Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Back... 2012

I love a new year.  January 1st always seems to present new opportunities to make changes, fulfill goals and dreams, to resolve to be awesome and to live life.  A lot of people are anti-resolution - I happen to like them.  I'll be right back in the gym with everyone else on Tuesday - vowing to take off this five pounds I've gained since the Mrs. Texas pageant.  I resolve to write that screenplay I've had sitting in my head for a couple of years.  Time to update my website www.dawnneufeld.com.  I've got lots of goals, bucket list items to start checking off - no time like the present, the beginning of a new year, to start working towards some of these goals.


Of course, I can't look forward into 2013 (13 is my lucky number - it's going to be a great year) without taking a look back at 2012.  What a year it was!  Here is my list of things that will define 2012 for me:

The 2012 Summer Olympics
Team USA represented well at this summer's Olympics.  I love it when a country comes together and shows its national pride by supporting and rooting for our athletes.  From the medal drama in the pool between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps to the women's gymnastics team representing (Gabby Douglas fan here), it was a good run for Team USA!  Our team brought home 104 medals (46 gold, 29 silver, 29 bronze).


Hurricane Sandy
In the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy, I heard a scientist from the National Weather Service say, "This storm will kill people."  Sure enough, when the hurricane hit the east coast in late October, at least 125 people lost their lives and the left unconscionable damage in its path.  The subway system in NYC was flooded, neighborhoods in New Jersey wiped out.  I heard another commentator on the news say storms like this used to happen once ever 100 years.  Now they are happening once every couple of years.  Hope we don't see another one like Sandy for a very long time.


The Space Shuttle Endeavour Heads Home
Who can forget the iconic images of the Endeavour space shuttle piggybacking it's way across the country to it's permanent home in Los Angeles.  I'm sure this was a sight to see in person.




Jerry Sandusky
In "sickest news of the year," former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in October on 45 charges stemming from the sexual abuse of young boys over a 15 year period.  The disgraced coach will spend the rest of his life in prison.  Jerk.


George Zimmerman Murders Unarmed Teen Trayvon Martin
On February 26, 2012, overzealous community patrolman George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.  The unarmed teen was walking back from a convenience store with snacks in hand when Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious man with a hoodie on walking through the neighborhood.  Zimmerman ignored the 911 dispatcher's instructions to stay in his car and let the police handle the matter.  Instead, he pursued the 17-year-old boy and eventually shot and killed him after an altercation.  Zimmerman is facing charges and is claiming self-defense under Florida's extremely flawed stand-your-ground law.  The case exposed racial tensions in this country.  I was invited to speak about the case on Jane Velez Mitchell's show on Headline News.



Junior Seau's Suicide
I was sitting at work when I heard the news that Junior Seau had apparently committed suicide.  Junior's death was terribly shocking and sad - I had the pleasure of working with Junior back in the day when I worked at Rodney Peete's company.  While his death was devastating, it brought needed attention to the plight of pro-football players after they leave the game.  It's still to be determined if Junior was suffering from CTE (it may have been determined but as far as I know, such information has not been released to the public).


Whitney Houston's Death
Many notable celebrities passed away this year (including actors like Larry Hagman and Sherman Helmsley), but none of the deaths stunned the way Whitney Houston's death did.  Whitney died from a drug overdose back in February.  Her passing reminded my a lot of how I felt after Michael Jackson passed away - too much talent, gone way too soon.  I was a big Whitney fan.  She will be missed.


Mass Shootings - Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT
Several mass shootings occurred in 2012, but the shootings in Aurora and Newtown really rocked this nation.  In Aurora, a gunman killed 12 people in a movie theater.  It's crazy to think anything could trump that, but the murders of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown by a disturbed 20-year-old killer a couple of weeks ago did just that.  I cannot seem to get the faces of those little ones out of my head.  I truly hope that our country doesn't forget, and we can enact meaningful laws to try to keep tragedies like this from happening in the future.


Presidential Election
The 2012 presidential election tops my list of the defining moments/happenings of 2012.  President Obama won re-election after an intense and often times ugly campaign season.  This election exposed the divisiveness in our country.  It was the Republicans vs. the Democrats, us vs. them, pro-lifers vs. pro-abortion peeps, the haves vs. the have-nots, the 47% vs. everyone else. 

The election was quite troubling for me.  I was very happy that President Obama was re-elected, but the hate and ignorance I witnessed were mind-boggling.  From terms like "legitimate rape" being thrown around by candidates to the "N-word" trending on Twitter the night of the election, it's clear we as a nation have a lot of work to do.


On a personal note, here are some notables that defined 2012 for me:
Team Will raising over $5,000 for the DFW Walk Now for Autism Speaks


Attending my 10-Year Law School Reunion at UC Davis School of Law


Making Top 5 at Mrs. Texas (winning the Best Interview and Career Achievement Awards)


And probably my greatest accomplishment this year, beating out a bunch of cute young chicks to  Grace the Cover of the DFW.com 2012 Hot Issue!!!


And of course, how can I forget Fixing Will...



It was a truly amazing year and I look forward to what 2013 has in store for me.  Bring it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Well wouldn't you know it...

Another white Christmas in DFW - perfection!  The snow was beautiful, but after five years in Buffalo, I had no desire to go outside and play in it!  Too cold!





Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas from the Neufelds...

Beauregard was busy the last couple of days keeping the kids in line for Christmas...
 
He checked to see if Bryn brought any Christmas party goodies home from school...
 

 
 He had to um, relieve himself...
 
 
 Then he patiently waited by the fireplace to give Santa the okay to deliver the kids' presents...
 



 
And Santa obliged... 


 
 Of course, every gift Bryn opened was "exactly what she wanted."  And Will could care less about his new bike or Nintendo DSXL - but his Cars headphones are a hit.
 



 
After it's all said and done, one thing remains... Merry Christmas from the Neufelds!
 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another great Mayan apocalypse pic...

Have you met the Angry cat?!?  I've become a little obsessed recently and have decided I need to get one of these cats someday.  But in the meantime, I'm appreciating his commentary...

Friday, December 21, 2012

The end of the world is near...

Well, according to the Mayan calendar anyway.  Here's my fun contribution to the hysteria...

Just dance...

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

An Elfin' Update...

As Christmas quickly approaches, Beauregard is getting a little less creative in his shenanigans, but he's still up to no good...

Like throwing snow all over the living room floor...



Spent some time charming the ladies...


And tonight, he decided to have a little festive snack.



The work week is wrapping up and mama elf is going to have some time to get creative the next couple of days... we'll see that Beauregard finishes up strong!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook - my thoughts as an autism mom...

I was on set last Friday shooting a commercial when someone said there had been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
 
An elementary school.  Babies.  Kids around the ages of my children. 
 
A little later, reports started coming in that there were children among the deceased.  Lots of children.
 
Anyone who follows me on social media (Facebook, Twitter) knows that I'm usually in-the-know on the latest happenings and current events.  But last Friday, sitting in a trailer in East Dallas with a dead cellphone battery and no computer, I had to rely on word-of-mouth for updates on the tragedy.  I found myself chatting with the other actors about our family and kids.  When I talked about Will and Bryn, my mind would start thinking about the Connecticut children.  Those babies.
 
When we wrapped that evening, I hopped in my car grateful for satellite radio - I'd been listening to Headline News that morning so news of the tragedy filled my car immediately.  No fidgeting for the right station.
 
At least 20 dead.  Babies.  The ages of the children had not been released yet, but reports were that the babies were in kindergarten and first grade, not much younger than Will and a year or two older than Bryn.  I started sobbing and was instantly grateful for my limited access to the news all day (crying on set wouldn't have been a good look).  My company's Christmas party was Friday night - I had to pull myself together and celebrate the season with my colleagues.  But those babies. 
 
 
Ryan and I sat on the couch watching CNN for a while after we got home that evening.  The number of deceased was 27 - 20 children, 7 adults including the shooter Adam Lanza.  That is the one time you will read his name in this blog - I will hereafter refer to him as the killer as he doesn't deserve further mention.  But the media mentioned his name - a lot.  And they began to mention something else.  Media outlet after media outlet began reporting that the killer was reportedly mentally ill and that his brother had described him as having autism OR Asperger's.  For those of you who don't know, Asperger's Syndrome is described as a high-functioning, mild form of autism. I found it curious that his brother said it was autism OR Asperger's, as if the two are independent.  Wouldn't the brother know if his brother had autism?
 
I immediately took to social media - I felt an urgent and strong need to defend people with autism as the media began to associate the killer with autism.  First of all, autism isn't a mental illness - it is a neurological disorder.  Secondly, people with autism are not prone to be violent.  Violent behavior, especially planning violent behavior, is not a characteristic of autism.  If a child or person on the spectrum is violent, it is usually a reaction to something.  It certainly isn't cold and calculated, evil and deliberate. 
 
Thankfully, I was not alone in my thoughts on this issue.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, tweeted that there is no evidence of a link between autism and planned violent behavior.  Nancy Grace continually emphasized during her broadcast that there is no link between autism and planned violent behavior.  Autism advocacy groups across the country issued statements denouncing the media's emphasis on the killer's suspected autism, as if it might provide us with a reason, some explanation for why this nutcase would go into an elementary school and kill all those babies.
 
If the killer did have autism OR Asperger's, that's not the reason why he slaughtered his innocent victims.  But every time the media mentions the killer's name and in the same breath mention autism/Asperger's, they are attaching an unfair and incorrect stigma of violence to the disorder.  There are a lot of people out there who don't know what autism is, and I'm afraid that the stigma being attached to it as a result of this tragedy may lead to unnecessary discrimination against those on the spectrum. 
 
John Elder Robison wrote the following yesterday in an article published on Psychology Today entitled Asperger's, Autism, and Mass Murder:
 
"Most school shooters are Caucasian males.  Does that mean every white male Caucasian who enters a school is a potential mass murderer?  Of course not.
 
Suggesting a mass murderer had Asperger's is much the same - it may be true, but stating the fact does nothing to explain the crime, nor does it help prevent other crimes in the future.  What it does do -- and this is important -- is paint a whole swath of population - Asperger people - with a brush that says "potential mass murderer.""
 
The article goes on to say that, "There is nothing in the definition of Asperger's or autism that would make a person think we are a violent group... studies show autistic people are far morelikely to be victims of violence than perpetrators."
 
You can read the rest of the article here - it is probably one of the best I've read over the last few days discussing the link (or lack of one) between autism and murder.                                                              http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-aspergers/201212/asperger-s-autism-and-mass-murder
 
It's now several days after the tragedy and while some media outlets get it and are referring to the killer as mentally ill without referencing autism, just this morning Elizabeth Vargas on Good Morning America referenced the killer's autism when asking questions regarding the tragic incident.  This has got to stop.  The speculation, the conjecture with the hopes of explaining "Why?" something unimaginable and unthinkable like the Sandy Hook tragedy happened will have other victims - and in this case, it will be those with autism.
 
Let me make this point to be clear.  I'm not saying autistic people aren't violent.  They certainly can be, as anyone can be.  When our kids were younger, we never left Will and Bryn unattended because we weren't sure what he'd do to her.  For example, if she screamed or cried loud, he might grab her to get her to be quiet.  Any violence we've seen from Will has been spontaneous, a reaction to some sort of stimulus in his environment.  He's never hit her.  His contact with her has never been with the intent to injure her.  So yes, he can be "violent" like any kid can, but not "violent" in the sense of picking up an automatic rifle and using it kill 26 people.  This kid is not violent, he likes giving his sister hugs, and he is on the spectrum...
 
 
Just this afternoon, I read about one of the victims who died last Friday.  Six-year-old Dylan Hockley died in the arms of his special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy who also perished as she tried to shield the child from the hail of bullets.  A teacher's aide was also killed in the classroom - a special needs classroom.  I later read that Murphy's family has asked that donations be made to Autism Speaks.  While there has been no official word that Dylan had autism, his family has said that he had "special needs."   It is quite plausible that young Dylan was on the autism spectrum.  And therein lies an incredible irony in this situation... 

This is not the face of autism I hope you remember...
 
 
This is...
 
 
Remember that.  And let's hope the media spend a little more time reporting on the victims of this terrible tragedy who were members of our special needs community. 
 
Our continued prayers go out to the residents of Newtown, CT.   May God comfort you and keep you during this incredibly difficult time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Oopsie...

Beauregard is keeping busy.  He baked gingerbread cookies one night...



Then he checked out the stockings....


Unfortunately, Beauregard got so worn out from hanging around the stockings all day that he was too tired to fly back to the North Pole to report to Santa (a.k.a. mommy and daddy forgot to move him - oops).  But he was right back to his shenanigans shortly thereafter...

Hanging ornaments on the tree...


And adding admiring his Christmas portraits...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Off the Field Shops at Sam's Club for Salvation Army Families

I look forward to this day every year.  It's the day NFL wives and girlfriends get together in cities all over the country to shop at Sam's Club for deserving Salvation Army families during the holiday season.  Now in it's sixth year, the event formerly referred to as the "Dream Drive" has helped hundreds of families by providing gifts, clothing, household necessities, and gift cards.  Twenty families are selected for each Sam's Club location participating in the event and each family receives up to $800 in gifts and a $200 gift card. 
 
The DFW areas represented today - it's always fun to reunite with old friends and meet some of the new wives and girlfriends who are a part of our crazy football spouse sorority.  We braved the cold this morning with our red aprons and jingling bells to give back.
 
 
One of the best parts about this event is being able to spend someone else's money to provide a wonderful Christmas for these amazing families.  It's so much fun grabbing video games and toys for the kids.  I had a calculator with me but it shut off halfway through my shopping so I had to guestimate how much I was spending.  Sure enough, I was over budget by about $40 - first time I've done that in 6 years!  It's all good though.  The sweet family of three I shopped for this morning will have a very Merry Christmas.
 
Thanks to Sam's Club and the Salvation Army for teaming up with Off the Field for this amazing event.  And make sure you visit the Off the Field website to find out more about the professional football players' wives association. www.offthefieldpwa.org
 



 
 
*Photo credit: thanks Kimberly Alexander and Miesha Jones