Countdown 365: #233 – Arlene Bateman, Mother In Law

Arlene Shepherd ca. 1944

Arlene Shepherd ca. 1944

Today would have marked the 89th birthday of my mother-in-law Arlene Bateman. This amazing lady passed away on April 17, 2011. Hard to believe it has been nearly five years. Just about three weeks earlier, my father-in-law and her husband Maurice Bateman had passed away (March 24, 2011). Those were rough and sad times for many many people.

But today I would like to celebrate the life of Arlene, a wonderful and talented woman who, to me, became the mother I didn’t have (my natural mother left me when I was 4 and my adoptive mother Marge passed away at age 47 on Feb. 1, 1982).

Arlene and Maury Bateman on their wedding day

Arlene and Maury Bateman on their wedding day

Arlene ca. 1950

Arlene ca. 1950

My first couple of times meeting Arlene did not go well. I made some stupid mistakes of youth (I was only 22 when I got engaged to her daughter Julianne and I stumbled oft in the course of our engagement). You see, Arlene was a very cultured and talented woman, staunch in her religion and desirous that her daughter would have the BEST man possible as a husband. Admittedly, I didn’t come close to the qualifying criteria on a number of fronts. Despite that, Julianne and I did get married and I had to live with the intimidating challenges of trying to meet the standards of my mother-in-law.

 

The Bateman family early on.

The Bateman family early on.

This is not to say that Arlene was a mean or strict mother-in-law, for she was not. Rather, she had high standards and expectations, and rightly so. Her father had been the superintendent of schools in Mesa, AZ for many years and she was a descendant of Mormon pioneers who had crossed the plains. She and her husband Maury were well-known and highly respected people in the Mesa community.

Arlene Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene Bateman on her 50th Anniversary

Arlene Bateman on her 50th Anniversary

So, in my eyes at that time, I felt like I was a pauper marrying into royalty, and my sweet wife was the darling princess worthy of a royal prince. I had to face the challenging road of improving myself in many facets of life. I was literally put through the refiner’s fire. I married up and I knew it. And the first few times we visited Mesa, I was always fearful of facing the queen!!

But, as the years passed, Arlene’s heart softened. Rather than being the scary intimidating queen, she became the nurturing and loving mother I needed. She accepted my faults (but quite often reminded me of the need to improve upon them – and what loving mother doesn’t do that?)

Arlene with her daughter Kathy (L) and my wife Julianne (R)

Arlene with her daughter Kathy (L) and my wife Julianne (R)

Arlene and Maury Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene and Maury Bateman in the 1990s

As Arlene could see that I extended every effort to treat her prized daughter Julianne like gold, she realized my potential as a good husband. After a while I was like the Tom Branson of Downton Abbey (see http://downtonabbey.wikia.com/wiki/Tom_Branson) who went from being a lowly Irish chauffeur to a member of the high society British family. Different cultural upbringing but adopted and accepted into the family.

I felt accepted and loved and from the mid-1980s onward. I felt comfortable in our infrequent visits with the family (we rarely lived close by so visits were only a couple of times a year).

Arlene on an Alaska Cruise to Alaska in 2004. We joined the family on this cruise

Arlene on an Alaska Cruise to Alaska in 2004. We joined the family on this cruise

That's All - One of Arlene's many CDs of her lovely piano playing

That’s All – One of Arlene’s many CDs of her lovely piano playing

Through Arlene’s great example I learned to be a better husband and father. Looking back on those times reveals to me many teaching moments. She was a treasure to my life.

Arlene was a very talented person. She was an amazing pianist and recorded numerous CDs for her family members to enjoy. She was also a talented artist and had painted a number of pieces of art that hung throughout her home. She was also skilled on the stage as a performer and later a producer. In fact, she and her husband were instrumental in turning the Easter sunrise service into the Easter Pageant. Maury served as General Chair over the entire event and Arlene was the music coordinator and choir director. She had written some of the original music for the event as well.

Arlene as a young child

Arlene as a young child

Arlene and Maury at the triple wedding reception of my three daughters in 2005

Arlene and Maury at the triple wedding reception of my three daughters in 2005

Arlene was an English teacher at Mesa’s Westwood High School for many years. She wrote more than 16 ward road shows, was a PTA president, helped reorganize the Mesa Community Theater, and acted in many productions. Among her honors is Mesa Citizen of the Year.

She was also a great example in church service as she and her husband served two missions, one as the Mission President in Johannesburg, South Africa and another at the temple there. She served the church faithfully in many callings in Mesa over the years.

Always classy, always understanding ...Arlen Bateman

Always classy, always understanding …Arlene Bateman

Arlene in early 2000s

Arlene in early 2000s

She was a blessing to my life. I recall as she laid in her bed, just a couple of days before her death, I was able to hold her hand, look into her eyes and thank her for all she had done for me and my wife. I was honored and humbled to tearfully let her know how much I loved her and appreciated her.  To me, Arlene was not a mother-in-law. She was a mother. And I miss her.

35 Years of Milestones – Julianne and David

Kravetz35SplashI never dreamed that someday I might be part of something bigger than me
It makes me feel humble, finally I see….All that we have is each other
And that’s all that I’ll ever need”  — Joe Walsh, “Family” from his Analog CD

As the week-long celebration of my 35 years with Julianne comes to an end, I would like to close out with a broad-brush overview of our wonderful 35 year journey (thus far!).  Yesterday I posted a video that our daughter Marissa compiled that includes dozens of photos from this 35 year journey.  If you have not yet seen it, here is the link to that post. We are really no different than any other couple with 35 years behind them.  So much can happen.  This is a look back out our journey together.

David and Julianne in Provo, UT February 1979

David and Julianne in Provo, UT February 1979

When I look back on my family’s growth and the milestones achieved over a period of 35 years, I really realize that so much has happened.  It has been an amazing ride so far! Here are a number of highlights from our 35 years (coupled with photos when appropriate):

David and Julianne Wedding Photo July 1979

David and Julianne Wedding Photo July 1979

From 1979 to 2014:

Kravetz Family ca. 1991, taken in Oita, Japan

Kravetz Family ca. 1991, taken in Oita, Japan

Family 2009

Family 2009

Kravetz Family Group photo with grandchildren and some family members

Kravetz Family Group photo with grandchildren and some family members – 2012

We had 5 children

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

A Kravetz four generation photo - Seth, Rockwell, David, Joe - 2012

A Kravetz four generation photo – Seth, Rockwell, David, Joe – 2012

We had 9 grandchildren

3 of our children served LDS (Mormon) Missions

Amaree on her Mission in Japan

Amaree on her Mission in Japan

o Amaree to Nagoya Japan: January 2001 – July 2002

Marissa on her mission in Thailand

Marissa on her mission in Thailand

o Marissa to Bangkok Thailand: September 2002 – February 2004

Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City South area with his companion -- Tall and Short..

Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City South area with his companion — Tall and Short..

o Seth to Salt Lake City South: October 2006 to October 2008

Both of our boys attained Eagle Scout

Seth at his Eagle Court of Honor

Seth at his Eagle Court of Honor

o Seth in March 2005

Solomon at his Eagle Court of Honor

Solomon at his Eagle Court of Honor

o Solomon in June 2007

We have lived in 18 locations (including 2 extended motel stays while looking for housing and 3 extended work-related stays for David)

o An apartment in Provo, UT

Our first rental house in Flagstaff, AZ ca 1980

Our first rental house in Flagstaff, AZ ca 1980

o 2 Houses in Flagstaff, AZ
o Married Student Housing at NAU in Flagstaff
o 2 Houses and an apartment in Mesa, AZ
o 1 Apartment in Tempe, AZ

Apartments in Oita.  We lived on the 5th Floor

Apartments in Oita. We lived on the 5th Floor

o 2 Apartments in Oita, Japan

House in Frankfort, KY

House in Frankfort, KY

o 1 House in Frankfort, KY

House in Nicholasville

House in Nicholasville

o 1 House in Nicholasville, KY

House on Stanford Dr. in Lexington

House on Stanford Dr. in Lexington – notice our old Aerostar Van

Our current home in Lexington, KY

Our current home in Lexington, KY

o 2 Houses in Lexington, KY
o 1 Apartment in Louisville, KY (David only on extended work contract – 8 months)
o 1 Hotel in Woodstock, ON (David only on extended work contract – 4 months)

Apartment in Paris, Ontario

Apartment in Paris, Ontario

o 1 Apartment in Paris, ON (David only on extended work contract – 4 months)
o 1 Hotel in Cebu, Philippines (David only on extended work – 8 weeks)

We had three college graduates (including David)

Graduation with Bachelors from Northern Arizona University - 1984

Graduation with Bachelors from Northern Arizona University – 1984

o David graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Arizona University (History/Geography/Asian Studies) and then a Master’s Degree from Arizona State University (Political Science/Asian Studies)

Amaree graduation from University of Kentucky

Amaree graduation from University of Kentucky

o Amaree graduated from University of Kentucky (Music Education)

Seth graduation from University of Kentucky

Seth graduation from University of Kentucky

o Seth graduated from University of Kentucky (Engineering)

We have traveled to 6 foreign countries (collectively)

Family visiting Usa Shrine in Japan in 1990

Family visiting Usa Shrine in Japan in 1990

David and Julianne in Kyoto with David's father

David and Julianne in Kyoto with David’s father

o Oita, Japan (lived in Oita, Japan for 4 ½ years)
o Seoul, South Korea (both went through and stayed overnight on flights)
o Suzhou, China (David spent two weeks on business)

David at "Screaming Heads" in Berks Falls, Ontario 2008

David at “Screaming Heads” in Berks Falls, Ontario 2008

o Ontario, Canada and Cardston, Alberta, Canada (Julianne visited 2 times and David spent 8 months working in Ontario)

David and Julianne in Tulum, Mexico

David and Julianne in Tulum, Mexico

o Cozumel, Mexico (David and Julianne took a cruise to Cozumel and visited Tulum)

David on a Jeepney in Cebu, Philippines in 2007

David on a Jeepney in Cebu, Philippines in 2007

o Cebu, Philippines (David took two trips and spent a total of 8 weeks in Cebu)

We have traveled all over the United States

Julianne and I, along with our family have been blessed to have traveled all over the United States, from Catalina Island off the coast of California, to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, from the Great Lakes in Michigan and Ohio to the Mississippi Delta in New Orleans.  We have traversed the Rocky Mountains, crossed the southern deserts, visited the southeast in Georgia and been to New York. The family has been to 20 or more National Parks and Monuments over the years, has visited the Statue of Liberty, the St. Louis Arch and Mt. Rushmore.  We visited Hawaii as a family in 1990 and Julianne and I took a cruise to Alaska in 2004. Marissa spent a summer in France and Amaree toured Europe with a choir. Seth and Holly have visited England and Scotland. These experiences have broadened the horizons of all of us! We have since included grandchildren in many of these trips.

Family in Monument Valley 1993

Family in Monument Valley 1993

Visiting Jamestown, Virginia in 1995

Visiting Jamestown, Virginia in 1995

Visiting the St. Louis Arch in 1997

Visiting the St. Louis Arch in 1997 (with Barbara Grandvoinet from France)

Visiting the Museum in Chicago to see the T-Rex 1994

Visiting the Museum in Chicago to see the T-Rex 1996

Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park in 2005

Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park in 2005

Marissa and her daughter Joselyn at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

Marissa and her daughter Joselyn at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico in 2011

David and granddaughter Autumn in Rhinelander, Wisconsin 2012

David and granddaughter Autumn in Rhinelander, Wisconsin 2012

Chelsea and Solomon with David's sister Sherry in New York City 1998

Chelsea and Solomon with David’s sister Sherry in New York City 1998

We have celebrated the weddings of four of our children (including 3 daughters’ weddings within a 6 week span in 2005)

All three girls married in 2005

All three girls married in 2005

Dad and three married daughters June 2005

Dad and three married daughters June 2005

Chelsea on her wedding day in May 2005

Chelsea on her wedding day in May 2005

o Chelsea married in May 2005

Amaree and Aaron June 18, 2005 in Cardston, Alberta

Amaree and Aaron June 18, 2005 in Cardston, Alberta

o Amaree married Aaron Matthews in June 2005

Marissa and Adam June 25, 2005 Louisville, KY

Marissa and Adam June 25, 2005 Louisville, KY

o Marissa married Adam Noe in June 2005

Seth and Holly wed in June 2009

Seth and Holly wed in December 2009

o Seth married Holly Walker in December 2009

So much more happened over the years.  We had an exchange student from France, Barbara Grandvoinet, who home-stayed with us for about 6 months and then came back for two other shorter visits. She has gone on to become a documentary film producer and we are so proud of her. We also hosted a well known Japanese sculptor/ceramicist, Yukio Yamamoto (from Himeji, Japan), in the 1980s when he came to Arizona.  He and his wife stayed with us for a few weeks and we were instrumental in assisting Yukio in building an ancient style Tozan kiln at my alma mater Northern Arizona University in 1985 (see article here – they misspelled my name…). Yukio passed away a few years ago.

Yukio Yamamoto and wife with some of Julianne's family at the Falls of the Little Colorado river in Northern Arizona in 1985

Yukio Yamamoto and wife with some of Julianne’s family at the Falls of the Little Colorado river in Northern Arizona in 1985

There is now a shrine to Yukio at NAU.

Yukio Yamamoto shrine and museum at Northern Arizona University

Yukio Yamamoto shrine and museum at Northern Arizona University

Barbara with Solomon and Marissa at New River Gorge, WV in Aug 1995

Barbara with Solomon and Marissa at New River Gorge, WV in Aug 1995

There is so much more that has enriched our lives over these years.  Many of the children participated in commercial video shoots in Japan (and David was in a national TV Commercial).

Chelsea in a Tokiwa Department Store Ad in 1990. Her photo hung all over the store for weeks.

Chelsea in a Tokiwa Department Store Ad in 1990. Her photo hung all over the store for weeks.

Seth in a Fukuoka, Japan Department Store Ad in 1990

Seth in a Fukuoka, Japan Department Store Ad in 1990

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

Indeed, this 35 years has been amazing!  I am looking forward to my 50th in 15 years!!

David and Julianne 1979 in Monument Valley

David and Julianne 1979 in Monument Valley

David and Julianne in Japan 1990

David and Julianne in Japan 1990

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

Cheering on UK in 2013 NCAA Championship Game

Cheering on UK in 2013 NCAA Championship Game

David and Julianne - 25 wonderful years together

David and Julianne – 35 wonderfully fun and amazing years together

Julianne and David celebrate 35 years together

My daughter Marissa compiled this look back at our 35 years of “merried” life.

This video includes music by my good friends Antsy McClain and Anthony Snape and also a touching song by Joe Walsh.

40 Years Ago this year: I Didn’t See This Coming

A little over 40 years ago this year I completed my last semester of high school in 1974 at Murray High School in Murray, Utah. In many respects, it seems like just yesterday, but then there are other pieces that make it seem like it was ages ago. I am amazed at how quickly 40 years has passed!

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

The year 1974 marked a new direction for me and my life as I took many avenues towards the location where I am now, 40 years later. I had no idea in 1974 what the next five years of my life would bring me and how that five years of my life would have a profound impact on the direction and course that the rest of my life has taken me.

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David Kravetz 1974 shortly before graduation

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Within a year of my graduation I had gotten a new full-time job and I was traveling quite a bit for Alta Distributing, which was a record and tape rack jobber. This began to fulfill my wanderlust of being able to travel on the road while at the same time fulfilling my joy in music.

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

During my senior year of high school I had begun learning about the Mormon church. Most of my friends during my senior year were LDS members and all lived in my general neighborhood. They were amazing examples to me and treated me like a brother which was a defining note in terms of my eventually joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in January 1975.

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school (Brett Davies & Scott Brown)

My graduation in May 1974 marked an unusual event for me as it was the only time in all of my school years that both my stepmother Marjorie and my stepfather Joe attended a school event of mine together. One or the other had, on occasion, been to one of my band concerts or other events, but never had both of them shown up together at any of my events until my graduation. The fact that they attended my graduation is absolutely a fond memory for me. I can even remember the steakhouse that they took me out to after graduation that night for my graduation dinner.

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge - ca. 1978

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge – ca. 1978

Within a year of my graduation I was kicked out of the house for my following the teachings of the Mormon church. Over the years my relationship with my step parents had bounced up and down.  Though never terrible, there was never that real close feeling of being part of a truly connected family. I can’t blame either Marjorie or Joe, as they had many troubles in their lives. They had troubles between each other and then they had the challenges of trying to raise a pretty much dysfunctional family.

Another rare photo - the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan - ca. 1978

Another rare photo – the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan – ca. 1978

The year 1974 also created memories in relationship to the music that was popular back then as well as some of the movies during that period. There was a great hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive called “Taking Care of Business” which had become popular in 1974 and has remained one of my theme songs throughout my life. Disco began making its moves in 1974 as well and I was (and continue to be) fond of that music genre to this day.

The Hobbit - I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

The Hobbit – I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

It was during the spring of 1974 that I had my first dabbling into J.R.R. Tolkien works. I had to read “The Hobbit” in my English class that spring and I don’t believe that I had ever become so engrossed in a book as I did with “The Hobbit” in 1974. Soon thereafter, and also during that semester in school, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the Lord of the Rings and by J.R.R. Tolkien’s other writings. Even back then, despite the great advances in movie technology, I had to wait over 30 years for the first real Lord of the Rings movie to appear. Interestingly enough, at that time the musical group Chicago had released their sixth album and one of the songs on the album was “Wishing You Were Here“. I listened to that album many many times in 1974 and many of them were down in my deep dark bedroom that had no windows as I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Even today when I hear that song, as I did back then, it makes me think of Bilbo Baggins wishing Gandalf were there in the lonely cave as he was being chased by Gollum.

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City – Neil Diamond

I had my first ventures into arena rock concerts in 1974, attending shows such as Loggins and Messina, the Doobie Brothers, America and Billy Joel. That year Elton John released his album Yellow Brick Road and had a tour associated with it, including one stop at the University of Utah’s arena. I was able to attend that show, and it turned out to be one of my most memorable concerts of all time. It was also in 1974 that I saw a group called Steppenwolf perform in Salt Lake City. At that time the lead guitarist was named Bobby Cochran. Little did I know back then that 35 years later I would be friends with that same Bobby Cochran and would be traveling with him as he performed with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I am grateful to be friends with Bobby, who is a guy and an amazing guitarist.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that I have spent with him in our travels.

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

As my schooling in 1974 came to an end, I had become a fairly accomplished saxophone player on both the tenor and baritone saxophones. I was taking lessons from a  well-known jazz musician at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I actually had dreams of joining a band very similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, and practiced my heart out to do so.

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

But, at that time, little did I know, that my life would change dramatically upon being baptized into the LDS (Mormon) Church. My dreams of becoming a professional rock musician faded away. Within a year from my baptism in January 1975, I was called on a mission and went to serve the church in Nagoya, Japan.

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

That two years of my life in Japan ultimately changed the entire direction of my life. After serving from 1976 to 1978, and upon my return to the states, I have spent a good part of the last 35 years involved in full-time work with Japanese-related businesses and even returned to Japan for four years with my family in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan.  Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan. Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

Indeed, Japan is an integral part of my life now and something that did not even occur to me as a senior in high school 40 years ago.

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life.  I have the Samurai spirit!

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life. I have the Samurai spirit!

Upon my return from Japan, I initially attended Brigham Young University and it was there that my met my eternal sweetheart Julianne Bateman. Just a little over five years after my graduation from high school I was married to her and my life once again took a whole new wonderful direction for me as I began a family of my own. In about one month (as I write this) I will celebrate my 35th anniversary with this wonderful woman!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979.  Notice...no moustache!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979. Notice…no mustache!

Our Wedding Photo 1979 - we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

Our Wedding Photo 1979 – we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

I Married Up!!

I Married Up!!

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY.  I love this photo

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY. I love this photo

As a senior in high school I had not even had a girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was already graduated in the summer of 1974. There is no doubt that I had hidden crushes on a couple of cute girls in high school, but between my insecurity in dealing with girls and the fact that I was not a member the Mormon church, I had a few hurdles in front of me that kept me from getting anywhere with any of them. I certainly was not a shy person. I never have been. But I was really scared to death to ask any girls out on a date because I was afraid of rejection. Ironically, in my later years, probably about five years ago, I had occasion to visit Salt Lake City.  During that visit I was able to drop by and see one of the girls that I had a crush on and had become friends with through church. She has had a difficult life as she has struggled through a couple of marriages, but is still the sweet girl that I knew back in the mid-1970s. I told her at the time of my visit that I had a crush on her in high school. She told me that she knew that, and wondered why I had never asked her out on a date. She told me that she would have most certainly gone out with me on a date back then. Oh well, we both went our directions and I am very happily married to my wonderful sweetheart and she too seems to be happy in her current situation.

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  I did not even know of him until 1974.  I saw this in 1975

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo. I did not even know of him until 1974. I saw this in 1975

Another major discovery from 1974 was my finding out who my birth father was. That too was a life-changing experience for me. I had been disenfranchised from my natural mother for many years, and as an 18-year-old I had decided that it was time for me to reach out to her. Fortunately for me, in 1975 I was able to contact my real father and speak to him on the phone, which I did a couple of times. I am grateful for that experience as I never got to meet him. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992, I was finally close enough to Cleveland to try, but by the time I had an opportunity, he had already passed away…in fact, it had only been two weeks prior to my plans to go up there. Nonetheless, over the last few years I have grown very close to my Laurienzo sisters and brother in Cleveland as a result. I have also visited my father’s grave.

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

Visiting my natural father's grave in Cleveland, OH

Visiting my natural father’s grave in Cleveland, OH

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Finally, as I think back on this 40 years since 1974,  I must openly say that I have been very, very blessed. I still have friendships from 40 years ago that mean a great deal to me. During that 40 years I have ventured overseas numerous times, I have had wonderful experiences with jobs, I have met people from all over the world, I have been married and had five wonderful children and now nine grandchildren.

My wife and children in 2009

My wife and children in 2009

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

I have been blessed to be able to develop a number of skills that I never imagined I would have back then (indeed, some of them, such as internet work and web design were completely unimaginable since they didn’t yet exist!!).  Some of the skills I have acquired over the years include the ability to write, photography, travel, singing and music, the ability to make friends wherever I go. And yes, I have become friends with rock stars and have actually toured with a band (Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours).  I still am associated with that band, so even my high school dream of being in a band partially came true.

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines 2006

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

It is amazing how one’s life can take so many turns and go in a direction that one could never dream of as an 18-year-old graduate of high school.

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting NYC in 1990

Visiting NYC in 1990

Life is truly awesome! But it’s only getting better!

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school