Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miriam's first Thanksgiving/ Stu's first birthday as a daddy

Miriam's first Thanksgiving:  The picture above pretty much says it all for me.  A little turkey with--well a bigger turkey.  Ha.  God has blessed me with so much that I don't deserve.  And those two right there top my list whenever I'm counting my blessings.

Stu's first birthday as a daddy.  Hmmm.  Well on this birthday as on all of his other birthdays as well,  Stu was unbelievably annoying.  Most of the time, being married to the most content person in the world is awesome.  But---not on his birthday---when there is absolutely nothing you can give this man.  "Just get me a nice card."  "I have everything I need.  I have you."  Awww sweet right?  No.  Save it, I say---and save me while you're at it---from wandering through the world of retail cluelessly and in a state of panic as I search for the perfect gift that just doesn't exist.  So, after a few years of this, I've kind of given up.  And--this is what I settled on this year:

That's right---Animal PJs.  You're so welcome, my dear.  And now--maybe by the time your next birthday rolls around---you can come up with something you might like more than Muppet Pajamas.  I know,  I know--I've set the bar high.  But, somehow, I think you'll manage.

Stu's birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year---and all joking aside---it was lovely.  And I do understand where Stu's coming from.  We really don't need anything right now.  The time that we have to spend together is a gift in itself.  And I know that I'm unbelievably blessed to have married a man who is just happy to be with me and to be with his daughter---who doesn't need or want to sit around and wish for a million things he doesn't have.  I thought about this a lot as we celebrated this year--- and somewhere in the vicinity of my heart---happiness and love linked together in a palpable warmth.  Still--dear--don't get any ideas from this---just keep in mind....there are other muppets besides Animal.....and none of them "rock" quite as much as he does.

And I have to mention--the guy on the right at the end---totally reminds me of Steve (Stu's dad)  Ha ha---Kay--pass that one on for me.     :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where are my magic powers?

    I always thought that mothers had magical powers.  It always seemed that my mother had them.  Spotless house at all times, the uncannily accurate sense which allowed her to easily see what shouldn't have been readily visible, homecooked meals after teaching high school kids all day, the ability to make time seem plentiful when it was most certainly stretched thin, laughter and wisdom that seemed to be spun out of the air......  And I'm not sure I ever really gave her credit for all of this---because I thought---that's what a mother is---when you become a mother---you automatically receive these magical powers.  You become Donna Reed---or in my mom's case---Donna Reed with a job.  It isn't something you expend effort to become--it's just something you are---involuntarily.  So--now I'm a mother--and I can't help but wonder---where are my magical powers?  And why am I still kind of an idiot?  As my friend Meghan would say--What the hey, man?

Confession time:

Sometimes---when I've been spit up on for the fifth time---rather than change my shirt---I just turn it around backwards. 

Just yesterday---it appeared that our  bedroom had literally exploded---leaving debris in the form of laundry for as far as the eye could see.  My comment to Miriam---"Oooo, wait till your daddy sees this....you are going to be in so much trouble!"  Except--she's too little for me to start blaming her for stuff.  She knows it too--cause she just laughs---the little turkey.

The poop--the spit up---the sticky milk mouth---all the stuff that I was always grossed out about with other random babies (sorry other random babies)---it really doesn't faze me with Miriam. There's gotta be something intrinsically wrong with finding a smidge of poo in an---- errr---- undesirable location and just going--Ah well, baby wipes aren't just for babies, now are they?

Sometimes--ok a lot of times---rather than doing one of the infinite things on my to do list --I just sit with Miriam---and move her little hands and feet to the music.  We've now come up with some awesome choreography to "Kung Fu Fighting" and the Glee Cast version of "Deck the Halls."  Ummm--most of it was her idea.  I'm just endlessly entertained by it.

I let and encourage my baby to kick me.  I say in my sing-song voice which is probably beyond annoying to anyone over the age of two---Don't you kick your mama!  And Miriam then kicks me as fast as she can---grinning the whole time.  Then I tell her I'll have to call Nanny 911 and she'll be stuck in a naughty chair-------she's not buying it.  Hopefully I'm not setting her up to be inclined towards violence....but it's so darn cute right now.

So you see--the grace and wisdom which was supposed to descend on me like a dove from heaven once I became a mother---yeah--it took one look at me and flew the coop. 

Still---you can't have babies around and not have a little magic---so here are some of Miriam's best tricks.  The following tricks all have one thing in common---can you guess what it is?

Miriam can make the phone ring---just by crying.
Miriam can make me appear at her side in an instant---by crying.
Miriam can make Sarah (our little mutt) whimper----by crying.
Miriam can make us offer her food, diaper change, entertainment, cuddles, kisses, sympathetic noises in rapid succession and in endless repetitions---all by crying. 

Magic, I tell you.

Here are a few more of her tricks--which have a different trigger.

Miriam can make our hearts spontaneously melt--- even at three in the morning---by smiling.
Miriam can make us remember what's important--and what's not---(because sometimes we lose sight of this)---just by smiling.
Miriam can make us be sillier than we ever knew we were capable of being---by smiling.
Miriam can remind us to pray for and give to anyone who is small, helpless, and drifting---all with one little smile.

I may not have magical powers---but my kid has a few tricks up her sleeve.  And I have a happy and thankful heart---and a home that seems to echo in laughter and love.  And I'm beginning to think those magic powers my mom had weren't magic powers after all---but rather fruits of the spirit acquired through working hard to cultivate a heart that was in line with what God wanted her heart to be.  Working hard?  Really?  It may not be effortless magic---but somehow--looking back---that just makes her more special than I thought in the first place, doesn't it?  

Oh yeah and PS--- here's a gratuitous cute kid pic.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Phantom Tollbooth" Quotes

There was once a boy named Milo, who didn't know what to do with himself----not just sometimes, but always.

As he and his unhappy thoughts hurried along  (for while he was never anxious to be where he was going, he liked to get there as quickly as possible) it seemed a great wonder that the world, which was so large, could sometimes feel so small and empty.

Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get where you're going.  Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations.....

Whether or not you find your own way, you're bound to find some way.  If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago.  I imagine by now it's quite rusty.

"That's a ridiculous law," said Milo quite indignantly.  "Everybody thinks."   ......
"And most of the time you don't ," said a yellow one sitting in a daffodil.  "That's why you're here.  You weren't thinking , and you weren't paying attention either.  People who don't pay attention often get stuck in the Doldrums."

......we'd never get nothing done."
"You mean you'd never get anything done," corrected Milo.
"We don't want to get anything done," snapped another angrily; "we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help."

(speaking of time)  If there's so much of it, it couldn't be very valuable, was the general opinion, and it soon fell into disrepute.  People wasted it and even gave it away.

"I never knew words could be so confusing," Milo said to Tock as he bent down to scratch the dog's ear.
"Only when you use a lot to say a little," answered Tock.

"SILENCE!" thundered the policeman......."And now," he continued, speaking to Milo, "where were you on the night of July 27?"
"What does that have to do with it?" asked Milo.
"It's my birthday, that's what," said the policeman as he entered "Forgot my birthday" in his little book.

"....and that explains why today people use as many words as they can and think themselves very wise for doing so.  For always remember that while it is wrong to use too few, it is often far worse to use too many."

...as he climbed into the wagon with Tock and the other cabinet members.  "How are you going to make it move?  It doesn't have a -------"
"Be very quiet," advised the duke, "for it goes without saying."
And sure enough, as soon as they were all quite still, it began to move quickly through the streets.......

Since he was taller sitting than standing, he didn't bother to get up.

"....it's a simple matter of entering the Mountains of Ignorance, full of perilous pitfalls and ominous overtones----a land to which many venture but few return."

And the crowd waved and cheered wildly, for, while they didn't care at all about anyone arriving, they were always very pleased to see someone go.

"....in my family everyone is born in the air, with his head at exactly the height it's going to be when he's an adult, and then we all grow toward the ground.  When we're fully grown up or, as you can see, grown down, our feet finally touch.  Of course, there are a few of us whose feet never reach the ground no matter how old we get, but I suppose it's the same in every family."  .......
"You certainly must be very old to have reached the ground already."
"Oh no," said Milo, seriously.  "In my family we all start on the ground and grow up, and we never know how far until we actually get there."
"What a silly system."  The boy laughed.  "Then your head keeps changing its height and you always see things in a different way?  Why, when you're fifteen things won't look at all the way they did when you were ten, and at twenty everything will change again."

after Milo concentrated very hard to see things as an adult---he floated off the ground to meet with his new friend, Alec, who "grows down"---but then crashed down to the earth again.  
"Interesting, wasn't it?" asked Alec.
"Yes it was," agreed Milo, rubbing his head and dusting himself off, "but I think I'll continue to see things as a child.  It's not so far to fall."

"Besides, being lost is never a matter of not knowing where you are; it's a matter of not knowing where you aren't---and I don't care at all about where I'm not."

".....but, as you know, the most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between..."

"Why, did you know that there are almost as many kinds of stillness as there are sounds?  But sadly enough, no one pays attention to them these days.  Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn?" she inquired "Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends?  Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't an answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause in a roomful of people when someone is just about to speak, or most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're all alone in the whole house?  Each one is different you know, and all very beautiful, if you listen carefully."

Of speech:  "Some of it is light and airy, some sharp and pointed, but most of it, I'm afraid, is just heavy and dull."

"It doesn't make me happy to hold back the sounds," she began softly, "for it we listen to them very carefully they can sometimes tell us things far better than words."

For you can't improve sound by having only silence.  The problem is to use each at the proper time.

....for you can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry. Most people do.

....as long as the answer is right, who cares if the question is wrong?  If you want sense, you'll have to make it yourself.

....the best way to get from one place from another is to erase everything and begin again.  

Infinity is a dreadfully poor place.  They can never manage to make ends meet.

"You'll find," he remarked gently, "that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that's hardly worth the effort."

"For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons."

"....but it's not just learning things that's important.  It's learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters."

"You may not see it now," said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo's puzzled face, "but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way.  Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course.  Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in a pond; and whenever you're sad, no one anywhere can be really happy.  And it's much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer."

"But what of the Castle in the Air?"  .......
"Let it drift away," said Rhyme.
"And good riddance," added Reason, "for no matter how beautiful it seems, it's still nothing but a prison."

of the Demons of Compromise:  And, since they always settled their differences by doing what none of them really wanted, they rarely got anywhere at all----and neither did anyone they met.

"But I could never have done it," he objected, "without everyone else's help."
"That may be true," said Reason gravely, "but you had the courage to try, and what you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do."

....so many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Quotes with some discussion

The chronicles of Narnia have been mentioned several times now during our small group from church---and the last time it was brought up--I realized that I haven't actually read these books since I was in college.  I read them for the first time when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I think---and much of the symbolism went over my head---which just goes to show you I must have been a rather dim witted adolescent since the symbolism is pretty heavy handed.  But I loved them then---and I loved them more when I read them again years later---and here I am a third time---still enjoying these books immensely.  Good old C S Lewis. You can never go wrong with him.

There's a bit of discussion throughout this "Quote" blog---but come on---you can't throw C S Lewis quotes around without a little bit of discussion.  

I was curious after I read through "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" as to whether or not Lewis actually set out to write an allegory of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection---I mean I know--obviously--that's what this story is at its heart---but still I wondered if he did this as an effort to reach out to people---because how could you not fall in love with Aslan---and in turn, fall in love with his parallel--Christ.  But from what I've read---and it's only cursory---so I could be wrong I suppose---google isn't infallible---he didn't set out to write an allegory---he saw a picture once of a faun with an umbrella---and he wanted to turn it into a story.  And this was--ultimately the result.  It was observed that Lewis was such a religious man---that of course anything he wrote would reflect that---it was inevitable.  We write what we know....  I think that in itself is a powerful statement---and one that convicts me deeply---does everything in my life--whether I intend for it to or not--reflect Christ and my relationship to Him back to others?  Is my life so intertwined with God's will and purpose that I walk within that will and purpose--at times even without making a conscious effort to do so---  Errr---probably not----food for thought.

Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.

I want a nice boy whom I can bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I am gone.

I think it's worthwhile to note that the danger here for Edmund didn't present itself as a monster with sharp teeth and flashing red eyes---but rather---it appeared--first as something sweet--the Turkish Delight---that he would crave until it killed him---and then as an offer of power---the King of Narnia temptation.  I think this passage can serve as a reminder that we have to always be close in our walk with Christ---because sin isn't something that's always readily recognizable if we're not---and sin is deadly--no matter how pleasant it might appear to be on the surface.  

"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself.  "Why don't they teach logic in these schools?  There are only three possibilities.  Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth.  You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad.  For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."

The above quote was one that was discussed in our church small group.  It should be linked to this quote from Mere Christianity--"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic---on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg---or he would be the devil of hell.  You must take your choice.  Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us."

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver;  "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe.  But He's good.  He's the King, I tell you."
This quote has become very dear to me.  When we first found out about the possibility of Miriam---we were both elated and terrified.  Two failed adoptions had already left our hearts somewhat frail and damaged---we were frightened of what a third failed adoption might do to us.  Yet you cannot avoid the doors God opens for you---just because you think they may not lead where you want them to.  It's best to walk through them--and then try to let God work as He needs to work---in order to do this I think it would  be best to set aside your own agenda---and set aside the need to protect yourself---and set aside everything but Him.  I have not yet managed to do this---and yet somehow--God keeps opening the doors and pulling me through them---and working for good---even through--even because of---my own weakness.  He's God--of course He isn't safe---but He's good....... This was the focal point of one of the sermons at our church during a period of vulnerability for Stuart and I---my mother and father had come with us that Sunday--and they--having suffered and cried with us---were also still healing from the failed adoptions---and this quote from the Chronicles of Narnia was mentioned in conjunction with the adoption stories of one of our pastors.  He too had experienced the loss of failed adoptions--and sadder still---the loss that death brings---when SIDS claimed the life of one of his children.   He said how he never would have chosen this path to a family---it was crazy--and heartbreaking---and yet---how could he imagine any other family than the one he had?  God will take you to some crazy places---places you wouldn't go if it were up to you----God is not safe---but He is good.  And when things don't make sense---and when we don't understand things as we think we should---that's when we must have faith----we don't have to understand everything about God---if we did--He wouldn't be God--He'd just be one of us---but He's not--He's bigger than us--He's infinitely better than us----and no--- He isn't safe---but He's good.  And isn't it strange---that this is the message we heard together, on the one Sunday my parents decided to attend church with Stu and I---when we most needed to hear it.  I would say, "What a coincidence"---but I have long given up my belief in coincidences and traded it for a belief in something that makes far more sense.

It wasn't a very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.

"It's all right," he was shouting.  "Come out, Mrs. Beaver.  Come out, Sons and Daughters of Adam.  It's all right!  It isn't Her!"  This was bad grammar of course, but that is how beavers talk when they are excited; I mean, in Narnia----in our world they usually don't talk at all.

But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn't know what to do or say when they saw him.  People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.  If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now.  

"Please---- Aslan," said Lucy, "can anything be done to save Edmund?"
"All shall be done," said Aslan.  "But it may be harder than you think."
And here we hit home with the crux of what Christianity really is.  We sin---God cannot abide sin nor bear to be in its presence--and yet He made us to be His companions---and so he devises a way to rescue us---he sends his only Son to die in our place so that, as Aslan says, "All shall be done."  And he pays our debt---so that we then have the opportunity to be what were intended to be, companions of God.  I want to insert a passage from Timothy Keller here---"The Reason for God"
Why would Jesus have to die?" is a question that I have heard from people in New York far more often than "Does God exist?"  "Why couldn't God just forgive us?" they ask.  "The Christian God sounds like the vengeful gods of primitive times who needed  to be appeased by human sacrifice."  Why can't God just accept everyone or at least those who are sorry for their wrongdoings?  While the Christian doctrine of the cross confuses some people, it alarms others.  Some liberal Protestant theologians reject the doctrine of the cross altogether because it looks to them like "divine child abuse."  Why, then, don't we just leave the Cross out?  Why not focus on the life of Jesus and his teachings rather than on his death?  Why did Jesus have to die?
Imagine that someone borrows your car, and as he backs it out of the driveway he strikes a gate, knocking it down along with part of a wall.  Your property insurance doesn't cover the gate and garden wall.  What can you do?  There are essentially two options.  The first is to demand that he pay for the damages.  The second is to refuse to let him pay anything.  There may also be middle of the road solutions in which you both share the payment.  Notice that in every option the cost of the damage must be borne by someone.  Either you or he absorbs the cost for the deed, but the debt does not somehow vanish into thin air.  Forgiveness, in this illustration, means bearing the cost for his misdeed yourself. 

Should it surprise us then, that when God determined to forgive us rather than punish us for all the ways we have wronged him and one another, that he went to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ and died there......

It is crucial at this point to remember that the Christian faith has always understood that Jesus Christ is God.  God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the Cross absorbed the pain, the violence, and evil of the world into himself.  Therefore the God of the Bible is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased.  Rather this is a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that someday he can destroy all evil without destroying us.   All shall be done.....

For it was part of her magic that she could make things look like what they aren't.....
When you trace back the very roots of sin---it all began with a lie---it all began with a serpent who could make things look like what they weren't.  Sorry for all the cross quotes---but here's another--this is from "The Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally-Lloyd Jones.
"Just trust me," the serpent whispered.  "You don't need God.  One small taste, that's all, and you'll be happier than you could ever dream..."
Eve picked the fruit and ate some.  And Adam ate some too.  And a terrible lie came into the world.  It would never leave.  It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God's children:  "God doesn't love me."   ......And terrible pain came into God's heart.  His children hadn't just broken the one rule, they had broken God's heart.  They had broken his wonderful relationship with him.  And now he knew that everything else would break.  God's creation would start to unravel,  and come undone, and go wrong.  From now on, everything would die---even though it was all supposed to last forever.

"Here is your brother," he said,  "and there is no need to talk to him about what is past."  

"Work against the Emperor's Magic?" said Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face.  And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.  Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.  She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward...."

and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.

I expect you've seen someone put a lighted match to a bit of newspaper which is propped up in a grate against an unlit fire.  And for a second nothing seems to have happened; and then you notice a tiny streak of flame creeping along the edge of the newspaper.  It was like that now.  For a second after Aslan had breathed upon him the stone lion looked just the same.  Then a tiny streak of gold began to run along his white marble  back---then it spread---then the color seemed to lick all over him as the flame licks all over a bit of paper---then, while his hindquarters were still obviously stone, the lion shook his mane and all the heavy, stone folds rippled into living hair....
I love this image---of the stone lion coming to life.  I imagine this is what we should look like when we are brought to life in Christ.  Shouldn't there be fire where there was once stone?  Shouldn't there be light where there was once only gray?  Shouldn't there be movement where there was once paralysis?  And what was dead inside of us---shouldn't that finally come to life when the love of Christ is breathed upon us?  And I like how it didn't happen all at once---the stone lion looks the same at first---and then there's just a tiny streak of gold----I think it's a beautiful picture of growth---how little by little---we are changed and transformed through our relationship with Christ.  I wish this beautiful life for all of us---no one should choose to remain as cold, hard stone---when God offers to bring us to a life of warmth and love.  It is my prayer that we all accept this gift---and that we are profoundly changed by it.  

Miriam's First Halloween/Random thoughts

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Until I am old enough to receive candy in exchange for wearing a scratchy--albeit undeniably adorable ensemble such as the one above---I would appreciate it if you would keep me in my onesies and pjs---even if it is Halloween.  I'll give you one sweet picture out of the goodness of my heart---and now--I'm going to fuss and look pitiful until you put me back in my cozy nightgown.  That is all.


Miriam was eight weeks old plus a day for her first Halloween.  We took her to my parents' house---where we met Joshua, the bear:

and Silas the spider (Joshua the bear's good buddy)  You'd be surprised at how well spiders, bears, and ballerinas can get along together.  Silas the spider offered to push the ballerina around on Joshua's little  bus (and don't you think it was kind of the bear to share his toys with the spider?)  Of course the ballerina was too little for the bus---but she appreciated the offer nonetheless.  Maybe this was all just a bit of Halloween magic that was only to be on this night--and spiders and bears and ballerinas will never again consort together in harmony---but then that's a big part of what makes magic magical---that it happens sparingly.  So we will harbor these memories---and keep them precious---until we make more.  It seems to me that babies and children are full of fleeting moments of magic which quickly turn into memories.  And the sadness one might feel when a moment passes too quickly is soon enveloped by the joy of the next precious moment---which seems to overlap with the one that preceded it---and the one that is sure to follow.  

In the midst of this flurry of firsts and magic---there have been sleepless nights---missed showers---and to-do lists which always end up mocking me relentlessly.  And I won't say there hasn't been frustration and exhaustion--they too have been companions to Stuart and to me.  But they are companions that can be silenced very efficiently with one laugh from our child---one smile---one finger curled around ours----God reminds us in numerous ways that we have been blessed with this little girl.  We didn't deserve the blessing---but God gave it to us just the same.  And that is a humbling thought.  

Sometimes these days, I find myself looking forward---making plans for years down the line----and then I stop---and I laugh at myself.  And I pray---God---I'll go where you want me to go.  Not that He needs us to acknowledge this fact---we're all going to go where God wants us to go---one way or the other.  But I think we're a lot more at peace when we go willingly.  Let's avoid a big fish scenario, right?  

I say this a lot on this blog---I feel the need to say it again---we wouldn't have met Miriam if our own plans had come to pass.  And oh--what a tragedy that would have been.  I can't even imagine.  Recognizing this leads me to say with humor and with peace---I haven't a clue what I'm doing---it's best I not take the reigns here---but that's ok---I know who to hand them over to.  And I'm thankful for the "God of second chances."