While digging through a box I came across a dvd I hadn’t laid eyes on in six years. It contained a few video clips from my husband’s NFL playing days, between 1993-2001. I popped it in the disc drive and waited for the memories to come flooding back. It was great to seeing him in action. The video had no sound making the images more powerful. I studied him.
Back then I knew less about football. I understood the basics, but in all honesty it was just his job to me. I hated being asked, “What’s it like being married to a football player?!” My answer was always the same, “Well I’ve never been married to anyone else so I don’t have anything to compare it to.” I was honest. I didn’t. Since that time my football IQ has raised significantly. When we were in the thick of things I didn’t get it, had no real appreciation for where we were in our lives or where we’d be going. Chalk that up to youth.
During his time with the Denver Broncos when he went to work, I went to school. I was studying journalism at the University of Colorado, I wanted to be a news anchor. We got married between my junior and senior year, so while my classmates got out of class and went to hang out with friends, I drove home to my husband. My concerns? Making sure dinner was ready and knowing all about who the Broncos would be playing on Sunday. That was it. HBO’s Inside the NFL was my favorite form of reality TV.
I’ll never forget one of my professors standing up in front of the class to tell us what to expect after graduating with a degree in journalism. He ran the list down just like this:
I did my internship at the NBC affiliate in Denver later that year. After it ended I couldn’t watch a local newscast without picking it to pieces. It was due in part to something I heard while manning the phones in the newsroom, “…if it’s not dying or bleeding, I don’t want to know about it.” Ughhh. Hearing those words from the news desk editor made my zeal for being an anchor wane. Needless to say, my dreams of being an anchor all but ended there. Elijah’s job meant I didn’t have the flexibility to establish myself in the news industry and I wasn’t sure if that was the right path for me anyway. I put my career aspirations on the back burner and focused on our family without regret.
I felt like if ever given the opportunity to jump into journalism like I’d originally wanted to, becoming an investigative reporter would suit me. I’d want to tell the story from top to bottom, identify the good guys from the bad and learn what makes them tick. Unlock mysteries. Solve problems. Oooh.
To find this dvd, reminding me of our football life just days before I head to NABJ, is a bit symbolic, perhaps a sign. It reminded me of what was and will always be most important, family. It also let me know that some endings aren’t endings at all, they’re detours. Maybe I needed to live some life to make me a better storyteller. Maybe I needed some depth. Whatever the reason, I’m embracing it. It’s time to pack my suitcase and prepare to dive in.
When I lost my husband Elijah to cancer, I vowed I’d always stay connected to the cancer community. We’d met some remarkable people during his diagnosis and treatment, people that became family. With there being no cure for his type of cancer, called myeloma, but several treatment options that can leave patients and caregivers confused, anything I could do to help those facing what we’d experienced, I’d do.
So when I was asked to chair the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – North Texas’ 2016 Man & Woman of the Year campaign, I was honored and excited, but nervous (LLS also serves myeloma patients). Sure I’ve orchestrated and participated in different fundraising efforts for other organizations over the years, but this was extremely personal. Two of the candidates were very special to me. They were my husband’s younger brother, Shannon Ridley (pictured above next to me) and his oncologist Dr. Brian Berryman, who lost his mother to myeloma (pictured below). There were eight candidates in total, all of which were heroes in my eyes for stepping up to the plate to fund raise for blood cancer research. The myeloma connection between Shannon, Dr. Berryman and myself had me particularly emotional though, all the way up to the night of the Grand Finale. That’s where we learned how much money the candidates raised during the 10-week period.
The nature of the campaign is suspenseful. The men compete against each other, the women compete against each other, but none of them have an idea of how much the others have raised until the very last moment of the night. The man and woman who raise the most money walk away with the titles. One of the incentives candidates were given was that if they raised a minimum of $50,000, they would have a research grant named in honor of someone of their choice. It could also be earmarked for certain type of cancer if they’d prefer. So to learn that night that my brother-in-law, through the support of his wife and friends, surpassed his goal of $50,000 and that Dr. Berryman did as well and ultimately walked away with the Man of Year title, made me especially proud. Helping those affected by cancer is important to me, but having the opportunity to impact the myeloma community is a passion. Watching what the disease did to my husband just a few years after he’d retired from the NFL will always burn in my stomach and serve as a reason to stay involved.
I’m appreciative of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – North Texas staff, the Man/Woman of the Year committee and the candidates: Loan Huynh (2016 Woman of the Year), Amanda Whitelaw, Leigh Costa, Jeanne Buck, George Meza and Michael Douglas. With this event in the books I’m already looking forward to the next time I can do something special for my cancer family.
Video by Rafael Barlowe
Christian Louboutin opened its doors after hours to host a special shopping night benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas. Guests were served bubbles (champagne) and desserts to enjoy while they shopped. Louboutin donated 10% of purchases back to LLS.
A special thanks to the Louboutin team for helping coordinate this event and giving back to cancer community. This meant a lot to me and LLS!
I had the pleasure of moderating the Mogul Moms panel during the Mommy & Me Dream Bigger Tour that made its way to Dallas this past weekend. The brainchild of Sherrie Walton, she assembled an amazing team of mothers who are entrepreneurs as well as kidpreneurs, young ladies who have started their own businesses. Walton brought them all together to share stories about the experiences and offer advice for other mother’s and daughters who attended the conference.
Guest speakers included Sandra Yancey, creator of the eWomenNetwork, Kim Gagne, Emmy award winning producer for the Steve Harvey Show, Nikki Woods of Nikki Woods Media and the Tom Joyner Show, Jacquelyn Aluotto, director of FUBU TV Socially Conscious Entertainment division and more. The tour is set to continue on to San Antonio and other cities, visit www.DreamBiggerTour.com for more information.
2016 North Texas Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) Chair Kimberly Alexander has been a driving force in the recruitment of the 2016 MWOY candidates and the success of this campaign. Today marks the midpoint of the campaign and Kimberly stopped to reflect on what brought her to this event and what she expects to see in the final five weeks.
Why did you decide to chair the North Texas Man & Woman of the Year campaign this year?
I’d always said I wanted a more involved role in at least one LLS fundraising event, but I wanted it to be the right event. When it was announced that the North Texas Chapter was adding the MWOY campaign, the significance of it meant a lot to me. With it being the LLS’s highest honor (being named the National Man or Woman of the Year), I wanted to be a part of making it successful and seeing it grow. I enjoyed being on the host committee for the inaugural event last year and I’m excited to be chairing this year.
Tell us about your personal connection to one of the candidates this year.
I have personal connections to several of the candidates, but the one closest to me is my brother-in-law, Shannon Ridley. He’s my late husband’s younger brother and I’ve known him since he was 16 years old. Elijah loved him so much and I’m so excited that he’s gotten involved with this cause as a way to honor Elijah too. I have to stay neutral though. I’m super excited about all of the candidates because every dollar they raise will support blood cancer research and ultimately I’d love it if it lead to a cure for multiple myeloma.
What impresses you most about the current group of MWOY candidates?
What impresses me the most is the diversity of the group. I think it says a lot about blood cancer actually, it’s an equal opportunity offender and the candidates reflect people who have touched by it enough to commit to making a difference.
What advice would you give candidates during the final five weeks of this campaign?
Keep spreading the word! Continue drumming up support because every dollar raised is not only a vote, but an additional dollar towards research, all the way up to the grand finale on June 18th! While the title is the ultimate goal, their involvement alone is helping cancer patients and families, and that within itself makes them a winner.
It’s official! The 2016 Man/Woman of the Year campaign is underway which means the candidates have hit the ground running with their fundraising efforts. They have 10 weeks to raise as much money as possible and that will determine who will walk away with the LLS’s highest honor of Man and Woman of the Year.
Join us June 18th at the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas for the Grand Finale! Click here for tickets and table sales! I look forward to seeing you there!
Back in September of 2015 my friend, Pat Killingsworth, contacted me about participating in his annual Myeloma Beach Party in 2016. It’s an event where myeloma patients and caregivers come together to share experiences, fellowship and learn helpful information about myeloma. I gladly accepted and we briefly talked about it when I saw him in October and December.
Pat, like my late husband, was a myeloma patient. He was well known in the cancer community for being very transparent about his treatment and sharing information about myeloma treatments via his blog. In January of this year Pat shared that he was having some health issues, but that’s relatively common for myeloma patients. It’s a roller coaster for those dealing with the disease. Despite not feeling well he continued to post and keep his friends and family up to date. However, he took a turn for the worse in February and sadly, he passed away on his 60th birthday. I was heartbroken because I never saw it coming. I regretted not spending more time with him when I saw him two months earlier.
To my surprise, just days after his passing, I received an e-mail from Pat’s wife Patti (in photo) asking if I could still be involved in their event. She saw my name in his notes and reached out. I couldn’t say yes fast enough! This past weekend she hosted the event, along with several supportive friends and family. I spoke about my experience of being Elijah’s caregiver and had the opportunity to visit with old friends and make a few new ones. On the last night a memorial was held in Pat’s honor…it was more like a celebration of life, filled with funny stories and an outpouring of admiration for his contributions to the myeloma community.
I was appreciative of the opportunity to share my story with the audience, I knew they’d understand my perspective. Realizing after my presentation that Pat and my Elijah both passed from aneurysms really caught me by surprise. Neither Patti nor I knew in advance that our myeloma experiences had that in common. It served as reminder the importance of being open, authentic, and transparent because you never know how your truth may help others.
I’m happy to be working with POWERHANDZ and its POWER TO GIVE Foundation to host a private screening of Will Smith’s movie Concussion for YOUTH athletes (ages 13-18).
Saturday, February 6th.
There will be an exclusive red carpet event, private screening and then a short panel discussion with special guests, following the movie. This is a special night for youth athletes to enjoy a great movie and hear discussion points on how to love the game and playing it safe.
Seats are limited. Please follow the instructions on the attached flyer and sign your team up now!!
Please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By mid-November 2015 I was already ready for 2016. There were a variety of reasons. The first (honest moment time), the holidays in my house are not the same anymore. There will always be a void without my husband. All of that “new normal”, start new traditions stuff is great, it sounds good, it helps, but sometimes you just want what you had because it’s what you loved. Now that my sons are older and the magic Christmas once held has given way to, “I don’t really want anything mom. Money is good…”, it’s just- different.
So I set my sights on all the great things I’d rather focus on this year. My sons are permanently affixed in the top spot, but just behind my role of mother is a new role I’m super excited about. Chairwoman of the North Texas chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 2016 Man/Woman of the Year campaign. It doesn’t officially kick off until April, but behind the scenes I’ve been plugging away with LLS staff and planning committee. Last year’s campaign was a huge success with over $600,000 raised in 10 weeks between the amazing candidates. I was so excited about that accomplishment and then it hit me that I don’t want that number to drop this year on my watch. So stay tuned! I’ll be posting about ways to get involved and talking about this cause that’s near and dear to my heart a lot over the next few weeks!
What’s that saying? “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it?”
Lately that keeps going through my head. I can’t turn it off.
Never been a secret, my first priority has always been my 2 sons. I’ve had to do whatever I thought was best to make sure they didn’t derail after losing their dad in middle school. Honestly I’ve never felt sorry for myself about being a widow, but my children being fatherless now is an odd type of guilt I’ll never shake. All I could do was pray that the time they had with him is remembered and create the best “new normal” I could. It will be a lifelong job of mine. I’ve accepted that.
In the midst of all of that I had to figure out things for myself too. This wasn’t how I imagined life being. My husband and I had plans. But cancer. I learned the rug can get jerked from up under you at any moment. One of the worst lessons ever.
I had to rediscover myself, reinvent myself, and remember not to be so hard on myself about some of the decisions I made. Things you do while feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders should automatically get an asterisk.
For some reason the past few weeks have been a series of lightbulb moments. One after another. Organic connections that lead me to believe that none of it was by chance. Simply put, it’s timing.
People ask me what I do and I sometimes think it’d be easier to list what I don’t do. Technically:
I’m a connector. I intrinsically know who should know whom and facilitate what’s needed to bring them together. The goal? A beneficial introduction for parties involved, business. And speaking of parties, I’ve been known to host private dinner parties to bring groups of these people together…because synergy over a great meal is amazing to experience.
I’m a consultant. People hire me to help them develop business ideas. Branding, social media, copywriting, etc., it goes hand in hand with the connecting part. I love watching someone’s business idea go from concept to fruition with my help.
I’m a cancer advocate. I share with others my family’s experience of life before, during and after cancer. I raise awareness for cancer related initiatives. I fund raise for cancer patients and their families. I want to empower those who can relate to our experience, especially caregivers who are often overlooked. With my late husband being a former NFL player, that adds an extra layer to my story. I feel like I could be the poster child of doing everything by the book, having life turn upside and then getting a lot of on the job training when it comes to the bounce back. It’s been quite the journey.
I’m a radio show co-host. On Sunday’s I get to talk a little sports. The show is The G.A.M.E., Golf & More Experience on FM 103.5… Golf is not my forte, I’m the “and more experience” part of the show. Having been on the “other side” of sports, I gladly offer up my opinion, which is different from most journalist and fans.
It’s last quarter of 2015 and I’m so excited about 2016 it’s scary. My baby will graduate from high school and I’ll become an empty nester. Ready for another leg of the journey I didn’t picture being this way, but that’s okay…
“What are you going to do with all of that dark? Find a way to glow in it.”