Philly Special


Logan Square, Philadelphia, February 8, 2018

I was struck by many things yesterday as I attended the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Victory Parade in the City of Brotherly Love. Chief among them is the power of sports to unite so many people from disparate backgrounds into a palpable presence of love. I have to admit I had my own preconceptions about the city and its fans as I came to the parade as part insider but part outsider, too.


My husband grew up in the Philly suburbs and has always been a devoted Eagles fan, despite our residing in Washington Redskins territory for the past 28 years. Sometimes a local team slowly works its way into a fan’s heart, but my husband’s loyalty to the Eagles has never wavered. I knew that there was no way that he would miss returning to Philadelphia for this historic moment.


I, however, grew up in a small south central Pennsylvania town with no clear team loyalties. There was definitely support for Philadelphia’s sports teams but the local fandom also stretched west to Pittsburgh and south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I would spy Ravens banners and Redskins flags as well as Eagles and Steelers gear upon visits to my hometown. So, although I have supported the Eagles, I must admit to not having the true passion of a die hard Eagles fan (like this guy in search of a great view of the parade).


With that in mind, I felt some trepidation about venturing into center city Philadelphia along with the projected two million other people descending on Broad Street. It would be cold. It would be crowded. There would be porta potties but maybe not enough of them. The crowd might be raucous, dangerous even. Don’t tell epic Eagles speech-giver Jason Kelce but I was told to bring my health insurance card with me in the event I got hurt by the vicious Eagles fans and the denizens of Philadelphia. Visions of terrorist attacks in Boston and New York lingered in the back of my mind. All of that left me feeling that I may be safer sitting this one out.


20180208_110053.jpgFortunately, my sense of adventure kicked back in and off on a sold-out Amtrak train from BWI to PHL we went. I had to settle for wearing my collegiate Penn State gear (awfully close to the vanquished Patriots team colors) because I don’t own any Eagles garb. I learned the lyrics to Fly, Eagles, Fly on the train on the way up because I didn’t want to be the only one standing in a sea of green who couldn’t even sing the fight song.


The moment we stepped out of 30th Street Station we were hit with our first of many E A G L E S  EAGLES cheers! It was an awesome start to a day I will always remember. Yes, it was cold but the sun hitting the steps of The Franklin Institute kept us warm. Yes, it was crowded but in a fun way. Logan Square was like one gigantic block party. The crowd was spirited but in no way destructive. There were young people dancing and throwing footballs in the blocked off street. There were little girls dressed in green tutus playing on the steps. There were babies and toddlers wearing Eagles clothes. Dogs on leashes were looking for errant treats. Planes flew above us writing “PHILLY PHILLY DILLY DILLY” in the clear blue sky. There was music blasting on the loudspeakers while the jumbo screen on the square projected scenes from the parade. There were classic songs that I knew the lyrics to and songs that everyone under 30 knew every single word to that I have never heard.


There were people of all ethnic and religious and social backgrounds, all shapes and sizes. I’m sure there were Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between. Whatever their background, it didn’t matter one bit when a random person started with E  A – the whole crowd stopped what they were doing and finished the cheer.


I genuinely felt love in that city yesterday. People were kind and friendly. Hard-working cops and sanitation workers were smiling and answering questions and giving directions, even as the day turned into night. We met a grandmother in from Delaware by herself and a grad student who flew in from the University of Wyoming to attend the celebration. We even witnessed a marriage proposal in front of the crowd and heard about a fan traveling to the parade to spread their loved one’s ashes at the event.


Love, in all its glorious and messy forms, was truly on display in Philadelphia yesterday and the thing that brought the city together was sports in general, Eagles football in particular. Say what you want about football, about its scandals and the legitimate health risks to its players, I haven’t witnessed anything else close to what I experienced yesterday in terms of unifying a city.  The National Anthem controversy may have taken a toll on the NFL’s popularity but there wasn’t a dry eye as most of the city of Philadelphia belted out Fly, Eagles, Fly together.


Yes, maybe we should be able to unite for something more “serious” than football and lots of people do, but right now I am so grateful to have soaked up that love and joy yesterday. It is something we all need more of in our society. As we boarded our train home last night with one last slightly hoarse EAGLES cheer, my hope is that the city of Philadelphia and all of us who experienced her brotherly love yesterday can take that spirit back home with us and share it wherever we are. It may be “only football” but I for one am glad to take it. Thank you, Philly, you are special.


New Year, New Czechoslovakian Me


As January 1 came and went and the Chinese New Year approaches, I struggle with the whole “New Year, New Me” idea. At this point in my life, I don’t see how I can reinvent myself, either physically or emotionally. Appearance wise, I have been thin and not-so-thin. I have had straight hair, curly hair, long hair, short hair, brown hair, red hair (with dyed eyebrows to match) blonde hair, and for my 50th birthday trip to Vegas…pink hair. If I was in one of those spy thriller movies where the female character has to drastically change her look, I would have to practically shave my head to do something I haven’t already done.



But change isn’t just about looks, is it? There is all of that emotional growth one gains upon stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. And step outside is what I did most of the last decade. I started with my martial arts journey from watching my kids at karate to training in kickboxing, karate, jiu jitsu, boxing and a little Krav Maga thrown in for good measure. I honestly did surprise myself and a few sparring partners to find out I am a natural “brawler” as my Golden Gloves boxing coach told me (one of my proudest moments).

I also explored my more soulful side with yoga and my more expressive side with zumba. I ziplined over treetops and ran through obstacles and crawled Army-style under barbed wire through mud pits for fun. In short, I tested my boundaries and was exhilarated each time I passed one. 



For most of my 40s, each year produced an ever more daring “new me.”

That change all came to a crashing halt when both of my parents passed away as I was turning 50. The air left my balloon and I was left feeling suddenly much older than my true age. I lost my fighting spirit and turned to my husband and children for love and healing. I spent more time reading and thinking about faith and love and what the rest of my life might look like. I also spent hours looking through boxes and more boxes of photos from my parents’ lives. I became curious about family roots in a way that I think only people feeling bereft of family truly do. I submitted a DNA sample to and my results gave me a new little spark in life.

I am part Czechoslovakian! For some reason, this changed my internal view of myself. For not only do we want to project a “new me” to the world, we want to feel new inside, which gets harder as we get older. My family lore had led me to believe I was 50% Irish, 25% Polish, and 25% Lithuanian so I always knew I had roots in Eastern Europe. Despite this knowledge, I related more to my mother’s Irish ancestry. Aside from a few ethnic dishes, including the stuffed cabbage dish of halupkies, most of my self-indication was Irish. My mother sang Toora Toora Looral to me as a child and I, in turn, sang the Irish lullaby to my own babies. I also grew up around my mother’s five siblings who epitomized Irish good looks and charm. I remember meeting great aunts and second cousins on my mother’s side of the family, which I got to know better than my father’s side.

So I was surprised that according to Ancestry, my Eastern European background is 51% of my DNA with 40% coming from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Census information would have me believe that both my paternal grandparents’ families were from Czechoslovakia, which was never mentioned once to me.

It may simply be the result of shifting borders in Eastern Europe but the fact that my grandfather was listed as being born in Czechoslovakia makes me want to learn more about my neglected Eastern European heritage. Sometimes, the best way to feel new is to explore the old.