I count my big comfy chair as a blessing. So nice to just sit and chillax.
Sometimes the simple pleasures bring lots of joy!
I count my big comfy chair as a blessing. So nice to just sit and chillax.
Everyone faces challenges in life. We all have different struggles whether they be with health, family, jobs, relationships, finances, addictions or other things. Struggles come with the territory. Life offers few straight paths and so we meander on our way and learn as we go.
In my college days I spent many semesters studying Asian history, geography and philosophy. Perhaps one of the greatest things I learned was the Taoist principle of Yin/Yang. Defined, Yin/Yang indicates two halves that together complete wholeness. Yin and yang are also the starting point for change. When something is whole, by definition it is unchanging and complete. So when you split something into two halves – yin / yang, it upsets the equilibrium of wholeness. This starts both halves chasing after each other as they seek a new balance with each other.
The word Yin comes out to mean “shady side” and Yang “sunny side”. Yin/Yang is the concept of duality forming a whole. We encounter examples of Yin and Yang every day. As examples: night (Yin) and day (Yang), female (Yin) and male (Yang). Over thousands of years quite a bit has been sorted and grouped under various Yin Yang classification systems.
The symbol for Yin Yang is called the Taijitu. Most people just call it the yin yang symbol in the west. The taijitu symbol has been found in more than one culture and over the years has come to represent Taoism.
I count myself fortunate to have challenges…and believe me, I have a bucket full of them. Oft times we have no idea why we have them, but I have learned in my 59 years of life that they mold me. They make me better. I have determined that our challenges are like the pressure that coal goes through to become a glittering diamond. No pressure, no diamonds.
So, I chose many years to take the Yin with the Yang. Though miserable at times, I try to smile and get through it, because I KNOW there is something to be learned, something to be gained. Life provides enlightenment in the long run.
Indeed, not all blessings are the bright and happy ones. Some MUST be the dark ones in order to have balance. That job loss may actually lead to a better opportunity. That rough ride will eventually lead to a smooth road. That bump on the head will go away.
I count my challenges as blessings. Bring ’em on universe. I am ready!
Most of us in the United States have grown up enjoying the benefits of electricity, running water, flushing toilets, windows, cars, etc. Our perspective on luxury typically means things like driving a Lexus instead of a Toyota, living in a nice house instead of an apartment, wearing diamonds instead of cubic zirconia. We think of people like Donald Trump or famous models, singers and actors in their luxurious mansions, jetset lifestyles and extravagant vacations as living a life of luxury and that we just live the “middle class” life. Some of us see our neighbor’s boats or riding lawnmowers as “luxury items” and wish we could have the same.
But, as I count my blessings, I can see the flip side. I can see that I actually do have a life of luxury. While in college in Flagstaff, I worked as a tour guide and took many people out to the Hopi and Navajo Indian Reservations. These tourists were fascinated by the lives of the Hopi high up on a mesa in the middle of the desert. They lived without running water or electricity. Their “bathrooms” were wooden outhouses that clung precariously on the edge of the cliff. These tourists also found the Navajo lifestyle to be unique as many were still residing in the circular mud huts known as “hogans”. They too had no running water or electricity.
In the mid-2000s I spent a few weeks in Cebu, in the Philippines. During this time I gained a whole new perspective on luxury. Indeed, many Filipinos have nice cars and nice places to live, but the majority do not. They see the average American as rich and living a life of luxury. We are all billionaires in their eyes. I also saw the massive poverty where people lived clumped together in squatter’s villages built out of corrugated metal and wooden posts. They bathed in dirty rivers. They had no beds or windows.
As I said, luxury is a matter of perspective. I am thankful to turn on a switch and have light. I count it a blessing to turn a handle and have warm water flowing from a shower. I look at my fairly inexpensive hot tub as a luxury item in my household.
I enjoy life’s little luxuries. I don’t need a yacht. I don’t need a vacation home on an island. I have sufficient. I am blessed. I am content. I am grateful.
Sometimes, we overlook the simple things in life. Here are a few that I count as blessings…. (all photography by David Kravetz/Sumoflam Productions):
I love and adore all 10 f my grandchildren. Each has their own personality and style. Rockwell is my uber-pleasant one.
Rockwell is special in that he is the first “Kravetz” of his generation in the Alexander Kravetz (my grandfather) line. His middle name is also that of Alexander’s father Elias (his great great great grandfather). I was the first in my generation and Seth was the first in his as well. I think it is cool that we are now 5 generations from Alexander Kravetz.
Back in 2012 all of the family was in Lexington and we were able to get a four generation photo with my stepfather Joe Kravetz, me, Seth and Rockwell. Not many are able to get four generation photos like that, so it is really special.
Rockwell was the only grandchild that has actually lived in our home. While Seth was going to UK, they lived in the upstairs section of the house, so we got to see Rockwell often, when he was young.
Honestly, that is a joy and blessing in and of itself. It had been many years since a baby had resided in the house. Babies bring such happiness and love into a home and Rockwell certainly did this.
Seth graduated and soon moved to Ohio for a job and then later to Connecticut. Our opportunity to see Rockwell was lessened as a result.
Most children his age are pretty hyper, but Rockwell is even keeled, pleasant almost always and certainly friendly and good natured.
When he has visited he was never shy and was always willing to sit with Grampz for a quick book read, etc.
I really count myself blessed to have this joyful young man in my life and the life of my family. Following are a few joyful moments and a couple of other photos of this smart, handsome and AWESOME grandchild of mine.
My daughter Marissa captured some early moments of his life in this great video, which I thought I would share here.
(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.)
I am a child of the late 50s, 60s and 70s (I know, its obvious right?). I grew up in my youth with black and white TV (with three channels – ABC, NBC and CBS) and we needed “rabbit ears” on the TV or an antenna on the house for reception, 45 RPM records and players, telephones with dials on them (also called rotary phones), cars with roll down windows (not electric) and a bright headlamp switch on the floor, non-electric typewriters and Kodak Brownie cameras that used flashbulbs, to name a few of the things. We enjoyed listening to our Top 40 hits on wonderful new pocket sized transistor radios…AM only. There was no such thing as a Drive-thru restaurant.
Then life got exciting as I grew a bit older…technology was in action! We got a color TV Console with a STEREO record player. We got a station wagon with air conditioning and electric window openers! Kodak came out with Instamatic cameras – even little portable ones (which I actually used when I was on my LDS mission in Japan)!
With the late 1960s we saw the birth of the 8 track tape…no longer did we have to turn our records over. And we could listen to our music in the car instead of the radio. And the Polaroid SX-70 Camera was to die for! Instant high quality photos. Soon the 8 track was being replaced by cassette tapes that cold be plugged into portable units and eventually, by the early 1980s we could listen to them in stereo on a Sony Walkman. We had wonderful FM radio stations that played full album sides in a luscious sound. And the IBM Selectric was the thing to write papers on instead of a pen and paper.
When I first registered for college computers were in use…by the schools. We would fill out computer punch cards. It was so cool to see technology in action. My first two years of college saw the advent of a typewriter with memory and a built in eraser. I could type and go back a few lines to erase if I needed to.
By the time I was in my 3rd year of college we had connectivity to the mainframe and could write our papers on a computer using Wordstar and storing them on a floppy disk. Color TVs were everywhere and rarely would we see a black and white TV. And, I forgot to mention that we had video tapes to both watch movies or even record our own. Typewriters were still around but they too were fading away. The 8 track tape was vintage but no longer available in stores.
When I began my Master’s program at Arizona State University in the mid-1980s we now had portable PCs to use. Still no such thing as email. I had a part time job with a Real Estate Auctioneer and he had a brand new cell phone that looked like and felt heavy as a brick. But I could call my wife while I was driving…so cool! And I also worked at a call center for pagers. People from all over the country would call in and leave messages that we would type in on pagers.
Back then I was really grateful for technology. But, little did I know that almost everything would be on my iPhone…my 8 track player is now an music player (and can store hundreds of songs that can shuffle), my black and white TV is now a streaming device for my satellite TV at home, my typewriter is a voice activated writer with a name (Siri). I don’t need floppies. My device at 64 GB has more memory than the entire mainframe had when I was in college. Don’t need a camera either. I can now take real selfies, thank you. I now talk to my grandkids over the internet while looking at them. My mobile device also measures my steps, keeps my calendar, lets me look at the internet, takes my heart rate, keeps my phone directory and contact list. And don’t get me started on social media like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn…and yes, I not only use them, but they are what I do to make a living!! I don’t even need a printed boarding pass at the airport or card or cash at Starbucks…all done on my mobile device.
Needless to say, everything I need is on my device…my LDS Scriptures (and a gazillion other things), my photo albums, my credit cards, my email, my contact list, my to do list, my calendar, I can check the weather wherever I am, my phone can tell WHERE I am and even automatically “geotag” my photos, Twitter posts, Instagram photos, etc.
Speaking of social media, I didn’t mention that I first started using something called America Online in 1993…had my own email address. HA! Email!! (It was eventually firstname.lastname@example.org) Then they came out with something called the internet…I could connect my computer via my phone and wait and maybe find something useful on the World Wide Web over AOL after hearing a man say “You’ve Got Mail” (which by the way was voiced by a guy named Elwood Edwards – see article)
Oh, and nowadays we have these wonderful flat screen color TVs with internet access, 100s of channels of programming.
Ultimately, I am grateful to have grown up through the age of technology. I have seen men walk on the moon. I have personally produced 100s of live broadcasts from football fields and gyms across the country over the internet.
And what does the current present hold in terms of technology? Cars that back themselves up, driverless cars, remote control smart houses where devices can be turned on and off through a mobile device from 1000s of miles away.
It has been an amazing 59 years and I am so grateful to have lived through it all and seen so much. I can’t even begin to imagine what more I may see in the next few years. Will the iPhone Mobile Device (or the Samsung Android Device) become an antiquated thing of the past that my children will be saying “I can remember when?”
Over the next year I may focus on few of the technologies that have had profound impact on my life. But, the massively overwhelming changes – (records –> 8 track –> cassette –> CD –> DVD –> MP3 player –> Mobile devices for instance) have made life amazing. And certainly worth counting my blessings.
I wrote the above shortly before joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time, I was dabbling a bit in poetry and had just gone through some challenging times in my life. It was the first time I had experienced a vicissitude in my life.
Vicissitude is an interesting word. Searching through definitions, the general meaning is: A change or variation occurring in the course of something. interchange or alternation, as of states or things. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs
I really like to look at “vicissitudes of life” as meaning “ups and downs” of life. We all have them and how we deal with them sets the course of our life from that point on. We all have our own special journeys as we pursue life. Many times our paths cross with others on their journeys and the impact of the crossing of paths may cause adjustments to our own journeys.
Recently, a beloved brother in law of mine, Jamie Showkeir, passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS. Many have heard the term, but it means amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Jamie, was dealt a new vicissitude in life down a road with a definite dead end. And he knew it. But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him.
In September 2014, Jamie, already diagnosed with this dastardly disease, was interviewed for an article in the Arizona Republic. The author, Kari Bland, is a friend of Maren, Jamie’s wife (Maren is my wife’s sister). Like so many others, she was hit hard by the news.
You see, Jamie isn’t the guy this should have happened to. He was active, he was smart, he was athletic. He practiced yoga. He had a lust for life and was an avid cyclist, hiker and nature lover. He was a talented author and teacher.
But, one day he began feeling weakness in his left arm and from that day forward, his life would change. And the challenging part, especially for him, but really, for all of us, was knowing that the degeneration was on the body…but the mind was always alert and he had to deal with it.
Kari notes in her article “Here’s the deal, Kari, for me,” Jamie said. “We can’t always choose the cards that we’re dealt, but the choice we have is how we are going to play them.“
I read that article back then and that quote has stuck with me. And Jamie has always played the cards well. And he did this time as well. He passed away on his own terms, dealing with the disease and the circumstances in the best attitude he could muster. Ultimately, Jamie died on August 16 this year, his 63rd birthday, at his home in Phoenix with his wife, Maren, by his side.
Jamie left a positive impact on 100s of people, including me. He was a mentor to me (and he didn’t even know it!) Three or four times I called him for advice due to his wisdom of the business world. (He and Maren have authored two books).
And this is where the “ups and downs” of life come in. The sorrow of Jamie’s passing lasted a number of months, even before it happened. We all knew it was coming. The day it happened was hard on all of us. However, life would continue to throw interesting curve balls along the way.
Just a two short weeks after Jamie’s passing, I got to sit in a chair at my son’s house in Connecticut and hold my brand new grandson, Samuel. He was a milestone grandson for me, my tenth. Born on August 31, he brought a new gleam of joy into my life.
I love holding newborn babies, especially those that are my grandchildren. And I so looked forward to this opportunity to be with this little guy.
As I sat with him and held this sweet child, my mind wandered off into the complexities of life, the ups and downs. The tough swings of dealing with life and death.
In two short weeks I experienced the passing of a dearly beloved brother in law and then a birth of a new grandchild. The words “vicissitudes of life” bounced around in my head. I was all at once taken aback by the waves of life. I marveled at how life’s journey can present such dichotomies in such a short time.
For me, the birth of Samuel was, in essence, the rebirth of Jamie. The two of them will be forever etched together in my mind. No, I am not a believer in reincarnation. But, Samuel will always remind me of the joy that Jamie brought to me and hundreds of others. Simple, unfettered joy.
And, for a few short weeks, I forgot all about my own “vicissitudes” of life and basked in the joys of life and death…of people that mean so much more than the challenges of jobs, money and things. I am grateful for Jamie. I am grateful for Samuel.
July 15, 1979 – Jacob’s Lake, AZ near North Rim, Grand Canyon
Sometime in November 1978 – David, then 22, was on his way to work at J.C. Penney in Orem Mall in Orem, Utah. His 1963 green VW bug would not start. He had to take the bus. Not knowing the schedule, he hurried to the bus stop. Too late, he missed it. At the same time, a young lady named Julianne, then 19, also missed the same bus. David and Julianne met at this bus stop and found out we both worked at the same place — she in the cafeteria and he in the shoe department. She let me know that her roommate was coming to pick her up and offered me a ride. This was the first day of our relationship – we missed the bus to work, but, at that time, unbeknownst to us, we caught the bus that would take us to wedded bliss.
From that time through nearly Christmas, I would take a pilgrimage from the shoe department to the J.C. Penney cafeteria to order cherry cheesecake and to watch this new girl I had met. At the bus stop I knew I had met someone special and found it interesting that she worked where I did. But, I was shy and afraid of rejection, so I played it cool. We both knew each other’s first names…mine David, hers Juli. Our conversations were light and not in too much detail. We were at the flirting stage. I had even taken her home from work a couple of times, but that was about it.
Then, she was gone…I had lost my chance due to my own insecurities….or so I thought.
Journal entry, January 14, 1979 – “…this last week has been a most exciting time of my life. I have been very tired because a beautiful young lady has entered my life. I knew Juli at work, but I never did too much because I was scared. — Oh, yes, her name is Juli Bateman. She is 19 and is from Mesa, AZ. She’s just my height and is a really pretty girl. The Lord couldn’t have blessed me any better. Everyone even says that we look alike.” She had been away and I thought I had lost her for good. Then, on Thursday, January 4, I was walking through the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU she saw me, said “Hey” and went out of her way to come over and say hello. “Right away I thought ‘How neat. She likes me and went out of her way to say hello.’ I was impressed. She then told me that she had quit Penney’s. So, I felt inside of me that I must her phone number. I asked her and she gave it to me right away.” I called her numerous times to invite her out, but she was never home. When i finally did get hold of her, she didn’t know. I was stupid, I had never told her my full name. I reminded her of the JC Penney’s thing and sure enough, I had a date!!
Continued from January 14 – “The thing about Juli is — she is everything I want for a wife. She is pretty, she is loving, she is affectionate, she is spiritual. When I’m with her I’m proud to be with her….”
Journal entry, January 16, 1979 – “Yesterday, January 15, 1979 will be a day long remembered for me. Last night at about 7:00 PM I asked Juli to marry me. She said yeas. How wonderful it feels. This is how it went…I picked her up at 6:30 and we went up to Canyon Glen which is up in Provo Canyon. It was snowing lightly but it was also very peaceful….” “We talked of love and different kinds of it. After we finished, we got out of the car and went for a walk. The snow was about a foot deep and the stream could be heard loud and clear. We walked until we got to the edge of the stream. I then had Juli sit down on the bench. As she did, I got on my knees and told her of what love was…and that love had brought us together and that it was with love that I asked her to be my wife for time and all eternity, I was shaking so much inside that it was hard to even talk.
This was the beginning of our wondrous and joyful experience of 30 years.
Our first “recorded” kiss – in front of the Provo, Utah LDS Temple
ca. March 1979
July 15, 1979 – Julianne were married in Mesa, Arizona and returned to Provo, Utah via Jacob’s Lake, AZ near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We then settled into our little apartment in Provo. I started a new job making sandwiches at a shop near BYU campus. We both continued in school.
L-Our wedding photo. R-Departing for Utah from Mesa. Yes, we were tired and it was hot an we had the little VW
From that time forth, Julianne and I have traveled to diverse places, moved, gone to school in a few places, raised children…it has been a glorious life.
Soon after moving to Provo, there were some changes in the restaurant and by mid-October we made our way to Flagstaff, Arizona. Nearly penniless, I finally found some employment. We were living in the Alpine Motel, a dive of a place, but cheap. We had no place to go, but we made it through. I started a job as a busboy at the Little America Restaurant making $3.25/hr. A few weeks later i was working 48 hours a week at a TG&Y Variety store for $3.75 and hour. We also had insurance…and thank goodness. our first child was on her way. Throughout our days in Flagstaff we were blessed with friends, jobs and three lovely daughters.
Our 30 years of marriage are completely intertwined with with the lives of our children. From the time Amaree was born in early 1980 to this day, we have taken our children all over the United States and even lived in Japan as a family. Our youngest, Solomon was born in Oita, Japan. It has been a blessed life. Following are some of the photos of our lives through these 30 years…
L-R: Feb. 1980, Flagstaff, AZ with Amaree; late 1981, Mesa, AZ with Amaree & Marissa; early 1982, Sedona, AZ with Marissa &Amaree;
late 1987, Kumamoto, Japan with 4 children (Seth on my back); March 1989, Oita, Japan with Seth & newborn Solomon
A couple of family photos while living in Oita, Japan ca. 1990 and 1991
L-Family with Oita Governor Hiramatsu & his wife, Jan. 1, 1991; Monument Valley, UT on our way to Kentucky in 1992
L-Green Gates Farm, Lexington, KY 1993; Family trip to Indiana ca 1996
Our family May 2009
(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)
Our extended family May 2009
(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)
But it has not just been family. Julianne and I have been together for 30 years and are STILL on our honeymoon and more madly in love with each other than ever!! Here are a few pictures of our adventures together over the years:
On a park bench in Seattle and a restaurant in Seattle
On a cruise ship in Seattle and at Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada
On the cruise to Alaska before dinner; Glacier Bay, Alaska
Hamming it up in Lexington, KY; Green Gates Farm in Lexington, KY
At a waterfall near Great Falls, MT with grandson Kade; at a waterfall near Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Enjoying time at a cabin in the mountains of Arizona; visiting Tulum Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico
At Seth’s high school graduation, Lexington, KY; Yes, I Married Up and my license plate tells the story (as do the shirts)
I am honored and blessed to have had my wonderful Julianne at my side for 30 years. She is the joy of my life and this page is dedicated to her for her love for me, for our children, for our grandchildren. We have struggled together, had joy together, traveled together and look forward to an eternity together. Julianne is truly the love of my life.
Julianne and David, May 2009
(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)
(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)
July 15, 1979 – July 15, 2009