As many of you know, I work in the Superhero business. I know superheros. And Julianne has proven time and again that she is a superhero. In fact, sometimes she is Captain Marvel. Other times she is Wonder Woman. All times she is Supergirl.
One of Julianne’s more impressive qualities is her quiet determination. I have watched her tackle all kinds of tasks and goals over the years and she has always had the chutzpah to accomplish them. Has she been perfect at accomplishing her objectives? No, but who is? But, she has always had the gumption to push through.
I probably can provide a billion examples of how she has tackled a project or a goal and then has worked her way through, solving the challenges, overcoming the obstacles and getting there.
One of the unique examples of this comes from her desire to create a process to make a type of fabric art, which she first called “Photo Fabrications” and then later coined “Photofabrique.” She had a concept in mind…make quilted fabric art out of photos and make them look realistic, like a photo. To accomplish this she first came up with ideas on how to break the photo down. This required her to learn how to use a software product called Photoshop. Back when she first started doing this, Photoshop was still a fairly new software product. So, she learned it and learned how to make five layers from a photo. After many many tries, she finally came up with the concept that worked.
With the success in doing this, and while working as a quilt specialist at Quilter’s Square, others wanted to learn the process. Though she wouldn’t teach the pattern making, she began making the patterns and teaching classes. For a few years she taught classes in numerous states, as far away as Montana, and many in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. It became a venture for her and then introduced more challenges. She had to devise quicker methods. Her determination to do so helped her to learn techniques in Photoshop that would ultimately turn her pattern-making into a “scan and run an applet” type of thing. Her process evolved over a number of years. It was amazing to see her scale this mountain.
When her sister Maren visited on year, Julianne began to learn yoga. Once again, it was a challenge, but she was soon taking yoga classes and still, on occasion, does them today. It was hard for her, but she took on the challenge and learned.
Another big challenge for Julianne was learning Japanese. We lived in Japan as a family from 1987-1991. During that time, Julianne focused on learning to speak the language. By the time we left, she was able to converse freely and, nearly 28 years later she can still speak quite a bit. She never quit and it has stuck with her.
There will be more posts in the next couple of weeks covering other areas where Julianne has shown gumption, determination and guts in accomplishing her objectives. She most certainly knows how to look at the mountain from below and scale it!
Julianne is not obnoxious. She is also not very outspoken or gregarious (like her husband). But, she has a goofy side. I think that our children picked up their “goofy” sides from her. I am just not as goofy…or am I?
One of my first memories of her goofiness was when she was having a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and then put the brown wrapper over her teeth. Or the “Orange Peel Smile.” One time our daughter caught her using spaghetti to make Dracula teeth…
She has done funny teeth things with pistachio shells too. You never know what she may come up with.
I got the biggest kick out of her a couple of years ago when she had to create a poster for a graphic arts class at the University of Kentucky. This poster is a prime example of her “creative goofiness.” I had to include it here. She did ALL of the art work…including the characterization of herself from actual photos….
Julianne is notorious for her photo-bombs and funny faces in photos. Here are a couple of them from the past.
A couple of Christmas seasons ago, we went around Lexington to take Christmasy pictures together. She insisted on hiding her face in each one..just for fun.
Always a master of disguise, she is happy to hide herself in plain site.
It is absolutely fun being with these sweet, fun-loving, sometimes downright goofy gal!! Love her to death (and life)!! Life with her is Happyville!
I have been waiting almost a year for this day. It is officially 60 days away from my 40th anniversary of marriage to my sweetheart Julianne.
What a momentous time for us! The past 40 years have brought so many wonderful blessings into our lives and offered us so many wonderful opportunities to grow closer and to learn about life and love. I have cherished every moment, even the difficult and challenging times.
Over the next 59 days, I plan to post a different outlook on my sweet wife and what I cherish most about having been with her for 40 years. It has been a wonderful journey and I hope that it continues on for much longer.
All I want to say in this post, is that it has been a ride! In 40 years we have had five wonderful children, all of whom are, at the time of this writing, in their 30s. Four of our children have married and we have, through them, 10 wonderful and talented grandchildren, including two teenagers! In our 40 years we have lived in nine different cities, including four years in Oita, Japan. Both Julianne and I have had a variety of jobs, some full-time and some part-time over the years. Over the next 59 posts I will mention some of those as well. During the course of our marriage, we have owned 10 different cars, we have lived in 13 different houses and/or apartments, we have traveled all over the country both with our family and together as a couple. In 45 days from now we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of moving into the house that we currently reside in.
Through the ups and downs, the challenges and successes, the difficult times in the joyful times, ours has been an abundant journey. For this I can’t my blessings. I hope you will follow us over the course of the next 59 days as I spend a portion of each day celebrating The absolute love of my life, the woman and friend who is stuck with me through thick and thin over these 40 years.
A couple of days ago I was listening to the album Chicago VII, which is one of my all-time favorite compilations of music, and certainly my favorite Chicago album. The album represented a change in direction for the group as they added a few more jazzier tones to the typical rock that they had. In fact, that summer I got to see them in concert — my first-ever opportunity.
I have listened to this album well over one hundred times, but the other day was different. From the onset of the first three tracks (all instrumental) I was taken back to shortly after my graduation and my mind was flooded with old memories and images, many which I had forgotten about. It was really a strange, strange feeling. As each song from this double album set played, more memories came. Honestly, I was overwhelmed and by the time the album had completed, I realized that the two years of my life between graduation in 1974 and my departing on a mission to Japan for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976 were probably the most fragile, tempestuous and most formative years of my life…even to this day in May 2019, 45 years later.
In May 1974, I graduated from Murray High School in Murray, Utah. It was the first event of my life that both of my parents attended. As exciting and fresh as that even was, earlier events from the previous two years were leading to what would become a number of major turning points in my life and really would alter the direction of it. As early as the winter of 1972, when the family lived in Bozeman, Montana and I was a junior in high school, I was becoming frustrated with the life around me. The family was dysfunctional, I was having to make new friends (this was my fifth school in five years) and I didn’t feel like a part of the family. I ran away from home twice that year, once as a trial run, hitchhiking my way to Billings and then finally choosing to go all out and head to Denver, as a 16 year old. That little trick ended up getting me thrown in a juvenile detention center overnight in Denver. But that is another story.
At the same time, I was searching for meaning in life. To be frank, I was a good kid. Never smoked, never drank, never did pot (and this was the 70s!). These were self-induced decisions, not religious ones. Yes, my adoptive mother Marge was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time and I reluctantly attended with the family, but that really had no bearing my abstinence from these things. I just wasn’t interested. I got high listening to good music and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. But, I was also searching for some meaning in life. I believed in a God, but not the definition of the Jehovah’s Witness God. I have written about my religious leanings and LDS conversion in other posts. (See THIS POST as an example)
All of this led up to our move to the Salt Lake City area in the summer of 1973. Once again, I had to attend a new school, make new friends and adjust again. I was very fortunate to have fallen into a group of friends that were great examples to me and honestly cared about me. To this day I am grateful for that. But high school was still difficult for me. I was a non-Mormon in a predominantly Mormon (LDS) community and all of my friends at Murray were mostly LDS. I was definitely interested in the religion and was even taking an institute class…chiefly to learn more about the LDS interpretation of who God was. But I was still confused. I was depressed about my family situation…the dysfunction had gotten worse and the discord between my adoptive mother and my adoptive father Joe Kravetz had increased (and by 1977 they had divorced). I had a lust for life and thus was not suicidal, but I needed some help. By the second semester of high school I was seeing a counselor. They gave me an IQ test and I scored very high. Funny…that changed a great deal of my outlook. I was smarter than the average bear. I finished the last semester with almost straight A’s as a result. But, what I didn’t see coming was the massive tempest of REAL LIFE drama that would happen shortly after high school was done.
While in high school I had a job as a clerk at the Camera Department for Skaggs Drug Store in Murray. I loved the job. I got to interact with all kinds of people and I got to sell cameras and things. And, the clerks in the Camera Depart were also responsible for the Record and Tape Department…and I was (and still am) quite the music lover.
It was good to have a job and some income. I was saving for a car and had some spending money to by record albums which I would listen to in my basement bedroom late at night. That was my escape. My happy place.
By June of 1974, I had expressed an interest in joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My parents were not happy with that at all. In the 1970s many considered the Mormons to be a cult, and my adoptive parents were in that group. In June I was basically told to leave the house because my parents did not want me influencing my siblings with this strange religious philosophy, despite my Dad knowing many of the members and the local Bishop pretty well. And thus the storm had begun. I was welcome to come over to the house and visit, as long as church was not brought up, but I had to move out on my own. I was still 17 and was already having to find a place to live, pay rent and become an adult really fast. My job helped, but I needed more. Fortunately, my friendly persona and interest in music had managed to make an influence on Alan Ferguson, one of the managers for Alta Distributing Company, the group that managed the record and tape distribution for Skaggs and dozens of other large retail outlets. One day, as I perused the new releases, Alan came up to me. He knew I was on my own and that I needed something more than a part-time job. He told me that they were looking for someone who could be on the road for them five days a week to fill the record racks in stores in Price and Vernal, Utah and also in Rock Springs and Evanston, Wyoming. They would provide me with a van, which I could also use for personal use since I didn’t have a car. It was a dream job for this young 17 year old music lover.
After a couple of weeks of training, I was on the road driving a white Dodge van filled with music and loving every minute of it. I was staying in hotels four nights a week, eating at good restaurants and driving on long drives with music blaring in the background. I soon made friends in some of the towns that I stayed in each week and would spend evenings with them.
In the meantime, I was having to wait until October before I could consider being baptized into the church. It was not until January 1975 before I was able to get baptized. My best friend Jonathan Jensen baptized me shortly before he left on his LDS Mission to Sweden.
Soon, all of my friends were leaving on missions. As for me, as a fledgling member of the church and one who was struggling to live on his own, Jonathan’s family became my family. I would visit there often, or visit my other friend, Russ Graves, at his house.
Not long after that, a family in the Murray 20th Ward, the Thomas family, knew that I needed something more stable and “family like” and offered me a room in their home. They lived across the street from the Jensens and were only two blocks from my family, so it was a nice arrangement.
The Thomas family was a good example to me and something I needed. But, I also needed someone my age.
I believe it was at a Stake dance that I met Penny Strong, a senior in high school from Cottonwood High School. I honestly don’t recall how we met. But, what I do remember, is that she became like a sister to me. Yes, I was interested in a girlfriend, but I had never had one. But, somehow, my relationship with Penny was so much more than a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. In fact, I can still recall how often I would confide in her and her family. They were the final cementing agent I needed to remain happy and well. Ultimately, Penny was the person that gave me strength when I needed it. Her father Wayne was a good man and would always give me good advice. She had an older sister that was there as well. To me, Penny was a Godsend to a young man that was struggling to keep a good direction in his life. I will always be grateful to Penny for being there for me.
But my struggles weren’t over. I was a hustler. I was a people person. Even back in the 1970s, I had never met a stranger. These characteristics helped me immensely in my work for Alta Distributing. Sales in Price and Vernal increased nearly 300% in my year and a half. So much so that Alta had decided they were going to open a record store in Price and, at the age of 18, they offered me the role of managing the store at a salary of $30,000, which was, to me, a mind-blowing amount of money. I thought about all of the things I could do. And, I would be in the music business still.
But, one obstacle remained in my mind. As a member of the church I would be able to serve an LDS mission. All of my good friends were off on theirs by this time. Yet, I had not even been a member for one year. I was lost in my decision making. I would discuss this situation — good job and good future vs. two years of sacrifice and serving the Lord. I would talk about this with Penny, the Thomas family, Bishop Jensen, etc.
Ironically, I had submitted my mission papers sometime in November 1975, not even a member for a year at that time. It seemed like I had to wait an eternity for my mission call. Alta had made the job offer to me on a Monday or Tuesday in mid-December, near Christmas. They were banking on me accepting the job. And I was seriously considering it. By that Friday, they said they needed to move on the store and needed an answer by the next Monday morning. And, as luck would have it, I got my mission call on Saturday in the mail… Nagoya Japan. Leaving in February 1976. So, I was left with the mentally grueling task of making a VERY MAJOR life decision on a Sunday…basically had about 36 hours to make this decision…Mission or Record Shop? And the tough thing was that nobody could answer me. Either decision would have been a “righteous” and good decision.
I knew that I had come to a crossroads in my life. I knew that whatever decision I would make…indeed, the toughest decision I had ever made in my short 19 years of life…would set the course and direction of my life. (And, little did I know how very true that would be!!). Honestly, I think had I gotten a mission call to the United States, I may have decided on the job. But, the wanderlust in me. The adventurous heart in me, looked at Japan as a wonderful challenge and opportunity.
In the end, I chose to serve a mission to Japan. Monday morning at Alta did NOT go well. In one fell swoop I went from the good graces as an all-star in the company, to basically a company reject. They pulled me from the route I was doing and put me on a local, less attractive route in Salt Lake City. They said that they would consider hiring me back when I returned from my mission, but couldn’t promise anything, and certainly the store option was out of the question.
I was brokenhearted. I had worked so hard. I was not sure what the Japan mission would do for my future, but I moved on with faith. I learned the language and served faithfully, as well as I could, as a one-year convert.
In conclusion, that two year period BEFORE I departed on my mission to Japan (ages 17-19) was my first true trial by fire. Did I make the right decisions? I will never know for sure, but I think I did in the long run. The Japan mission for me really set the course of my life as I have had many jobs that were directly a result of my language skills. Now, in 2019, as I approach my 40th anniversary of my marriage to my sweet wife Julianne, I can look back on all of the richness (not in terms of money, but in terms of experiences) my life has given me — five children, ten grandchildren, friends all around the world, amazing travel experiences and a propensity to be happy despite any circumstances. And my heart is filled with gratitude, especially to those wonderful folks mentioned above that were there for me in my time of need back then.
Did you know I have a couple of books published? These two books are about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, hopefully coming in late Spring 2019!!
Most of us have friends. Some may be very close and others may just be casual acquaintances. Friends can almost feel like family at times. Over the years I’ve had some very close friends and friends that gave me a feeling of belonging. But, one thing many say about me… I have never met a stranger.
The first friend I can recall was back in Albuquerque around 1964, when I was about eight years old. For about three years I was friends with a boy named Ricky Fetterer. I would walk down to his house every morning and watch cartoons (we liked watching The Mighty Hercules — even today I can recall the theme song). After that was over, we would walk to school together, about a quarter-mile from his house. He certainly was, at that time, my best friend. One day they moved away to Kansas or Missouri or someplace like that. I was brokenhearted that I had lost my best friend. But, it was not soon thereafter that we too left Albuquerque and headed east to live in Richardson, Texas.
In Richardson, the neighborhood we lived in had a few kids and so I became friends with them and we played football and catch and things like that together, but I never really had the chance to grow close to them as we were only there for about a year and a half. I don’t even recall names or faces. I can recall playing football in the front yard and, as I try to look at the faces, all I see are blurs. In fact, over the years of my youth, I never did have another close friend like Ricky until I got to my senior year in high school.
You see, my father worked for Skaggs Drug and we moved quite often. From 1968 through 1974 I attended three different elementary schools, two junior high schools and three different high schools. During that period we lived in Dallas, Denver, Great Falls, Bozeman and finally Murray, Utah. Did I have some friends? Of course I did. I had friends from band, friends from other clubs, friends from extra-curricular activities. But none were really all that close. And, I think that besides the relative short times in each place, another part of the problem was that I always tried too hard to make friends. I was known for bragging and boasting in an effort to impress. That was one of the downsides of moving so much and thus it led to a lack of self-confidence.
I find it ironic that in this day of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, that I have been able to renew relationships with people from my old high school days. As we correspond and look at each other’s Facebook we have grown closer despite distance. And that has been an interesting and blessed part of life. I am grateful for how something like Facebook can open up formerly closed doors.
Just a few days ago I was contacted by a friend of mine from Bozeman Senior High School named Bud Herzog. That is one person who I still remember from the days of my junior year in high school. We caught up through Instagram and then eventually spoke on the phone for about an hour to reminisce about old times, old friends and acquaintances. It was refreshing to reestablish a long last relationship I had over 40 years ago.
I became close friends with five or six of these guys. Perhaps the most prominent of them were the two I grew closest to as friends, namely Jonathan Jensen and Russell Graves. We remain close friends even to this day. Both Jonathan and Russ lived just a couple of blocks from me and I spent a lot of time at their homes, getting to know their families, their parents, etc. In fact, I was probably at their places more than my own house. And as I drew near to joining the church, I also became very close to Jonathan‘s father Boyd Jensen, who at the time was the Bishop of the Murray 20th Ward. Bishop Jensen became almost like a second father to me and I so strongly desired to have a family like they had because, as I have noted in previous blog posts, my family situation was not the best.
Through my activities in the ward, specifically participating in their sports programs — softball, volleyball and basketball, I grew closer to many of these guys. And as a senior in high school, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Jonathan and Russell and a few of the other guys were all part of the basketball team and/or the football team. They were all popular in school. And here I was, a virtual nobody — a braggadocious “Monty Montana”, being embraced with friendship buy these guys. That truly helped open the door for other friendships. And for that I have always been very grateful because, honestly, I think that it saved my life.
I spent a lot of time at Jonathan and Russ’s houses. And usually, it wasn’t just me and Russ or me and Jonathan, but all three of us and often times more of our friends including John Janssen, Dale Simper, and a few others.
Funny thing is that, through them, I was introduced to another Murray grad when I came to Kentucky. Glen Krebs graduated the year before me and went on his LDS mission to Japan as well. Most of my friends were either friends with him or knew him well. When I first came to Kentucky for job interviews, I was able to stay at Glen’s house. We have since become very close. I have done work for him. His wife and mine both went to the same high school in Mesa, Arizona and we even share the same wedding anniversary date of July 15!! Like Jonathan and Russ, Glen has always been there to help get me through the difficult challenges of life when I needed him to.
Finally, during the time I was trying to get into the church and then make decisions concerning my mission, I had become good friends with a wonderful young lady from Cottonwood High School named Penny Strong (now married with a different last name). To this day, I can’t recall how we first met, but she was a godsend. Ours was not a romantic relationship. It was a true friendship and she was always there to talk and listen. She was like a “my age group” sister to me in the real sense. Even to this day we stay in touch. I am, even to this day, grateful for the strong positive influence Penny had in my life.
Eventually, we all go our separate ways. Jonathan, Russ, Dale, John and others all left for LDS missions to various parts of the world. I too ended up joining the church and serving an LDS mission. I followed in their footsteps and it was because they were such good examples in helping me to make good decisions.
I have kept in touch with very few of those that I served missionary time with in Japan in the 1970s. I am friends with a few on Facebook, and keep track of them that way, but we’ve all gone our separate ways. There was one, however, to whom I became very close friends with and had remained friends until he died a few years ago and that is Lee Richan. Much like me, Lee was a convert to the church. He had been a motorcycle rider for many years and had an interesting background. But, as missionary companions, we achieved our goals together and we had a very fun time together. He was very good about remembering birthdays and would always call me or send me a note on my birthday. Over the years we would talk and communicate and when I could get to Utah, we would visit with each other. Sadly, Lee passed away on December 17, 2012. He was 58.
Lee was not the first of my friends who had passed away at early age. But, his passing was certainly the most impactful that had experienced up to that time. There were two or three former missionaries and there were a couple of people from two of my different high schools that I had received notification that they had passed. It is always sad when someone you know passes away. But I was really brokenhearted when Lee passed away. His friendship was a valuable jewel to me.
After my mission, I attended BYU and actually became roommates with Jonathan Jensen there. He and a couple of others had pitched in to buy a house. There were a couple of others in the house I knew and then I became friends with the other roommates that were there with me. But, I was too engaged in trying to find a “eternal companion,“ to be very involved with my friends most of the time. And once I had found my sweetheart, Julianne, my friendships took a back burner a long time even though I did stay in contact.
It wasn’t until we returned back from Japan in 1991 that I was blessed with a new lifelong friendship. I could not locate work in Arizona and ultimately was hired as a contract Japanese interpreter for an auto parts plant in Shelbyville, Kentucky in 1992. I shared a table with another interpreter, named Ron Bell, who was originally from Ohio but was living in Kentucky at the time. Ron was always good for a joke. During his days in college at BYU, Ron was an editorial cartoonist and has also become quite the artist. We always talked of collaborating some day on something or other. There were evenings as well that I would go over to his place and listen to him play his guitar and sing his songs. He eventually left the company and went on to other things. But we stayed in touch as he lived locally in the Lexington area and we remained friends. He later formed a partnership with another guy and as musicians, they called themselves the “Trailer Park Troubadours.” As part of their schtick, Ron had given himself a pseudonym of Antsy McClain, which he still uses to this day.
The Trailer Park Troubadours eventually landed a recording contract and had a website that they were not happy with. Ron, knowing that I could do web work, asked me to start managing his website, which I have done continuously for nearly 25 years.
As I mentioned early on, Julianne has always said that I have never met a stranger. And that is true. I am always friendly and outgoing and social. That has helped me to develop other friendships over the years. Facebook has opened up doors for me to develop virtual friendships that I would’ve never expected. I have become friends with people through Facebook and eventually, in some cases, have been able to visit them and get to know them better. Some of these friendships came as a result of Trailer Park Troubadours associations (such as Michael Fisher in photo). Others came as a result of my travel blogging. But in each case these are friendships that I value. There are others that I become friends with on Facebook they have yet to meet in person but we share things in common. To me, that has become a unique form of friendship making.
One of these Facebook friends is Tui Snider. She is a Texas author whom I first met as a result of her book about offbeat attractions in Texas. She has authored a number of books since that time. We quickly became friends via Facebook and, as she lives very close to my sister in Texas, one trip I went out to visit with her and her husband Larry. We have hit it off and are now good friends. I relish her great success in writing, selling books and her numerous speaking engagements. Thankfully, she has been a great mentor to me and was instrumental in helping me to get my first two books out and on the market.
One of the more interesting friendship stories is that of guitarist Bobby Cochran. I became friends with the former Steppenwolf guitarist when he joined and played lead guitar for Antsy for many years. I actually roomed with Bobby a couple of times on the road and we have taken many trips together and talked about everything…music, religion, politics. Funny thing about Bobby is that I saw him perform with Steppenwolf in 1975 (see the photo). Who’d have thought that 25 years later we would be friends and traveling together.
I also count myself fortunate to be friends with a number of other very talented musicians that I was introduced to through Antsy McClain. These would include guitarists, multi-instrumentalists and others.
Over the past 2 to 3 years, I have become very engaged in photography. It has always been a passion of mine, but with a nicer camera and a lovely park with a lake nearby, it has become a daily activity. Jacobson Park is nearby and has a large lake and lots of wildlife and lots of beauty. I visit almost daily and practice my art of photography there whether it be on birds, plants or nature such as sunrises and sunsets. Through this activity I’ve also developed friendships with other photographers and these too are unique and fun friendships. We talk about birds and we talk about other things. A couple of these photographers were Vietnam vets and we talk about their time in the service. I have learned about a couple of their families and their family life as they have about mine. It is nice to have these friends and some of them I see almost on a daily basis.
Of course, I would be remiss if I neglected to add some comment about a couple of my neighbors. Mike Lemaster has been next door to us for nearly 20 years. He and Lauren have become good friends and we have watched each other’s children grow up and watched grandkids come along. Next door to him is another amazing neighbor in Steve Ward. He and his wife Chris are overly generous and always giving.
Both of these neighbors have always been gracious with their time and provide advice. We have had cookouts together and other fun activities. Mike keeps an immaculate yard and that is the only thing he does to make me feel bad! As for Steve, there have been numerous instances where he has come over to help, without being asked. He is the kind of neighbor everybody dreams about having…except for us…it is a reality.
I have been blessed to have many many other friends from all walks of life. Many of you who I count as my friends will read this and likely wonder where you are. You are in my mind, but not enough space to add any more. I am grateful for all of my many friends. My life is truly rich and blessed with friendships. Way more than I am truly worthy of. Thanks to ALL of you!!
By the time I was ready to depart on the solo part of my journey, at the age of 17, I had already determined a few things regarding my future. Having grown up with a good deal of dysfunction and unhappiness in my own adoptive family, I had determined that if I ever had a family of my own, that kind of dysfunction and heartache would not happen on my watch. I am not saying that everything in my family was bad, but there were many things that just weren’t right and I wanted to make sure I fixed these things for my own offspring, if I was ever blessed to have one.
Now, at age 62, I am thankful to say that, overall, we have had a loving family and I believe that most of my resolutions in terms of family pretty much came true. My children have not had to experience a divorce between their parents. My children were loved and nurtured and had a fairly stable family. Unlike my situation where my parents never came to any of my school activities (other than my high school graduation and later my college graduation), my wife and I strived to attend as many activities of our children as we could possibly do. To be sure, there were times where three different functions occurred simultaneously, and thus one of the children had to miss out on parents being there. But, but if we could be there, we were.
I am grateful that my children have had so many wonderful life experiences prior to their departures on their own separate life journeys. I’m grateful that for at least 17 or 18 years of their lives they were able to join Julianne and I on our journey as we lived in Japan, lived in different parts of the country, and had many opportunities provided for us to travel, participate in many activities and do many things that most families never really get to do.
We have never had a “rich” life in terms of money, and that has been perfectly okay. We’ve never been dirt poor either. We have always been blessed to have what we needed and sometimes even a little bit more. Our children never did without the necessities of life and for that I am deeply grateful. My children never had to have their heads shaved like my mom used to do. She gave us our haircuts and I didn’t like it. If our children desired that kind of haircut, then it was fine even though I still did not like how they looked. Fortunately, I believe that we were very good about allowing our children to make guided choices during their youth.
And now, 45 years after I had left my own home and set forth on my personal journey and traveled these many years on this journey with my family, I feel “rich“ in the abundance of family. I feel rich in joy and experiences. I have had a rich life because of my children and my grandchildren and this will be something I will be able to always have with me.
In my previous post, I wrote about my personal life journey. The following few posts will also include details of this journey, but will be more focused on those that have accompanied me or that I accompanied on their portion of their own journey.
I have written before in previous posts in this blog that we met in late 1978 and were married in the summer of 1979. That is where our journey really got started. On this journey together we have traveled to Japan, we have lived in numerous places, have had five children and 10 grandchildren. It has been an amazing and rewarding journey together.
A marriage to someone you love and cherish is wonderful, but it is not an easy thing. Some people are awestruck that we have been together for nearly 40 years. Personally, I am extremely grateful that she has been patient enough with me and my foibles and quirks and has stuck with me for 40 years. It gets a little more complicated after children leave because then we are each striving for some independence and wanting to go our own direction or pull the other one to go with us in that direction or the other. There are no longer children at home dictating our activities and the direction of our life’s journey.
Julianne and I began our journey together 40 years ago with many dreams and hopes. Some of those have come true and have been very fulfilling for both of us. There are others that seem to have escaped us and have gone far away out of our grasp. As well, on a journey such as ours, there are always unexpected obstacles and ofttimes there are choices where we need to decide which fork of the road to take. Fortunately, in this our journey together, almost always we have found ways to come to agreement on which roads to take as well as the possible consequences for taking those roads and going in that direction rather than the other one.
Often times, hitting a crossroads, we never know what taking that road will lead us too. Sometimes there is no information other than to go this way or to go that way. But once determined, we pursued with fervor and did the best we can along that portion of our journey together. And, gratefully, Julianne has always been there by my side. Almost all of our journey together has been one that we determined we would take together whether good or bad. And I’m so thankful for
her willingness to do so.
As for me, the last few years of my journey have been challenging. I have not done as well in improving my health. It does sadden me. But I have also struggled in this treacherous economy to stay stable and gainfully employed. I’m grateful that I am able to do what I do now (which is a later blog post). But, when I hit those forks in the road on my portion of the journey, I have some times taken the more difficult and challenging roads, without knowing it. But Julianne always supports me and helps me through!
Love absolutely binds two individuals together strongly. I am grateful for the love that Julianne has had for me all these years and that she has accompanied me, and many times pulled me along or has been pulled along on this journey.
As we approach Thanksgiving 2018, I have taken tome to reflect on those things that I am thankful for, probably more than I have in the past. As a 62 year old, I have a great deal to look back on and to be thankful for. So, for the next week, through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am doing a post each day to express my gratitude for the various segments of my life. Some of what I write may be more personal than others may want to see, but to me, these are the main things I want to express my gratitude for.
I want to start out this week long effort by expressing my gratitude first and foremost for my life’s journey. Each of us must walk the paths of our lives’ journeys. Nobody else can walk this path. Interestingly enough, our journey is not really our own until we leave our parents and our homes. We all start our journeys on the backs (or in the hands) of others. And that initial part of the journey may very well lay the foundational footpath for our own personal journey.
Being a Christian and believing in a pre-existence and an after-life is always helpful to me in understanding and appreciating my journey. I believe that my Father in Heaven let me know what treacherous and difficult paths would lay ahead of me as I came to earth. I accepted that knowing as well that I would be blessed with guidance from Him along the way as well as the ability to choose which way to go. I don’t believe for a moment that God laid out a specific course for me to take. Rather, he set things in motion for me to take paths with many forks in the road.
My journey began in Cleveland, Ohio in early October 1956. I was born into an Italian family (my birth name was Carmen David Laurienzo), but to a Jewish mother. My father, Joe Laurienzo, was a the son of a migrant Italian name Carmine Laurienzo. From all I know, Joe was a hard working individual. He lived in the same home as his father on Murray Hill Road in the Little Italy district of Cleveland.
I will never know for sure how my Italian Catholic father met and ultimately married my German Jewish mother (Orene Goldberg, later to be known as Jennierose Lavender). But, I was conceived and was, at the time, the beginning of the third generation of Laurienzos to be born in and live in the house on Murray Hill Road.
And thus began my amazing journey.
By the time I was 10 months old, in August 1957, my journey took a turn. Giving in to pressure from her staunch Jewish mother (Marion Goldberg) in Albuquerque, Orene left with me while the Catholic side of the family was all celebrating the Feast of Assumption Festival…one of the biggest annual events in this little corner of Cleveland. I was essentially snuck away, never to meet my natural father, who, I came to find later on, was heartbroken. Just a little over one year later, Orene was being remarried to the second Joseph in my life, Joseph Kravetz, in a fairly social Jewish ceremony. They were married in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 1958.
As a very young child, i had already experienced some major directional changes in my journey. And this would ultimately be the way of life for me for at least the next 15 years of my life. Orene and Joe K ended up having a son together in 1960 (Aaron). Then she left us. She left Joe Kravetz alone to raise my younger half-brother Aaron and me.
As a young four year old, I am sure that somehow I managed to blame myself for her leaving. As for Aaron and me, we ended up with a number of babysitters to take care of us while my Dad worked. Some of them would come and go. It was a tough rocky road for these two little boys.
Joe Kravetz eventually participate in some single-adult parent organization (or something) and later met Marjorie Biel (nee Tudor), who had become divorced and had a young boy (Danny), 16 days younger than me. I believe that they both married out of necessity more than love. Nonetheless, as a young child, I was piggybacked into this relationship, which brought forth two more children (Gary in 1964 and Sherry in 1967).
Through adoptions, all of us became Kravetz kids. But it was a hodge-podge family. Dad worked all the time for a drug store chain. Mom (Marge) was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and would take us to the Kingdom Hall a couple of times a week. She diligently sought to make sure we had a religious upbringing. She had health issues and struggled in her relationship with Joe. But, kudos to both of them as they made the courageous choice to stay together, despite deep-rooted differences and a great deal of family dysfunction and challenge (Danny was “mentally retarded” – a term used in the 1960s/70s). Aaron and I could be unruly.
Between 1965 and 1974, we had moved four different times to four different cities due to my Dad’s job transfers. More rocky, rutted roads for my life journey lay before me. New homes, changes in schools, new friends, leaving old friends. It wasn’t easy for any of us. By the time we were in Bozeman, Montana, I had run away from home twice to get away from the dysfunction… I was ready to journey forth on my own personal journey and off of the piggyback roller coaster ride I had experienced.
I will say here that Joe Kravetz and Marge did the very best they could with what was handed to them. They both had their emotional baggage and the five children, who were, without choice, along for the rocky ride, had to learn to deal with it all, and we all did in our own ways.
I had always been the prayerful type. I believed in a God and I prayed for a miracle on many occasions. Mine came in the chance meeting of some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bozeman in the summer of 1973. The one week that I spent visiting with this family from New Jersey every day set me on my own path and in my own direction…one that would ultimately get me asked to leave my home as a 17 year old in Murray, Utah in the summer of 1974.
So, finally, in 1974 I began my own journey, making my own choices on my life’s direction….both good and bad.
After graduating high school in Murray in 1974, I had to make many huge, life-altering choices. I came to one fork in the road after another, knowing full well that the choices made at those crossroads were ones I could never go back on and “try again.” That’s the funny thing with choices.
After choosing to be baptized into the LDS Church in January 1975, I had made choices to leave jobs to take on other “grass is always greener over there” kinds of jobs. Then, it happened… the first big big big choice. Do I serve an LDS mission or do I take the really good paying job? It would have to be one or the other. In the long run, I chose to serve and this really set the direction for my life journey from then on.
Since that time, my journey has meandered in many directions. Life has had many challenges, ups and downs and frustrations. But it has also been filled with joy, happiness and smiles. Bottom line, I have had a wonderfully rich life and over the next week will show my gratitude to the many things that have crossed my journey’s path.
I am very grateful for my personal journey and for those that have spent part of their journeys walking by my side on mine.