Turning 60 – A look back at the celebration

milestoneBack in October I celebrated my 60th birthday (Oct 4, 2016). The celebration actually started before then as all of my children had appeared and a giant party was set up on the Sunday before my birthday (Oct. 2, 2016). It seems like since that Thursday before my birthday party there had been some sort of celebrating and this had been the birthday that continued to give.
bdcake2Last year as I hit my 59th birthday, I decided to try (and did not succeed very well) to express daily gratitude for my blessings. I tried to pick out a theme every day and I did not do very well in this effort as life got very busy. One can never really plan for the future as the day-to-day events of our lives seem to dictate things and sometimes those things are unpredictable.

Despite my failure to succeed in my daily gratitude postings, I was definitely grateful for every day of life that I’d had and continue to be so to this day. But the last three weeks of my life I have been full of joy, sorrow and challenges. As I was originally writing this in late October (school teaching and other things made life way too busy to write), my father Joe Kravetz, who I grew up with, but is not my natural father, was on his deathbed at a hospice in Texas. My

Joe Kravetz as he was in the 1950s. Also in this photo is his gravemarker. He was buried in the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery.

sister Sherry stridently took care of him. He was not able to eat or drink and all was being done to keep him comfortable.  As I originally wrote this on October 25, he was still clinging to life after 12 days in hospice care without food or water. Somehow he kept hanging on.  However, on the next day, October 26, 2016, Joe Kravetz finally succumbed and passed away. (I will have a different post just about him at a later time).

Another one of my friends had a very serious motorcycle accident and it could’ve killed him. He has had to go through a number of surgeries and facial reconstruction. But he seems to be recovering by all indications (thank you Facebook). I saw a video of him today and he is able to walk again, but with assistance.  The accident appears to have been devastating. Fortunately, as I write this in December, he is back home and is already beginning to walk again.
These things break my heart and had been the downside of what had otherwise been an amazing three weeks.
So, the birthday shindig really started on September 29. Julianne decided to take a half-day off to help prepare for my Sunday birthday party with Marissa and Chelsea, my two daughters that live here in Lexington. Chelsea was supposed to pick Julianne up at the University and the car showed up to pick her up. As she walked out to the car, Marissa was there as well, with a video camera running live as the driver of Chelsea’s car was not Chelsea, but was our daughter Amaree who had surprisingly flown in from Washington State to surprise us!! Marissa caught it all on video and it was precious.

Flamingle!!

They then proceeded to come over to meet me because I was supposed to go to lunch with them, but I was tied up on some projects for my Japanese class that I was teaching at the University of Kentucky. So I went down to give Julianne the debit card so she could go to lunch with Chelsea and Marissa. I was expecting them to come in Marissa’s van and so as Marissa pulled up she got out of the van and had her iPhone in hand as if she was trying to video me and I didn’t think much of it because she does that a lot.

Got to hang with grandson Benson from Washington.

Turned out that Chelsea’s car was in front of the van.  I saw Julianne sitting in the passenger seat, so I walked over to give her the card and waved at who I thought was Chelsea and then started to walk away. Then I heard “hi daddy.” This was not Chelsea’s voice and it was a voice that I knew well. I peaked back in and did a double take!! There in the driver’s seat was my oldest daughter Amaree! My grandson Benson was also in the car. I was happily stunned!

At that point, I felt bad that I was not going to be able to join them for lunch but I really had work that had to be done. So off they went.  Needless to say, I was excited that my daughter Amaree would take the time to come out to Kentucky to celebrate my 60th birthday. She had flown in the night before and stayed at Chelsea’s house.
So that night, she came over and stayed with us. It was so wonderful to be able to spend time with her and to sit with my grandson Benson and read some books to him. Marissa also came over and they started making preparations for my birthday party which had been named ironically “Flamingle.”

The Chipotle Gang when we picked up our catered meals

This was not going to be a surprise party as we kind of expected to have some sort of celebration. For the previous three months Julianne and I had been going to Chipotle Mexican Grill for meals about 11 times a month so that we could land ourselves free catering for 20 in their summer 2016 Chiptopia promotion. Both of us succeeded at this and so we knew that we would be catered for 40 people with food from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

I also knew that the date of the party was going to be October 2 but I had no idea what else was going to go on.

Setting up flamingos

They had been secretly planning a number of things and with the theme being around flamingos there were flamingo things going on. Marissa had printed out dozens and dozens of photographs of me that she had painstakingly gleaned from Facebook. I don’t know why she couldn’t have just come and taken them off of my hard drive, but that’s OK. All of these pictures were pasted all over a couple of walls in the house and they covered all the way back from my early years of life to my 60th year. It was a fun gesture and also fun to look back on my life in these snapshots.

Flamingos everywhere

Julianne had picked up some plywood and had made some 5 foot tall flamingos which were painted pink and then had the word “Flamingle” painted on them along with an arrow pointing in the direction of the house. These would be directional signs to the house.

On that Friday evening as I read books to the kids, they were busily engaged in working in all of these projects. I was getting excited for the fun that would ensue and had heartfelt gratitude for the love and effort they had in this celebration of my life.

Reading books to the Grandkidz

Hanging with daughter Amaree who came from Washington to surprise me

As there were things that still needed to be done on Saturday morning, and as everyone was all busily engaged, I decided I would go out and run the errands for them to pick up things such as marshmallows and other stuff that they had planned for the party. Our granddaughter Autumn was to be picked up as well, so I headed over to get her. While I was out, Amaree called and kept asking when my ETA was to return home and I said I’m still tied up on picking up things. She said that I should just pick up Autumn and come home and that she would go run the errands with me. So I did that and I got home and dropped Autumn off in the driveway. I told her to send Amaree out.

While waiting in the driveway for Amaree, she called me and said “come in the house Daddy. We have some breakfast and then we’ll go.” So I went in and they had made a nice breakfast of eggs in the nest using pastry rather than bread. It was a nice breakfast.

Seth snuck into our hot tub and surprised us.

While eating, Amaree said “Look! I just got a funny Facebook message from Seth!” She then proceeded to show Julianne and me a photo of our son Seth sitting in our hot tub. Naturally, we thought this was an old picture of Seth being used as a surprise, but on a closer look we realized that Seth was ACTUALLY sitting in our hot tub at that particular point in time and Julianne went running out to the deck and look down and kind of yelled a little scream of delight and her funny laugh. I too was pleasantly surprised. Seth apparently rented a vehicle and parked down the street and then walked quietly around in and snuck into the hot tub. He told us that he had been transported via hot tub to get to our house. Ha ha!!

One of two Photo Walls set up b the kids. What fun these were!

So, at this point, two of my children had come from out of town. Seth had come up from Houston. He spent some time with us in the morning and then said he had to go to Georgetown to spend some time with his in-laws, but that he would return to our house later on. Because he had hotel points, he was staying in a hotel rather than at our house.

We proceeded to get all of the other things ready for the party and it was another late evening on Saturday. Around 9 PM I was asking if Seth was coming back as I thought he was and I was just excited to talk to my son.
He had been out shopping and purchased a giant beef brisket to put on the grill for the birthday dinner on Monday evening.
So, Seth finally did show up around 9 o’clock PM and we sat and talked and just had a nice little time. I had really thought maybe Solomon would walk in with him, but I was disappointed that my other son from Colorado Springs did not happen to be there with us.

Hanging with the boys…Seth and Solomon, both of whom showed up to surprise me (and Julianne!)

But, lo and behold, about 15 minutes later, we hear our front door open and peek over and Solomon walks in the door. Everybody gasped and was excited. Of course, my daughters all knew but Julianne and I did not.

For the first time in four years all of my children were together with with us and this was such a joy.
So, Solomon and Seth returned to the hotel later that evening after we sat and talked and had a few snacks and then we prepared ourselves for the big event on Sunday.
Since this was LDS General Conference Sunday for our church, there was no church at the building and the girls all listened to General Conference while they prepped for the ensuing party.
We had a lot of errands to run and ultimately I had to go to Chipotle and pick up all of our catered food. They were expecting us obviously because we had been telling them what we were going to do. It was fun. We got all of the goods and I took a big group picture with all the Chipotle gang that were there. I then headed back home with all the food as they set up everything else in the house.

Next door neighbor Mike LeMaster taking a selfie at the party

The time finally came in the late afternoon when the party was to begin. People began to trickle in little by little including our neighbors Mike and Lauren and Steve and Chris. Steve had worked really hard to help in our yard cleaning up the yard and is an amazing neighbor.

The first person to actually arrive was my old boss from iHigh, Tim Campbell. That was an amazing surprise to me. It was nice to see him and have a nice chat with him. I do some work for him and his new business lately,  but I haven’t actually visited with him for a long time.

Julianne in her self designed flamingo shirt

There were many friends from church that showed up and Stacey Edwards, who I worked with at BrainBox the last couple of years also came by. She was always like a little sister to me and I really always enjoyed working with her.

Birthday Cake with sixty little plastic flamingos. CLASSIC!!

At the party, we had all that food.  And Amaree had made four cakes and Chelsea had also made a chocolate Flan cake. So we had five cakes and lots of other goodies at the party. Of course the main cake of interest was the German chocolate cake with the amazing homemade German chocolate coconut frosting that Amaree made.

They finally got around to having me come over and sit by the German Chocolate Cake.  It had been decorated with 60 little flamingo toothpicks and then a six and a zero candle that was lit up. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and I blew out the candles.
I was next presented with some gifts. This was where the real shock took place. Julianne had quizzed me and had known for quite a while that my Nikon camera had broken and also kept questioning me as to whether or not I wanted a bicycle. I thought maybe they would come up with one of those things for my birthday, but really had no idea….

Picking up the bike on October 14

What really happened was the shocker. Marissa had gone to the point of group funding and had raised enough to get me a camera. I was able to get a new Nikon D5200 with a gift card that they had provided me for money raised for many of my family and friends. The other big stone to me was that my friend Russ Graves, from high school in Murray, UT had gotten together with some of the others that I went to church with in Murray in the 1970s. They all collected money and had purchased me a brand-new bicycle! It had been ordered and arrived on October 14..

Brand new Birthday Camera – a Nikon D5200.

A few neighbors and others had brought a few other little gifts and the kids had given me a big old box that had a bicycle bell and a couple of other bike things in it. It was really an amazing and fun birthday for me and just the event and love itself and made this the best birthday for me in all of my 60 years.

All in the Family…family photo on my 60th Birthday (L-R: Marissa, Solomon, Chelsea, David, Julianne, Seth and Amaree)

My fun family!

But alas, after Sunday was over it was back to work at University of Kentucky for me on Monday. Julianne was able to take some time off so she could spend time with Amaree. But, we did take time in the morning and went to the Lexington Arboretum to take some family pictures of the five children and of the five children with us, etc. That was a joyous time to be able to be with her children and get some wonderful photos with them after four years of not being together.

My sweet wife smiles with me on my 60th birthdaycelebration

So, part two of all of the birthday celebration was my taking the gift card and searching to find a replacement for my Nikon D 40. I had been brokenhearted because I had not had a camera for almost a month other than my iPhone, which takes great pictures, but still having my Nikon with my telephoto lens was always a wonderful thing. And, I enjoy going to the lake and taking pictures.

Ready to get some photos with my new D5200

I ultimately found the D5200 on Amazon.com and ordered it and received notification that it would arrive probably on that Friday. But it actually arrived two days later and I was so excited to have a new camera to be able to take it out on Friday morning and go to the lake and take some pictures. Those that know me also know that I am very fond of bird photos, especially blue herons. Following are a couple of photos taken with my new Nikon in October.

Photo of me with my new camera courtesy of fellow photographer Earlane Cox

A rare shot of the elusive Bald Eagle of Jacobson Lake. Taken with a zoom in bright light, I had to manipulate it a bit. It was my first sighting of this beauty.

A blue heron landing. Once again, I used some software to highlight the beauty of this bird

In mid-October there were egrets visiting the lake. I got this shot of one of them. Very happy

Finally, an interesting shot of a blue heron chasing an egret

Taking Solomon to the Cincinnati Airport

During the time family was in town, we had family dinners on Monday and Tuesday evening until Amaree left on Wednesday and Seth left on Tuesday evening. Solomon hung around until Friday so I took him to the airport on Friday morning.

Despite the children all gone by this time, the gifts keep on giving. Later in October I went with Julianne and Marissa to SW Virginia where we were to meet Julianne’s sister Laura and her daughter Emma. They were going to ride the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail.

Heading up the trail. Notice I had my Nikon around my neck as well.

Just in case, we took my bike as well.  I had only ridden it about a mile or two previously, and we weren’t sure if I would be able to.  But ultimately, while waiting for them down the hill from the start, I decided to give it a try and rode UPHILL for nearly 3 miles to meet them on the trail and then come back down the hill with them. It was fun to see the surprised look on Julianne’s face when she saw me sitting at a table waiting for them!

The biking gang somewhere on the Virginia Creeper Trail. My first REAL bike ride.

Not only did I use the bike, but also my new Nikon as I took photos along the way. It was a lovely time of year.

It has been more than two months since my birthday and I still have man fond memories. My life is filled with joy and there are the many precious moments I have had in this 60 years.  And it just keeps going.  Watch my blogs for more photos and more bike stories…and more grandkidz selfies and family stories.  Life is Awesome but its getting better.

Life’s Journey and Choices – Part I

CO 13 N of Craig CO June 2013As I approach age 60, I find myself reflecting often on my past and the journey I have taken to get where I am now.

Each of us has our own life journey…our destiny. This journey takes us along our own path of life. We each blaze our own individual trails, the course of which is determined by our each and every individual choice.

As babies and youth, many of our choices are dictated by our parents or guardians, who help us find our paths based upon their life experiences. But, as we gain in age and develop our own unique personalities and perspectives, we begin chiseling away our own life’s path.

As teens and young adults, we are full bore into our decision making and thus responsible for each and every decision made — not to mention the consequences of said decisions.

Generally speaking, I am a religious person. I believe in a Supreme Being whom I call Heavenly Father. I have believed in this God since a young age. I am also a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ, both as my elder brother and also as my Savior. That said, I am also a man of faith as I can only really have faith that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ truly live and guide me through the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

ChurchJuly2016I note the above only to preface how I look at my life’s journey. Much of it has been based on those core beliefs.

Another core belief of mine, which stems from my perception of the gospel, is the freedom of choice. God has sent us to this world to learn to make choices and to learn from those choices through the consequential results of said choices.

It is thus the freedom to choose that sets us on our life’s journey. Our choices, large and small, are the seeds of our destiny. We alone ultimately build the path.

Roads2As I think back on my life, I can pinpoint certain decisions that were extremely impactful and really shot me forward on the chosen path, whether I liked it or not.

FaithSeedIn the Book of Mormon, which I believe to be filled with many truths, there is a chapter in the Book of Alma (Chapter 32) that speaks of faith as being like a seed. From Alma 32:28 – this could be applicable with any faith in any church:

 “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”

ConsequencesA whole new meaning to Alma’s allegory of the seed of faith has sprung to my mind as I considered this. Each choice we make we do with faith of some kind. It may be blind faith or even thoughtless faith. But we KNOW that each choice will have a consequence and thus our faith provides hope for a positive outcome for that choice.

Alma notes that the small acorn can turn into a giant oak tree. I see that tree as another symbol of our journey. Along the way we actually plant many seeds…each one is some sort of faith and each turns into its own tree. But when the seed is planted and the choice is made, we really don’t know what the end result will be until we get there. Like the trees of the forest, each tree in our journey is different. But each tree’s trunk represents that choice and its end result ( or continuing result in some cases).

LexingtonMO2I made a choice in 1975 to be baptized into the LDS church. I was only 18. I had no idea whatsoever what direction that choice would result in. As a sixty year old, I can now look down from the top of the massive tree that the one little seed of faith blossomed into. It’s a gnarly old tree with a thick yet twisted trunk and thousands of branches. It is my own life story tree. All a result of choosing to be baptized.

GnarlyTreeLike many old giant trees, a look at the rings will tell many stories of its life. The droughts, the good times, the weathered times. And this tree has no comparison to others. Every tree is different.

After baptism, there were many other decisions/choices that built this path of life. A decision to serve a mission rather than accept a good paying job set a number of potential consequences in motion. One consequence of that one decision was that I really have never been wealthy (and that may be the result of numerous other decisions along the way as well). Yet, another unforeseen result was that my life has been filled with Japanese related jobs and experiences, a recurring theme in my life’s journey. One decision — serve a mission to Japan — has led to a myriad of results and another special tree of its own. And I have no idea at all where taking the job would have led me…and I can’t regret the choice. Indeed, regretting choices only brings sorrow, but can’t fix things. The choice made leads to the consequence. The finality of a choice is actually pretty scary…thus faith and hope must drive all choices wherever possible.

DavidMission5I did make my mission choice based on faith in God above and the belief that He inspired and advised me to make that choice. There was no pre-destiny. He may know the ultimate results of that choice based on my personality, but He can only foreordain us if we make the choice based on His guidance. Nevertheless, He also knows that there will soon be another choice down the road that He can advise and guide me on, but that I will, in the end, make the choice myself.

While serving my mission I had to make many minuscule choices. Some became habits. Some were long term life habits. Others were habits that necessitated change or revision based on circumstances, new information, new technology, etc.

img_8050Upon return, other choices — forks in the road of life’s journey — came about. Do I get a job? Do I go to school? Do I do both? Where to go to college? Do I look for a wife? Decisions decisions.

Quite often we make our choices based upon personal experience or by consulting others, especially our friends and family. What they do or advise can dictate what we choose. My friends owned a house in Provo, it was a place to live while I went to college. Easy decision.

Based on the experience of others, I made an educated choice that if I went to BYU I would find a wife, a help mete, an eternal companion.

Now remember, I got to this point by choosing baptism, choosing a mission, choosing to move in to a friend’s place in Provo.

DavidJuli9The funny thing about choices are the consequences. After my mission, I bought a cheap 1963 VW bug. It was cheap. It was transportation. It was also old and it broke down.

This is where things can get interesting! The consequence of a choice – buying an old car – led me to my wife. The car broke down. I had to take a bus to work. I missed the bus. She was there and had missed it as well. Fortuitous meeting? Result of buying an old car? (This story really gets complex and many more choices were made before we finally were married.) But, I aver, that the Lord knew we needed to find each other so He made it happen. But it was also on Julianne and me to make the choices once our respective life paths crossed. He facilitated the opportunity, but we chose. The meeting was an answer to a prayer of faith…little did I know that purchasing an old car would become the means to that answer!!

LoveIronically, due to choices, the initial meeting only led to a few visits, but no dates. I KNEW she was the one, but I didn’t pursue it. And then she was gone. Returned to Arizona and I knew only her first name.

DavidJuli4Then school started. Unbeknownst to me she had returned to BYU. Once again, a small, if not thoughtless choice had me choosing a place to walk in the student center. She happened to be in the same place and our paths crossed again. I knew the choice this time and made sure to make it. Name and phone number in hand, she was called that night. Two weeks later another choice was made which included a ring, a bended knee and a question. We both made a choice that day to share many of our life journey experiences.

But, once again, this may never had happened if not for the one choice to be baptized.

End of Part I

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

Arlene Shepherd ca. 1944

Arlene Shepherd ca. 1944

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

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

Arlene and Maury Bateman on their wedding day

Arlene and Maury Bateman on their wedding day

Arlene ca. 1950

Arlene ca. 1950

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

 

The Bateman family early on.

The Bateman family early on.

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

Arlene Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene Bateman on her 50th Anniversary

Arlene Bateman on her 50th Anniversary

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

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

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

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

Arlene and Maury Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene and Maury Bateman in the 1990s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arlene as a young child

Arlene as a young child

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

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

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

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

Always classy, always understanding ...Arlen Bateman

Always classy, always understanding …Arlene Bateman

Arlene in early 2000s

Arlene in early 2000s

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

Countdown 365: #315 Holly Kravetz – Daughter-in-law

(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.)

Holly Kravetz

Holly Kravetz

Today is my daughter-in-law Holly’s birthday.  I only have one and she’s a keeper for darned sure!

Holly married our oldest son Seth back in December 2009.  Since that time, Holly and Seth have had two sons (Rockwell and Samuel), lived in Ohio and Connecticut, lived at home with us and with her parents at different times and soon they will be moving to Houston (in January 2016) as Seth takes on a new job.

She has blessed and enriched the life of our son Seth and has brought happiness and creativity into the Kravetz family.

A young Holly with her mother

A young Holly with her mother

Holly was born into a good family.  My wife and I have known the Walkers for many years, even way before we actually knew Holly. Tom and Mary have lived in Georgetown for long time and Holly ended up going to and graduating from Scott County High School, the football arch-rival of Seth’s Lafayette High School (which, by the way, beat Scott County last weekend to go to state semi-finals, the first time in 30 years!!).

My old man memory defies me as I can’t recall exactly how Seth and Holly met, but I think it was though the church Adult Singles branch that they both attended.

Seth and Holly Wedding Day

Seth and Holly Wedding Day

Seth and Holly

Seth and Holly

When Seth and Holly were married on Dec. 19, 2009, they had a unique style, most likely due to Holly’s wonderful creativity.  With their classy wedding clothes they and their entourage all wore Chuck Taylor basketball shoes.  It was unique and fun.

As is often the case, getting used to an “in-law” child is always a challenge. There is a learning curve involved.  They grew up in different family cultures, bring different traditions, styles and outlooks into a family.  But, ultimately, they become part of the family and we learn to adapt, learn to appreciate and, ultimately, learn to love them and what they bring to the family.

Holly has brought creativity and color to our family, even to the point of inspiring new things out of my wife.

Holly's Creativity

Holly’s Creativity

Holly's Creativity Part 2

Holly’s Creativity Part 2

Holly's Creativity Part 3

Holly’s Creativity Part 3

Holly's Creativity Part 4

Holly’s Creativity Part 4

Holly with Rockwell and Samuel

Holly with Rockwell and Samuel

Holly has also been a great mother to her son Rockwell.  We have seen him grow and learn.  Rockwell is a pleasant grandson and is always a joy to be around.  Much of this credit certainly must go to his mother Holly.  She is truly fond of her children and has been a good teacher. I am impressed at how bright and well-rounded he already is at 5 years old.  I can’t wait to see how his younger brother Samuel becomes.  I know Holly will continue to be a good mother and teacher.

As a father-in-law that absolutely loves spending time with his grandkids, I feel so blessed to have a daughter-in-law that cares so much about her children and strives to teach them well and help them become “little gentlemen.”  This is perhaps the best blessing of having her join the family.

And, of course, she takes good care of my son Seth and has supported him in his job ups and downs.  That too is a cause for gratitude.

Holly with newborn son Samuel in 2015

Holly with newborn son Samuel in 2015

I am truly grateful that Holly has become a part of my life and the lives of my family members.  She is truly part of the family…a real blessing.

Holly

Holly Kravetz brings peace

Holly, Seth and Rockwell are True Blue Kentucky fans

Holly, Seth and Rockwell are True Blue Kentucky fans

Holly

Holly

Happy Birthday Holly!  Thanks for being a part of our lives!

Countdown 365: #332 – Julianne Kravetz – My Soul Mate

(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.)

JuliSamToday is my dear sweet wife Julianne’s birthday.  She is turning 49 again.  In my list of blessings, she probably sits near the very top.  Only the blessing of life and the blessing of the Atonement can top the blessing of my sweetheart.  My life has been so abundantly filled with joy and happiness because of her.

My life would not be the same if it were not for her being a part of it.  I count myself lucky, beyond words!

 

Julianne as a baby - one of her great Photofabrique projects

Julianne as a baby – one of her great Photofabrique projects

Rainbow - I took this a couple of years in ago in Arkansas. But you get the picture.

Rainbow – I took this a couple of years in ago in Arkansas. But you get the picture.

This morning, as we left the house, it was raining and kind of blasé outside.  We have had such nice weather lately that it was disappointing to have it raining.  I lamented that I had not arranged for better weather.  But, as we drove down Alumni Drive in Lexington, the skies cleared momentarily as the sun came up at around 7:20 and lo and behold, there was a full rainbow ahead of us.  I couldn’t capture a photo of it as we were driving and by the time we dropped her off at UK, it was cloudy and gloomy again.  But, prayers were answered as she did get a rainbow on the way in.  (I have added an old photo of a rainbow I took in Arkansas…best I could do.)

Colorful julianne

Colorful julianne

Julianne is a colorful and talented individual. There are many shades to her.

She is musical…a great violinist (though she will tell you otherwise); a great coordinator of music – she has arranged compositions at home for her daughters and/or family to sing.

She is artistic.  She developed her own fabric art technique called “Photofabrique” and has taught hundreds of people in dozens of classes how to use her patterns to make fabric portraits (like the one posted up above).

Her creativity and musicality are evidenced in this great video of an instrument she created from a carrot!

FunLovingJulianne is also creative.  A great mind.  She writes papers with whimsy and colorful description.  She is a great learner and picks up on things fast.  I have watched her dig into a new software program intent on learning and before long…VOILA!….she has it down pat.

Julianne is a bundle of joy!

At Antique Archaeology in Iowa (home of American Pickers)

At Antique Archaeology in Iowa (home of American Pickers)

Mother of five awesome children

Mother of five awesome children

One of the best things about Julianne is that she has been an amazing mother (and continues to be!!) Despite a number of life challenges, living in Japan for years, traveling cross-country,  living with the family for weeks on end without me while I was away for work, she has overcome all of the obstacles and has raised 5 amazing children.  Most of the credit can go to her!!  Ask the kids and I am sure they will concur whole-heartedly! (If they don’t they will have to deal with their Dad later!)

Kiss those sweet cheeks. I have dozens of "Kiss Sweet Cheeks" pics by the way

Kiss those sweet cheeks. I have dozens of “Kiss Sweet Cheeks” pics by the way

Julianne is also an awesome grandmother.  One of her favorite things to do is to “Kiss those sweet cheeks” and she does it abundantly.

She loves her TEN Grandchildren. Yes, she has TEN of these little darlings and she doesn’t look old enough to have any grandchildren.

I have sworn that as each year goes by, she gets a year younger and I gain two. I’ll bet its the grandchildren that keep her young.  I know that its not me!

Julianne can be goofy

Julianne can be goofy

She can be a goofball at times. She is fun loving and joyful.

Whether it be using a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper as a “tooth protector” (covering all her teeth with the brown wrapper) or using empty pistachio shells as teeth, you can expect something unexpected and funny to come from her.

She would probably seriously injure me if I used some of the goofiest photos I have, but here are a couple of fun ones that I “think” I can get away with….

She took Redneck teeth with her on a Cruise to Alaska and actually wore them in a restaurant in Seattle. Here she is posing with our waiter Spike

She took Redneck teeth with her on a Cruise to Alaska and actually wore them in a restaurant in Seattle. Here she is posing with our waiter Spike

This is her Facebook Profile Photo

This is her Facebook Profile Photo

I don’t dare put her “Peel Mask” photos up…..

Number1I have enjoyed my wonderful times with this gem of a person.  She is most certainly my number 1 blessing.

She has stuck with me through thick and thin…more thick lately.

She has been there for me as a strength and support in the more challenging times of life.

She has loved me despite my quirks, foibles, weaknesses, failings and multiplicities of verbal faux pas foot-in-mouth thoughtless comments over the years.

LoveShe has had patience with me and still loves me despite all of these things.

After 36+ years of marriage and time with her, I am more in love today than I ever have been.

I adore her and almost idolize her.  Does she have weaknesses and missteps?  Not that I have seen….

Julianne is the love of my life.  I admit that “I Married Up” with all the gusto I can muster.

I Married Up....

I Married Up….

The Sweetest Kind of Hershey Kiss!

The Sweetest Kind of Hershey Kiss!

Enjoying life from the '70s on with her.

Enjoying life from the ’70s on with Julianne

Loving life

Loving life

Still loving life together in 2015

Still loving life together in 2015

Julianne is and always will be one of the greatest blessings in my life.  Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Countdown 365: #363 – Amo Lo Mia Famiglia

(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.)

Starting my family in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ

Starting my family in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ

Other than being born, perhaps the greatest blessing in my life is my family…mia famiglia. I have written numerous blog posts about family in one way or another, but I must at least touch on the family here because it is certainly something I am indeed grateful for. (see some of the posts – 1  2  3  4)

The word “family” is very unique actually.  It can mean so many things…a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household; all the descendants of a common ancestor; a group of people who are related to each other.  Many societies may have different meanings.  And, in the United States, the definition has certainly changed over the years as the social norms have changed.

My family in Japan, around 1989

My family in Japan, around 1989

As I noted in yesterday’s post, I was born into an Italian family in Cleveland, but my family life through my youth and teen years was a long way from normal. Growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were many TV shows that depicted families as stable and the homes as a place of safety and solace.

But for me, I had instability and dysfunction.  By the time I was six, I had been through two divorces, two remarriages, gained a step-brother, had a half-brother and by the time it was all said and done, I was in a new family altogether…without either of my biological parents.  And I had no control or say on the situation.

Family in 2008

Family in 2008

As I spoke to my natural mother on my birthday a couple of days ago, she had lamented that she had to leave her husband back in the 1950s and what it had done for all of us.  She wished that she could have had that back.  But, as an afterthought, she noted, “but if that had happened think of all of the posterity that wouldn’t exist.”  Indeed, the direction my life took from the day I left Cleveland in August 1957, most certainly has me where I am today.

Over the years, I have most certainly felt that my Father in Heaven built a pathway for me to trod upon and journey to where I am today.  I had forks in the road and choices to make.  Some were difficult, some were unfortunate and many were wonderful.  I didn’t realize the joy of “family” until I was married and on my own.

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister - Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister – Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978

Credit must be given to Joe Kravetz and Marge for raising me and the other 4 children in the family.  It was not easy and we were certainly dysfunctional.  I wanted to be in that “perfect family” situation…but it never happened.  I even ran away from home twice as a teenager in hopes for a better life.  But, looking back, I can see that they tried hard under the circumstances thrown their way.

As for me, on my pending approach to 60, I look at family much differently.  Instead of begrudging the situations of my early years, I actually am grateful.  For, unlike others, I have many “families” in my life and they all bring me joy and happiness.

Ultimately, my dearest and most precious are my wife of 36 years, my five children and my ten grandchildren.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a wonderfully joyful arrangement. Mind you, things have not been perfect, but my children grew up in a stable family without divorce and with love in the home. And many of my children are now fostering the same.

The extended David Kravetz family in 2012. Many grandchildren and sons and daughter in law

The extended David Kravetz family in 2012. Many grandchildren and sons and daughter in law

But, through my life with Joe Kravetz and Marge Tudor I gained other families.  I am truly a part of the bigger Kravetz family and have great Uncles and Aunts and Cousins who have accepted me as their own…adopted me in if you will…and I have forged amazing relationships with many of them.  I also have had good aunts and uncles and cousins on the Tudor/Hanks side of the family.

Kravetz family reunion in Houston in 2014...with Uncles and Cousins....

Kravetz family reunion in Houston in 2014…with Uncles and Cousins….

Favorite photo with 3 of my Laurienzo sisters...Debbie, Nicole and Tina

Favorite photo with 3 of my Laurienzo sisters…Debbie, Nicole and Tina

In recent years I have had the blessing of developing meaningful relationships with my Laurienzo sisters and brother, as well as other relatives.  Though life has never provided me the opportunity to be around them much, we have stayed in contact and I truly feel a part of the family that I was so forcefully extracted from so many years ago.  And I am grateful to know of my wonderful heritage.

Extended Laurienzo family in Cleveland at the home I grew up in...taken in 2006

Extended Laurienzo family in Cleveland at the home I grew up in…taken in 2006

And with marriage comes new family…new parents, in-laws, and new brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.  When I married Julianne I inherited this new family and grew to love them dearly.

The Bateman family (minue Paul) - including Laura, Arlene, Julianne (my wife), Kathy, Maren and Maury. I love these guys!

The Bateman family (minue Paul) – including Laura, Arlene, Julianne (my wife), Kathy, Maren and Maury. I love these guys!

My dear mother in law Arlene Bateman on her 50th anniversary

My dear mother in law Arlene Bateman on her 50th anniversary

I never really had parents that were there for me. I don’t begrudge that, but I sincerely never felt that love and care that I so craved.  But, through marriage I did gain that and after a few years the Batemans — Maury and Arlene — were like parents to me.  I felt like I belonged.  And when they passed away I was stricken with a broken heart as if they were my own parents…and, in reality, I think they were in a sense.  And I am so grateful for them.

To me, family means many things.  I am grateful for the massive and extended families I have now.  They all mean the world to me.  I am not sure what the good Lord had in mind for me as he set me on this long arduous journey through dysfunctional and broken families, but, looking back, I am grateful to have so many loved ones… three sets of parents, two sets of brothers and sisters, an amazing bunch of cousins and nieces and nephews.

Kravetz Family in 2009

Kravetz Family in 2009

I have been blessed.  I love my families.  Amo lo mia famiglia.

The Mothers in My Life – Mother’s Day 2015

mothersdayOn Mother’s Day I have a full heart to thank the Mothers in my life.  My life has had some interesting twists and turns, but there have been mothers all along the way.  Our first human contact is always with our mother. It is also one point of our life for which we had no control or say.  We were brought into this world by a mother…and for this, for our lives, we should have gratitude to a mother who suffered the pains to bring us forth into whatever the future holds for us.  So, today, Mother’s Day 2015, I celebrate those Mothers in my life…my mothers, my wife, who is the wonderful mother of my children and then, the mothers of my grandchildren.

Valentine-heartsMY MOTHERS

Mother Orene and me, as Carmen David Laurienzo in 1957

Mother Orene and me, as Carmen David Laurienzo in 1957

The first mother of note is my natural mother, born Orene Goldberg, she brought me into the world on October 4, 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was named Carmen David Laurienzo, named after my paternal grandfather, who was from Matrice, Italy.

Even at the time, Orene, my natural mother, suffered from emotional issues.  She had been sent to Cleveland from Albuquerque, to a Jewish Girls’ school and there met my natural father Joe Laurienzo and thus was the beginning of my life.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Salt Lake City.  She came to see me off on my mission.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Salt Lake City. She came to see me off on my mission.

In August 1957 Orene left Joe and returned to her home in Albuquerque. Not too much later she met Joe Kravetz and they were married and he adopted me and I was renamed David Charles Kravetz. They had a second son, Aaron, in 1960, but shortly thereafter, Orene left again. I did not see her until much later on in my life. By then she had changed her name to Jennierose Lavender, which is her name today.  She is in her 80s and in a nursing home in California.  I have not spoken to her in a few years.   But, I am always grateful that she brought me into this world.  She is indeed my mother.

Marjorie Kravetz in 1978

Marjorie Kravetz in 1978

After a couple of “motherless years,” Joe Kravetz met and married Marjorie Tudor, who had been married once before and had a son, 16 days younger than me, named Danny. Her son was mentally retarded, but she loved him. Marge, as she was called, was a religious woman.  Like Orene, she had grown up in a somewhat dysfunctional family. But she tried to get her life together and was active in the Jehovah’s Witness faith for many years and, as such, brought up her children in that faith.  Joe was Jewish, but was not active in the faith.  His job kept him away from home often and so she would take us to the Kingdom Hall.

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

The Kravetz family in 1978.  The only "family portrait" we ever had

The Kravetz family in 1978. The only “family portrait” we ever had

Marge had many struggles.  She suffered a number of health issues, including diabetes and weight problems.  After a few years she and Joe had two other children, Gary and Sherry.  So, our mixed family struggled on through a number of moves (due to Joe’s job with Skaggs Drug).  We left Albuquerque and over a period of 10 years we lived in Dallas, Denver, Great Falls, Bozeman and Salt Lake City.  During this time our family struggled with dysfunction as well.  Marge did all she could to hold us together, but it was tough-going for all.  But, she should be honored for doing the best that she could under the circumstances. Not until after he passing in 1982 did I realize that she loved her children.  Dysfunction in a family can blind one from understanding this.  She later divorced Joe and lived alone in her last years. The doctor said she died of heart failure.  I say she died of a broken heart.  I am sure she is happily engaged in a much better situation on the other side. She was indeed my mother in a nurturing way that I never understood until later in life.

Arlene Shepherd Bateman in 1950.  The mother of my wife Julianne.

Arlene Shepherd Bateman in 1950. The mother of my wife Julianne.

My third mother, and she truly was a mother to me in so many ways, was my mother-in-law Arlene Shepherd Bateman. Unfortunately, my relationship with her started off on slippery slopes and was rocky the first few years of my marriage. This was due to my immaturity and the many foibles and weaknesses that I had, some due to the instability of my first 21 years of life.

Arlene was the mother of six children, and my wife Julianne was their fifth.  Arlene was a good mother and raised her children in the Mormon faith as best as she knew how. Like any family, they had their struggles and challenges, but ultimately, in my opinion, I think she did an amazing job.

Arlene Bateman in 1997...this is how I best remember her.

Arlene Bateman in 1997…this is how I best remember her.

As the years passed, my relationship grew and I honored her as a mother that I never had. She came to love me and I felt the love from her that I didn’t ever feel from my first two mothers. Yes, even as an adult, I was chided often by mother Arlene.

For many years we were separated by distance as my family lived in Japan or across the country from the Batemans.  But we always felt her love and care.

Perhaps my fondest memory (and I am in tears as I write this), was standing next to her with her hand in mine as she lay on her death bed in Mesa, Arizona. Knowing her time was near, I expressed to her my gratitude for all she had done for me, I expressed my love to her as well.  And she said “I love you too David.” I will never forget that experience.  She was truly my mother in so many ways.  I am grateful she was in my life.

THE MOTHER OF MY CHILDREN – MY DEAR WIFE

A smiling Julianne - the love of my life

A smiling Julianne – the love of my life

I have written often about my sweetheart Julianne, and many times about how good of a mother she was (and continues to be) for our five children.

I marvel at Julianne’s nurturing ways, at her capacity to love, at her patience and her fun-loving ways. She is most definitely the greatest blessing in my life and, I would argue, the greatest blessing in the lives of our children.

Our young family in Japan in 1988

Our young family in Japan in 1988

Julianne with her two "young men" Seth and Solomon

Julianne with her two “young men” Seth and Solomon

As a mother, she struggled through the first years while I was in school and working, practically raising three young children single-handedly. She has also traveled the world with our family.  Her first venture across the ocean was as a mother of four, with a young baby, flying to Japan without her husband.  She was stranded overnight in Korea with the four children, alone and before the days of cell phones. She then spent four years in Japan dealing with tragedy (Seth was burned badly and she spent a week in a hospital with him not knowing Japanese), learning a new culture, dealing with the unique style of Japanese elementary schools and more.

Julianne and David -- I am grateful for my sweetheart

Julianne and David — I am grateful for my sweetheart

Upon return to the States, she then had to deal with life’s challenges. I had no work for a few months and later, I traveled to Kentucky in 1992 for employment on a short term contract and thus left her alone with five children for 8 months. And she did an amazing job of taking care of them…alone.

As the years passed she raised five awesome children.  She was the rock and foundation of the home. In many ways she was like a mother to me as well. Three children served LDS Missions, two graduated from college, two received Eagle Scout awards, four have been married and have children of their own.

I Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream -- lyrics by Antsy McClain

I Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream — lyrics by Antsy McClain

For nearly 36 years, I have been “Married Up” to a woman I couldn’t have ever imagined even dreaming about.  She is a fabulous mother and an amazing wife.

I watch her now as a grandmother of nine (soon to be ten).  She is just as nurturing and loving to those dear grandkids as she was to her own children.

I see the love she has for all of us.  Julianne is a blessing to many many people.  And, most of all, she is a wonderful mother.

THE MOTHERS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN

Hanging with two of my daughters who are mothers in their own right! Marissa (L) and Chelsea (R)

Hanging with two of my daughters who are mothers in their own right! Marissa (L) and Chelsea (R)

I cannot justifiably celebrate Mother’s Day without also celebrating the mothers of my grandchildren…my three daughters and a great daughter-in-law.  These woman (and yes, they are woman of courage and strength) are indeed a blessing to me and to their families.

These four ladies are raising some amazing kids.  Each has dealt with their own set of challenges, and each has done a great job handling them.  So, I want to honor each one with a brief note about them….for they too are mothers in my life.

David and Amaree

David and Amaree

My oldest daughter Amaree is also the mother to four of my grandchildren.  Amaree was the first of all of our children and it has been a joy to watch her grow up, get married and now raise her children.

After serving an LDS mission in Japan and then graduating Summa Cum Laude in Music at the University of Kentucky, Amaree married a fine young man, Aaron Matthews.For many years Amaree and Aaron lived in Montana.  Like any young couple, they went through some job changes, and some challenges.  Perhaps the greatest challenge was their youngest son Benson, who was born with a heart defect.  Heartbreak and challenge and a couple of operations later, we now look at little Bensie as a joy to all of us.

Amaree and her four children Kade, Charles, Olivia and Benson in 2014

Amaree and her four children Kade, Charles, Olivia and Benson in 2014

A few months ago they made a choice to take a job transfer to the Seattle area so they could be closer to good medical services for Benson.  They are thriving in this new area and are loving it there.

We love seeing this little family grow.  Each of the children have grown curious with the world around them.  Amaree is always there for them and is a fabulously wonderful mother.

Amaree is certainly a mother in my life that I am grateful for.

Marissa and her oldest child Joselyn.

Marissa and her oldest child Joselyn.

My second daughter, Marissa, is also an amazing mother. She has always been artistically talented.  Like her older sister, Missy, as we call her, served a Mormon mission to Thailand. After her return, she had a small stint at BYU, but, her motherly instincts kicked in early and she chose married life over school.  She married Adam Noe just one week after her sister Amaree was married.

Since her marriage, Missy has brought forth three sweet children.  I feel so blessed to be close to her and to these adorable children.

Her artistic nature has led her to photography and she has done a splendid job of recording almost each and every move of her children.  She loves spending time with them, teaching them and taking them on trips.

Marissa with her family - husband Adam and Joselyn, Landen and Lyla.

Marissa with her family – husband Adam and Joselyn, Landen and Lyla.

I have accompanied her on three trips with the kids, who know how to travel and love the adventure.

Not without her own struggles and challenges, Marissa has sought for ways to overcome them. She has a great husband and they live a good life here in Kentucky.

Marissa and her mother are best friends. They talk daily and enjoy their time together. It is a joy to see them and a joy to watch Missy raise her little family.  I am blessed to have Marissa as another mother in my life.

Chelsea Crabtree

Chelsea Crabtree

My third daughter Chelsea is also a mother.  She was the first of my children to get married, and at an early age.  Her daughter Autumn is the oldest of my grandchildren, at age 9.

Chelsea has been a fee-spirited girl. She struggled with English upon return to the States in 1991, having spent her formative years in Japanese schools and with Japanese friends and television.

She too was artistic and musical, a violinist in high school. She was not fond of school and even chose to not attend her high school graduation.  But, she has also worked since she was 16. In fact, she has been at Wendy’s for many years and has thrived as a manager.

Chelsea and Autumn

Chelsea and Autumn

Chelsea has also been a responsible mother. She has ruthlessly protected her child (I love how she always calls Autumn “my child”).  Though she went through a painful divorce and has had to deal with life as a single mother, she has found ways to make it happen. Her Autumn loves her to death.

As a mother, Chelsea makes every effort to shuffle her schedule and spend every free moment she can with her daughter. She has given Autumn endless opportunities to learn about the world around her, has taken on her numerous hiking trips and other adventures.  I am very proud to include Chelsea as one of the mothers of my life.

Holly Walker Kravetz

Holly Walker Kravetz

And finally, there is Holly Walker Kravetz, my only daughter-in-law. She is the wife of my son Seth and the mother of my grandson Rockwell (RockE) and soon to be the mother of grandchild number 10.

I actually knew Holly’s parents before I ever really knew Holly. In many ways, Holly is like my oldest daughter Amaree…a bit strong willed (but not in a bad way).  i am sure that she keeps my son Seth in line…and she should.

As a parent, I have always been uncomfortable with my in-law children in the beginning. They are always new to our lives and learning about them as they are instilled into our lives has been a challenge.  But as the years pass, I take great joy in watching them grow and I learn to love them as my own. Holly is now blossoming as a mother and wife. Like her “sisters” (my daughters), she has a very artistic side to her and is doing well with her art work, having even made a business of it.

Holly and Rockwell

Holly and Rockwell

But what I see most is her great efforts as mother.  Holly and Seth have lived apart from us for most of their marriage.  They have lived in Connecticut for a couple of years, so we rarely see them.  But, Facebook and Skype bring us closer together and we can see the love and nurturing.

Rockwell is a happy boy and appears to be very well behaved and very smart.  Much if this can be attributed to the great mothering he is getting from Holly.

We look forward to the birth of her second child, whom they know is a boy and have already selected Samuel as a name.  I am sure that Holly will be an excellent mother to him as well.

I am honored to be able to include Holly as one of the mothers in my life.

Three generations of mothers - Julianne, Arlene and Amaree

Three generations of mothers – Julianne, Arlene and Amaree

The world would be a terrible place without mothers. I am grateful for those that nurture their young and raise them to be good citizens, responsible adults and, ultimately, good mothers and fathers themselves.  I count myself blessed to have so many mothers in my life.

Life is good, especially when there are mothers involved.

Feeling Lucky on Friday the 13th – Part I

There are THREE Friday the 13ths this year that we can be lucky on…the first one is today, the next one is in March and the last one is in November.  Here are 13 things I count myself Lucky for on this February 13, 2015:

Number 1 – Wonderful Wife

My Wonderful Wife of over 35 years

My Wonderful Wife of over 35 years

I most certainly Married Up!

I most certainly Married Up!

Number 2 – Great Family/Children

My Wonderful Family - 1993

My Wonderful Family – 1993

My Wonderful Family - 2012

My Wonderful Family – 2012

Number 3 – Grandkids (of course!)

Grandchildren!!

Grandchildren!!

Number 4 – My Siblings

My Siblings - ca 1971

My Siblings – ca 1972

Number 5 – My Cleveland Family

My family in Cleveland

My family in Cleveland – ca 2001

Number 6 – My Wonderful Cousins

My wonderful cousins...here I am with my cousin Lewis from Texas

My wonderful cousins…here I am with my cousin Lewis from Texas

Number 7 – My Friends in the Philippines

My Filipino friends - ca 2006

My Filipino friends – ca 2006

Number 8 – I am on the Right Side of the Dirt

Number 9 – My Friend Antsy McClain

With Antsy ca. 1998

With Antsy ca. 1998

Singing with Antsy around 2008

Singing with Antsy around 2008

Number 10 – I’ve Been Everywhere

I've Been Everywhere

I’ve Been Everywhere

Number 11 – Don’t Mind Being Weird — Its Awesome!

Being Weird is Awesome

Being Weird is Awesome

Number 12 – Bountiful Baskets – Veggies are Good!

Bountiful Baskets!

Bountiful Baskets!

Number 13

Living in a Wonderful World!

Living in a Wonderful World!

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

 

2014 – Year in Review: Livin’ the Dream

IMG_4063The year 2014 was a marvelous year for me.  As with all years of life, there are always ups and downs, and this year was no exception.  But, I always strive to take a positive vent on things (as much as possible) and there was much positive that happened this year.  Following is my retrospective view on 2014…the Good, the Bad and the Wonderful (no Ugly here…sorry!).  I really was living the dream!

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

Celebrated my 35th Wedding Anniversary

35 Years of "Merried" Life

35 Years of “Merried” Life

July 15, 2014 was a momentous day in my life as I celebrated the 35th anniversary of wedded bliss with my sweet eternal companion Julianne. Even now I am awestruck at how she has put up with me all of these years.  My quirkiness, my playfulness and yes, my more often than occasional thoughtless foot-in-mouth disease.

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

Julianne has been a wonderful example to me and, in the words of my favorite musician Antsy McClain, I truly “Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream”

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

First grandchild baptism

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

In late May we got to go to Montana to attend the first baptism of any of my grandchildren. This was a wonderful event as Kade Matthews was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am proud of this little guy with a big heart and wonderful spirit.  There will be more baptisms coming in the future, but the first is always wonderful

Seeing ALL of the children and grandchildren

Our family has spread out across the United States (literally coast to coast!), thus making it difficult to see them all at one time.  Not since Christmas 2012 have we all been together.  However, as of Christmas 2014, we were able to spend time with all of the children and grandchildren at one point or another.

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

  • Amaree – Our oldest was living in Shelby, Montana the last time we got to visit her and her family (including husband Aaron and four children – Kade (8), Charlie (7), Olivia (5) and Benson (3))  We were blessed to visit them in May for Kade’s baptism and also spent some time traveling in Montana with them.  It was a wonderful time. In October, they moved further west to Port Orchard, Washington in a job transfer for Aaron. They are loving their new place and I am hoping to be able to go out there and visit in 2015 for Charlie’s baptism.
  • Grampz with Amaree's children.  Fun to see Livvy, Charlie, Kade and Benson

    Grampz with Amaree’s children. Fun to see Livvy, Kade, Charlie and Benson

  • Marissa – Our second daughter Marissa still lives nearby in Lexington.  It is always fun to see her sweet family (including husband Adam and three children – Joselyn (7), Landen (6) and Lyla (3)). It has been a blessing to have them nearby and have the opportunity to hang with those sweet grandkids! Marissa’s wonderful talent as a photographer and videographer always continues to impress.
  • Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Fun with Lyla

    Fun with Lyla

  • Chelsea – Our third daughter Chelsea also lives in Lexington and we get to see her and our oldest grandchild Autumn (9) quite often. Chelsea recently became engaged to Jorge Mendez and is excited about the opportunity to go to Mexico and visit his family in 2015. She continues to do well on her job as a manager at a local Wendy’s restaurant.
  • Seth – Our oldest son Seth lives in Vernon, Connecticut.  He and his wife Holly and son Rockwell (4) have been busy in life, Seth with his engineering job at GE and Holly with her business “Cutting It Cute.”  We really had lost hope of seeing them in 2014, but, they surprised us in late December with a Christmas visit and it was amazing to see us.  They shared some other exciting news (coming soon).  With their visit we finally got to see ALL of our children and grandchildren this year.
  • Three Generations of Kravetz...David, Rockwell and Seth

    Three Generations of Kravetz…David, Rockwell and Seth

  • Solomon – Our youngest son Solomon moved out to Colorado to join some friends in a joint business venture.  Though times have been challenging, the business seems to be picking up steam.  Sol visited us earlier in the year for a couple of days.  It was good to see him and hear of his progress.  He has remained upbeat and seems to be finally finding his pathway in life.  We are proud of him.
  • Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

    Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

Kravetz Family Reunion

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Another great highlight this year was a Kravetz family reunion, held in Galveston, Texas in late June 2014. Though not all were able to attend, I was happy to meet with my sister Sherry and her family, my step-dad Joe, my Uncle Lou and his wife Toni, and many of my cousins.  It was a wonderful four days on the beautiful island of Galveston.  On the way back home I spent an evening at my Uncle Lou’s house in Houston and then a day with my cousin Lewis in Austin, finally finishing up in Keller, Texas with my sister Sherry and her family and my dad, before heading home.

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

With my cute niece Savannah Blessing (Sherry's daughter)

With my cute niece Savannah Blessing (Sherry’s daughter)

Extensive Travel Opportunities

Welcome to Louisiana

Welcome to Louisiana in 2014

As noted above, in 2014 I was able to travel to Montana and also to southern Texas. As is typically the case, I drove and made a vacation/blogging trip out of these.  During the year I visited 18 states and drove close to 10,000 miles in road trip travel (not counting local Kentucky travel).  Detailed blog posts on my travels can be seen on my Less Beaten Paths blog (see actual post HERE). But, I will note below some of my “Bucket List” locations that I was able to check off.

Visiting Oklahoma

Visiting Oklahoma in 2014

  • Paul Bunyan Statue in Bemidji, MN – I have wanted to visit here since I was 8 or 9 and first saw it in a LIFE travel book back in the 1960s. Finally made it in May 2014! (see blog post)
  • Beartooth Highwayon the border of Wyoming and Montana – Supposedly one of the most spectacular mountain drives in America, it has been on my list for many years.  I made it (just barely) on Memorial Day weekend in late May 2014.  I got there a couple days after it was opened for the season and there was still piles of snow. It will leave me with everlasting memories of the beauty of this earth. (see blog post)
  • Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska – One of the “Car Sculpture” places I had hoped to visit, I was able to get here on my way from Montana in late May. It was a fabulous visit! (see blog post)
  • Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

    Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

  • Traversing US Highway 2 across northern US – Though this is still a Bucket List item (since I have east coast to Michigan and then western Montana to Washington coast remaining), I was able to knock off a big chunk of the 2,571 mile highway as I drove from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Browning, Montana (about 1,171 miles) (see blog post)
  • Didn't matter which way.  Had a great time. (This is in Lake Jackson, TX by the way)

    Didn’t matter which way. Had a great time. (This is in Lake Jackson, TX by the way)

  • Travel the “Blues Highway” in Mississippi – Another of my “Bucket List” trips, I had hoped to someday travel US Highway 61 north to south in Mississippi.  I was able to do this (see blog post)
On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

Meeting New Friends and Old Friends

This past year provided me with the opportunity to visit a couple of old friends from the past and also opportunities to meet a few “new” friends from Facebook and otherwise. Also wonderful and fun to continue old relationships and to also create and foster new ones!  Here are a few:

Visiting with musician friend Antsy McClain (and gawking at his grandchild pix) just before a show in Ohio

Visiting with musician friend Antsy McClain (and gawking at his grandchild pix) just before a show in Ohio

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

Hanging out with Texas travel blogger, author and photographer Tui Snider in Azle, TX

Hanging out with Texas travel blogger, author and photographer Tui Snider in Azle, TX

Got to visit with old friend Brian Gavron in Austin, TX

Got to visit with old friend Brian Gavron in Austin, TX

Having BBQ with my old friend and fellow Troubs' fan Michael Fisher in Georgetown, TX

Having BBQ with my old friend and fellow Troubs’ fan Michael Fisher in Georgetown, TX

Got to meet Troy Landry from Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA

Got to meet Troy Landry from Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Waving to the world with new friend, Texas author and ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie Tucker in Denton, TX

Waving to the world with new friend, Texas author and ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie Tucker in Denton, TX

Building My Own Business

As reentering the work force has gotten more difficult for me due to my age and extensive experience, I really dug in hard this year to build my own business, Sumoflam Productions, and really strived to make it on my own (coupled with Julianne’s work at University of Kentucky). After learning WordPress through my blogging, I have been able to expand my expertise  and indeed was able to build the business throughout the year with new clients and partnerships. I worked hard to learn more skills and have successfully built a number of sites this year in the WordPress platform. Following are a few of the sites I have done and manage now:

There are a number more and all can be seen listed at My Sumoflam Productions Site

Also during the year I was contracted for website work and broadcast monitoring for Blue Million with monitoring internet broadcasts of the PRCA Rodeo and other broadcasts on the Wrangler Network.

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

And America’s largest marketing producer of high school rivalry football games, The Great American Rivalry Series contracted me to manage their social media, arrange and monitor broadcasts and also manage and update their website during the 2014 high school football season. We did 100 games this year and that made for a busy few months at the end of the year. It was a wonderfully busy time.

Sumoflam in the News

In 2014 I was asked to write a couple of articles for local press.  These were both fun adventures.  The first one was about the playground at Jacobson Park. (See Entire Article here).  I wrote the article and also provided the photos.

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014.  My article about Jacobson Park

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014. My article about Jacobson Park

In November I was asked to write an article about the murals and wall art in Lexington for Ace Weekly magazine. This article was posted online in December and may appear in their end of the year issue.  They also included a complete photo gallery of my photos of Lexington’s amazing street art.

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Also, in December, I was involved with Lexington Nativity Festival, which was sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I managed the website and the media relations for the event. The Lexington Herald-Leader photographer Pablo Alcala out to do some shots and I was included in this and the newspaper gallery in late December.

NativityFest

Nativity Festival Gallery featured in Lexington Herald-Leader. Photos were by Pablo Alcala

A Few More Odds and Ends

I got to visit with my cousin Lewis Goldstein a couple of times in 2014.  Once was a sad affair at the loss of my uncle Jay Goldstein, who passed away in Louisville.  I also got to spend some time with Lewis at his home in Austin after the family reunion in Galveston.  Always good to visit with one of my favorite cousins!

Got to visit with my cousin Lewis a couple of times in 2014

Got to visit with my cousin Lewis a couple of times in 2014

In 2014 I really kicked my blogging and photography into full gear.  I had 38 posts on my Less Beaten Paths blog (and over 50,000 page views during the year).  I also posted 20 posts on this blog and have had nearly 5000 page views this year. Between my travel photos and local photos, I had nearly 500 selfies (HA HA….I love these iPhones!).  I also took well over 5000 photos of travels, family, sunrises and sunsets, birds, squirrels, bison, antelope, murals, wall art, sculptures and more. I had nearly 3700 views of my photos on my SmugMug Photo site. I will be doing a post about my favorite photos of 2014 in early January 2015.

My SmugMug Photo site

My SmugMug Photo site

Overall, this was an amazing year.  I am grateful for all of the blessings, all of the adventures and all of the family and friends.

Life is Good

Life is Good