Countdown 365: #304 – Joe Kravetz, My Adoptive Father

Joe Kravetz with David, ca. 1959

Joe Kravetz with David, ca. 1959 in Albuquerque, NM

Today is the 82nd birthday of Joseph Daniel Kravetz (born 4 December 1933), my adoptive father.  Adoption is the act of legally placing a child with parents (or parent) who are not its natural parents. As I have noted in other posts in the pasts, I have effectively have two sets of parents — my natural parents (Joe Laurienzo and Orene Goldberg, aka Jennierose Lavender) and my adoptive parents (Joe Kravetz and Marjorie Tudor). Of these four, Joe Kravetz had a major and long term role raising me as his adopted child from about age 2 to age 17 and then, of course, has always had the role of my father, despite any ups and downs we have had over the years.  I am truly grateful to him for all of the sacrifices he made in the challenge of raising me.  Much of who I was came from him and my adoptive mother Marge.

Joe Kravetz with his father Alexander in the early 1950s

Joe Kravetz with his father Alexander in the early 1950s

Joe Kravetz was the third of four children born to Jewish immigrants Alexander Kravetz and Jessica Evelson.  (Ironically, my real father Joe Laurienzo was also a child of Italian immigrants and my natural mother Orene was a child of German/Lithuanian Jewish immigrants). Joe was born in 1932 in Ossining, NY and spent all of his youth growing up there.  His father Alexander emigrated to the United States on the ship George Washington, which departed from Bremen, Germany on 20 July 1914 and arrived in New York on 3 August 1914.  Family tradition says that Alexander walked with a couple of others form his home in Minsk, Russia (now Belarus) to Bremen, Germany where they got on the boat.  They left to escape persecution (think “Fiddler on the Roof” — in fact, Alexander was a tailor!!)

Minsk (currently in Belorus) to Bremen, Germany is about 770 miles

Minsk (currently in Belarus) to Bremen, Germany is about 770 miles

Jessica Kravetz in the 1960s

Jessica Kravetz in the 1960s

Joe’s mother Jessica Evelson (probably spelled Jewelson) also left from Bremen.  She came from Vilnius, Lithuania and arrived in Philadelphia on 4 August 1913 on the USS Neckar.

JoeKKindergaten1938a

Joe Kravetz in Kindergarten ca. 1938. I believe he is the one on the right in the middle row with the white shirt and white shorts and curly black hair.

I don’t have many photos of him as a young.  The photo on the right is the oldest photo I have of him.

He has always had black curly hair and this picture sure shows that head of hair.

He had an older brother Louis, who is still alive and doing well in Houston, Texas. His older sister Evelyn Levy (she married Gordon Levy) was born on November 29th, 1931 and died April 28th, 2005 in Tarrytown, NY.  He also has a younger sister Sylvia who lives in Silver Spring, MD.

Over the years I had numerous opportunities to meet them and many of their children, my cousins through adoption.

Joe never talked much about his life growing up in New York. There was much pain in the family because many of Alexander’s and Jessica’s family lost their lives in the early purges of the 1920s and 30s and then later in the German holocaust of World War II.  I am sure that life had to be tough growing up.

Joe Kravetz in fifth grade in 1944.

Joe Kravetz fifth grade class in 1944. I am assuming he is the one in front on the left

Joe with his brother Lou in 1957

Joe with his brother Lou in 1957

Joe and siblings: (L-R) Sylvia, Joe, Evelyn and Lou.

Joe and siblings: (L-R) Sylvia, Joe, Evelyn and Lou in October 1997, Tarrytown, NY

My life with Joe Kravetz began in December 1958 when he married my natural mother Orene Goldberg.  Just about one year earlier, Orene left my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  She returned to her home in Albuquerque, NM as her staunchly Jewish mother wanted her to marry a nice Jewish boy.  Naturally, as a young child of two I didn’t have any say in the matter.  No blame is being made here…things happen and the fact that I ended up being the adoptive son to Joe Kravetz was, in many respects, a blessing to my life as it put me on the path to where I am now.  Had I stayed in Cleveland, my life would have taken an entirely different direction!! Following is a clip from the Albuquerque Journal in Dec. 1958 (today was the first time I have ever seen this!!!)

Newspaper clipping announcing the wedding of Orene and Joe (Albuquerque Journal 19 Dec 1958)

Newspaper clipping announcing the wedding of Orene and Joe (Albuquerque Journal 19 Dec 1958)

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958 – Don’t know all of the people in this photo, but Joe and Orene are in the middle.  To Joe’s right is Marion Goldberg and her husband Ralph Goldberg (my natural grandparents). To Orene’s left is grandmother Jessica Kravetz, brother Louis Kravetz.  I believe that the gal on her knees in front of Orene is her sister Maxine.  I think that the one to Maxine’s right is Joe’s sister Sylvia (I believe).

JoeKMilitaryFrom 1954 to 1956 Joe Kravetz served in the US Army as a radio operator.  He did his basic training at Ft. Hood and then was assigned to a facility in Albuquerque. He was discharged in 1956 but then served in the reserves.  Indeed, one of my earliest memories as a child was him coming home to our small duplex in his uniform with a duffel bag.

I don’t know much more about his military service, but do know that is how he made his way to Albuquerque in the first place. And, as a member of the synagogue there, he was ultimately introduced to and married Orene in 1958 and was apparently happy to inherit a son as part of the package.

Joe Kravetz on a visit to New York ca. 1959

Joe Kravetz on a visit to New York ca. 1959

Hanging with Joe Kravetz around 1962??

Hanging with Joe Kravetz around 1962??

I don’t have many memories of those early years.  I know that eventually, Joe made his way in to retail, working for Payless Drugs in Albuquerque. In July 1960, he and Orene had a child, my half-brother, Aaron.

I do know that Joe loved to take drives to the mountains and see the scenery.  He was also an avid hiker.  He also liked to take pictures.  Fortunately, we have lots of photos of the kids growing up.

However, he was gone a lot due to work and so time with him was rare. And soon it became worse as he and Orene got divorced in 1961 and I was again without a parent.  Aaron and I were left with babysitters most of the time in 1961 and 1962 as he worked as a single parent to raise us…a rarity in the early 1960s. (Note: an interesting article I came across noted that 1960, only about 32 million Americans, 18 and older, were single (either divorced or widowed or always-single). That was 28 percent of the adult population. By 2013, there were 105 million single Americans, accounting for 44 percent of the adult population.)

Playing with Dad in the 1960s

Playing with Dad in the 1960s

Joe Kravetz late 1950s

Joe Kravetz late 1950s

Joe eventually met and married Marjorie Tudor on 13 October 1962.  She was a divorced single mother with a son, Danny, who was only 2 weeks younger then me. So, we were then a family of 5.  We got a house in what was then called Snow Vista (in the NE Heights of Albuquerque just off of Route 66).  By this time Joe was doing well with Payless Drugs (which by then had become Skaggs Drug).  Here are a few photos of Joe over the years.

As can be seen in the photo on the right, he was a handsome man in the 1950s.  Very active and rail thin, which he has been throughout his life.

I have no idea what his aspirations were for life back in the 1950s and not sure how his marriage to Orene and taking on the role of a father changed things for his future.  He never kept a journal and didn’t talk much about those kinds of things, so I am afraid we’ll never know for sure.

Joe in the 1950s doing what he liked best...hiking

Joe in the 1950s doing what he liked best…hiking

Joe Kravetz around 1959

Joe Kravetz around 1959

Joe Kravetz on Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. He took me on this hike

Joe Kravetz on Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. He took me on this hike

Joe with David in 1958, soon after he became my adoptive father

Joe with David in 1958, soon after he became my adoptive father

Joe in Denver, probably on a hike in the Rocky Mountains, ca. 1968

Joe in Denver, probably on a hike in the Rocky Mountains, ca. 1968 (That was his favorite sweater)

Joe with David, Aaron and Danny in 1963 or 64 (in Albuquerque)

Joe with David, Aaron and Danny in 1962 or 63 (in Albuquerque)

By 1964 Marge and Joe had my brother Gary. We were then off to Dallas.  Not long after that he was transferred to Denver, where, eventually, my youngest sibling, my sister Sherry, was born. (Even by this time I was still not aware that I had been adopted)

Joe Kravetz with David, Gary, Aaron and Danny in Dallas in 1964

Joe Kravetz with David, Gary, Aaron and Danny in Dallas in 1964

Sherry and Gary with Dad in 1974

Sherry and Gary with Dad in 1974 (Gotta love those socks!!)

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

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

Dad and me on a hike in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico in 1978, shortly after I returned from my LDS Mission to Japan

Dad and me on a hike in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico in 1978, shortly after I returned from my LDS Mission to Japan

Joe with my siblings Aaron, Gary and Sherry in the 1990s

Joe with my siblings Aaron, Gary and Sherry in January 1992

After more transfers to Great Falls and Bozeman in Montana and then to Sat Lake City (Murray) in Utah, things had gotten challenging.  Both Mom and Dad worked to keep the family together, but they didn’t see eye to eye on much.  I eventually left the house and joined the LDS Church and left on a mission. To this day I am of the opinion that God had prepared a way for me to get to Salt Lake and join the church and that this relationship with Joe was the mode of transport to get me there.  No sooner was I gone and he was transferred to a store in Northridge, CO (by this time Skaggs had become Osco Drug).  He and Marge were soon divorced and she went to Jemez Springs, where she had grown up, and took Gary and Sherry with her.  Aaron went with Dad.  Danny, who had mental retardation, was in a group home in Las Vegas, NM.

Joe hamming it up in front of Osaka Castle with my wife Julianne in 1990

Joe hamming it up in front of Osaka Castle with my wife Julianne in 1990

By 1979 I was married and in college.  Julianne and I made our way to Flagstaff and then, by 1984 we were in Mesa, where I attended graduate school at Arizona State.  All of that time I tried to stay in touch with my Dad. Then in 1987 we went to Japan and were fortunate enough for him to visit.  He had never really been to a foreign country before, so this was a big adventure for him.

Visiting the Gold Pavilion in Kyoto in 1990

Visiting the Gold Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan in 1990

In his later years, after retiring from Osco, we did keep in touch, but after his Japan visit, he rarely got to see his grandchildren. But, I do have a few shots of him with the grandkids.  The major opportunity came on a family reunion in New York in 1997.

Joe Kravetz with grandkids in 1989...Amaree, Solomon, Seth, Marissa and Chelsea

Joe Kravetz with grandkids in 1989…Amaree, Solomon, Seth, Marissa and Chelsea (in Mesa, AZ when we visited for the holidays from Japan)

Joe with family in 1997 in Tarrytown, NY

Joe with family in 1997 in Tarrytown, NY – Back row – Julianne, sister Sherry, Joe and me.  Front row – Marissa, Chelsea, Amaree, Seth and Solomon

Joe with kids at Cumberland Gap on Kentucky/Tennessee border

Joe with kids at Cumberland Gap on Kentucky/Tennessee border with Solomon, Chelsea and Seth (ca 1993)

Joe with my sister Sherry, her husband Brian and me and Julianne, Christmas 2012

Joe with my sister Sherry, her husband Brian and me and Julianne, Christmas 2012

By the mid 2000s Julianne and I were becoming grandparents ourselves, which meant Joe was becoming a great grandfather. By this time, unbeknownst to us (and perhaps even himself), he was in the early stages of dementia.  Living in San Antonio, TX and working for Barnes and Noble, he had a lonely life. He had become almost hermitlike in existence and I could never get him to even notice that he had great grandchildren.  For a number of years I was bothered by his seeming indifference.  Finally, on a visit to Texas 2011, I was able to see his condition first hand.  And it has gotten worse since then.  But, thanks to my sister Sherry, we were blessed with a visit by her family, along with Dad, during the Christmas holiday in 2012. Joe finally got to see his great grandchildren for the first time…all nine of them at that time (there are 10 now)

Joe with his great grandchildren, plus his granddaughter Savannah (Sherry's daughter) in Dec. 2012

Joe with his great grandchildren, plus his granddaughter Savannah (Sherry’s daughter) in Dec. 2012

Four generations of Kravetz...a rare photo - Seth, Rockwell, David and Joe... Dec. 2012

Four generations of Kravetz…a rare photo – Seth, Rockwell, David and Joe… Dec. 2012

Joe with his then youngest great grandchild Benson Matthews in December 2012

Joe with his then youngest great grandchild Benson Matthews in December 2012

Joe Kravetz 2012

Joe Kravetz 2012

Joe Kravetz in 2014

Joe Kravetz in 2014

Between 2012 and 2014 I made a couple of other visits to Texas and had occasion to see my Dad.  Once was another Kravetz family reunion in Galveston. Joe had become more aloof and unkempt and, for the first time in my recollection, had actually grown a beard.

His teeth were cracked, his toenails were long.  His memory was going (and still is). But he did look classy in a beard, in all honesty.

A selfie with Dad taken in Keller, Texas in July 2014

A selfie with Dad taken in Keller, Texas in July 2014

Dad and me in 1997 in New York

Dad and me in 1997 in New York

Now, as he turns 82, he is in a nursing home. A few months ago he fell (not the first time) and this time destroyed his hips.  He is probably laid up for the remainder of his life as the healing process is not going well. Sherry tells me he can watch TV but no longer knows how to use the remote to change the channel.  It is sad seeing someone essentially wither away.  My sister Sherry is to be praised for taking care of him the last decade or so.  But it got too hard.  He needed a watchful eye 24/7 and she couldn’t do that.

Joe Kravetz in Cumberland Gap

Joe Kravetz in Cumberland Gap

I am grateful to Joe Kravetz for all of the sacrifices he has made.  In many respects, he has had a challenging life, from the days of his youth through his three marriages, difficult children (at times) and then his health challenges.

I am certain that if not for him, I would not be where I am with my lovely wife of 36 years, my 5 awesome children and my 10 wonderful grandchildren.  None of that would have happened, at least not the way it is now, had it not been for him marrying my natural mother Orene and setting the ball in motion and then continuing on that path with Marge. Despite any differences and friction we may have had over the years, I can honestly say I love Dad, appreciate him and am grateful for his enduring spirit.  He has truly been a blessing in my life and I want the world to know.

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: #358 Rockwell Elias Kravetz

11811550_10206026495800285_8827539075719149780_nMy 7th Grandchild, Rockwell Elias Kravetz (RockE) for short, was born on this date in 2010.  Happy 5th Birthday RockE!!

I love and adore all 10 f my grandchildren.  Each has their own personality and style.  Rockwell is my uber-pleasant one.

Rockwell is special in that he is the first “Kravetz” of his generation in the Alexander Kravetz (my grandfather) line. His middle name is also that of Alexander’s father Elias (his great great great grandfather).  I was the first in my generation and Seth was the first in his as well.  I think it is cool that we are now 5 generations from Alexander Kravetz.

Rockwell in Sept. 2015 with his new brother Sam. (photo by Marissa Noe)

Rockwell in Sept. 2015 with his new brother Sam. (photo by Marissa Noe)

Back in 2012 all of the family was in Lexington and we were able to get a four generation photo with my stepfather Joe Kravetz, me, Seth and Rockwell.  Not many are able to get four generation photos like that, so it is really special.

A Four Generation Photo - Seth, Rockwell, me, Joe Kravetz - taken Dec 2012

A Four Generation Photo – Seth, Rockwell, me, Joe Kravetz – taken Dec 2012

Rockwell shortly after he was born in 2010

Rockwell shortly after he was born in 2010

Holding RockE on Oct. 12, 2010..he was one day old

Holding RockE on Oct. 12, 2010..he was one day old

Rockwell was the only grandchild that has actually lived in our home.  While Seth was going to UK, they lived in the upstairs section of the house, so we got to see Rockwell often, when he was young.

Honestly, that is a joy and blessing in and of itself.  It had been many years since a baby had resided in the house.  Babies bring such happiness and love into a home and Rockwell certainly did this.

 

Seth, Holly and Rockwell in Fall 2014

Seth, Holly and Rockwell in Fall 2014

Seth graduated and soon moved to Ohio for a job and then later to Connecticut.  Our opportunity to see Rockwell was lessened as a result.

Most children his age are pretty hyper, but Rockwell is even keeled, pleasant almost always and certainly friendly and good natured.

When he has visited he was never shy and was always willing to sit with Grampz for a quick book read, etc.

I really count myself blessed to have this joyful young man in my life and the life of my family.  Following are a few joyful moments and a couple of other photos of this smart, handsome and AWESOME grandchild of mine.

Three generations of Kravetz guys getting ready for the UK Wildcats to down the U of L Cardinals in 2014

Three generations of Kravetz guys getting ready for the UK Wildcats to down the U of L Cardinals in 2014

RockE and his mom and dad in Connecticut. Their future is so bright they gotta wear shades

RockE and his mom and dad in Connecticut. Their future is so bright they gotta wear shades

Hanging with Grampz in 2012

Hanging with Grampz in 2012

Rockwell in a ponderous moment

Rockwell in a ponderous moment

Hanging with Grampz at Old Orchard Beach in Maine, Sept. 2015

Hanging with Grampz at Old Orchard Beach in Maine, Sept. 2015

Future Engineer - No Doubt!

Future Engineer – No Doubt!

Hanging with Grampz and cousins in Connecticut, 2015

Hanging with Grampz and cousins in Connecticut, 2015

First day of school

First day of school

Taking god care of new little brother in Sept. 2015

Taking god care of new little brother Sam in Sept. 2015

Can you blame me for wanting to be a PROUD GRAMPZ??

Handsome boy

Handsome boy

My daughter Marissa captured some early moments of his life in this great video, which I thought I would share here.

Countdown 365: #360 – Grandkidz Rawk

(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.)

David and Sam Sept 2015. Grandchild #10

David and Sam Sept 2015. Grandchild #10

On August 31st of this year I became a grandfather…for the 10th time! Almost one month later my oldest grandchild turned 10. What a joy.  What a blessing… or should I say “What Joys! What Blessings!”

Over the course of this countdown, each of my grandchildren will get their own special posts on their individual birthdays.  This one is the “Cumulative” post of gratitude for my grandchildren in general.

Back in January of this year I wrote about 40 years of blessings on the 40th anniversary of my baptism into the LDS Church (see post here) and noted that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have ANY grandchildren before I turned 60…and, before I was 59 I have ten. I wonder how many more will come along over the next 2 years??

With 9 grandchildren on Christmas 2012...the last time they were all here together

With 9 grandchildren on Christmas 2012…the last time they were all here together

Making faces with my 10 year old Autumn, back in 2014

Making faces with my 10 year old Autumn, back in 2014

I love hanging with my grandkidz (yes, with a Z!!) who call me Grampz (yes, with a Z!! I’m a hip grandpa).  They are fun and I can feel like a kid again.  We go to the movies, to the park, to fast food joints.  I love to take them places.

As a grandfather, on these special Grampz and Grandkidz outings we have already developed a routine.  “What is the first thing we do when we get out of the car?” (No, its not look both ways…)

Their reply is now always…”Take a picture with Grampz.” Sometimes it is said in fun and excitement.  Other times its like its a drudgery, until we do it.  But, they know it brings joy to Grampz’ heart and soul.  They are all truly my little sunshines.

Taking a picture with Grampz at the movies...Landen, Autumn and Joselyn

Taking a picture with Grampz at the movies…Landen, Autumn and Joselyn

Taking a picture with Grampz in Washington. My Matthews grandkidz - Livvy, Benson, Charles and Kade in summer 2015

Taking a picture with Grampz in Washington. My Matthews grandkidz – Livvy, Benson, Charles and Kade in summer 2015

Rockwell and Grampz at Old Orchard Beach in Maine in September 2015

Rockwell and Grampz at Old Orchard Beach in Maine in September 2015

40314-GrandchildrenI am also blessed that I have children who make sure lots of photos are taken of the grandkidz. And I too take lots of them without me in them (believe it or not!!)  Here are a few favorites from the past couple of years.  There will be many more appear on this blog throughout the next 359 days.  You can rest assured!!

Rockwell and Sam Kravetz - the only "namesake" grandchildren

Rockwell and Sam Kravetz – the only “namesake” grandchildren (photo by Marissa Noe)

Hanging with all of the grandkidz except the Matthews Christmas 2014

Hanging with all of the grandkidz except the Matthews Christmas 2014

Landen Noe in 2014 (photo by Marissa Noe)

Landen Noe in 2014 (photo by Marissa Noe)

My sweet wife and I with grandchild #10 in Connecticut, Sept. 2015

My sweet wife and I with grandchild #10 in Connecticut, Sept. 2015

Olivia Matthews at the beach in Washington 2015

Olivia Matthews at the beach in Washington 2015

The Matthews kidz on a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park in 2015

The Matthews kidz on a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park in 2015

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The Noe kidz 2015

The Noe kidz 2015 (photo by Priscilla)

Reading to Grandkidz in Montana in 2014

Reading to Grandkidz in Montana in 2013

Olivia and Benson buried in sand at the beach in 2015

Olivia and Benson buried in sand at the beach in Washington state August 2015

Hanging with Autumn Summer 2015

Hanging with Autumn Summer 2015

Young Lyla scampers along the beach in Maine in September 2015

Young Lyla scampers along the beach in Maine in September 2015

Rockwell on his first day of school August 2014 (photo by Holly Kravetz)

Rockwell on his first day of school August 2014 (photo by Holly Kravetz)

Baby Sam Kravetz - September 2015 (photo by Marissa Noe)

Baby Sam Kravetz – September 2015 (photo by Marissa Noe)

Joselyn Noe - her (soon to be) 8th birthday photo shoot

Joselyn Noe – her (soon to be) 8th birthday photo shoot

Olivia and brother Charles, who turned 8 earlier in 2015

Olivia and brother Charles, who turned 8 earlier in 2015

Getting ready for a treat at Wendy's early in 2015

Getting ready for a treat at Wendy’s early in 2015

Fun with little Bensy in Washington August 2015

Fun with little Bensy in Washington August 2015

Cousins in summer of 2011

Cousins in summer of 2011

Lyla plays peek a boo on a road trip to Nebraska in 2013

Lyla plays peek a boo on a road trip to Nebraska in 2013

Joselyn inspecting a plant in Connecticut Sept. 2015

Joselyn inspecting a plant in Connecticut Sept. 2015

Kadester...Washington 2015

Kadester…Washington 2015

Landen at the park in 2015

Landen at the park in 2015

Lyla romping at a park in 2015

Lyla romping at a park in 2015

Charles at the Seattle Market

Charles at the Seattle Market

Livvy taking a dive into a pool of water at the beach in Washington 2015

Livvy taking a dive into a pool of water at the beach in Washington 2015

Yes, my grandkidz bring me immense joy and happiness. Money is nothing and cannot compare to the wonderful feeling being with these amazing souls can bring.

Fun with the Grandidz on my 59th birthday, Oct. 4, 2015

Fun with the Grandidz Landen, Lyla and Jos on my 59th birthday, Oct. 4, 2015

 

Countdown 365: #363 – Amo Lo Mia Famiglia

(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.)

Starting my family in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ

Starting my family in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ

Other than being born, perhaps the greatest blessing in my life is my family…mia famiglia. I have written numerous blog posts about family in one way or another, but I must at least touch on the family here because it is certainly something I am indeed grateful for. (see some of the posts – 1  2  3  4)

The word “family” is very unique actually.  It can mean so many things…a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household; all the descendants of a common ancestor; a group of people who are related to each other.  Many societies may have different meanings.  And, in the United States, the definition has certainly changed over the years as the social norms have changed.

My family in Japan, around 1989

My family in Japan, around 1989

As I noted in yesterday’s post, I was born into an Italian family in Cleveland, but my family life through my youth and teen years was a long way from normal. Growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were many TV shows that depicted families as stable and the homes as a place of safety and solace.

But for me, I had instability and dysfunction.  By the time I was six, I had been through two divorces, two remarriages, gained a step-brother, had a half-brother and by the time it was all said and done, I was in a new family altogether…without either of my biological parents.  And I had no control or say on the situation.

Family in 2008

Family in 2008

As I spoke to my natural mother on my birthday a couple of days ago, she had lamented that she had to leave her husband back in the 1950s and what it had done for all of us.  She wished that she could have had that back.  But, as an afterthought, she noted, “but if that had happened think of all of the posterity that wouldn’t exist.”  Indeed, the direction my life took from the day I left Cleveland in August 1957, most certainly has me where I am today.

Over the years, I have most certainly felt that my Father in Heaven built a pathway for me to trod upon and journey to where I am today.  I had forks in the road and choices to make.  Some were difficult, some were unfortunate and many were wonderful.  I didn’t realize the joy of “family” until I was married and on my own.

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister - Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister – Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978

Credit must be given to Joe Kravetz and Marge for raising me and the other 4 children in the family.  It was not easy and we were certainly dysfunctional.  I wanted to be in that “perfect family” situation…but it never happened.  I even ran away from home twice as a teenager in hopes for a better life.  But, looking back, I can see that they tried hard under the circumstances thrown their way.

As for me, on my pending approach to 60, I look at family much differently.  Instead of begrudging the situations of my early years, I actually am grateful.  For, unlike others, I have many “families” in my life and they all bring me joy and happiness.

Ultimately, my dearest and most precious are my wife of 36 years, my five children and my ten grandchildren.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a wonderfully joyful arrangement. Mind you, things have not been perfect, but my children grew up in a stable family without divorce and with love in the home. And many of my children are now fostering the same.

The extended David Kravetz family in 2012. Many grandchildren and sons and daughter in law

The extended David Kravetz family in 2012. Many grandchildren and sons and daughter in law

But, through my life with Joe Kravetz and Marge Tudor I gained other families.  I am truly a part of the bigger Kravetz family and have great Uncles and Aunts and Cousins who have accepted me as their own…adopted me in if you will…and I have forged amazing relationships with many of them.  I also have had good aunts and uncles and cousins on the Tudor/Hanks side of the family.

Kravetz family reunion in Houston in 2014...with Uncles and Cousins....

Kravetz family reunion in Houston in 2014…with Uncles and Cousins….

Favorite photo with 3 of my Laurienzo sisters...Debbie, Nicole and Tina

Favorite photo with 3 of my Laurienzo sisters…Debbie, Nicole and Tina

In recent years I have had the blessing of developing meaningful relationships with my Laurienzo sisters and brother, as well as other relatives.  Though life has never provided me the opportunity to be around them much, we have stayed in contact and I truly feel a part of the family that I was so forcefully extracted from so many years ago.  And I am grateful to know of my wonderful heritage.

Extended Laurienzo family in Cleveland at the home I grew up in...taken in 2006

Extended Laurienzo family in Cleveland at the home I grew up in…taken in 2006

And with marriage comes new family…new parents, in-laws, and new brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.  When I married Julianne I inherited this new family and grew to love them dearly.

The Bateman family (minue Paul) - including Laura, Arlene, Julianne (my wife), Kathy, Maren and Maury. I love these guys!

The Bateman family (minue Paul) – including Laura, Arlene, Julianne (my wife), Kathy, Maren and Maury. I love these guys!

My dear mother in law Arlene Bateman on her 50th anniversary

My dear mother in law Arlene Bateman on her 50th anniversary

I never really had parents that were there for me. I don’t begrudge that, but I sincerely never felt that love and care that I so craved.  But, through marriage I did gain that and after a few years the Batemans — Maury and Arlene — were like parents to me.  I felt like I belonged.  And when they passed away I was stricken with a broken heart as if they were my own parents…and, in reality, I think they were in a sense.  And I am so grateful for them.

To me, family means many things.  I am grateful for the massive and extended families I have now.  They all mean the world to me.  I am not sure what the good Lord had in mind for me as he set me on this long arduous journey through dysfunctional and broken families, but, looking back, I am grateful to have so many loved ones… three sets of parents, two sets of brothers and sisters, an amazing bunch of cousins and nieces and nephews.

Kravetz Family in 2009

Kravetz Family in 2009

I have been blessed.  I love my families.  Amo lo mia famiglia.

Countdown 365: #364 – The First Day of the Rest of My Life

(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.)

BabyPicSince I was born on October 4, 1956 (with the birth name of Carmen David Laurienzo), the REAL first full day of my life took place on October 5, 1956.  It only follows that my note of thanks…my blessing for this day…would be to express gratitude to my natural mother and father. I was born into an Italian household in Cleveland, OH.  My father, Joseph Laurienzo (2Mar35 – 2Dec92) was 21 and my mother, Orene Goldberg (8Apr39), a Jewish girl from Albuquerque was 17.  They were young.  She had been sent to Cleveland to go to a girl’s boarding school.  Joe’s family were Italian immigrants.  His father and mother had come by ship and then moved to Cleveland in the Murray Hill section, which is now called Little Italy.  Joe was born in the same home I was born in.  The families were close knit.

Orene and Joe ca. 1956

Orene and Joe ca. 1956 (before I was born)

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

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

My grandfather Carmen Laurienzo with my father Joe when he was a child. Not sure when this was taken...maybe the 1940s?

My grandfather Carmen Laurienzo with my father Joe when he was a child. Not sure when this was taken…maybe the 1940s?

I am pretty certain that I was brought into a loving home and that my parents cared about me.  But, after almost a year, Orene’s parents forced her to move back to Albuquerque with me.  I never saw my real father again and, in fact, I never knew who he was until around the summer of 1974 when I had a chance to visit Orene, who had left me years before (I was adopted by my step parents in the early 1960s). I got to call Joe and speak with him…the only time I was able to.  But, I am grateful for that.

As a baby in Cleveland

As a baby in Cleveland

JoeLThe first time I had ever even seen what he looked like was when he sent me the photo to the right as I prepared to go on a mission. I still have the letters he wrote me while I served as a missionary in Japan.

Ultimately, I am grateful to have a knowledge of my posterity on my father’s side.  The family came from Matrice, in the CampoBasso region of Italy. I am sure there must be relatives there even today.

JoeLObitI first came to Kentucky in 1992 and while here I had hoped to get up to Cleveland to finally see my real father.  Sadly, by 1993, when I first had a good chance, he had already passed on.  I have visited his grave site on a couple of occasions and have since met with my sisters and brother and have a good relationship with my long lost family.

As for my mother Orene, she left me when I was about 4 and I did not see her again until I was about 18.  We have had an on and off relationship over the years, but that debt of gratitude for her bringing me into this world will always be there.  I actually spoke to her for the first time in years on my birthday yesterday.  She is now 78 and living in an assisted care facility in California.  She was alert, she shed tears of regret and tears of joy through the conversation.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Murray, UT

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Murray, UT

By the 1980s Orene had changed her name to Jennierose Lavender.  She had a number of issues with life, but still wanted to have a relationship with her children and grandchildren.  Though my wife and I were not in agreement with her chosen lifestyle, we have never kept our children from communicating with their natural grandmother.

With my half brother Aaron and my mother in the 1980s.

With my half brother Aaron and my mother in the 1980s.

As her days wane, I committed to her to once again renew my relationship by calling on Sundays.  She is my mother.  She carried me for nine months and brought me into this world.  Despite all of the challenges and the journey she took, I owe her the gratitude for her sacrifices on my behalf and owe her the love and care in her last few years of life.

That is the real path to gratitude.

Vicissitudes of Life: Birth and Death

The sands of time
They seem to flow
Against the grain
Of the life we know
David Kravetz, 1975

VicissitudesI wrote the above shortly before joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At the time, I was dabbling a bit in poetry and had just gone through some challenging times in my life. It was the first time I had experienced a vicissitude in my life.

Vicissitude is an interesting word. Searching through definitions, the general meaning is: A change or variation occurring in the course of something. interchange or alternation, as of states or things. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs

BackRoadLTI really like to look at “vicissitudes of life” as meaning “ups and downs” of life. We all have them and how we deal with them sets the course of our life from that point on. We all have our own special journeys as we pursue life.  Many times our paths cross with others on their journeys and the impact of the crossing of paths may cause adjustments to our own journeys.

Jamie Showkeir

Jamie Showkeir

Recently, a beloved brother in law of mine, Jamie Showkeir, passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS.  Many have heard the term, but it means amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Jamie, was dealt a new vicissitude in life down a road with a definite dead end.  And he knew it.  But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him.

In September 2014, Jamie, already diagnosed with this dastardly disease, was interviewed for an article in the Arizona Republic.  The author, Kari Bland, is a friend of Maren, Jamie’s wife (Maren is my wife’s sister). Like so many others, she was hit hard by the news.

Jamie at his best

Jamie at his best

You see, Jamie isn’t the guy this should have happened to.  He was active, he was smart, he was athletic. He practiced yoga. He had a lust for life and was an avid cyclist, hiker and nature lover. He was a talented author and teacher.

But, one day he began feeling weakness in his left arm and from that day forward, his life would change.  And the challenging part, especially for him, but really, for all of us, was knowing that the degeneration was on the body…but the mind was always alert and he had to deal with it.

Kari notes in her article “Here’s the deal, Kari, for me,” Jamie said. “We can’t always choose the cards that we’re dealt, but the choice we have is how we are going to play them.

I read that article back then and that quote has stuck with me.  And Jamie has always played the cards well.  And he did this time as well.  He passed away on his own terms, dealing with the disease and the circumstances in the best attitude he could muster.  Ultimately, Jamie died on August 16 this year, his 63rd birthday, at his home in Phoenix with his wife, Maren, by his side.

Jamie left a positive impact on 100s of people, including me.  He was a mentor to me (and he didn’t even know it!) Three or four times I called him for advice due to his wisdom of the business world. (He and Maren have authored two books).

And this is where the “ups and downs” of life come in.  The sorrow of Jamie’s passing lasted a number of months, even before it happened.  We all knew it was coming. The day it happened was hard on all of us.  However, life would continue to throw interesting curve balls along the way.

11998663_10153594403937090_269566728_nJust a two short weeks after Jamie’s passing, I got to sit in a chair at my son’s house in Connecticut and hold my brand new grandson, Samuel. He was a milestone grandson for me, my tenth. Born on August 31, he brought a new gleam of joy into my life.

I love holding newborn babies, especially those that are my grandchildren. And I so looked forward to this opportunity to be with this little guy.

As I sat with him and held this sweet child, my mind wandered off into the complexities of life, the ups and downs.  The tough swings of dealing with life and death.

11997958_10153594404197090_2070403904_nIn two short weeks I experienced the passing of a dearly beloved brother in law and then a birth of a new grandchild. The words “vicissitudes of life” bounced around in my head.  I was all at once taken aback by the waves of life. I marveled at how life’s journey can present such dichotomies in such a short time.

For me, the birth of Samuel was, in essence, the rebirth of Jamie.  The two of them will be forever etched together in my mind. No, I am not a believer in reincarnation.  But, Samuel will always remind me of the joy that Jamie brought to me and hundreds of others. Simple, unfettered joy.

And, for a few short weeks, I forgot all about my own “vicissitudes” of life and basked in the joys of life and death…of people that mean so much more than the challenges of jobs, money and things. I am grateful for Jamie.  I am grateful for Samuel.

Rowling11999959_10153594619962090_589360215_n

The Mothers in My Life – Mother’s Day 2015

mothersdayOn Mother’s Day I have a full heart to thank the Mothers in my life.  My life has had some interesting twists and turns, but there have been mothers all along the way.  Our first human contact is always with our mother. It is also one point of our life for which we had no control or say.  We were brought into this world by a mother…and for this, for our lives, we should have gratitude to a mother who suffered the pains to bring us forth into whatever the future holds for us.  So, today, Mother’s Day 2015, I celebrate those Mothers in my life…my mothers, my wife, who is the wonderful mother of my children and then, the mothers of my grandchildren.

Valentine-heartsMY MOTHERS

Mother Orene and me, as Carmen David Laurienzo in 1957

Mother Orene and me, as Carmen David Laurienzo in 1957

The first mother of note is my natural mother, born Orene Goldberg, she brought me into the world on October 4, 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was named Carmen David Laurienzo, named after my paternal grandfather, who was from Matrice, Italy.

Even at the time, Orene, my natural mother, suffered from emotional issues.  She had been sent to Cleveland from Albuquerque, to a Jewish Girls’ school and there met my natural father Joe Laurienzo and thus was the beginning of my life.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Salt Lake City.  She came to see me off on my mission.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Salt Lake City. She came to see me off on my mission.

In August 1957 Orene left Joe and returned to her home in Albuquerque. Not too much later she met Joe Kravetz and they were married and he adopted me and I was renamed David Charles Kravetz. They had a second son, Aaron, in 1960, but shortly thereafter, Orene left again. I did not see her until much later on in my life. By then she had changed her name to Jennierose Lavender, which is her name today.  She is in her 80s and in a nursing home in California.  I have not spoken to her in a few years.   But, I am always grateful that she brought me into this world.  She is indeed my mother.

Marjorie Kravetz in 1978

Marjorie Kravetz in 1978

After a couple of “motherless years,” Joe Kravetz met and married Marjorie Tudor, who had been married once before and had a son, 16 days younger than me, named Danny. Her son was mentally retarded, but she loved him. Marge, as she was called, was a religious woman.  Like Orene, she had grown up in a somewhat dysfunctional family. But she tried to get her life together and was active in the Jehovah’s Witness faith for many years and, as such, brought up her children in that faith.  Joe was Jewish, but was not active in the faith.  His job kept him away from home often and so she would take us to the Kingdom Hall.

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

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

The Kravetz family in 1978.  The only "family portrait" we ever had

The Kravetz family in 1978. The only “family portrait” we ever had

Marge had many struggles.  She suffered a number of health issues, including diabetes and weight problems.  After a few years she and Joe had two other children, Gary and Sherry.  So, our mixed family struggled on through a number of moves (due to Joe’s job with Skaggs Drug).  We left Albuquerque and over a period of 10 years we lived in Dallas, Denver, Great Falls, Bozeman and Salt Lake City.  During this time our family struggled with dysfunction as well.  Marge did all she could to hold us together, but it was tough-going for all.  But, she should be honored for doing the best that she could under the circumstances. Not until after he passing in 1982 did I realize that she loved her children.  Dysfunction in a family can blind one from understanding this.  She later divorced Joe and lived alone in her last years. The doctor said she died of heart failure.  I say she died of a broken heart.  I am sure she is happily engaged in a much better situation on the other side. She was indeed my mother in a nurturing way that I never understood until later in life.

Arlene Shepherd Bateman in 1950.  The mother of my wife Julianne.

Arlene Shepherd Bateman in 1950. The mother of my wife Julianne.

My third mother, and she truly was a mother to me in so many ways, was my mother-in-law Arlene Shepherd Bateman. Unfortunately, my relationship with her started off on slippery slopes and was rocky the first few years of my marriage. This was due to my immaturity and the many foibles and weaknesses that I had, some due to the instability of my first 21 years of life.

Arlene was the mother of six children, and my wife Julianne was their fifth.  Arlene was a good mother and raised her children in the Mormon faith as best as she knew how. Like any family, they had their struggles and challenges, but ultimately, in my opinion, I think she did an amazing job.

Arlene Bateman in 1997...this is how I best remember her.

Arlene Bateman in 1997…this is how I best remember her.

As the years passed, my relationship grew and I honored her as a mother that I never had. She came to love me and I felt the love from her that I didn’t ever feel from my first two mothers. Yes, even as an adult, I was chided often by mother Arlene.

For many years we were separated by distance as my family lived in Japan or across the country from the Batemans.  But we always felt her love and care.

Perhaps my fondest memory (and I am in tears as I write this), was standing next to her with her hand in mine as she lay on her death bed in Mesa, Arizona. Knowing her time was near, I expressed to her my gratitude for all she had done for me, I expressed my love to her as well.  And she said “I love you too David.” I will never forget that experience.  She was truly my mother in so many ways.  I am grateful she was in my life.

THE MOTHER OF MY CHILDREN – MY DEAR WIFE

A smiling Julianne - the love of my life

A smiling Julianne – the love of my life

I have written often about my sweetheart Julianne, and many times about how good of a mother she was (and continues to be) for our five children.

I marvel at Julianne’s nurturing ways, at her capacity to love, at her patience and her fun-loving ways. She is most definitely the greatest blessing in my life and, I would argue, the greatest blessing in the lives of our children.

Our young family in Japan in 1988

Our young family in Japan in 1988

Julianne with her two "young men" Seth and Solomon

Julianne with her two “young men” Seth and Solomon

As a mother, she struggled through the first years while I was in school and working, practically raising three young children single-handedly. She has also traveled the world with our family.  Her first venture across the ocean was as a mother of four, with a young baby, flying to Japan without her husband.  She was stranded overnight in Korea with the four children, alone and before the days of cell phones. She then spent four years in Japan dealing with tragedy (Seth was burned badly and she spent a week in a hospital with him not knowing Japanese), learning a new culture, dealing with the unique style of Japanese elementary schools and more.

Julianne and David -- I am grateful for my sweetheart

Julianne and David — I am grateful for my sweetheart

Upon return to the States, she then had to deal with life’s challenges. I had no work for a few months and later, I traveled to Kentucky in 1992 for employment on a short term contract and thus left her alone with five children for 8 months. And she did an amazing job of taking care of them…alone.

As the years passed she raised five awesome children.  She was the rock and foundation of the home. In many ways she was like a mother to me as well. Three children served LDS Missions, two graduated from college, two received Eagle Scout awards, four have been married and have children of their own.

I Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream -- lyrics by Antsy McClain

I Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream — lyrics by Antsy McClain

For nearly 36 years, I have been “Married Up” to a woman I couldn’t have ever imagined even dreaming about.  She is a fabulous mother and an amazing wife.

I watch her now as a grandmother of nine (soon to be ten).  She is just as nurturing and loving to those dear grandkids as she was to her own children.

I see the love she has for all of us.  Julianne is a blessing to many many people.  And, most of all, she is a wonderful mother.

THE MOTHERS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN

Hanging with two of my daughters who are mothers in their own right! Marissa (L) and Chelsea (R)

Hanging with two of my daughters who are mothers in their own right! Marissa (L) and Chelsea (R)

I cannot justifiably celebrate Mother’s Day without also celebrating the mothers of my grandchildren…my three daughters and a great daughter-in-law.  These woman (and yes, they are woman of courage and strength) are indeed a blessing to me and to their families.

These four ladies are raising some amazing kids.  Each has dealt with their own set of challenges, and each has done a great job handling them.  So, I want to honor each one with a brief note about them….for they too are mothers in my life.

David and Amaree

David and Amaree

My oldest daughter Amaree is also the mother to four of my grandchildren.  Amaree was the first of all of our children and it has been a joy to watch her grow up, get married and now raise her children.

After serving an LDS mission in Japan and then graduating Summa Cum Laude in Music at the University of Kentucky, Amaree married a fine young man, Aaron Matthews.For many years Amaree and Aaron lived in Montana.  Like any young couple, they went through some job changes, and some challenges.  Perhaps the greatest challenge was their youngest son Benson, who was born with a heart defect.  Heartbreak and challenge and a couple of operations later, we now look at little Bensie as a joy to all of us.

Amaree and her four children Kade, Charles, Olivia and Benson in 2014

Amaree and her four children Kade, Charles, Olivia and Benson in 2014

A few months ago they made a choice to take a job transfer to the Seattle area so they could be closer to good medical services for Benson.  They are thriving in this new area and are loving it there.

We love seeing this little family grow.  Each of the children have grown curious with the world around them.  Amaree is always there for them and is a fabulously wonderful mother.

Amaree is certainly a mother in my life that I am grateful for.

Marissa and her oldest child Joselyn.

Marissa and her oldest child Joselyn.

My second daughter, Marissa, is also an amazing mother. She has always been artistically talented.  Like her older sister, Missy, as we call her, served a Mormon mission to Thailand. After her return, she had a small stint at BYU, but, her motherly instincts kicked in early and she chose married life over school.  She married Adam Noe just one week after her sister Amaree was married.

Since her marriage, Missy has brought forth three sweet children.  I feel so blessed to be close to her and to these adorable children.

Her artistic nature has led her to photography and she has done a splendid job of recording almost each and every move of her children.  She loves spending time with them, teaching them and taking them on trips.

Marissa with her family - husband Adam and Joselyn, Landen and Lyla.

Marissa with her family – husband Adam and Joselyn, Landen and Lyla.

I have accompanied her on three trips with the kids, who know how to travel and love the adventure.

Not without her own struggles and challenges, Marissa has sought for ways to overcome them. She has a great husband and they live a good life here in Kentucky.

Marissa and her mother are best friends. They talk daily and enjoy their time together. It is a joy to see them and a joy to watch Missy raise her little family.  I am blessed to have Marissa as another mother in my life.

Chelsea Crabtree

Chelsea Crabtree

My third daughter Chelsea is also a mother.  She was the first of my children to get married, and at an early age.  Her daughter Autumn is the oldest of my grandchildren, at age 9.

Chelsea has been a fee-spirited girl. She struggled with English upon return to the States in 1991, having spent her formative years in Japanese schools and with Japanese friends and television.

She too was artistic and musical, a violinist in high school. She was not fond of school and even chose to not attend her high school graduation.  But, she has also worked since she was 16. In fact, she has been at Wendy’s for many years and has thrived as a manager.

Chelsea and Autumn

Chelsea and Autumn

Chelsea has also been a responsible mother. She has ruthlessly protected her child (I love how she always calls Autumn “my child”).  Though she went through a painful divorce and has had to deal with life as a single mother, she has found ways to make it happen. Her Autumn loves her to death.

As a mother, Chelsea makes every effort to shuffle her schedule and spend every free moment she can with her daughter. She has given Autumn endless opportunities to learn about the world around her, has taken on her numerous hiking trips and other adventures.  I am very proud to include Chelsea as one of the mothers of my life.

Holly Walker Kravetz

Holly Walker Kravetz

And finally, there is Holly Walker Kravetz, my only daughter-in-law. She is the wife of my son Seth and the mother of my grandson Rockwell (RockE) and soon to be the mother of grandchild number 10.

I actually knew Holly’s parents before I ever really knew Holly. In many ways, Holly is like my oldest daughter Amaree…a bit strong willed (but not in a bad way).  i am sure that she keeps my son Seth in line…and she should.

As a parent, I have always been uncomfortable with my in-law children in the beginning. They are always new to our lives and learning about them as they are instilled into our lives has been a challenge.  But as the years pass, I take great joy in watching them grow and I learn to love them as my own. Holly is now blossoming as a mother and wife. Like her “sisters” (my daughters), she has a very artistic side to her and is doing well with her art work, having even made a business of it.

Holly and Rockwell

Holly and Rockwell

But what I see most is her great efforts as mother.  Holly and Seth have lived apart from us for most of their marriage.  They have lived in Connecticut for a couple of years, so we rarely see them.  But, Facebook and Skype bring us closer together and we can see the love and nurturing.

Rockwell is a happy boy and appears to be very well behaved and very smart.  Much if this can be attributed to the great mothering he is getting from Holly.

We look forward to the birth of her second child, whom they know is a boy and have already selected Samuel as a name.  I am sure that Holly will be an excellent mother to him as well.

I am honored to be able to include Holly as one of the mothers in my life.

Three generations of mothers - Julianne, Arlene and Amaree

Three generations of mothers – Julianne, Arlene and Amaree

The world would be a terrible place without mothers. I am grateful for those that nurture their young and raise them to be good citizens, responsible adults and, ultimately, good mothers and fathers themselves.  I count myself blessed to have so many mothers in my life.

Life is good, especially when there are mothers involved.

40 Years of Blessings

David and friends from church as I prepare to leave for my LDS Mission in Feb. 1975 (Murray, UT)

David and friends Brett Davies and Scott Brown from church as I prepare to leave for my LDS Mission in Feb. 1975 (Murray, UT)

Today is exactly 40 years since I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These 40 years have been an amazing journey for me and I hope to use this blog post to look back on some of the highlights of what this singular event on January 26, 1975 did for me and ultimately for my family.

The Hawk Tawk newspaper from Bozeman Senior High School (ca. 1973)

The Hawk Tawk newspaper from Bozeman Senior High School (ca. 1973)

My awareness of the church, commonly known as the Mormon church, did not happen until my junior year in high school in Bozeman, Montana in 1973. at that time, I just finished the school year and was on the newspaper staff for the Hawk Tawk, which was the high school newspaper back then.

Modeling for an ad for the newspaper and the yearbook in Bozeman 1973

Modeling for an ad for the newspaper and the yearbook in Bozeman 1973

My journalism advisor (Ms. Helen Micka) assigned all of us something to do over the summer for the first and second issues of the 1973–74 school year. I received the assignment of attending the Wally Byam Caravan Club convention which is a huge airstream trailer gathering. Each year they haven’t national event and this particular year it was being held on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman.so, with camera in hand I began to attend this event.

My Wally Byam pass 1973 - yes, I still have it 402 years later!

My Wally Byam pass 1973 – yes, I still have it 402 years later!

In Bozeman, we lived about 7 miles out of town in an area known as Bear Canyon. At the entrance to Bear Canyon was a KOA campground that I frequented. And since this was summer and I was a junior in high school, I still frequented the campground, especially to go to the swimming pool or to go over to the campground office and play pool with friends. This particular summer there were a few campers with their Airstreams that did not stay at the main caravan area but selected to stay apart in their own area. One of these trailers was from Summit, New Jersey. It was a family of four, the Gilmans, who had decided to attend the convention, but wanted to stay off-site. I remember even now their two lovely high school aged girls.One was a senior in high school and the other was a sophomore at the time, if I recall correctly. As they were there for about a week I visited with them daily and even took them on a few little tours around the mountains of Bozeman.

David K Bozeman 1973

This is me in 1973 in my fancy dancy embroidered bell-sleeve shirt and with my favorite bike. I rode it everywhere. This was our house in Bear Canyon, outside of Bozeman, MT

Home in Bozeman, MT (ca 1973)

Home in Bozeman, MT (ca 1973)

One of the things I learned about them was that they were Mormon. The girls had no problems telling me about their church or their beliefs. They gave me a Book of Mormon (you can get one here today if you wish…totally free!) and I learned quite a bit about them. (Later correspondence with Sue Gilman in 2015 had her indicate that she was glad to play a small part in sharing the gospel. What she may not have realized is that he “small” part in sharing with me has led to the conversion of dozens of people. I served a mission and brought people into the church , some of whom later served missions. I had three children serve missions as well. Many of these converts will bring others to the church. Indeed, her little mustard seed has grown to a giant tree!!)

At that time I was desperately seeking for some sort of direction in my life. My mother at that time was a Jehovah’s Witness, my father was Jewish, but not at all participating in the faith. I had often gone to the Kingdom Hall for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but there was just not the feeling that I would expect to get in wanting the truth of the Gospel. And I was always seeking for the truth, prayerfully. After hearing about the Book of Mormon, I took it home because I was interested in religion. That was a big mistake! No sooner did I bring it home and my mother was adamant that the Mormons were a cult. She took the Book of Mormon from me and threw it away and told me to never deal with the Mormons.

Mom and Dad ca. 1974

Mom and Dad ca. 1974

After this event, the Gilman family left Bozeman and the Wally Byam event was over.  I pondered what they had said and continued praying for guidance and direction in my life.

An old photo of a Skaggs Drug.  My Dad worked for them for many years.

An old photo of a Skaggs Drug. My Dad worked for them for many years.

Ironically, my father, who at the time worked for Skaggs Drug in Bozeman, got a call and was transferred, of all places, to Salt Lake City, Utah. So, here we were moving to the heart of Mormon country just a couple of weeks after I had been told about the gospel by the Gilmans from New Jersey.

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

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

By the end of the summer we were now in Murray, Utah and I was preparing to go to high school. Many of the high schools in Utah had a building to the side of the schools that was set aside for LDS seminary. When I was registering for classes I was asked by the counselor if I would like to take seminary. I had no idea what it was, but I also thought this is a good chance to learn more about the Mormons and to possibly make some new friends since I was new in school.

My house in Murray, UT (ca. 1974)

My house in Murray, UT (ca. 1974)

School started and I was fully engaged in my classes, including seminary. Much to the chagrin of my parents I continued to study and learn about the Mormons. Unfortunately for me, because I was not yet 18, I could not gain permission from them to be baptized as they were still very against the church and its teachings, though they did like the people.

What I did discover through going to seminary was that, based upon my understanding of the gospel, this seemed like the true church to me. Mind you, I prayed feverishly about this. It was not something that I was doing out of peer pressure or anything like that.

Outing with church guys to Jackson Hole

Outing with church guys to Jackson Hole, WY  (ca. 1975)

By May 1974 I pretty much had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I had studied seminary, I had read the Book of Mormon and I had talked with many of my friends to learn more about it. I was engaged in church activities such as basketball (see a post about this) and youth programs.I was also taking the missionary discussions.

Church Basketball Team 1975

Church Basketball Team 1975

As summer came along, my mother and father were very displeased with my desires to join the Mormon church and they actually asked me to move out of the house for so doing. I was still 17 and was not able to get baptized without their permission, but I continued to struggle along while living on my own a couple of miles from home.

Finally, when I turned 18 I was able to start the efforts to get baptized. I retook the missionary discussions from the older brothers of two of my close friends (Jonathan Jensen’s brother Boyd — who was also the son of the Bishop of the Ward; and Brett Davie’s Brother Lynn).  These two, Boyd and Lynn, had both just gotten home from their missions and were great! I did those things that I was directed to do and by January 1975 it was time to get baptized.

Boyd Jensen (L) was one of the two that taught me in 1975,

Boyd Jensen (L) was one of the two that taught me in 1975,

Some of my friends had already left to serve missions for the church, but my best friend at the time, Jonathan Jensen, was leaving on his mission at the end of January and so I chose to have my baptism just before he left on his mission so that he would have that experience and I could be baptized by my best friend.

Best friend Jonathan Jensen, who baptized me.  This was him in 1976 just after I returned from my mission.

Best friend Jonathan Jensen, who baptized me. This was him in 1976 just before he left on his mission. (He will hate me for posting this photo…he never liked it)

Typically, when one is baptized in the LDS Church, it is by immersion, total immersion.  But on this fortuitous day, Jonathan didn’t get me all the way in, so we had to do it a second time, and then a third…UGH!!  He told me afterward that I probably needed extra cleansing!  No doubt.

Bishop Boyd Jensen of the Murray 20th Ward...he was like a second father to me.

Bishop Boyd Jensen of the Murray 20th Ward…he was like a second father to me.

Bishop Jensen and his wife Beverly (February 1976)

Bishop Jensen and his wife Beverly (February 1976)

With the Thomas Family and a friend in Feb. 1976

With the Thomas Family and a friend in Feb. 1976

Soon thereafter, Jonathan left on his mission to Sweden.  My other good friends were all pretty much gone as well.  So, I continued to work all through the summer.  At the time I was working for a record and tape rack jobber called Alta Distributing.  I got to travel all over Utah and Wyoming distributing records.  I did a good job for them and helped increase sales since I really knew the music (and I still do!).  I eventually moved in with the Thomas family, across the street from the Jensens.  It was nice to be near them.

David K in 1976

David K in 1975

I finally turned 19 in 1975 and could get ready for a mission.  By late October I was already filling out mission papers even though I had not been a member of the church for a year yet.  Technically, the rule was that I could not leave on a mission until I had been a member for a year, but there was nothing stopping me from submitting the paperwork before then.  In the meantime, I continued to work and save for my mission.

I honestly don’t recall exactly when I submitted the paperwork for the mission, but I do recall that it took forever to get my mission call.  By December 1975 I was really getting antsy about it.  To make things worse, Alta Distributing had decided to open a record store in Price, UT in 1976 and they had discussions with me about managing it.  In fact, one day the last week of December 1975 they offered me the position at a whopping $30,000/year.  That was almost too good to turn down…but I was waiting on my mission call. Finally, on a Friday, I told them that if I didn’t get my mission call over the weekend I would take the position.  And what happened?  I got it on Saturday and had to stew the entire weekend.  I fasted and prayed.

Oh, yes, I was called to serve in the Japan Nagoya mission.  Japan had never crossed my mind.  I thought for sure I would go to Europe!  In any case, after thinking about fish heads and rice, I decided on that Sunday I would serve. I let the guys at Alta know on Monday morning.  It was one of the most difficult choices I have ever made in my life, even to this day.  But it was the right one.

Missionary Farewell talk in February 1976

Missionary Farewell talk in February 1976

Leaving the Language Training Mission to head to Japan in April 1976

Leaving the Language Training Mission in Provo to head to Japan in April 1976

I spent two months in Provo, UT learning Japanese, but finally was able to leave, with about 18 others, in mid-April for a life changing experience in Japan.

This is the group I spent two months with in Provo learning Japanese.  We all took the flight to Japan together. (ca. April 1976)

This is the group I spent two months with in Provo learning Japanese. We all took the flight to Japan together. (ca. April 1976)

Welcome to Nagoya in April 1976

Welcome to Nagoya in April 1976 – with mission president Satoru Sato on the left

My experience in the mission field strengthened my testimony in the gospel.  It was wonderful being strengthened by others, many who have become lifelong friends.  Here are a couple more photos (of the 100s that I have) from my mission.

At Nagoya Station October 1976...my first transfer

At Nagoya Station October 1976…my second transfer – heading to Fukui

In front of our apartment in Ogaki, Japan in August 1977

In front of our apartment in Ogaki, Japan in August 1977

Elder Lee Richan became one of my most favorite companions and was a life long friend until he passed away in 2012. Here we were in Fuji, Japan in April 1978, just before I returned home.

Elder Lee Richan became one of my most favorite companions and was a life long friend until he passed away in 2012. Here we were in Fuji, Japan in October 1977, just before I returned home.

So, the mission ended and I returned home to the US in February 1978.  During my mission, my mother had left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and become involved in the Baha’i faith.  Both she and my dad had softened up on my church membership as they saw through my letters home how things had been for me.  However, things were not so well for them.  While I was on my mission, they divorced.  My mom was living in a trailer in Jemez Springs, NM and my Dad had been transferred to Colorado.  Upon my return home, all of the family got together at the trailer in Jemez.  It was nice to visit all of them.  We also got a family photo, the only photo that all of us had been in together.

The family together in 1978 after my mission.  This was the only family photo we ever had together.

The family together at Christmas in 1978 after my mission. This was the only family photo we ever had together.

Mom's singlewide trailer in Jemez Springs, NM (ca. 1978)

Mom’s singlewide trailer in Jemez Springs, NM (ca. 1978)

It was nice to get them all together. Though my mother passed away in 1981, as a family we have only gotten together a couple of times since.  After visiting with them I went back to Murray to get life restarted.  I stayed with the Thomas family, got a new job with Alta and was back on track.  I also decided I would attend BYU, so I started that process.

In late July I moved to Provo.  Jonathan and some others had a house in Provo that I could live in, so I left Alta, moved to Provo and got a job at JC Penney as of August 1.  A whole new change in life.  And then a most unusual thing happened.  I went to church in a ward in Provo and, lo and behold, I ran into Sue Gilman, the same girl whom I met in Provo.  She was as surprised as I was!!  Obviously, she had no idea that I had joined the church. Personally, I think it was the Lord telling us both that He directs affairs and wanted us both to know that we had done the right things ultimately.  What a blessing that was!

While in Provo I had a few girlfriends and one quite serious relationship that ended up going sour.  But, I also ran into a girl at a bus stop that had my heart.  We had both missed the bus back in October 1978 or so.  Turns out that she worked at J.C. Penney as well and I got a ride into work with her.  She worked in the cafe, so I would occasionally go over an visit, but nothing serious ever happened.  She then went home for Christmas, which saddened me…all I knew was her first name…Juli.

My first photo with Julianne, in January 1979 in Provo, UT

My first photo with Julianne, in January 1979 in Provo, UT

Then, on January 4, 1979, school was back in session.  I was walking down the hall and she came up to me and said hello. WOW!  I got her number, called her for a date and the rest is history.   On January 15, 1979 I asked her to marry me in a cold snowy day, up in Provo Canyon.  We eventually were married exactly 6 months later.  And I know that this blessing would have never come had I not been baptized.

Wedding Photo - July 1979

Wedding Photo – July 1979

From our marriage, during the 1980s, we had five children.  I graduated from NAU and ASU.  We traveled to Japan as a family and lived there.  As our children grew older, we moved to our home in Kentucky.  So much has happened (which is all really another story).

My wife and children in 2009

My family in 2009

Kravetz Family Group 2102

Kravetz family group shot Christmas 2012. Includes children, grandchildren, father, sister and her family. The ultimate blessing!

Daughter Marissa readies for mission to Thailand

Daughter Marissa readies for mission to Thailand

Three of my children followed in my footsteps and served LDS Missions.  Amaree, my oldest, served in Japan.  In fact, she was one of the same areas as I was and attended the baptism of young boy whose mother I taught when I served my mission. Just another testimony to me that I made the right choice.  Marissa served in Thailand.  My son Seth got called to the Salt Lake City South Mission…yet another strange twist of events in my mind.  I lived there and joined the church there.  And on Seth’s final Sunday, I got special permission from the mission president to allow Seth to visit the Murray 20th Ward and speak in church as a guest speaker. He was able to express gratitude for me and also tell them what blessings they had provided through my baptism.  They could see the fruits of their labors.

My son Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City...returning to the site of my baptism

My son Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City…returning to the site of my baptism

In closing, it is amazing to look back down a 40 year old path and see all that has happened as a result of that one decision and one action in life. The path has not been easy, and was probably not intended to be easy.  I am sure there are many more challenges to come.  But the real blessing is seeing it in hindsight and knowing that good decisions ultimately bring about good results.

matthews0112So, 40 years later I still stand by my decision and am grateful to those that made it happen and grateful to God for all that has happened since.  My life has been blessed abundantly.

Feeling Blessed

Feeling Blessed

 

2014 – Year in Review: Livin’ the Dream

IMG_4063The year 2014 was a marvelous year for me.  As with all years of life, there are always ups and downs, and this year was no exception.  But, I always strive to take a positive vent on things (as much as possible) and there was much positive that happened this year.  Following is my retrospective view on 2014…the Good, the Bad and the Wonderful (no Ugly here…sorry!).  I really was living the dream!

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

Celebrated my 35th Wedding Anniversary

35 Years of "Merried" Life

35 Years of “Merried” Life

July 15, 2014 was a momentous day in my life as I celebrated the 35th anniversary of wedded bliss with my sweet eternal companion Julianne. Even now I am awestruck at how she has put up with me all of these years.  My quirkiness, my playfulness and yes, my more often than occasional thoughtless foot-in-mouth disease.

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

Julianne has been a wonderful example to me and, in the words of my favorite musician Antsy McClain, I truly “Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream”

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

First grandchild baptism

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

In late May we got to go to Montana to attend the first baptism of any of my grandchildren. This was a wonderful event as Kade Matthews was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am proud of this little guy with a big heart and wonderful spirit.  There will be more baptisms coming in the future, but the first is always wonderful

Seeing ALL of the children and grandchildren

Our family has spread out across the United States (literally coast to coast!), thus making it difficult to see them all at one time.  Not since Christmas 2012 have we all been together.  However, as of Christmas 2014, we were able to spend time with all of the children and grandchildren at one point or another.

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

  • Amaree – Our oldest was living in Shelby, Montana the last time we got to visit her and her family (including husband Aaron and four children – Kade (8), Charlie (7), Olivia (5) and Benson (3))  We were blessed to visit them in May for Kade’s baptism and also spent some time traveling in Montana with them.  It was a wonderful time. In October, they moved further west to Port Orchard, Washington in a job transfer for Aaron. They are loving their new place and I am hoping to be able to go out there and visit in 2015 for Charlie’s baptism.
  • Grampz with Amaree's children.  Fun to see Livvy, Charlie, Kade and Benson

    Grampz with Amaree’s children. Fun to see Livvy, Kade, Charlie and Benson

  • Marissa – Our second daughter Marissa still lives nearby in Lexington.  It is always fun to see her sweet family (including husband Adam and three children – Joselyn (7), Landen (6) and Lyla (3)). It has been a blessing to have them nearby and have the opportunity to hang with those sweet grandkids! Marissa’s wonderful talent as a photographer and videographer always continues to impress.
  • Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Fun with Lyla

    Fun with Lyla

  • Chelsea – Our third daughter Chelsea also lives in Lexington and we get to see her and our oldest grandchild Autumn (9) quite often. Chelsea recently became engaged to Jorge Mendez and is excited about the opportunity to go to Mexico and visit his family in 2015. She continues to do well on her job as a manager at a local Wendy’s restaurant.
  • Seth – Our oldest son Seth lives in Vernon, Connecticut.  He and his wife Holly and son Rockwell (4) have been busy in life, Seth with his engineering job at GE and Holly with her business “Cutting It Cute.”  We really had lost hope of seeing them in 2014, but, they surprised us in late December with a Christmas visit and it was amazing to see us.  They shared some other exciting news (coming soon).  With their visit we finally got to see ALL of our children and grandchildren this year.
  • Three Generations of Kravetz...David, Rockwell and Seth

    Three Generations of Kravetz…David, Rockwell and Seth

  • Solomon – Our youngest son Solomon moved out to Colorado to join some friends in a joint business venture.  Though times have been challenging, the business seems to be picking up steam.  Sol visited us earlier in the year for a couple of days.  It was good to see him and hear of his progress.  He has remained upbeat and seems to be finally finding his pathway in life.  We are proud of him.
  • Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

    Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

Kravetz Family Reunion

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Another great highlight this year was a Kravetz family reunion, held in Galveston, Texas in late June 2014. Though not all were able to attend, I was happy to meet with my sister Sherry and her family, my step-dad Joe, my Uncle Lou and his wife Toni, and many of my cousins.  It was a wonderful four days on the beautiful island of Galveston.  On the way back home I spent an evening at my Uncle Lou’s house in Houston and then a day with my cousin Lewis in Austin, finally finishing up in Keller, Texas with my sister Sherry and her family and my dad, before heading home.

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

With my cute niece Savannah Blessing (Sherry's daughter)

With my cute niece Savannah Blessing (Sherry’s daughter)

Extensive Travel Opportunities

Welcome to Louisiana

Welcome to Louisiana in 2014

As noted above, in 2014 I was able to travel to Montana and also to southern Texas. As is typically the case, I drove and made a vacation/blogging trip out of these.  During the year I visited 18 states and drove close to 10,000 miles in road trip travel (not counting local Kentucky travel).  Detailed blog posts on my travels can be seen on my Less Beaten Paths blog (see actual post HERE). But, I will note below some of my “Bucket List” locations that I was able to check off.

Visiting Oklahoma

Visiting Oklahoma in 2014

  • Paul Bunyan Statue in Bemidji, MN – I have wanted to visit here since I was 8 or 9 and first saw it in a LIFE travel book back in the 1960s. Finally made it in May 2014! (see blog post)
  • Beartooth Highwayon the border of Wyoming and Montana – Supposedly one of the most spectacular mountain drives in America, it has been on my list for many years.  I made it (just barely) on Memorial Day weekend in late May 2014.  I got there a couple days after it was opened for the season and there was still piles of snow. It will leave me with everlasting memories of the beauty of this earth. (see blog post)
  • Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska – One of the “Car Sculpture” places I had hoped to visit, I was able to get here on my way from Montana in late May. It was a fabulous visit! (see blog post)
  • Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

    Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

  • Traversing US Highway 2 across northern US – Though this is still a Bucket List item (since I have east coast to Michigan and then western Montana to Washington coast remaining), I was able to knock off a big chunk of the 2,571 mile highway as I drove from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Browning, Montana (about 1,171 miles) (see blog post)
  • Didn't matter which way.  Had a great time. (This is in Lake Jackson, TX by the way)

    Didn’t matter which way. Had a great time. (This is in Lake Jackson, TX by the way)

  • Travel the “Blues Highway” in Mississippi – Another of my “Bucket List” trips, I had hoped to someday travel US Highway 61 north to south in Mississippi.  I was able to do this (see blog post)
On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

Meeting New Friends and Old Friends

This past year provided me with the opportunity to visit a couple of old friends from the past and also opportunities to meet a few “new” friends from Facebook and otherwise. Also wonderful and fun to continue old relationships and to also create and foster new ones!  Here are a few:

Visiting with musician friend Antsy McClain (and gawking at his grandchild pix) just before a show in Ohio

Visiting with musician friend Antsy McClain (and gawking at his grandchild pix) just before a show in Ohio

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

Hanging out with Texas travel blogger, author and photographer Tui Snider in Azle, TX

Hanging out with Texas travel blogger, author and photographer Tui Snider in Azle, TX

Got to visit with old friend Brian Gavron in Austin, TX

Got to visit with old friend Brian Gavron in Austin, TX

Having BBQ with my old friend and fellow Troubs' fan Michael Fisher in Georgetown, TX

Having BBQ with my old friend and fellow Troubs’ fan Michael Fisher in Georgetown, TX

Got to meet Troy Landry from Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA

Got to meet Troy Landry from Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Waving to the world with new friend, Texas author and ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie Tucker in Denton, TX

Waving to the world with new friend, Texas author and ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie Tucker in Denton, TX

Building My Own Business

As reentering the work force has gotten more difficult for me due to my age and extensive experience, I really dug in hard this year to build my own business, Sumoflam Productions, and really strived to make it on my own (coupled with Julianne’s work at University of Kentucky). After learning WordPress through my blogging, I have been able to expand my expertise  and indeed was able to build the business throughout the year with new clients and partnerships. I worked hard to learn more skills and have successfully built a number of sites this year in the WordPress platform. Following are a few of the sites I have done and manage now:

There are a number more and all can be seen listed at My Sumoflam Productions Site

Also during the year I was contracted for website work and broadcast monitoring for Blue Million with monitoring internet broadcasts of the PRCA Rodeo and other broadcasts on the Wrangler Network.

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

And America’s largest marketing producer of high school rivalry football games, The Great American Rivalry Series contracted me to manage their social media, arrange and monitor broadcasts and also manage and update their website during the 2014 high school football season. We did 100 games this year and that made for a busy few months at the end of the year. It was a wonderfully busy time.

Sumoflam in the News

In 2014 I was asked to write a couple of articles for local press.  These were both fun adventures.  The first one was about the playground at Jacobson Park. (See Entire Article here).  I wrote the article and also provided the photos.

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014.  My article about Jacobson Park

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014. My article about Jacobson Park

In November I was asked to write an article about the murals and wall art in Lexington for Ace Weekly magazine. This article was posted online in December and may appear in their end of the year issue.  They also included a complete photo gallery of my photos of Lexington’s amazing street art.

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Also, in December, I was involved with Lexington Nativity Festival, which was sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I managed the website and the media relations for the event. The Lexington Herald-Leader photographer Pablo Alcala out to do some shots and I was included in this and the newspaper gallery in late December.

NativityFest

Nativity Festival Gallery featured in Lexington Herald-Leader. Photos were by Pablo Alcala

A Few More Odds and Ends

I got to visit with my cousin Lewis Goldstein a couple of times in 2014.  Once was a sad affair at the loss of my uncle Jay Goldstein, who passed away in Louisville.  I also got to spend some time with Lewis at his home in Austin after the family reunion in Galveston.  Always good to visit with one of my favorite cousins!

Got to visit with my cousin Lewis a couple of times in 2014

Got to visit with my cousin Lewis a couple of times in 2014

In 2014 I really kicked my blogging and photography into full gear.  I had 38 posts on my Less Beaten Paths blog (and over 50,000 page views during the year).  I also posted 20 posts on this blog and have had nearly 5000 page views this year. Between my travel photos and local photos, I had nearly 500 selfies (HA HA….I love these iPhones!).  I also took well over 5000 photos of travels, family, sunrises and sunsets, birds, squirrels, bison, antelope, murals, wall art, sculptures and more. I had nearly 3700 views of my photos on my SmugMug Photo site. I will be doing a post about my favorite photos of 2014 in early January 2015.

My SmugMug Photo site

My SmugMug Photo site

Overall, this was an amazing year.  I am grateful for all of the blessings, all of the adventures and all of the family and friends.

Life is Good

Life is Good