Monday, March 26, 2012

True love will always find a way...

Today, Candice and I celebrate our 8th Wedding Anniversary, and I'm genuinely most thankful...

In all honestly, I think it would be safe to say most people didn't give us much of a chance to make it past 2 years, but I do understand where they might have been coming from with such a pessimistic forecast. Candice was just short of 20 years old, and I almost doubled that. Aside from that facts of time, no other reason for our marriage not working would have fallen with her. If only I could have said the same...
I will also confess that despite the relative few trips she had completed around the sun, Candice was far more mature in most areas of life than I was at near twice her age. I don't say that very easily either. There's a great deal of shame and humiliation that comes with that confession, but as I stated earlier, there's also a great deal of appreciation that offsets the former.

Looking back over the past 8 years, I know I've grown up quite a bit. While I might have been well into needed changes when I married the love of my life in 2004, God was still working on me in a number of spiritual areas. I was hungry and anxious to serve Him but boy was I unrefined and green. He knew exactly what I needed to help keep me on His intended path...just like He knew what Adam needed in the garden so long ago.

I know this might be coming across as syrupy or even melodramatic, but I believe in my heart that Candice saved my very life and in a number of ways. My path was on a fast-track to self-destruction. Also, I'm not sure I had the intestinal fortitude to endure the scare of cancer and a few other extreme trials encountered as she came into the picture. Cowardice is never an easy thing to admit and can often be found disguised as a seeming noble gesture or graceful exit. It's still cowardice even under those window dressings.

There is an enormous amount of gratitude in that last paragraph accompanied by a certain degree of remorse. She didn't ask for (or cause) any of the trials we endured early in our relationship and could have easily walked away.  There were nights I prayed she would to make it easier for me. I told you I've grown up a lot.

My wife committed to her words 'for better or worse' in front of God Almighty. She locked her answer in, and He knew she was strong enough through her faith in Him to weather the early storms. I praise and thank God for Candice daily. She is the soul of our family. The anchor in matters of both virtue and serenity. The model mother to all three of my daughters...even the one she didn't birth.

My love for her is second only to my love for God, and she helped teach me that's the way He designed it to be. My trust in her is complete and unlike any other person I've known or ever will know. At times in my life, I've jokingly spewed the line love you so much it hurts...she makes that statement real for me. Not hurt as a matter of pain. I just never want to be separated from her and hold to the belief that God made marriage a divine institution because He gives us the opportunity to make our betrothal an eternal union.

Even that doesn't seem long enough.

Happy Anniversary my love...forever and for always I will be in love with you.


Monday, March 19, 2012

What movie was that?! You've got to be kidding me...

In one exactly week, I celebrate the anniversary of a life changing event...

While there have been a number of those in my lifetime, the date March 26, 2004 is among the very most important for yours truly because that is the day I married the person who changed my life completely. To honor the occasion, my post this week and next Monday will be focused on Mrs. Tony wait...make that Candice. She is truly her own person outside of the matrimonial title and deserves the recognition of her name being used in my post. She was Candice long before she was Mrs. Tony C...and became My Candice on our wedding day.

I'd like to say that date was my very first rodeo, but as this picture so clearly points out, I was a package deal. Somewhere in the whole process of reentering bachelorhood, I had convinced myself that marriage just wasn't my thing. The relationship with my daughter had become the important focus in my life after given her the short end of my time for far too many years. I moved so she could start Kindergarten at one of the best school in our area without hesitation.

Unlike quite a few before her, I trusted Candice completely with my daughter from the start. Her qualities were exactly the qualities I knew my daughter needed demonstarted to her young self. Candice wasn't threatened or intimidated by the preexisting bond that she walked into that first Summer. Seamlessly, she made a family of two become a family of three and quickly became the anchor I desparately needed in my life. A real blessing from God that I just didn't deserve.

There are a number of years between our ages, so don't let my boyish good looks fool you (eye roll). As she approaches the milestone of no longer being twenty-something, I am coming to my own milestone in a few years of half a century. The age difference has always bothered me far more than her. Most people who know us personally don't even realize (or forget) that I actually went to school with her parents. Now let me state for the record, my 8th grade class was located at the high school during this time, and they both were seniors. I'm not sure that holds much consolation in the overall picture, but it does makes me feel a lot better stating that fact!

While the age difference hasn't been an obstacle for us, the fact remains we are very, very different people. If the proverbial picture is truly worth a thousand words, the difference could best be summed up in this manner:

Candice C
Tony C

Probably the story that best illustrates the difference between my happy-go-lucky, push the envelope, carpe diem attitude in life to her rules are rules, home by 10, goody-goody persona for living happened very early in our relationship.

We decided to go the beach with her parents who liked to camp on their vacations. They had a very nice fifth-wheel camper that was almost like pulling a mobile home to the beach, so we stayed with them in a campground where they had been frequent patrons.

An evening, moonlit stroll with my wife on the beach and a failed attempt to reenact the famous scene in From Here to Eternity left me both know...and covered in sand. Hey. I don't mind getting a little sandy in the whole risk/reward context of things, but...

No way! Somebody might see us Tony!

So, the equation wasn't balanced despite the fact no one was around to know.  We arrived back at the campground around 10:10 or so that evening. Apparently, the cold shower coming off the beach had relieved one of my frustrations, but I still had stinking sand all over me!

Tony C: Let's take a dip in the pool and get rid of the sand before we head back to the camper.

Candice C: Sure sweetie.

As we approached the campground pool, nobody was to be found and a sign was hanging on the 3-foot high gate- Pool Hours 9 am to 10 pm Daily.

Candice C: Oh sorry honey. The pool is already closed.

Tony C: What?! It's just a little past 10! It's summer! We're on vacation! I've got sand in my...

Candice C: Tony! It's closed. We can hose off at the camper.

Tony C: Whatever...(looking around and jumping the low gate)

Candice C: (trying to yell at me but in a whispered voice) Tony! Tony! You can't do that! The pool is closed!

Tony C: Come on Candice. Live a little. Worst they'll do is tell us to get out, and by then, I'll have the sand out of my...

Candice C: (still whispering in a panic) Tony! Get back over here right now. They'll kick us out of the campground! 

Tony C: Pleeeeeeeasse! They're not going to kick us out for swimming a few minutes past close. (taking one last look around) But now this (dropping my swim shorts) might very well get us kicked out!

Candice C: (near tears but still screaming in a faint whisper) PUT...YOUR... SHORTS...BACK...ON...RIGHT...NOW!! I'm mean it Tony! We're going to get in big trouble!

Tony C: (laughing while doing a backstroke across the pool) I'm pretty sure accessory to skinny dipping isn't a crime even in South Carolina.

With the sand gone, a good laugh for me and a near stroke victim in her early 20's...we headed back to the camper in silence. Well...except for my frequent chuckles. I shared the story with her parents when we got back (minus my attempted beach folly of course) and even they had a good laugh.

Unfortuately, I got one of the very few sunburns in my entire life the very next day and looked like a cooked lobster the remainder of the trip, so the last laugh was on actually on me.

I just hate it when God is on her side...which is most of the time...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wait a second! That's not how this is supposed to go down...

March 15 and Julius Caesar are forever interlocked in history...

Long before the famous play that we all are made suffer through in high school English, the real story of the ides of March unfolded in the Roman Senate in 44 BC with the culmination of 60 different men taking a stab at the would-be dictator Julius. Ironically, only 23 wounds were recorded by  Suetonius, the physican who examined Caesar's body post-hummous, with a single chest wound being the likely fatal blow.

Apparently Roman aristocrats weren't accustomed to doing their own dirty work...

The term ides simply refered to the middle of the month for March, May, July and October on the Roman calendar. These dates were often celebrated with a festival honoring the god Mars. But then again, the Romans were forever celebrating something with a festival and parades. After 44 BC, the date took on a completely different context for the Romans, and then again for the world when Shakespeare's play debuted around AD 1599.

The Ides of March have come.

Today, most of the Western world reflects on the events of that tragic day well over 2000 years ago. The date has taken on an ominous feel that is easily understandable. The real question to ponder though is: Who were the real bad guys as the demise of Caesar played out?

Not so simple to answer. While Caesar obviously got the worst end of the deal on the ides of March, the resulting consequences of his murder would ultimately result in the formation of the Roman Empire under his heir, Octavian, who would become Caesar Augustus and the first Roman Emperor. Consequently, that title raised Octavian to the position of deity in the eye's of the Romans. An honor also bestowed to Julius some years after his death...however that works exactly.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Did the conspirators acted on a desire to preserve the Roman republic or in defense of their own positions of power? Regardless, the Roman people were completely appalled that a small group of upper-class aristocrats had the audacity to take the future of Rome's fate into their own hands and rebelled against the Roman Senate.

Excuse me!?

That's right sports fans. Instead of embracing the attempt to save a governing process with representation of the people (said very loosely), the mob rose up and supported a would-be dictator that was the first in a line of several brutal rulers over the Roman Empire. That makes no sense to our society which heralds the greatness of democracy. Why would anyone in their right mind chose a dictatorship over democracy? Wouldn't anyone prefer at least some say in how their government functions?

Maybe the Arab Spring of 2011 will become the new ides of March...but only time will tell exactly how that plays out...for better or worse.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Only the educated are free." Epictetus

Hi. My name's Tony C, and I'm a huge geek...

Acknowledgement is the first step, so I've been told. Truth is though, I've not always been a geek as I'll define in this post. Quite the contrary. My commitment to new found knowledge has been a development during Act III of the Tony C saga which occurred well after my formal years of the typical institutional education.

That's not to say I didn't learn things in school. Not by a long shot. What I'm referring to is that burning desire to discover and explore new ideas or revisit old ones that are still the gold standard in any given field.

I didn't have that desire during my high school/college days. Too many other things captured my focus during that time...well...actually one group in particular...just so many of them.

Wasted time? Not necessarily. Being in school is somewhat akin to being at a monster truck rally with information being represented as the mud flying around. Just your very presence means some is going to stick to you. Being the resident class clown meant I always had front row seats in high school, so I caught a lot of mud completely based on location alone. Funny thing is...if you act like you're paying are in fact paying attention. Go figure.

Eventually, I grew up and realized that the amount of knowledge a person has is directly proportionate to one's status of well being in life. That doesn't mean all the smart people make all the money. Not at all. I know for a fact...well...let me stop right there and leave that statement unspoken.

So, Mrs. Tony C and I have placed a premium on education in our home. She's actually an Education major and teacher by profession just temporarily on hiatus for the higher calling of motherhood. Don't get me wrong. She's teaching now on a daily basis to two students near a dear to yours truly. The teenager gets a lesson every now and then too.

We've established a hierarchy of priority in our home that guides every principle or decision. God comes first. Family is next. Education rounds out the list at third. One, two and three. We've yet to come across a situation that can't be prioritized within that list.

I'm always emphasising to the teenager that neither her faith nor knowledge she obtains can ever be taken from her by another person. Both become a part of her very character, and only death (and therefore God) can separate you from that identity. Please understand when I speak of knowledge I'm not exclusively speaking of academia. I know many very intelligent people who never made it beyond high school in a formal educational setting. Information flows freely all around us for the taking, and quite frankly, the more you know...the more valuable you are to society. Plus, an electrician is much more valuable when you have a wiring problem than a professor of sociology. Assumptions being made with that statement naturally.

I started down this muse last night after watching 60 Minutes and a piece on the Khan Academy. A link to the segment is posted below. What an exciting concept! Quality educational instruction available to anyone for the taking and absolutely free. All you need is the desire.

I'm using the site to go back and learn the calculus that apparently didn't stick while I was in college thanks to those stinking cute co-eds. Hey...I starting this post by freely admitting I'm a geek these days...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Never underestimate the power of a good snack food...

Wow...I've not posted in over a week!

Truth be told, I don't really have anything in mind to write about today either. Funny how that works. Some weeks blog ideas roll in like waves on a windy day. Some weeks nothing. Nada. Zilch. It's not that I've not been busy either and let my mind idle. Lots of stuff in the news that catches my interest. Of course, there's Rush Limbaugh's mouth and the reaction he provoked churning out tons of blog fodder. Eh.

The kids are wide open as usual. Always great material. A Crazy Tomato post most always nets twice as many hits as...say...something about politics. Funny how that works too. I've been asked if the Crazy Tomato is as entertaining as the things I write, but those questions always come from people who don't know our family personally. Yes. She's that entertaining.

Mrs. Tony C called me the other day to tell me a great story. The CT wanted her little sister, Bulldog, to play with her in the back bedroom in her playhouse. Bulldog wasn't having any of it because a bowl of Cheez Its was on their play table in the living room. Kid loves to eat!

Being ever industrialist, the Crazy Tomato gets the box of Cheez Its and starts making a line of them all the way to the back bedroom. Brilliant! Her only kink was she placed the snacks too close together giving her mom time to discover the scheme. Doh!

I love that kid...

I must admit my mood of late has been a tad melancholy. Not the gloomy version. More serious. A sure sign I've been watching, reading and listening to far too much news on current world events. I love staying informed, but that crap takes the fun out of cake!

I was sitting at the kitchen table last week working on something with the news on in the living room. I wasn't listen closely, but for some reason, looked up at the screen which I could see from where I was positioned. The screen was filled with a scene of people literally burning as the result of a recent suicide bomb attack in Iraq. Very graphic. Parked right in front staring up intently was the toddler. Oh no! I freaked and ran into the living room in search of the remote. Grabbing her up, I carried her back into her sister's bedroom where she was playing.


Yes that is the world we live in today, but I'm not ready for that world to invade the sanctity of my peaceful home and corrupt the innocence of my two younger girls. The task of trying to decipher things for the teenager while encouraging the development of her critical thinking is plenty enough of a task for now.

For the two younger ones, an empty box of Cheez Its is all the drama they really need for many years to come... 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because gas was $4 a gallon...

There are a number of reasons we need "a change" of occupancy at the White House (as well as in Congress)...but rising gas prices isn't one of them.

President Obama has no more to do with the recent rise in gas prices than he had to do with the storm that blew through where I live last night. Now that's an ironic statement of unintended support for a moot position that Obama used himself against W. Bush four years ago. Why do we continue to let politicians insult our intelligence?'re probably not going to like my answer here...

We live in an unprecedented age of information. With the click of a few keys, I can summons information on anything from making explosives to an awesome chicken casserole. Biographical information is available on most anyone in the public eye, as well as, information on corporations, legislations and litigations.

But we're just lazy and don't take the time to become informed consumers/constituents. Period.

True or False...The price of gas goes up at the beginning of summer each year because Big Oil knows demand will go up with warm weather?


Demand is much higher across the board in colder months. Sorry....your summer vacation just doesn't have that much of an impact on gas prices. Some. Not much.

During winter months, butane is used as an additive in the production of refined gasoline because it is cheap.  However, butane can't be used in the summer because it evaporates in warm temperatures, so refineries must replace it with more expensive ingredients.

Blame chemistry for higher summer prices...not DisneyWorld or Obama.

True or False...If we drilled for more oil, all our problems would be solved!

Don't think so Sarah. Crude oil is not the problem. We have an abundance of oil overflowing from the North American crude trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma. The problem is refineries are at near capacity in this country. While refining capabilities have actually decline in recent years do to aging facilities, no new refineries have been built in decades. Not to mention, U.S. exports of gas to fuel-thirsty foreign countries tripled over the past year!

So just build more refineries to fix the problem.

Seriously...think that's going to make gas prices go down? The huge cost of building new refineries would be directly past along to the consumer straight per the capitalism playbook. Hey, I love capitalism, but facts are facts. Besides, who's volunteering to have one of those built in their backyard?

Before you take this post as defense of failed economic leadership from the White House, just hear me out. The danger in blaming the wrong things on the wrong people goes beyond the obvious moral implications. If the electorate links the presidential election this fall to gas prices, what happens if gas prices fall? That's right. Point of contention lost. If Obama can be blamed for higher gas prices then he surely will take credit for lower gas prices, and the emotions of the moment sweep him back into the White House.

The fact of the matter is he has nothing to do with either stinking one!

Become an informed voter. Seek information on issues and don't just swallow what the left and right media sources feed us each day. Trust me. They're not working for a higher, nobler cause. The bottom line is all that matters on both sides, and that profit is sadly boosted when the public debates become toxic and less well as less cerebral.

I'm not afraid to give credit where credit is due even if that recognition falls on an opposing ideological figure. President Obama has been very successful from a foreign policy perspective.. in my opinion. But, that opinion thinks we were completely within our rights to go into Pakistan, without their consent, to kill Bin Laden. I don't think he has weak knees when it comes to these matters.

I also don't think he is a Muslim or wasn't born in this country. Those are both absurd and purely emotional arguments. Not to mention, we Christians need to be very cautious about blindly judging where another person is with the Almighty. I have no reason to question his proclaimed Christian faith...or at least any more than I did Bush or Clinton...and I shouldn't try to judge according to the Good Book.

My problems with the current administration are much more politically fundamental. President Obama believes government can solve all the ills of society. I most strongly disagree. While that's enough to turn me against his politics, it doesn't have to be bitterly personal.

If I vote for Obama, I know I'm voting for a liberal-minded ideology, and I can't do that in good conscience. Unfortunately, the catch here becomes that while most Republicans stand proudly on that platform of conservative policy making, their actions (read legislation) reflect a different motive. Some claim one thing and do another, and that does makes me mad.

Don't listen to the spin. Read how your public figures vote on the issues that matter to you. Hold them accountable for your vote. Become informed.