How a Pandemic can change your timeline – looking back on a recent road trip and a country closed down

Coronavirus Cell

Today we are in the midst of a Worldwide pandemic.  Unless you live in a cave, under a rock or out in the middle of the wilderness, you know this. Of course, if you were in any of those places, you wouldn’t be reading this either.

A mere 70 days ago I departed Lexington with my daughter Marissa and her three children Joselyn, Landen and Lyla to venture off on what ended up being a 24 day, 8154 mile road trip from Lexington, KY to Port Orchard, WA and then along the Pacific Coast to Cambria, CA and home through the southwest to Fort Worth, TX and back.  It was an amazing trip!  We finally returned to Lexington on February 18, 2020.  Little did we know then that on January 19, in Washington state that a 35 year old man was diagnosed with the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. At that time, the so-called novel coronavirus outbreak had already taken hold in Wuhan, China and the individual in Washington had carried it back with him when he returned from there on January 15.

Leaving on our “8154” Road Trip on January 25, 2020

Global Pandemic

Since that time, the outbreak has become a global pandemic.  On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. On that day there were 114 countries that had reported nearly 118,000 cases and 4,300 people had already died worldwide. Of those, there were only 1,000 known cases and 29 deaths in the United States. Today, only 23 days later, as of this writing, the tracking site Worldometer (worldometers.info/coronavirus) is reporting over one million cases and over 50,000 deaths worldwide (at 10:00 AM EST on April 3 – Reported numbers: 1,040,499 cases and 55,180 deaths).  The United States now has nearly 25% of all of those cases and over 6,000 deaths. (As of 10 AM EST on April 3 – Reported Numbers in the U.S.: 245,442 cases and 6,098 deaths).

Ironic Sign seen in Equality, IL on January 25, 2020  We now live in very uncertain times

The impact of this little microscopic coronavirus cell has been profound.  People all over the world are being told to stay home.  Businesses of all kinds have shut down.  Airlines are suffering.  Gas prices have dropped to levels not seen since the 1950s. National Parks, State Parks, City Parks, Hiking Trails, entertainment facilities and movie theaters are all pretty much closed.  It is absolutely surreal. Interstate travel is pretty much banned, unless it is essential (such as food trucks and other essential trucking).  Nowadays we are facing new concepts to our world: Social Distancing, Drive-Up Ordering, Washing Hands over and over, “Essential activities,” Flattening the Curve, Home Isolation, Self-Quarantine, stay-at-home orders, and more.

I took this in Santa Cruz, CA in early February. Now, with Social Distancing, it means so much more.

What amazes me is the rapidity of all of this and how, just a few short weeks ago, I was traveling with the family and enjoying the ride with absolutely no idea what was following us from the West Coast. (No, we were not carriers!!  We got there before the real outbreak happened, thank goodness).

Golden Rule (taken in Montana in late January) – Do Unto Others as You Would Have Others Do To You.  Means a lot more today as we should practice social distancing and stay at home to make sure others don’t get the coronavirus.

So, today, I look back on our trip and all of the places we visited that have now been impacted.  As well, I take a quick look at what we were doing until Kentucky essentially got a Stay At Home / Social Distancing order. It is amazing to me how quickly things have changed.  Following are a few photos with commentary on how they have changed dramatically since our trip.

Social Distancing

In late January I did a presentation in Alliance, Nebraska about my recent book.  People gathered together to listen.  Since mid-March, this is no longer allowed throughout the United States as there is both a push for “social distancing” (staying at least 6 feet away from others so not to pass the virus on) as well as a push to “Stay-at-Home” (basically, not going anywhere unless needed for groceries, etc.)

Doing a presentation about my book in Alliance, Nebraska

Eating Out With Friends and Family

During our trip I joined old high school friends for dinner in Bozeman and we also joined all of our family in Washington.  The new reality is now that we can only order online or through drive thru or door-side pick up.

Eating with friends in Bozeman. No longer allowed anywhere due to the virus.

Dinner with family, children and grandchildren in Seattle. No longer allowed.

Pizza with grandkids in Wallace, ID. Can’t do this nowadays. In fact, if we don’t live with grandkids, we are expected to keep our social distance

Hanging with my high school friend Teri Chambers. Can’t do this anymore with social distancing.

Visiting my friend and amazing guitarist Jimmy Jackson in Santa Cruz. Social Distancing makes this impossible now.

Boat Rides with Friends

On February 16 we took a boat ride on Caddo Lake with Mystique Tours and Aaron Applebaum as Captain. Now, with Social Distancing, this is no longer an option.

Took a boat ride in Texas. Can’t group together like this anymore.

No Longer Open

Unless places are considered essential businesses (grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, hardware stores and a few others), they are being ordered to close.  As a result over 7 million people have become unemployed in the past three weeks!!  National Parks we visited are now closed. State Parks and more.  The new normal is that businesses are closed.

No longer the case

Uranus Fudge Factory in Missouri closed down in late March

Movie theaters across the United States are all closed

Restrooms are closed in many places in order to avoid virus transmission

Bakeries and Donut Shops are drive-up only or closed. This was Psycho Donuts in Campbell, California

National Parks and National Monuments

During our trip we visited many National Parks and Monuments.  The kids visited them and picked up many Junior Ranger Badges.  All Visitor Centers in all parks are closed and getting a Junior Ranger Badge is not an option any longer. A majority of the parks are now closed completely. Even the amazing Grand Canyon National Park closed down on April 2.  This is unprecedented.

Grand Canyon National Park is now closed

Sequoia National Park is now closed

Little Bighorn Nation Battlefield is now closed

Wind Cave National Park is still open for drive through but all facilities, including restrooms and Visitor Centers are all closed.

As of this writing, Mt. Rushmore is still open, but all Visitor’s Centers and Restrooms are closed

Joshua Tree National Park is now closed

Custer State Park in South Dakota is still open to drive through, but their Visitor Center and restrooms are now closed.

Stay at Home Orders

Most U.S. states now have Stay at Home orders and in some cases even travel bans.  No longer can we get on the road to visit another state.  In fact, many states are requiring a 14 day quarantine if you visit the state.

Photos like this are no longer viable

Much of the public transport infrastructures are now closed. This is in San Francisco where light rail and other transport are currently shut down.

We drove over a crowded Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and reports now say that San Francisco is practically a ghost town.

Golden Gate Bridge, usually crowded, is now practically empty as a result of stay-at-home orders.

While in Oregon and California we visited a number of beaches along the Pacific Ocean.  In recent weeks all of these beaches have been closed as a result of the coronavirus.

Gold Beach, Oregon. This beach along with hundreds of others along the Pacific Coast have now been closed to force social distancing.

Towns are becoming ghost towns

On our trip we drove through many small towns and enjoyed the visits. Unlike the busy street shown in the photo below, most towns are practically closed down and the roads are empty.

Towns like Sheridan, Wyoming and hundreds of others are now practically ghost towns.

Aliens?

So, I wonder if Aliens brought this to us…  hmmm

Aliens in Baker, CA

Gasoline Prices

When I filled up with gas in Lexington on January 24, I paid $2.78 / gallon.  By the time we got to Cambria, California and paid over $4.50 / gal.  Since the outbreak, gasoline prices have dropped dramatically.  On March 31, I paid $1.47 / gal in Lexington and this morning I saw a couple of places at $1.35 / gal.  The irony in all of this??  We can’t go anywhere with Stay at Home orders.

Paid $2.07 / gal in Illinois on Januaary 25, 2020

On February 12, 2020 we paid $4.54 / gal in Cambria, California

On March 31, 2020 I paid $1.47 / gal in Lexington, KY

Since returning…even more

Since we returned things exploded.  After getting home, we still had activities and opportunities.  My wife Julianne has been participating in the Sheltowee Trace Challenge, hiking 20-30 miles on a weekend.  I would take her and drive around the Daniel Boone National Forest taking photos.  Her last hike was through the beautiful Red River Gorge.  But all of this is no longer doable.  In the last two weeks (as of this writing) the Red River Gorge has been closed down, the Daniel Boone National Forest has pretty much been closed down, the Sheltowee Trace Association has postponed (indefinitely) the Challenge, local hiking trails have closed and even the local parks, such as my usual hangout Jacobson Park has closed.  The new normal is so scary and so challenging.

Julianne hiking the Red River Gorge on February 23. She can no longer do this during this crisis

Sunrise at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky. The State Parks in Kentucky are all closed now.

Hundreds of seagulls at Minor Fish Hatchery near Cave Run Lake is no longer a visiting option.

The Sheltowee Trace is now closed as are dozens of other trails all over Kentucky

Jacobson Park, where I typically go in the mornings, has been barricaded off. because people were gathering in big groups.

Overall, the world has changed dramatically in a mere 70 days since we left on our cross-country trip.  I am so grateful that we were able to take that trip of 8154 miles across the country and do so before this drama hit. I am grateful as well that we didn’t bring anything back from Washington, since we were there when all of this was unfolding. The last three weeks have been such a whirlwind that it seems like ages since we took the trip and since Julianne has been able to hike.  In reality, its only been a few weeks.

I continue to try to smile and enjoy the ride. Life may have changed, but there are still reasons to Choose Happy

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

7 to 40: My Best Friend, My Soul Mate

It is now one week away from my 40th Wedding Anniversary.  This is a big deal for me.  Sure, the 50th Anniversaries are always the really special ones.  But, to me, we have almost made it to 40.  We are on the final stretch…one week to go.

According to various reports, only about 10% of all marriages make it to 40 years.  It drops to 5.5% for a 50 year marriage. Apparently, the national average for marriage length is 8.2 years and the divorce rate in the U.S. is somewhere in the area of about 41%.  That is pretty amazing to me as most of those people got married because they loved their spouse and cared about him/her.

Fun with Julianne

I would love to take the time to dig into Census Data and other Social Data and find out things such as divorce rates or marriage longevity for couples with children and couples without children.  But, alas, I don’t really have the time for that.

Our life has many rainbows together

So, all I can really do is assess why Julianne and I have made it 40 years.  I believe that love and commitment to each other were the prime drivers.  The willingness to give and take is another.  Of course, raising our children and being an example to them was important as well. We have two daughters that have managed 14 years of marriage and are beating the odds as well.

Julianne with her “No-uh” face

But, bottom line for me, is that my spouse is also my best friend.  She is my soul mate.  I truly do and always have loved this special person.  Does this mean that our relationship is always hunky-dory?  Absolutely not!  Does this mean that we don’t have disagreements and things that tug us in different directions?  No way!  Certainly, we have had numerous times in our relationship that we could have called it quits, for one reason or another.  But, we haven’t.  Our friendship is a much stronger bond than that.

Fun being with each other

As we have grown older, there are segments of our individual lives that have grown apart.  I think it is only natural. Our individual interests and pursuits tend to blossom after the children have left.  Though there are many common pursuits as well, these sometimes falter for one reason or another.  But the familial ties bind us strongly.  We both love and cherish our children.  We both adore our grandchildren.  And we both love to be around each other.

Visiting Pittsburgh on a recent trip to visit her sister

I am humbled by my sweet wife’s willingness to hang in there with me, despite my foibles, faults and even failures.  I have strived to be there for her and take care of her as well as I can. She has done the same for me.

Julianne and David – Nov 4, 2018

Honestly, forty years ago I was not sure if we would make it this far.  I most certainly hoped we would.  But, it is difficult to see the future and all of the challenges, frustrations and disappointments that lie in the dark shadows waiting to leap onto an unwary couple. During those times, we had to hold each other tightly and get through the storms.  And we did. Over and over.  Because we loved, and still love, each other.

Riding the storms of societal change

Its not over.  It continues forward.  I love and adore my sweet Julianne.  She is an inspiration.  She brings me joy.  She is my best friend. She is my soul mate.

David and Julianne – on our 25th anniversary

9 to 40: Discovering the “Garden of Youth”

As I mentioned in my previous post, Julianne is a learner.  She strives to excel and, most of the time, succeeds. It seems like years that she has been searching for her “fountain of youth.”  We have both struggled with our weight throughout this 40 years together, but, I am certain, Julianne has ultimately succeeded in her battle.

Fighting weight issues is a massive challenge for all that attempt it.  Most don’t ever really get there.  It requires dedication, planning, gumption,fortitude, desire and struggle to get there.  And, of all the people I know that have struggled to get there, Julianne is really the only one that has truly succeeded.

I can remember her years ago studying the Macrobiotic Diet, probably as a result of our time living in Japan.  The macrobiotic diet is a pescetarian diet (sometimes vegetarian or vegan) fixed on ideas about types of food drawn from Zen Buddhism.  I think at the time she tried, it was too difficult.

Dr. John McDougall

After struggling with other diets, Julianne ultimately discovered Dr. John McDougall, an outspoken proponent of the consumption of a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB), especially advocating low-fat, starchy foods, like potatoes.  She studied his concepts intently and eventually was led to watch videos such as the famous documentary Forks Over Knives, which was based on the book of the same name, which ultimately became a number bestseller on the New York Times list.  The book (and film) suggests the adoption of a plant-based diet that helps people regain control of their health and their lives.

Forks Over Knives was on of Julianne’s catalysts for change
Jane Birch – Author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom

Julianne then became friends with an LDS proponent of WFPB named Jane Birch. She is the author of a book titled Discovering the Word of Wisdom.  She then pursued her efforts and, after a while had great success such that she was featured on Jane’s website. (see Julianne’s story here).  I think that this is where Julianne “discovered” what I am referring to as her “Garden of Youth.”

Discovering the Word of Wisdom
Julianne in her “youthful” 2019 look

 Julianne began digging into this Garden of Youth more and more.  The learner in her kicked in full-bore.  As an employee of the University of Kentucky, she could take classes and, in one of her classes she had to do a report.  In doing so, she found a disturbing article by Michael Moss titled “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.”  This article, published in the New York Times in Feb. 2013, revealed how the giant food manufacturers were intentionally making food addictive.

 

Julianne visiting with T.Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, a major publication suggesting a plant-based lifestyle

From there she focused on food addiction and realized her addictions, which drove her even deeper to overcome them.  Unlike most of us, including me, that are afraid to admit food addiction and/or are not willing to accept or take it one, Julianne dove in full force. She committed herself to change based on her research, evidence, and, by this time, experience.

Julianne and Chef AJ In 2019

She then found Chef AJ, who runs the Ultimate Weight Loss group, another program she loves. She has learned a lot from Chef AJ and her program really sent Julianne to the next level.

As Julianne’s husband of nearly 40 years, I have done all I can to support her efforts (short of jumping on board the WFPB train completely) to help her succeed. I really have.  I am proud of her fabulous success.  Since starting WFPB sometime in 2017, she has lost nearly 100 pounds.  She actually weighs less than she did as a 19 year old when we married in 1979. She looks 15 years younger than her actual age.  She is vibrant, active and happy.  She loves her journey and the many friends with similar mindsets that she has made.

Julianne with plant-based guru and author Rip Esselstyn, who also just set world swimming records for someone over 50

Ironically, in our 40 years of marriage, the past two have probably been the hardest for me.  In my life journey, I am still, admittedly, not willing to jump into WFPB, though I have seen first hand what the benefits are as I have seen the great progress of my strong and successful wife. Indeed, there are many who are in my same boat.  Perhaps its our lizard-brain, or our food addictions.  Much of the foods she prepares are wonderful, but I still find myself craving the meat and cheese and oil.

For those of you that may not know…Julianne’s dietary lifestyle is a radical change from how most of the rest of us eat. She eats no meat, fish, dairy products, poultry.  That’s a given in a plant-based diet (notice, I am NOT using the word Vegan here). But, she has taken many steps further — no processed foods, no sugar, no honey, no bread, no oils.  Her downfall and biggest temptation?  Tortilla chips and salsa.

Julianne Before and After… on the left was early 2017. On the right late 2018

Her mantra is “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”  She has discovered her “Garden of Youth” and you can see it.  I am proud of her success and honored to be her husband…despite my own weaknesses.  Not many of us are privileged to be with such a strong and amazing person!

Julianne 1979
Julianne 2019 – looks better than ever!!

12 to 40: Then and Now – Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Then and Now posts for my 60 to 40 posts.  As noted in the previous two posts, a lot has changed in 40 years.  That includes our two lives as a married couple. As with any marriage, we have had our own roller coaster ride.  Each marriage has its ups and downs.  But, we have come through because we really care about each other and have made give and take a key part of our lives.

With that in mind, there are many outside influences that can impact a relationship and one’s lives. And this has been the case for many of us in the past 40 years.  We have lived through a number of national and worldwide crises, terrorist events, massive social changes and more.  Following are some of the big events that have shaped the world we live in and, in some way, shape or form, impacted the way we live our lives.

Some of the US Presidents from 1979 to present
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter participate in the State Funeral for former President George H.W. Bush, at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 in Washington. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

Since we were married in 1979, we have seen seven Presidents in office including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump.  What a ride that has been!

The horrific attack terror attacks on New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001 have had a major impact on the world

We have heard of dozens of terrorist attacks in the world, from the kidnapping of Americans in Tehran, to the horrific devastation of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and many more since. For us, life goes on.  Gratefully, none of these attacks has a direct impact on our lives, but the indirect impact has been immeasurable.

 

I worked in the solar energy in the 1990s. It is a huge industry today.

Wind farms now dot the country

In our 40 years we have seen the renewable energy industry grow by leaps and bounds around the country. This is a wonderful thing for the world.

Gas shortage of 1979 was a major impact to us

Gas may have only been around 88 cents a gallon, but the shortage in 1979 caused massive lines

The country has seen a few major financial crises, but the 2008 crisis was massive

The housing crisis of 2008 was the cause of many losing their homes. We were very lucky…more than once.

Crisis after crisis, Julianne and I have been blessed to weather the storms in many ways.  Sadly, some of the crises did cause unplanned job losses for us. But, we worked with resilience and have come back on a couple of occasions.  Job loss is not easy.  It takes a toll on you emotionally.  But, Julianne and I have created multiple skillsets over the past 40 years and so we were able to move on to other areas of employment and survive these crises.

Social Change has pulled our country in different directions

Riding the storms of societal change

Both Julianne and I grew up in the 1960s when the Vietnam War had been a driving force for Social Change.  We also experienced the effects of racism and sexism.  Since the 1970s, there has been much in social change.  Not only have we seen a return of race-related protest and violence in our country, but also protests for women’s rights and the evolution and normalization of rights for the LGTBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bi and Queer) groups.  Fights over gun rights, employment rights, the rights of gays and lesbians to marry…all of these have had major impacts on how society and the work place function.  Diversity rules in schools and places of employment have led to more difficulty in employment.  In fact, all of the brouhaha surrounding all of the social change was likely a contributing factor to Donald Trump winning the Presidential Election in 2016.  So far, Julianne and I have weathered these storms as well.  Commitment to our own values and commitment to each other has really helped us through this.

We can get through change

53 to 40: Ms. Determination

One of Julianne’s more impressive qualities is her quiet determination. I have watched her tackle all kinds of tasks and goals over the years and she has always had the chutzpah to accomplish them. Has she been perfect at accomplishing her objectives?  No, but who is?  But, she has always had the gumption to push through.

I probably can provide a billion examples of how she has tackled a project or a goal and then has worked her way through, solving the challenges, overcoming the obstacles and getting there.

One of Julianne’s earliest Photofabrique creations

One of the unique examples of this comes from her desire to create a process to make a type of fabric art, which she first called “Photo Fabrications” and then later coined “Photofabrique.” She had a concept in mind…make quilted fabric art out of photos and make them look realistic, like a photo.  To accomplish this she first came up with ideas on how to break the photo down.  This required her to learn how to use a software product called Photoshop.  Back when she first started doing this, Photoshop was still a fairly new software product.  So, she learned it and learned how to make five layers from a photo. After many many tries, she finally came up with the concept that worked.

 

Julianne portrait in fabric

With the success in doing this, and while working as a quilt specialist at Quilter’s Square, others wanted to learn the process.  Though she wouldn’t teach the pattern making, she began making the patterns and teaching classes.  For a few years she taught classes in numerous states, as far away as Montana, and many in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee.  It became a venture for her and then introduced more challenges.  She had to devise quicker methods.  Her determination to do so helped her to learn techniques in Photoshop that would ultimately turn her pattern-making into a “scan and run an applet” type of thing. Her process evolved over a number of years.  It was amazing to see her scale this mountain.

Julianne teaching her technique in a class in Tennessee

Her use of a National Geographic photographer (Steven McCurry) piece that she turned into a photofabrique piece.

Showing off a Marilyn Monroe

When her sister Maren visited on year, Julianne began to learn yoga.  Once again, it was a challenge, but she was soon taking yoga classes and still, on occasion, does them today.  It was hard for her, but she took on the challenge and learned.

Julianne Learning Yoga

Another big challenge for Julianne was learning Japanese.  We lived in Japan as a family from 1987-1991.  During that time, Julianne focused on learning to speak the language.  By the time we left, she was able to converse freely and, nearly 28 years later she can still speak quite a bit.  She never quit and it has stuck with her.

With the family in Oita, Japan in 1988

Learning the language and the culture of Japan in 1988

There will be more posts in the next couple of weeks covering other areas where Julianne has shown gumption, determination and guts in accomplishing her objectives. She most certainly knows how to look at the mountain from below and scale it!

57 to 40: The Can Do Girl

Over 40 years and Julianne never ceases to amaze me with her Can Do Spirit. She will take on almost any challenge.  In fact, it is best not to say “I don’t think you can do that” to her, as she will strive to prove you wrong.

There are many examples I can provide herein, but she proved it big time just recently with the accomplishment of an amazingly monumental task — the complete redoing of a bathroom in our house, right down to the replacement of a brand new toilet.

It has been nearly 20 years since we moved into our house here in Lexington and a number of remodelish kind of things have been done.  But the upstairs bathroom always remained, until April 2019, that is.  I had no doubts about her doing most of the work in there, including the new flooring, the replacement of wallpaper, redoing the curtains.  But, the toilet?  That, to me, is tricky business.  I said we should get a plumber.  She said no.her efforts

Getting a new toilet. Wondering what we were getting ourselves into.

So, off I went to Lowe’s to get a new one.  It required a couple of neighbors and me to get that thing up the stairs. It was very heavy and bulky.

Before she could do the wallpaper and floor, we had to remove the old toilet.  This was quite a job in and of itself.  But Julianne tackled it almost with the finesse of a plumber.  Its a yucky job and she dug right in (literally…if you have had to remove a toilet wax ring, you will know what I mean!).  After that, off came the mouldling and trim.

The new bathroom – a Julianne triumph

Soon, she was all about replacing the wall paper, replacing the flooring, painting the walls and then adding the molding and trim.  She cut the lengths for the chair rails (she added two of them) herself and added that to the wall.  All the while, I did what I could do to assist, mostly being the gofer and the “look it up on YouTube” guy.

Everything was done but the toilet.  We ripped open the box and together we got it ready.  Steady hands always, Julianne added the new wax ring and we flipped the guy over.  She assembled everything.  And voila!!  After some bolt tightening adjustments to stop any leaking, we had a working toilet and basically, a brand new, great looking bathroom.

Julianne can scale mountains. The Can Do Girl!

Julianne has accomplished many other seemingly insurmountable tasks over the years.  To Julianne, obstacles are like mountains; they’re not going to move themselves. She has always had the strength, gumption and ability to take action to overcome them. She has scaled the mountains in so many ways.  I could go on with stories, but I’ll leave it to the one above as a prime example of Julianne’s Can Do Spirit!  I am proud to know this amazing woman.

60 to 40: Let the Countdown Begin!

I have been waiting almost a year for this day. It is officially 60 days away from my 40th anniversary of marriage to my sweetheart Julianne.

What a momentous time for us! The past 40 years have brought so many wonderful blessings into our lives and offered us so many wonderful opportunities to grow closer and to learn about life and love. I have cherished every moment, even the difficult and challenging times.

Over the next 59 days, I plan to post a different outlook on my sweet wife and what I cherish most about having been with her for 40 years. It has been a wonderful journey and I hope that it continues on for much longer.

Julianne and David – May 2019

All I want to say in this post, is that it has been a ride! In 40 years we have had five wonderful children, all of whom are, at the time of this writing, in their 30s. Four of our children have married and we have, through them, 10 wonderful and talented grandchildren, including two teenagers! In our 40 years we have lived in nine different cities, including four years in Oita, Japan. Both Julianne and I have had a variety of jobs, some full-time and some part-time over the years. Over the next 59 posts I will mention some of those as well. During the course of our marriage, we have owned 10 different cars, we have lived in 13 different houses and/or apartments, we have traveled all over the country both with our family and together as a couple. In 45 days from now we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of moving into the house that we currently reside in.

Through the ups and downs, the challenges and successes, the difficult times in the joyful times, ours has been an abundant journey. For this I can’t my blessings. I hope you will follow us over the course of the next 59 days as I spend a portion of each day celebrating The absolute love of my life, the woman and friend who is stuck with me through thick and thin over these 40 years.

A Week of Gratitude 2018 – Part 3: The Journey With My Family

David in 1974…age 18

By the time I was ready to depart on the solo part of my journey, at the age of 17, I had already determined a few things regarding my future. Having grown up with a good deal of dysfunction and unhappiness in my own adoptive family, I had determined that if I ever had a family of my own, that kind of dysfunction and heartache would not happen on my watch. I am not saying that everything in my family was bad, but there were many things that just weren’t right and I wanted to make sure I fixed these things for my own offspring, if I was ever blessed to have one.

Starting our family journey in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ
David at age 60

Now, at age 62, I am thankful to say that, overall, we have had a loving family and I believe that most of my resolutions in terms of family pretty much came true. My children have not had to experience a divorce between their parents. My children were loved and nurtured and had a fairly stable family. Unlike my situation where my parents never came to any of my school activities (other than my high school graduation and later my college graduation), my wife and I strived to attend as many activities of our children as we could possibly do. To be sure, there were times where three different functions occurred simultaneously, and thus one of the children had to miss out on parents being there.  But, but if we could be there, we were.

Family in Japan in late 1980s
Julianne and I were blessed with five wonderful children throughout the first years of our marriage. Soon all of our children will be over the age of 30 and it is hard to believe that we have children approaching the age of 40. I really don’t feel that old.
My fun family!
My Wonderful Family – 1993

I am grateful that my children have had so many wonderful life experiences prior to their departures on their own separate life journeys. I’m grateful that for at least 17 or 18 years of their lives they were able to join Julianne and I on our journey as we lived in Japan, lived in different parts of the country, and had many opportunities provided for us to travel, participate in many activities and do many things that most families never really get to do.

Hanging with oldest daughter Amaree
Having fun with my second child, Marissa
Goofing around with third child Chelsea
Trying to be as handsome as my first son, fourth child Seth
Trying to remain youthful with our youngest child, Solomon
The family visiting Mesa, AZ

We have never had a “rich” life in terms of money, and that has been perfectly okay. We’ve never been dirt poor either. We have always been blessed to have what we needed and sometimes even a little bit more. Our children never did without the necessities of life and for that I am deeply grateful. My children never had to have their heads shaved like my mom used to do. She gave us our haircuts and I didn’t like it. If our children desired that kind of haircut, then it was fine even though I still did not like how they looked.  Fortunately, I believe that we were very good about allowing our children to make guided choices during their youth.

My Wonderful Family – 2012
Thanks to the amazing talents of my wife in so many areas, our children grew up to have many talents themselves. They were all musical. Most of them have been creative in one way, shape or form, whether it be graphic arts or some other form of creativity.
The whole family in prime form – July 2017!
Four of my children have found wonderful spouses whom they love and who love them in return. Those “in-law” kids are definitely an important part of our family. These children have also brought forth their own children, our grandchildren. By the time I was 60, I already had 10 grandchildren. When I left home at age 17, the thought of grandchildren barely crossed my mind. It was all I could think of to just have a wife and my own small family someday. And, I was certainly blessed with abundance. As it says in Proverbs, “children are like arrows… happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” And I most certainly have a quiver full and I am definitely happy.
Earlier group photo of family
I am grateful for the love my children have for their parents and I am grateful thankful for the togetherness that each of them shares with one another. Like any siblings, they have had their differences. But, when we have family gatherings, there is togetherness. For us, “the family that stays together, STAYS together.” When we have issues, the children are there to discuss them and share them. They call each other, they share time with each other, they carry on family traditions such as calling and singing happy birthday. It is a joy to this old man to see the evolution of my five children and ultimately my 10 sweet grandchildren.
A composite of me with all of my grandchildren in 2012 and then again, same pose in 2017.
And what can I say about my grandchildren.? They all bring me so much happiness and joy. I am glad that I don’t have to raise them every day, so I get them most of the time when they are in a good mood. But it is a joy to spend time with these amazing children. I have been blessed to be able to spend some quality time with many of them. I’ve been able to share the adventures of traveling on the back roads with most of them. My children and grandchildren will all learn diversity. They will all know the wonders of this world. Hopefully they will appreciate and enjoy those times spent with Julianne and me.
Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving “Turkey Hat”
Fun with grandchild #2 – Kade Matthews
Goofing off with #3 – Charles Matthews
Spreading sunshine with #4 – Joselyn Noe
Bright smiles with #5 Landen Noe
Cuddling with #6 – Olivia “Livvy” Matthews
Having fun with #7 – Rockwell Kravetz
Sharing a flamingo moment with #8 – Lyla Noe
Playing (as always) with the carefree #9 – Benson Matthews
Enjoying Grampz time with #10 – Samuel Kravetz
Don’t get me wrong. Raising our children has not been an easy task either. Each of them has brought challenges to my wife and myself. Each of my children has made decisions that we did not necessarily agree with. But as we grow older, we learned to support our children and their decisions and to love them unconditionally, as best as we were able. And that love has been reciprocated back in abundance. I am deeply grateful for that.
I love playing with my grandchildren
Hanging with the Grandkidz at the Wigwams in Cave City, KY. Yes, we stayed there!
I feel rich

And now, 45 years after I had left my own home and set forth on my personal journey and traveled these many years on this journey with my family, I feel “rich“ in the abundance of family. I feel rich in joy and experiences. I have had a rich life because of my children and my grandchildren and this will be something I will be able to always have with me.

Bottom line… My life has been wonderfully blessed and that is why I am “awesome, but getting better” everyday.

A Week of Gratitude 2018 – Part 2: The Journey With My Wife

Happy Happy Happy

In my previous post, I wrote about my personal life journey. The following few posts will also include details of this journey, but will be more focused on those that have  accompanied me or that I accompanied on their portion of their own journey.

I would be remiss to not include the one person who has joined me on greatest part of my life journey, my sweet wife Julianne. So, for the purpose of this blog post, I want to express my gratitude and thanksgiving in the fact that she has been with me side-by-side on much of my life journey over the last 40 years. She’s been such an integral part of my journey, that my life would be so different without her.

Julianne Nov 2018

My sweet wife smiles with me on my 60th birthday celebration

I have written before in previous posts in this blog that we met in late 1978 and were married in the summer of 1979. That is where our journey really got started. On this journey together we have traveled to Japan, we have lived in numerous places, have had five children and 10 grandchildren.  It has been an amazing and rewarding journey together.

During this journey together, she has been strong and his been the foundation of our relationship. She has struggled and suffered through times where my employment took me away for long periods of time, but she has made it through with flying colors.
When you are on a journey with another person, it is always important to recognize that he or she is alongside with you and that it is not just “your“ journey alone at that stage. Things along the way that impact your life, will impact the life of the other one that has joined you.  Such has been the case my wife. Things that impacted her, also had an impact on me and vice versa.

All in the Family…family photo on my 60th Birthday

Julianne and David

A marriage to someone you love and cherish is wonderful, but it is not an easy thing. Some people are awestruck that we have been together for nearly 40 years. Personally, I am extremely grateful that she has been patient enough with me and my foibles and quirks and has stuck with me for 40 years. It gets a little more complicated after children leave because then we are each striving for some independence and wanting to go our own direction or pull the other one to go with us in that direction or the other.  There are no longer children at home dictating our activities and the direction of our life’s journey.

Wedding Photo – July 1979

Julianne and I began our journey together 40 years ago with many dreams and hopes. Some of those have come true and have been very fulfilling for both of us. There are others that seem to have escaped us and have gone far away out of our grasp. As well,  on a journey such as ours, there are always unexpected obstacles and ofttimes there are choices where we need to decide which fork of the road to take. Fortunately, in this our journey together, almost always we have found ways to come to agreement on which roads to take as well as the possible consequences for taking those roads and going in that direction rather than the other one.

David and Julianne in Japan 1990

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

Often times, hitting a crossroads, we never know what taking that road will lead us too. Sometimes there is no information other than to go this way or to go that way. But once determined, we pursued with fervor and did the best we can along that portion of our journey together. And, gratefully, Julianne has always been there by my side. Almost all of our journey together has been one that we determined we would take together whether good or bad. And I’m so thankful for

Julianne and David November 2018

her willingness to do so.

In recent years, we have trudged along on our journey together while, at times, pursuing separate paths that may have paralleled the wider path. We are generally going in the same direction, but we sometimes seem to take different paths to get there. There has been good with that and there has been the not so good as well. The course that Julianne is taking has brought her to better health. She looks marvelous and she has done amazingly well. I am so proud of her and astonished at her fortitude.  And also impressed with her youthful good looks. She is just as beautiful to me today as she was when I first met her nearly 40 years ago. Perhaps, even more beautiful, because I know her heart and I know her mind and I know her in so many deeper ways then I did when I first met her.

My Happy Place

As for me, the last few years of my journey have been challenging. I have not done as well in improving my health. It does sadden me. But I have also struggled in this treacherous economy to stay stable and gainfully employed. I’m grateful that I am able to do what I do now (which is a later blog post). But, when I hit those forks in the road on my portion of the journey, I have some times taken the more difficult and challenging roads, without knowing it.  But Julianne always supports me and helps me through!

David and Julianne – on our 25th anniversary

So, as we both pursue our own personal journeys on parallel paths in one direction, there are times where we are having our hands tugged apart. But, we have both strived to find ways to make sure that we do not lose that grip that we have with each other so that we can make it through the challenging times of being too singular individuals pursuing our own journeys while also trying to be a part of each others’ greater journey.

David and Julianne 1979 in Monument Valley

Love absolutely binds two individuals together strongly. I am grateful for the love that Julianne has had for me all these years and that she has accompanied me, and many times pulled me along or has been pulled along on this journey.

Every day of life with Julianne on this road is a blessing.

A Week of Gratitude 2018 – Part 1: Life’s Journey

Our Life Journey is a long road

As we approach Thanksgiving 2018, I have taken tome to reflect on those things that I am thankful for, probably more than I have in the past.  As a 62 year old, I have a great deal to look back on and to be thankful for.  So, for the next week, through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am doing a post each day to express my gratitude for the various segments of my life.  Some of what I write may be more personal than others may want to see, but to me, these are the main things I want to express my gratitude for.

Which way do we go?

I want to start out this week long effort by expressing my gratitude first and foremost for my life’s journey.  Each of us must walk the paths of our lives’ journeys.  Nobody else can walk this path. Interestingly enough, our journey is not really our own until we leave our parents and our homes.  We all start our journeys on the backs (or in the hands) of others.  And that initial part of the journey may very well lay the foundational footpath for our own personal journey.

 

We must all have our choices

Being a Christian and believing in a pre-existence and an after-life is always helpful to me in understanding and appreciating my journey.  I believe that my Father in Heaven let me know what treacherous and difficult paths would lay ahead of me as I came to earth.  I accepted that knowing as well that I would be blessed with guidance from Him along the way as well as the ability to choose which way to go.  I don’t believe for a moment that God laid out a specific course for me to take.  Rather, he set things in motion for me to take paths with many forks in the road.

I believe this is the earliest known photo of me, taken in October 1956, shortly after I was born.

My journey began in Cleveland, Ohio in early October 1956. I was born into an Italian family (my birth name was Carmen David Laurienzo), but to a Jewish mother. My father, Joe Laurienzo, was a the son of a migrant Italian name Carmine Laurienzo.  From all I know, Joe was a hard working individual.  He lived in the same home as his father on Murray Hill Road in the Little Italy district of Cleveland.

I will never know for sure how my Italian Catholic father met and ultimately married my German Jewish mother (Orene Goldberg, later to be known as Jennierose Lavender). But, I was conceived and was, at the time, the beginning of the third generation of Laurienzos to be born in and live in the house on Murray Hill Road.

The home I was born into on Murray Hill Rd. in Cleveland, OH. This was taken about 1956/57

Joe Laurienzo and Orene ca. 1956 or 1957. This is the only photo I have of both of my natural parents together.

And thus began my amazing journey.

Mother Orene and me

By the time I was 10 months old, in August 1957, my journey took a turn.  Giving in to pressure from her staunch Jewish mother (Marion Goldberg) in Albuquerque, Orene left with me while the Catholic side of the family was all celebrating the Feast of Assumption Festival…one of the biggest annual events in this little corner of Cleveland. I was essentially snuck away, never to meet my natural father, who, I came to find later on, was heartbroken.  Just a little over one year later, Orene was being remarried to the second Joseph in my life, Joseph Kravetz, in a fairly social Jewish ceremony.  They were married in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 1958.

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958

David and brother Aaron, probably in August 1960.

As a very young child, i had already experienced some major directional changes in my journey.  And this would ultimately be the way of life for me for at least the next 15 years of my life. Orene and Joe K ended up having a son together in 1960 (Aaron). Then she left us.  She left Joe Kravetz alone to raise my younger half-brother Aaron and me.

As a young four year old, I am sure that somehow I managed to blame myself for her leaving.  As for Aaron and me, we ended up with a number of babysitters to take care of us while my Dad worked. Some of them would come and go.  It was a tough rocky road for these two little boys.

David and brothers Aaron and Danny, probably about 1962

Joe Kravetz eventually participate in some single-adult parent organization (or something) and later met Marjorie Biel (nee Tudor), who had become divorced and had a young boy (Danny), 16 days younger than me.  I believe that they both married out of necessity more than love.  Nonetheless, as a young child, I was piggybacked into this relationship, which brought forth two more children (Gary in 1964 and Sherry in 1967).

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

Joe and Marge in 1978 in Jemez Springs, NM. By this time they were divorced but posed for this photo.

Through adoptions, all of us became Kravetz kids.  But it was a hodge-podge family.  Dad worked all the time for a drug store chain.  Mom (Marge) was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and would take us to the Kingdom Hall a couple of times a week. She diligently sought to make sure we had a religious upbringing.  She had health issues and struggled in her relationship with Joe.  But, kudos to both of them as they made the courageous choice to stay together, despite deep-rooted differences and a great deal of family dysfunction and challenge (Danny was “mentally retarded” – a term used in the 1960s/70s). Aaron and I could be unruly.

Between 1965 and 1974, we had moved four different times to four different cities due to my Dad’s job transfers. More rocky, rutted roads for my life journey lay before me.  New homes, changes in schools, new friends, leaving old friends. It wasn’t easy for any of us.  By the time we were in Bozeman, Montana, I had run away from home twice to get away from the dysfunction…  I was ready to journey forth on my own personal journey and off of the piggyback roller coaster ride I had experienced.

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister – Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978   This was the only complete family photo we ever had.

I will say here that Joe Kravetz and Marge did the very best they could with what was handed to them.  They both had their emotional baggage and the five children, who were, without choice, along for the rocky ride, had to learn to deal with it all, and we all did in our own ways.

David ca. 1973 – I looked this way my Senior Year too.

I had always been the prayerful type.  I believed in a God and I prayed for a miracle on many occasions.  Mine came in the chance meeting of some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bozeman in the summer of 1973.  The one week that I spent visiting with this family from New Jersey every day set me on my own path and in my own direction…one that would ultimately get me asked to leave my home as a 17 year old in Murray, Utah in the summer of 1974.

So, finally, in 1974 I began my own journey, making my own choices on my life’s direction….both good and bad.

After graduating high school in Murray in 1974, I had to make many huge, life-altering choices.  I came to one fork in the road after another, knowing full well that the choices made at those crossroads were ones I could never go back on and “try again.”  That’s the funny thing with choices.

Working as a missionary in Japan from 1976-78

After choosing to be baptized into the LDS Church in January 1975, I had made choices to leave jobs to take on other “grass is always greener over there” kinds of jobs.  Then, it happened…  the first big big big choice.  Do I serve an LDS mission or do I take the really good paying job?  It would have to be one or the other.  In the long run, I chose to serve and this really set the direction for my life journey from then on.

Since that time, my journey has meandered in many directions.  Life has had many challenges, ups and downs and frustrations.  But it has also been filled with joy, happiness and smiles.  Bottom line, I have had a wonderfully rich life and over the next week will show my gratitude to the many things that have crossed my journey’s path.

I am very grateful for my personal journey and for those that have spent part of their journeys walking by my side on mine.

Life’s Been good