Countdown 365: #327 – Gratitude for Veterans

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

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

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

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

Walter Cronkite in the late 1960s

Walter Cronkite in the late 1960s

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

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

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL Rob Roy in 2014

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL Rob Roy in 2014

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

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL John MacLaren

Sumoflam with former Navy SEAL John MacLaren

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

 

Countdown 365: #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.

Joshua Bell: A Classical Rock Star

joshuabell-1000x330What more can I say? After enjoying a wonderful concert with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, with accompanying guest classical superstar violinist Joshua Bell, I left inspired and starstruck!

Getting Pumped for the Concert

Getting Pumped for the Concert

I am not a music critic, but I am an avid music fan. Those that know me are aware that I am a 70s rock ‘n roller and an collector of cover songs. But, I grew up listening to classical music, I’ve married a classical violinist and I have classical music in my life and I enjoy it as well, and do include it in my collections.

Pre-concert photo with my sweetheart as we waited to be let in to the auditorium

Pre-concert photo with my sweetheart as we waited to be let in to the auditorium

Though not a critic, this is my review of the concert from April 3 based upon my experience with music.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

The UKSO opened with two luscious pieces. The first piece was a very delightful, indeed festive offering by Dmitri Shostakovich. Entitled “Festive Overture“, it is filled with catchy melodies and straightforward harmonies, perhaps a reflection of the Socialist regime’s push for simplicity in the 1950s. The piece started with with a grand brass fanfare, a perfect opening for a concert. Soon the tempo abruptly changed into high gear for the main theme, which included a bubbly clarinet tune. From there the pace of the music was breakneck and whimsical. I loved this opening piece and was only disappointed in its brevity.

Igor Stravinsky (1881-1972)

Igor Stravinsky (1881-1972)

I had not heard Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite in many years. I recall an old album my Dad had in the 1960s, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. I was not too endeared to it back in the 1960s.  In terms of classical I was more prone to listen to my Dad’s Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms albums. As I grew older and listened to it again in the 1970s, I enjoyed it more as I was able to understand the story that the music elicited about an evil king, a prince and a Firebird that saved the day. The UKSO performance, conducted by John Nardolillo, was moving.

UKSO Conductor John Nardilillo (photo from Lexington Herald Leader)

UKSO Conductor John Nardilillo (photo from Lexington Herald Leader)

Outside the rain was pouring buckets and, from my third row seat in the Singletary Center, I could hear it flowing down the side of the building.  This background “music” of the flowing water added to the mysteriously flowing stanzas of the seven movements.  After so many years of not listening to it, I was enthralled by all of the musical movement coming from the various sections.  But, I also had a great angle to catch a profile of Dr. Nardolillo and could see his amazing expressiveness. It was almost as if he were yelling out to the orchestra. It was obvious that he put his entire self into the music and not just his arms. Throughout the entire performance my eyes were glued on him as the music filled my ears. Indeed, it was an enjoyable piece and it was actually the first time I ever heard it performed live and I was grateful I had the opportunity.

Sitting in Row B at the Singletary Center...3rd Row and awesome place to sit

Sitting in Row B at the Singletary Center…3rd Row and awesome place to sit

After intermission, the highlight of the night was having the rare opportunity to see a world-class violinist perform. What made it even more fascinating and rare was knowing that Joshua Bell was performing with his 300 year old Gibson Stradivarius violin (named after one of its early owners, the English violinist George Alfred Gibson), which is valued at over $4 million. This antique violin was fabricated by Antonio Stradivari of Cremona in 1713.. The Gibson, while owned by Bronisław Huberman, was stolen twice. Read the complete story here.

Joshua Bell performs with UKSO (Photo by Andrew Brinkerhorst, UK Singletary Center)

Joshua Bell performs with UKSO (Photo by Andrew Brinkerhorst, UK Singletary Center)

Joshua Bell opened with Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, which was written in 1866. This concerto, according to some, is one of the finest concertos in the violin repertoire. It is also considered to be the German composer’s finest score. Ironically, this was the same piece that Joshua Bell performed in his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, when he was only 17. The flowing water coupled with the rumbling timpani and the smooth sounds of the woodwinds backing the soloist was an absolute delight.

Max Bruch (1838-1920)

Max Bruch (1838-1920)

And of course, Bell did not fail to impress.  He had passion written all over him in the amazing Bruch concerto. Once again, from my angle and close proximity I could see every facial crease, every smile of joy in his face and the look of contentment with this youthful college orchestra, which stepped up their game to match the intensity of the word renowned Joshua Bell. He was both colorful and provided all with a chance to hear the tones of his 300 year old violin.

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

The performance closed with a fantastic rendering of Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, which he wrote in 1863. This performance mixed excitement with the exotic.  The tune was colorful and lyrical and made me want to get up and dance gleefully (which I can’t imagine trying to do!!).  Bell’s fingers just rolled down the strings.

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Overall it was an amazing evening of music, despite the torrential weather outside.  Ny the time the concert had ended, so had the rains.  It was a cool and refreshing walk back to the parking lot as my wife’s dreams were fulfilled in seeing Joshua Bell and my soul was filled with delight from the whimsical and mysterious music that filled the Singletary Center for the Arts.

 

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

 

The Selfie King – The Art of the Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie – Alligator, Mississippi, June 2014

This is all about “The Art of the Selfie.” I have taken hundreds of them and love doing so.  In 2013 the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” As most of us know, the “selfie” has become a very popular form of sharing one’s activities, travels and a photograph with one’s friends, family and the world.  Though taking self-portraits has been around since the birth of photography (Robert Cornelius, a pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839), since the mid 2000s, and especially since 2010, the genre has exploded, thanks to the proliferation of social media.

Clowning Around (Sumoelton)

Clowning Around (Sumoelton) – taken at home, Halloween 2012

I have always been one that wanted to have my picture taken wherever I went, more as a record, but in the past couple of years, with the new technologies that smart devices provide us, I’ve been very active in taking selfies without having to have other people interact with me. Honestly, with the posting of all these selfies, one might think that I am self absorbed. But that is not really the truth. I enjoy sharing the joy and excitement of the places that I have been and the activities that I have participated in.

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho – March 2013

Even as a young boy I was always fascinated with being in front of the camera. Over the years I’ve had numerous “goofy” pictures taken of me and I’ve even taken a few “selfies” on my own. Here are a few “non-selfies” from years gone by.

My first "selfie" using a mirror.  I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder.  I took it from an angle

My first “selfie” using a mirror. I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder. I took it from an angle.  Taken in 1977 in Ogaki, Japan

I took this "selfie" in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 - Turned the camera towards me and "point and shoot"

I took this “selfie” in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 – Turned the camera towards me and “point and shoot”

Mirror image - used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park, March 2013

Mirror image – used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Tetons National Park, March 2013

Kewpie Hair - took this after a nap with wet hair - taken in the mirror with my cell phone

Kewpie Hair – took this after a nap with wet hair – taken in the mirror with my cell phone – July 2014

Nowadays, it seems like I take them wherever I’m at, whether I’m traveling across the country or whether I’m with my grandchildren. Taking selfies is fun for me and fun for those around me (I hope).  But they also have become a great way of documenting trips and events.

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY - October 2013

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY -November 2013

In May and June I took two trips across the United States. The first trip was north to Michigan and across four states to Montana to see my daughter and her family. From there I returned south into Wyoming and across Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri to return home. On the second trip I drove south through Tennessee Mississippi and Texas and then back home through Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Friendship, Arkansas - July 2014

Friendship, Arkansas – July 2014

On both of these trips I took close to 100 selfies each. Many of these were posted in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and some of my travel blog posts at lessbeatenpaths.com. As I moved across the states, friends and family were able to follow me (probably to the point of overkill). Of course, anyone that follows my adventures knows that I also like to ham it up in many of my selfies.  Always more fun.

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana - May 2014

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana – May 2014

In this post, I have no intention of posting all 150 or 200 of my selfies from those trips, but I am going to post a selection of them that I found fun and interesting. I will include the location and, if there is a back story, I’ll include a little of that as well. At the end of the post, I am also going to include a few of my other favorites from past trips.

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014.  This is the famous Welcome to Austin mural

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014. This is the famous Greetings from Austin mural

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin - May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin – May 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses - this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses – this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming - May 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming – May 2014

At Mammy's Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014.  Yes, I ate in that place too...unique looking place

At Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014. Yes, I ate in that place too…unique looking place

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Personally, I think that the selfie has become a great form of “journal keeping.” These are things that will allow family and friends to look back and see what we have done. I think that too many people don’t document the things that they have done and then we lose that personal history.

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas - June 2014

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas – June 2014

Wyoming's Wildlife - yes, probably me...  taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Wyoming’s Wildlife – yes, probably me… taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit.  This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit. This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope.  Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope. Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P'maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana - June 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P’maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana – June 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

With Sam Houston's head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

With Sam Houston’s head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

Naturally, when I travel, no matter when it is, I have my cameras on the ready.  In the past couple of years I try to also get photos with state signs and unique town signs. Here are a few from trips over the past couple of years.

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota.  Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota. Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013.  We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013. We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania...so I smiled in July 2013

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania…so I smiled in July 2013

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Rudyard, Montana - and no, I am not the Old Sore Head...  May 2014

Rudyard, Montana – and no, I am not the Old Sore Head… May 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name - taken in June 2014

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name – taken in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in May 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in June 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Then there are my ham it up, goofy and whimsical selfies that I love to take.  Here are a few from previous road trips and at home, around movie theaters, and other odds and ends for fun.

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

Home of the Hamburger - with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

Home of the Hamburger – with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington - July 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington – July 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children's Museum in September 2013

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Almost didn't see the stop sign covered in snow at the "Top of the World Store" in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Almost didn’t see the stop sign covered in snow at the “Top of the World Store” in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Then there are my references to Antsy McClain…my good friend and favorite singer/songwriter….

Livin' the Dream - taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 - refers to Antsy's CD of the same name

Livin’ the Dream – taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 – refers to Antsy’s CD of the same name

Juxtaposed Antsy's Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

Juxtaposed Antsy’s Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

A "dualie" with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

An “usie” with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

Everything's a Dollar - in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Everything’s a Dollar – in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Enjoy the Ride - The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song "Living in Aluminum"

Enjoy the Ride – The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song “Living in Aluminum”

And just a few more goofball selfies to round out this post…

I get the point at Gronk's in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

I get the point at Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota's Enchanted Highway in June 2013

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway in June 2013

With a bottle of "Route Beer" at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

With a bottle of “Route Beer” at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

And how about some Ice Cream with that "Route Beer"... in Peoria, IL

And how about some Ice Cream with that “Route Beer”… at Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I "kind of" fit in....  This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I “kind of” fit in…. This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

I recently read that there are now words being created for group “selfies,” with “usie” being one of the more common names, but other names are used as well.  here are a few “usie” pix I have gotten over the past couple of years….

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

The best “usies” are with my wife Julianne, this one at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

An 'usie" with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

An “usie” with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

This "usie" is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel's "Swamp People" series.  He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana.  I got this with him at his Dad's bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

This “usie” is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel’s “Swamp People” series. He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana. I got this with him at his Dad’s bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

An "usie" with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An “usie” with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An "usie" with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

An “usie” with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

Naturally, as a grandfather of nine, I get a number of “usie” photos with my grandchildren.  My next “selfie” post will include quite a few of them, but, in closing, here are just a couple of my all time favorites to include in this first post.

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Wnjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

Enjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

On that note I will end by noting that I am grateful for the wizardry of technology that allows us to do these “selfies” and “usies” and share them with the world. Photography has become fun and documenting one’s life has become more fun. Wizardry is fun…right Gandalf?

Sumoflam and Gandalf "usie"

Sumoflam and Gandalf “usie”

So, with that being said, I will probably have a couple more posts in the future of other selfies and most certainly of some family “usies.”

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.

An Ode to America

SumoflamUSAAs we approach Independence Day 2014 I look at my country with different eyes than I did 20 or 30 years ago.  We have gone through some tough times as a country and these have impacted each of us at a personal level.

The economy is tougher than it has been in years and many of us, including me, have gone through job losses, economic difficulties and more. It has not been a fun ride.

Yet, we move on and we survive.  We find ways to make it.  Despite the political and ideological differences that sometimes divide our diverse population (as can be seen be all of the banter on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), we still come together as a country.

LambertsCafeOzarkMOThis became very clear to me as I traveled across America during May and June of this year. Whether in the plains of North Dakota, the swamps of Louisiana, the mountains of Wyoming or the impoverished deltas of Mississippi, the flag hung high, people were Americans (and not political parties, races or otherwise).  All spoke their dialects of English (and indeed, American English in Minnesota is different than that of American English in a small town in Southern Mississippi or in central Nebraska).

EStLouisILUltimately, I am grateful to live in this free country.  I can gripe about rising gas prices, Obama’s political agendas, dramatic inflation, bad roads or anything else.  But, I have the right and freedom to gripe if I desire…it is my inalienable right in this country.  Something many other countries don’t have.

I have the freedom to drive across this great nation without discrimination and go through the Blackfeet Reservation, a Cajun community and predominantly Scandinavian community or a small mid-American farm town and still feel these freedoms and experience others enjoying them.

So, despite any challenges, I believe it is time for me and all of us to Fall in Love with America again.  So, here is an ode to America by my good friend Antsy McClain.  It was his reminiscence of experiences while loving in America. I was fortunate enough to work with Antsy in producing and making this video. I hope you enjoy it.

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

 

Creating a Successful April Fools Prank




SloofLirpa1Yesterday was April Fools Day 2014. Pranks run rampant everywhere, from the home to big pranks by Google, NPR and others (see this Entertainment Weekly post for some of them).  I sought to try to pull one off yesterday as well, and, by all appearances, it seemed to work….  Here is what I learned about a successful April Fools Prank….

G-Mail April Fools 2011

G-Mail April Fools 2011

Make It Plausible

You want to make a prank that is believable and that throws people off.  Space Alien attacks and other similar things are just a tad unbelievable…   So I developed my concept around something that people who know me could find believeable….I related it to Offbeat Travel.

A Bunch of Bull

A Bunch of Bull

Basics of My Prank

  • Made it Travel Related
  • Devised a “Unique and Offbeat Location”
  • Conceived of a “scenario”
  • Designed photos to match the scenario
  • Got a couple of friends to “pitch in” support
  • Added upon the scenario throughout the day
  • Put in a few “glitches” that could help people catch the prank (if they looked carefully)
Is it Normal?

Is it Normal?

The Story and the Prank

My concept was that I had been given an award as an Offbeat Travel Blogger.  The award came from the Mayor of a Town called Sloof Lirpa.  Since the town name kind of sounded Scandinavian, I decided to put Sloof Lirpa in Norway.  I Googled “Sloof Lirpa” sign post, but found nothing.  Instead, I searched for Scandinavian Sign Posts and found the following sign photo:

Tingwall Sign

Tingwall Sign

I then Photoshopped the NEW town name of Sloof Lirpa onto the sign

Sloof Lirpa

Sloof Lirpa Sign

Since it said “Old Norse” on the sign, this strengthened my “Town in Norway Story”.

Next, I needed some “proof” of the award.  The story was plausible since many know I write all about offbeat backroads locations.  So, I came up with the idea that the Mayor of Sloof Lirpa had sent this honor to me.  I remembered that a few years ago I had visited the Mustard Museum (while it was still in Mt. Horeb, WI — also famous for its giant wooden trolls of Scandinavian Origin).  While at the Mustard Museum I obtained a certificate “fake degree” from Poupon U.  I found that photo and then again Photoshopped it….

Poupon U Certificate

Poupon U Certificate – Master of Bad Attitude (yes, I have my MBA from Poupon U)

Sloof Lirpa Award after some Photoshop work

Sloof Lirpa Award after some Photoshop work

Of course, the careful observer would notice the different colors of the font and the font itself is different.  But most would glean over it…looks real enough.

For some flavor, I found a photo of a Norwegian town on a fjord and included that with the town name on it:

SloofLirpa2Finally, I colored up the story by noting that I was also awarded an all-expense paid trip to Sloof Lirpa, Norway, departing on April 31 and noted how excited I was about the prospect.

All of this was posted on Facebook (as follows)

No sooner had I posted it and I got a call from my daughter Marissa, who was wondering if it was really true. While on the phone with her, my other daughter Chelsea called and said “Nice Try Dad….”   Marissa couldn’t figure it out until I asked her what day of the week April 31 fell on…..   As well, the likes and Congrats messages flowed onto my Facebook page.  I shared it on a couple of other places, including Roadside America‘s Facebook page.  I was soon receiving a Private Message from one of the Roadside America editors that I work with and he helped me “embellish.”
Just for fun....Caution

Just for fun….Caution

  Let the Embellishing Begin

My friend suggested that I add that I was going to be the judge of Sloof Lirpa’s “Shield Maiden Pageant” – this is Viking country – Norsemen – etc.  So, a “Shield Maiden” is not unlikely.  Further, we noted that this was some sort of promo tie-in with the History Channel’sVikings” series.  Once again, a plausible story…

Lagertha (from Vikings) - a Shield Maiden?

Lagertha (from History Channel’s “Vikings”) – a Shield Maiden?

As well, I added that they also have a festival honoring the Giant Troll “Sloof Lirpa” and that there is a 20 foot tall wooden carving of him in the Town Square.  I got this idea from my visit to Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, the “Troll Capital.”

Giant Troll of Mt. Horeb (the one of the left silly!!)

Giant Troll of Mt. Horeb (the one of the left silly!!)

As questions came in on Facebook, such as “Is this an April Fools Joke?”, I would note that I already had my tickets…flying out of Cincinnati on “Viking Airlines” on April 31.  And, of course, I had the photo with my “Official Certificate”.  One person even asked if my wife was going with me and I let her know that she couldn’t because she couldn’t get the time off on such short notice.  Note, if someone looked up Viking Airlines, they would see it is NOT a joke!

Viking Airlines Logo

Viking Airlines Logo

Viking Airlines Plane

Viking Airlines Plane

I had quite a few people, but the “Prank Signs” were there….  April 31 does not exist.  “Sloof Lirpa” is April Fools spelled backwards.

The Giveaway – The Escape

Finally, as an “out”, at the end of the evening I posted the following, implying that I was “duped” and that it was an April Fools joke on me….. HAHA

Here is what I posted on ALL locations that I had shared the post:

This just in from Roadside America ( who apparently nominated me for this great honor): “Late-breaking development: The town of Sloof Lirpa has withdrawn its invitation to Sumoflam after realizing there was a translation error resulting in a misdirection of their mail. They were actually trying to honor “Malfomus”…” Yes, I have been asked to return the Viking Airlines ticket and am now deflated after what appears to have been a dastardly April Fools joke!!

Happy Yad Sloof Lirpa!!

Happy Yad Sloof Lirpa!!