Super Bowl Conundrum

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I’ve always been a Super Bowl fan — the food, the commercials, the game (roughly in that order). What’s not to like?

But this year’s different: 1.) I took a killer Super Bowl cooking class at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen to enhance my game day repertoire and 2.) I’ve actually been paying attention to what’s been happening on the field. (It’s been a heck of a season!) But it gets even better… 3.) This weekend my home team is playing!

Both of them.

Therein lies my dilemma: who should I root for? Carolina—the place I’ve called home for nearly 10 years, where I own a house, gave birth, and am raising two boys with my sports fanatic hubby? Or Colorado—my home on the range, where I spent summer days watching the Broncos training camp, about a mile from my parents’ house.

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Cam Newton — what a player, what a smile!

It has been amazing to witness the Panthers’ historic, virtually undefeated season. Cam Newton’s smile and confidence are contagious. Underestimated week after week, he and his team keep slogging away and spreading their joy (sometimes with a “controversial” dance in the end zone).

 

People are dabbin’ all over town. Flags are waving. Skyscrapers are lit up in Panthers’ blue. And I was even charged with spearheading efforts at work for swagger rights in a friendly bet between Charlotte- and Denver-area arts institutions. Professionally, I’m 100% a Panthers girl.

Personally—it’s more complex. I think about my dad and my brother leaning into the TV, transfixed by the Broncos games all those autumn Sundays, when I was growing up. (They still are…) I think of the crazy Denver fans, like the guy who used to wear a barrel—that’s it—to every game for about 30 years. I think of the stunned look on my friend Staci’s face when rounding a corner, she ran smack into the massive chest of John Elway at a local burger joint. And I think about Broncos barefoot Kicker Rich Karlis, #3, coming to visit my brother when he was a patient at the Denver Children’s Hospital.

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The Barrel Man in his signature hat, barrel, and boots (not pictured).

These things stick with you. Fanhood runs deep. And they still bring tears to my eyes. I can’t deny I will always be a Colorado girl.

But now I’m a Carolina girl, too.

It’s nice to have a definitive view on the world, like my nieces and nephew, who are pulling 100% for Peyton Manning, indoctrinated in the Broncos-way by their Colorado elders.

For my Charlotte family, it’s not so clear cut. My oldest son plans to wear his Panthers’ jersey with an orange shirt underneath. And my youngest switches his allegiance minute by minute.

Luckily, there is a bright side to this whole situation: on Sunday, my team is gonna win.

I am a Jedi like my MOTHER before me


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Cue the theme music… here comes “Good Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, with the blue light saver (sic),” also known as my three-year old son. Lately, we can’t go anywhere without that light saber.

This little guy has an incredible passion for all that is Star Wars. From books and cartoons to Legos and mini action figures, he simply cannot get enough. Well, with the exception of the actual movies… which, after several trial viewings, he has deemed too scary.

Even without the Lucas films to reference, he’s memorized most of the plot line and convoluted family tree. Plus, he’s got an unquenchable desire to make-believe. In one favorite game, he pretends the guest bed is the Millennium Falcon and we have to scoop in to save Padmé or others in distress. Other times, he instructs one of us to play Darth Vader to his Luke. It goes something like this:

Me: [with labored breathing sounds] Luke, trust your feelings and you will know it to be true. I – AM – YOUR – FATHER.

Mateo: [gasps] What?! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Then we redo the scene. Again and again. Sometimes it’s hard to share his enthusiasm.

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Even his older brother, age 6½, our Star Wars Lego building expert, is getting fed up. He loves the movies and can’t wait to get his hands on all the latest Star Wars toys but his little brother’s total fixation has become rather annoying.

This got me thinking about another set of siblings in a not so distant galaxy where little sister (that would be me, age 3 in 1977, the year the first Star Wars movie came out) became similarly obsessed with the Star Wars merchandising machine. I coveted the impressive collection of toys my big brother, age 7, had acquired. He seemed to have it all — Death Star, Millennium Falcon, Tie Fighter… and when his Star Wars figures would get a little worn out, guess who would get them?

Yes!

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I loved Star Wars and started to amass quite a collection of my own. Prized possessions included several dozen action figures, an x-wing fighter, a ton-ton which Luke or his comrades could actually ride and the planet Hoth with a built in at-at.

Oh, Lord. Is it obvious that I’m not quite over it all yet?

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Me with my older bro and younger sis, circa 1976.

I’m not sure if my obsession riled my brother’s nerves though it probably did, especially when I cut off the tips of Obi Wan and Luke’s light sabers to make them more realistic and tried to slide Vader and Leah’s cloaks on other, bulkier characters. (He seemed to have a sixth sense that these toys, or at least their non-mutilated twins, would have value someday.)

My parents surely worried that the only times I’d play with my 3-story doll house was to reenact an elaborate scenario in which the resident family hid beneath the removable kitchen floor to escape the ruthless Storm Troopers who came looking for them.

Behavior like this (not to mention my questionable taste in naming my baby doll, “Carwash”) must have led to some serious eyebrow raising but they never let on that I was an unusual child. They let me be me, quirks (especially quirks!) and all. I’m glad for that now.

All of this has left me wondering a few things:

  • Is this all a coincidence or is age 3 a moment when most children fixate on a particular passion?
  • How important is the influence of older siblings or do all children go though a similar phase?
  • Finally, should I worry that my son is obsessed with Anakin and his struggle between the light and dark sides of The Force or is it actually the perfect metaphor for the impulses he’s experiencing now?

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No doubt, my Star Wars youth prepared me well for having two boys. Each time I was pregnant, I wondered what on earth I would do if nature bestowed a girly-girl upon me. How would I handle it? I guess I would have done the only possible thing, dug down deep, marched into the American Girl doll store to buy a brunette doll who could fit a custom-made Princess Leia costume.

Dare to be a Tourist

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Recently, I’ve been tackling a variety of DIY tasks — things like repairing a peeling bathroom ceiling, putting the suck back into a vacuum that had gone kaput, and battling some carpenter bees that have moved into our deck. My motivation has been simple — a personal challenge to see if I could actually do-it-myself and an attempt to save a few dollars in the process.

It’s been strange terrain for me as I’ve never been terribly handy (i.e., probability’s high that I will cause unintentional harm to myself or others when I climb a ladder, grab a hammer or drop a tool.) Yet, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results.

By asking questions, getting help from in-laws or parents, and doing extensive online research, I’ve developed the courage to try. To my delight, I’ve found that I am indeed (as my 4th grade teacher once assured me) lovable and capable.

Thinking about these new challenges reminds me of something I experienced last summer and jotted down in a little, pocket-sized notebook that I’d brought along on our trip to France. Here are those notes — with a touch of editing — that I hope express my new mantra that trying is more than half the battle.

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When I lived in New York, I never had any trouble spotting tourists: they were the goofy looking ones wearing practical shoes, neon windbreakers and staring up at the towering skyline.

I couldn’t help laughing the other day when I found myself sporting exactly the same attire and striking the identical pose. There I was, part of a nature and wildlife expedition,  searching the sky for a “fantastique” bird that everyone else seemed to see.

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Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s ?#$@!!

I started to feel like the legendary Emperor presented with a spectacular new wardrobe of the transparent variety.

Should I play it cool?

“Oui, bien sûr! Je le vois… il est magnifique.”

[Yes, of course! I see it… it’s magnificent.]

Or desperate?

“Mais où??! Je vois rien de tout!”

[But where??! I see nothing at all!]

It’s an interesting predicament. Is it better to try to blend in and pretend we understand or should we ask questions, thereby admitting our lack of knowledge?

The best path I’ve found is to allow ourselves, at times, to be novices — and join the ranks of fellow tourists in the world.

Ever said “yes” to something out of politeness or pride when you really would have said “no” had you known the terms of the deal? You probably regret not asking that clarifying question.

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If we happen to be around helpful, patient people, we have everything to gain. And, if we’re around jerks who don’t want to help at all — good riddance. They’re not the ones we want to be with anyway.

Wandering a wooded path in a small provençal town, I found myself in totally unfamiliar territory. Even in English, I would be lost trying to follow a lecture on birds and wildlife. In French, with layers of precise foreign terminology — patterns, wing spans, habits, and habitats… fuggedaboutit.

Here, it was obvious I was a tourist; I was wearing the fluorescent clothes to prove it. So I went ahead and asked my questions.

The more daunting task is admitting one’s a tourist in what should be familiar situations. That’s what often happens when traveling or living abroad. Exchanging a dress, buying groceries, and simply eating become pitfall-prone treks through the wilderness.

But we have to be willing to observe, participate and ask questions if we hope to grow and become, well…  less touristy.

After all, it’s OK and even wonderful that we do things differently in our respective cultures but learning the codes of etiquette are an important, continual and necessary process.

Allowing ourselves to be beginners, whether the new frontier is birding, building or learning a foreign language, is a noble pursuit. What good would we be if we stopped learning? We’d become stagnant, boring creatures, waiting to wither away.

So, in that spirit, would somebody finally tell me how to properly slice French cheese? And how much is appropriate to take the next time the plateau is passed my way?

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