CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11, 2022 by amylawrencepxp

Truly a week I will never forget to mark an occasion that may only happen once in my life.

Grammy Helen is 100 years old. It’s still so hard to believe! As a family, we anticipated this milestone for months, and we’ve talked of almost nothing else for weeks. But now, I’m not sure how to wrap my brain around a blessing this big! Thankfully, she felt strong and energetic enough to enjoy April 6, 2022, with all of its pomp and circumstance.

One of my favorite moments early in the day was unplanned. I walked her down to the dining hall for lunch at her assisted living facility; and as soon as we entered the room, the bustling swirled around her. A special “Happy Birthday” placemat was set at her usual spot, and a volunteer brought over a huge cupcake with gaudy pink icing. As people greeted her and wished her well, a staffer grabbed a microphone and announced her 100th birthday and asked everyone to sing. I was NOT expecting Gram’s reaction: she covered her face with her hands and started crying. At first, I worried that she was upset. But then I realized she was simply overwhelmed by the magnitude and the attention. I held her hand and told her I loved her and found her a tissue. I am so grateful I was there to share that moment with her.

I am also thankful for countless people who prayed for Grammy over the last month: that she would be full of energy and joy for her birthday. The prayers were definitely answered! Decked out in bright purple and pearls, she was ready to go after a nap. What a privilege to escort the guest of honor to a fete at my uncle’s house. It was a modest gathering and yet multiple generations were represented: three of her children as well as an aunt, a nephew, a niece and two grandchildren. And when her youngest son arrived just before dinner, her delight was priceless!

Dinner was fun and easy–pulled pork sandwiches, chips, coleslaw, fresh fruit and homemade lemon pound cake. Of course, THE cake was served later. Grammy laughed and told stories and savored a big meal. She even posed for photos surrounded by balloons, gifts, cards and flowers. (This after yelling at me earlier in the day for taking too many pictures.) Her sweet cake was strawberry cream, decorated with pink flowers and “Happy 100th Birthday.”

The surprise of the night unfolded when my uncle opened a box of old photos and memorabilia. What a treat! A black and white picture of my Grammy as a teenager in Chicago in the 1930s; her wedding photos from 1946; snapshots of her parents and siblings; a formal portrait of her and my grandfather dressed up for a family wedding–all incredible and most of which I had never seen. I wanted to remember them, so I took pictures of them with my phone.

Even after the sun set on her centennial celebration, the phone calls and cards and visits kept coming. Not to mention the special requests. Her community commemorates 100th birthdays with official photos, but Grammy wouldn’t sit for one until she got her hair done, ha! She woke up early the next morning for an “emergency” appointment and then they whisked her away to the brightest spot in the facility where a professional photographer was all set up. (I reminded her about her favorite bright lipstick.) My father, uncle and I were invited to join her for a few photos which was amazing. I enjoyed trying to make her laugh while the camera was pointed at her. Please note the pink socks!!

In the midst of all the chaos and hullabaloo, I made a few promises that I needed to keep. I washed all her laundry, including the comforter on her bed. I painted her nails since she would not let me forget. We took her out to eat shrimp (her favorite) at Culver’s, a Wisconsin institution. We also managed a family field trip to a local cheese store, ha. And I connected her on a video call with my Auntie in Arizona who couldn’t be in town. What a blessing to see Grammy’s reaction when she appeared on the screen and then to hear the interaction with each of the brothers crammed into the apartment. A true highlight!

Another memory I will cherish from the visit to Wisconsin: her sweet reunion with my brother after years of being apart. I will never forget how her face and eyes lit up when he walked through the door. I nearly lost it watching them together and hearing her say, “It’s so good to see you, Matthew.” The three of us hadn’t been in the same room in decades.

Due to some complicated family dynamics when I was younger, I didn’t see Grammy Helen for 15 years. We wrote letters and exchanged cards on birthdays and holidays, and we spoke on the phone. But as a young adult, I didn’t consider the cost or the precious time I was missing. When I finally made it a priority to make annual visits, I never thought about how long I would have with her. Now that she’s reached 100, my words aren’t enough to adequately describe my gratefulness for this extra season with Grammy. These years have offered me the chance to make up for lost time. Our relationship is such a gift and blessing in my life, and I wouldn’t trade our closeness for anything. God has answered so many prayers in extending her life and allowing her to remain physically healthy and mentally sharp. How do I ever sufficiently thank Him for this?

Grammy Helen, age 100, is now and forever my superhero.

POUR ON THE PATIENCE

Posted in Uncategorized on December 26, 2021 by amylawrencepxp

I will readily admit that patience is NOT my virtue. It’s more of a lifelong pursuit that manifests itself in daily challenges. While I’ve come a looong way in my desire to be more patient in both heart and behavior, it will never be my strong suit, blah. To help me overcome what I consider my greatest flaw, I believe God repeatedly allows circumstances and situations that test my patience and require me to WAIT when I’d rather do the opposite. This last year offered several distinct opportunities to grow in patience, like it or not.

My Penny is the first dog I’ve ever cared for on my own. When I adopted her in March 2012, she had all the energy for which Australian Shepherds are known. She could GO forever and would tag along behind me when I ran. She hiked; climbed mountains; jumped over everything (!!); tracked down balls I threw for her; tore around in circles; even chased me around vehicles, bleachers and soccer goals at the local park. She always kept me moving, but in the last 12 months, Penny has slowed drastically.

She’s still happy and sweet and friendly; she still pesters me when it’s time to go out. But our walks are shorter and our pace is roughly the same as my 99-year-old Grammy. They can no longer be described as exercise, ha. When I leave for work at night, I have to wake her up and coax her outside. Since last summer, I keep a ramp in my car so Pen can get in and out without hurting herself. (A friend reminds me it could be worse: the ramp could be for me.) Stairs are a challenge; she stops to rest and catch her breath every two or three steps. However, she is determined and will NOT stay downstairs when I’m on the second floor, one of the many reasons I love her so much!

There are times when her plodding pace causes impatience to boil up inside me. I am tempted to maintain my long strides, even though I’d outdistance her. When I’m running behind and stressing, I want to pull her along. Instead, I remind myself how thankful I am for her companionship, loyalty and devotion. She will still follow me anywhere; it just takes her longer to get there. This year, I’ve learned to use our walks to breathe, enjoy the fresh air, think clearly, snap pictures of nature and find reasons to smile. Penny is teaching me patience, and I am grateful for every second with her, especially now that she’s twelve.

My first homeowner EMERGENCY also consumed a major chunk of 2021. When a back window sprung a leak during an early July storm, walls and a ceiling were ripped out. Two rooms in my house were rendered nearly unusable and stayed that way for three months, aaargh. The process of vetting contractors, securing estimates and waiting, waiting, waiting for the work to begin–it required every ounce of patience I could muster. Even after the contractor started, he was completely unreliable. He gave me a two-day schedule to complete the entire project, including paint. But he would cancel at the last second, disappear in the middle of a day’s work or make excuses about why he couldn’t be at my house. Seriously. The two days stretched into a month, and one room had to be repainted altogether.

It was a complicated summer with multiple tropical storms that dumped more than 25 inches of rain in my neighborhood. Even as I stewed over the contractor, I reminded myself the inside of the house was dry. The gutters and windows were fixed within a few weeks, so not even Ida caused more water damage. Looking at the positives and remembering all those days when I desperately wanted to be a homeowner–that got me through. I learned that changing my perspective is a key to being more patient, even when I’d rather scream and yell in frustration, ha.

Honestly, waiting for word from my employer about a new deal seemed a lot easier than waiting on Penny and my contractor. After two decades in broadcasting, I know business is conducted at a glacial pace. But the job still tried my patience in 2021. From preparing for a producer change to training a new partner (in the midst of football) to knowing I can’t pile on all at once to adjusting to a new boss, the challenges kept coming. So often, I was forced to dial back expectations and settle for less than my highest standards because of the limited support and resources available.

When I felt my blood pressure rise over work, especially those circumstances I couldn’t orchestrate or control, I would repeat to myself: “One day at a time, one show at a time.” Every 24 hours features its own unique hurdles. Why add more by worrying about a day I haven’t reached yet?? I’m still learning that steady patience with myself and other people results in lower stress levels and higher productivity, not to mention more peace and contentment.

Waiting on prayers to be answered and dreams to come true…that’s no different. Patience is paramount for the big picture and the long game. It’s not just 2021, but my whole life, offering these vital lessons.

When my brother and I were kids, we listened to a song about PATIENCE over and over. Some of the words (sung slowly by Herbert the Snail and his dad) are forever stuck in my head: “Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient, too. And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.”

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2021 by amylawrencepxp

It’s a relatively new hobby of mine–hiking in the mountains–but I’ve definitely caught the bug! After scattered adventures in Virginia, New Jersey, upstate New York and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail, it was time for my greatest challenge yet. I asked a friend from church who’s an avid hiker if I could tag along on one of his forays into the Catskills, and he came up with a DOOZY of a plan.

Wittenberg, Cornell and Slide Mountains are often combined into one long hike, stretching nearly ten miles from point to point. Three mountains, all over 3500′ with a variety of terrain and topography, culminating with the tallest peak in the range. I was nervous for weeks leading up to this trip, mostly because of the unknown. Would I be strong enough? Would I make it the whole way? What should I pack with me? Would my new hiking boots do the trick? I’m a planner. That’s how I navigate uncertainty, so I did a ton of research and asked other hikers for their advice. Ultimately, the day far surpassed any expectations, and it’s a good thing I didn’t know what lie ahead.

After parking our cars at either end of the route, Jeff and I set out from the Woodland Valley campground near Phoenicia, New York, a little town nestled in the mountains where cell service is rare. The first four miles were a long, sloping climb, ascending roughly 2500′ to the summit of Wittenberg. The trail wasn’t extreme, but it stretched on and on. We encountered our first rock formations where arms, legs, hands and footholds were necessary! On this initial stretch, limbs and branches and jutting rocks were all great leverage. We needed three hours to reach the top (3780′) but the views were worth all the effort. Not only was the fall foliage glorious, but the blue sky was marked with white puffy clouds which made for incredible photos. The Ashokan Reservoir sparkled far below our perch atop Wittenberg, and I could have soaked in the scenery all afternoon.

With so many miles and two peaks ahead of us, we only rested for ten minutes to eat lunch before facing the next phase of the hike. After a relatively quick jog down, we started up to Cornell Mountain. This is where the climbing turned serious with sheer rock faces and cliffs to scale. The most famous of them is the “Cornell Crack” which you can easily find online. The pictures don’t do it justice; we stood at the bottom and gazed upward, taking stock of our options. As I found out, the best plan was to go slow and be sure of my footholds, tackling one level at a time. It helps to have long legs and upper body strength!

To the victor go the spoils! I was as proud of myself for reaching the top of the “Crack” as I’ve ever been crossing the finish line of a half-marathon. Once we made it, we only had another 400′ to reach the summit of Cornell (3680′). The final ascent to this second mountain was steep; however the actual distance from peak to peak was under a mile. We stopped to snap a few photos, though we wanted to keep moving with the tallest mountain still ahead of us and only a few hours of daylight remaining.

The trail leading off Cornell and toward Slide Mountain was a nice change of pace. We made good time and gobbled up snacks along the way, crossing through camping areas and enjoying the brilliant colors in the woods. I wondered more than once if the toughest climbing was behind us, and then we came to a point where the trail marker was above our heads. I looked skyward and saw a mountain looming overhead and I said out loud, “As long as we aren’t going up there.” Except that’s exactly where we were going…straight UP!! Gulp. The next half mile was the most grueling part of the day as we navigated boulders, rock formations, trails built into the side of the mountain, even ladders made of logs worn smooth by years of the elements. It seemed like we would climb up, up, up to heaven. We ascended roughly 1000′ over that half mile, and I pushed my lungs and legs to the limit. The air was definitely thinner up there, haha! I also turned my breathing breaks into cool photo ops.

After we survived that excruciating climb and reached the very top of Slide Mountain (just shy of 4200′), we allowed ourselves another quick break to drink in the breathtaking views of the Catskills from its highest point. It was thrilling to summit our third and final peak, but it was colder up there. As soon as we stopped moving, we could feel the chill of temperatures in the mid 30s. I lost track of the number of times I pulled on and then stripped off layers of clothing during the day.

Now we were in the homestretch. Three miles to go from the top of Slide to the parking lot, and we quickened our pace over the first mile when the ground was soft and the trail forgiving. Then everything drastically changed. The last two miles down the mountain were the only ones I wouldn’t do again, at least not without poles. The track widened into what appeared to be an old logging road; it was covered in rocks which were blanketed by fallen leaves. Not only could we not see the small rocks and stones, but they moved or rolled or shifted whenever we stepped on them. For the final two miles, we could only step gingerly and pick our way carefully among the rocks; even then, I rolled my ankles multiple times, lost my balance over and over and stumbled through the steep descent. To avoid getting supremely frustrated, I looked around for splashes of color in the woods.

When we finally made it back to the car nearly eight hours after we set out, my legs were wobbly and I was parched. I saved my last splash of water for the end, but I will definitely pack more water and less food on my next major climb. In addition, I learned two other valuable lessons. ALWAYS find the next trail marker, no matter how “obvious” the path may seem. After scaling one rock face, we set off to the left around the front of a cliff, confident we were following the clear trail. After walking 500′ and not seeing a red marker, Jeff tried a short climb up to another level while I retraced our steps back to the last marker we saw. We had gone the complete opposite direction!! I felt a chill as I realized how easily we could get lost in this vast wilderness. Multiple times throughout our trek, we returned to the most recent marker because we weren’t positive we were heading the right way.

The other lesson? Be careful how and where you try to stand when mountain climbing. After pulling myself up to the first level of a challenging rock face, I attempted to stand…only to bang my head into a rock overhang just above where I was crouched. It hurt! Jeff wanted me to come down so he could make sure I wasn’t bleeding; but after climbing up there, I definitely wasn’t going back down only to do it over again, ha. I still have a slight bump on my head as a souvenir from our adventure.

It was AMAZING to see this sign at the end of our trek…proof of the miles and a validation of our efforts.

An unforgettable experience in so many ways. I am so ridiculously proud of myself but also humbled by the majesty of God’s creation and the glory of the mountain tops. Thank you, Jeff, for letting this novice climber take part in your grand adventure, and thank you for taking so many photos that perfectly captured the moment and the memories.

Mission accomplished.

HOME

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2021 by amylawrencepxp

“Where’s home for you?”

It doesn’t seem like a tough question, does it? Most people can offer an answer without hesitating. I don’t fall into that category. In fact, I’ve wrestled with the question more and more over the last 15 years. Sure, I grew up in New Hampshire and consider myself a Granite Stater; but I haven’t lived there since I graduated from from college and our family home was sold years ago. We’re all spread out now–New Jersey, Houston, northern Virginia. My winding career path includes stints in Vermont, upstate NH, western Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, northeast Ohio, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Each of those places (and the people) will always own a piece of my heart; but none of them is home.

In 2020, the word “home” took on a whole new meaning, a completely different connotation. As we were forced to stay home for weeks, even months at a time, for work and school and leisure, it was easy to feel cooped up and stir crazy. Home didn’t feel as much like a haven; it seemed more like a prison for millions of Americans.

As we gradually emerge on the other side of the pandemic and return to the familiar rhythms of our daily lives, I will be content to keep most of 2020 (and the start of ’21) in the rearview mirror. But there is one milestone from the last year that I will always cherish. I bought my first little house on a small plot of land. After years of saving and praying and planning and saving some more, after all the bids and paperwork and timelines, I found a place to call my own.

Valentine’s Day was exactly eight months since the first morning I woke up in my little slice of heaven. That’s fitting since it’s been a labor of love from the beginning. As we turn the calendar to March and mark one year since our lives changed so drastically, I can’t help but recall how my offer was accepted on March 6th. Or that I was going through my home inspection a week later when March Madness was officially canceled. Sometimes I feel like the days have passed in a flash; at other times, I feel like I’ve lived in this house forever.

Moving in the middle of a pandemic is as much fun as it sounds, blah. My family opted to wait until AFTER I moved to arrive like the cavalry, so I was on my own for most of the purging and packing, not to mention the transfer. From the time I signed the mortgage and got the keys, it was literally one carload at a time for three weeks. I couldn’t go anywhere without cable and internet because I was still hosting my radio show from the super-secret home base. Install appointments were hard to come by, so I had to wait. As painstakingly slow as the process seemed, I know now the time was a blessing. The strain was spread out over more than a month, ha. And the yardwork. Not sure when I decided I was superwoman who could lift a lawnmower in and out of my car (not kidding), but caring for two yards over six weeks convinced me my higher calling in life is not landscaping!

The friends who showed up (don’t we all need those??) decided to help by hiring a crew to shuttle the furniture to the new house. It was quick and easy, done in under three hours since I’d already moved the boxes, clothes, closets and kitchen myself. But that Saturday morning and those few hours were a great reminder of the person I want to be: the kind who shows up even when it’s inconvenient and “risky.” They say the best friends in life are the ones who help you move. I say the best friends in life are the ones who help you move in a pandemic while the New York City metro is considered ground zero in the US. An unforgettable lesson that was hammered into my soul last spring: prayers are powerful and they move mountains; sometimes prayer is the only help we can offer. But when it’s not, showing up can make a world of difference. For that and everything else the last eight years, THANK YOU, Gretchen and Scott!

I’ll be honest. Multiple times during my first week in the house, I cried my eyes out and wondered if I made a huge mistake. The place was filthy. I should’ve paid more attention during the final inspection, but I didn’t. So I spent the first week scrubbing, screaming and stressing. I was disgusted, exhausted and overwhelmed. Mom kept telling me the family would be there soon. She was right–they pitched in with the cleaning immediately–but those first seven days turned into a bonding experience for me and my new abode. That first week riding an emotional roller coaster transformed my little house into a home (and gave me hysterical stories to share on the radio). All the effort–the blood, sweat and tears–changed the way I look at this house, with all its flaws and quirks and challenges. Just like a cherished relationship, the effort is an investment and worth all the trouble.

There are so many sweet and precious moments I’ll remember: making up the bed for the first time; watching my family pull weeds, clean out the shed and trim bushes on a blazing hot Sunday; following Penny on a walk three days in when she already knew which yard was ours; the neighbors introducing themselves; seeing all the flowers bloom–peonies, roses, hydrangeas, orange lilies and some crazy butterfly bush; tearing up when my Grammy Helen’s face appeared on Skype; playing my piano the first time; putting up the Christmas tree!! One of my ultimate memories from the first nine months will always be gazing out the window during a blizzard that dropped 20 inches of beautiful snow and listening to the quiet all around me. Blissful.

You can find plenty of greeting card cliches to define “home.” It’s where the heart is, where the pets (and dog hair) are, where we hang our hats and dreams. All of these can be true. Home can also be where we grew up or simply where we reside. I’ve come to understand that my journey was always meant to be more complicated.

Of course, I will ALWAYS be at home wherever I’m with family, even if it’s not my primary address. But over the last year, HOME means so much more. My new home is how I survived the pandemic. Pouring my time and energy into this project reminded me that 2020 wasn’t a total loss. I am blessed beyond measure. My new home keeps me thankful and offers perspective from a God who’s always in control.

For me, home is a sigh of a relief. Home is comfort. Home is letting my guard down. Home is safety and solace. Home is where the people I love are always welcome, day or night. Home isn’t always calm; but my home is peace, the kind that’s priceless.

HANDLING HARASSMENT

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2020 by amylawrencepxp

I share my story when I believe it can make a difference. Most often, the opportunity comes up with young women exploring careers in sports media and seeking advice. I am honest and candid about my journey. I want them to know the truth.

My hope is their paths are easier–with less resistance and discrimination. In 2020, they should experience equality and the encouragement to be who they are and pursue their passions.

If sharing my struggles can help, they were all worth it.

 

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 broadcasting 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.

 

 

Q Essentials

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2020 by amylawrencepxp

As I begin to write on a Sunday in late March, the spring season is offering its first raucous rumbles of thunder in my neighborhood. They are loud enough to send Penny scrambling for cover under the bed in what is now the After Hours home studio.

I’ve always loved thunderstorms–their power and strength and majestic display with lightning that splits the sky. On this morning, I can’t help but think how appropriate the metaphor for what we’re going through as a nation in early 2020: one giant, loud, scary storm. But even under a dark and electric canopy with its cracks of thunder, the neighborhood is turning green. Grass is growing and bushes are covered with fresh buds and leaves. Trees are loaded with bright pink and white flowers. Daffodils and crocuses are poking up through the soil. New life is everywhere I look. Despite the uncertainty and anxiety that come with this unprecedented crisis, spring is arriving right on time.

The signs of spring are invaluable for me right now. They remind me that time keeps moving, even when it feels like our world has come to a grinding halt or when I can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel. It seems like so much of the world as we know it has disappeared; at times, it’s tempting to let my mind wander to worst case scenarios. But I can’t live there. I can’t stay there. Very LITTLE about the current situation is in my grasp and control. But I can control my thoughts, and I can refuse to let my emotions dictate my mood and attitude. I can also control what my little corner of quarantine looks like.

A couple years ago, I threw out this question on my radio show: what five essentials would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island? Lockdown feels a bit like a deserted island for me. Of course, I have access to the outside world through technology, and I have plenty of food and water and all the creature comforts of home. BUT the isolation is real, and there’s no way to get off the “island” right now. To that end, I put together my list of essentials for this home hibernation.

ROUTINE. I need it. My zoo needs it. As much as possible, I’m staying in the routine that fits my work schedule. Of course, that requires discipline, another “Q” essential. While I really miss driving, I don’t miss the commute (or the accompanying road rage!) in and out of New York City. But the pets are used to eating at a certain time, and Penny is used to walking at a certain time. They have absolutely NO idea why I’m talking so much in the middle of the night, but I’m keeping everything else the same for them. When they’re calm, it’s easier for me to stay calm.

The temptation to be lazy and put off exercise or procrastinate cleaning the house is real! But I know me, and even though it’s only me for the foreseeable future, dirty floors and a sink full of dishes or piled up laundry will add to my stress. So I update my daily to-do list and I find music or a podcast to listen to, and I keep up with my daily “chores.” I’m not overly ambitious, but it helps me to set goals and achieve them. To that end, I also reward myself with extra time to read, a piece of chocolate, a NAP!

REST. Two months ago at the end of a busy winter season or six months ago in the throes of October, I would have been thrilled for a few weeks at home. Be careful what you wish for, right?! While I never could have anticipated a spring like this one, not in my wildest imaginations, it’s not all bad. Yes, I miss sports; more than that, I miss my family and my church. But it’s a blessing to sloooooow down and not put gas in my car for three weeks. Even as I stick to some semblance of a routine, I remind myself it’s alright to pause and breathe. Usually at this time of year, I’m running around like a chicken with no head. And while this spring isn’t completely devoid of stress, the pace of life is drastically slower…and I don’t want to waste the opportunity. With no fire to rush off to, I can practice patience with my dog when she takes her sweet old time, and I can doze off on my book. I can stop to talk to neighbors and take pictures of the flowers. Now is the time to do all those things!

PHONE CALLS. I’ll confess there are times in the last month when I’ve been jealous of family and friends who aren’t stuck at home alone. Sure, I’m used to living by myself, but it’s entirely different when I CAN’T visit family for our birthdays or get together with friends at our favorite restaurant. And this Italian girl misses hugs! There are moments and hours when I’ve really struggled with loneliness, but the same thing pulls me out every time. Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell, for inventing the telephone! I know the 1876 version barely resembles what we have now, but where would we be without the contraption that allows us to communicate across the miles??

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent hours on the phone, catching up with people I love all over the country. Hearing their voices, laughing with them, sharing our frustrations–all of it keeps me steady and reminds me I’m NOT alone. I am so grateful for the TIME they’ve invested in me, and I want to stay connected, even after we’re all released from home base.

TIME AWAY FROM THE SCREENS. It’s hard to imagine where we would be without all the 2020 technology that allows us to work from home, conduct all our personal business, order groceries and other supplies and see one another on our computers or devices. I could easily spend 18 hours a day staring at those screens, but I need time away from my laptop and smartphone. To that end, I might be the only person in America under the age of 80 who hasn’t tried Zoom yet, ha! I’m setting aside a block of time each day for answering emails, prepping for my shows, and watching TV. After a couple hours, I can feel my stress level increasing so I have to step away and clear my brain. It’s important for me to find balance between natural light and the glow from my screens.

THANKFULNESS. Multiple times over the past couple weeks, I’ve felt myself careening around on a wild roller coaster of emotion. From sadness to anxiety to uncertainty to loneliness–I can’t spend the next two months like that. In those moments, I force myself to list all the reasons I have to be thankful. I praise the Lord for them out loud! My family is healthy; my grandmother is safe; a friends’ parents have both recovered from the virus. I still have a job I love, and I’m able to work from home. My bills are paid. As I finish this post on my birthday, I am grateful for spring sunshine and brilliant blue skies and warmer temps. I am so thankful for all the people who’ve reached out to let me know they love me today and over the past few weeks. By focusing on the blessings in my life, it’s impossible to remain discouraged or worried or frustrated.

No doubt, this is a season unlike any other. Uncharted waters and foreign territory. There’s so little about this spring that we can control. But it IS possible to find joy and peace in the midst of this crisis. It IS possible to see the silver linings. It IS possible to grab onto hope, another Q essential, one that I’m holding onto with all my might.

Psalm 4:8/Psalm 56:3/Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

 

 

At My Best

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2020 by amylawrencepxp

Happy 2020! Not sure when it’s no longer acceptable to tell people “Happy New Year,” but I still say it through most of January.

New Year’s resolutions often turn into a joke, but I always appreciate the chance to turn the page and set my sights forward with a clean slate. Of course, I approach every new year with goals and plans–some of them small, others enormous and daunting. Mostly, I want to keep growing and learning how to live this life better than I did the year before. I expect hurdles and challenges and speed bumps because life is rarely easy. But I want to face them with grace and calm and patience as much as I can. Even when life stinks and it’s hard and painful, I don’t want to lose track of the peace and hope that keep me anchored.

With these goals in mind, I know it’s important to take care of myself. When I’m tired and stretched way too thin, I lose my patience quickly. I get caught up worrying and over-analyzing the minutia that don’t really matter. In no time flat, I can spin myself into a cranky ball of stress. It’s NOT pretty! I’d like to avoid that as much as possible in 2020.

To that end, Mom shared a fun exercise with me. The idea came from a clinical counselor who spoke to teachers and staff at her school before students returned to classes after the holidays. Her theme was practical, effective ways to care for ourselves. She encouraged them to recognize the warning signs when they’re neglecting that “self care,” and they definitely apply to me! Irritability, lack of sleep, depression and anxiety are all indicators that we’ve gone off the rails and need to get back on track. According to Courtney Suddath, there are immediate ways to address those issues. She called them “The Big Five”: sleep, food, water, sunlight, activity. I agreed vehemently when Mom told me. YES! The Big Five ALWAYS help. A nap, a healthy meal, eight ounces of water, a blast of sunshine, movement: they are foolproof pick-me-ups, and I want to keep them in mind this year!

The next step is the fun part. Courtney asked the teachers to grab a fresh sheet of paper and write this heading at the top: “I feel the best when I…” In groups, they listed various activities and comforts that gave them pause and filled their hearts with joy and peace. Of course, as soon as I heard about it, I had to do it, too! So Mom and I compiled our own lists. Mom’s is hers to share if she likes; sharing mine will help me remember.

I Feel the BEST When I…

Spend time at the ocean or on a boat. I crave the water. When I see the ocean, I am always reminded how big God is and how incredible His creation. No matter what’s happening in my life at the time, standing on the shore fills me with instant calm. My soul finds quiet next to the water. And going back to when I was a kid growing up in New Hampshire, I’ve always enjoyed swimming, water-skiing, canoeing, kayaking, bouncing over the waves on a speed boat, para-sailing, even floating in the middle of a lake with no real place to go. It may take me awhile to submerge myself in the water, but I get in eventually, ha.

Read a murder mystery. I grew up a voracious reader, and my favorite books were always the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and then Agatha Christie when I was in high school. After college as I pursued my career, I would go long stretches without reading fiction. Most of my reading was about sports. But two years ago, I started making time to read fiction again. That spring, I went to the beach on vacation and polished off two books. I haven’t stopped since! Now when I climb in bed after working overnight, I read a book that has nothing to do with sports! Sometimes, I doze off mid-sentence; reading quiets my brain and allows me to sleep better. Anne Perry is currently my favorite mystery writer, and I’ve found a few more authors that I like. I’ve added Star Wars fiction and military history to my stack of books, and I started a 2020 reading list to keep track.

Plan a trip (and take the trip). I’m a planner! I love the process, especially for traveling. From the research to the logistics to the packing, planning a trip to somewhere I’ve never been makes me happy and fills me with great anticipation. The last two Mays, I’ve planned road trips to beaches in South Carolina. Seeing all the details come together (like a puzzle) was so much fun! The excitement of planning got me through the cold winters and long busy work stretches.

Play the piano. That piano would be on my list is hysterical because I used to HATE practicing. I fought Mom when she made me practice as a kid. I dreaded it. But now when I sit down at the piano, time seems irrelevant. From playing scales to working on a new piece of music, I want to make more time to play in 2020 because I always feel refreshed and accomplished when I get up from my piano bench.

Bake cookies to share. My new thing! Baking cookies to take to parties, gatherings with friends and work is one of my favorite ways to spread joy. And it’s turned into a Christmas tradition. I bake a bunch of different kinds of cookies and pass them out wherever I can. Sometimes I even package them up and mail them as surprises. My nieces recently gave me a book of Christmas cookie and dessert recipes, and I had so much fun trying a half-dozen of them last month. Baking with Mom, my brother and younger niece Lauren will remain one of my cherished memories of these holidays. And seriously, who doesn’t love cookies??

Ride a horse. Take a nap with no alarm. Sing harmonies. Play golf. Drink a delicious cup of coffee. Catch up with a loved one on the phone. Visit Grammy Helen. Walk the dog in the sunshine. Eat at my favorite Thai restaurant with a friend. PRAY.

Just reading through the list puts a smile on my face. Of course, there’s no way to eliminate stress or avoid the pressures of real life. There’s no way to guarantee 2020 will be a breeze. But when I need to find joy, peace and calm (and my resting heart rate), one or more of these activities can help me pause and breathe, recharge and reset.

(Try making your own list. I’d love to see it! Xo)

 

 

 

 

Why Football?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 4, 2019 by amylawrencepxp

Have you ever wondered why we possess such a voracious appetite for football? It’s easy to say the game is fast, exciting, and fun; all of that is true. But WHY do we find it so entertaining? Why are we obsessed with quarterbacks and what they get paid? Why do we freak out over tweets that reveal a star running back boarding a flight in one country, bound for another? Why do we over-analyze anything and everything related to the NFL?

In 2018, when almost every other TV show and program across every genre dealt with declining viewership, the NFL rebounded. After a couple down years, the league saw its ratings climb an average of five percent per game in the regular season. Roughly 15.8 million fans tuned into each broadcast; and the most-watched game of the season topped 30 million viewers (Redskins and Cowboys, Week 12 on Fox). In January, the playoff numbers skyrocketed even more: a ten percent jump over the previous winter. The ten postseason contests leading up to the Super Bowl in Atlanta averaged 34.1 million viewers each. The AFC Championship on CBS powered the rise by delivering 53.9 million! Keep in mind that whopping number is the mean for what was an epic overtime clash in Kansas City. Of course, the NFL’s increased profile wasn’t limited to traditional television. Across all digital platforms, viewership of live streams soared 86% as more games were offered online.

Oddly enough, the NFL continues to expand its fan base even as fewer youth want to participate in 11-player football. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, almost 31,000 boys spurned the sport compared to the prior academic year. Sparked by such a drastic change, overall participation in high school sports was down for the first time in three decades. The survey also indicates boys’ involvement in NFL-style football waned in 44 of 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. However, more girls are choosing football; with more opportunities, their numbers have nearly doubled from 10 years ago.

There was bound to be a ripple effect in scholastic football with the extra focus on concussions and head injuries at the highest level of the sport. From a myriad of rules changes designed to protect athletes from the neck up to increased fines and suspensions for offenders to independent doctors on the sidelines to stricter concussion protocols–the NFL is finally reacting to the science and research. Since there is an obvious, though somewhat unpredictable, connection between repeated hits to the head and long-term mental health, fewer families and kids are willing to take the risk. That trend is likely to continue with the intense spotlight on all things NFL. One prime example? We now know more about Antonio Brown’s favorite helmet and the league’s certification process than at any other point in history!

Yet despite the highly-publicized drawbacks of tackle football and the other routine controversies that pop up on a regular basis, fans are undeterred. So what is it? Why do we love football as much as we do? The popularity of the NFL can’t be solely attributed to gambling and the growth of fantasy because people can bet on any other sport and more frequently when you compare number of games. Plus, only a few days a week can fans utilize the daily fantasy option with football.

No doubt that’s one major reason for the surging popularity of the NFL–the limited number of games. With only 17 weeks in the regular season (and 16 appearances per team), the sense of urgency is acute for the league and its fans. It’s no exaggeration to declare that EVERY weekend shapes the eventual playoff picture. If we miss an NFL Sunday, we miss out. Watching highlights after the fact isn’t the same. We crave instant analysis and reaction, the conversation generated by social media where we can connect with thousands of others doing what we’re doing.

The NFL does a masterful job at perpetuating the conversation. Whether it’s the use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or strategically-placed offseason events like the Combine, Draft and owners’ meetings–the league never truly goes away. When we don’t have games to keep us engaged, we follow free agency, contract negotiations, OTAs, breaking news, and rules changes. In 2019, we want to be “inside the ropes” with an all access pass, and the NFL offers that illusion. RedZone is uber-popular because it appeals to our need for access AND our shortened attention spans, whisking us from stadium to stadium for all the critical moments each Sunday.

In the United States, we love the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, the best of the best. The NFL showcases some of the world’s top athletes in a hyper-competitive environment where anything can and will happen. There is no replicating the energy, the exhilaration, the speed, the intensity, the emotion on full display, the fever that’s contagious. It’s also not a coincidence that TV ratings surged during a year when scoring was off the charts. When the dust settled, teams combined for a record 1,371 touchdowns in the regular season. Remember the Chiefs and Rams going over 100 points on Monday Night Football?? And these aren’t garbage time TDs. To add to the general delirium, 73 games were decided by a field goal or LESS last season, the most in NFL history.

All of this is fantastic news as the 2019 season kicks off. There are very few signs of over-saturation with the national fan base. We still can’t seem to get enough. And the NFL is happy to oblige.

Bring on Week One!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Perspective

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2019 by amylawrencepxp

I’ve never been colder in my whole life. After 90 seconds in 36 degree water, I couldn’t feel the lower half of my body. I shrieked involuntarily (and tripped twice) during that minute-and-a-half, and my toes didn’t warm up for at least an hour.

But believe it or not, it won’t be the COLD I remember from my Polar Bear Plunge in the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, in January.

The Maryland State Police host the nation’s largest Plunge to benefit Special Olympics with nearly 10,000 people braving the frigid waters over the course of several days. After more than two decades, the goal is to raise $2.5 million dollars to support the amazing athletes who train and compete year-round across the globe. Back in September, when an invitation was issued for me to join the fun, I accepted without hesitation. (It was probably Indian summer at the time, ha.) In college, I had the chance to volunteer with Special Olympics. My campus hosted a track-and-field event every spring, and serving as a “buddy” to an athlete filled me with joy. I will remember interviewing Josh for my radio show and hearing his incredible story. He started competing in Special Olympics in 1990, and he’s won multiple gold medals in alpine skiing and soccer. Now he’s serving as a Global Messenger. I will always remember the Plunge emcee, Elaina, who is also the Law Enforcement Torch Run Ambassador as well as the SO Maryland Healthy Athletes Ambassador. Elaina is a walking inspiration!

Yes, the water was FRIGID, and I made a lot of noise! But knowing WHY I was plunging gave me the motivation and perspective I needed to brave the cold. Plus, I couldn’t look like a weakling in front of hundreds of state troopers, ha. Now I’m part of the Maryland Special Olympics family, so 90 seconds of torture was a small price to pay.

Perspective is everything when we face challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and hurdles in life. When it’s 35 degrees with a brisk wind, 36 degree water is painful. But in the midst of a summer heat wave, that same water would be refreshing! As I spend long days outside working with young people in the oppressive July humidity of Cuba, the cold water would be a welcome relief (and evaporate almost instantly).

My pastor Ryan recently told a story about having lunch with a longtime friend who served multiple tours of duty overseas with the Army. As they were eating, a woman came through the restaurant door. This veteran excused himself, approached the woman and spent several minutes talking to her. When he got back to the table, Ryan asked if he knew her; but his friend said it was the first time he’d ever laid eyes on her. He said when you’ve spent years in combat, surviving a war and dodging bullets, asking a woman for a date isn’t scary. “The worst that can happen is she’ll say no.” It’s all about perspective!

Sometimes I need to stop and put my circumstances in context. When my blood starts to boil over stupid New York City traffic, I take a deep breath and remind myself it’s better to be a few minutes late than to lose my mind, drive like a maniac, and not arrive at all. This week, when I was frustrated with myself for a poor radio show, I tried to remember how grateful I am for this steady job I love–which means I will be back on air again soon to do better. When my brother makes me angry or my mother asks a million questions (Hi, Mom!), I curb the emotions by thanking God for them because I know so many people who’ve recently lost family members. When I feel hopeless over our nation’s great divide, it helps to recall the time I’ve spent on other continents in third-world countries. Despite our problems, we are so BLESSED in the United States of America!

While I wait for God to answer prayers I’ve lifted up for years, it boosts my faith to look back at the prayers He’s already answered in my life–for my family, my friends, my career. Counting His blessings and remembering how He’s come through gives me hope to hang on while I’m waiting. That perspective reminds me that He ALWAYS hears me and He always answers!

Context. The big picture. Perspective.

Shifting our point of view can change everything.

 

Have Faith

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2019 by amylawrencepxp

We all have faith. Every single one of us believes in something…family, friends, jobs, money, health, science, the law, God or religion, ourselves. Faith comes as naturally as breathing.

Every January, I choose a special word or phrase to focus on throughout the year. In 2019, my word is FAITH. Simple and yet a perfect representation of where I am and the obstacles I’m facing in my life right now. Faith is my anchor, my compass, and my reason to keep going when I’d rather give up. But if mine is a faith worth clinging to in the darkest and most difficult times, it needs to be tested. It needs to be proven. It’s not enough for me to claim I have faith unless I can explain WHY…unless I know what I believe.

Since the start of the year, I’ve spent time contemplating faith, both the broad concept and my personal faith. What do I believe in? How do I know faith is worth it? How do I know it works? When life is full of challenges, what do I fall back on? There’s a song by singer-songerwriter Pat Barrett, Into Faith I Go, that I’ve listened to a lot the last few months. One line jumps out over and over: “Faith is not some fragile thing that shatters when we walk through something hard.”

I have FAITH that failure is not the end of the road, no matter how much it stings when I fall flat on my face. Failure is only the end if I choose to quit and stew in that place of frustration and humiliation. Is it easy to get up and start over? Is it a cinch to move past bitter disappointment? Absolutely not. It can be scary to ignore the bumps and bruises and try again. It’s hard to start fresh when we know the possibilities, when we know how things could turn out. But faith keeps me from being immobile.

I have FAITH in wisdom and experience. I have friends who tell me they’d love to go back to their 20s when life was fun and easy and we could eat whatever we wanted, ha. No way. Not me. Are there things I would change and do differently? Sure, but then I wouldn’t be me. And I’ve already waded through so many onerous stretches–heartaches and heartbreaks, the consequences of poor choices and dumb decisions. I’d rather not repeat them! However, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. There is no shortcut to wisdom. Other people can share their experiences until their faces turn blue; but it’s not the same. Navigating the unexpected curveballs life throws at us–that’s where wisdom comes from. It’s like emerging from a dark tunnel into the light, reaching the top of a steep mountain, or seeing a prayer answered after years of asking. What sweet euphoria and relief to know we figured it out. We persevered. We persisted. We endured. And the next time we face a difficult hurdle, we remember.

I have FAITH that waiting is not a waste. Trust me when I tell you I haven’t always felt this way. While I was waiting for what seemed like eternity for the opportunity to host my own talk show, the waves of impatience threatened to knock me flat. I was SURE I was ready to handle the responsibility…except I wasn’t. I had to develop into a host who could manage the rigors of a daily show and grow into a female host who could withstand the flood of criticism and backlash. It was a slow process. As I wait for my chance to do NBA play-by-play, I try to remember I can use the waiting to practice and hone my skills so I’m prepared when the door opens! In my personal life, it feels like forever that I’ve prayed for a husband and family of my own. I don’t know why it’s taking so long; but I do know the stops and starts, the failed attempts, the relationships that weren’t right have all prepared me to be a better wife and mom when my time finally comes. I barely recognize the girl I was 15 years ago when I thought I was ready. Whenever we find each other, I can’t wait to tell him I waited for him.

I have FAITH that time spent on others is a worthy investment. It comes with getting older–we lose people we love and the people we love lose people. Those losses serve as sharp reminders of what matters most. Our time here on earth is finite. Building relationships, cultivating friendships, talking and sharing and laughing, lending a helping hand, showing kindness, even smiling at or speaking to strangers–these are ways I can truly impact and influence the world around me. In many cases, I may never know if my actions made any difference at all; but they COULD, so I will make the effort. I certainly know how much I appreciate it when others invest in me.

I have FAITH that time marches on. It can feel cruel. How often I wish I could slam on the brakes. But time also heals. It’s a blessing that it never stops. We can count on the sun coming up tomorrow.

I have FAITH that rest is a good thing! It’s alright to slow down, take a nap, read a book, smell the honeysuckle in my neighborhood, plant flowers, go on vacation without wifi, stop rushing, breathe deeply.

I have FAITH that I’m never alone. Lonely, yes. Alone, no. It may require reaching out, picking up the phone, speaking up, getting out of my comfort zone; but when I make the effort, it’s never in vain.

I have FAITH that I can choose joy even in the most difficult circumstances. Like love, joy is a choice, not an emotion. Counting all the reasons I can be thankful produces joy.

I know what I believe in and that faith keeps me moving forward.

My faith is my beacon. Hebrews 11:1