Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I'm Unemployed... and I'm Totally Okay With It!

"What are you up to these days?"

"What's next?"

"Any plans?"

I've been asked some variation of these questions at least once a day since The Broadcast was abruptly pulled from the air last month. And I get it. People care. They are curious. They want to know when I'm going to be back on TV (soon would be awesome) or if I've gone back to practicing law (always an option). Naturally when someone loses a job, they have to find another one. I get it.

But here's the thing...

I'm totally cool with being unemployed. It's been a long time since I've been able to sleep in and do nothing all day if I so choose. I spent about 4 hours making six homemade invites for Bryn's upcoming 7th birthday extravaganza - and I liked it. Now that the sun has finally decided to come out in Dallas, I'm planning on laying out by the pool reading a magazine and sipping on a frosty cold beverage... because I can. The end of the school year is quickly approaching and I'm looking forward to enjoying the summer with the kids - museums, zoos, splash parks, Six Flags. Finally... after a very long time... I can do nothing at all. Or any and everything. And it's awesome.

I'm fortunate and blessed to not have to rush back into work right now. What a God send because Lord knows I needed the break. But being in this position is going to allow me to FINALLY work on a book that's been writing itself in my head for the past five years. Football, autism, reality TV, life AFTER football and everything in between... so many stories to tell. And it's time to tell them.

So that's what's next. Get the book done. Spend some quality time with my kids. Sleep in... hell, sleep at all. Do nothing. Or everything.

And that's awesome. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

A Walk In Paris

The scene was set last week at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas for the first annual Roundup for Autism fashion show and luncheon benefiting the Autism Treatment Center. Some of Dallas's local celebrities and movers and shakers took to the runway in gowns designed by my friends Andre and Luis at Binzario Couture. I was THRILLED to participate in the event - we've supported the ATC for a couple of years now and it was a pleasure to work the catwalk.

The ATC provides services to children and adults on the autism spectrum. While there are a handful of national organizations that seem to get all of the attention during autism awareness month, I think it's insanely important to support grassroots local organizations like the ATC who are having a direct impact of families dealing with autism in our communities.

Enjoy the pics! 

A little champagne toast before the show!

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Photo: Stephen Duffy

Photo: Bella Bokeh Photography

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography

Waiting backstage

Photo: Thomas Garza Photography - my friend Jamie rocked my favorite
look of the afternoon.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

7th Time's the Charm?!?

Last weekend, 48 beautiful women took the stage in Corsicana to compete for the Mrs. Texas America title. It was my 7th... yes, 7th... time to compete in the pageant and as with any year, my mission was to bring home the crown. Unfortunately, that just wasn't in the cards this year. And it was disappointing.

This year's competition was a little different because of the number of contestants we had. I think the most I'd competed with before was around 36. Because of the numbers, we had to compete in prelims so the schedule was a bit different than we're used to.

DAY ONE - Rehearsals

My roll-dawg Vanessa and I rolled into Corsicana around 11:15 am on the 16th. We had just enough time to check into the hotel before racing over to the Palace Theater in downtown. We posed for our contestant pics while practicing for the following night's prelims. Good thing we got our pics in early because the skies opened up over Corsicana that evening and there were beauty queens running to their cars after rehearsals trying to stay dry.


More on this pic in a bit...















































My soaking wet contestant number...

























DAY ONE - COCKTAIL PARTY

After I tamed my hair extensions and threw on a little makeup, I made my way through the soggy streets to the Corsicana Country Club for dinner and dancing. Ryan couldn't make it to the party this year so I was officially a part of the single ladies club at the party.



























There was some wobbling going on during the party...

DAY TWO - MORE REHEARSALS/PRELIMS

We were back at the theater the next morning for rehearsals in preparation of the evening's prelims. As I mentioned before, we had to compete in a preliminary because of the number of contestants this year. It was insane having to compete two nights in a row - lots of pressure and stress, but fun! It was pretty awesome to get the first night over.

Rehearsals

Prelim Introductions

Backstage after prelims.

With my girls Lynne and Vanessa.
















































































I rushed home to get ready for interviews and tried to get some sleep!

DAY THREE - INTERVIEWS, REHEARSALS, FINALS

I was up bright and early the next morning for my interview. My call time was 8:50 and I was ready to go. Thank goodness my pageant makeup sponsor Bonnie Benavidez decided to spend the night - she glammed me up for both prelims, interviews and finals. I tell her this every year, but I really couldn't do this without her. Her Avasiare cosmetics are the best!

























Finals were tough. We did our amazing opening number dance then the field of 48 was immediately narrowed down to 20. ACK! They called the first group of ten and dismissed them from the stage then began calling the next ten. 11th... not me... 12th... not me. Then 13 - WOOHOO! That was me! I thought it was a sign! It was my 7th year competing and I was the 13th named called - well, my birthday is July 13th. I figured this was it.

The top 20 competed in swimsuit and evening gown again, then we were narrowed down to the top 10. I honestly didn't know if I was going to make the cut. I was very, very grateful I did.

My Jovani gown from Tres Jolie in Edmond, OK was amazing!

I was the first name to be called for the top 10.

Top 10

















































After the top 10 lined up in the pic right above, the judges took a look at us and narrowed it down to 6. I thought I had a pretty good chance of making it into the next group. While I was disappointed I didn't , I was not surprised about the ladies who did. I went and sat backstage and watched the outgoing Mrs. Texas Whitney take her final walk - it was such a bittersweet moment.

At the end of the night, Melissa Pocza took home the title. She'll be a great Mrs. Texas - she's done it before and knows the ropes. She represents the crown well. I was super-pumped about my top 10 finish but somewhat bummed... there were no plaques this year... no real recognition of months of sacrifice and hard work. But that's okay - sometimes it just happens that way. And I won regardless... let me explain why...

1. On day two of rehearsals, our opening number choreographer extraordinaire Edrienne Edwards reminded us why we put ourselves through this every year. It's not just about the crown - it's about being positive role models for our families and using the platform to spread awareness for the causes we champion. During intermission on finals night, I walked out into the crowd to see my family and friends. Will, completely unprompted, told me I was beautiful. As I wiped away tears, I remembered Edrienne's words and understood in that moment that the crown is important, but there is a bigger purpose being on that stage.

2. I shared this on Facebook after the pageant. I know it inspired other people... and I'm glad it did. THIS is why posting that bathing suit pic earlier is a big deal for me. It's not perfect (at least in my eyes), but a wonderful reminder of what I accomplished to get ready for the pageant.

Four months ago I walked onto the scale at a doctor's office and saw a number I hadn't seen since I was almost full term with Bryn. I was being treated for hyperthyroidism and the thyroid suppression meds devastated my metabolism. Luckily my thyroid levels were finally normal and I was taken off all of my meds.
Four months later with clean eating help from Snap Kitchen and Nanolean I got from Naila Malik, I walked across a stage in a bathing suit 20 lbs lighter; wore a size 2 evening gown; and placed in the top 10 at Mrs. Texas.
This post isn't about the weight loss. It's about reclaiming my health. I fought doctors for six months before my thyroid diagnosis... my instinct told me something was wrong. Doctors told me it was stress. After a year on meds after my diagnosis my instinct told me I didn't need the suppression meds anymore even though my doctor said I did. A second opinion confirmed that my instinct was right.
I hope this post inspires someone to take control of their health. Trust your instinct, eat well, and YOLO... because I will be tearing up some Mexican food tonight! (Everything in moderation)
























All in all, it was an awesome weekend as usual. It was so awesome, I'm actually considering breaking my one-pageant-a-year rule and might compete in another pageant in a couple of weeks. We shall see...


























Mrs. Texas Top 10







































Sending a special shout out to my family and my friends Venture, Stuart and Chad for coming out to support on pageant night. And a huge thank you to my sponsors!!! And I have to share some love with my pageant director Tracy Crist - she did a great job this year. Our official pageant photo Larry Wright always makes us look good too!

Dr. Naila Malik (www.nailamalikmdskin.com)
Bonnie Benavidez – Avasiare Professional Skincare & Cosmetics (www.avasiare.com)
Katie Tellor – Katie Tellor Hair (www.katietellor.com)
Klix Hair Extensions (www.klixhair.com)
Snap Kitchen (www.snapkitchen.com)
Daniel Magoon – Snap Kitchen
Kameisha Getum – Spa La La (www.spalaladallas.com)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

#EarthDay

Several weeks ago I had to the opportunity to do something on my bucket list - participate in an underwater photo shoot! Photographer Jeremy McKane had the incredible vision to unveil an art installation on #EarthDay. I was his Mother Earth... and on a frigidly cold Dallas day, he was able to capture this magnificent image! The art installation was revealed this morning on Good Morning Texas and is viewable at the Main Street Garden Park in Dallas through Mother's Day.

You can check out more of Jeremy's work at www.jeremymckanegallery.com.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Because... Warrior Moms







I am thrilled to be the keynote speaker at the Savvy Women event benefiting Ability Connection Texas. The event's theme... be selfish, take two. Let me explain...

As the mother and caretaker of a special needs child, I know first hand the stress and toll caring for our loved ones can have on us. We spend so much time being selfless that we often fail to take care of ourselves... being a little selfish just isn't an option. But it's unbelievably important that we take care of ourselves - if we tired, sick, depressed, out of shape, lacking hope, etc., how on Earth can we provide our loved ones with the care they need? Finding that balance is incredibly difficult. I look forward to sharing my experiences to inspire these amazing women and give them hope!

The event takes place on June 18th, 2015 at 3015 at Trinity Groves. Registration begins at 5:30 pm with the passed hors d'oeuvres beginning at 6:00 pm. The event will conclude around 8:00 pm. We'll relax, chat and fellowship at this incredible event - please join me!!!!

Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased here. Sponsorships are also available. 90% of every dollar raised through Savvy Women goes directly to disability services for the 1,000+ clients Ability Connection serves every day. Ability Connection's mission is to provide a full range of services for people of all ages and disabilities as they strive to reach their highest level of independence. The 1.4 million hours of care and support they provide every year aren't free, so please come out and help us raise a little money while enjoying cocktails, bites and inspiration!

For more information about Ability Connection, click here!




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Old Stomping Ground

Yesterday I made my way to the former studio of "The Broadcast" to shoot a segment for Drew Pearson's show Drew Pearson Live! It was so weird being back on set but so great to see former colleagues and friends. I was there for an important reason though - Ryan and I were invited to visit with Drew about autism and autism awareness month. We chatted about Will's diagnosis, some of the red flags to look out for and Frisco Miracle League. I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am to have had this opportunity to share our message of hope. The show will air this weekend and you can find times at ktxdtv.com.

And a huge shout out to Drew who signed some memorabilia for the upcoming Miracle League golf tournament!


Monday, April 6, 2015

Autism - Red Flags

























Shortly after Will turned one, my mommy instincts kicked in and I started noticing some "signs" that prompted my autism concerns. At first, I didn't think "autism." It was more of a, "What the hell is going on with my kid?" sort of thing. It was sitting at a fundraising dinner at our favorite restaurant in Buffalo. Every time the crowd started clapping, Will would scream. We finally had to leave the room. Then there was the time I took him to see "Dora the Explorer" on stage. He loved the cartoon - surely the live show would be a treat. Well - it was a nightmare. The bright lights and loud sounds seemed to scary Will. He screamed and cried. We didn't make it through the first act.

In Gymboree class is when I finally started putting the pieces of the puzzle together - while the little girls his age were participating in circle time, Will ran in circles or went up and down the same slide for an hour. 

Something was wrong... and that something was autism.

If you're concerned about your kiddo or see any of these "red flags," talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. And listen - there's a good chance your doc will tell you everything is fine; that your kiddo might just be a little delayed. Trust your instincts - insist that the doctor refer your child for an evaluation. Because... early intervention is key in making sure our kiddos have the best tools for success in life.

Autism red flags: (www.autismspeaks.org)

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age


  • Sunday, April 5, 2015

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    1 in How Many?

    In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network determined that approximately 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 for boys, and 1 in 189 for girls) is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States. 

    Thursday, April 2, 2015

    World Autism Awareness Day

















    Homes, buildings and landmarks all over the world will be lit up blue on this World Autism Awareness Day. LIUB is Autism Speaks' big awareness campaign every year. They apparently think autism is something to celebrate. Well, we light it up blue to celebrate our kid, not autism. Autism can kiss my ass.








    And in honor of throwback Thursday, I've decided to repost one of the most important blog post I've ever written. I wrote this back in 2010 during Football Wives. Someone had tweeted that Will was my karma for being such a bitch. As awesome as my kid is, I must be a saint! You can click on the post here.

    Dawn Neufeld of Football Wives blogs for us every week, giving us weekly behind-the-scenes insight and dishing on each of her show’s episodes. For this special mid-week blog entry, Dawn’s exploring an issue that the show has just touched on: her 6-year-old son’s autism. Via journal entries dating back to Will’s birth and current commentary, Dawn shares her son’s and her whole family’s battle with the disorder…
    September 2004 – “Will is such an incredible gift. He has his daddy’s chin and dimples. He’s completed my life, my family. I never thought I could love someone so much. We are so truly blessed.”
    On September 23, 2004, Ryan and I welcomed our first child into the world – a son. I was induced two days before my due date to ensure Ryan would be in Buffalo for the delivery – the Bills were heading out to Oakland for a game the following week and I wanted to make sure he was home to experience the birth of his first child. Ryan was in tight-end meetings at the facility when I called the training room to tell them it was time. I remember Ryan telling me how excited the guys were for him and how they couldn’t wait to hear the news. Ryan couldn’t have been prouder when Will was born. I’m sure thoughts of pee-wee football games and Friday night lights crossed Ryan’s mind at some point. They did mine. Little did we know what our special little guy had in store for us.
    September 2005 – “Will is so outgoing and happy – he loves to smile. He’s going to have first set of tubes on the 21st though – he’s had seven double ear infections already.”
    Will seemed to develop normally during his first year. He hit all his developmental milestones on time. He was a happy, engaged baby with a temperament like his dad’s – mellow and easy going. He did seem to get sick – a lot. We were at the doctor’s office constantly treating ear infections and colds. One doctor’s solution: keep him at home so he’s not exposed to germs.
    April 2006 – “Ryan and I are really struggling with the fact that Will isn’t really talking yet…”
    I began to recognize Will’s delays when I took him to Gymboree class on Saturdays. All of the other kids would participate in circle time while Will was going up and down the same slide for an hour. I’d listen to the other kids ask their parents for juice or snacks. I was still waiting for Will to call me “mom.” At Will’s 18-month-check up, I was the one who suggested we might want to get Will evaluated for developmental delays. His doctor told me she thought he was fine, but that we’d have him evaluated “just in case.”

    June 2006 – “I’ve convinced myself that Will has autism. Today he was stacking blocks when I picked him up from daycare. He didn’t notice or care that I’d come to get him. When we got home, he’d only stack red blocks. He doesn’t talk. He throws tantrums. Is he just being a toddler, or is this a bigger problem?”
    By the time Will was 19-months-old, he was in speech, occupational and physical therapy for what were being characterized as “severe delays.” I couldn’t have worked if I wanted to because my days were spent chauffeuring my little prince to all of his appointments.
    August 2006 – “Will is not normal. He doesn’t act like a normal two-year-old. I’m worried. I really hope he’s just delayed and that this isn’t what I think it is…”
    When Will hit 2, he still wasn’t talking much and hadn’t made a lot of improvement since we started taking him to therapy. We eventually took him to see a developmental pediatrician who wasn’t comfortable making an autism diagnosis at the time. That was somewhat comforting but we still didn’t have any answers.
    August 2007 – “As Will’s delays persist, one word keeps coming up as a possible explanation: autism. I’ve been so worried about Ryan getting cut from the team – I think we have bigger issues to worry about.”
    Autism is a beast. For people who don’t know what it is, Autism Spectrum Disorder (or ASD) is a neurological disorder that is typically characterized by communication and social delays and is often times associated with repetitive behaviors. It is now estimated that 1 in 110 children are being diagnosed – 1 in 70 boys. Autism treatments are often times not covered by insurance because they are considered “experimental, investigational or unproven.” Some states, including Texas, have passed laws mandating insurance companies cover autism treatment for children, but there are loopholes. We didn’t find that out until we received an insurance denial for over $5,000 worth of speech therapy that we’d initially been told would be covered. The emotional and financial toll autism can have on families is devastating – divorce and bankruptcy are not uncommon as families deal with the condition.
    I was always a little jealous at football games when I’d see other wives sitting in the stands with their kids. I chose not to bring Will to the games for so many reasons – he wouldn’t sit still, the crowd noise would be too loud, what if he decided to fall out and throw a tantrum in the stands. I spared myself the embarrassment and humiliation of people staring and judging me because I couldn’t control my kid. Autism can be very isolating.
    One of the main reasons I decided to join the cast of Football Wives was the opportunity to promote autism awareness and to show what life is like for families living with autism. I was extremely concerned that the crew, cameras, lights, etc. would upset Will. I will say this, and make no mistake about this fact: if at ANY point I thought Will was being negatively affected by the show, I would have pulled the plug. My kids would’ve been off limits. We did have to set some boundaries with the production crew and they were always respectful and went out of their way to make sure our environment was as normal as possible for the kids. Will was amazing during production and even hammed it up for the cameras occasionally.
    Will participates in our local Miracle League sports program, but football isn’t in the cards for him. I always hoped that Ryan would play football long enough for Will to attend a game. That opportunity finally came last year when Will and I flew out to Orlando to catch one of Ryan’s UFL games. Ryan was so excited to finally have his son sitting in the stands watching him play. Will did great too – every once in a while during the game he’d even say, “Neufeld, 88.” The trip wasn’t without drama though. On the flight to Orlando, the passenger in front of us would turn around and glare at Will playing his Leapster game. The man would huff and puff every time Will laughed or squealed with excitement. It wasn’t until I tapped him on the shoulder and apologized for Will’s behavior that he stopped turning around. I explained that I was doing everything to keep him quiet but that he had autism. The man’s attitude changed, and he suddenly seemed sympathetic.
    I have to count my blessings where I can find them – Will is moderately affected by autism. There are so many kids whose autism is much more severe. And on the days in which I long for some “normalcy,” I remind myself that Will doesn’t have cancer or some other devastating disease that could cause him pain or eventually cost him his life. For that, I am grateful.
    We’ve been involved with Garth Brooks’ Teammates for Kids since 2003. This amazing organization has donated millions of dollars to children’s charities. A couple of years ago, Ryan and I were talking to Garth at an event and he asked about the kids. We mentioned Will’s autism and Garth said something that changed my life: “I’ve never thought of those kids as disabled – they are gifted.” That single comment changed my perspective. I learned to appreciate the small things – new words, extended eye contact, spontaneous hugs. Not too long ago, I told Will I loved him like I always do, and he actually responded with, “I love you, too.” Talk about something that will take your breath away – that single moment was better than any NFL paycheck, touchdown or win. As I listen to Will identify all 50 state capitals from memory at age 6 (I can’t even do that), I am overwhelmed with hope and the potential for his future. We still have a long way to go though and will continue to use our story to try to help others.
    This evening as I was preparing to write this blog, I came across a message on Twitter that said the following: “4 some reason wen i see akward lookin couples im never surprised 2 hear their child has a mental disease..like Dawn nRyan lol #footballwives” Shocking, right? Comments like this make me so upset and sad, but I can’t blow up every time someone makes an ignorant comment. I can use them to help spread awareness though.
    For more information about autism, please visit Autism Speaks. I’m always available to answer questions on Facebook and Twitter.

    Friday, March 13, 2015

    Well... shoot.

    I'm one of those people who believes that life is made up of chapters - each one making up the story that we'll be remembered by. The story is only interesting if there are ups and downs... the good and the bad. Well... another chapter of my story came to an end today.

    We were informed after our show that today would be the last live broadcast on KTXD. Shock and sadness were my initial reaction. I mean seriously... it's been a helluva trying week. But as I drove home in the rain, I felt grateful... grateful for being able to do what I love for over a year; grateful to have met so many people and experienced so many amazing things; grateful to have worked with an incredible production crew; grateful to have been home in the afternoons to spend time with my family... the list goes on and on and on.

    I've been ask what I've got planned next... not much at this point. I'll head home next week for granny's funeral. I plan on taking a couple of good weeks off to breathe, maybe do a little pageant prep. Then there's the actual book I promised I'd write in 2015 - gotta check that off the list before I venture back into the workplace. But I know something good is coming... there's always a rainbow after a storm.

    After our last episode of The Broadcast