Archive for December, 2014

Face Value

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

 

Advertisements

How Did I Get HERE?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

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