46 to 40: La Cucaracha

Julianne grew up in Mesa, Arizona.  Turns out that her house was notorious for being a haven for “sewer roaches.” This particular breed of cockroach is actually an Oriental cockroach and is the most water-dependent of the roaches.  In Arizona they like to hang out in the more moist areas of the desert, breeding in the sewers.  Thus the name “sewer roach.”

I first experienced cockroaches when visiting Mesa for the first time when Julianne saw one and asked me to kill it.  Easy enough.  But there are lots of them and I got tired of killing them.  At an early stage in our marriage she made me promise to kill all of the bugs.  I vowed to do so and have pretty well kept that promise.

Cockroaches anyone?

Well, one day, while I was a student at ASU and we were living in Julianne’s parent’s house (they were in South Africa on an LDS Mission), Julianne was in the back taking a shower.  Suddenly, I heard her screaming and she was soon running out of the shower wet and naked screaming, “A sewer roach just crawled up my leg!! Get it off!.”  It was a horrifying moment for her.  We got the roach taken care of and moved on.  But, this story has become family lore and our children, having taken the prankster role as they learned from their mother, decided to pull a huge prank a few years ago.

Hiding cockroaches

A plastic cockroach that Julianne stuck on a thermostat at Amaree’s house during a Christmas visit a few years ago.  This was apparently the real culprit that started the cockroachery.

UPDATE: After speaking with Amaree, apparently, Julianne was the one that started this by putting plastic cockroaches in Aaron’s bed when Aaron (her fiance at the time) was visiting us in Kentucky.  So, Amaree and Aaron took the same and stuck a cockroach in the asparagus and Julianne apparently screamed when she saw it.  The following is Amaree’s revenge:

Julianne never knows where she will find a cockroach hidden

The real culprits, as we learned later, were Amaree and her family.  They had come for a visit from Montana, where they lived at the time, and they brought back an “infestation” with them. Apparently, one of the days, when Julianne was out of the house, they pulled out a bag with dozens of realistic-looking plastic cockroaches, that actually resemble Arizona’s sewer roaches.  They commenced to secreting them away in diverse places around the house for Julianne to discover both while they were still visiting and then, for months to come.  The “gift that kept on giving” if you will….  Supposedly, there are over 50 of them still hidden around the house…

 

She runs across the little critters in all sorts of places

In her shoes

In her socks

In her bath salts (notice, this one was in the “Take It Easy” bath salts – how rejuvenating!)

In the bottoms of drinking bottles

She finds handfuls

And handfuls…

And even has collected a plateful (Yum!)

So, in 2017, Julianne decided to fight back, bug to bug, by sending cockroach pillows to each of the kids and grandkids.  This is what we got back via Facebook:

Amaree now has a pet

Aaron, a sleeping partner

The Noe kids have a Noe Cockroach now

Jorge loves to eat with his…

And so does Rockwell

A whole different meaning to cuddlebug!!

One Christmas we got the perfect book to read to the grandkids:

Yes, a book about a cockroach

And the cockroach fun didn’t stop there.  Amaree, in all of her creative cockroachery, found the perfect gift for Julianne’s birthday in 2018.  Yes, a cockroach pillow.  (I wanted to upload the video from my phone, but it is apparently too big.)

Julianne loves her Cockroach Pillow. Sits proudly on the couch (until guests come by)  Blurry because I had to pull it from the video I couldn’t upload

And it like the elusive cockroaches that don’t go away, for Christmas, she got a board game…with, you guessed it, cockroaches.

I guess she will always have bugs in the kitchen…

There are even times that the cockroachery goes to new levels.  Julianne got a late mother’s day gift from her daughter Amaree just last week.  Just what she needed!  Roach Clips!!

Julianne and her new collection of Roach Clips — May 2019

Well, in closing, I would like to add a little cockroachery of my own.  Way before the days I met Julianne, this little ditty by Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan (famous for The Tennessee Birdwalk) was being played on a few radio stations and, most certainly by one of my heroes of the late 1960s, Dr. Demento.  Little did I know back then that I would be dealing with cockroachery in my future married years. Enjoy The Cockroach Stomp

Kill Kill Kill 
Everybody do the Cockroach Stomp. 
California, Tennessee, and Louisville,
Come on, do the Cockroach Stomp. 
1 and 2 and 3 and 4, 
Stomp your partner on the floor. 
Squish squish. squish, squish, squish. 
Find a bug, 
Make a wish.

58 to 40: She is fun-loving

Julianne is fun-loving.  In fact, I might even say she can be goofy at times, but NOT in the Post Title (of course).  Our daughter Amaree even has nick-named her “Nuttiness.”  And sometimes it fits.

Julianne is not obnoxious.  She is also not very outspoken or gregarious (like her husband).  But, she has a goofy side.   I think that our children picked up their “goofy” sides from her.   I am just not as goofy…or am I?

Typical fun with Julianne photobombing

Dracula Teeth

One of my first memories of her goofiness was when she was having a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and then put the brown wrapper over her teeth. Or the “Orange Peel Smile.”  One time our daughter caught her using spaghetti to make Dracula teeth…

She has done funny teeth things with pistachio shells too.  You never know what she may come up with.

I got the biggest kick out of her a couple of years ago when she had to create a poster for a graphic arts class at the University of Kentucky.  This poster is a prime example of her “creative goofiness.”  I had to include it here.  She did ALL of the art work…including the characterization of herself from actual photos….

Julianne is notorious for her photo-bombs and funny faces in photos.  Here are a couple of them from the past.

Photobomb 2 (upper right) — yes, the kids get it from her!

Selfie with Seth

Photobomb 3

A couple of Christmas seasons ago, we went around Lexington to take Christmasy pictures together.  She insisted on hiding her face in each one..just for fun.

Where is Julianne?

Where is Julianne?

Where is Julianne?

Always a master of disguise, she is happy to hide herself in plain site.

Aha!!!

Hidden in plain site….

It is absolutely fun being with these sweet, fun-loving, sometimes downright goofy gal!!  Love her to death (and life)!!  Life with her is Happyville!

One Man’s Theory: A Stark will be on the Iron Throne, but not the one you think

WARNING:  MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

Daenerys Targaryen lost a second dragon last week in Game of Thrones and is overwhelmed by the death of her loved advisor Missandei. Jon Snow and his forces face a major challenge getting past Euron Greyjoy’s ballisti, the giant dragon-killing and boat-crushing crossbows.  They are at odds and the end of the Starks may be coming. The Iron Throne is seriously up for grabs.  Can a Stark still pull it off?

The Stark family

If you have seen Game of Thrones Season 8, you know that Arya Stark pulled off a total last second surprise against the Night King, killing all of his Undead Hordes in one stab with a sword.  As well, if you have seen Endgame, you know that Tony Stark, aka Ironman, pulled off a similar last second victory by pulling the Infinity Stones out of Thanos’ guantlet and thus dusting Thanos and his evil hordes.  The last second Starks…

The Starks are last second heroes

Flash to the future several centuries, where Stark ancestor Tony Stark is working with the Avengers to bring back all of those who were dusted by Thanos in Infinity War.  We learn from Endgame that Tony has figured out how to go back in time to bring back those that were dusted by Thanos. What was not shown in Endgame (to avoid any Game of Thrones spoilers — IRONic that these are both showing at the same time) was that Tony Stark knew his lineage came from the Starks and upon discovering he could go back in time, he used this power, along with the newly acquired Infinity Gauntlet, to actually go back to the time of the battle at King’s Landing and even dropped by the celebration at Winterfell to leave a hint!!

Yes, remember the coffee cup fiasco on Game of Thrones from last week?  Well, if you watched Endgame carefully, you would notice that just before all of the Avengers got onto the time machines to go back, Tony was holding what looks to be the same coffee cup (next time you see Endgame check it out!)  Everyone was so drunk in celebration, that they didn’t notice Tony’s two second appearance to drop the cup in front of Dany!

Dany with the Coffee Cup, left in a flash by Tony Stark on his way to King’s Landing

 Well, as we shall see, the battle for Westeros at King’s Landing will heat up, and, all of a sudden, above the skies there will be a massive circular flash of light unlike anything anyone in Westeros had ever seen.  Both sides were stricken with fear, for out of nowhere, like his ancient ancestor Arya Stark, Tony Stark, as Iron Man, appears and in one flashing swoop destroys Euron’s ballisti, shreds Ser Robert Strong and takes control of the battle at the last moment, capturing and dethroning Cersei.  Then, the man of Iron takes the Iron Throne.

Iron Man on the Iron Throne (artwork by James Zapata)

A Stark is now on the Iron Throne.

Tony Stark is the Stark that will be on the Iron Throne

And though he will face eventual death in the future, while sitting on the Iron Throne after the victory at King’s Landing….Tony Stark says, “I am the Lord of Westeros, the destroyer of Thanos, the King of the Seven Kingdoms…indeed, I am Iron Man, and the Iron Throne is mine.”

Big Mac 50th Anniversary Celebration — kinda

I am a sucker for Pop Culture kitsch.  So, today McDonald’s kicked off the 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Big Mac by giving out commemorative coins when you order a Big Mac (while supplies last, of course). Being the Pop Culture lover that I am, we went for it.

I remember well when the Big Mac was introduced with the catchy song that said “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”  I can still rattle that off after 50 years!

Well, I learned from the web announcements that only 6.9 million coins were to be given out in over 14,000 locations. The coins can be collected or, alternatively, can be used one time between now and the end of the year to get a free big Mac.

Coin Commemorating the First Ten years (1968-1978)

Coin Commemorating the LAST TEN years (2008-2018)

Showing off our coins from McDonald’s — all three were the same coin

There are five coins representing each decade from 1968 to 2018 and the idea is to collect all five coins. It was supposed to be such that when you go to McDonald’s and order a Big Mac that you get a free coin. I went with Autumn first thing this morning (after 10:30 when lunch starts) and ordered two big Macs and they told me only one coin per order. (The ads specifically said “Buy a Big Mac, get a Free Coin.”) We later went to another McDonald’s and they told me they’re given out for EACH Big Mac and they gave a coin for each one ordered, even if they had to make separate orders at the time.

Coins at McDonald’s

Turns out that each restaurant gets a box of coins that are all the same so you have to go to multiple restaurants to get all five coins which means you have to go to multiple restaurants and buy multiple Big Macs as you cannot buy three Big Macs at one restaurant to get three different coins.  Hassleiferous!!

The McDonald’s Restaurant design near the Galleria in Dallas up until December 2017.

Another view of the former design

To further tell the story, I had done some research and discovered that one of the most unique McDonald’s restaurants in the world was actually in Dallas and so we took the nearly 40 minute drive down there to go see this McDonald’s that looks like a giant happy meal with a giant Big Mac. I thought it would be a perfect backdrop for showing off our new Big Mac Coins on the Big Mac 50th birthday! Much to our surprise, that particular restaurant design was no longer there and when we went in to ask about it, we were told that the store had been remodeled in December 2017. Sadly, the eight or nine different websites that had pictures and told about the unique design of the former restaurant were not apprised of the changes and had not done any follow up to verify. We drove 40 miles from Fort Worth to go there. Sadly JSP Management (the Franchisee for the DFW area) never bothered to share the information….. A wasted drive of 80 miles…..  Interestingly, the manager there told me they get a few people everyday that come in and ask what happened.  SAD.

The remodeled design as of January 2018

You can see above what the original looked like and what it looks like today. I guess that McDonald’s would rather generesize their stores so, like their basically non-descript generic burgers, their stores to are all non-descript. That too is sad.

All said, I do have two different coins and I am happy about that. And that’s all I’m going to get it because I am not going for any more Big Macs today!  Chances are they will all be gone over the next day or two.

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.

Countdown 365: #325 – Feeling Lucky, Feeling Blessed

FranceLogoToday is Friday the 13th.  Friday the 13th is considered to be the unluckiest day in the Gregorian Calendar. For many people, it is a day to take caution, stay indoors, avoid black cats, ladders and mirrors, and reach out for their good luck charms for protection.  Not a good day if you suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th.

And today is the third Friday the 13th to occur in 2015, only one of 11 times that there will be three in one year during the 21st Century.  It happened in 2009, then this year and will not occur again until 2026 and then 2037.

ParisPeaceFor me, today is a special extra Friday the 13th as I count myself blessed and fortunate. It was a day of terror in Paris, France as Muslim extremists hit a number of locations and killed many innocent citizens in an instant. Heart-wrenching.

The major killings took place at a rock concert in a theatre in Paris.  Over 100 were killed.  The performing band members got out alive, but the person working their merch table didn’t.  I have worked the merch tables many times for Antsy McClain shows.  Indeed, if a shooting occurs, you are probably first in line.

My heart goes out to all of the people whose lives have been impacted.  Those who lost loved ones and those who will suffer injuries.  And especially those who survived the attacks and may feel guilt as a survivor.

I count myself blessed and lucky to arise and partake of another day of life.

BeirutSupportBut, Paris is not the only city suffering.  Just the day before, Thursday the 12th, 43 people were killed in Beirut while going about their normal evening business after a double suicide bombing attack took place in the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut, a bustling urban area.

They had no idea.  They were working, drinking coffee at a coffee stand, chopping vegetables in a market.

Lives were shattered.  Buildings and property were destroyed.

And again, on this Friday the 13th, I count myself lucky and blessed to be alive.

9-11-statue-of-liberty-towersThe dates 11/12/15 and 11/13/15 will mean much to many people.  Many Americans look back at 9/11/2001.  Indeed, we just call it Nine-Eleven and all know what it means.  That day saw 2,996 people lose their lives and trillions of dollars of damage as buildings were destroyed.  I watched in horror on television as the two Twin Towers collapsed in only 1 hour and 42 minutes.  Just a couple of years earlier, I had been on top of one of those towers.  I am still awestruck at how quickly they fell.

At that time I was grateful to be alive and in a relatively safe place called Lexington, Kentucky.

But, on this Friday the 13th, I count myself and blessed to be alive.  Because these acts of violence can occur anywhere, at anytime.  We never know when our innocent lives will be shattered while going about our own business.  Like 9/11 or 11/12 or 11/13, there are many other dates that many people in this world memorialize.  Many innocent lives were taken without warning.  Many lives were shattered.  And, on this Friday the 13th I want to at least note some of them from around the world, because, like 9/11, these dates are just as significant to the people affected.

  • 1/7/15 – Charlie Hebdo Offices in Paris attacked, 11 killed
  • 7/20/12 – Movie theater shooting in Denver, 12 killed
  • 4/20/99 – Columbine High School shooting, 12 killed
  • 12/14/12 – Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT, 26 killed
  • 10/10/15 – Ankara, Turkey bombings, 102 killed, 400 injured
  • 4/19/95 – Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombed, 168 killed
  • 8/1/66 – University of Texas-Austin shooting, 17 killed
  • 3/21/05 – Red Lake Senior High, Red Lake, MN shooting, 10 killed
  • 4/16/07 – Virginia Tech shooting, 33 killed, 25 injured
  • 2/14/08 – Northern Illinois University shooting in DeKalb, IL, 6 killed
  • 10/24/14 – Marysville, Washington shooting at a school, 5 killed
  • 10/1/15 – Umpqua Community College Shooting in Roseburg, OR, 10 killed
  • 6/17/15 – Charleston, SC Church Shooting, 9 killed
  • 7/22/11 – Oslo, Norway bombings, 73 killed
  • 4/18/83 – US Embassy in Beirut bombed, 63 killed
  • 10/23/83 – Beirut bombings, 307 killed
  • 12/21/88 – Lockerbie Pan Am 103 aircraft bombing in Scotland, 270 killed
  • 8/7/98 – US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya bombed, 223 killed, 4000 inured

Alive2And the list of dates goes on and on and on.  One minute you are minding your own business and the next you could be dead from a random act of violence.  Of course, there are all of the other random shootings at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, schools, churches and businesses.

Today I am alive.  I am grateful for this blessing each day.  In the meantime, my prayers go out to all who have lost loved ones or have suffered from random acts of violence around the world.  It is a lucky Friday the 13th for me.  But for many, it is not.

Vicissitudes of Life: Birth and Death

The sands of time
They seem to flow
Against the grain
Of the life we know
David Kravetz, 1975

VicissitudesI wrote the above shortly before joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At the time, I was dabbling a bit in poetry and had just gone through some challenging times in my life. It was the first time I had experienced a vicissitude in my life.

Vicissitude is an interesting word. Searching through definitions, the general meaning is: A change or variation occurring in the course of something. interchange or alternation, as of states or things. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs

BackRoadLTI really like to look at “vicissitudes of life” as meaning “ups and downs” of life. We all have them and how we deal with them sets the course of our life from that point on. We all have our own special journeys as we pursue life.  Many times our paths cross with others on their journeys and the impact of the crossing of paths may cause adjustments to our own journeys.

Jamie Showkeir

Jamie Showkeir

Recently, a beloved brother in law of mine, Jamie Showkeir, passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS.  Many have heard the term, but it means amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Jamie, was dealt a new vicissitude in life down a road with a definite dead end.  And he knew it.  But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him.

In September 2014, Jamie, already diagnosed with this dastardly disease, was interviewed for an article in the Arizona Republic.  The author, Kari Bland, is a friend of Maren, Jamie’s wife (Maren is my wife’s sister). Like so many others, she was hit hard by the news.

Jamie at his best

Jamie at his best

You see, Jamie isn’t the guy this should have happened to.  He was active, he was smart, he was athletic. He practiced yoga. He had a lust for life and was an avid cyclist, hiker and nature lover. He was a talented author and teacher.

But, one day he began feeling weakness in his left arm and from that day forward, his life would change.  And the challenging part, especially for him, but really, for all of us, was knowing that the degeneration was on the body…but the mind was always alert and he had to deal with it.

Kari notes in her article “Here’s the deal, Kari, for me,” Jamie said. “We can’t always choose the cards that we’re dealt, but the choice we have is how we are going to play them.

I read that article back then and that quote has stuck with me.  And Jamie has always played the cards well.  And he did this time as well.  He passed away on his own terms, dealing with the disease and the circumstances in the best attitude he could muster.  Ultimately, Jamie died on August 16 this year, his 63rd birthday, at his home in Phoenix with his wife, Maren, by his side.

Jamie left a positive impact on 100s of people, including me.  He was a mentor to me (and he didn’t even know it!) Three or four times I called him for advice due to his wisdom of the business world. (He and Maren have authored two books).

And this is where the “ups and downs” of life come in.  The sorrow of Jamie’s passing lasted a number of months, even before it happened.  We all knew it was coming. The day it happened was hard on all of us.  However, life would continue to throw interesting curve balls along the way.

11998663_10153594403937090_269566728_nJust a two short weeks after Jamie’s passing, I got to sit in a chair at my son’s house in Connecticut and hold my brand new grandson, Samuel. He was a milestone grandson for me, my tenth. Born on August 31, he brought a new gleam of joy into my life.

I love holding newborn babies, especially those that are my grandchildren. And I so looked forward to this opportunity to be with this little guy.

As I sat with him and held this sweet child, my mind wandered off into the complexities of life, the ups and downs.  The tough swings of dealing with life and death.

11997958_10153594404197090_2070403904_nIn two short weeks I experienced the passing of a dearly beloved brother in law and then a birth of a new grandchild. The words “vicissitudes of life” bounced around in my head.  I was all at once taken aback by the waves of life. I marveled at how life’s journey can present such dichotomies in such a short time.

For me, the birth of Samuel was, in essence, the rebirth of Jamie.  The two of them will be forever etched together in my mind. No, I am not a believer in reincarnation.  But, Samuel will always remind me of the joy that Jamie brought to me and hundreds of others. Simple, unfettered joy.

And, for a few short weeks, I forgot all about my own “vicissitudes” of life and basked in the joys of life and death…of people that mean so much more than the challenges of jobs, money and things. I am grateful for Jamie.  I am grateful for Samuel.

Rowling11999959_10153594619962090_589360215_n

Father’s Day Joy Points with Blue Herons and Nature

DSC_3387This morning I had the blessed opportunity to awake early and treat myself to a little Father’s Day treat by getting out on this moist humid morning and scoring a few joy points with nature.  I had actually hoped to catch the sunrise as those during this time of year can be spectacular with all of the moisture in the air.  But alas, there were clouds that rolled in.

"Herry" my Blue Heron friend

“Herry” my Blue Heron friend

Nevertheless, I took advantage of the morning and spent some time with my friend “Herry” the Blue Heron (who was very patient with me as I took nearly 70 photos of him or her).

I sat there for almost 30 minutes just observing and photographing Herry while he/she just put up with me.  I was literally 7 or 8 feet away, which just amazed me, because these are typically nervous birds.  Following are a few shots I got of this magnificent bird over the course of the morning at Jacobson Park in Lexington.

DSC_3447DSC_3406DSC_3454DSC_3459Herry finally flew off…

DSC_3460But then landed close by on the shore.  Obviously fishing…

DSC_3464DSC_3476DSC_3481Herons were not the only birds out there at the lake. As I drove up to one section of the lake, I witnessed something I had never seen before and that was a line of geese entering the water one at a time and forming a long straight flotilla of geese. They did it in an orderly fashion and it was amazing to watch.

Beautiful morning on the lake

Beautiful morning on the lake

Geese get in the water, in line, one at a time

Geese get in the water, in line, one at a time

Geese all in a row

Geese all in a row

Speaking of geese, just before sunrise as it was getting lighter, I took a picture of the geese in my flash went off. Talk about an eerie picture with a bunch of glowing eyes!

Glowing Geese!

Glowing Geese!

I also saw a pair of ducks with coloration that I had not seen in ducks.

Unique duck

Unique duck

Then there were the two copycat, or should I say copy duck, mallards that were in the same pose standing in the middle-of-the-road.

Copy-ducks...

Copy-ducks…

After scoring a few joy points watching the birds, I decided to take a ride back into horse farm country and, while there,  I got a couple of nice glimpses of horse farms and a bit of a blurry sunrise. There was a slight mist in the air as the dewpoint was fairly high.

Sun's glow over horse farm country

Sun’s glow over horse farm country

Horse farm as seen from Walnut Hill Road near Lexington

Horse farm as seen from Walnut Hill Road near Lexington

Horse grazing peacefully in the morning

Horse grazing peacefully in the morning

Misty morning in horse farm country

Misty morning in horse farm country

Beautiful barn scene

Beautiful barn scene

And of course, this is the season of the lilies. Right around June is when all of the day lilies are in bloom and they come in many colors and varieties. Here are just a few.

Day lilies getting ready to bloom early in the morning

Day lilies getting ready to bloom early in the morning

Peuple day lilies

Purple day lilies

Red ones too

Red ones too

And some yellow ones

And some yellow ones

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

A white daisy

A white daisy

DSC_3441

Herry the Great Blue Heron

I love nature. I get joy points for nature. And this morning, I wished myself a happy Father’s Day as I enjoyed the drive, the nature, and my buddy Herry.

A Review: The Navy SEAL Art of War by Rob Roy

(Author’s Note: You can order “The Navy SEAL Art of War” on Amazon.com)

Rob-Roy-300x232

Former Navy SEAL Rob Roy

When you meet Rob Roy, you have no idea that this man served as a Navy SEAL and was a charismatic leader in that organization He spent twenty years (including time with the famed SEAL Team Six) in the SEALs. When you shake hands with this gentleman, you don’t feel the burning fire in his bosom that exudes when he trains executives in a Boot Camp fashion in his 80 hour intensive leadership course that uses military combat training to teach executives the leadership skills they need for success. Its an amazing difference.

Rob Roy

Rob Roy in combat gear

Rob Roy the person is an enigma. But, as a former soldier he was ruthless and was the ultimate team player. You can get a sense of this from the first lines of his new book titled “The Navy SEAL Art of War.”

For me, a teenager during the Vietnam War era, war and war methodologies were never appealing.  However, while at Northern Arizona University and focusing my studies on Asian History and Geography, I took a course on geopolitics and first learned of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” as well as others like Claus von Clausewitz “On War” and Macchiavelli “The Prince.” I became fascinated by the strategies of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Mao and by the time I was in my Master’s course work in Political Science at Arizona State University, I was totally engrossed in learning insurgency strategies and guerrilla tactics.  So, my ideas on war have changed over the years.

Navy Seal AoW

The Navy SEAL Art of War is now available on Amazon.com. Click above for more

At the very beginning, in his introduction to the book, Rob Roy tells the story of Paulo, a man who is used to being the guy who tells everybody else what to do. We learn that this business leader was ashen and visibly failing, with sweat sliding down the worn creases of a weathered brow. This restaurant magnate in his mid-40s, who had successfully built a business and was a great leader in his industry, was emotionally and physically broken.

And this introduces us to the Boot Camp mentality of Rob Roy’s Special Operations Training Groups (SOT-G) that undergo his “Leadership Under Fire Training” program, which has a unique no-holds-barred and no-ego-spared process  that will either make or break a successful individual.
Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu

Roy’s book has over 50 small anecdotal chapters and was designed after Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” Each chapter unfolds story after story of experiences from the Navy SEALs. He relates experiences of teamwork, leadership, mental toughness, humility, attention to detail and a myriad other attributes.

But don’t be mistaken.  Though the stories are indicative of military training and experience, they are really life stories. Each small chapter provides a new building block to help construct one’s life towards better leadership and management of one’s self and others.
I am especially impressed by his chapter titled “Have Servant’s Heart.” In this chapter he details the importance of a true leader actually serving those whom he/she leads. The passionate care about the well-being of subordinates has proven vital in the careers of the most successful leaders.  Serving others with dignity and nobility is a fabulous trait.
Retired Marines General James N. "Mad Dog" Mattis

Retired Marines General James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis

In another chapter Rob Roy emphasizes how former Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who was considered to be a ruthless warrior-statesman, would make sacrifices for his soldiers, even to the point of doing things way below his pay grade, just so that his younger soldiers and officers would be able to spend time with their families during holidays.  General Mattis was an example of vigilance, discipline, professionalism, innovation, lifelong learning and leadership.

Perhaps the most poignant and important chapter to me is the one titled “There Is No Finish Line.” When people ask me how I’m doing, I always say “I’m awesome, but getting better,” a concept I developed from years of working with Japanese companies and learning of the unique principle Kaizen (Continual Improvement). Masaaki Imai, the father of Kaizen is known for great ideas such as “When you solve one problem, you will see ten more,” or “Kaizen is everyday improvement, everybody improvement, everywhere improvement.” The whole idea is that there is always room for improvement. And Rob Roy teaches the same principle in this chapter. The opening paragraph to the chapter says it all:
Kaizen

Kaizen – Continual Improvement

Instead of looking for the finish line, tell yourself there is no such thing. Instead, constantly immerse yourself in (and learn from) the journey. And continually be prepared for what’s just around the corner.

I have had the great opportunity to meet Rob Roy and personally discuss some of my own challenges with him.  Indeed, it was his book that inspired me to get into high gear and begin my weight loss journey a few weeks ago (see blog post here). I have taken the “No Finish Line” philosophy in my goal to gain my health back and get in shape. Rob has been an inspiration and the chapters of his book continue to help drive me forward on the journey. In fact, I have created my own “team” in the form of Team Sumoflam that is loaded with friends and family (including Mr. Roy!!) that provide the needed encouragement and drive to succeed in this journey.
David "Sumoflam" Kravetz with Rob Roy

David “Sumoflam” Kravetz with Rob Roy

The Navy SEAL Art Of War” will inspire and will provide emotional and mental nourishment to your soul as you progress through each chapter. Rob Roy has thoughtfully authored a book that will help you know who you are.
The reality is that it takes hard, continuous work to really know oneself; to know one’s strengths and weaknesses. But smart leaders find the same energy, passion, and competitiveness that they apply to the challenges in their everyday lives and they routinely turn it inward – focusing on knowing themselves better in order to gain a leadership advantage.
Chock full of good wisdom, the Navy SEAL Art of War is an excellent read!  Order it today!!

Super Pi Day: OK, I Am a Geek

PiDayToday is Super Pi Day, a spin off of Pi Day. Pi Day is typically celebrated on 3/14 at 1:59, but this year is special as it is celebrated on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53. Super Pi Day only happens once every hundred years.

Pi Day gets its name from the mathematical term Pi (π) which, of course is the number. The number π is a mathematical constant representing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It’s an irrational number, meaning that it can’t be represented by a common fraction. Thus, its decimal representation never ends, and it never settles into a permanent repeating pattern.  Read some interesting Pi Factoids here.The idea of celebrating Pi was organized by Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988. On March 12, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives even passed a non-binding resolution recognizing March 14 as National Pi Day.

A Pi Pie

A Pi Pie

Many celebrate the day by eating and making pies.  Some even make them in the shape of the Greek character Pi, as shown above.  This has become traditional in many places around the world!

I Was There to celebrate Pi Day today at 9:26:53 AM

I Was There to celebrate Pi Day today at 9:26:53 AM

There is most certainly a geeky, novelty loving side of me, so I looked for a good digital clock for my iPhone and downloaded it so I could catch the moment down to the second.  Unfortunately, the digital clock did not show the year, but, rest assured it is 2015!!  And, I am cheap gee as well…I bought the free version of the app, which does not include the weather, so it says 00 for the temperature. HA!

Einstein's Birthday is on Pi Day

Einstein’s Birthday is on Pi Day

Finally, I should note that Einstein’s birthday is March 14, so one of the world’s most amazing mathematicians was born on Pi Day.

Pi Day Simpsons

Pi Day Simpsons

And for a final fun piece of trivia, check out the post on my favorite travel site Roadside America about the monument in Portland, OR with the wrong value of Pi engraved for the world to chuckle at….

WrongPiHave a happy Pi Day…if you missed the exact time, set your digital clock on 12 hour clock, rather than military time (which is what I use), and you can celebrate again tonight at 9:26:53 PM…will be the second time in 100 years you can celebrate!!

And go make yourself a pie!

Pi Day Pie

Pi Day Pie