Zip lining at Tamarack: A Bucket List Experience

 

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Tamarack zip line

Zipping from tree top to tree top, I felt like an eagle soaring high but going so fast I would never be able to spot prey.  While in my fantasy I was an agile winged bird of prey, in reality I looked like a rotating chicken on a spit because I never could keep the line straight as directed and found myself twisting around.  I could only take in the splendor of Cascade Lake and the mountains when standing on the wooden perches waiting my turn.  There were  9 in our group but the tour can accommodate up to 10. The first zip, the tour guide, had to pry off my hands from what he described as the “clutch of death”.

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My helmet is askew from spinning
For safety purposes, everyone is tethered onto the tree platforms in-between zips. The highest perch was 125 feet. The platforms are  sky-high tree houses about 12 feet square with a tree rising through  middle of the platform and serving as the structure.  The tree is partially covered with padding to avoid out of control humanoids slamming into bark and surrounded by tethers to keep the tour group from accidently pitching over the side and becoming a causality of the exercise.

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Tree top platform for taking off.
The correct position is a tucked canon ball with one hand on the zip tether for guidance and the other free floating for an airbrake if necessary.  An air brake means you stick you your hand out and madly grab for air to slow yourself down in an awkward flapping maneuver. The demonstration of this  technique looks like  sky diving without a parachute.  Fortunately, I was never going fast enough to try to stop myself.  On the other hand, if you aren’t going fast enough to reach the landing you are to grab the safety cord so the tour guide can pull you in.  The second zip,   zipping in my own little zone, I didn’t hear the guide shouting at me to grab the safety line.  I came to my senses just in time to avoid an incident of hanging out in the middle of line needing to be fetched in by guides.  When this happens, you are called “fish on a line”.  That gives you some idea of how ungainly a non-moving zipper can become, hanging in mid-air waiting to be rescued. My daughter was on a different trip where a younger member (not enough weight, certainly not my problem) had this happen.  Apparently, it took considerable time to fetch the kid from mid rope back up to the platform.

Trying zip lining was on my bucket list partially because my balance problems have eliminated so many of my challenges I easily accomplished when I was younger. Since one is held up when zipping, I thought I could accomplish this adrenal pump even with my limitations.  I did drag my husband, Pete, along.  At first, he said he would take me to the site and drop me off to do it by myself.  But after shrieking at him that this wouldn’t help me at all, he came along reluctantly. In a bind, I can count on him to hold my hand  and pull me up or down areas I can’t accommodate on my own.  It turned out there was another gracious guy on the trip who kept stopping to help me.  His wife had stayed at home and the guides were top notch and helped everyone.

I would like to report that the next day given my excellent condition I jumped out of bed not feeling anything.  Unfortunately, I am 65.  The next day my body felt like I’d been flung around in a dryer.  I had bruises on my thighs from the equipment and a cut on my leg from the suspension bridge.  One cannot be an adventurer without being willing to take the pain with the adrenal pump.  Would I do it again?  Oh yes.  My bucket list also includes  is sailing over the rain forest in Costa Rico.

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My husband, Peter and I, after our zip line experience with a gorgeous view of Cascade Lake in the background.
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LAX Coach Provides Metaphors for Life and Politics

Metaphor: a symbol of something abstract

The last game of the University of Idaho 2016 lacrosse season was a loss to Boise State University. For a loosing season, however, there were a lot of wins.  The Lacrosse End-of -Year Banquet turned out to be one of the most surprising wins from my vantage point.  This was a season that took great fortitude. Fourteen young men played 12 games against teams in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) from much larger, better funded programs such as Simon Fraser, Canada (lacrosse is the national sport), University of Washington, Brigham Young University, University of Utah, University of Oregon, and Oregon State University.  The U of I ended the season with 10 losses and 2 wins.  But we learned at the banquet, most college teams would not even take to the field without at least 20 players to allow for substitutions. To compete in a major conference with only 14 players and play every game was truly remarkable.

My son, Scott, was recognized as one of 3 seniors on the team. First year, head coach James Courter, talked about Scott’s high energy pursuing a finance/accounting degree, serving as president of his fraternity and playing lacrosse. Coach Courter remarked that Scott has an outlook he labeled “SPA”, superior positive attitude, in all situations.  Courter described how when he first met Scott, he found Scott’s  smiling demeanor somewhat disconcerting.  Courter would be talking about something serious the defense needed to do and he would look up and Scott was smiling.  Courter said by the end of the season, he came to learn that Scott just takes on anything with a smile (not a bad trait in life).

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Scott exhibiting SPA with Coach Courter

 

The biggest surprise to me at the Lacrosse Banquet was not the kudos from the Coach for the team and volunteers but the Coach himself. Thirty-one years old from Florida, Courter moved to Moscow, Idaho for a part-time coaching position just to get into college coaching.  An outstanding college defensive player in the large eastern lacrosse divisions, Courter played lacrosse at Providence from 2004-07 leading his college team to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2004, 2006 and 2007. He earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAAC) Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2007.  Since graduating, Courter has worked his way up in coaching from assistant program director of a youth lacrosse program, to head coach of a high school program, and finally to head coach at the University of Idaho.  His vita tells me Courter absolutely loves lacrosse.  He has travelled across the country to work for a pittance for a team with no funding for scholarships or even the power to get the University to allow them to use the much ballyhooed Kibby Dome during inclement weather.  Courter’s resume also reflects a tremendous tenacity to stay with the sport while climbing the difficult to access college coaching ladder.

Courter is tall, slim, losing some of his hair. He came to the banquet microphone with a slightly wrinkled shirt and tie coming unknotted.

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University of Idaho, firs-year, head coach, James Courter

He is obviously uncomfortable speaking to groups from a podium.  But his presentation was outstanding, not because of the delivery, shaky at best but because of the thoughtful content.

 

He gave the three team captains a map, a compass, and whistle. As we all know who do any backpacking, this is survival gear.  However, Courter is from Florida not the wilds of Idaho.  He never alluded to the true function of the equipment in his presentation.  Rather he talked about metaphors, he had learned from his father.   For success in life, one needs to have a mental map of where you want to go.  But that map needs to be tempered by a heart which serves as a compass.  Is the map taking you in the right direction in terms of your moral compass, the ability to know what is right or wrong and act accordingly.  The whistle can serve two functions; first, stop the action that is not going according to plan or second, alert others that you need assistance.

I spent the weekend reflecting on Coach Courter’s remarks to his captains.   The metaphors of map, compass and whistle resonated for me because of my degrees in public administration and my life-long career focus on government and politics.  I have sat in many meetings where the map would have been much easier to develop and follow if we did not have to be concerned about the moral implications of the plans we are developing.

In my own neighborhood in recent months, St. Lukes Health System, the largest employer in Idaho has developed a master plan over many years to expand their Boise campus by closing off one of the main streets, Jefferson.  The administrators at Lukes have seemed surprised when the neighborhood has raised an outcry about the blocking of a main bike artery and their  failure to ensure the plan was pedestrian and bicycle friendly.  Given the outcry, St. Lukes has subsequently revised their plan, hosted numerous neighborhood meetings and recently sent out post cards to the neighborhood.  But it would have been much easier if Lukes administration had started their plan with not just what is easier and most efficient for St. Lukes (map) but what does the community’s moral compass tell us would be the best approach for serving the East End.  Final decisions have not been made on this issue.  The East End neighborhood was very effective at bringing out their whistles quickly and loudly when they were not involved from the beginning.  The neighborhood protest about the unfairness of not being involved from the beginning was shrill and loud, significantly slowing down the approval process.

We have another example of the map, compass and whistle metaphors in our national government. In the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court was established as the final arbitrator of whose map and moral compass should be followed during any period of American history. The Republican majority in the  U.S. Senate have delayed confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice in the hopes of electing a Republican Presidential candidate who will appoint a justice  closely aligned with their conservative moral compass.  In other words, their map for the rest of the year is delay. During this interim period, the Justices are not able to rule on many controversial issues because they have a tie vote between liberals and conservatives. The fact that the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have essentially negated the power of the court by not allowing a replacement should concern citizens of both political parties.  This is a fundamental violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The Republican Senators are allowing their partisan strategy to interfere with their moral principles.  Without a strong referee, in this case the U.S. Supreme Court, the potential for unintended consequences and long-term harm particularly to vulnerable populations is great.  Right now in our country, there is no one in place to enforce the whistle.

In the end, these three simple metaphors, a map, a compass, and a whistle provide a measure of who we are as individuals and a country. A key question for each of us every day is: How do we develop a positive, ethically grounded future with the ability to ask for help or stop ourselves when we have gone too far?

Bicycling, Bliss in Retirement!

“Bliss” defined as finding perfect happiness, great joy

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My blue tricycle began my love affairs with bikes!

One of my first memories is pointing up at a blue tricycle, with red and white wheels, displayed on a high shelf in a Firestone store and firmly stating to my dad, “That one.  I want the blue one!”  Like most things I wanted, I did get the shiny blue tricycle. That’s when my love affair with bicycles began. The blue tricycle once purchased was stored at my grandmother’s house.  Mom and I visited grandmother every morning for coffee.  We would walk the 3 blocks from our house to hers after my sister went to school.  Grandmother’s house sat on a large double corner lot.  I was allowed to ride the trike down the driveway and around the sidewalks of the house without supervision as long as Grandpa was somewhere in the yard.  A master gardener, Grandpa was always out in the yard.  I can still feel the wind in my unruly hair as I shot down the slopped driveway towards the street.  I became an expert at making the turn right, staying within the property lines, on the walkways and avoiding the very limited oncoming traffic. Down the sidewalk I would barrel as fast as I could pedal and around the corner (no stopping for turns).  With the wind  at my back, my legs  going full tilt, no adult in sight, I remember the joyous feeling of complete freedom!  This is a feeling I have been able to find over and over again when biking for more than 63 years.

I moved up quickly from the tricycle to a small, white bike with orange trim and training wheels.  I can remember the absolute sense of accomplishment as my grandpa stood at one end holding  me up with no training wheels and pushed me towards my mom standing at the other end of the sidewalk waiting to grab me.  But no, the bike wobbled, Grandpa ran along straightening and then I was up and off right past mom!  Oh the joy of personal success.  Like the old saying goes, once you learn to ride a bike you never forget.

From the small two wheeler, I moved up to a blue Huffy, my magic horse. It had three gears, a veritable chariot. Cheyenne, Wyoming, where I grew up, is relatively flat and in the fifties and sixties, quite small. I could ride anywhere to meet up with friends.  I was frequently off to  the library (my favorite haunt), Dorothy’s, Melissa’s or Dodd’s Store for candy.  My only limitations were my imagination and my mom’s permission.

In graduate school at Arizona State University (ASU), a bicycle was my main means of transportation.  I had a elegant, 10-speed, light-weight purple road bike, a French-made Gitane. Gitane stands for gypsy woman.Coming from Wyoming, the glorious, expansive dessert surrounding Phoenix  combined with living alone in my first apartment, certainly made me feel like a gypsy on the run.  Unfortunately, ASU was a mecca for bike thieves and my Gitane was stolen.  I then purchased a burnt orange Schwinn.  It was much sturdier and better made for the commuting I was doing in a large metropolitan area.

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Thule child carrier for biking

The years rolled along and the bikes did too. The most notable change in biking patterns came when I had my son, Scott.  First,  Pete and I purchased a Thule child-bike-puller.  As soon as Scott could sit on his own, Pete would take him out in the Thule so I would have a break.  As Scott got bigger, we by-passed the tricycle route because we lived on a steep hill and busy street.  Instead, we purchased a tag-along.  The tag-along allows small children to bike behind you and pedal (or not depending on the child’s motivation that day).  The tag-along also allows the adult to get in a full-trength bike ride and helps teach children how to balance on a regular bike.

A tag-along allows a child to learn balance and an adult to ride full strengthen

I was never a good enough biker to navigate the hill we live on and pull children up and down.  But Pete, who owns 7 bicycles and might be called a bike enthusiast, has been able to haul children everywhere they might want to go.  I remember Pete was biking with Scott in the Thule.  I was trailing behind. Pete had stopped because he was winded.  I heard a little voice from the Thule shout, “Go, Daddy, Go!  Don’t stop Daddy!”  Pete and I still laugh to this day about “Don’t stop Daddy, don’t stop.”

A couple of years ago, I thought with great sadness my biking days were coming to an end.  I could no longer get up and down the mountain we live on by bicycle.  I had resorted to carrying the bike by car to the many bike paths available in Boise on flatter land.  I found as my balance declined, it was becoming difficult for me to ferry the bike down the hill, unload it and then go for a jaunt. The joy of spontaneous riding was gone.  My bliss had transformed into work and discouragement about aging.  I gave Pete an ultimatum.  We had to figure out how I could ride from where we lived or we had to move to the highly-sought-after, expensive flatlands.  As a mountain biker, the flatlands held no appeal to Pete.  But he did find us a compromise, he found the electric bike. We drove to San Francisco two Thanksgivings ago and purchased a Pedego after test riding it on the San Francisco hills.  It seemed up the challenge of Boise’s Shaw Mountain.

Spring has come–my Pedego is out and about all over Boise.  When I pull in at church on Sunday, many people come over to ask me about my electric bike.  It is heavy and not for the faint of heart because it goes fast, up to 20 miles an hour going up hill.  I fly down the Mountain, taking the side streets to the green belt from the flatland and from there I can get anywhere in Boise. I can go to coffee, lunch, church, shopping no problem. I am once again free from the confines of aging and able to feel my bliss!pedego2

Life lessons: Becoming a Graceful Loser

America is built on a culture of winning as exhibited by the current Presidential race. The over-the -top rhetoric and bullying, we see in the debates and tweets are a direct outgrowth of Americans’ proclivity and appetite for winning at all costs. As Vince Lombardi famously said, Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

I have to admit I like to win.  In my teens, I successfully ran track. I have a wooden box filled with my track medals (now almost 50 years old). In college, I played on the women’s volleyball and golf teams, always second string but at least making the team. My son, Scott at 22 is a senior playing lacrosse for his university team. My daughter, Kayla at 16 played high school volleyball and club soccer until her ACL was torn a couple of weeks ago. I want to emphasize that as parents, my husband, Pete and I  never pushed our children into a sports.  But if a they chose to go out for a team and were selected to play, we expected them to fully engage. During my sports career and  watching my kids’ teams for the past sixteen years, I have experienced and witnessed a lot of wins and losses.

Obviously, one prefers the elation of  winning. Especially sweet is a David versus Goliath triumphant where you unexpectedly beat an opponent who is on par or maybe better than you on any other day but that one special day you happen to win. Unless, the opponent is truly unworthy a win always feels a lot better than a loss. But losses are part of being in sports and an opportunity to learn some important life lessons.

This spring, my son’s man down lacrosse team, (his team has 15 players where most university teams have at least 30) has encountered a number of losses. The small team means large amounts of playing time but no time for rests or to pull out players who are struggling. Given Kayla’s injury and Scott’s pattern of losing games, the past few weeks have provided me with plenty of opportunity to reflect on the values of losing. Losing with grace requires the athlete develop his/her personal skills in composure, reflection, goal setting and resiliency.

1.Composure: to remain calm and have steady control over one’s emotions in a difficult situation.

Team sports are not for the faint of heart. Even at very young ages, large numbers of parents and assorted relatives show up at games to encourage their individual child on voraciously.  As parents, we receive annual written instructions on being positive and keeping criticism of our child, the coach or other children’s performance to our selves. Unfortunately, few parents heed these directives.  Children are berated from the sidelines for poor plays and scolded as they walk off the fields.  I have seen children leave games sobbing. As children transform into teenagers and college athletes the expectations from the crowds grow geometrically.  Winners are celebrities and losers can be booed by the fans and harassed in the media. One unfortunate Boise State University field goal kicker even received death threats for missing a field goal for a conference championship.  A player who is able to develop the composure to loose with humility, wish the other team well for their winning efforts and walk off the field with his/her self integrity in place to play another day is a great athlete and role model.

Given our cultural focus on winning, learning to lose with grace is not easy.  When my daughter, Kayla,  tore her ACL, she was up one moment kicking the ball and knocked flat the next by the opposing team player.  The referee ordered Kayla to get up.  She couldn’t move.  At that point, our coach went out and carried her off the field.  I tried to take her home but she wanted to stay for the game. She told me later at the emergency room, she was really proud of herself because she didn’t cry.  I told her it would have been fine to cry.  She said one of her goals was not to be one of the overly emotional girls on the field who cry about everything.  I hardly think anyone would judge her for crying over an injury but controlling her emotions was an important personal goal. She performed magnificently.  While I can understand the frustration of tears at a hard fought game, teams and fans need to develop the internal control to be good losers as well as good winners. Threats, name calling, and unwillingness to acknowledge the other team have no place in sports.

2. Self-reflection: to engage in serious thought about one’ action

There is nothing worse than a sore loser who blames his/her team mates, the coach, the play calling, the other team, the referees, the weather and everything else for a lack luster performance. The best athletes accept the loss as the opportunity to honestly review what he/she could have done differently and use the self-assessment  to improve their performance in the future.

3. Goal setting: to establish something you want to accomplish with measurable steps to achievement

Based on self-reflection, an athlete’s next step is to establish personal goals for improving his/her performance in concert with his team and coach. This weekend, my son’s team lost a big game to a team ranked in the top 20 in the nation.  My son’s team held the offense to a low score in the first half but were blown away in the second half and never scored at all throughout the game.  In the midst of the second half, my son missed a key, easy pass which led to an immediate goal by the other team.  Even as a mom, who knows little about the sport of lacrosse, I could see this was an error on his part. When we talked about it after the game, Scott was honest in admitting he had not played his best, he had made a number of mistakes and would have to work harder for the games coming up next weekend. My advice was to review what he could have done differently and then shake it off. There is no point in beating yourself up after a game or in life.  But there is every reason to understand what you can do to be successful the next time and take the necessary steps to improve your performance.

There is a great deal of personal satisfaction in assessing your performance, seeking ways to improve and meeting your personal goals.  Arthur Ashe, the great tennis star, explained reflection/goal process as follows; “You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”

4: Resiliency: to recover quickly from setbacks and move forward

Unless it is the last game of the season, you and your team will be back on the field within a few days or weeks. I have seen young athletes and parents become totally discouraged by the need to go out and practice after a loss, even more so after a series of losses. I have seen young athletes quit because they aren’t winning. I have seen athletes of all ages freeze up in fear the next time on the field because their opponent is bigger, better and stronger than the team that beat them the week before. But playing on teams requires that once  the athlete chooses to play they must fully engage win or loose.  This means that regardless of the outcome of the last game,  the athlete shows up for practice, ready to participate.  To do this, week-in and week-out when a team is not winning requires an athlete  to persist in pursuing personal goals and gaining new skills without the external acclaim that comes from winning and  remain steadfastly committed to other team members. In other words, when athletes lose they must be resilient if they want to continue to play the game.  When they become resilient in sports, they will find that their ability to deal with adversity will serve them well in other life settings.

Let’s face it, as parents we have to remain resilient too. I have sat through a couple seasons of soccer without a single win. The seasons where my kids’ teams won city championships were much more fun. One year when Scott played high school varsity lacrosse, he only got to play in 2 games for about two minutes. My husband and I went to every game to be supportive. One game as we were sitting in pouring rain, I accidently dumped an umbrella of water on my husband’s head as I leaned over to speak to him. He said with a smile, “Are we having fun yet?” Actually, my answer was absolutely! To see my children engage and grow in sports has been a gift which I shall never forget.

Early this spring, my son called from college to tell us that his lacrosse team was small (15 players) and really young, mostly freshman. He wanted us to know since we were planning to attend a number of games that chances were the team wouldn’t be very good. My husband and I discussed this over several dinners and decided we would still show up at the games. We felt that the times when winning is the hardest, are also the times when our son and his team probably needed the most support.

Learning to  gracefully lose, provides important life lessons in developing composure on and off the field, being self-reflective, developing skills at personal goal setting and remaining resilient.  These are not only skills to master in sports but key aspects of living a successful life.

John Wooden, famous UCLA basketball coach who won ten NCAA National Championships in 12 years wrapped up how to address defeat in a three simple sentences; “Losing is only temporary and not all encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.”

 

 

 

What Happens When God shows Up—the Pope versus Donald Trump

My sixteen year old daughter had surgery last week for a torn ACL. While she was recuperating, we found ourselves watching a variety of movies.  One of them was “Woodlawn” (2015) based on the true story of  Tony Nathan  a gifted, black, high school football player, who attended Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama, 1973.  Woodlawn experienced federally mandated busing to enforce integration.  The film opens with black and white news footage of buses burning, President John Kennedy speaking, personal stories from black people on the devastating impact of segregation and shots of the huge crowds at Billy Graham revivals. There is also footage of Alabama Governor George Wallace, a Democrat, (demonstrating that idiocy and meanness have no party boundaries) proclaiming,   I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

The premise of the story is that forced integration was not going well at the school until Hank Erin, a total outsider, converts nearly the entire football team, black and white, to Christ. The team’s spiritual conversion subsequently transforms the coach, the school and the community.  Mr. Erin was part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an international non-profit Christian sports ministry based in Kansas City, Missouri. The unseen star of the movie is Christ. The finger pointing up in the movie posters does not symbolize “We’re number one!” as I always thought but “Our Power comes from the one above!”

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The pointed finger symbolizes our power comes from God.

The narrator of movie, the Woodlawn team’s coach, describes Woodlawn as a miracle.

 

After watching the movie, I starting thinking about when over the past couple of weeks have I seen God show up. I pray every day, go to church on Sundays but I am somewhat of a doubting Thomas. I believe in God but am also frequently asking where is He? Upon reflection, I have seen a recent very public instance of God on earth.

Pope Francis denouncing Presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s policies on immigration as not Christian” is a triumph for social justice. Trump’s harsh campaign promises to deport more illegal immigrants and build a wall along the border, may resonate with an angry populous. Remember, George Wallace’s line in the sand on segregation got him elected 4-times. But political rhetoric and Christianity are not the same. Trump immediately fired back that the Pope is “Disgraceful”.   I believe the opposite. Pope Francis represents— grace in action. He cares for the poor, washes the feet of prisoners and speaks out on issues of social justice.

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Pope Francis meeting with crowds in Mexico.

 

No reasonable person could think hunting down and routing out Hispanics from their homes at night, loading up truck loads of Mexicans at gun point in a military maneuvers, breaking up families since children born to illegal residents in America are U. S. citizens, could be seen as Christian acts. The logistics of financing, building, and maintaining a massive wall along the Mexican border are ludicrous.

Trump is a brilliant man. He knows the challenges of putting these proposals into action. Trumpism is an effort to capitalize on the anger many Americans feel about the course of our country.

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Donald Trump is a brilliant man, capitalizing on America’s fear.

This same anger was around in the early seventies with start of desegregation. Status threat is a sociological concept with real life consequences. When people’s lives are not going as they hope economically they feel threatened, angry and find someone to blame and lash out at. The targets of their anger may be minorities, homeless, refugees, but almost always the target is someone less powerful. Current economic inequalities are further complicated by global terrorism. We have become a nation of avengers, security zealots, and foreigner-phobes. Trumpism provides a constant, shrill message to rally the masses rising to a crescendo on Election Day. I am not a political forecaster. I do not know if his tactics will be successful. They have certainly gained him international attention.

 

I do know that Trump’s America is not one of Christ-like service to our neighbors and community. I am not a Catholic. But with the selection of Pope Francis, Christians throughout the world have had the opportunity to see God’s boots on the ground on a regular basis.

I realize now that I started this blog with the wrong question. God is always there. The right question is,  “What happens when Christians show up? The answer is miracles!

 

Denver Super Bowl win provides a reason to party!

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Denver, with the Rocky Mountains in the background is one of America’s great cities!

I grew up in Bronco Land. Cheyenne, Wyoming is only 100 miles from Denver, Colorado, home of the Denver Broncos.  Denver is a great city that I have visited often for entertainment, culture and just a good time. I have been to see a number of Denver Bronco games.  Two games are engraved in my mind.  One was so cold that we wore our ski outfits in order to sit in the stands and we were thankful to have tickets. The other was a lovely fall day. We were sitting in bleachers in the end zone with a group of friends. When I turned around, the lady behind me was wearing giant orange balls with the famous stallion and BRONCOs engraved on them as earrings  The balls were at least six inches in diameter. I remember just staring and saying nothing. The lady, who had clearly been drinking, looked at me and asked belligerently , “What are you staring at?” I thought “Gosh, I’m going to get into some kind of fight if I’m not careful.” So I responded carefully, “I am just admiring your earrings.  They are truly lovely.” One of my girl friends, sitting next to me, snorted into her hand. That Christmas, the same girl friend gave me a pair of big, gaudy, orange Bronco earrings which I have cherished for many years.  I never wore them but they remind me of long-term friendships and savoring a beautiful fall day with friends watching a football.

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Denver Bronco Logo

 

This year with the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl facing the Carolina Panthers, my family and I hosted the Super Bowl party. We had  Super Bowl Turkey Black Bean Chili, corn bread, fruit and green salad, chips and dip, brownies, and chocolate torte with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Our guests included teenagers, neighbors from down the street, long term friends and family and a variety of dogs and cats.

As my husband says, “The game was a slog.” A Denver coach described it as “grinding” one more win out. Let’s face it, the only “Super” out on the field playing was the Denver Defense.  The face of the defense was Von Miller, MVP for the game.  But at our house we still had a great time.

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Lady Gaga rocking the National Anthem

Lady Gaga, shining in a sparkling red pants suit and eye make-up singing the National Anthem as the Air Force jets buzzed the stadium on a glorious day in Santa Clara, California reminded me of all the gifts I have living in America.  Apparently, all the women across our great land watching the game noted that the referee was in good shape for an older guy.  Social media tweets suggested conversation about his physique might have been the most interesting part of the game.

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Referee Clete Blakeman keeping female fans tweeting.

 

We kept track of our favorite advertisements. Several of us had viewed previews before the game.  The Doritos ad with the baby reaching for his dad’s chip was our hands down favorite.  I think we will giggle about it together  for many years to come–one of those memories you savor and keep alive to relive good times. We also liked the singing sheep in the Honda Ridgeline commercial, though I kept calling them goats. I have to admit we’ve been talking about the new Ridgeline before the game so we may be biased. The  Marmot advertisement struck a cord with us.  The marmot was cute and generally we like talking animals (though we were kind of grossed out by the puppy/monkey/baby thing) .  Several of the women in our viewing group are of an age, where we might have said on a date, “I’m not that kind of girl!” We had a dashhound in our viewing audience so, of course, the Heinz ketchup advertisement with the dogs dressed in buns was a big hit.  The Prius ad that started with a stolen car and transformed to  a Prius police vehicle was engaging.  We bought a jeep this fall to meet my dream of having a convertible so the pictorial history of jeep in action pulled at my heart strings.

The half time show did not disappoint. Cold Play was over-shadowed by Bruno Mars and Beyonc’e .  I have seen Beyonc’e live and she puts on a fabulous show, dancing and singing at a high energy level throughout.  She certainly dominated this year’s Super Bowl show.  By doing so, she brought the concept of empowered professional women of color into living rooms of millions of American, a positive image for lots of teenagers and little girls across America.

Beyonce at Superbowl
Beyonc’e stealing the half-time show while empowering young women across the nation.

 

In the end, the two big winners were Peyton Manning and the NFL. All the Denver fans wanted Peyton to end his career on a win.  Now let’s hope he has the sense to retire while he is ahead.

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning,

The NFL, facing all kinds of negative publicity about concussions and domestic violence, capitalized on a huge viewing audience by showcasing children born nine months after a team won the Super Bowl.  I imagine the parents of those children are seriously considering whether or not they will let them play football.  In fact, Super Bowl 50 did not attract a record breaking number of viewers.   We may look back and mark 2016 as the year that the number of  Super Bowl TV viewers started declining because of national concerns about the sport. Twenty years from now, the Super Bowl will probably not be the uniquely American sport that it is today.  Soccer is on the rise in this country and is certainly the “football” of the world.

 

But for one glorious Sunday afternoon in 2016, the Bronco fans in my living room shared fun, laughter, friendship and good food. We all left happy when the game wrapped up Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10.