Turning 60 – A look back at the celebration

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

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

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

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

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

Flamingle!!

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

Got to hang with grandson Benson from Washington.

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

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

The Chipotle Gang when we picked up our catered meals

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

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

Setting up flamingos

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

Flamingos everywhere

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

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

Reading books to the Grandkidz

Hanging with daughter Amaree who came from Washington to surprise me

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

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

Seth snuck into our hot tub and surprised us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next door neighbor Mike LeMaster taking a selfie at the party

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

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

Julianne in her self designed flamingo shirt

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

Birthday Cake with sixty little plastic flamingos. CLASSIC!!

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

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

Picking up the bike on October 14

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

Brand new Birthday Camera – a Nikon D5200.

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

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

My fun family!

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

My sweet wife smiles with me on my 60th birthdaycelebration

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

Ready to get some photos with my new D5200

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Solomon to the Cincinnati Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life’s Journey and Choices – Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Part I

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

Arlene Shepherd ca. 1944

Arlene Shepherd ca. 1944

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

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

Arlene and Maury Bateman on their wedding day

Arlene and Maury Bateman on their wedding day

Arlene ca. 1950

Arlene ca. 1950

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

 

The Bateman family early on.

The Bateman family early on.

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

Arlene Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene Bateman on her 50th Anniversary

Arlene Bateman on her 50th Anniversary

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

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

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

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

Arlene and Maury Bateman in the 1990s

Arlene and Maury Bateman in the 1990s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arlene as a young child

Arlene as a young child

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

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

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

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

Always classy, always understanding ...Arlen Bateman

Always classy, always understanding …Arlene Bateman

Arlene in early 2000s

Arlene in early 2000s

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

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: #351 – Luxurious Life

RollsRoyceIn the quest for counting my many blessings, I count my “luxurious life” as one big one.  Luxury is certainly a matter of perspective. One definition of “luxury” found at dictionary.com notes: free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being

A real luxury actually

A real luxury actually

Most of us in the United States have grown up enjoying the benefits of electricity, running water, flushing toilets, windows, cars, etc.  Our perspective on luxury typically means things like driving a Lexus instead of a Toyota, living in a nice house instead of an apartment, wearing diamonds instead of cubic zirconia. We think of people like Donald Trump or famous models, singers and actors in their luxurious mansions, jetset lifestyles and extravagant vacations as living a life of luxury and that we just live the “middle class” life.  Some of us see our neighbor’s boats or riding lawnmowers as “luxury items” and wish we could have the same.

Walpi, AZ on the Hopi Reservation.  Yes, people still live this way, even in the US

Walpi, AZ on the Hopi Reservation. Yes, people still live this way, even in the US

But, as I count my blessings, I can see the flip side.  I can see that I actually do have a life of luxury.  While in college in Flagstaff, I worked as a tour guide and took many people out to the Hopi and Navajo Indian Reservations. These tourists were fascinated by the lives of the Hopi high up on a mesa in the middle of the desert.  They lived without running water or electricity.  Their “bathrooms” were wooden outhouses that clung precariously on the edge of the cliff. These tourists also found the Navajo lifestyle to be unique as many were still residing in the circular mud huts known as “hogans”.  They too had no running water or electricity.

Navajo Hogan

Navajo Hogan

A boy climbs a ladder to his "home" after bathing in the dirty river.  I took this photo in Cebu.

A boy climbs a ladder to his “home” after bathing in the dirty river. I took this photo in Cebu.

In the mid-2000s I spent a few weeks in Cebu, in the Philippines. During this time I gained a whole new perspective on luxury.  Indeed, many Filipinos have nice cars and nice places to live, but the majority do not.  They see the average American as rich and living a life of luxury.  We are all billionaires in their eyes. I also saw the massive poverty where people lived clumped together in squatter’s villages built out of corrugated metal and wooden posts.  They bathed in dirty rivers. They had no beds or windows.

Lifes-little-luxuriesAs I said, luxury is a matter of perspective.  I am thankful to turn on a switch and have light.  I count it a blessing to turn a handle and have warm water flowing from a shower. I look at my fairly inexpensive hot tub as a luxury item in my household.

I enjoy life’s little luxuries.  I don’t need a yacht.  I don’t need a vacation home on an island. I have sufficient.  I am blessed.  I am content. I am grateful.

I am content.

I am content.

Countdown 365: #363 – Amo Lo Mia Famiglia

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

Starting my family in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ

Starting my family in 1980 in Flagstaff, AZ

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

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

My family in Japan, around 1989

My family in Japan, around 1989

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

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

Family in 2008

Family in 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kravetz Family in 2009

Kravetz Family in 2009

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

Countdown 365: #364 – The First Day of the Rest of My Life

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

BabyPicSince I was born on October 4, 1956 (with the birth name of Carmen David Laurienzo), the REAL first full day of my life took place on October 5, 1956.  It only follows that my note of thanks…my blessing for this day…would be to express gratitude to my natural mother and father. I was born into an Italian household in Cleveland, OH.  My father, Joseph Laurienzo (2Mar35 – 2Dec92) was 21 and my mother, Orene Goldberg (8Apr39), a Jewish girl from Albuquerque was 17.  They were young.  She had been sent to Cleveland to go to a girl’s boarding school.  Joe’s family were Italian immigrants.  His father and mother had come by ship and then moved to Cleveland in the Murray Hill section, which is now called Little Italy.  Joe was born in the same home I was born in.  The families were close knit.

Orene and Joe ca. 1956

Orene and Joe ca. 1956 (before I was born)

The home I was born into on Murray Hill Rd. in Cleveland, OH. This was taken about 1956

The home I was born into on Murray Hill Rd. in Cleveland, OH. This was taken about 1956

My grandfather Carmen Laurienzo with my father Joe when he was a child. Not sure when this was taken...maybe the 1940s?

My grandfather Carmen Laurienzo with my father Joe when he was a child. Not sure when this was taken…maybe the 1940s?

I am pretty certain that I was brought into a loving home and that my parents cared about me.  But, after almost a year, Orene’s parents forced her to move back to Albuquerque with me.  I never saw my real father again and, in fact, I never knew who he was until around the summer of 1974 when I had a chance to visit Orene, who had left me years before (I was adopted by my step parents in the early 1960s). I got to call Joe and speak with him…the only time I was able to.  But, I am grateful for that.

As a baby in Cleveland

As a baby in Cleveland

JoeLThe first time I had ever even seen what he looked like was when he sent me the photo to the right as I prepared to go on a mission. I still have the letters he wrote me while I served as a missionary in Japan.

Ultimately, I am grateful to have a knowledge of my posterity on my father’s side.  The family came from Matrice, in the CampoBasso region of Italy. I am sure there must be relatives there even today.

JoeLObitI first came to Kentucky in 1992 and while here I had hoped to get up to Cleveland to finally see my real father.  Sadly, by 1993, when I first had a good chance, he had already passed on.  I have visited his grave site on a couple of occasions and have since met with my sisters and brother and have a good relationship with my long lost family.

As for my mother Orene, she left me when I was about 4 and I did not see her again until I was about 18.  We have had an on and off relationship over the years, but that debt of gratitude for her bringing me into this world will always be there.  I actually spoke to her for the first time in years on my birthday yesterday.  She is now 78 and living in an assisted care facility in California.  She was alert, she shed tears of regret and tears of joy through the conversation.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Murray, UT

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Murray, UT

By the 1980s Orene had changed her name to Jennierose Lavender.  She had a number of issues with life, but still wanted to have a relationship with her children and grandchildren.  Though my wife and I were not in agreement with her chosen lifestyle, we have never kept our children from communicating with their natural grandmother.

With my half brother Aaron and my mother in the 1980s.

With my half brother Aaron and my mother in the 1980s.

As her days wane, I committed to her to once again renew my relationship by calling on Sundays.  She is my mother.  She carried me for nine months and brought me into this world.  Despite all of the challenges and the journey she took, I owe her the gratitude for her sacrifices on my behalf and owe her the love and care in her last few years of life.

That is the real path to gratitude.

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.

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.

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.