget the manager who told me, “We believe you’ve reached your full potential so we’re going to invest our resources in developing other talent.” To answer the question of how I got here, I have to acknowledge the failures and the people who gave up on me. They are fuel for the fire and motivation that never leave me. But they’re only part of the equation. I also got here on the strength of unwavering support, encouragement, and prayers from those family members, friends, colleagues, managers, and listeners who refused to give up on me. So 2015 is for you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wouldn’t be here without you. XO

 

 

 

 

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