For more than a decade, I have dreaded Mother’s Day. Why? Because my mom passed away on the evening of August 2nd, 2008. Even though I have been a mom myself for twelve years, I don’t think of it as a day that has anything to do with me.
My mom, Barbara Parker Lewis, was born in Newport News to William Taylor and Ruby Parker. Mom grew up walking to the movie theater, to church and to play. She loved art and ballet. She was bright, lovely and petite – standing at 5 feet 4 inches. At 19 she married my dad. He was eleven years her senior, loved sports, was a fantastic ballroom dancer and employed at NASA. Mom later found out he was an alcoholic and an abuser. By the time my sister and I were born, she was well aware and had to go it alone. Dad was the primary breadwinner, mom felt stuck and simply took the abuse. By the time I was five, I was familiar with where to go when we needed to escape. I understood not to talk to dad when he got home from Bubba’s and had seen far too many tears and bruises on my mom. A good deal of time would pass in between abusive incidences and eventually, the physical ones stopped. The mental and emotional ones never did, however. I grew up too fast! As her oldest daughter, mom relied on me for a great deal. I was also her friend and confidant. I never told a soul what went on in my home. Mom was the greatest Christian I have ever known. She found joy in Jesus. I felt as though she could talk to God, one on one, anytime she wished. She was a prayer warrior and her diligence is why my sister and I got on the other side of our childhood without a great deal of damage. Mom suffered though. The constant stress led to heart issues along with overlapping auto immune diseases. She was in and out of the hospital from my middle school years on. I became much too familiar with the corridors of Riverside Hospital.
On that evening in August of 2008, my husband and I had just gotten home from a friend’s birthday party. Our 18 month old little Anna Lise was fast asleep and the phone rang. It was my dad. He never called me. Dad said, “I can’t wake your mother up.” I told him, she must be sleeping soundly and to shake her a little. That’s when he said mom felt cold and asked me what he should do. I told him to call 911 as I was quietly freaking the hell out. Not more than three minutes later, an EMT from York County called my cell phone saying, “I’m sorry, your mother is dead.” I collapsed to the floor and thought I might die too. She was only 66 years old.
Mom and I talked at least three times a day, she was my best friend and biggest cheerleader. She died in her sleep on the couch in her living room. When the funeral home took her away, I laid in her spot all night with my head on her pillow. At one point in the night, the crystal beads on the chandelier hanging in the dining room started to move making a lovely sound. Shortly thereafter, I noticed a box behind a door in the great room that read “UPON MY DEATH, ATTENTION JENNIFER”. This box contained every, single thing I would need to know. Even in death, mom took care of everything. She pre-paid for her casket, told me what color to get and what dress to pull from her closet for burial. She listed the songs she would like sung at her funeral and what scriptures should be read. Mom knew she was going to meet her Savior and left me with perfect instructions once she did. I made one decision on my own though – panty hose. She always wore panty hose with her dresses and I could not let her be buried without them. I felt it would be fitting to buy her Hanes ALIVE panty hose. So, I did.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom – I miss you.
I love to tell stories, to learn more about people, to grow and help as many folks along the way as I can. On the radio airwaves, my talk time is scheduled in brief spurts on the midday show. If I spit out 30 seconds of something or other between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., that feels like a lot. During a workday, most don’t want to hear me droll on. Research tells us, listeners want more music in that five hour stint.
Enter podcasts! Podcasting allows me to TALK. I get the chance to engage and interview a person or persons for at least 30 minutes. I get to ask lots of questions. I don’t have to keep it neat and tidy or edit my guest’s answers down to short sound bites. It is awesome! It’s not intimidating to my subjects and they never have to be camera ready. At least not TV camera ready. You know I’m taking pictures!
My time in television allowed me the honor of sharing the stories of others, but two minutes was the average time allotted. Podcasts are so much more forgiving. I try to pick interesting topics and ones that are close to my heart. Episode 1 featured the behind the scenes story of my friend Katie Collett. We talked about what life is like as a Multiple Sclerosis warrior when no one is looking. Future podcasts will highlight similar issues, along with some that are even tougher to talk about and others that are informative in the field of health and wellness. For example, only those close to me know I am a vegetarian. The reason is heart health. I will explain in an upcoming podcast.
My goal is to have a podcast posted once a month. I’m still on a learning curve with this thing and would really appreciate any feedback. Also, I would like to hear about subject matter that would interest you, the listener. Feel free to e-mail me. I am at [email protected].
I am excited to have another outlet to share more of me with you and will work to provide great content. Your time is valuable and I intend to make my podcasts worthy of some of it. As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me on this new journey – Mic Drop with Jen Lewis.
This week started the exact same way many, maybe hundreds, no, thousands have over the years….early! Alarm blaring at 2:15 a.m. to get up for work. Only this time I didn’t have to be dressed in my television regalia. I try to never be sloppy though. I wear make-up, attempt to fix my hair and sport something somewhat fashionable. Oh, and I never don flats. I hate them. I do wear them to work out, but tennis shoes don’t count in my mind. Then, out the door with a protein shake and off to play the role of fill-in on the Morning Wave. JLew in for JRo. Jennifer Roberts has been a fixture on morning radio as long as I have. We are both long in the tooth in this biz and she’s a good lady. Spring break calls for her this week, so her lovely co-host, Paul Richardson is stuck with muah. Paul is a local radio legend in Hampton Roads. He has been on the air here for 40 plus years. His voice is smooth and kind and so is he. I got to know him a little better this week and what a pleasure it has been. More on that in a minute…
Morning radio is much different than any other “daypart”. It moves faster, there are more elements, listeners want to be informed and entertained. However, they also want music, for the hosts to talk not too much, but just enough, to be witty, but not annoying. Sound about right? Well, we sure try to be all of the above and more. I do love the challenge. I also enjoy the banter with a co-host, someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to sip coffee with between songs. Paul is not a coffee man in the morning though. He prefers a caffeinated soda. That works too. He is incredibly pleasant considering the five hours of sleep he gets a night.
Now, more about Paul. Gentleman. That’s the word to describe him best. He is a consummate gentleman. Mind you, I have only spent 25 hours in the studio with him this week, but this is my takeaway. He asks your opinion and genuinely wants to know what you think. He does not mind sharing the mic, in other words, he lets his co-host talk. Paul listens and shares, but never speaks out of turn. Oh, and I didn’t hear the man cuss one time! Now, I’m trying to think back if I did – hope not. My other takeaway is how much he adores his wife, Kathy. You know the heart eyed emoji? That’s Paul. He says they’ve been married for a bizallion years and you can see he is still over the moon for her. ADORBS!
I’ll be back to my normal 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m./midday/workday show next week and grateful for the extra zzzzzs. However, being JLew in for JRo for 5 days was both fun and enlightening. I have only been on 92.9 The Wave for a month and a half and so far, it’s a cool ride. The studio, though, is super bizarre! Inside, sits a leather arm chair, refrigerator, toaster oven, Keurig, paper towels and house plants. The walls are colored in painter’s tape blue and covered in pictures of waves (makes sense), staff pics (also makes sense) and one framed print of a goose wearing pearls. I believe a make-over is in the works. Stay tuned!
“Nothing is permanent but change.” (Elbert Hubbard)
For this Type A, stability craving, middle aged gal change has been tough. It has taught me a great deal though – we’ll get to that later. The most recent gear shift is my move to 92.9 The Wave. People ask a lot of questions and by people, I mean even people in the check out line at Harris Teeter! I get things like “Why did you leave television?”, “Why would you go back to radio?”, “How old are you?” and “How many dresses do you have?” I am always polite and just say something vague yet brief. So, I thought my first blog might be a fun way to fill you in if you are curious or just have a minute to read about my saga.
Let’s get started! I may as well begin with why I left WAVY TV-10. That’s the first thing I should clarify, really. I LEFT. It was my decision. I was not fired, I was not asked to leave and there was no drama at all. I loved being employed at WAVY. The team works tirelessly to do their very best for viewers and I am grateful for my time there. I walked away with some very dear friends. The main reason for my departure is I simply didn’t want to work as a traffic anchor long term. That, coupled with the 1:50 a.m. alarm blare, is what made up my mind. I miss the people at WAVY tremendously, but they are a phone call away and I still connect with them on a regular basis.
Now, to the radio question. It is not a lesser media outlet or a demotion. It is still an incredibly viable industry. Just like television, we consume radio much differently than in the past. However, I believe in radio, its ability not only to entertain and inform, but to touch people and support our community. 92.9 The Wave is a perfect place for me to land. It is a fun music format that works beautifully for families, businesses and commuters.
Most wonder why I didn’t go back to 97.3 The Eagle? I sat behind a mic in that studio with Jimmy Ray for 19 years. Returning was not right for me and I am enjoying my independence – so to speak. Oh, and to address the “elephant in the room”, I/we were FIRED four years ago from that gig. The reason? Money, the economy, and business are honestly why. I was desperately hurt and confused at the time. I knew I had not done anything wrong and wanted to crawl in a hole. The Eagle listening family was incredibly supportive and reached out through social media quite often. The more difficult part was local newspaper reporters, one television station, and a media gossip spewer nagging at me for a while. They were looking for me to spill my guts and that’s not who I am. I am pretty private and wanted to be left alone. It also bothered me when my, then, 8 year old daughter was asked at school why her mom got fired. Didn’t see that one coming. Ouch.
I didn’t allow myself to sulk or dwell on being axed for very long. It did help, I had a few job offers right away. Get this, I was terminated on a Monday and on Thursday of the same week, WAVY TV-10 called. I started a month later.
When I reflect on it all, being fired was one of the best things to happen to me, professionally. I had to go it alone. I worked with a partner for nearly two decades and it was time for me to stand up on my own. At first, I only acted like I believed I could, but after a while I owned it and didn’t have to act anymore. I am stronger and a little wiser for it.
So, about the dresses and my age….
Viewers regularly asked where I shop and how many dresses hang in my closet. I buy most of my clothes online because I detest shopping. I tend to say that’s why my husband married me. I am embarrassed to admit I have close to 300 dresses. I know, it’s ridiculous, over the top and they take up way too much space. I only know the approximate count because when we moved, the movers counted them. (Insert face palm here)
The age question? Not dropping that number, friends. I don’t talk age, weight or politics 😊