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: #234 – 40th Anniversary of LDS Mission

My passport photo for my LDS Mission, taken in February 1976

My passport photo for my LDS Mission, taken in February 1976

There are some events in one’s life that are turning points…big decisions that impact the remainder of one’s life.  Today I celebrate the 40th Anniversary of one of those events.  It was 40 years ago today that I entered the Language Training Mission (LTM) in Provo, Utah to learn Japanese and prepare to serve as an LDS Missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission. This singular event would literally have a myriad impacts on the direction of my life, the life of my wife and of my children.

Prior to this event only three real others were as momentous…my mother taking me away from my father and moving to New Mexico (something that I had no control over but had a massive impact on my life), my decision to convert to the LDS Church in 1975 (and thus be asked to leave the house at age 17 as a result) and then the actual decision to serve versus the decision to take what would have been a high paying job in 1975.

Speaking at my Missionary Farewell in Murray, UT - Feb. 8, 1976

Speaking at my Missionary Farewell in Murray, UT – Feb. 8, 1976

Pondering life's choices as a young missionary

Pondering life’s choices as a young missionary

With each decision made at a crossroads in life (or a fork in the road of life if you prefer), a whole string of consequences unseen is set in motion (until the next crossroad, which then again leads to another set of unforeseen life events). But this mission to serve the Lord in Japan (not to mention all of the service to the Japanese people) had a profound impact on my life, my testimony, friends I have made and, ultimately my career choices. And, as I approach my 60th of year of life, I can look back and consider all of the things that WOULD NOT have occurred in my life had I not made that one decision. Honestly, I am awestruck.

Over the course of my mission I wrote over 1000 pages of journal entries.

Over the course of my mission I wrote over 1000 pages of journal entries and dozens of letters home to family and friends.

So, on February 12, 1976 I was taken to Provo and it began.  I wrote on Page 1 of the first of my many journals about this event:

“Today was my first day.  It was really great. We had many inspiring talks and learned much about the mission and mission fields.  Elder Stewart Simons from Cyprus High and Elder Marc White from Murray were my fist companions. Elder Marc and I went to school together, so its a real blessing. Its been a tough, long, hot day, but a very meaningful one.I’m so grateful to serve the Lord.”

My two LTM Companions as they looked in 1976. This was scanned from my Missionary Journal.

My two LTM Companions as they looked in 1976. This was scanned from my Missionary Journal.

Hanging with Elder White and Elder Simons at the Provo Temple on Feb. 18, 1976

Hanging with Elder White and Elder Simons at the Provo Temple on Feb. 18, 1976

I learned from both Elder Simons and Elder White.  It was nice to have one of them as someone I knew.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  Later on in Japan, Elder White became my zone leader and we grew very close.  We have stayed in touch casually over the years.  He was a real blessing to me.

Our LTM Group in Provo, UT

Our LTM Group in Provo, UT (L-R: Sister ?, Elder Bartholomew, Elder Bateman, Elder White, Elder Call, Elder Hadley, Elder Simons, Sister Hawley and me)

I was one of many in the group to enter the LTM that day.  The LTM was in an old Catholic School in Provo that the Church had purchased.  This was before the days of the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and just shortly after the days of the Japanese LTM being in Hawaii.

In my District I had four other Elders including Elder Bartholomew from Rancho Palace Verdes, CA; Elder Bateman from Edmonton, AB; Elder Hadley from Sandy, UT (who I am still in contact with after all these years); and Elder Call from Heber City, UT. (see the photo above)

On February 14, 1976 I wrote: “I am so happy that I’m here at this time to be able to work together with other elders and learn Japanese and the Gospel of our loving Father. The LTM is really an experience with 20 elders to a room, two districts to a room. I am really learning to love other elders. Especially those in my district and especially Elder White and Elder Simons. I’ve learned many new phrases and words.  Today we learned our testimony and a simple prayer.  I’m trying to memorize it, but its hard. I do have my testimony memorized.  I am praying muchly now so that I may be closer to the Lord.”

Being welcomed at Nagoya Airport by the Mission President Satoru Sato and his wife, along with some other Nagoya Elders already serving. April 14, 1976

Being welcomed at Nagoya Airport by the Mission President Satoru Sato and his wife, along with some other Nagoya Elders already serving. April 14, 1976

Boarding a train in Nagoya to head to my first branch in Kanazawa

Boarding a train in Nagoya to head to my first branch in Kanazawa

I could go on and on about the experience in the LTM.  It was a learning experience in so many ways. But, eventually it was over and on April 13, 1976 we all left for Nagoya, Japan.  I had never been on a 747 and never flown overseas. (I’ll actually write more about this on my Countdown Day #173).

During my missionary days I served in the Japan Sea side towns of Kanazawa, Fukui and Takaoka, as well as in Ogaki (near Gifu – where my daughter Amaree served part of her mission in 2001 and 2002), Nagoya and the lovely town of Fuji City at the base of Mt. Fuji.

I met an extraordinary number of wonderful Japanese Latter-day Saints and myriads of other lovely Japanese people.  I learned about Buddhism and Shintoism.  I learned and excelled at the language.  It was a wonderful experience.

Accompanying a blind investigator on a train. Like today, I almost always had a camera with me.

Accompanying a blind investigator on a train. Like today, I almost always had a camera with me.

Following are a few more photos from my mission.  I have hundreds. My first “selfie” is also included. My mission was a blessing in my life in so many years.  I am humbled and grateful to be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of beginning this amazing adventure and am really touched by all of the sweet memories flowing through my mind as I reflect back.

A few years ago we had a Missionary Reunion in Salt Lake City and I was able to catch up with many of those with whom I served during my two years from 1976-78.  It was wonderful to catch up with them and see where their lives had taken them. Some have been very successful, others not so much.  Some of those with whom I served have gone inactive or even left the LDS Church.  These things happen.  But, I cherish the friendships and, even today, stay in touch with many of these former missionaries (Thank you Facebook!!), even those that are no longer associated with the church.  A mission does amazing things to one’s life.

Always writing and pondering.

Always writing and pondering. Ogaki, Japan 1977

My first companion in the field, Elder Fullmer from Utah. This was in Kanazawa in April 1976

My first companion in the field, Elder Fullmer from Utah. This was in Kanazawa in April 1976 (Dig those 70’s era neckties!!)

Riding a train - an almost daily occurrence in Japan

Riding a train – an almost daily occurrence in Japan

My fist selfie! Took this in the mirror at a barber shop after the bird landed on my shoulder.

My fist selfie! Took this in the mirror at a barber shop after the bird landed on my shoulder.

Fooling around with the Ogaki Elders in 1977

Fooling around with the Ogaki Elders in 1977

With Elders and some members in Takaoka, Japan in the winter of 1976

With Elders and some members in Takaoka, Japan in the winter of 1976

Lazing in bed on a cold morning (we had no heaters - just oil stoves that had to be turned off at night). This was in Fuji City in January 1978

Lazing in bed on a cold morning (we had no heaters – just oil stoves that had to be turned off at night). This was in Fuji City in January 1978

On top of Mt. Fuji, April 1978, just before I left for home.

On top of Mt. Fuji, April 1978, just before I left for home.

Street "Dendo" (Proselyting) in Ogaki, Japan in 1977. I wrote all of the Japanese on the poster while dressed in the Yukata

Street “Dendo” (Proselyting) in Ogaki, Japan in 1977. I wrote all of the Japanese on the poster while dressed in the Yukata

With companion Elder Lee Richan. We had become very close friends. He passed away a couple of years ago (2013)

With companion Elder Lee Richan. We had become very close friends over the years. He passed away a couple of years ago (2013)

The busy Mormon Missionary on a hot summer day in Japan in 1977

The busy Mormon Missionary on a hot summer day in Japan in 1977

 

2015 In Review: People, Friends, Family and More

Singing with Antsy McClain at Woodflock 2015The world is filled with people. And people enrich our lives. I have never written a post in the past just focused on the people in influences that they’ve had in my life. Any of my post to be included comments about people and it includes my life, but over the year 2015 I found it I had many people that had a profound and positive impact on my life and I wanted to make note of that in this post.

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

I was blessed to spend time with all of my children and grandchildren
at one time or another this year. That is probably the best and most
blessed of all of my people experiences. But there were many others, both old and newly made friends, and other people who I met along the road of life during the year.

All of these people added to the great year I experienced in 2015.

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Smile Man in Seattle

Smile Man in Seattle

I think of the stranger that I met on the streets of Seattle who stood on the corner holding a sign that you said smile be happy. He was not seeking donations. He was not seeking welfare. He was wanting people to smile. He kind of became a symbol for my year.

I made some new friends and acquaintances over the year. Some of these are artists or authors and I was able to enjoy and appreciate them.

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

One of these was former Navy seal and Author Rob Roy. I noted on more than one occasion how his book the Navy seal art of war inspired me and help me on my path to a more healthful life.

Then there is my friend the musician Pete Huttlinger. He too inspired me with his current. A great guitarist and musician who has performed over the years with John Denver and many others, Pete has suffered from a heart defect that almost caused him to lose his life. With his
wife Erin, they have struggled and he is come back. This year he to wrote a book with his wife, it is inspiring and I can’t wait to dig into it. And, as I do I will listen to his inspiring music as well.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

During the summer, beginning in May, I had wonderful opportunities to travel to San Francisco and up to Red Bluff, CA and visit with many old friends that are associated with my very close friend Antsy McClain. This was my first venture to Woodflock and many of the people that were in attendance were people whom I had met in the past or who I became very good friends with over Facebook as a result of my association with the band.

Along with too many friends there, I got to get back together with Antsy’s saxophone and slide guitar player Bruce Wandmayer. Bruce is
himself, a wonderful person and a fabulous musician. On this occasion I also got to meet with his wife who, during the event, did morning
meditation. And really took me to another level as I listen to her. She is one of those people that brings peace to you just speaking and mingling with her.

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

And this trip also introduced me to a wonderful host and sweet person
in Carla Lockwood. Known as Christmas Carla because she was born on Christmas Day, she picked me up and took me for three days to stay at her place and then took me up to Red Bluff. We traveled parts of San Francisco and then parts of north-central California on our way and enjoyed sightseeing and mixing and mingling with each other along the way. She and her good friend Ione Snyder, whom I have known for a number of years, were great hosts and so kind to me. I won’t soon forget the happiness and the good times we spent together during my time in California in May.

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

At that time I also got to spend time and meet with a number of other people. The Flamingoheads, as they are known, are a great group of people. I am thankful to be associated with them. Here are just a few pictures of me with some of my Flamingohead family.

With Jacque and James Ferreira

With Jacque and James Ferreira

Good friend and official "teaser of Sumoflam" Kathy Aspinwall

Good friend and official “teaser of Sumoflam” Kathy Aspinwall

Men with Hats...my pal from Cal...Ed Townsend

Men with Hats…my pal from Cal…Ed Townsend

And we did dance because we wanted to...with MATCHING HATS!

And we did dance because we wanted to…with MATCHING HATS!

Can't forget Uncle Fred...one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Can’t forget Uncle Fred…one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Woodflock

Woodflock 2015

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

Through my association with Rob Roy, as I noted above, I was able to go to Utah and participate in one of his training sessions as a photographer. That program was interesting in and of itself, but along the way I got to spend some time both in Lexington and in Utah with John MacLaren, another former Navy Seal. Johnny Mac, as he is known to many of his close friends, has been a trainer to the stars and to many others. My first meeting with him was in Lexington as I picked him up at the airport when he arrived in June for the Great
American Fitness Challenge. His first words to me were “are you from Utah or Idaho?” That was a shocker, but he was able to pick up on the slight accent that I had from Utah, as he too, was a graduate of high school in Utah. He has an intensity about him, but also a very peaceful and pleasant demeanor. It was good to meet an individual like him. Not all military or former military people are hard-nosed.

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

During my trip to Utah, I was honored and excited to spend a littlebit of time with my very close high school friends Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. I wrote a blog post in detail about that visit, but just want to show them again here. Both of them had a profound impact on my life in the direction my life took after high school.I owe them a great deal in terms of setting my life in the right direction. I will eternally be indebted to these two great men, both of them strong members of the LDS Church and great leaders. Yet, also very good friends.

Then there are the people that you meet in every day life. A couple of these people have become good acquaintances. And I want to point them out in this post because in their own ways they too have had an impact on my life just as the examples they set.

schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

Schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

 

One of these is Joe Seebold. Joe,is a good-natured car repairman. The manager of an oil change place, I have been associated with him for a few years. But it’s always great to speak to him about things other than car repair. And, over the last couple of years Joe and I have become good friends. Not through religion, not through common beliefs. But because we’re people and we enjoy each others company and that’s what is important.

 

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro's JJ Chen

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro’s JJ Chen

 

This past year, Julianne and I begin frequenting a restaurant near our house. The Asian Bistro Express is a great little Chinese place. The gal that runs the place with her husband is JJ Chen and as we have frequented the eatery, we have become friends with her as well. It’s nice to speak with them about things other than their food or their restaurant. Nice to learn about where they’re from, and what they do, what their goals are, about their children, etc. (They have a cute little girl in 4th or 5th grade). We all share a common trait in this world and that is we live life.

 

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Over the last couple of years I have become Facebook friends with folks near and far, many whom I have not met in person.  But, occasionally there is the unique opportunity to meet some of them.  One of these goes by the name Al Luminum (not his real name).  Al is an Airstream Gypsy with his family.  They travel the country in their Airstream and live off of a rental property income and who knows what else.  In the winter you can find him and his family staying in the quiet of the desert and in the summers they may be up north in any of dozens of locales.  On one occasion they pulled into Lexington, where they stayed in a church parking lot. He gave me a ping in Facebook and I went over and finally met them all in person.  What a delightful family!

I left the visit with envy as they travel freely in this beautiful country…something that I wish I could do full time!

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty's

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty’s

On another occasion I was with the family in Washington and we ventured into a unique eatery called Fat Smitty’s (see my blog post about this quirky place), near Port Townsend.  I was in there taking photos and there were three Russians (Ukranians actually) enjoying a wonderful Fat Smitty burger. One of them, named Alex, noted, “You must be famous,” to which I replied, “In my own mind!”  I sat down with them and asked if I could do a selfie with them.  Turns out these guys were from Ukraine and were in the area working.  Alex and his friends were great!  You never know who you can meet in this wide world.

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Then, as many of you may know, Julianne and I have strived to change to a healthier eating lifestyle.  We have moved predominantly to a Whole Food Plant-Based regimen.  She has been more perfect at it than I, but I too am trying!  As a result of this effort we had a unique opportunity to go to an advance screening of the Documentary Movie called “Plant Pure Nation” back in April (see my review of the movie) Nelson Campbell, son of the acclaimed T. Colin Campbell (author of “The China Study“) was there. We met Dr. T. Colin Campbell as well, along with the Producer John Corry, who also happened to produce another famed documentary called “Forks Over Knives.”

Meeting joe Cross, of 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" fame in Louisville

Meeting Joe Cross, of  “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” fame in Louisville

Along the same lines, a few weeks later, we met another famed Whole Foods Plant Based proponent in Joe Cross, who produced the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and has also authored a number of books on whole fruit/veggie juicing. (See my post about this)  We picked up his new book, which has some great inspirational stories that helped me out.  His talk was great and he was very understanding of the plight of big people.

I consider myself blessed to meet people like Nelson Campbell and Joe Cross, both of whom are on a mission to get people to eat healthier and live better, happier and healthful lives.  Yes, they may be famous in their realms, but it is not the fame that they desire as much as the ability to help others.

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Speaking of famous folks, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with one Jolly old elf in the small town of Santa Claus, IN just a week before Christmas.  The town was named after this guy and he looked like the REAL one….hmmm… I wonder.  He did know some stuff about me and about my grandkids….

Yes, he did tell me I was nice (and NOT naughty like some in my family may have tried to lead others to believe!)

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

While in California on the road with Carla (mentioned above), we stopped at Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA. Quite the quirky place (see my post about it), it was perfect for the travel writer in me.  While there I had the chance meeting of the founder and proprietor John Schaeffer. He was also the author of the Solar Living Sourcebook, a book I had procured back in1990 while working with Asahi Solar in Japan. It was a great opportunity to meet one of the founders of solar energy in the US.  I left with a smile, a great photo and a new, signed copy, of his book.

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

 

In November we had the great chance to go to Louisville and attend the Broadway traveling musical “Wicked” (see my post and review).  It was especially meaningful since Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd was a performer in this musical.  As a result, we were also afforded the opportunity to go backstage and see the props and learn more about the entire production.  Tregoney also came over to our house on Thanksgiving and the three of us went out to a wonderful catered dinner.

 

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati in April 2015

Of course, I have to note my good friend Antsy McClain.  A week doesn’t go by when we are not talking.  He is like a brother to me in so many ways.  It is wonderful to have a close friend who is also a musician, story teller, amazing artist.  We have been friends since our first meeting in 1992 at an auto plant in Kentucky. Much has happened to both of us since that time.  I am grateful for friends like Antsy McClain!

I have seen him go from a newbie in the business into a world traveling musician.  I have met many wonderful musicians who have since become friends, as a result of my friendship with Antsy.  I have seen his family grow as well.  Accomplished musicians and artists in their own right.

IN MEMORIUM 2015

MemoriumAs I get older there are those that pass on before me. Seems like the older I get the more I am seeing of my friends and acquaintances making the journey home. The year 2015 was no different as I lost a dear brother in law, a couple of friends and a couple of Facebook friends who I had become well-acquainted with but never got to meet in person.  I want to remember these folks as well.  They too had an influence in my life, if even minimal.

Ultimately, our lives are canvasses and every individual we meet adds their little piece of color to our complex life portrait.  I am grateful for the relationships as they all enrich my life.

Jamie Showkeir - August 16, 1952 - August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir – August 16, 1952 – August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir was my brother-in-law and mentor and was a down to earth solidly wonderful individual.  I wrote about him on his passing (see my post). He passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  He knew from the outset that his days were numbered.  But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him. 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 his wife Maren, my wife’s sister, had authored two books).  I miss Jamie.

Dan "Photoman" Smith - Aug. 5, 1959 - June 16, 2015

Dan “Photoman” Smith – Aug. 5, 1959 – June 16, 2015

I first met Dan online through Facebook around 2010.  We shared many common interests, especially our love of photography in the Lexington area.  I had a couple of opportunities to finally meet him.  The first time we met was at Jacobson Lake, a favorite photographic stomping grounds for both of us.  He was out shooting a sunrise and I walked up and said “Hey Photoman!” and surprised him.  He knew me because of my Facebook photos. From then we met for breakfast a couple of times.   Dan was one of those who ended up losing a job and worked at a call center.  Photography and writing were his passions. He was a libertarian at heart. I am glad to have had the pleasure of his association over the years.  Dan collapsed into a coma in mid 2015 and never fully recovered. I am sure he is enjoying the heavenly sunrises.

Phil J. Norris - Dec. 3, 1962 - Dec. 29, 2015

Phil J. Norris – Dec. 3, 1962 – Dec. 29, 2015

I never got to meet Phil in person, but we had become Facebook friends back in 2013.  He was an avid Antsy McClain fan and friended me through the Flamingohead Family group. Our last communication was on my birthday, Oct. 4, in 2015.  We both lamented that we had not yet had the opportunity to get together.  He was in Idaho and I was in Kentucky.  We had chatted via Facebook Messenger weekly with our many common interests of family, LDS Church (he had served an LDS mission but later went inactive), Antsy McClain, Aussie musician Pauly Zarb (another good friend of mine) and grandkidz. Like my friend Dan, Phil went into a sudden coma in December, slipped out of it for a day or two and then back into it  He succumbed on Dec. 29 to the dismay of many of his family, Facebook friends and Flamingohead cousins.  I will miss our nice chats.

 

 

Countdown 365: #324 – Grandchildren Baptisms

GrampzJos

Grampz and Joselyn at her baptism on November 14

Today is a glorious day.  One of my grandchildren has made the decision to get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joselyn Love Noe, my 4th grandchild, will become the third grandchild to be baptized into the church.

The LDS Church doctrine has children baptized at the age of 8.

“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands (D&C 68:27)”

GrampzCharles

Grampz, Grammy and Charles at his baptism in Washington on August 1

Earlier this year my wife and I went to Washington to visit my oldest daughter Amaree and her family.  The main reason for the trip was the baptism of my grandson Charles Matthews, who was baptized on August 1 in Port Orchard.

This was a wonderful time and we got to spend a few days with the family traveling around Washington as well. You can read about all of those trips in my Less Beaten Paths travel blog, if interested.

I was baptized when I was 18 (in January 1975), in Murray, Utah after struggling to get approval from my parents. It was a conscious decision I personally made in my life and I am grateful to have done so.  My membership in the church has been a wonderful blessing to me (as I have noted in earlier posts on this blog). As a missionary in Japan from 1976-1978 I had the opportunity to teach and baptize many.

But there is no greater joy than to see your own posterity baptized.  All five of my children were baptized into the church, though a couple of them have strayed away. I love all of my children the same and there is a part of me that is glad that my children have the blessing to choose the direction of their own lives, even if it is disappointing to me.  I love them just the same.

Autumn and Grampz

Autumn and Grampz

At Joselyn’s baptism I was blessed to be accompanied by my sweet 10 year old granddaughter Autumn, the oldest of all of my grandchildren. She was dressed beautifully and was absolutely adorable.

She has not been brought up in the LDS Church and this was her first baptism experience.  She sat intently watching and listening.  I had my arm around her and she snuggled next to me. Who knows what was going through her mind. I was grateful that her mother Chelsea allowed her to attend.  Indeed, Chelsea would have been there as well had she not had to work.  The one thing about my family is that they support each other, even if it is something they may not necessarily agree with.  Our family motto – “The Family that Stays Together, Stays Together” – continues on into the next generation.  I was so glad that Autumn could be there to support her cousin.

I am grateful for the principle of baptism and count myself blessed to have children and grandchildren that have chosen to follow the Savior Jesus Christ and his teachings.

 

A Tale of Two Friends: Jonathan and Russ

Last week (July 14-16, 2015) I had a sudden opportunity to go to Utah for a quick work project for former Navy SEAL and Author Rob Roy.  It was a good opportunity for me to return “home” and to also visit with two of my life’s most influential and long lasting friends, namely Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. I was blessed to spend a couple of hours with each of them (I will detail more at the end of this post).

It all started in the late summer of 1973 as my step-father was transferred from Bozeman, Montana to Salt Lake City, more specifically, Murray, Utah. At that time I would attend my third different high school in three years as I started as a senior at Murray High School.

David ca. 1973 - I looked this way my Senior Year too.

David ca. 1973 – I looked this way my Senior Year too.

We had moved to the heart of Mormon country and I was not Mormon.  But, as a fairly religious 16 year old, I decided to learn more about this church by also choosing to attend seminary, which in those days was held in a building just off of the high school campus and could be attended during school hours.

Through seminary I had the opportunity to meet new people and this was where I first met Jonathan and Russ.  It turned out that I lived in their neighborhood (and also their Church Ward).

Jonathan and Russ were part of the “in crowd” at Murray.  They were popular, they were on the football team and had lots of friends.  I was fortunate to become acquainted with them as one residing in their ward. I was often invited to participate in church youth activities with them, which I relished. I really felt lucky.

Having lived in Montana for three years (and loving it!), I spoke a lot about the state and thus received the nickname “Monty Montana” from Jonathan. I didn’t mind the nickname and it stuck through my senior year and beyond.  Everyone at Murray knew me as “Monty.” Even to this day I chuckle about that nickname, the only other one I really had besides my now well known “Sumoflam.”

David K in 1976

David in early 1976

As I pondered this early friendship the last couple of days, I was struck by the selfless and caring nature that Jonathan, Russ and a few other choice souls, mainly from the Murray 20th Ward, befriended this sort of braggish kid from Montana.  I had come from a fairly dysfunctional family, wasn’t Mormon and was starting all over again in trying to make friends as a senior in high school while still trying to find myself.  Ultimately, these friends, and especially Jonathan and Russ, changed my life direction for ever and for good.

As the school year progressed I visited Jonathan’s house often.  He lived about a block away.  His father Boyd was the Bishop of the Ward and ultimately became like a second father to me as I attended church and eventually became a member in 1975. I spent a lot of time at Jonathan’s house because there was so much contention in my home.  I wasn’t happy there, but I felt loved and accepted at the Jensen house.

The same could be said for Russ.  He and I got on very well.  We were both jokers and experts at the art of the pun. He lived a couple of blocks away and I visited his home often as well.  In fact, his mother Doris became like a second mother to me. Unlike Jonathan, Russ grew up in more modest circumstances.  His father had died a number of years before and his mother was a single mother raising a large family. I think that Russ and I appreciated each other because neither of us had much.  But, the one thing I loved about Russ’s home was the love I felt whenever I visited.  Not the love for me…but the love in the household. And I loved going there.

Jonathan Jensen in 1976

Jonathan Jensen in 1976

As I mentioned above, I eventually joined the church in January 1975 and Jonathan was the one that baptized me.  I was grateful for this.  You see, I was kicked out of the house for wanting to do this.

I need to note here that these guys were not interested in me as a “potential member” of the church.  They were interested in me as a person, as an individual and as a friend. They were really the first true friends I had ever had in my short 17 years of life.  I relished this friendship and it was the love and unselfishness nature of these guys that ultimately made me feel that I was where I was supposed to be,

In fact, I am certain that my kind Heavenly Father placed them in my path and facilitated the way for us to become long lasting friends. And these two, Jonathan and Russ, have continued to be close friends through the years, despite any distance or length of time without communication.

On my mission in Japan in 1976

On my mission in Japan in 1976 – that’s me in the middle in the back

They left on their LDS Missions in 1975, Jonathan to Sweden and Russ to Canada.  I was fortunate to still have other friends from the ward, but I really missed them.  I had a fairly good job for an 18 year old and in December 1975 I too received a call to serve a mission to Nagoya Japan.  Just the day before I had been offered a big job opportunity for an 18 year old and I had to spend a weekend stewing whether to serve a mission or to take this high paying job.  In the end, and unbeknownst to either Jonathan or Russ, I chose the mission and it was due to their excellent examples and their unfettered and unselfish friendship for me that led me to make this correct decision.

Jonathan on far right on my wedding day in Mesa, Arizona in July 1979

Jonathan on far right on my wedding day in Mesa, Arizona in July 1979

After returning home from my mission I spent many fun times with these guys.  I went to see Marx Brothers movies with Russ many times.  I ultimately moved into a house in Provo with Jonathan as I attended BYU.  The friendship continued.  When I married my sweetheart Julianne, Jonathan came to the wedding in Arizona. I was honored and grateful that my “brother” would take the time to come down from Utah for my special day.

Russ and David in Memphis in January 2004

Russ and David in Memphis in January 2004

Through the years since the 1970s, our paths diverted as I went to Japan and they got busy.  We rarely stayed in touch, but in those times when we did get together, it was as if there had never been a separation in time.  It was like old times. In 2004, Russ and one of his sons made the trip to Kentucky to visit and then we ventured to Memphis to attend the Liberty Bowl as BYU played Louisville. It was a fun time for us.  Louisville beat BYU, but that was not the memory I cherished.  It was time with my good friend Russ Graves that I valued and cherished.

Hanging with Jonathan in October 2007 at his house in bountiful, UT

Hanging with Jonathan in October 2007 at his house in bountiful, UT

In October 2007 I had the opportunity to attend a huge missionary reunion in Bountiful, Utah, which is where Jonathan lives to this day.  As the true selfless individual he was, he offered me a place to stay at his home during the visit. It was great to see all of those with whom I served on my mission with, but the real treat was spending some time with Jonathan and his family. I attended a football game, I visited with his Dad and we spent some quality time together.  I was amazed at how he made sure he had time to spend with me in the short three days I was there.  It was great to get to know his children.  He also took me into Murray to meet with Russ. We had a great time together.

Over the years, I have been able to call Jonathan for consoling, advice or to just fill him in on life.  He too has called me.  We don’t communicate often.  He has a huge family and is a busy attorney.  My conversations with Russ are even fewer.  Russ has about 15 children and has done well as a software developer.

And now, in 2015, all of us are in our late 50s (and will all be in our 60s before 2016 is over). All of three of us are grandparents.  All of us have had children serve missions.  But, the lasting, unselfish friendships still remain.  And last week’s events were a testament to this.

Visiting with Jonathan at Sundance Resort, July 2015

Visiting with Jonathan at Sundance Resort, July 2015

My flight to Salt Lake City last Tuesday had some unexpected schedule changes and this caused Rob Roy’s staff some challenges in trying to get me picked up at the airport.  I had already let Jonathan know I was coming in and that I had hoped we could meet up, even for a few minutes.

As I arrived in Salt Lake, I received a text message from Rob Roy’s staff that they were going to have trouble getting me picked up.  So, I called Jonathan to see what his schedule was like.  Fortunately for me, he had enough flexibility to come out and pick me up, even on the spur of the moment. This is the same place that he picked me up in April 1978 as I returned home from my mission.  It was not my parents…it was my best friend Jonathan Jensen.  And here he was 37 years later again picking me up.  We went for a drive south to have something to eat (and in typical Jonathan fashion he treated me).  I had let him know about the schedule mess up and Jonathan said he would take me to Sundance resort.  Bottom line, he literally dropped everything to accommodate me…the same selflessness he had shown me in 1973 as he became a new friend to a lost and lonely soul in high school. I was overwhelmed.

The LDS Draper Temple

The LDS Draper, UT Temple

We took a fabulous drive past the Draper Temple and saw a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley.  From there, he took me back behind the mountain and into Alpine, UT (which, ironically, is where my father in law Maurice Bateman grew up).  We took the beautifully scenic Alpine Loop up and over into the approach to Provo Canyon and ultimately Sundance Resort.

With Jonathan at Sundance Resort

With Jonathan at Sundance Resort

Jonathan could have easily said he was too busy to take me to Sundance and I would have totally understood.  But, he took me up there and then spent time talking.  We reminisced, as we always do, but we also talked about his father, who passed away in 2014, we talked about his children and their missions, their marriages and then we talked about his grandchildren. I got my stuff together and we walked and sat on a bench with a great view of the lovely Mt. Timpanogos. I was at home in the Utah Mountains and spending time with one of my all time heroes. And he made the time to do so.  We parted ways finally as he needed to return.  However, he got into Lehi and discovered I had left my wallet in the car.  Despite his schedule, being tired, etc., he turned around and brought it all the way back up to Sundance.  And that is ALWAYS how Jonathan has been…selfless, caring and loving. I am so indebted to this guy I will never be able to repay him.

With Russ Graves in Murray, UT July 2015

With Russ Graves in Murray, UT July 2015

While I was with Jonathan, we called Russ.  We were all friends of course, and have gotten together in the past.  Unfortunately, Russ couldn’t make it, but he did offer to pick me up on Thursday morning.  I was staying in a hotel in Orem, UT and Russ showed up to get me early.  Once again, like Jonathan, he moved his schedule around on the spur of the moment to do this. We enjoyed a nice breakfast, had conversations about family, talked Marx Brothers and Russ whipped off his puns as always.  He told me about his dear mother, who is now in her 80s and in a nursing home. We visited his lovely (and huge) home in Murray, where I go to see the family missionary wall, the grandchildren wall and experience the joy and warmth of his home.  I got to chat with his sweet wife Gayle, whom I still recall as the young sweet girl from Wyoming I knew in the late 1970s as she and Russ were married. Then, like Jonathan, Russ exhibited his unselfishness and loving nature and took me into the Salt Lake airport for my flight back to Kentucky.

Over the years I have developed dozens of good friendships.  Many of them will be eternal friendships.  But, of all the friends and acquaintances I have, there are none to rival the bonds that have developed over the years with Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves.  Indeed, I owe my very life’s course to them.  They changed my life forever (and for better) and for this, I will always treasure the friendship.  They have taught me over and over what true friends are.

Thank you Jonathan and Russ.

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.

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