De Mi Corazón

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

Where do I start? How do I share everything I saw and heard over nine days in a country that remains a mystery to most Americans? How do I describe all of the emotions that took me weeks to process after I returned home? I know this for sure–my trip to Cuba was unique and unforgettable. Even if I never have the opportunity to go back and visit the people I met or the church where we worked, the experience will stay with me forever.

In a foreign country where I spoke a broken version of the language, the Cuban people made me feel right at home. They laugh; they dance; they sing; they talk a mile a minute, all at the same time; they argue over their games, everything from the rules to the winners and losers. And they do it all loudly which reminded me of my Italian family get-togethers as a kid! I love the Cuban passion for life, for God, for each other, and for us. The Pastor’s family and members of the congregation greeted our group with hugs and kisses (usually double kisses on one cheek) every time we showed up to the church, and they sent us off with hugs and kisses when we departed. No matter how briefly we were away at our hotel, every single one of them would offer the same sweet welcome as we returned for the evening. And each night, they gathered around our taxi to say good-bye and wave until we disappeared from their village street.

Not only do the Cubans possess a zest for life and relationships, but they’re extremely generous. They have so little, and yet they were willing to share everything they have with us! Several women from the church cooked huge meals for us daily. The staples included rice and beans (enough to fill a cooler); chicken, pork, and hotdogs to put over the rice; avocado; and plantains. The food was absolutely amazing! I have no idea how I ate so much and didn’t gain 10 pounds, ha. Shrimp caught locally, potatoes, mangoes off their trees, and a sweet papaya concoction were served as treats. And we could drink coffee at every meal–strong, espresso coffee with the sugar brewed right in. We tried to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen; but if one of the church members started first, they wouldn’t let us help. At times, I wondered why they accepted ME and why they were so kind to a stranger from another country. But their affection and interest were genuine. I made some wonderful new friends, and I miss them dearly.

The trek to Cuba marked my first time in a Communist country, the first time I’ve ever been to a nation where the people are not free to live, work, or worship the way they choose. Seeing this in person broke my heart. As the government welcomes hoards of new visitors from the United States, popular tourist spots like old Havana are under construction. Modern hotels and museums are going up everywhere. Other landmarks are being cleaned up and renovated. But it’s largely window-dressing. A few miles outside the capital city, homes and businesses are in desperate need of repairs. The roads are wrecked, and trash is piled up in many spots. People keep asking me about the classic cars in Cuba. Yes, the streets and parking lots resemble antique car shows. I was in awe until I realized how often they break down. Very few Cubans can buy parts to fix them or buy newer autos, so they do whatever they can to get their vehicles back on the road. Only a small percentage of adults own a driver’s license.

The “private sector” is nearly non-existent in Cuba. The majority of the work force is operated by the government. Some people farm or cook and sell food out of their homes; others use their horses and buggies to give taxi rides. But the Communist state controls the economy with a tight fist. Cubans can’t “get ahead” if they work hard and excel at their crafts. All the money made by the influx of tourism goes directly to the government, not the people who need it. Because of this, visiting the country is like stepping back in time. They’re stuck. They don’t have a viable postal system; in some places, they don’t even have mailing addresses. The worst part, though, is the people aren’t allowed to leave. Very few visas are granted for travel outside Cuba because the government is afraid its citizens won’t return. After witnessing their quality of life and oppression over nine days, I began to understand why some risk their lives in desperate attempts to flee the 90 miles to Florida and freedom.

Since returning home, I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the blessings we enjoy as US citizens. Remembering what I saw and heard keeps me from complaining about minor inconveniences that seem so insignificant compared to the challenges of living in Cuba. I’ve also wrangled with sadness, anger, and helplessness. I want to do more to help my new friends. I pray for their safety and for changes to the government, and I enjoy communicating with them on Facebook and email. I also read the notes I scribbled in my journal about my favorite moments from the trip–teaching Sunday school class and sharing snowmen, penguin, and reindeer stickers with the kiddos; playing kickball and other games with the youth group on a dirt field behind the Pastor’s house; and spending the day at Varadero, the beach they call the most beautiful in Cuba.

I won’t forget talking about béisbol with Camilo or laughing with Sucel or riding in the front seat of our cab with Daniel who navigates the crazy Havana traffic like a pro. I still smile about playing “water games” on a wet, soapy tarp inside the church; giving the Pastor all the school supplies I could pack into my suitcase; standing in line for two hours to eat gobs of ice cream at the famous Coppelia; tearing up when we sang Amazing Grace on Sunday morning; and snapping pictures for 20 minutes as we said good-bye the last night.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Cuba. I would love to visit the Pastor’s family in the future, but I have no idea if the circumstances in my life will offer the opportunity. What I DO know is that the experience of traveling to Havana will stay with me forever. And as long as people will listen, I will share my stories and the memories from deep inside my heart.

 

 

My Other Calling

Posted in Uncategorized on August 16, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

I will readily admit Cuba was never a place I wanted to go. I LOVE to travel, and I keep a mental bucket list of locales that I desperately want to see. Cuba was never on it, not remotely. In March, when President Obama threw the door open wide for Americans to travel to Cuba, I actually declared on my radio show that I wasn’t interested–that I would wait until the masses had been going for years before I’d think about it. That was partly because I knew there would be a huge influx of people making the trek and partly because Cuba still operates under a Communist government. I can’t help but recall those words and my confident stance as I make my final preparations to land in Havana this week. Ha! God definitely has a sense of humor.

When I first heard that my church was sending a group to Cuba, I knew instantly it was something I needed to consider. I had no doubt God was trying to get my attention, but was He calling me to GO? As the various personal and professional obstacles systematically fell by the wayside, the choice became crystal clear. A few months after I denied any interest, I committed to a 10-day journey to Havana. It’s amazing how my heart and attitude have changed since then. At the beginning, I was apprehensive and uneasy over leaving the US for the first time in five years; joining a group of people I didn’t know; asking my family and friends to invest financially; and entering a country where the government is still oppressive and the people are not free to live, work, shop or worship the way they desire. I was nervous about leaving my dog and house for 11 days and being disconnected from work right before the NFL season kicks off. While I can’t say those notions have completely disappeared, the anxiety is replaced by great expectation! I’m positive the trip will be a blessing.

Even as the atheist Cuban government warms up to the idea of its citizens attending church and practicing their faith, visitors are not generally allowed to enter the country for any type of religious venture. Our group has secured tourist visas, and we won’t be using the word “church” (or “iglesia”) while we’re in Havana. Each day, we’ll take a van to a poor suburb across the bay and work with an “illegal” church and its pastor. We want to protect his identity and make sure we don’t draw any undue attention to his church. He already runs the risk of the government shutting it down. So we’ll bunk in the tourist district of Havana but spend our mornings on construction and repairs at the church. In the afternoons and evenings, we’ll work with kids and teens. In fact, the pastor has designated our visit for Youth Week. Awesome!

The reality of the trip hit me recently when a large box arrived with two soccer balls and a kickball. I ordered them to take to the kiddos. Since then, my excitement level has been off the charts. My suitcase is more than half full of school supplies and materials for sports and games to leave at the church. That’s always my favorite part–taking gifts with me to share with families that can’t purchase them at a local store. This will be my fourth missions trip outside the US, and it’s always the chance to interact with kids that gets me on board. I don’t possess the ability to teach as well as my amazing Mom who can corral a room full of teenagers like nobody’s business. What I DO know is that working with kids–spending time with them, talking with them, making them feel important, sharing Jesus with them–is my other calling. After surviving a tumultuous childhood, I am compelled to offer the peace, joy, and compassion in my heart. I look forward to being a mom someday soon, but for now, this is one major way I can impact the world around me.

My previous trips revolved around soccer. High up in the Andes mountains of Ecuador and deep in the African bush of Mozambique, we took soccer balls, invited the local kids to play, and listened to their screams of delight as they got involved. Such amazing experiences! As I head to Cuba, I’m praying for more of the same. In addition to the soccer balls and kickball, I’m carrying air pumps, a bag of bouncy balls, Frisbees, and street chalk. Our team may also take them to the beach and a popular ice cream store. The goal is to connect with them, give them a chance to have FUN, and let them know they’re special. It’s pretty simple and always worth it. I just never anticipated Cuba.

On the phone with my 94-year-old Grammy Helen recently, I was recounting the various places I’ve visited so far in 2016. My first trip to San Francisco for Super Bowl Week and then Houston for my first ever Final Four (with a Villanova buzzer-beater to win the championship)! I completed my first real half-marathon in Oklahoma City and then took a short vacation in Albuquerque and the New Mexico mountains. There was a quick jaunt to Los Angeles to receive my first Gracie Award and a weekend in Atlanta to see my best friend. This spring, I also drove to DC twice and made a handful of forays to Connecticut. And then my annual trek to see HER in Wisconsin. Her response as I ticked off all those trips? “You sure have been a lot of places this year.” Understated but accurate as always, Grammy! However, I got quite a reaction out of her when I told her I was adding Havana, Cuba, to the list. She was surprised. Me too, but I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

 

 

When Sports Don’t Matter

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

You’ll never catch me acting like my sports radio show is important. Entertaining, fun, goofy, informational, divergent, and energetic? Most of the time. But important? No. And over the last several months, I’ve struggled more and more with the idea that sports are highly insignificant in the world in which we live. I love my job, and I’m known for my spirit and enthusiasm on air. People tell me my upbeat attitude is contagious, that it fuels them overnight or wakes them up in the morning. But how do I muster excitement about football, basketball or any other game when our society seems to be falling apart? How do I generate any kind of passion for sports when my heart is heavy over the senseless tragedies and unspeakable horrors that take place weekly in our nation and around the world? I find myself battling guilt when I shove the pain aside and put on a happy voice to host shows in the midst of turmoil.

It’s been six weeks since the United States woke up to another mass shooting at the hands of a madman–unfathomable suffering, torture, and loss for dozens of families, loved ones, wounded, and survivors. Orlando was torn apart by terror in its own backyard. It was a Sunday, and I spent most of the day watching the news, listening to eyewitness accounts, and praying for victims and those left behind. Later that night, the Penguins captured the Stanley Cup by defeating my favorite hockey team, the San Jose Sharks, in Game 6 of their series. I watched the game, but I absolutely didn’t care.

It’s a rare night that I don’t want to work, and nights featuring huge events are my favorite times to be on the air. But I dreaded sitting down in studio and turning on the microphone that Sunday. I tried to be honest about how I was feeling–numb, confused, angry, sad, heartbroken–and I admitted that it felt all wrong to be talking about hockey. When I took a deep breath and launched into actual sports, my enthusiasm was fake. At some point, I blocked out most of my emotion over Orlando and found a realm where only sports existed, just long enough to get through the show. The human ability to compartmentalize is astounding at times. The way we can block out pain and struggle to cope can be a blessing.

Since Orlando, the challenge to balance social consciousness with sports talk is all too familiar. On back to back days the first week in July, graphic videos emerged from Baton Rouge and St. Paul where African-American men died after being shot by police officers. Later that same week, Dallas law enforcement was ambushed at a protest. Five officers were murdered and several others critically wounded. That Thursday night show was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done. I know I was distracted, and there was very little I could do about it. My heart wasn’t in it because sports didn’t matter in the slightest. Nor did they matter when terrorists drove a truck into a holiday celebration in Nice, killing 84 (including 10 children), or when a triple suicide attack at an Istanbul airport left 47 dead. A hostage crisis in Bangladesh where 20 people died (among them, three American college students); coordinated attacks at a Paris nightclub and stadium, killing 130; strikes at a Brussels airport and metro station, claiming 32 more lives; surprise gunfire at a San Bernardino holiday party, causing 14 deaths–the list goes on and on. Most recently in the US, a Marine war veteran opened fire on Baton Rouge police officers, fatally wounding three of them. The gut-wrenching headlines threaten to overwhelm us.

I wish I knew of some perfect formula to navigate these treacherous and painful events on my show. If only I could open up a textbook that tells me when to address them or how much time to spend talking about them or whether to avoid them altogether. But there are no hard and fast rules to follow. Most often I bring them up and share my emotions before I do anything else, and I frequently apologize for moving onto sports. But when nine people were murdered in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last June, I didn’t touch it the first night on air because I didn’t think I could do it without breaking down. Listeners criticize my approach on social media, saying I should use my platform to lobby for gun control and other political changes OR telling me I should “stick to sports.” Yes, my job is to talk about sports, and I will always honor my employer and my bosses by performing to the best of my ability. But I’m also a human being. I will never “stick to sports” completely because my life and my show are not that one-dimensional.

Most people tell me they want the distraction that sports and sports radio offer. Even for a short time, they welcome a chance to focus on games and stories completely unrelated to the latest tragedy. They thank me for giving them a way to dull the pain, if only temporarily. The night after the five Dallas police officers died, I attended a Mets’ game at Citi Field. I didn’t feel like going, and I choked up when I first saw NYPD officers outside the stadium. But after settling into my seat and soaking in the atmosphere at the ballpark, I sensed that same relief for a few hours. The heartache wasn’t gone, but sports offered a brief respite and chance to breathe. I finally understood why listeners tune into my show after terror attacks and horrific catastrophes.

No, sports don’t matter much when held up against the loss of life. But people matter. A week after the Dallas shooting, a member of that local police force called my show. He spoke about forgiveness and hope and shared his gratefulness to those who’ve embraced his department since the ambush. We all need hope, that light shining in the darkness, and a connection with others who experience the same raw emotions in difficult times. Even when I don’t know exactly what to say or how to say it, my prayer is that my radio show offers a sliver of hope, a ray of light, that human connection. So I will keep showing up and sharing my heart ESPECIALLY when sports don’t matter.

Run To Remember

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

Sunday, April 24th, in Oklahoma City wasn’t just my first half-marathon in more than a decade. It was also a moving tribute to those who lost their lives in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in April 1995. From pre-dawn opening ceremonies at the Survivor Tree to 168 seconds of silence for the victims, the Memorial Marathon marked the anniversary of a tragedy that forever changed a city, a state, and the people of Oklahoma. Hearing thousands of people across several city blocks grow quiet and stay quiet for nearly three minutes created a powerful memory. And then it was time: #RunToRemember

When the emcee announced the number of participants in this year’s event, I was stunned to hear 24,818! You can’t help but feel a major adrenaline surge when that many people join forces. We all came together for the marathon, half-marathon, 5K, relay, and wheelchair races. A staggered start put the fastest runners at the front, while the rest of us were herded forward in “corrals,” so I had time to stretch, send final texts, and take pictures of the burgeoning purple sky stretching in front of us. More than one experienced runner cautioned me to go out slowly and resist the urge to take off. With that advice in mind, my friend Kelli and I passed under the banner hanging over the starting line and began our 13.1 mile trek!

The marathon route first wound through the downtown streets of Oklahoma City. With every block we ran, I had flashbacks to my life as an “Okie” from 1999-2003. There were basketball games at the Ford Center (now the Chesapeake Energy Arena) before the Thunder moved in, baseball games and dinners in Bricktown, and press conferences at the state capitol complex. I was always nervous about finding a parking spot near the capitol since I was usually running late! I vividly remember hosting my radio show in the shadow of the Memorial on the morning it was dedicated in 2000 and then covering 9/11 as a reporter the next year.  The bombing gave Oklahomans a unique perspective that most of America couldn’t comprehend before that tragic September day.

I was blown away by the number of firefighters running and walking the marathon in full gear. They represented companies in and around Oklahoma City that responded to the Murrah Federal Building on the morning of the attack; and they navigated the course in their fire suits, coats, hats, and boots. Some of them even carried their oxygen tanks. I tried to run alongside to thank as many of them as I could. I wonder if they got tired of responding since dozens of other runners had the same idea. Some even took selfies with the firemen, ha.

I’m glad I decided not to run with headphones. I didn’t want to miss any of the sights and sounds along the marathon course, and it was worth going without music. Fans and supporters lined the way. In some areas, it was a handful of people who held up funny signs or shouted words of encouragement. Kids waited to give us high-fives or fist bumps. But in other locations like Gorilla Hill and Irish Alley, we passed through party-like atmospheres. It’s apparently much easier to party when you aren’t running up a long slope. Along Gorilla Hill, some marathon enthusiasts dressed up like monkeys or bananas to hand out bananas. We literally ran through streets covered by peels which is disaster waiting to happen for me! Raucous water stops, high school marching bands, tables with alcohol shots and donuts (what?!?), radio stations blaring music from mobile units, even a bouncing Tigger–they all made us laugh, propelled us forward, and provided energy boosts when they were desperately needed.

The running itself wasn’t terrible through the first 7 miles, but that changed in a BIG way once we made the turn back toward downtown, directly into a stiff wind. The next 3+ miles were a major challenge. I used so much energy to combat the wind and still felt like I was running in place along Classen Avenue. Kelli was kind enough to slow down, too, so we wouldn’t get separated. I’m beyond grateful for her because it would have been harder to press forward alone. Good old Oklahoma with its crazy winds. I should have expected nothing less! By the time we turned off Classen, we were within a couple miles of the finish line. Thankfully, I found a little extra zip at that point.

The final mile-and-a-half was nothing short of amazing! Even though I was tired and felt every step in my heavy legs, I lifted my head up to look around and soak in the atmosphere. Thicker groups of people lined the streets, and they cheered with a greater sense of urgency. One of my favorite signs indicated we only had eight blocks to go! As we made our way down the last sloping hill, the emcee whipped the crowd into a frenzy by announcing the first marathoner was approaching the finish line. A MARATHONER!! He was still trucking along at his incredible pace, feeling no pain, and we cheered with everyone else as he swept past us under the banner. The huge wave of excitement was so much fun to witness. I managed a final sprint and crossed the finish line at 2:26:31. I didn’t meet my time goal of 2:10 (the wind tunnel took so much out of me), but I’m extremely proud of myself for running the entire way.

Upon completing the course, we entered the finisher’s corral to collect bottles of water, beautiful medals, special t-shirts, and snacks. What did I consume after running a half-marathon? Two Oreos, a banana, and a carton of chocolate milk. I couldn’t stomach the cheeseburgers they were handing out, yikes! Even though my legs were wobbly, I was thrilled to snap pictures and meet up with friends who came to support me. How exhilarating to make it all the way through 13 miles and realize I actually finished the race! Now I can’t wait for next year.

Thank you, Oklahoma City! Just another reason you will always own a piece of my heart. XO

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Carpet Ready

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

Ok, that’s so NOT true. At least not yet.  But I WILL be ready!

The weeks are flying by, and the red carpet will soon be rolled out at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles. I’ll be accepting my Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation in late May. That sentence is surreal to type, to say out loud, and to comprehend. Thankfully, the most important detail is already taken care of. My “date” will be my older niece Deanna who may be the most “red carpet ready” chick I know. It’s so much fun to talk dresses (I found a dress!), shoes, and travel plans with one of my favorite people in the world. I’ll be so proud to have her with me on this little adventure. And as a freshman in college pursuing her degree in engineering, I’m thrilled for her to interact with other smart, strong, successful women. The Gracies will honor a phenomenal group across all genres in TV, film, and radio. Names such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Allison Janney, Norah O’Donnell, and Kathie Lee Gifford top the guest list.

My award is for host of a sports program, and CBS is putting together a 30-second video about my show to air at the ceremony. Again, surreal. I’m beyond grateful to my bosses at CBS Sports Radio for the options I’ve been given since 2013. While it’s neat to be recognized at this stage of my career, it’s also validation for Mark Chernoff and Eric Spitz who believed in me and gave me the freedom to prove what I could do and how I could grow as a host. They offered me a platform and trusted in my creativity, experience, and individualism. This Gracie Award provides confirmation for them and recognition for the network at a time when the radio industry is going through a challenging transition.

I can’t count the number of times I prayed for these career opportunities in the past–for the right stage in the right location with the right employer. It wasn’t a secret that I had plenty to say; but I needed reps and practice to cultivate my voice and my own signature style. For 15 years, I was never comfortable; instead, I was constantly striving. I moved around a lot, hopping from state to state and city to city, always believing there was something more. I didn’t have much to show for it on the outside; but I know all of the starts and stops, steps forward and steps back, victories and abject failures prepared me for CBS. So many prayers and dreams for so many years, but nothing I conjured up in my brain was remotely close to this reality.

Just over 15 months ago, After Hours with Amy Lawrence expanded to five nights per week. I’m not kidding when I say these last 15 months have exceeded my wildest expectations–and I expect a ton from myself and the team with whom I work. The radio show continues to grow and build momentum and attract new listeners every week. Our social media sites see increasingly more traffic, and we field steady feedback from all over the country. Above and beyond that, I’m so grateful for the “extras” outside the studio. In the last year, I represented the network at a talk radio conference in Atlanta; made my first appearances on CBS This Morning; did play-by-play for a pair of women’s basketball tournament games on Westwood One Radio; traveled to Chicago for a Stanley Cup Final game at the United Center and a special edition of my show; wrote a weekly NFL column for the CBS Sports Radio websites; spent Super Bowl week in San Francisco, recording interviews on “Radio Row” by day and hosting shows by night; called my first basketball games on TV in three years for the Big East; and attended my first ever Final Four in Houston. I’m overwhelmed when I think about what a difference a year can make.

Personally, I’ve also taken a giant leap forward. It was 14 months ago that I finally signed the papers to sell my house. The two years finding a buyer wreaked havoc on my finances and my stress level. I’ll never forget the flood of relief that washed over me when I got the call indicating the sale was complete. Once I was back to even, I found the perfect rental house where I can welcome the family for Christmas or invite friends for weekend trips to New York. Cramming myself and three pets into an apartment smaller than 500 square feet and storing half my belongings in a friend’s basement were definitely a challenge. I tripped over animals, furniture, and boxes for more than two years! But now, not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the space and privacy of my new place. Another amazing blessing from a God who loves me.

My goal and key phrase for 2016 is “Finding Contentment.” I wish I could say I rest and reside in contentment all the time. I wish I could tell you my face always reflects contentment, but that’s far from the truth. This is one of my greatest struggles over the last decade. How do I find contentment when my heart is yearning, when I harbor questions about the future, and when I feel as though my journey is far from complete? Most effective for me is taking time to REMEMBER how far I’ve come, even in the last year. When I look back at the mountains He’s moved and the prayers He’s answered, it’s much easier to be confident in a story that’s still unfolding and content to wait for my next miracle.

Handling Harassment

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

It’s the story that refuses to die. A full 20 years after Peyton Manning was accused of sexual harassment by a female athletic trainer at the University of Tennessee, people are talking about it like it was yesterday. I already knew what a vast majority of sports media and fans discovered in the last month. It wasn’t a secret. It’s a long and drawn out saga full of conflicting accounts, multiple lawsuits, settlements, court documents, a book, and now, new articles, opinions, and a social media explosion. The convoluted tale leaves more questions than answers. I don’t know exactly what happened inside the UT training room in 1996. Manning can only be judged in the court of public opinion. While it’s unwise to judge what I don’t know, one aspect of the narrative resonates with me.

At the very least, Manning’s accuser, Dr. Jamie Naughright, was repeatedly harassed at UT largely because she was a female in a male-dominated industry. The accusation against Manning was only one part of her experience in Knoxville. Her statement of facts to the court in 2003 details other instances of harassment such as offensive names directed at her by a superior and the way her complaints were ignored and stifled. It’s worth repeating this is HER side of the story from court documents filed by her attorney. But I have no trouble believing these things happened. I can feel my own indignation and frustration on her behalf. Naughright made the choice to fight back against fellow colleagues and athletes at Tennessee, and her career suffered because of it. She paid a steep price for speaking up. That’s why I didn’t.

When I set my heart on a career in sports radio in high school and started pursuing my dream in college, no one warned me about the challenges of being a female in a “man’s world.” I knew there were very few women in the business, but it didn’t bother me. A tomboy when I was young, I had always been comfortable around guys, and I could certainly hold my own whether we were talking sports or playing them. As I began working in radio, I did what came naturally to me. I tried to be “one of the guys.” I laughed at jokes I didn’t think were funny, and I used coarse language I’m not proud of. I chimed in because I desperately wanted to blend in. It didn’t work. Women in sports radio stuck out like a sore thumb 15 years ago. Despite my best attempts, I was always the odd one out. But that was only part of the challenge.

At some point early in my career, I made a conscious decision to keep the harassment to myself. I shared it with Mom and my closest girlfriends, but I decided I’d rather “tough it out” than risk getting blackballed or ostracized any further. I told myself as long as I wasn’t in danger–Mom hammered home all the precautions to take–I could survive any type of verbal harassment. I wanted the career more than I wanted to expose how I was treated in the workplace. Even if bosses or managers took me seriously, I would be labeled a “problem” or “bitch” or “troublemaker” and hurt my chances of getting and keeping jobs. In some cases, my superiors were the ones doing the harassing, so complaining would’ve been pointless.

For the first decade of my journey, it was a line I heard over and over: “The newsroom is like a locker room.” At one previous job, it was a used as a punchline or held up as a badge of honor. Sadly, I’ve covered teams in actual locker rooms far more professional than some of the places I’ve worked. The pseudo-locker room atmosphere equaled getting hit on non-stop. When I was younger, I told myself it was flattering or complimentary. But it got old, especially when it was a lot of married men looking for a cheap thrills. I would get propositioned by guys I barely knew. One broadcaster much higher up the totem pole emailed my company account from HIS company account to ask if I wanted to have sex for fun. Instead of being taken seriously as a journalist and being appreciated for my brains and work ethic, my value was often tied to my appearance. One over-zealous colleague followed me in his SUV as I walked across a dark, empty parking lot after my shift at 3am to suggest we “hang out.” My heart was racing in that moment.

The locker room atmosphere meant constant jokes about sex and stories about sex. While they didn’t necessarily offend me, hearing them from a bunch of men when I was the only woman often made me uncomfortable. And I frequently turned into a target. In the early 2000s, the owner of my radio station attempted to embarrass me in a room full of people by loudly ridiculing my sexual abstinence. I can still remember the acute humiliation, but what could I do? He was the one who signed my paychecks. In some of my newsrooms, I had to work in front of pictures of mostly naked women or log into computers with similar screensavers. Derogatory and disgusting nicknames, vulgar language that made me cringe, inappropriate and insulting comments, emails or texts with nasty photos–I navigated all of it for years. But outside of venting to people I trusted, I did very little to protest.

I’m not sharing these stories from my past to garner sympathy. I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me. It was my own choice to keep quiet, my own decision not to fight back. I wanted the career more than I wanted it to stop. I’m not recommending the same course of action for other women in my position. I don’t have foolproof methods to handle every situation. But I want people facing similar challenges to know they aren’t alone. Looking back, there are many things I would do differently. I also know my experiences made me stronger, smarter, tougher, wiser, more determined, and more professional than the ones who harassed me. Plus I bypassed most of them on the food chain a long time ago.

In 2016, the climate is vastly different. Companies educate employees about workplace harassment because they fear whistle-blowers or lawsuits. Employee rights are now a top priority. Beyond that, I don’t hesitate to stand up for myself. I remind men I’m in the room if their language or stories make me uncomfortable, and I tolerate very little harassment on social media. I don’t care who likes me or dislikes me because of it. I no longer need to fit in. I’m proud of the fact that I never will. Being different, being unique, being unconventional is a huge part of my success. It shapes who I am. It took some time and heartache, but I finally recognized that standing out instead of blending in can be my greatest asset.

 

 

 

So Many Questions!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3, 2015 by amylawrencepxp
(This blog post was first published on my radio show’s website. AL)

There is an old, familiar adage: “Curiosity killed the cat.” Maybe it’s not entirely applicable to sports radio, but constant questions about who I am and what I do off the air threaten to wear out THIS cat, ha. Of course, I’m teasing, but I certainly field a lot of the same inquiries over and over. I appreciate the interest, and I’m glad you want to know more about me and what goes into hosting a national radio show. So the idea behind this blog post is to address your “frequently asked questions” en masse. Hope it satisfies some of your curiosity!

Without further ado and in no particular order:

  • What hours/days is your show on the air?  I can understand the confusion since After Hours spent its first 2 years operating on the weekends. The show airs Sunday through Thursday nights from 11p-3a Pacific time (which is Monday through Friday 2-6a Eastern time). Sunday is my favorite night of the week to work, so I’m glad I didn’t lose that when I started hosting 5 times a week.
  • Is your show “live” or taped?  After Hours is 100% “live” every hour, every show. We may tape interviews during the daytime to accommodate athletes or coaches, but those are special exceptions. The crew is always on site, working hard to crank out original, entertaining content.
  • Do you have a podcast?  Yes! We love it when you check out After Hours after hours, ha. You can find a podcast of the full show every weekday morning on our website: AfterHoursAmyLawrence.com (Click on the “audio” link.) You can find all of our interviews and columns on the site, too.
  • Where can I find your movie trailer? I’m so glad you asked! We have a fledgling YouTube channel where you can watch a sneak peek of the After Hours behind-the-scenes movie. We also post other goofy videos (like Pete donning his Big Gulp Halloween costume and me learning how to throw a spiral) and some of our best interviews and audio montages. Just search for the name of the show on YouTube and subscribe to the channel if that’s your cup of tea.
  • When do you sleep? Do you ever sleep?  These are BY FAR the most popular questions posed by listeners on social media, even though I don’t quite understand why. I sleep when I’m not working which means I sleep during the daytime after hosting the show. I typically get in bed around 8am and try to sleep until 3:30pm. It doesn’t always work that way, just like you don’t always sleep through the night uninterrupted. But that’s the goal. Oh, and I LOVE to nap on weekends.
  • What do you do when you aren’t talking about sports on the radio?  I watch sports! Just kidding. Sports is only part of what I do, though games never stop so I have to keep up even when I’m not working. Otherwise, I walk my dog Penny several miles a day or we run around at a nearby park. I like to read, watch Nashville and crime dramas on my DVR, cook, play golf, go to church, and travel to visit family or friends. I have ZERO problem forgetting about sports when I have the opportunity.
  • What do the guys do on the show?  Other than operate as my “yes men,” you mean? Ha! Pete is our update anchor, so he’s in charge of the news. But he also shares his strong opinions once a week in “Schwartz on Sports” and shares funny stories when we have time. Isaac is our audio and video coordinator, so he’s responsible for the musical montages you hear on the show and the video you see online. He drops in all the crazy sound bites that make me laugh. Producer Tom is the brains behind the scenes. He does a little bit of everything–schedules guests; cuts up audio from games, athletes, and coaches; puts all our podcasts together; helps flesh out show topics and develop new ideas; and updates our social media. AND they all make me crazy with their New York sports fandom!
  • When do you eat?  We definitely talk about food a lot on the show, so this question makes me laugh. On a typical day, I eat breakfast around 4:30pm, haha. “Lunch” usually happens between 9-10pm before I leave for work. I always take a ton of snacks with me to host the show since talking makes me hungry for some reason. After all these years, I’m convinced I burn lots of calories while I’m using all my brain power to stay coherent, entertaining, and energetic. If I don’t eat, the work suffers. You can probably tell on air.
  • How much time do you spend on show prep?  On average, I prep one hour for every hour I’m on the air. That includes watching or listening to games (obviously, NFL Sundays require a lot more time), reading stories and articles, doing pertinent research, taking notes, posting on social media, developing my opinions, and brainstorming new ideas. I also spend several hours a week writing my NFL column for the CBS family of websites.
  • Who are your favorite sports teams?  While I’m on the air, I don’t play favorites. My rooting interests have nothing to do with the show and don’t enter the studio with me. But being a fan like you fuels my passion for the events we watch and the topics we hit on a nightly basis. I started cheering for the Celtics and Broncos as a teenager. I got interested in baseball and started cheering for the Red Sox soon afterwards, and then I started following the Sharks when Joe Thornton was traded from Boston to San Jose. As a Syracuse alum, I also root hard for the Orange, although I’m not sure the football team still exists…kidding!!
  • How and when did you decide you wanted to get into sports broadcasting?  Growing up in the back woods of Concord, New Hampshire, we didn’t have cable TV for awhile. The only way I could follow my beloved Boston Celtics and my all-time favorite athlete, Larry Bird, was to listen to games on the radio. I fell in love with the idea of describing the action or telling a story in a way that fans don’t feel like they’re missing anything just because they can’t see what’s happening with their own eyes. I’ve been a radio junkie ever since. Radio is my passion and will always be my bread and butter.
  • What is your favorite kind of music?  I’m a HUGE country music fan! Tim McGraw is my absolute favorite, but I also like Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Carrie Underwood. Other artists on my iPod include Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, Billy Joel, Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys, Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, and Taylor Swift.
  • What are your favorite movies?  SUCH a long list! You already know how much I love Star Wars (all of the movies and I can’t wait for the new one!) but a few of my other favorites include The Notebook, Karate Kid, Top Gun, Lord of the Rings, The Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind, The Patriot, American Sniper, and Castaway (or ANY Tom Hanks flick since he’s my favorite actor).
  • Will you go out with me? Will you marry me?  Not if you’re asking on social media!!

I realize this is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it answers some of your burning questions. With this blog post, you can refer back or share it with your family and friends…and curiosity won’t kill this cat! XO