Countdown 365: #312 – Thanksgiving Day

TDay14Thanksgiving Day is THE day for gratitude and thanks.  However, I have been “counting my blessings” daily and so I want to use Thanksgiving Day 2015 as a day of gratitude for THAT specific day as it turned out to be a wonderful day from stat to finish.

The day would prove to be a very busy one, but one filled with joy points, family gatherings, and lots of food and fun.

Early Morning full moon on Thanksgiving Morning

Early Morning full moon on Thanksgiving Morning

The full moon glowed opposite the sunrise

The full moon glowed opposite the sunrise

I actually started the day off early to make an early morning visit to my favorite sunrise viewing spot at Jacobson Lake, only a few miles from my house. The skies were partly cloudy and still dark as I made my way to the lake. The moon was bright and full.  The air was crisp at about 46 degrees, but it was beautiful.

Behind me the moon was full and still glowing at 7 AM.  In front of me the sky was filled with dozens of shades of pink and orange at dawn.  The sun still had to make its way up above the

A jet streaks across the sky before the sun made its way above the horizon

A jet streaks across the sky before the sun made its way above the horizon

horizon, but, was already lighting the sky.  A jet streaked across the sky with its contrails glowing orange.  Canadian geese welcomed the morning…some took flight, others took a morning swim in the cool waters of the lake.

For me, this was a glorious and magnificent way to start off my Thanksgiving Day.  I stood by the side of the lake with a heart filled with gratitude for the beauty of this earth and for the blessing of being able to experience it with all of my senses.  And photos honestly don’t do justice.  But, here are a few from this early morning experience.

A panorama shot of the lake and skies just before sunrise

A panorama shot of the lake and skies just before sunrise

Geese in flight overhead at dawn

Geese in flight overhead at dawn

Geese hit the water for an early morning swim. It is wonderful to see them glide into the lake in tandem

Geese hit the water for an early morning swim. It is wonderful to see them glide into the lake in tandem

The early morning sky was filled with color

The early morning sky was filled with color

Geese swim by as they await the grand entrance of the sun

Geese swim by as they await the grand entrance of the sun

The sun finally makes an appearance as it peeks through the clouds on the horizon

The sun finally makes an appearance as it peeks through the clouds and trees on the horizon

Here comes the sun (I can hear George Harrison's sweet voice)

Here comes the sun (I can hear George Harrison’s sweet voice)

Glorious Thanksgiving Sunrise

Glorious Thanksgiving Sunrise

I sat in awe, as I often do, watching the glorious sunrise, listening to the cackle of the geese, watching the blue herons snuggle with the bushes to stay warm in the early morning cool.

I was physically and emotionally revitalized and ready to pursue the exciting family events of the day.  This solitary time with camera, wildlife, clouds and sun is something I crave.  Yes, I love music in my ears and I work in front of a computer all day.  But THIS is escape for me.  I love the open roads for the same reason. The world is glorious and God’s creations are magnificent.  And, on Thanksgiving morning, it was almost like a private worship service for me.

Sunrise on Thanksgiving

Sunrise on Thanksgiving

Turkey in brine getting readied for the Big Green Egg experience

Turkey in brine getting readied for the Big Green Egg experience

I left with a full heart and headed back home.  I had already put wood chips out to soak in preparation for grilling and smoking a turkey on my Big Green Egg. Originally, Julianne and I had planned to just go to a catered buffet for Thanksgiving this year.  No fussing, no dirty dishes, etc.  Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd, who happened to be in Louisville as one of the performers in the traveling Broadway production of “Wicked,” would be joining us for this brunch.  But our daughter Chelsea made it known that she was having a big get together and wanted me to smoke a turkey on the BGE.  Soon, Julianne had volunteered to bring a “few” things as well. So much for the “non-cooking” day.

Got the Big Green Egg smoking

Got the Big Green Egg smoking

We prepped the turkey the night before by brining it with numerous herbs, etc.  This has traditionally been our way of doing a turkey for a few years.  When I got home I warmed up the BGE and got it smoking good.  I actually heated up the grill to about 700 degrees to clean off all of the stuff that had built up and then cooled it back down to about 250 as we prepped for the turkey.

These grills are fabulous because they have what they call the convEGGtor™  which provides for indirect Convection Cooking on the Big Green Egg.  These allow heat to efficiently radiate within the dome while preventing the flames and heat from over-cooking the food.  I put this in the grill and added the soaked Pecan wood chips and the grill was ready for the turkey!

FireintheHoleThese get nice and hot and provide a great balanced method of cooking almost anything.  We have cooked pizzas, veggies, pork loins, steaks, Portabello mushrooms and even cantaloupe on them.

You can see by the photo on the left that they are flaming and warm.

It was ready for the turkey!!

 

 

Turkey on the BGE

Turkey on the BGE

I opened the grill for a great shot of the BGE doing its job smoking.

I opened the grill for a great shot of the BGE doing its job smoking.

At Copper Roux with Tregoney

At Copper Roux with Tregoney

Once we had the grill going, it was time to get ready to head out with Tregoney for the Thanksgiving brunch.  We made arrangements with Bayou Bluegrass Catering, which offered a Thanksgiving Buffet that started at 11 AM at their Copper Roux facility. It was a nice experience and NO DISHES AND CLEANUP!

The Thanksgiving Buffet had many traditional offerings, but there were also some southern accented dishes such as their green beans with bacon, collard greens, Cajun spiced turkey and gravy, corn pudding and shrimp with grits. There were also many amazing desserts.

Salads aplenty at Copper Roux buffet

Salads aplenty at Copper Roux buffet

Enjoying buffet at Copper Roux

Enjoying buffet at Copper Roux

Some of the amazing desserts at the Copper Roux buffet

Some of the amazing desserts at the Copper Roux buffet

We left the Copper Roux fairly full.  I tried not to overdo it and I avoided the things I knew I would get at Chelsea’s later in the day.  We hurried home where I checked on the turkey, which was basically done.  Julianne prepped a couple more things for Chelsea’s shindig and then we all took some brief naps before heading to Chelsea’s at 5 PM for their festive Thanksgiving affair.

Ugh...an undesired Thanksgiving tradition continues with a trip to Kroger

Ugh…an undesired Thanksgiving tradition continues with a trip to Kroger

Over the past three to four years it has become an unfortunate Thanksgiving tradition that I end up making two to three trips to Kroger for forgotten or needed items.  Due to our advanced preparations and our going to the buffet, I figured for sure that I would not have to make a trip.  But alas, I ended up keeping this unwanted tradition….

Seems like there is always something that gets forgotten or is needed at the last minute.  This time it was creamed corn, pumpkin pie spice and aluminum foil.  Thank goodness it was a nice day!!

Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving "Turkey Hat"

Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving “Turkey Hat”

After the naps we were off to Chelsea’s.  Ultimately, there were going to be 30-40 people show up for this one.  Her husband Jorge and his brother Luis have an extended group of Mexican friends that are almost like family.  We have gotten to know many of them.  This was a mixture of American tradition with Mexican flair.  We brought our smoked turkey and there was a Mexican spiced turkey there as well.  Along with the pumpkin, pecan and apple pies, there was also a tres leches cake.  Chelsea also made this tasty warm fruity Mexican punch called “ponche” which was wonderful.

Mexican Ponche was delightful.

Mexican Ponche was delightful.

Our smoked turkey from the Big Green Egg

Our smoked turkey from the Big Green Egg

Mexican spiced turkey

Mexican spiced turkey

Some of the spread, including spicy deviled eggs with jalapenos

Some of the spread, including spicy deviled eggs with jalapenos

Chelsea's famed Googleberry Pie (actually using an old family recipe from my wife's family)

Chelsea’s famed Googleberry Pie (actually using an old family recipe from my wife’s family)

Thanksgiving Hat Fun with Tregoney, me, Julianne and Chelsea

Thanksgiving Hat Fun with Tregoney, me, Julianne and Chelsea

Pot of Ponche with pineapple, apples, raw sugar cane, and more.

Pot of Ponche with pineapple, apples, raw sugar cane, and more.

There was fun and music (Jorge set up his DJ equipment and we listened to Christmas music on the back deck drinking the ponche and enjoying the festivities in English and Spanish).

It is always fun to join Chelsea and her family friends.  Though there is a great deal of Spanish being spoken, we are still able to communicate.  We have been to so many of these that many of the friends are almost like family, giving us hugs when they visit.

Julianne and I typically leave before the REAL fun begins. Many of them have a few beers or some wine and the dance music begins.  They party and dance late into the night with traditional Bachata dancing and perhaps some other kinds.  They all know how to party hearty and it is all in good fun.

As for Julianne and I, we returned home, put the food away and crashed.  It was a long, yet wonderful Thanksgiving day.  Friday would bring family to the house for more family feasting and fun as our three children and their kids would spend the afternoon with us.

Truly grateful for Thanksgiving and the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends.

 

 

Countdown 365: #315 Holly Kravetz – Daughter-in-law

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

Holly Kravetz

Holly Kravetz

Today is my daughter-in-law Holly’s birthday.  I only have one and she’s a keeper for darned sure!

Holly married our oldest son Seth back in December 2009.  Since that time, Holly and Seth have had two sons (Rockwell and Samuel), lived in Ohio and Connecticut, lived at home with us and with her parents at different times and soon they will be moving to Houston (in January 2016) as Seth takes on a new job.

She has blessed and enriched the life of our son Seth and has brought happiness and creativity into the Kravetz family.

A young Holly with her mother

A young Holly with her mother

Holly was born into a good family.  My wife and I have known the Walkers for many years, even way before we actually knew Holly. Tom and Mary have lived in Georgetown for long time and Holly ended up going to and graduating from Scott County High School, the football arch-rival of Seth’s Lafayette High School (which, by the way, beat Scott County last weekend to go to state semi-finals, the first time in 30 years!!).

My old man memory defies me as I can’t recall exactly how Seth and Holly met, but I think it was though the church Adult Singles branch that they both attended.

Seth and Holly Wedding Day

Seth and Holly Wedding Day

Seth and Holly

Seth and Holly

When Seth and Holly were married on Dec. 19, 2009, they had a unique style, most likely due to Holly’s wonderful creativity.  With their classy wedding clothes they and their entourage all wore Chuck Taylor basketball shoes.  It was unique and fun.

As is often the case, getting used to an “in-law” child is always a challenge. There is a learning curve involved.  They grew up in different family cultures, bring different traditions, styles and outlooks into a family.  But, ultimately, they become part of the family and we learn to adapt, learn to appreciate and, ultimately, learn to love them and what they bring to the family.

Holly has brought creativity and color to our family, even to the point of inspiring new things out of my wife.

Holly's Creativity

Holly’s Creativity

Holly's Creativity Part 2

Holly’s Creativity Part 2

Holly's Creativity Part 3

Holly’s Creativity Part 3

Holly's Creativity Part 4

Holly’s Creativity Part 4

Holly with Rockwell and Samuel

Holly with Rockwell and Samuel

Holly has also been a great mother to her son Rockwell.  We have seen him grow and learn.  Rockwell is a pleasant grandson and is always a joy to be around.  Much of this credit certainly must go to his mother Holly.  She is truly fond of her children and has been a good teacher. I am impressed at how bright and well-rounded he already is at 5 years old.  I can’t wait to see how his younger brother Samuel becomes.  I know Holly will continue to be a good mother and teacher.

As a father-in-law that absolutely loves spending time with his grandkids, I feel so blessed to have a daughter-in-law that cares so much about her children and strives to teach them well and help them become “little gentlemen.”  This is perhaps the best blessing of having her join the family.

And, of course, she takes good care of my son Seth and has supported him in his job ups and downs.  That too is a cause for gratitude.

Holly with newborn son Samuel in 2015

Holly with newborn son Samuel in 2015

I am truly grateful that Holly has become a part of my life and the lives of my family members.  She is truly part of the family…a real blessing.

Holly

Holly Kravetz brings peace

Holly, Seth and Rockwell are True Blue Kentucky fans

Holly, Seth and Rockwell are True Blue Kentucky fans

Holly

Holly

Happy Birthday Holly!  Thanks for being a part of our lives!

Countdown 365: #320 – Chelsea Kravetz Mendez: The Free Spirit

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

ChelseaJapan

Chelsea in Oita, Japan in a “Hapi” and headband. This was taken in the fall of 1989.

Today is my daughter Chelsea’s birthday.  She is our sweet “middle child” and has been a “free spirited” soul for as long as I can remember.

Chelsea has always been a cutie and is a loving, caring and thoughtful person.  She has struggled through many challenges in her life and has made it through them.

 

I consider her a great blessing in my life!

Chelsea on her 3rd birthday

Chelsea on her 3rd birthday

Chelsea was born on a cold November morning in Flagstaff, Arizona.  She came to the world with anticipation.  In those days we didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl, so we had the pleasant surprise of our third daughter in three years.  We “woke up and it was a Chelsea Morning” and thus Chelsea Dawn Kravetz came into this world on November 18, 1983.

Since that time she has generally been a joyful and happy-go-lucky girl.  As she has grown older she has also turned into a prankster, playing jokes on everyone in the family.

Young sassy Chelsea Dawn

Young sassy Chelsea Dawn

Chelsea and her sisters in 1987

Chelsea and her sisters Marissa (L) and Amaree (R) in 1987

a bright smiling Chelsea

a bright smiling Chelsea

Chelsea in a kimono in Japan.

Chelsea in a kimono in Japan.

In 1987 we moved to Japan.  Chelsea was at the age in her life where she was learning to really talk and was thrust into a world of two languages, speaking English at home, watching Japanese TV and then going to Japanese public schools, where the only language she had was written and spoken Japanese.  She was in a totally bi-lingual world.

In many respects it was a wonderful time for her.  As a cute American girl she was loved by all.  And being able to speak Japanese as a Japanese person would only made more love her.

Soon she was sought after for newspaper ads and TV commercials.  Her bright smile, long flowing “American hair” and joyful countenance was a major drawing card. At one time, a major department store had her picture hanging all over the store, in their print ads and on their TV ads.

Chelsea in the Tokiwa Department Store Advertisement

Chelsea in the Tokiwa Department Store Advertisement

ChelsPrincessOne of the most endearing commercials she was in was an advertisement for the Kuju Amusement Park grand opening.  She was dressed up like a little princess. To the left is a photo of them applying the makeup and then a video of the commercial followed by outakes.  Sure to make anyone smile!

Overall, Chelsea was in 5 television commercials and a number of print ads.  All of the kids (except for Solomon) appeared in both print and TV ads in Japan.

Picking oranges in a grove in Saga-no-Seki Japan in 1988

Picking oranges in a grove in Saga-no-Seki Japan in 1988

Upon our return to the United States in late 1991, Chelsea basically went through culture shock.  Her only real life had been as a “gaijin” – foreigner – living a Japanese life.

We came back to Arizona and got the kids into school.  Chelsea had to take English as a Second Language as an American.  We laughed as she said things in a confused fashion:

“Throw a cow” – (a mix of throw a tantrum and have a cow)

“Piece of cinch” – (a mix if Piece of Cake and a Cinch)

And there are others…if I could only remember….

 

chelsea 2Over the years she has grown into a beautiful woman.  She brought us our first grandchild.  She is a hard worker and has worked her into a management position at Wendy’s, where she has been for nearly 16 years.

During high school Chelsea became proficient on the violin and has always been a lover of music.  She has been way ahead of the trends.  When she was in high school she was already listening to European Gypsy Punk band Gogol Bordello, whom hardly anyone knew back then. They have since become world renown. And today, she is a lover of Bachata music with her favorites being Romeo Santos and Prince Royce.

Chelsea at a Romeo Santos concert in Chicago

Chelsea at a Romeo Santos concert in Chicago

She has also become a great cake artist.  Many come to Chelsea to create an original cake.  Here are a couple of her cake pieces….

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake 2

Birthday Cake 2

Chelsea remains fun-loving and cheerful.  Many of her days are stressful with long work hours, parenting and such.  But she gets through it.  Here are a few more fun photos of Chelsea….my sweet daughter.

Chelsea with daughter Autumn and husband Jorge

Chelsea with daughter Autumn and husband Jorge

SmoothChelsSmoochyChels

Chelsea with daughter Autumn and husband Jorge

Chelsea with daughter Autumn and husband Jorge

Chelsea

Chelsea

Chelsea at her wedding to Jorge

Chelsea at her wedding

Chelsea with her Grandpa Kravetz and Autumn in 2012

Chelsea with her Grandpa Kravetz and Autumn in 2012

Thoughtful Chelsea

Thoughtful Chelsea

Chelsea with her mother and her sister Marissa at the lake

Chelsea with her mother and her sister Marissa at the lake

Goofballs

Goofballs

Chelsea is truly an angel.  I am so grateful for her and the joy she brings to my life and that of my wife….

Chelsea

Chelsea

Countdown 365: #323 – A Day of Rest

SumoflamChurchToday was like any other Sunday.  A day for church and worship.  I am grateful for the Sabbath Day.  It is a blessing.

Honestly, there are days I don’t want to get up and go to church.  I just want to stay home and rest.

But church is refreshing and it renews the soul.

On this Sunday we were taught about the Sabbath Day and how it is a day of rest.  Indeed, for me, Sunday’s are really all about resting.  Recent weeks have been grueling with long hours of work and Julianne has not had it much easier with work and school work.

SundayNap1So, I am grateful to come home from church and take a nap on Sundays.  I value that time and it is one of the few times that I actually ignore phone calls and emails.  I shut down, snuggle next to my sweetheart and we get in a one to two hour nap and then usually go to bed early. Nothing beats a Sunday nap.  It refreshes the body and soul for the next week.

RestI count the Sabbath Day being a day of rest as a blessing. Indeed, it is a weekly blessing I look forward to.

Countdown 365: #324 – Grandchildren Baptisms

GrampzJos

Grampz and Joselyn at her baptism on November 14

Today is a glorious day.  One of my grandchildren has made the decision to get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joselyn Love Noe, my 4th grandchild, will become the third grandchild to be baptized into the church.

The LDS Church doctrine has children baptized at the age of 8.

“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands (D&C 68:27)”

GrampzCharles

Grampz, Grammy and Charles at his baptism in Washington on August 1

Earlier this year my wife and I went to Washington to visit my oldest daughter Amaree and her family.  The main reason for the trip was the baptism of my grandson Charles Matthews, who was baptized on August 1 in Port Orchard.

This was a wonderful time and we got to spend a few days with the family traveling around Washington as well. You can read about all of those trips in my Less Beaten Paths travel blog, if interested.

I was baptized when I was 18 (in January 1975), in Murray, Utah after struggling to get approval from my parents. It was a conscious decision I personally made in my life and I am grateful to have done so.  My membership in the church has been a wonderful blessing to me (as I have noted in earlier posts on this blog). As a missionary in Japan from 1976-1978 I had the opportunity to teach and baptize many.

But there is no greater joy than to see your own posterity baptized.  All five of my children were baptized into the church, though a couple of them have strayed away. I love all of my children the same and there is a part of me that is glad that my children have the blessing to choose the direction of their own lives, even if it is disappointing to me.  I love them just the same.

Autumn and Grampz

Autumn and Grampz

At Joselyn’s baptism I was blessed to be accompanied by my sweet 10 year old granddaughter Autumn, the oldest of all of my grandchildren. She was dressed beautifully and was absolutely adorable.

She has not been brought up in the LDS Church and this was her first baptism experience.  She sat intently watching and listening.  I had my arm around her and she snuggled next to me. Who knows what was going through her mind. I was grateful that her mother Chelsea allowed her to attend.  Indeed, Chelsea would have been there as well had she not had to work.  The one thing about my family is that they support each other, even if it is something they may not necessarily agree with.  Our family motto – “The Family that Stays Together, Stays Together” – continues on into the next generation.  I was so glad that Autumn could be there to support her cousin.

I am grateful for the principle of baptism and count myself blessed to have children and grandchildren that have chosen to follow the Savior Jesus Christ and his teachings.

 

Countdown 365: #325 – Feeling Lucky, Feeling Blessed

FranceLogoToday is Friday the 13th.  Friday the 13th is considered to be the unluckiest day in the Gregorian Calendar. For many people, it is a day to take caution, stay indoors, avoid black cats, ladders and mirrors, and reach out for their good luck charms for protection.  Not a good day if you suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th.

And today is the third Friday the 13th to occur in 2015, only one of 11 times that there will be three in one year during the 21st Century.  It happened in 2009, then this year and will not occur again until 2026 and then 2037.

ParisPeaceFor me, today is a special extra Friday the 13th as I count myself blessed and fortunate. It was a day of terror in Paris, France as Muslim extremists hit a number of locations and killed many innocent citizens in an instant. Heart-wrenching.

The major killings took place at a rock concert in a theatre in Paris.  Over 100 were killed.  The performing band members got out alive, but the person working their merch table didn’t.  I have worked the merch tables many times for Antsy McClain shows.  Indeed, if a shooting occurs, you are probably first in line.

My heart goes out to all of the people whose lives have been impacted.  Those who lost loved ones and those who will suffer injuries.  And especially those who survived the attacks and may feel guilt as a survivor.

I count myself blessed and lucky to arise and partake of another day of life.

BeirutSupportBut, Paris is not the only city suffering.  Just the day before, Thursday the 12th, 43 people were killed in Beirut while going about their normal evening business after a double suicide bombing attack took place in the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut, a bustling urban area.

They had no idea.  They were working, drinking coffee at a coffee stand, chopping vegetables in a market.

Lives were shattered.  Buildings and property were destroyed.

And again, on this Friday the 13th, I count myself lucky and blessed to be alive.

9-11-statue-of-liberty-towersThe dates 11/12/15 and 11/13/15 will mean much to many people.  Many Americans look back at 9/11/2001.  Indeed, we just call it Nine-Eleven and all know what it means.  That day saw 2,996 people lose their lives and trillions of dollars of damage as buildings were destroyed.  I watched in horror on television as the two Twin Towers collapsed in only 1 hour and 42 minutes.  Just a couple of years earlier, I had been on top of one of those towers.  I am still awestruck at how quickly they fell.

At that time I was grateful to be alive and in a relatively safe place called Lexington, Kentucky.

But, on this Friday the 13th, I count myself and blessed to be alive.  Because these acts of violence can occur anywhere, at anytime.  We never know when our innocent lives will be shattered while going about our own business.  Like 9/11 or 11/12 or 11/13, there are many other dates that many people in this world memorialize.  Many innocent lives were taken without warning.  Many lives were shattered.  And, on this Friday the 13th I want to at least note some of them from around the world, because, like 9/11, these dates are just as significant to the people affected.

  • 1/7/15 – Charlie Hebdo Offices in Paris attacked, 11 killed
  • 7/20/12 – Movie theater shooting in Denver, 12 killed
  • 4/20/99 – Columbine High School shooting, 12 killed
  • 12/14/12 – Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT, 26 killed
  • 10/10/15 – Ankara, Turkey bombings, 102 killed, 400 injured
  • 4/19/95 – Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombed, 168 killed
  • 8/1/66 – University of Texas-Austin shooting, 17 killed
  • 3/21/05 – Red Lake Senior High, Red Lake, MN shooting, 10 killed
  • 4/16/07 – Virginia Tech shooting, 33 killed, 25 injured
  • 2/14/08 – Northern Illinois University shooting in DeKalb, IL, 6 killed
  • 10/24/14 – Marysville, Washington shooting at a school, 5 killed
  • 10/1/15 – Umpqua Community College Shooting in Roseburg, OR, 10 killed
  • 6/17/15 – Charleston, SC Church Shooting, 9 killed
  • 7/22/11 – Oslo, Norway bombings, 73 killed
  • 4/18/83 – US Embassy in Beirut bombed, 63 killed
  • 10/23/83 – Beirut bombings, 307 killed
  • 12/21/88 – Lockerbie Pan Am 103 aircraft bombing in Scotland, 270 killed
  • 8/7/98 – US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya bombed, 223 killed, 4000 inured

Alive2And the list of dates goes on and on and on.  One minute you are minding your own business and the next you could be dead from a random act of violence.  Of course, there are all of the other random shootings at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, schools, churches and businesses.

Today I am alive.  I am grateful for this blessing each day.  In the meantime, my prayers go out to all who have lost loved ones or have suffered from random acts of violence around the world.  It is a lucky Friday the 13th for me.  But for many, it is not.

Countdown 365: #327 – Gratitude for Veterans

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

VFWDisplayShelbyToday is Veteran’s Day. It is a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  Many of us celebrate this holiday without truly knowing of its origins.  But one can most certainly count Veteran’s Day as a blessing in their lives when they understand the significance.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

DSC_1578On May 13, 1938, a Congressional Act made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Walter Cronkite in the late 1960s

Walter Cronkite in the late 1960s

I was never in the armed forces.  I was in that lucky period shortly after the Vietnam War wherein the draft was eliminated. I was one of those 1970s teens that had tired of the ravages of war as we witnessed them each night on the nightly news with  with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (on NBC) and Walter Cronkite (on CBS). I grew up listening to the protest songs from Woodstock. I wanted nothing to do with the armed forces.

What I did not understand as a teenager in the 1970s was that these soldiers were fighting to keep the freedoms that I most certainly enjoyed in my comfortable homes in Colorado, Montana and Utah.

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

As a college student at Northern Arizona University, I really began to learn about the wars.  I had returned from a two year LDS Mission to Japan and had met people that had suffered the ravages of World War II in their country, many by the hands of US Soldiers and bombs. I took classes on geopolitics and became well-versed on the Indo-China crises and the Vietnam War. I wrote papers on them.  As a Political Science major during my Master’s Course work at Arizona State University in the mid 1980s I focused on terrorism and insurgency.  Indeed, I gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation of our troops and forces, even if I didn’t agree with all of the reasons we went to war.

In the 21st Century I have seen diverse wars around the world through television and social media.  I have learned of terrorist actions and so-called “freedom fighters” in a variety of locations. I have also learned of how our armed forces have become the protectors of many around the world, and not just the citizens of the United States.

Some of my family members who have served. Only Joe and Lou Kravetz are still living

Some of my family members who have served. Only Joe and Lou Kravetz are still living

For these I am grateful.  I have gained a much more heartfelt appreciation for all of those that served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Indo-China and Vietnam Wars, the Gulf War and more.  Indeed, I personally know dozens and dozens of individuals who have served our country.  And, unlike my 1970s self, I am honored to know them and consider their efforts and energies as blessings in my life.

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL Rob Roy in 2014

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL Rob Roy in 2014

Earlier this year I had the great fortune to meet two American heroes…former Navy SEALS Rob Roy and John MacLaren. I have learned a great deal from them, not just about war, but how war experiences can shape a life for good or bad.  In these two instances, they have shaped it for good and use their unique experience to help others improve.  I am truly blessed to have become associated with these two outstanding veterans.

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL John MacLaren

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL John MacLaren

I have worked with numerous other veterans in recent years.  They are regular people whom you may never know served, unless you were filled in on their service. There are too many to name here. But, if you are reading this and are one of those who has served the country in the armed forces, I thank you.  You have blessed my life and the lives of millions of others by your service.

 

Countdown 365: #332 – Julianne Kravetz – My Soul Mate

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

JuliSamToday is my dear sweet wife Julianne’s birthday.  She is turning 49 again.  In my list of blessings, she probably sits near the very top.  Only the blessing of life and the blessing of the Atonement can top the blessing of my sweetheart.  My life has been so abundantly filled with joy and happiness because of her.

My life would not be the same if it were not for her being a part of it.  I count myself lucky, beyond words!

 

Julianne as a baby - one of her great Photofabrique projects

Julianne as a baby – one of her great Photofabrique projects

Rainbow - I took this a couple of years in ago in Arkansas. But you get the picture.

Rainbow – I took this a couple of years in ago in Arkansas. But you get the picture.

This morning, as we left the house, it was raining and kind of blasé outside.  We have had such nice weather lately that it was disappointing to have it raining.  I lamented that I had not arranged for better weather.  But, as we drove down Alumni Drive in Lexington, the skies cleared momentarily as the sun came up at around 7:20 and lo and behold, there was a full rainbow ahead of us.  I couldn’t capture a photo of it as we were driving and by the time we dropped her off at UK, it was cloudy and gloomy again.  But, prayers were answered as she did get a rainbow on the way in.  (I have added an old photo of a rainbow I took in Arkansas…best I could do.)

Colorful julianne

Colorful julianne

Julianne is a colorful and talented individual. There are many shades to her.

She is musical…a great violinist (though she will tell you otherwise); a great coordinator of music – she has arranged compositions at home for her daughters and/or family to sing.

She is artistic.  She developed her own fabric art technique called “Photofabrique” and has taught hundreds of people in dozens of classes how to use her patterns to make fabric portraits (like the one posted up above).

Her creativity and musicality are evidenced in this great video of an instrument she created from a carrot!

FunLovingJulianne is also creative.  A great mind.  She writes papers with whimsy and colorful description.  She is a great learner and picks up on things fast.  I have watched her dig into a new software program intent on learning and before long…VOILA!….she has it down pat.

Julianne is a bundle of joy!

At Antique Archaeology in Iowa (home of American Pickers)

At Antique Archaeology in Iowa (home of American Pickers)

Mother of five awesome children

Mother of five awesome children

One of the best things about Julianne is that she has been an amazing mother (and continues to be!!) Despite a number of life challenges, living in Japan for years, traveling cross-country,  living with the family for weeks on end without me while I was away for work, she has overcome all of the obstacles and has raised 5 amazing children.  Most of the credit can go to her!!  Ask the kids and I am sure they will concur whole-heartedly! (If they don’t they will have to deal with their Dad later!)

Kiss those sweet cheeks. I have dozens of "Kiss Sweet Cheeks" pics by the way

Kiss those sweet cheeks. I have dozens of “Kiss Sweet Cheeks” pics by the way

Julianne is also an awesome grandmother.  One of her favorite things to do is to “Kiss those sweet cheeks” and she does it abundantly.

She loves her TEN Grandchildren. Yes, she has TEN of these little darlings and she doesn’t look old enough to have any grandchildren.

I have sworn that as each year goes by, she gets a year younger and I gain two. I’ll bet its the grandchildren that keep her young.  I know that its not me!

Julianne can be goofy

Julianne can be goofy

She can be a goofball at times. She is fun loving and joyful.

Whether it be using a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper as a “tooth protector” (covering all her teeth with the brown wrapper) or using empty pistachio shells as teeth, you can expect something unexpected and funny to come from her.

She would probably seriously injure me if I used some of the goofiest photos I have, but here are a couple of fun ones that I “think” I can get away with….

She took Redneck teeth with her on a Cruise to Alaska and actually wore them in a restaurant in Seattle. Here she is posing with our waiter Spike

She took Redneck teeth with her on a Cruise to Alaska and actually wore them in a restaurant in Seattle. Here she is posing with our waiter Spike

This is her Facebook Profile Photo

This is her Facebook Profile Photo

I don’t dare put her “Peel Mask” photos up…..

Number1I have enjoyed my wonderful times with this gem of a person.  She is most certainly my number 1 blessing.

She has stuck with me through thick and thin…more thick lately.

She has been there for me as a strength and support in the more challenging times of life.

She has loved me despite my quirks, foibles, weaknesses, failings and multiplicities of verbal faux pas foot-in-mouth thoughtless comments over the years.

LoveShe has had patience with me and still loves me despite all of these things.

After 36+ years of marriage and time with her, I am more in love today than I ever have been.

I adore her and almost idolize her.  Does she have weaknesses and missteps?  Not that I have seen….

Julianne is the love of my life.  I admit that “I Married Up” with all the gusto I can muster.

I Married Up....

I Married Up….

The Sweetest Kind of Hershey Kiss!

The Sweetest Kind of Hershey Kiss!

Enjoying life from the '70s on with her.

Enjoying life from the ’70s on with Julianne

Loving life

Loving life

Still loving life together in 2015

Still loving life together in 2015

Julianne is and always will be one of the greatest blessings in my life.  Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Countdown 365: #335 The Simple Things Part 2

LittleThingsThere are times when I sit back and think of things I am grateful for that are typically overlooked…things that we consider normal parts of life…the little things.  These are the things we all take for granted…

Electricity, Plumbing, Windows, Cars, Heaters, Telephones, Houses, Clean Water, Soap

Let There Be LightHow often do we turn on a light switch expecting the lights to come on never thinking about the miracle electricity is?

RunningWater2What if you turned on the faucet and no water came flowing?  Do you ever think “such a blessing” for running, clean water?

WindowsIn America we have windows everywhere.  Glass is a simple blessing…but the windows we have are even more so.  They keep us warm, they keep us cool, they keep the bugs out, they provide lovely views of our outside world while protecting us.  When I visited China in 1991, all of the houses had “windows”, but these were just panels that opened…no glass windows.  Next time you look out a window, consider the simple blessing.

TelephoneSo, as I am writing this, the song Rings” comes on by Lobo… a song from the 70s.  And he says “Let the telephone ring.” (No Joke!! This happened to come on…love synchronicity).  Anyway, how many times have we picked up the phone (or the cell phone) to call someone. Have we considered the miracle of this kind of communication?  When we are away and miss our family, we pick up the phone and call.  Many in this world don’t have this blessing.  Next time you call the wife or the grandkidz or the pizza place, think about the blessings of the phone. (And as I wrote that the NEXT song to come on the iPod is Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” by U2 with the lyric “And it’s you when I look in the mirror, And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone, Sometimes you can’t make it on your own.” )

SoapSoap is another surefire miracle.  It cleanses us and refreshes us. But many in this world not only have to live with dirty water, but also have no soap to cleanse themselves with.  And in this age of a myriad of scented “Bath and Body Works” soaps as well as other kinds of scented soaps (including Bacon Scented Soap!), do we ever stop to consider these with gratitude?

Next time you flip a switch, turn a key, open a window, make a call, turn on the radio, tie a shoe….think about the blessings that these little simple things are

 

Countdown 365: #336 – Joselyn Love Noe – Grandchild #4

Joselyn5Today is my granddaughter Joselyn’s 8th birthday.  She is my 4th grandchild.  In a few days she will be baptized into the church and enjoy the blessings that will come with that.

But Joselyn is also a blessing to me.  For eight years I have been able to enjoy her presence and her presents…her gifts of joy, love, happiness, curiosity and goofiness.  Since she lives in Lexington, I get to spend a great deal of time with her and her brother and sister. How much fun is that?

Joselyn is the oldest child of my second Joselyn2daughter Marissa and her husband Adam.  She came into a family filled with love and that became her middle name as well. And she exudes the middle name as she shows love to all around her and to the world she lives in.

I get great joy and happiness with her on park excursions as I watch her look at the world around her with great curiosity.

I smile when I think of the way she makes the world her stage as she dances and prances.

11994126_10153597866027090_111569480_oJoselyn also loves being on the beaches of lakes and oceans.  She seems attracted to the beautiful surroundings around her. She loves nature whether it be leaves and plants, insects and butterflies or the sands on the beach.

Joselyn is a joy.

 

Joselyn4

DSC_6371

IMG_3003

IMG_2063Of all of my grandchildren, Joselyn is likely the most well traveled.  In fact, she is practically my “travel buddy.”

In her short eight years of life, she has traveled to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, Canada, Maine, Georgia and many states in between.  Many of these trips have been with me and she is a GREAT traveler.

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, with her uncle Solomon

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, with her uncle Solomon

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

At the "Field of Corn" in Dublin, Ohio

At the “Field of Corn” in Dublin, Ohio

The Gothic House in Eldon, IA

The Gothic House in Eldon, IA

West Virginia

West Virginia

Givong Grampz a "Hershey Kiss" in Hershey, PA

Giving Grampz a “Hershey Kiss” in Hershey, PA

On the beach in Hilton Head, SC

On the beach in Hilton Head, SC

IMG_0853Because Jos lives in town, I am able to go to the movies with her and her brother and sister and sometimes her cousin Autumn, my oldest grandchild.  These are fun affairs.  We take goofy pictures together.

We always find a way to have fun with each other on these outings.  And the kids always know that when they are with Grampz, it is always a photo opportunity.  And Grampz becomes a kid again for a little while.

And it is always that way when I am with Joselyn. Since her mother is a photographer, Jos is always in front of a camera lens. And it is really no different with Grampz.

Cuddle time with Grampz

Cuddle time with Grampz

On the road with Grampz

On the road with Grampz

Visiting Grampz at Bountiful Baskets

Visiting Grampz at Bountiful Baskets

IMG_0673Of all of my grandchildren, I think that Joselyn has proven that she can be the best “goofball.”  She is great at making faces and her expressions are priceless.

I really get a kick out of saying – “Time for a goofy picture” because I know that Joselyn will ALWAYS come through, even if the others kind of shrug it off.

Joselyn is tons of fun!

Making faces

Making faces

In Tucson, AZ

In Tucson, AZ

Making Faces - Part 2

Making Faces – Part 2

Ice Cream Nose at Chick-Fil-A

Ice Cream Nose at Chick-Fil-A

Heart Face

Heart Face

Giving Grampz long hair

Giving Grampz long hair

DSC_1975Over the years, she has grown from a baby to an infant to a wonderful young lady.

She is always serious about learning and loves everything around her. The world is her classroom and she engages with it.

I am grateful to see this beautiful person blossom like a butterfly from a cocoon. And indeed she has.

Following are a few pictures from earlier birthdays and other good times.  I love my sweet Joselyn.

She is a great blessing in my life and in the lives of all those whom she touches.

November 6, 2008

November 6, 2008

At the Cincinnati Zoo with her cousin Autumn and her cousin Savannah (my sister Sherry's daughter) in August 2009

At the Cincinnati Zoo with her cousin Autumn and her cousin Savannah (my sister Sherry’s daughter) in August 2009

Hanging with the "big girls" in August 2009

Hanging with the “big girls” in August 2009

November 14, 2009

November 14, 2009

Running - July 2009

Running – July 2009

Running - July 2011

Running – July 2011

And just a few more photos of this amazing kid!

At Ballet in the Park

At Ballet in the Park

Cave Run Lake, KY

Cave Run Lake, KY

Cuddle Bunny

Cuddle Bunny

A big helper

A big helper

Fun with a cat in 2008

Fun with a cat in 2008

Flower Child

Flower Child

Holding a butterfly

Holding a butterfly

Listening

Listening

I love Joselyn…..she is a blessing in my life