Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Power of Redemption.

I had not planned to write about this. Truth be told, I was surprised by the number of people in my life that seemed to want me to weigh in on this topic, and that more than anything has driven me to write this column. Rest assured readers that the twins did awesome at their first week of Kindergarten, and everyone has done well with the transition. I’ll get back to that story, but at the request of a surprising number of readers, here is what I have to say about Michael Vick.

Regular readers of this space know that I am a Philadelphia sports fan. I love my teams, and that never wavers. My teams are a part of my heart, and matter to me more than most people would find palpable.

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Michael Vick this week, and he will start training with the team today, Saturday August 15. His signing was shocking to me as an Eagles fan. They have typically shied away from pretty much anything that is controversial in the years that the Lurie family has owned the team.

But they have signed him. He has said many of the right things, and the team has said many of the right things. But the debate continues.

I have a friend that recently told me that she thinks it is “Disgraceful” that the Eagles signed him, and that Vick “should never be allowed to work again.” There are a lot of Eagles fans that are being critical of the move for reasons ranging from “It could create a quarterback controversy” to “what happens when he screws up?” I don’t know what will happen in regards to all that. I don’t know if Michael Vick will matter to the Eagles as a player, nor do I know if he will matter as a person. Time alone will tell.

But I do have something to say about this situation:

I believe in the power of redemption and I believe in second chances. I’m less committed on third chances, truth be told. Just wanted to put that out there.

I truly believe that the Eagles stepped way out of their comfort zone, something I have become intimately familiar with over the last two years, to make Michael Vick a part of their team for two reasons: one-they feel he can contribute to the team, but more so, two-they feel that he is not only ready for a chance at redemption, but ready to be an agent for positive change.

My wife has worked for years in the prison system, so I am most assuredly biased towards the power of redemption. Vick spent almost two years in Leavenworth, and I can tell you without hyperbole that he did hard time. Leavenworth is no joke at all. Trust that.

He is in a position to do what we always want our fallen icons to do. We always want them to rise from the ashes after they have fallen. Don’t get me wrong-I thought he was overrated as a player when he was with the Falcons, and got a great deal of pleasure out of watching him get beat up by the Eagles when they played, especially in the NFC Championship that led them to the Super Bowl in ‘04. But, if Elvis hadn’t died on the toilet, wouldn’t he have made a great spokesman for the evils of drugs? Or Layne Staley? Or Kurt Cobain? Wouldn’t they have had the chance at redemption?

And in the end, I could go on, and list other sports figures and other celebrities that have screwed up and gotten another chance. Ted Kennedy? Chappaquiddick? He’s now seen by many as the pillar of the Democratic Party.

Whatever. What Michael Vick did to the dogs he was responsible for, and what he did not do to protect them was criminal. The manner in which he conducted himself during much of the investigation was criminal also. And the caught him on it. And he went to prison. Leavenworth. A real prison.

Regular readers of this space will know that I had a dog, and loved her with all of my heart. I miss her every day, and what Vick was a part of is extremely distasteful to me. I’ve watched the interviews with him over the past 24 hours, and have observed the same seemingly contrite and remorseful young man that many of you have. I hope for his sake and that of my team that he is indeed that young man who is ready to become an agent of change. I really do.

I’m reminded of my favorite parable in the Bible, and I’ve taken some heat from some friends for referencing this as part of the Vick story: In the Gospel of John, there is the story of a woman who is accused of adultery and the religious leaders of the time bring her before Jesus in the temple to force him into a situation where he will be forced to either allow her to be stoned according to “the law” or defy the law of Moses. Jesus ignored them for a while, and then he tells that that “he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” And they all leave. Jesus is then left alone with the woman, to whom he asks, “Is there no one here to condemn you?”

She replies, “No one, Sir.”

And Jesus answers, “Neither to I condemn you--Do not sin again.”

That passage has always been very much at the heart of how I feel as a spiritual person. It was that simple for Jesus to forgive the woman-who am I to make it more complicated? I am not a perfect person, and I am more than ready to give someone a second chance when they are truly asking for one. I don’t know Michael Vick, but I hope he is genuine in his request, as myself, and

I would imagine the mass of Eagle fans will toss him to the curb as fast as week-old Scrapple if he fracks this up. It’s up to him.

I think that the people who are saying he should never be allowed to hold a job again should take a look at their lives and decide for themselves where the anger generates from.

If forgiveness is within one’s power, who are we to deny it when truly and genuinely sought? Whether or not Vick turns out to have been worth the chance the Eagles have taken with him is for time to decide. But he deserves the chance at redemption, just like you and I would. That's what I think anyway.

What he does with this chance is up to him.

Monday, August 10, 2009

On the first day of Kindergarten...

The alarm at 6am was as unpleasant as I expected it to be, yet not as horrible as I might have thought possible. Just one more thing to get used to,

The twins were awake and smiling within ten minutes, and wheels were up a few minutes after 7am, with all three kids and the wife in the van. We made it to school with plenty of time to spare, which allowed for a quick visit to the potty (our old nemesis) and a chance to view the cafeteria, which the Boyo was curious about.

Copious amounts of photographs later, the kids were on their way to their classrooms, which are right next to one another, and their teachers, both of whom were happy to see them.

There were no tears from the kids, and none from me. I’ll leave it there.

The wife and the little bear and I stopped by the PTA’s “Boo-hoo Breakfast” which they hold for the Kindergarten parents. It’s really just a chance to introduce the parents to the PTA and the volunteer coordinator, and the counselors and the vice Principal, etc, but it was very nice. The invitation read “Whether you’re shedding tears of sorrow or tears of joy, you’re welcome at the boo-hoo Breakfast.” Bear liked all the food, and let everyone know with a series of spectacular belches that would make her Godfathers proud.

Upon leaving campus, the wife and I did something I don’t believe we’ve ever done: we took the bear to a park together by herself. We had the run of the place, and she was in her glory-having both of us and a playground all to herself…it was fun.

I went back to school to help out with the Kindergarten lunch period, which was fun, and watching my twins walk to the cafeteria in a line, single file, with their classmates, and smiling, was quite enough to reinforce to me that we made the right decision in sending them to Kindergarten. Lunch for them was a delightful medley of chicken fingers, brown rice, a roll, canned peaches, and a small salad. Choice of chocolate or regular milk. Portions of it were eaten and enjoyed. The twins sat together.

They had a brief time on the playground after lunch, too brief by the boyo’s estimation, but he did get on line with his classmates to go back to class, and my time helping out was done for the day.

When I got home, the wife and bear were doing fine. So, I took a nap. It was spectacular.

When I picked the twins up from their classrooms, they had made a large paper schoolhouse. The girl had a photo of herself pasted inside, and a picture she had drawn of herself and her little sister. The boyo drew a picture of “the monkey bars” and had written his name. It was pretty impressive stuff.

They’d made some new friends. The girl said that she played with one kid during the day, and when I asked “What was her name?” she replied, “It was a boy, Daddy…and I don’t remember his name.” The boyo has a nice young man who sits next to him, and apparently they got along very well as well. I saw them both play nicely with one another and other kids on the playground.

Good reports from both teachers. They are excited to go back.

When we got home we settled into the inaugural edition of “Homework Time” with mixed results. The girl was excited about it and completed both Monday and Tuesday’s homework. Her brother did the first part of Monday fine but was less interested in part two, so it took a little work. The wife worked with him on it, after I took the girls upstairs, as they were distracting him, and he got it done.

Dinner, bath, books, bed by 6:30. It was a really good first day. And so it begins.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

‘Twas the Night before Kindergarten…

The kids are all in bed now and a 6am wake-up call is in the cards for all of us. Time it was the twins had to be at preschool by 8:30 am, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tomorrow starts a whole new routine as we all step into a slightly larger world.

I’ve very rarely had to wake any of the kids up in the morning. Typically, the twins get up and play in their rooms or with each other for a while, and then we all kind of meander down to breakfast. This summer in particular, we’ve been very flexible in the mornings, and it has been really nice. We had some structured activities this summer: a lot of time at the library, the summer movie series at the Cannery, the Zoo, the Discovery Center, the Water Park, the Pool, the Parks, Vacation Bible School, playgroups, etc. We had a lot of fun all summer, but once we decided to enroll the kids in Junior Kindergarten, the end of the “Summer break” loomed for me in a way that it never has before.

I wrote extensively about the decision to send the kids to Kindergarten and some of the emotions involved in the last column, so I won’t rehash it all here. I’ve come to some peace about it all, and realize that I can’t keep them to myself anymore. But the coming change is really the most dramatic one that we as a family have faced since we moved here to Oahu almost two years ago.

All three kids are excited. We got to visit the school and meet their teachers on Wednesday of last week. The teachers met individually with each child and tried to get a grasp of who they are and what they know, so as to help tailor their experiences in the coming year. They got to sit at their desks and both kids had a blast. Little Bear is excited for them, and of course wants to go too, but she and I will be embarking on a series of “Adventures” once the twins settle into their new routine. I’ve never really had the chance to walk around with just one kid before. Should be interesting as I’ve had pretty limited time one on one with her in the last 2 years. I really can’t imagine what that will be like, but I’m looking forward to it a great deal.

The twins are ready, much more so than the wife and I were at first. I know that they will face challenges along the way, but who among us didn’t in school? My own challenges in school were quite notable, especially from Kindergarten through Grade eight. I hope they do better than I did, to say the least.

Everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do with all of my new “free time.” I just don’t see how I’m going to have any-I mean, the twins already have homework and the first day is tomorrow. I got the email tonight from the boyo’s teacher with his assignments for the week. As a retired teacher myself…I totally popped on that. Remind me of all the summer reading papers I used to make my kids do. Miss those days…

But I digress. I wanted to post this in anticipation of another column in the next day or so regarding their first day at school and how it all went. It’s been over a month since my last post, but we’ve been a little busy. We’ve gone a lot of places and done a lot of things, but more than that, we’ve just spent time together as a family. “Pinky Dog” has had at least 15 Birthday Parties. “Baby Ruff-Ruff” has had several sleepovers and picnics with pretty much everyone. The kids went on a huge Dr. Seuss kick. The boyo has built a series of transit systems with his tracks, cars, and trains that would be a grand improvement over the trafficy mess they have here on Oahu. They played together a lot and I think they will continue to do so once school starts. I was worried about that for a while, that they wouldn’t want to as much. While I’m certain there will be adjustments over the coming months and years, I think at least for now, all three of them just have too much fun together for that to change overnight.

So, the sun is down in Oahu and my kids are asleep. It’s a big day tomorrow and they are excited. I knew then wouldn’t stay little forever, and I’m really grateful for the last two years where I’ve been able to be with them as I have. Of course, I imagine I’ll still be seeing quite a bit of them even at school: as a newly minted member of the PTA, as well as a registered volunteer for the school, I’m pretty sure our paths will cross. I’m looking forward to being on the other side of the school-parent relationship after the years as a teacher and administrator.

I consider it a promotion.

I hope to post an update in the next few days. Thanks as always for your readership and for your comments both public and private.

And away we go…