Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"The best substitute for experience is being sixteen." Raymond Duncan

My oldest turns sixteen tomorrow...sigh.

Every parent goes through these moments of reflective melancholy watching their offspring go from first steps to running the race we call life in what seems like overnight. I'm no different...but I am very fortunate.

So far (I say with crossed fingers), the journey has been mostly uneventful from a derogatory standpoint on her part. I wish I could say the same about her sixteen years on my own behalf. While she has been and continues to be an utmost priority for yours truly, she was my first, and I look back at many things I would do differently today to give her the absolute best advantage at succeeding in adulthood. Her two younger sisters will definitely benefit from those lessons of experience.

I'm often accused of being just too hard on my teenager. I can live with that. My expectations are high but beyond a doubt obtainable on her part with just thought and effort. Our home has one guiding principle that all other rules or expectation fall under...priorities are and always will be- 1. God 2. Family and 3. Education. I would be remiss not to credit my own mother for those values I now hold so dear...I just hate it took me so long to realize how important those things are in life when properly aligned.

While I'm dolling out gratitude, I know in my heart things would most likely be very different in my life today without Mrs. Tony C. Her virtuous fingerprints are all over the life of my oldest...even though she's not her own. God smiled on me in a tremendous way the day my eyes opened to His will for my life. He then blessed me further when I opened them to find a beautiful young woman with the patience and perseverance of Job in front of me. My teenager may or may not realize it today, but she has been living and hopefully learning from the very best of role models.

I remember the day in this picture as if 2003 were just this past weekend...Mrs. Tony C trying to figure out the game of professional hockey while my oldest reflects the nonsensical pose of youth. Great memories.

Thinking back to my own sixteenth birthday brings a flood of emotions that range from jubilance to utter shame. If you're an atheist that happens to read this blog which is based on the Christian perspective of this old bloke...hear me out. You need no other proof of God than the very fact I personally have survived to be nearly a half century old...we need to talk. Oh I know I got a few amens on that statement!

Of course, these days about the most reckless thing I do is eat prepackaged salads from Walmart. No more jumping out of this or diving under that...I've wised with age as well as mellowed. I often tell my teenager she's one of the mentally toughest people, not just kids, I know. Sure, there's a streak of impulsiveness, but hey...all things considering...she never tried to make her own hang glider. The jury hasn't even been seated yet for her sister, the Crazy Tomato. Thank God for Mrs. Tony C again!

Sweet sixteen is truly a benchmark moment in life. Not quite old enough to be a young adult but no longer young enough to plead plausible ignorance, sixteen kicks off what most people consider the best years of life...but I'm not sure I'm in that club. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast from sixteen to say...thirty-five. Okay. So I stretched it out a bit longer than most people, but the reason I don't consider those the best years of my life boils down to a single word...joy.

If you personally know God, then you also know the difference between His joy and fun or happiness or even enjoyment are vast...yet truly interdependent.

If you're reading this sweetheart...take the broken-record adage you've heard from me all your life of don't be a victim and replace it now with that last sentence. I love you with all my heart Roo... Happy Birthday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

YouTube has much more than just bad lip syncing and piano playing cats...

Like it or not, social media venues have become a very powerful force in our society...

As a blogger, I'm not going to 'preach to the choir' with my post today. If you're reading this, then to you, I've already stated the obvious. What may not be so palpable, however, is exactly the extent to which social media tools have saturated our daily lives.

Who doesn't have an email address these days? Telling someone you don't have an email address is comparable to someone 30 years ago saying they didn't have a telephone number. Immediately you're labeled a troglodyte who's unattached to the very world where you live. Fair? Hey...I don't make the rules of acceptable social behavior. I have a hard enough time following them myself!

It's not just basic internet-based communications like email either. Facebook alone now has over 750 million active members. That's more people than live on five of the world's seven continents. So is Facebook a cyber-continent? Sorry Europe...that would move you to fourth now by population. Hope Facebook doesn't go your route and try to create their own collective currency, since...you know...that's working so well for you guys.

So as a Christian, where am I suppose to be in all of social media craze? Thou shall not Twitter didn't make the Big Ten back in the Book of Exodus...so that doesn't really help calibrate my moral compass on the issue. Jesus clearing up all those thou shalts and thou shalt nots by breaking it down to two basic directives(love God, love neighbor) doesn't really fit here either. Still, the Bible is the Living Word and can be applied to any and all aspects of my life. So...exactly where does social media fit in matters of faith?

Truth is...I think we over think way too much.

Did Peter break open his KJV Bible and start preaching to the folks in Rome in the early church? Of course not. Peter spread the Goods News based on what he had personally been taught and seen in the ministry of Jesus by the spoken word. Letters were rare..and books were even more so in Peter's day. Unfortunately for Peter, hearsay was admissible in the court of Nero...

Did Martin Luther deliver The Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany by certified mail? I don't think so. Something that important should pretty much be delivered in person... with a hammer and nail for accentuating purposes. Drives the point home plus you can beat back angry clerics as you make a quick exit.

So why are Christians so polarized about the issue of social media use? Isn't it just the latest advance in means of communicating with each other?

I live in the South, and the phrase keep it old timey is as cliche here as my peeps up North might hear freeze your ____ off ....well...you know... they do use a lot more colorful language than us. But what does keep it old timey mean? Aside from timey not even being an actual word, I think people get hung up on the traditional means of their day and become fixated on the old way being tried and true, therefore, it must be the right way...the only way.

I'm sure if the Apostles of the early church could have looked forward to the year 1454 and seen the Gutenberg press churning out numerous copies of the very words of Jesus, there would have been a great deal of anxiety on their parts. What if something were misquoted? Misrepresented? What if the Great Deceiver himself corrupted the printings?!  But look at how the printing press has brought millions to know and accept the Good News.

The phenom known as social media is no different. Sure, there are many dangerous agents that look to spread evil verses good, but God knew this from the very beginning. Also, Jesus spoke specifically to the perils of tradition with the Pharisees in Mark chapter 7- Stop living in the past dudes...well that's a paraphrase...of course.

Now I don't believe neither time nor any innovation can replace the importance of sharing the Good News with someone face-to-face. Living an exemplary life, loving others and showing compassion will never go out of style, but let's not be too hasty as Christians to write off social media tools as an instrument of evil only. As a matter of fact, I personally know a husband and wife who just six years ago lived in Iran as Muslims but were searching for truth. Through social media sources like blogs and chat rooms they connected with Christians. Today, they are both born-again Believers who escaped the repression and now worship and learn freely among other Christians due in part to those very social media sources.

Did I mention they are also bloggers and my Facebook friends? 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life can get pretty busy...but not too busy to share a chuckle

Hard to believe a year and another addition has happened in my family since this post! September is always the very busiest month for me professionally, so please be a little understanding as I mix in the old with the new this month. Today, one of my personal favorites about my beloved Crazy Tomato.
Thanks for reading!

Kids really do say the darnedest things...
(Originally posted 9/14/2010)

I'm on my second rodeo when it comes to 2-year olds...
That's my little fire gem to the right. Another blessing from Heaven and living proof to me just how much God truly loves me. Of course, tough love is love none the less.

Carlee is the second of my two...soon to be three...daughters. While both girls share several common traits (i.e stubbornness, impatience, fiercely competitive, etc.), there are also some core differences. Carlee's older sister (Tony C version 2A) was for the most part a very soft spoken toddler. She spoke quite often but mild-mannered. True to stereotypical profiling, she is now a loud, annoying teenager...but I still truly love her (Happy 15th Birthday yesterday).

Tony C version 2B is far more in-your-face than version 2A as indicated by this recent exchange:

Tony C: (looking over counter in direction of dishwasher) Carlee? Are you messing with the dishwasher buttons again? You know that's off limits. Carlee?

Version 2B: (slight paused, then popping into view with hands out) You don't worry about me! Tony, you just don't worry about Carlee and worry about Tony!

Tony C: (off-balance by the rebuttal) Excuse me?

Version 2B: You just don't worry about me. You worry about Tony, and Carlee will worry about Carlee.

Tony C: (regaining composure) Come here! Come right here, right now!

Version 2B: But I don't want a spanking! Just don't worry about me!

Tony C: Now!

Version 2B: (chin tucked into chest, lower lip puffed out and mumbling) I don't want a spanking.

Tony C: (lifting tot up onto the table and looking right into her eyes) I worry about Carlee because it's my job to worry about Carlee. I'm your dad! Don't tell me not to worry about you. Understand?

Version 2B: (under breath) Yes sir.

She does actually call me Tony part of the time, and while this is a point of contention with some of my extended family, I'm cool with it. Her sister went through the same phase and grew out of it (and I'm sure on to calling me much worse behind closed doors).
While there is rarely a day goes by that Mrs. Tony C and I aren't entertained by our rambunctious toddler who seems to be obsessed with bodily functions involving digestion or shedding her clothing whenever and wherever opportunity presents, her matter-of-fact dialog and take on life keeps us in stitches...as well as...on edge.

One recent morning while preparing to depart for school and work, I let the teenager deal with getting the toddler ready (mom departs at 6:30 am for work). After 15 minutes of bickering and crying (by both I might add), I headed downstairs to let the teenager finish what she had started:
Tony C: (yelling back upstairs) Girls! It is time to go...no...past time to go! Get a move on it!

Teenager: (with toddler screaming in the background) Dad...she won't let me put her clothes on her!

Toddler: Stop! Don't touch me! Stop!

Tony C: Carlee! If you don't let your sister help you get dressed...

Toddler: No! I want you to do it!

Tony C: If I have to come back up these stairs, you will definitely get a spanking for not listening! Let your sister dress you...we have to go now!

Toddler: Come spank me! I want a spanking! Then you can put my clothes on!

While I've never heard those words come out of the toddler's mouth again, I should have punished the teenager too for not finishing the task and letting a 2-year old get the best of her...but then I'm sure she has plenty more lessons still yet to come before she's off to college.

Funny how birth control can come in many different forms.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Three years and I'm still trying to figure this thing out...

Three years!! Today, I start my fourth year of blogging on Blogger while seriously contemplating a move to WordPress. Ironic. My very first post (Is it just me? I kinda doubt it...) was the beginning of a love affair that has been a number of things- fun, stressful, irritating, rewarding and satisfying just to name a few.

Just to do a bit of celebrating, I thought I would reissue the post that has received the most hits of my 258 muses. To be honest, I'm somewhat surprised by this post receiving 1286 hits since February of this year and claiming the spot. It's not even controversial! So without further adieu, I give you a day in the life of Joe Pony.

Thanks for continuing to read Tony C Today.

The Adventure of Joe Pony...(what we'll do for our kids).
Originally posted February 4, 2011

To say I love my daughters would be a gross understatement. I adore my girls! So needless to say, I was crushed when the 3-year old (aka the Crazy Tomato) was heartbroken and confused when I didn't take Joe Pony to work with me yesterday.

Who's Joe Pony you ask?

Having all girls, there's not very many toys for little boys in our house. I know better than to include the numerous sports toys and balls laying around the house because I understand the spirit of the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But I digress...

So me and the Crazy Tomato were playing with her My Little Pony toys the night before in our living room. She had one called...Rainbow or something, and wanted to know the name of the one I was playing with at the time.

Tony C:  Joe.

I'm not very good at naming inanimate objects. Nicknames for real people I can whip out in a flash. Dolls...not so brilliant. So my baby blue pony was Joe Pony...despite the fact it was wearing a skirt. Hey! I don't judge peopl....pon...toy things. Okay?

When Mrs. Tony C told me the Crazy Tomato came into the living room the next morning and saw Joe Pony in the floor, it broke my heart to think she was disappointed or maybe thought I didn't have fun playing with her. So...for the benefit of my own personal Jan Brady (she's the middle child, keep up), I took Joe Pony to work with me today and documented the whole adventure for her to enjoy.

Okay...I had a little fun with it too.

Joe Pony prepares for the mad dash that starts each workday for me. Between us, I don't think Joe combed its hair this morning.

The teenager just doesn't get the spirit of the situation and chalks it up...as usual...as dumb!

She seems to have forgotten the numerous tea parties yours truly attended between 1998 and 2001 as the international guest of tea drinking events known as Mr. Cumberbucket...

Joe Pony isn't required to wear a seat belt in my state because...well it's plastic. A legal loophole liberals haven't figured out to date.

Traffic was light this morning in the overcast commute.

We got to work a little ahead of schedule today. I hope Joe Pony doesn't get the wrong idea that's a normal occurrence for me.
That unkempt hair is killing me. How embarrassing!

Joe Pony had a difficult time comprehending the company's complex telecommunications system. Then again...so does everyone else at work.

A true student of Dale Carnegie principles, Joe Pony decided to give the Billing Department a hand since they were down a person today due to illness.

During a pretty lengthy post-lunch meeting, Joe Pony nodded off, so we decided to play the old 'everyone quietly leave the room' joke. It was a real hoot!

Joe Pony's making new friends fast by being good natured.

While visiting the Shipping and Receiving Department, Joe Pony met a long lost relative. It was a very nice surprise to the day, and we all gathered around and sang For He's a Jolly Good Fellow just to add to the festive moment.

I was completely shocked to find Joe Pony had wandered into the President's office and was trying to pull up a 'racey' website on his computer. He claims someone else put him up to it.

Luckily, the company firewall prevented me from having to access the computer later and do some selective web browser history cleaning.

All in all, it was a great experience bringing Joe Pony to work with me today. I just need to remember not to play with the rather large Molly Dolly with her before bed during the week. She's not very nice and might damage my reputation at work...