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.


Counting the Days

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10, 2017 by amylawrencepxp

Life is precious. And fleeting. And too often taken for granted. The older I get, the more I come face to face with that harsh reality.

Late last month, I found out my Syracuse University advisor passed away. Professor Don Edwards was a godsend when I first arrived on campus. I was a scared, immature kid with HUGE dreams and no earthly idea how to achieve them; he decided right away he was going to help me succeed. He told me from the outset that I would get where I wanted to go, that I would make it “big,” that everything I dreamed was possible. He used to tell me that I’d be famous someday. Haha. My response was exactly that–laughter. Nervous, insecure giggles. But he didn’t waiver. Professor Edwards knew I needed someone to believe in me, someone to push me. He accepted that role in my life before I knew to ask him.

During my time at Syracuse and even after I graduated, he was always available when I needed him. I would burst into his office to share about some exciting project or internship opportunity and then my first real job. I would be full of exuberance and enthusiasm, and he would listen to me rattle on and on. When I took a breath, he would offer his advice and ask me questions to force me to think critically about the challenge ahead. Professor Edwards always kept the big picture in mind, and he was the voice in my life who constantly reminded me how all the steps were preparing me to achieve my ultimate goals.

We kept in touch for awhile after I left central New York. I wrote him a few letters to update him on my various jobs, and he replied periodically. After he retired, he devoted more time to his second love–carving wooden toys. He always had a few of them in his office at school, and he would show them to me when I stopped by. The last time we communicated was at least ten years ago. I wish I had one more chance to tell him his investment in me was not in vain. I used to thank him constantly, but did he realize I never would have made it without his wisdom and support??

The older I get, the more I realize that people are the only thing that matter in this life. Family, friends, acquaintances, strangers–there’s nothing more important than the people with whom we cross paths, whether it’s for years or only for a moment.

In the last few months, a half-dozen friends of mine have lost parents, most of them unexpectedly. Two other friends have buried spouses. It’s all caused me to think about how it would feel to lose a member of my own family suddenly; it’s prompted me to examine how I value the people closest to me. My Mom knows how much I appreciate her, how much I treasure our relationship. She also knows I get annoyed when I think she’s treating me like a teenager, ha. I’m not sure if that will EVER change, not even when I get married. But I don’t want to imagine a world where Mom isn’t checking on me, reminding me to take care of myself, nagging me not to forget things that need to get done. (Momma, my life would be empty, boring, and far too quiet if I didn’t have you to share it with! Love you!)

Travel is one of my favorite pastimes. When I get time off, I very rarely stay put. I love road trips to see my nieces and treks to farm country Wisconsin to hang out with my 95-year-old Grammy. I also enjoy taking vacations in parts of the country where I can visit long-lost friends. Usually, I start planning these jaunts months in advance. But recently, on the spur of the moment, I bought a plane ticket to Oklahoma to surprise friends celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. I briefly considered the expense because it wasn’t a cheap venture, but I hadn’t seen Jerry and Virginia in more than a decade. They were like second parents to me when I lived there in 2001, inviting me (and my cat) to move in for several months while I was jobless and penniless.

As I snuck up behind them on their back terrace, it felt like part of my heart was returning home. What a day! To hug them, to talk to them in person, to laugh out loud, to celebrate their life together, to sit around their living room all evening, to see them smile–that experience made the expense and travel headaches worth it. They knew how much I love them because I showed up, and it filled my soul with extreme joy. I wouldn’t trade those hours for all the money in the world.

Life is precious and fleeting. We don’t know how long we’ll get with our family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers. There is no time to waste. Natural disasters, accidents, illnesses frequently catch us off guard. Nothing is guaranteed.

The older I get, the more I find myself counting the days and wishing time would slow down. Of course, that’s not possible, so the only thing I can do is try to make every day count.




Regresar a Cuba

Posted in Uncategorized on June 4, 2017 by amylawrencepxp

I’ll be honest–while I was in Havana for 10 days last August, I was pretty sure it would be my one and ONLY trip to Cuba. At least once a day, I told myself I just had to survive the rest of the way and then I’d never go back. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. It was a difficult trip for several reasons, including the brutal heat and humidity. My church team was outside the majority of each day–shoveling and hauling dirt, playing games with kids, standing in line for meals, preparing for and attending a wedding. The thick humidity sapped my strength and left me exhausted. Even my summer treks to Ecuador weren’t as tough. Of course, I was two miles above sea level in the Andes Mountains most of the time!

The heat was only part of my struggle in Cuba. Spending time with the members of a poor village church, hearing their stories and witnessing their oppression at the hands of a Communist government–it broke my heart. The Cubans are essentially prisoners in their own country. The majority of applications for travel visas are denied. Not just once, but over and over. Government officials are petrified the people will get outside the Cuban borders to freedom and never return. For good reason, too, since people risk their lives and families every year to try to escape and defect. The pastor we worked with in Havana told us it’s a huge problem among fellow pastors and priests. They obtain visas under the guise of education (the Cuban government values education); when they get to the US and other countries, they never go back, even if it means leaving their loved ones behind.

With the American travel restrictions lifted, all the extra tourism revenue goes straight to the government. The majority of Cuban locals live in poverty with rations to buy food and old cars that frequently break down. They can’t receive mail or packages from the rest of the world; in fact, most of the homes outside the city don’t even have mailing addresses. The internet connection is spotty at best unless they can find a wifi hotspot in the city streets.

How did 10 days make any difference whatsoever?? Sure, I took school supplies, soccer balls, frisbees, and other sporting goods with me last summer. And we left piles of clothes and shoes behind. We gave the Cuban church the extra money we had. We helped to build a pool they also use as a baptismal. We danced and sang and ate with them. But really–what difference did it make? I wrestled with this question many times in the months after my trip. And when a new team formed this spring, I wrestled with it again.

No, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to Havana. I waffled back and forth. I talked to my family. I prayed about it a ton! As it turns out, the 2017 mission will be extremely different from a year ago, though many of the faces will be the same. Ultimately, those are the two reasons I committed to GO again this July.

What’s changing?? For starters, we won’t be spending any money to stay in hotels this year. Cuban leaders are closing many of their hotels to Americans. Apparently, they’re worried about the US influence on locals. I’m thrilled we won’t be putting that money in the government’s pocket. Instead, we’ll stay on the church property all week. Five of us women will share a room with bunk beds in a concrete building adjacent to the pastor’s home. The room is often used to house families of villagers who visit from other parts of the island or to assist people in need. We *believe* we’ll have A/C to sleep, but there won’t be any hot water for showers, ha. We’ll be using an outdoor bath house on the property. This year’s trip will resemble my journey to Africa when I was camping in the bush!

The ability to bring school supplies, medical necessities, and clothing to the church in rural Havana is another major reason I decided to go back. Since the mail system can’t be trusted, showing up in person is the most reliable way to give them what they desperately need but can’t obtain. Right now, the Cubans have very little access to basic over-the-counter medicines and first aid supplies. According to news reports, even the hospitals don’t have adequate provisions. I’m planning to stuff my suitcase with aspirin, stomach meds, band-aids, gauze, balms, creams, vitamins, and anything else I can think of. I’m thankful to family and friends who are donating money to buy them. I also heard from a listener in Atlanta who’s shipping dozens of first aid kits to me so I can take those, too.

It’s the PEOPLE drawing me back to Cuba. After meeting them and hearing their stories, after communicating with some of them via Facebook or email over the last year, I want to see them again. The pastor and his extended family, the dozens of young people who hang out daily at the church (a room off the pastor’s kitchen), some women that I now call friends–they are the most important part of the trip. They are so encouraged by our visits, by knowing that we traveled from our country to spend time with them. This summer, our team will partner with the church on a special week-long youth outreach which is really exciting for me. Teaching elementary school kids gathered on Sunday was a highlight of my 2016 adventure.

No doubt the heat and humidity will be excruciating again. No doubt I’ll struggle with sadness as I see and hear about the poverty and oppression in Cuba. No doubt I’ll feel helpless, like I can’t possibly do enough. But if our visit makes a difference to THEM–puts smiles on their faces, lets them know they’re loved, meets some of their practical needs–then it’s all worth it.

Home, Sweet Home

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2017 by amylawrencepxp

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

What a great superpower that would be–the ability to click our heels together three times and instantly be transported to the place we call home. For the majority of people, a specific location or picture comes to mind when they hear the word “home.” Maybe it’s the house where they grew up or the city or town where they were raised. Maybe it’s the address where they currently abide. Home can mean a million different things to a million different people. The family nucleus certainly doesn’t look the same or operate the same for everyone. In 2017, the traditional image is more common in the movies than in real life. And that’s not bad. We don’t all have to fit into the same formula, and we definitely don’t all have to come from the same kind of homes.

When I first started mulling over a blog post about home, it was the holiday season. I was fresh off a long Thanksgiving weekend with my brother’s family, and I was full of anticipation for Christmas when our whole crew would gather in one place to celebrate, cook, bake, eat (a lot!), share our gifts, watch movies, and relax together. Since I was born, I’ve never missed Christmas with my Mom, and only once have my brother Matthew and I been apart on December 25th. That holiday is precious to me because of them, even though we very rarely gather in the same place in back to back winters. We rotate from one house and one state to the next.

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays ’cause no matter how far away you roam…if you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home.”

That classic Perry Como Christmas song almost always causes me to sing along. If we hear it as a group, my whole family typically breaks into a loud rendition. But it’s more than just a catchy tune. It’s the truth, though my definition of “home” is anything but conventional. Over the last several years, I’ve had a much harder time figuring out where home is to me. Is it the small city of Peru, Illinois, where I was born? Is it Concord, New Hampshire, where I grew up? Is it Girard, the NE Ohio town that holds my sweetest childhood memories? As I’ve pursued my career, I’ve called a dozen different cities “home” in turn. From Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Syracuse and Rochester, New York, to Hanover, New Hampshire, to Woodward, Oklahoma, to Oklahoma City to Providence, Rhode Island, and multiple towns in Connecticut–I’ve picked up and moved so many times that most of the stops along the way feel like a flash in the pan. I would settle in, unpack, hang pictures, find a church, get comfortable in the community, and make new friends just in time for the next career leap. Honestly, I wouldn’t change much. My gypsy life led me to where I am now. But following a nomadic path makes it much more difficult to define “home.”

For me, my home is my haven. It’s my retreat from the world and the pressures of being a semi-public figure and hosting a national radio show. It’s where I find peace and calm and rest. At home, I don’t have to entertain the masses. At home, I don’t have to know all the answers or generate new creative ideas. At home, I don’t have to talk! When I withdraw, I can let my guard down. I don’t have to be “on.” I’m not Amy Lawrence at home; I’m just Amy. A few weeks ago, I walked in the door of my house after a rough show. I don’t remember exactly what bothered me, probably some mistakes I made on air. But just like clockwork, my dog and two cats were crowded into the foyer to greet me. Penny was shaking her whole back end (because that’s what Australian Shepherds do), and the cats were happily circling around me since they’re all MORNING PEOPLE!! It dawned on me that no football game, no miscue on the radio, no social media insult was more important than breakfast. That’s what “home” means to me: a refuge that offers perspective and balance, where life is nice and boring.

If I published this blog post a month ago, it wouldn’t have included my recent revelation. When I was in Houston for Super Bowl Week, I worked both days and nights. I spent afternoons recording interviews and networking with members of the football and media industries; and I spent nights posted up at our Houston affiliate to host my shows. From Monday through Friday of that week, I didn’t sleep more than four hours at a pop. Instead, I napped whenever I could. It was brutal. What I saw, heard, and experienced made the exhausted effort all worth it; but I was a mess by Friday afternoon when I got to Mom’s house northwest of the city. I finished writing my weekly column about the same time she got home from school. She and her husband wanted to go out to dinner, but I was about to keel over. I took a nap while they went out. Mom woke me out of my daze to eat dinner when they got home; and 90 minutes later, I fell asleep again. Not only did Mom let me sleep 10 hours that night, but she didn’t mind that I took a three-hour nap on Saturday. It was what I needed, and she knew it. That doesn’t happen unless I feel at home.

Maybe the word “home” conjures up a specific image or picture in the minds of most people. Maybe the vast majority envisions a singular location. For me, it’s not an address or geography or even the first house I purchased all by myself. At this point in my life, with all its twists and turns and surprises, home is simply where my pets are and where Mom is, wherever those places happen to be.

De Mi Corazón

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



My Other Calling

Posted in Uncategorized on August 16, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

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

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




When Sports Don’t Matter

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run To Remember

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Red Carpet Ready

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2016 by amylawrencepxp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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