Archive for the Uncategorized Category

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

 

Independence Day

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2018 by amylawrencepxp

As the United States marked its 242nd birthday, a news report from the other side of the globe led me to contemplate independence in a way I never have before. In Saudi Arabia, women are now legally allowed to drive. The law was officially changed this summer, so women can finally get behind the wheel themselves and hold jobs that require driving. Several universities are offering classes to teach women how to drive. For the first time in Saudi history, females don’t have to rely on their husbands, brothers, fathers, friends or car services to run errands, go to work, and travel. Amazing! It’s wonderful to see pictures of women in the front seat with huge smiles on their faces as they revel in their new freedom.

And that’s what gave me pause: “new” freedom. As the Saudi kingdom became the last nation in the world to lift its ban on female drivers, I started to consider what my life would be like if I couldn’t drive. It wouldn’t remotely resemble what I have today. I wouldn’t be pursuing a career in sports radio, my passion for more than 20 years. Truth be told, I can’t imagine NOT having a car and a license. I’m incredibly thankful for this legal right that allows me to stay independent.

I can still clearly recall driving lessons with Mom in Concord, New Hampshire, before I turned 16. Since I played softball in the spring, I couldn’t take driver’s ed until a few months after my birthday. But Mom was determined to teach me how to navigate in the snow so we started early. She put me behind the wheel of our Nissan Sentra (stick shift) and told me it would get easier the more I practiced, ha. Thanks to her, before I ever took my official test, I was comfortable in the driver’s seat. Little did I know, those days were the foundation for a beautiful relationship: me and the open road.

Mom was tired of serving as taxi driver for me and my brother, so she instantly handed over the keys when I obtained my license. And I was immediately in LOVE! The road, the radio, the control, the FREEDOM to come and go on my own–it was my personal revolution. Not long after that, road trips became the norm. The next year, our family trekked from New England to Disney World for spring break, and I was thrilled when Mom let me drive. When she let me take the car, I drove to and from college in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then Syracuse, New York. While I was in school, I spent three weeks in the British Isles with a group of fellow students. One of my favorite memories is driving us all over Ireland–opposite side of the road and opposite side of the car! No one else would try, but I was fearless behind the wheel. I wanted the keys, and nothing’s changed since.

When I secured my first “real” job in Rochester, New York, I frequently drove east to get back home or west and south to visit Grandma in Ohio. We didn’t have a lot of money, and I certainly wasn’t earning much in local radio, so my first four vehicles were all hand-me-downs. I was extremely grateful for no car payment and great gas mileage! Two Sentras, one Plymouth Reliant, and one LEMON of a Honda Accord. They weren’t fancy; they all had a bunch of miles on them. But they might as well have been chariots of gold.

In 2003, I bought my first new car: a light blue Saturn ION with only 6,000 miles on it!! I saved for months, and I chose carefully. Mom took me to Cleveland for a test drive and then to sign the papers before I drove her off the lot. I named her Dixie, and she was a huge blessing. In ten years, I put 300,000 miles on that car (and captured the milestone on camera)! We fearlessly crisscrossed the northeast and the midwest, and I couldn’t have asked for a more reliable companion to get me through a decade of transition in my career. It wasn’t until I accepted the job with CBS Sports Radio in Manhattan that I let her go. I would’ve driven her another 100,000 miles with a bumper held on by duct tape and “racing stripes” from a cab who side-swiped me, except a stick shift in New York City traffic is the opposite of practical. It was easier to give her up when we found a police officer’s family who needed another vehicle. Dixie was a gift from heaven, and I prayed she would be as big a blessing to them as she was to me.

Of course, Mom came through again! This time, she gave me her 2002 Infiniti when she moved to Houston. In four years, I racked up more than 100,000 miles on the car, more than she logged in a decade. Isabella (Mom’s choice) was perfect for a city commute and weekend trips to DC to visit my nearest family members. With a career that requires chasing all over the country, it’s always been my car and the ability to drive that keeps me connected to the people I love. The Infiniti carried me safely to and from Connecticut for more than two years while I tried to sell my house. It’s also the first vehicle that I took all the way to Texas for Christmas vacation. So much fun–mostly because I could bring my dog with me!

Early July marked one year with Princess Leia, my Subaru Forester. I still can’t believe I get to drive her every day. She’s the second new car I’ve ever purchased, and I want to take her everywhere! So far, we’ve been to DC numerous times; to Western New York to visit friends; to Ohio and Houston (again) for family outings; and to South Carolina for a near-perfect beach vacation. I don’t mind flying when it’s required, but driving is a tonic.

What does independence mean to me? It’s the freedom to pursue the career of my choice. It’s the freedom to live on my own. It’s the freedom to travel so I can see family and friends. All of that is possible because I can get in my car and GO when and where I want. I’m so thankful for my independence as an American woman, and I’m thrilled women in Saudi Arabia can now taste some of the same freedom.

 

 

Leadership Challenge

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2018 by amylawrencepxp

The summer of 2018 won’t look like any other in my past. It’s not because I’m traveling outside the United States for a missions trip. This is actually my sixth one in the last decade. It’s not the destination either since this will be my third consecutive summer working in Havana, Cuba. No, this July will be different because someone put me in charge!! Whaaaaat??

It’s true! For the first time, I will LEAD a team on a trip outside the country. It’s challenging enough to prepare for an international adventure when I only have to worry about ME; but this year, I’m responsible for making sure a group of six is ready to go. From the recruiting to the incessant emails to the paperwork to the plane tickets–it was a LOT to juggle for six weeks this spring. But with the team committed and our flights secured, we’ve set our sights forward! Time to plan a daily schedule (as much as possible) and put together our packing lists because it’s coming up FAST!

I’ll admit I’m slightly overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done between now and departure. None of the young women making the trip has ever been to Cuba before; and for all but one, it’s the first time they’ll serve in another country. As the leader, I want to prepare them by telling them as much as I can about the past two summers. It’s also important to get the six of us together for team-building (easier said than done, ha). Once we arrive in Cuba, I’m accountable for money, meals, lodging, transportation, communication, and the safety of our group. In Havana, that can be more complicated than it sounds. Americans in Cuba are still relative oddities to many locals; but most importantly, we don’t want to attract any extra attention from government officials. We want to avoid undue questions about why we’re visiting, and we also want to protect the church with whom we work all week. I can feel the burden of responsibility as the trip gets closer, especially since I know I won’t be able to ask for help or guidance once we leave the United States.

Every time the doubts begin to swirl and I wonder if I can juggle all the tasks as leader, I’m reminded why I accepted this challenge in the first place: it was an answer to prayer! When I returned from last year’s adventure in Cuba, I asked God for the chance to do more. I’ve learned so much from my missions trips the last 10 years, and I realized I shouldn’t be keeping it to myself. So it’s not an accident or coincidence that I was asked to lead. It’s also not a mistake because God doesn’t make those. Instead, it’s an honor to share the wisdom and experience, the highs and lows, and the incredible blessings from my previous visits to Cuba, Mozambique, and Ecuador. My heart swells with gratefulness at this opportunity.

My team of young women, ages 16 to 25, is so enthusiastic and full of great anticipation for what we’ll see and do. When the weight of decision-making threatens to drag me down, their energy and spirit lift me up. They remind me to be excited for what lies ahead: for another chance to see the little Cuban church that I love so much and for the time we’ll have to teach and share with the young people. Once again, our team will be participating in Youth Week! The church invites all kids and teens in the village to attend over several days. Generally, there’s a combination of services, music, small groups, food, and games. Oh the games!! They’re fantastic and extremely competitive, and we Americans get to play, too!

The pastor in Cuba recently sent me the theme for the week, so the team is busy brainstorming lessons, arts and crafts, even a song we can sing in Spanish. We’re also collecting donations and gifts to take with us! This is one of my favorite parts of the journey. Over the past two summers, our groups have packed clothes, shoes, medical supplies, and books with us to Havana. Last year, I lugged soccer balls and other sporting goods, vitamins for all ages, murder mysteries, and 50 pounds of diapers. It was like Christmas in July–awesome!

No trip is ever the same; the itinerary is always fluid when traveling to a country where communication is limited and difficult. Flexibility is necessary always! On two separate occasions last year, we went to bed dreaming about a field trip to the beach the next day, only to find out transportation for the youth group and church families had fallen through. In the middle of the night, we were awakened by banging on our doors to let us know the plan had changed–that we shouldn’t show up at the church at 4am, ha! As much as I’d like to prepare the young women on my team for every possible scenario, that’s not realistic. Instead, we must expect the unexpected and accept that we can’t control our schedule or our daily routine. Things happen! But there’s definite freedom in letting go of the illusion of control.

GO and SERVE and TEACH and SHARE are among my favorite action verbs. These trips outside the US are the perfect opportunities to get involved and make a difference. And this year, I will add LEAD to the list. My desire is to encourage, support, motivate, reinforce, sustain, reassure, assist, validate, and confirm. But above all else, I need to watch, listen, and pray. I can’t wait!!

 

 

Minneapolis Memories

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2018 by amylawrencepxp

Super Bowl Week is always a blur. I show up at the site of the NFL’s annual convention and championship game believing I’ll have time to catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances, try out local restaurants, see the sights AND host quality radio shows that put people on the scene with us. It never works out that way, though. I’m too busy trying to survive Radio Row. Between afternoons spent recording interviews with current and former players and other special guests and evenings in studio, the time flies. There isn’t much sleeping, eating, or visiting with colleagues from around the country, though I usually manage a network get-together for some free snacks.

This Super Bowl Week in Minneapolis was my fourth on Radio Row, and it was a great success (except for the cold I brought home with me). The city was a perfect host, and the Mall of America served as a fitting hub. As a general rule, I avoid malls like the plague, especially on busy days. But despite the size of this mall and thousands of people roaming multiple floors and concourses, it wasn’t overwhelming. However, it was TIGHT quarters in the Mall’s north food court. We were crammed inside the ropes with very little space to maneuver. CBS Sports Radio operated from what could be described as the corner office: a large desk on a platform with multiple seats and microphones to juggle non-stop shows and interviews. Our backs were up against the third-floor railing that overlooked a large atrium. Football fans weren’t allowed inside the ropes; but they were eating, shopping, cheering, gawking, taking photos, and contributing to the general mayhem. It was a bonus to have the space behind us while we worked. At least no one could sneak up on us!

I can’t blame fans for gawking. The star power on Radio Row every year is incredible, and Minneapolis was no exception. Among the notable moments: Kirk Cousins sitting at our desk, talking about his future just hours before his team traded for Alex Smith; Terrell Davis, sporting his gold Hall of Fame jacket from last summer’s induction; and Terrell Owens with his entourage, dark sunglasses, and backpack equipped with speakers, two days before he found out he’s part of the newest HOF class. It’s fun to be in the middle of the fray and watch the ripple effects and reactions around me.

We try to field a unique guest list every year. Producer Tom works on it for weeks; very often, the names and times are still fluctuating at the last second. It’s a labor of love to be sure! This year, I recorded 15 interviews over the course of three afternoons. The wide range of personalities, backgrounds, perspectives, and experience kept me on my toes but also created amazing variety for our shows. And the stories I managed to pull out of our guests–I’m extremely proud of those.

My first guest was Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter, a snowboarder who won gold on her debut run at the Torino Games in 2006. She was as laid back and chill as you’d expect a snowboarder from Vermont to be. But her tales of Olympic triumph and heartbreak (she barely missed qualifying for Pyeongchang) and her passion for Special Olympics (her brother is a competitor and her biggest fan) stuck with me. I also won’t forget my powerful conversation with former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley whose career was cut short by a brutal helmet to helmet hit in 2011. Not only did he need spinal chord surgery, but a few years later, neurologists determined that nearly HALF of his brain was damaged. He told me about his darkest days when he wanted to give up and walk away from everything; but he also shared his road to recovery and what he would change about his career if he could. I’m so thankful I had the chance to speak to him and Hannah. They opened up about personal struggles which increased their determination and perseverance. Both interviews are available on the After Hours with Amy Lawrence YouTube channel! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCil0Lx3nrl6zwK1mTjFuGfg

Other highlights? Recently retired running back Justin Forsett confessing his nerves and mistakes during his pitch on Shark Tank last month; Lions great Herman Moore emphasizing the risks that NFL receivers should never take on the field; former QB Bruce Gradkowski admitting most of the high schoolers he coached in Toledo last season knew almost nothing about his pro football career; three-time Super Bowl champ Troy Brown spilling secrets of the “Patriot Way”; and Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes steering the conversation toward his survival from prostate cancer and pushing other families to get informed and get checked. However, before we started recording, Mike briefly excused himself to exchange a greeting and hug with Dan Marino.

Two of my favorite interviews took place on my last day on Radio Row. It was incredible to hear Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander share his firsthand account of watching with his teammates as the Bengals rallied past the Ravens in Week 17 with a dramatic touchdown that clinched Buffalo’s first trip to the postseason this century!! Right after I talked to him, I sat down with Billy “White Shoes” Johnson who was, in fact, wearing his signature white shoes. It was my first time meeting this NFL legend, and he was so much fun. He was dancing in end zones in the 70s before the league ever cared. He’s at least two inches shorter than me, yet his returns were dazzling and dynamic. He’s a grandfather now, but his face lit up as he talked about catching a punt and knowing he had the advantage over the guys chasing him. Awesome! (Both Lorenzo and Billy are also immortalized on YouTube.)

All the hard work was done by Friday morning when I wrapped up my last show, and Minneapolis offered extra incentive to cross the finish line strong. I was only two hours away from my 95-year-old Grammy’s hometown. So I packed up the rental car and set out for farm country Wisconsin on the coldest morning of the week: the thermometer in the car dipped to -11 on the way! I normally see her just once a year in the spring or summer; this was a bonus. We bundled up and ran errands on Friday with my uncle; and despite the brittle cold (the kind that hurts your lungs when you breathe), we also went to the local country club for shrimp dinner. That’s one of my grandmother’s favorite weekly activities. So is the game of Upwords, and we managed a few games before we retired for the night.

I will always cherish my Saturday in snowy Wisconsin. It couldn’t have been more opposite from the buzz and excitement of Minneapolis. Grammy didn’t leave her apartment because of the snow, and I didn’t go far. I helped her with a load of laundry, washed all her dishes, cleaned up her kitchen, and vacuumed her little place. It wasn’t all that different from a Saturday at home, devoted to life’s little mundane tasks, except my heart was full of joy because Grammy was happy. She fell asleep in the chair halfway through Apollo 13, but it was wonderful to sit there with her, soaking in the peace and quiet. I had to drive back to Minneapolis early Sunday to catch my flight home before the game, and Grammy teared up when I left. But I was able to hug her and promise I’d return in a few months.

I’m so grateful for the annual opportunity to cover the massive occasion that is Super Bowl Week. It offers amazing access inside the football world and provides my one chance all year to look my guests directly in the eye and smile! But this trip was extra special, thanks to my Wisconsin weekend. Thank you, NFL, for choosing Minneapolis! Helen’s sweet photo is the souvenir I brought home, though she’d cluck at me if she knew I was posting it online. Love you, Grammy!! XO

 

Why Isn’t Anyone Listening??

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2017 by amylawrencepxp

The thought popped into my brain right in the middle of a recent radio segment. If your MESSAGE is getting lost in your METHOD, are you achieving your purpose? Or can tweaking your METHOD further promote your MESSAGE and move you closer to accomplishing your goal? It’s an interesting concept to consider, whatever the arena or the audience. No matter the point or principle, standard rules of engagement apply to any attempt at communication.

I first had my epiphany in the midst of a discussion about National Anthem protests before NFL games. After a weekend in which 12% of NFL players knelt, sat, or stretched during the presentation of the flag and the Anthem, the debate reached a crescendo. Despite the original goal of bringing attention to social injustice and racial inequality, the focal point remains the chosen practice of protesting–on a football field during a moment meant to honor our nation. Regardless of how many times athletes indicate their protest is not against the military, scores of people can’t get past the where and when these demonstrations are taking place. Their MESSAGE is largely getting lost in their METHOD.

Is their method wrong? No, not as long as their employer, the National Football League, allows the peaceful protests and individual expressions on the sidelines before games. Since the NFL is allowing players to exercise their free speech, they’re allowed to call attention to causes as they wish. But they can’t control the response. Freedom of speech is NOT freedom from consequences. With thousands of Americans put off by the way they’re protesting, their message is often glossed over in the uproar. What if linking arms during the Anthem results in fewer fans tuning out and still highlights the players’ convictions? If the goal is to spread the word and engage more people in conversation, a compromise may open additional doors.

Compromise is often considered a dirty word, as though it undermines principles or waters down messages. But compromise is critical to successful communication, whether we’re talking about mass media or interpersonal relationships. The term “radical middle” was coined in a recent tweet by former Green Beret and Texas Longhorns long snapper Nate Boyer. It immediately piqued my interest, and I started mulling it over. Whether we’re right or left, up or down, forward or back, the easiest place to share ideas is always in the middle. If I take a few steps toward you, and you take a few steps toward me, it’s a shorter journey for both of us. The METHOD of meeting in the middle typically ensures the MESSAGE will reach more people. Very often, compromise is saving us time and money!

One major key to fruitful communication is knowing your audience. Understanding WHO is paramount in understanding HOW. As a long-time owner of pets and teacher of kids, I’ve learned it matters far more how I speak to them than which words I use. My Australian shepherd, Penny, is extremely sensitive to my tone of voice. The second my voice belies tension or stress or anger or frustration, she picks up on it. If I get road rage while we’re in the car, she reflects my emotions.  The opposite is also true: I can complain about how tired I am and how much I’d rather be sleeping instead of walking her, but if I use my sweet voice, she wags her tail and follows me. It doesn’t matter what I’m saying since she only recognizes a handful of words. My method of speaking to her is far more important than my particular message. The same applies to children. They may only understand part of what I’m saying to them in Sunday school or after a community soccer game. But a voice full of kindness, caring, compassion, and happiness speaks volumes. Again, HOW is more important than WHAT.

As a Christian, I relish opportunities to share my faith. I desire to tell people about my relationship with Jesus and how it’s changed my life for good. Of course, I want to convince people He’s real, that the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. But if I start with, “You’re wrong, and I’m right,” no one’s going to listen to my reasons why. I can scream, yell, preach, shout, tweet and blog about heaven and hell until I’m blue in the face. If my MESSAGE isn’t conveyed with peace, joy, humility, and thankfulness, then it’s lost in my METHOD. And if people are tuning out because of my delivery, what’s the point? My story is one of grace and mercy, forgiveness, redemption, and unconditional love. If I don’t start there, my testimony likely falls on deaf ears.

This Thanksgiving, I finally get quality family after months of not seeing them. I’m thrilled for a holiday break full of the people I love most in the world. But if your family gatherings are anything like mine, there is always potential for arguments and conflicts. The people who know us the best know our triggers, our histories, our old hurts and past failures. And with family, we’re not necessarily on our best behavior. I go into every holiday pledging that I will NOT take the bait, ha! That means watching my tone of voice and my sarcastic comments. Family time is precious. Who cares if I’m right or I “win”? Getting defensive and edgy and raising my voice are methods that never work. Way smarter to breathe and let my heart rate subside before I speak. A bull in a china shop usually ends up making a mess.

As a passionate, emotional girl, I feel a consistent tug of war between method and message, between my emotions and words. But over time, I’ve learned that respect is the perfect starting block–whether I’m hosting my radio show, talking politics with friends or relaxing with family. It makes every kind of communication more apt to succeed. Ultimately, respect is a METHOD that guarantees a higher rate of return on your MESSAGE.

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