As many of you know, I work in the Superhero business. I know superheros. And Julianne has proven time and again that she is a superhero. In fact, sometimes she is Captain Marvel. Other times she is Wonder Woman. All times she is Supergirl.
I remember with fondness hearing her play “Meditation “ by Thais every time we would visit her home in Mesa. It was her Dad’s favorite and has become one of mine as well. Indeed, in my mind, it is Julianne’s Theme Song.
We eventually moved to Flagstaff, where I attended college.and Julianne was able to play in the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Ironically, at that time, a violinist named Daniel Mason was the concertmaster. In the 1990s, after moving to Kentucky, it turns out that Daniel Mason had become an Associate Professor of Violin at UK and Julianne took lessons from him. Such a unique small world it is!
And, as mentioned above, many of our grandchildren carry on traditions as singers, a violinist, a cellist, a percussionist and a saxophone player. Two of the grandchildren also perform with the Lexington ballet.
OK. Julianne has DEAGED over the last few years. Seems like each year she gets a year younger. Many would be surprised that she is the grandmother of ten lovely grandchildren. She cares about these sweet children so much. She always wants to kiss their sweet cheeks! She is such a COOL grandmother!
When were married in 1979, little did we know what would lay ahead on our journey. We had hoped for a few children (we were blessed with five). We even dreamed of having grandchildren, though a specific number was never in our mind. I would always just say “Children are like arrows, happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”
Julianne got to experience her first grandchild while she was in her forties. She now has TEN, and they are probably one of the biggest joys in her life. She has a HUGE place in her heart for them and loves each one dearly. She has an endless amount of kisses and hugs and smiles for them.
For this particular post, I am just going to let the photos below tell the story about this woman of love and care. Obviously, words can’t describe the feelings like the photos do. She is truly the Coolest grandmother around.
Julianne is not obnoxious. She is also not very outspoken or gregarious (like her husband). But, she has a goofy side. I think that our children picked up their “goofy” sides from her. I am just not as goofy…or am I?
One of my first memories of her goofiness was when she was having a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and then put the brown wrapper over her teeth. Or the “Orange Peel Smile.” One time our daughter caught her using spaghetti to make Dracula teeth…
She has done funny teeth things with pistachio shells too. You never know what she may come up with.
I got the biggest kick out of her a couple of years ago when she had to create a poster for a graphic arts class at the University of Kentucky. This poster is a prime example of her “creative goofiness.” I had to include it here. She did ALL of the art work…including the characterization of herself from actual photos….
Julianne is notorious for her photo-bombs and funny faces in photos. Here are a couple of them from the past.
A couple of Christmas seasons ago, we went around Lexington to take Christmasy pictures together. She insisted on hiding her face in each one..just for fun.
Always a master of disguise, she is happy to hide herself in plain site.
It is absolutely fun being with these sweet, fun-loving, sometimes downright goofy gal!! Love her to death (and life)!! Life with her is Happyville!
This series is all about my dear wife Julianne. She has stuck with me for 40 years. Through Thick and Thin. For this and the following 58 days until our actual wedding anniversary date of July 15, I plan to do and “attribute tribute” a day about why I love and adore this person so much. She has been the light (and perhaps even the guiding light) of my life all of these years.
Does this mean that things have always been good? Of course not, with any relationship there are ups and downs. Situations sometimes dictate and the high hills of joy can sometimes turn into low valleys of despair. But the key is always the longevity factor. Can we make it through the rough seas and back into the mainstream? I think the answer is yes.
Today I want to speak of kindness. I first met Julianne at a lonely bus stop in Provo, Utah in the fall of 1978. We had both missed the bus. I was enamored by her good looks. But I was taken, both literally and figuratively, by her kindness. We had both missed the bus. I never rode the bus, but my car had problems. I got there too late. She too arrived a couple of minutes late. I asked her about it. She said her roommate was coming to get her and she kindly offered me a ride. You see, it turned out that we both worked in J.C. Penney Department Store at the Orem Mall. She in the Cafe and me in the shoe department.
Julianne didn’t know me. She didn’t know if I was a good guy or a bad guy. But she was kind, she offered me a ride. (See…taken literally) And I was impressed by her thoughtful non-judgmental kindness. Perhaps kindness is one of her greatest attributes. She has a kind heart. She speaks kind words. She thinks kind thoughts. I am grateful for her kindness.
I have been waiting almost a year for this day. It is officially 60 days away from my 40th anniversary of marriage to my sweetheart Julianne.
What a momentous time for us! The past 40 years have brought so many wonderful blessings into our lives and offered us so many wonderful opportunities to grow closer and to learn about life and love. I have cherished every moment, even the difficult and challenging times.
Over the next 59 days, I plan to post a different outlook on my sweet wife and what I cherish most about having been with her for 40 years. It has been a wonderful journey and I hope that it continues on for much longer.
All I want to say in this post, is that it has been a ride! In 40 years we have had five wonderful children, all of whom are, at the time of this writing, in their 30s. Four of our children have married and we have, through them, 10 wonderful and talented grandchildren, including two teenagers! In our 40 years we have lived in nine different cities, including four years in Oita, Japan. Both Julianne and I have had a variety of jobs, some full-time and some part-time over the years. Over the next 59 posts I will mention some of those as well. During the course of our marriage, we have owned 10 different cars, we have lived in 13 different houses and/or apartments, we have traveled all over the country both with our family and together as a couple. In 45 days from now we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of moving into the house that we currently reside in.
Through the ups and downs, the challenges and successes, the difficult times in the joyful times, ours has been an abundant journey. For this I can’t my blessings. I hope you will follow us over the course of the next 59 days as I spend a portion of each day celebrating The absolute love of my life, the woman and friend who is stuck with me through thick and thin over these 40 years.
We are not alone. Most of us are born into some sort of a family. It is true that some are born and left at the door of the church or fire department. But, for most of us, we are born into a family.
Aaron and I grew up basically as close brothers. I was four years older than he was. But we had good times together. And like any siblings, we fought. I am glad that in later years we did not fight, because I would’ve lost. Aaron became very accomplished in the martial arts and for many years taught martial arts until that he was stung with fibromyalgia. That pretty much took a toll on his body. In later years, for a little while, we did some things together. We shared and continue to share an enjoyment of 1970s rock music. But I have not seen Aaron for many years. He lives in Arizona with his loving wife Natalie who is taking very good care of him. I’ve only met Natalie twice throughout the years of their marriage.
As a teenager, I became very protective of my brother Danny. He had lots of struggles with life and it was a challenging time for him after I left for Japan as a missionary. By the time I had returned, Danny had been moved into a home in Las Vegas, New Mexico where he ended up living out the remainder of his life with others that also had mental disorders. He was fascinated with the stars and with UFOs. He eventually died in Las Vegas. I never got to really enjoy time with him as an adult and I’m grateful that our sister Sherry went to spend quite a bit of time with him. As well, father Joe Kravetz, after the passing of Marjorie, also made sure to spend time with Danny into his last years.
My time with Gary was more as he was a young boy. I was his big brother who was always busy with high school in band or cross country or other activities. We did a few things together growing up and we were as close as we could be under the circumstances I guess. Gary eventually went into the service and served in Hawaii where he went through basic training. He has struggled with mental illness as well, but it has not been debilitating. He’s worked hard since he got back but still lives alone in Albuquerque and, like Aaron, I have not seen Gary for many many years though we do on occasion communicate to social media or telephone calls. He has dreams of buying a motorcycle and traveling the country on a motorcycle. I hope he fulfills that dream and brings that motorcycle out to visit us in Kentucky.
Finally, there is my little sister Sherry. She was just a baby as I was growing up and she was kind of the joy of my life. First off, she was the only sister I had. Secondly, she was just a little baby and I, even at that time, have always loved little babies and young children. I’m grateful that I got to take care of her for the few years that we were together there. But, as adults we have grown very close. I am grateful for my sister. Sherry has become very successful in the business that she is in. Her husband, Brian Blessing, is also a wonderful individual and I am so glad to get to know him. I have spent many many days at their beautiful home in Fort Worth, Texas. Of all of my Kravetz siblings, I would say that I am closest to Sherry and her family. And, like their name, they have been a very big blessing in my life. Sherry is a very caring type of person that my mother was. She is most like her mother Marjorie and really is very nurturing and caring of others. That was the driving force for Marjorie and after all of the children left, I am sure that she died of a broken heart and loneliness. She had no one left to nurture. Thankfully, Sherry carries on that traditionand I am so grateful to her.
Other than me, Sherry is the only other one of the Kravetz children to have any children of her own and she has a wonderful and sweet and charming and intelligent and fun daughter named Savannah. Savannah is just about a month younger than my oldest granddaughter Autumn and, though I am Savannah‘s uncle, she’s more like a granddaughter to me because of the age of all of my grandchildren. I love Savannah to death! She has grown up being both both musical and athletic. She plays the clarinet in band and she has become a very accomplished volleyball player. She was also very involved in Girl Scouts and I had bought mini a Girl Scout cookie from my sweet little niece. I recently got to spend a whole day with her and my granddaughter Autumn together down in Texas. We had a great time together!
For me, syncing my “family“ has been a lifelong obsession. I am grateful that I was able, at the age of 18, to finally learn who my natural father was, and even speak with him on the phone, which I ultimately did a couple of times in my lifetime. But, sadly, I never got to meet the man that was my father and he had always wanted to see his son. He passed away on December 2, 1992, at the age of 57. My life took me in a different direction. Nobody is to blame. It is what it is and it was what it was.
I see a bigger picture. Individuals that are born into a “normal“ family situation don’t have that “extended“ family view like I have been blessed to have. And I am grateful for that. I have, on the Laurienzo side, four sisters and a brother. Then, on the Kravetz side, I have a half brother, an adoptive brother, and a brother and sister who were born to my step-parents. So, all totaled, I have 10 siblings. That is a wonderful thing!
I did not get to meet any of my siblings from the Laurienzo side until one day in the 1980s when my Laurienzo sister Debbie was in Arizona on business and asked if she could come visit. She was the first member of my “bloodline “family that I got to meet. I was glad that she visited. I was thrilled to finally get locked into the family that I very easily could’ve grown up with. It was not until 1993 that I finally got to meet the others and I have since forged a relationship with them, though separated by distance and outlooks on life, we have the one common thread and that is we all shared a father named Joseph Laurienzo. When I visited them for the first time, I learned that he had always kept me in his heart and mind. On my birthday, I was spoken about and missed. They even gave me a copy of an early baby photo which had always been kept in the family to remember me. As for me, until I was 18, I did didn’t even know about this and it was not until I met them all in the 1990s that I really understood the entire scope of it all. But once I met them, the gratitude flowed, and I felt like a big gap of my life had finally been filled.
Next in line is Tina. She works hard at a university and has raised a couple of wonderful children. Her husband Jim Filsinger, is a great guy and I have enjoyed getting to know him as well. I look back fondly on a day that I spent with Jim and Tina touring around the city of Cleveland as they took me to a number of spots. We had lunch and we had a great time together. I have spent time at their house and enjoyed some of Tina‘s amazing cooking!
Then there is my brother Joe and his wife Mia. They are a laid-back and fun couple and they too have a couple of great children! Mia is also an amazing cook! Seems like I see less of them on visits to Cleveland because they are always so busy in all of their activities.
Finally, there is the youngest, Nicole. For some reason, she is the one that I have grown closest to over the years as I’ve gotten to know her. She is a sweet person and very kind. She’s also very independent and has even built her own business right there in the neighborhood that she grew up in. She runs the Mayfield Smoke Shop and has had great success with it. It is a local gathering place for many of the neighborhood people who will get together in the back room and chat, talk, play cards and argue over the most recent baseball and football games. I have been there on numerous occasions and just sat in the back room enjoying the bantering and fun of these old neighborhood regulars.
But extended family does not just stop at my siblings. It extends out to my cousins and my aunts and my uncles. I have met both aunts and uncles on the Laurienzo side and I have grown up fond of some of the other uncles I’ve had on my Kravetz side. My father‘s oldest brother Lou, my uncle Lou, is one whom I have always been very close to and very fond of. As a result of my massive genealogy work, Uncle Lou was able to eventually go to Mexico and visit some of the long lost family that I had discovered, and, through that, he ultimately married his current wife Toni who, ironically, had been married at one time to one of his uncles, part of the Evelson clan that had gone to Mexico rather than coming to the United States. His mother Jessica was an Evelson prior to marrying Alexander Kravetz, my grandfather, who had migrated from Russia. Jessica had migrated from Lithuania and all of the relatives in Mexico had also come from Lithuania.
Along with Lou, my dad Joe Kravetz, had two sisters. The older sister was Evelyn and she ultimately married Gordon Levy. They lived for many many years in Tarrytown, NY, where their mother Jessica had moved. Evelyn passed away a few years ago. His other sister is Sylvia. She currently lives in Silver Spring, MD. Her first husband was Jay Goldstein. They later divorced and he remarried and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. I had met him when I was quite young, but had occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s to visit with him in Louisville. His son Lewis is probably my closest cousin. I have had many visits with Lewis in both Texas, where he lives, and in Louisville when he visited Uncle Jay. times with him and his sister Elaine my cousin who lives in Maryland. I attended my first Jewish funeral after my Uncle Jay passed away. I joined Lewis and Elaine in mourning his passing. Though I did not get to spend much time with him, the time I did spend was joyful and I am glad that I got to know him better.
My Uncle Lou had a number of children, most of them to his first wife Natalie, whom I also have gotten to reestablish ties with on visits to Houston, where both she and Lou and most of his family live. We’ve had three family reunions where I’ve been able to attend and get to know my Kravetz cousins much better. Most of them I did not know very well growing up. There was a large geographic separation that kept us from being able to spend much time. Uncle Lou did visit us in Montana and in New Mexico and other places over the years and so I did get to establish a relationship with him.
By the time I was ready to depart on the solo part of my journey, at the age of 17, I had already determined a few things regarding my future. Having grown up with a good deal of dysfunction and unhappiness in my own adoptive family, I had determined that if I ever had a family of my own, that kind of dysfunction and heartache would not happen on my watch. I am not saying that everything in my family was bad, but there were many things that just weren’t right and I wanted to make sure I fixed these things for my own offspring, if I was ever blessed to have one.
Now, at age 62, I am thankful to say that, overall, we have had a loving family and I believe that most of my resolutions in terms of family pretty much came true. My children have not had to experience a divorce between their parents. My children were loved and nurtured and had a fairly stable family. Unlike my situation where my parents never came to any of my school activities (other than my high school graduation and later my college graduation), my wife and I strived to attend as many activities of our children as we could possibly do. To be sure, there were times where three different functions occurred simultaneously, and thus one of the children had to miss out on parents being there. But, but if we could be there, we were.
I am grateful that my children have had so many wonderful life experiences prior to their departures on their own separate life journeys. I’m grateful that for at least 17 or 18 years of their lives they were able to join Julianne and I on our journey as we lived in Japan, lived in different parts of the country, and had many opportunities provided for us to travel, participate in many activities and do many things that most families never really get to do.
We have never had a “rich” life in terms of money, and that has been perfectly okay. We’ve never been dirt poor either. We have always been blessed to have what we needed and sometimes even a little bit more. Our children never did without the necessities of life and for that I am deeply grateful. My children never had to have their heads shaved like my mom used to do. She gave us our haircuts and I didn’t like it. If our children desired that kind of haircut, then it was fine even though I still did not like how they looked. Fortunately, I believe that we were very good about allowing our children to make guided choices during their youth.
And now, 45 years after I had left my own home and set forth on my personal journey and traveled these many years on this journey with my family, I feel “rich“ in the abundance of family. I feel rich in joy and experiences. I have had a rich life because of my children and my grandchildren and this will be something I will be able to always have with me.
In my previous post, I wrote about my personal life journey. The following few posts will also include details of this journey, but will be more focused on those that have accompanied me or that I accompanied on their portion of their own journey.
I have written before in previous posts in this blog that we met in late 1978 and were married in the summer of 1979. That is where our journey really got started. On this journey together we have traveled to Japan, we have lived in numerous places, have had five children and 10 grandchildren. It has been an amazing and rewarding journey together.
A marriage to someone you love and cherish is wonderful, but it is not an easy thing. Some people are awestruck that we have been together for nearly 40 years. Personally, I am extremely grateful that she has been patient enough with me and my foibles and quirks and has stuck with me for 40 years. It gets a little more complicated after children leave because then we are each striving for some independence and wanting to go our own direction or pull the other one to go with us in that direction or the other. There are no longer children at home dictating our activities and the direction of our life’s journey.
Julianne and I began our journey together 40 years ago with many dreams and hopes. Some of those have come true and have been very fulfilling for both of us. There are others that seem to have escaped us and have gone far away out of our grasp. As well, on a journey such as ours, there are always unexpected obstacles and ofttimes there are choices where we need to decide which fork of the road to take. Fortunately, in this our journey together, almost always we have found ways to come to agreement on which roads to take as well as the possible consequences for taking those roads and going in that direction rather than the other one.
Often times, hitting a crossroads, we never know what taking that road will lead us too. Sometimes there is no information other than to go this way or to go that way. But once determined, we pursued with fervor and did the best we can along that portion of our journey together. And, gratefully, Julianne has always been there by my side. Almost all of our journey together has been one that we determined we would take together whether good or bad. And I’m so thankful for
her willingness to do so.
As for me, the last few years of my journey have been challenging. I have not done as well in improving my health. It does sadden me. But I have also struggled in this treacherous economy to stay stable and gainfully employed. I’m grateful that I am able to do what I do now (which is a later blog post). But, when I hit those forks in the road on my portion of the journey, I have some times taken the more difficult and challenging roads, without knowing it. But Julianne always supports me and helps me through!
Love absolutely binds two individuals together strongly. I am grateful for the love that Julianne has had for me all these years and that she has accompanied me, and many times pulled me along or has been pulled along on this journey.
As we approach Thanksgiving 2018, I have taken tome to reflect on those things that I am thankful for, probably more than I have in the past. As a 62 year old, I have a great deal to look back on and to be thankful for. So, for the next week, through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am doing a post each day to express my gratitude for the various segments of my life. Some of what I write may be more personal than others may want to see, but to me, these are the main things I want to express my gratitude for.
I want to start out this week long effort by expressing my gratitude first and foremost for my life’s journey. Each of us must walk the paths of our lives’ journeys. Nobody else can walk this path. Interestingly enough, our journey is not really our own until we leave our parents and our homes. We all start our journeys on the backs (or in the hands) of others. And that initial part of the journey may very well lay the foundational footpath for our own personal journey.
Being a Christian and believing in a pre-existence and an after-life is always helpful to me in understanding and appreciating my journey. I believe that my Father in Heaven let me know what treacherous and difficult paths would lay ahead of me as I came to earth. I accepted that knowing as well that I would be blessed with guidance from Him along the way as well as the ability to choose which way to go. I don’t believe for a moment that God laid out a specific course for me to take. Rather, he set things in motion for me to take paths with many forks in the road.
My journey began in Cleveland, Ohio in early October 1956. I was born into an Italian family (my birth name was Carmen David Laurienzo), but to a Jewish mother. My father, Joe Laurienzo, was a the son of a migrant Italian name Carmine Laurienzo. From all I know, Joe was a hard working individual. He lived in the same home as his father on Murray Hill Road in the Little Italy district of Cleveland.
I will never know for sure how my Italian Catholic father met and ultimately married my German Jewish mother (Orene Goldberg, later to be known as Jennierose Lavender). But, I was conceived and was, at the time, the beginning of the third generation of Laurienzos to be born in and live in the house on Murray Hill Road.
And thus began my amazing journey.
By the time I was 10 months old, in August 1957, my journey took a turn. Giving in to pressure from her staunch Jewish mother (Marion Goldberg) in Albuquerque, Orene left with me while the Catholic side of the family was all celebrating the Feast of Assumption Festival…one of the biggest annual events in this little corner of Cleveland. I was essentially snuck away, never to meet my natural father, who, I came to find later on, was heartbroken. Just a little over one year later, Orene was being remarried to the second Joseph in my life, Joseph Kravetz, in a fairly social Jewish ceremony. They were married in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 1958.
As a very young child, i had already experienced some major directional changes in my journey. And this would ultimately be the way of life for me for at least the next 15 years of my life. Orene and Joe K ended up having a son together in 1960 (Aaron). Then she left us. She left Joe Kravetz alone to raise my younger half-brother Aaron and me.
As a young four year old, I am sure that somehow I managed to blame myself for her leaving. As for Aaron and me, we ended up with a number of babysitters to take care of us while my Dad worked. Some of them would come and go. It was a tough rocky road for these two little boys.
Joe Kravetz eventually participate in some single-adult parent organization (or something) and later met Marjorie Biel (nee Tudor), who had become divorced and had a young boy (Danny), 16 days younger than me. I believe that they both married out of necessity more than love. Nonetheless, as a young child, I was piggybacked into this relationship, which brought forth two more children (Gary in 1964 and Sherry in 1967).
Through adoptions, all of us became Kravetz kids. But it was a hodge-podge family. Dad worked all the time for a drug store chain. Mom (Marge) was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and would take us to the Kingdom Hall a couple of times a week. She diligently sought to make sure we had a religious upbringing. She had health issues and struggled in her relationship with Joe. But, kudos to both of them as they made the courageous choice to stay together, despite deep-rooted differences and a great deal of family dysfunction and challenge (Danny was “mentally retarded” – a term used in the 1960s/70s). Aaron and I could be unruly.
Between 1965 and 1974, we had moved four different times to four different cities due to my Dad’s job transfers. More rocky, rutted roads for my life journey lay before me. New homes, changes in schools, new friends, leaving old friends. It wasn’t easy for any of us. By the time we were in Bozeman, Montana, I had run away from home twice to get away from the dysfunction… I was ready to journey forth on my own personal journey and off of the piggyback roller coaster ride I had experienced.
I will say here that Joe Kravetz and Marge did the very best they could with what was handed to them. They both had their emotional baggage and the five children, who were, without choice, along for the rocky ride, had to learn to deal with it all, and we all did in our own ways.
I had always been the prayerful type. I believed in a God and I prayed for a miracle on many occasions. Mine came in the chance meeting of some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bozeman in the summer of 1973. The one week that I spent visiting with this family from New Jersey every day set me on my own path and in my own direction…one that would ultimately get me asked to leave my home as a 17 year old in Murray, Utah in the summer of 1974.
So, finally, in 1974 I began my own journey, making my own choices on my life’s direction….both good and bad.
After graduating high school in Murray in 1974, I had to make many huge, life-altering choices. I came to one fork in the road after another, knowing full well that the choices made at those crossroads were ones I could never go back on and “try again.” That’s the funny thing with choices.
After choosing to be baptized into the LDS Church in January 1975, I had made choices to leave jobs to take on other “grass is always greener over there” kinds of jobs. Then, it happened… the first big big big choice. Do I serve an LDS mission or do I take the really good paying job? It would have to be one or the other. In the long run, I chose to serve and this really set the direction for my life journey from then on.
Since that time, my journey has meandered in many directions. Life has had many challenges, ups and downs and frustrations. But it has also been filled with joy, happiness and smiles. Bottom line, I have had a wonderfully rich life and over the next week will show my gratitude to the many things that have crossed my journey’s path.
I am very grateful for my personal journey and for those that have spent part of their journeys walking by my side on mine.