Thursday, February 23, 2012

RIP Uncle Worley...and thanks for all the smiles you leave behind.

I love to spin a good story...

For most of us that blog, storytelling is the underlying motivation that brings us back to a blank page to start anew time and time again.

But even the best story can't hold up without interesting, compelling characters. Successful writers are quick to point out the larger a base the central character appeals, the better chance the story will be widely accepted.

A day not too long ago, the Crazy Tomato and I were driving in relative silence as she looked out her window in deep thought.

Crazy Tomato: Dad, are there any real dragons?

Tony C: (playfully) Not anymore honey.

Crazy Tomato: They're all dead? Were there any around here?

Tony C: The last dragon around these parts was killed in McPheeter's Bend a long time ago by your Uncle Worley.

Crazy Tomato: Uncle Worley?

Tony C: Actually, he's your great uncle. You've never met him, but he's a retired dragon slayer.

Crazy Tomato: Does he have a real sword? Can I meet him?

Tony C: You sure can. When you do, ask him about killing that dragon.

Silence once again feel in the car as I quietly chuckled to myself.

Some of you might find lying to a 4-year-old a bit distasteful. Personally, I can't differentiate between the colorful anecdotes I embellish for her amusement and the nightly stories she reads before bedtime.

Fact is, the character of this particular story truly is a larger than life person...or I should say... was. Uncle Worley passed away lasted night at 10:30 after a battle with lung cancer that, unlike that dragon, he just couldn't beat.

Unfortunately, the Crazy Tomato never got to meet and ask him about that dragon.

My uncle by marriage to my father's middle sister, Worley was as unique as human beings can be and the center in many, many real stories that actually require no embellishment from a storyteller like me. He was as genuine as he was generous as he was caring.

Worley lost his wife and my aunt in 1976 to the same dreaded killer that got him last night. He never remarried. The son and daughter their marriage produced (pictured) before cancer stole my aunt away at an early age are like my brother and sister instead of my cousins. My aunt was a good Christian and loving soul, and her fingerprint is still very much evident on those she left behind so long ago...including Uncle Worley.

Worley travelled the country working for a good part of his life after she passed. Every new town he entered as a stranger he left as a friend. His gregarious demeanor and uncomplicated approach made him not only easy to get to know...but also quick to accept.

He believed strongly in the mission of the Shriners and was stereotypical of the large hearts and good times the group is noted. I recall passing through a certain fundraising roadblock the Shiners were conducting while travelling through a town several hundred miles from my home. As I dropped a dollar in the bucket...

Tony C: Do you guys know Worley B by chance?

First Shriner: From up in East Tennessee? You better believe it. Great fellow!

Second Shriner: That where you're from?

Tony C: Sure is, and he's my uncle.

They both passed business cards to me to give to him when I returned with salutations. That was just Worley.

While on an exercise in Twenty-Nine Palms California during my service, I took leave and travelled to Victorville where he was working to visit. The trip coincided with a visit from his mother and daughter. Worley had been there about 8 months working on a new plant for his employing company. Shortly after arriving, he invited me and my cousin to accompany him to his local "watering hole."  She was very reluctant, but I persisted until she came along while her grandmother rested from the long trip.

As we walked into the bar/restaurant attached to the local Ramada Inn, words simply won't do justice to what I'm about to describe. A live band was playing for the forty or so people gathered and kicking off their weekend. As we walked through the double doors, a scene that Norm from Cheers would be jealous to witness the singer for the band literally stopped in mid-song to announce "Worley!"

Glasses went up in salute. My cousin and I paid for absolutely nothing that evening as people went out of their way to buy us stuff. He was well loved when he finally departed California a year or so later, but he was well loved long before then too. That was Worley, and just a couple of the many stories he leaves behind.

I grieve with my family today at the loss of this larger than life character. But much like his wife who left us some 35 years ago, his fingerprint of influence will continue long after the pain of that hurt subsides.

...and he will keep killing dragons as long as I can manage to spin a story or two.


Monday, February 20, 2012

"I don't have to look up my family tree, because I know that I'm the sap. " Fred Allen

Things are changing too darn fast around my house...

I'm constantly joking about the three daughters getting jobs, getting their own place and visiting every week...or so. Truth is, I joke about it to hopefully ease the hurt of the eventuality of that reality.

My oldest is driving, working and getting information from perspective colleges in the mail all since the arrival of the new year. Seems like just yesterday the picture on our refrigerator was snapped of me taking her to kindergarten her first day of school...

I'm the only male grandchild in my paternal grandfather's line with children. Our family name will go with me to my grave...or urn... since they are all girls. Not long ago, the three of them were together in the living room, and I called a impromptu family meeting:

Tony C:  Listen girls. Two things. First, one of you will be keeping your last name when you get
              married. Period.
              Second, somebody will get the $5,000 elopement prize. When it's your turn to marry, you
              elope and get 5 large. Teenager, don't see that deal in your future since you'll be the first.
              Crazy  Tomato and Bulldog, work it out amongst yourselves and let me know at least 24
              hours in  advance.

Teenager: That stinks! I want the money, and I'm changing my name too! That's dumb dad!

Crazy Tomato: Why do we have to change our names? I just learned to spell my last name. Mom!

Bulldog: (blowing kisses) Bye! Bye, bye, bye...

Okay. Maybe it's a little early in the game for family meetings. But, I never underestimate the importance of communication in the dad/daughter dynamic regardless of age, since the window of reception is so small. You never know when those 27 minutes of complete acceptance might occur from birth to walking down the aisle with your daughter...or driving to City Hall if that's in their cards.

The thing that bothers me the most when the day does finally comes that all of the chicks are gone from the nest is... exactly what will I do for entertainment? Sure, it will be nice to go to the bathroom in peace, watch what I want (and when) on the big TV or jump in the car for an excursion at will.

Wait...was there a counterpoint?

Entertainment! That's right. I'm constantly entertained at the expense of my three girls. From dumb comments like it's 30 past referring to the time by the teenager to the Crazy Tomato lining up Cheezits through the hallway trying to lead the Bulldog to her playhouse in the backroom, I'm constantly in stitches at the house from all the shenanigans. What will replace that?

Mrs. Tony C might be in a lot of trouble when that day finally comes...and all my focus moves to her. Might behoove her to start suggesting hobbies to yours truly.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"...because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics..." Patrick Henry, 1796

Recently, I've been in discussions about the religious views of our nation's Founding Fathers. Titling those words is appropriate, I believe, because we've come to accept that specific label for the group of men pictured...among others.

The point of contention with most people seems center around whether or not our country was founded as a Christian nation...and I personally believe that argument to be dubious at best if not all together moot.

Nazi Germany of 1940 was a 'Christian' nation...

The outcry from most Christians is that Progressives are rewriting history to try to eliminate the role religion played during the infancy of America. There's little to no doubt  that may be true, but Christians are just as guilty of the very same deceptions.

And shouldn't we be the bigger person in the room?

History too well records the atheistic beliefs prevalent in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and the straight up blasphemy of both Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (a proclaimed Unitarian). Thomas Paine, a renowned Deist, wrote I would not dare to so dishonor my Creator God by attaching His name to that book (the Bible). So why do we deny these facts, or even worse, corrupt and distort them?

While the motive may be a noble defense of Christian legitimacy, the resulting effects of altering the truths of history are far more destructive to the cause of our faith. The Church has been in continuous existence since Pentecost following the Ascension of Christ (Acts 2:1-6), and far more damage has been done to His cause as a result of alterations to the true message as opposed to direct attacks on Christian principles (Inquisitions, Crusades and stake burnings come to mind). God's Word will stand until the very end, and all we need to do is promote and defend that Truth as presented in the Holy Bible. God doesn't need America to facilitate His will...actually...He doesn't need anything from us. Christianity existed long before this nation came along and will continue to exist should our country ever fail and fall.

Jesus didn't come to embrace the Roman Empire of the first century.  He lived under its rule and was executing in accordance with its laws. Jesus came to fulfill God's will...His plan for our redemption. Christ came and established a personal connection with but a very few people, yet from those connections...a movement of historically unmatched precedence was formed. That fact doesn't require embellishment or exaggeration on any one's part...especially Christians.

We've become both spoiled and ignorant in this country, and I state that with a grateful but heavy heart. We're overindulged with the luxuries resulting from numerous civil liberties. Religious persecution is a concept that exist only in other parts of the world, and its absence has resulting in a softening of our core beliefs. Very few people can tell you why they truly believe what they proclaim to believe because their ideas are largely unchallenged in a diverse culture of acceptance. Complacency has also replaced an undying quest for knowledge, and we've become a society content with lazily accepting what we hear or read without question. Critical thinking is slowly dying...even among those most educated in our midst.

Nothing good will ever come from distorting the truth. Nothing. Even when that truth isn't necessarily what we want to hear. The reality of fact that Jefferson, Franklin or Adams weren't men of Christian faith in no way hampers my pride as an American or lessens the contribution they made to form the greatest of nations. On the other hand as a Christian, it pains me dearly to think such great men died unwilling to accept an eternal gift given by a most gracious Creator. But then... that could just as well be easily said about anyone else who fails to believe. Why? Because Thomas Jefferson is no more important in God's eyes than the other lowly thief that hung beside His Son that dark day and refused to accept who Jesus was and died in his sins.

By altering the truth of history, we lessen the greatness and impact of men who were in fact good Christians and major contributors in the founding of our like Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton and Patrick Henry.  Face facts...our Founding Fathers were just not all wearing the same hat of piousness and no amount of revision in our minds will push some of our historical heroes through the gates of Heaven. So, don't be guilty of putting the two thieves on the same cross...Jesus made a promise but to one of them...the one who saw and accepted the Truth.

Was our country founded as a Christian nation?

I'm not exactly sure how that really matter over 200 years later. The more important question to ask is exactly what are each of us doing today to shine as individual lights for our Savior? After all, that's what we've been commanded to do...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No Cracker Barrel for me this year...just Zumba!

To say I love my wife would be the greatest of understatements...

My one and only Valentine today is everything to me. But I'll spare you the mushy, sloppy details. I need to say no more about my love and commitment to my Mrs. Tony C than this:

I'm going to Zumba tonight! Eyah!

That's right. Not some fancy restaurant with low lighting and half chocolate covered fruit. Not a quick overnight get away with no kids present or pajamas required. Not even a simple date night of nothing more than Applebee's and a chick flick. Nope.

Instead, I'm going to a room full of women people and sweating like a...well, you know...while I shake my groove thing.  Just call it love.

Truth be told, I'd do it naked in my front yard (at least until the police arrived or my neighbor mercy killed me with a head shot) if that's what she wanted. I can say that with complete confidence because I know good and well Jesus will be back before that thought ever transposes from her mind to mouth. But I'd sure do it!

It's just too easy to Hallmark or Russell Stovers your feelings on a day like today. Don't get me wrong... I respect and applaud those of you making that effort. I've just used up all such simplistic offerings of affection while making up for my many other bonehead moves and comments through my near eight years of marriage to the most of perfect of brides. An angel on Earth if there ever was one I tell you! 

Yep...I'm working on a whole different level here guys. Not to mention in just a mere 90 day window, I go through Christmas, her birthday, Valentines Day and our anniversary...celebrating the absolute greatest day of my life!

Poetic justice on a guy who once loathed and despised Valentines Day.

So tonight, I'll don my stretchy pants and vest and anchor that back row down with hooting and hollering as if Ricky Martin himself were leading the class. Wait...that was way too gay and if Selena Gomez were up front.

No wait! My wife leads the class! And does the absolute best job ever too!

Wonder if it's too late to get roses...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I really don't care what kind of music they play...

We know each other pretty well, don't we? I mean...we're tight? Because today I'm going to discuss something pretty personal, and I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. That's just not my style.

Now I'm not really sure any subject can be considered too personal these days with television commercials hyping everything know...female monthly stuff to erectile dysfunction pills and gadgets. There's even those toilet paper ads with the cartoon bears and paper stuck to their behinds. Come on!  Do I really need to see that?!

Which somewhat brings me to my subject matter today. Due to work circumstance, I was late getting home and missed church last night. Okay. Not the full story...

It's well documented we are creatures of habit, and I could easily be Exhibit A for that hypothesis. When I come home from work, I move my way through the greeting hugs and kisses, ceremonial small talk and straight to a personal bathroom.

The possessive pronoun is pivotal here.

 Did I have time to sprint home in a mad dash and still make it to church? I'm sure that was possible but would also have likely resulted in doing something I haven't done since around 1977...and that's use a public restroom know...not number one.

Recent events (or lack thereof) were clearly not in my favor. Despite a regular regiment of oatmeal and fiber tablets, things were just  a little 'off schedule', and the lack of  said activities was demanding a need for movement. Look. I'm a first thing in the morning and immediately after work kind of guy, and I'm at that age know...becomes a crucial indicator of one's overall health. A systems check if you will.

I'd like to blame the Marine Corps for my obsession over using the bathroom anywhere besides my home throne, but that wouldn't be exactly accurate. I never, ever did that at the school while in high school. Ever. I remember leaving school one day at the bequest of either bad breakfast sausage or a bad case of nerves resulting from a conversation with...let's call her Katie...and running the half mile to my house to answer the call and back again.

The Corps probably did, however, magnify my demand for private accommodations. There's nothing quite as contemptuous know...while looking directly across at five others know. There are no doors or stalls at Officer Candidate School.

I won't even attempt explaining a straddle trench when you're in the field. Trust me...not pretty.

Now you're probably wondering any different than say showering after football practice in the field house or in needed community situations while in the Corps. Nakedness isn't the problem here. It's just a privacy issue...okay...a hang up with me. It even aggravates know...out of me when the Crazy Tomato lingers outside my bathroom door while I'm in occupation. Or is that unoccupied? Anyway, I don't like it! That is my time of solitude and reflection and inevitably where most of my pending novel ideas originate.

Naturally, Mrs. Tony C finds all this quite comical and takes advantage at every opportunity to poke fun. Last night she found humor in going to church and letting people know why I wasn't there. How do I know this? Oh...I got text messages.

From Keith: Now I've heard every excuse for missing church lol.
Tony C response: I seriously doubt that. I can be pretty creative.

I'll spare you the text message conversation with my wife earlier that involved the subject related vernacular prairie dogging... now THAT was funny!

For the record, I don't front of Mrs. Tony C either and never will as long as fully capable.  Besides, I'm a lot older than her and figure she'll get plenty enough time to assist me with those needs at some point in the future.

Who's laughing now?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just what the heck is going on here Al Gore...

It's 72 degrees with 66 percent humidity as I write this in Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

In Johnson City, Tennessee, the temperature right now is 63 degrees with 40 percent humidity.

While one of those stats is completely normal for any given Groundhog's Day in recent past, the latter is a tad bit unnerving.

Before you go flying off the handle ranting and raving about 'normal weather cycles' and 'global warming quacks', the average high for this day in East Tennessee is 46 degrees with the record high being set in 1989 at 70 degrees. The record low is 0 in 1981. Unfortunately, I remember that winter all too well.

Now maybe you're one of those people who want to blame that drastic temperature swing on the spike in minivan sales in the 80's, or maybe you believe there's a government cover up of alien terraforming in Central America that will soon be exposed by Charlie Sheen on YouTube. Hey...I'm not here to judge. All I know is something freaky is going on, and if things don't change, I've got a couple of unused sleds for sale...real cheap.

When Mrs. Tony C and I bought our current abode in 2008, I was excited about the location on a hill that was primo for sledding action. Finally, the Crazy Tomato is of sledding age, but unless we make a major investment in an artificial snow machine, she's stuck with scooter propulsion for the foreseeable future.

I'm guessing I'd be far more popular with my water department than neighbors if I took that leap...

The real problem is she doesn't really know what she's missing! With no prior sledding experiences to reference, all the Crazy Tomato knows about sledding she learned watching Frosty the Snowman a few weeks back and maybe an episode of Dumbest Stuff on Wheels...which I will neither confirm nor deny she watched with me one night while her mother was gone.

All I'm saying is while I'm thankful for wearing a short sleeve polo and Crocs to work today...wait...I wear that every day.

All I'm saying is while I'm thankful for not having to commute 23 miles in slush while surrounded by idiots with misplaced expectations for their four-wheel drive vehicles, it would be nice to do a little downhilling in the backyard with the kids at least once before time Springs forward and we're back at the pool.

Don't even get me started on the whole time change thing. What a crock (with a 'k') that is. I might move back to Hawaii where they don't change the time because someone in the government thinks it's a good idea.

For sale: Two unused sleds. Brand new. Be the first to break them in this winter. Buy one, get  one free...