Awesome But Getting Better – A Life Update

Pondering my life on a bench at UK

Pondering my life on a bench at UK

In eleven short days I turn 60.  My how time has flown in this wonderful life of mine.

But I have not had much time to reflect on this.  About a year ago I had set a goal to write 365 things I was grateful for…blessings in my life.  I even created a spreadsheet to try to stay organized.  I didn’t get very far…life throws us for some loops.

Since my last birthday in October 2015, I have been on a roller coast ride with my hands high up in the air enjoying the ride of life.  I have experienced many ups and downs and there have been many things that have taken time out of my “blogging” life.

Teaching Japanese at Berea College in spring 2016

Teaching Japanese at Berea College in spring 2016

In February of this year I had a sudden opportunity to teach Japanese at Berea College in Berea, KY.  It literally fell out of the sky and was a great blessing in many ways. But, by May, it was gone.  It was temporary. But it was fun!

Then, once again, in August I began another teaching gig.  Once again, it may be temporary, but I am teaching Japanese at the University of Kentucky.  It is rewarding in many ways, but also takes a toll on my time. My passions have suffered – little time for blogging, few opportunities to go watch herons at Jacobson Park, fewer chances for photography (an my Nikon camera died as well…so I am stuck with just my iPhone for now)

Japanese Professor at UK

Japanese Professor at UK

lifeiskaizenBut, I am grateful.  I am alive and doing fine.  I am earning money doing something I am passionate about.  I love to teach and I love the Japanese language. I am also getting exercise as I walk daily on campus.  This is good.

Along with the ups and downs, the heavens have opened up other opportunities and I have been blessed to get some traveling in.  Early in the year we had hopes for a big family gathering in Utah…all of the grandkidz and children.  A big roadtrip.  But, things fizzled as schedules and finances and other things threw obstacles in the way.  It was a real downer for me.

My office space at UK

My office space at UK

But God is kind.  He poured out a blessing from heaven with the Japanese teaching position at UK and my heart is full. Our short biking trips with Julianne and Marissa and Julianne’s sister Laura have filled that travel urge.  I am still getting photos.  I am squeezing time in when I can (the gig at UK takes up nearly 40 hours a week with three classes four times a week and 75 students.

In many ways I am finally fulfilling a dream.  I went to college in the 1980s with hopes of teaching.  Now I am finally doing it as I approach 60. Its a blessing.

I can even take my “photo art” concept pics at the school and elsewhere.  Life is awesome, but its getting better!!

In a few days I will hit a milestone.  I am grateful to have made it this far.  I hope I can catch up on my 365 days of Gratitude posts.  I have so many more things to be grateful for and I want to express them. I’ll work on it.

UK Logo...I walk over this daily on my way to class

UK Logo…I walk over this daily on my way to class

I do get chances to get out.  Got these sunflowers east of Lexington

I do get chances to get out. Got these sunflowers east of Lexington

Saw an Egret at Jacobson Lake (actually saw 12 of them!)

Saw an Egret at Jacobson Lake (actually saw 12 of them!)

Played with concept pictures from my iPhone - this is the Kentucky Theater

Played with concept pictures from my iPhone – this is the Kentucky Theater

Staring down a wildcat

Staring down a wildcat

Patterson Hall is where I teach my classes at UK. Saw a nice sky and sunrise the other day

Patterson Hall is where I teach my classes at UK. Saw a nice sky and sunrise the other day

Sunset at Jacobson Lake

Sunset at Jacobson Lake

LIFE IS GOOD

Horse Farm Country

Horse Farm Country

Powerball Frenzy: Dopamine Dreaming

Powerball3Today is the big day!  Yes, the record breaking $1.5 billion Powerball drawing will take place later tonight and somebody’s life will dramatically change.

Just a day after President Obama’s final State of the Union address, the real talk on the web and in social media will likely be this humongous lottery jackpot.  And for me, I am actually excited to get away from Obama bashing, Trump tirades, racial hatred, political memes and yes, the millions of cat and dog photos on Facebook.

powerball-logoMind you, I am not typically a Powerball ticket purchaser.  Not even occasionally such.  But, there are times when I give in and spend a specific budgeted amount to get a couple of them.  Why? For the entertainment value – the opportunity to let my dopamine kick in and do a little dreaming.  Don’t we do that when we spend $14/person to go see a Star Wars movie in 3D?  The joy of the “What if” is pleasurable and gets my mind, if only for a brief few days, off of all of the other banter from Social Media and the news.

KYLotteryTo be sure, I am fully aware that my true chances of taking home the $1.5 billion ($900 million cash upfront minus taxes — maybe about $500 million) is next to not even being slimmly nil.  The odds of getting all six numbers correct, which never change, are slightly more than 292.2 million to 1 (in other words, there are 292.2 million possible combinations of the five white balls and red Powerball. That’s where the one in 292.2 million odds comes from, and they stay the same regardless of how big the jackpot grows or how many people buy tickets).  Let’s face it, our finite minds cannot really fathom numbers in the millions.  So, here are some other things that I may actually have a better chance at than winning the Powerball jackpot….

Here are 10 things more likely to happen to people than winning the lottery.

Getting struck by lightning in any given year: 1 in 1,190,000, according to the National Weather Service.

Dying after being bitten or struck by a dog: 1 in 103,798, according to the National Safety Council.

Hitting a hole in one for an amateur golfer: 1 in 12,500, according to Golf Digest.

Being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Being fatally struck by an asteroid or comet falling to Earth: 1 in 75,000, according to a Tulane University study.

Being dealt a royal flush in poker: 1 in 649,740, according to Central Washington University.

A woman giving birth to twins: 33.3 in 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and 

Dying of a bee, wasp or hornet sting: 1 in 75,852, according to the National Safety Council.

Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 8 million, according to OSHA.

Living to 100 years old in the United States: 1.73 in 10,000, according to the 2010 Census Special Report.

IMG_7132In fact, there is another item that many participate in that has worse odds. Your odds of finishing with a perfect NCAA men’s tournament bracket.Basically, according to some, you have a 1 in 1,610,543,269 chance of calling every game right. A professor at DePaul University has done a different calculation…he says the odds are:

1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808

There are 63 total games in a tournament bracket. For each of those games, two teams play, and one team wins. So, filling out a bracket consists of picking 63 winners. So, you have two options for the first game, two options for the second game, two options for the third game, and so on, for all 63 games. To get the total number of possible ways to fill out a bracket, you multiply together all 63 of these twos, giving us 263, or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets. If all of these brackets are equally likely — if each game in the entire tournament is a 50-50 tossup, and picking the winner is basically a coin flip — we then get the odds of a correct bracket at one in 9.2 quintillion. HA!

WHAT IS THE DOPAMINE THING?

powerball-lottery-winners-1A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News focused on how the lottery can kick dopamine into gear. According to the article:

“It’s the brain chemical associated with reward, pleasure and addiction. And it’s digging into pockets at a maddening pace this week when the California lottery expects to sell $60 million in Powerball tickets — 10 times what it sells on a typical week.

Thanks a lot, dopamine. Whether the jackpot is $9 million or $900million, the odds of winning are stuck at a buzzkilling one in 292 million.”

With $1.5 billion up for grabs, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to explain how people may be ignoring probability this week because of the way the brain processes risk and reward.

“In the brain stem of a gambler, dopamine neurons are firing very high, pushing them to put out the money, to go and buy the ticket,” said a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco.

IMG_6654I too feel that dopamine rush as I dream of the “What If” options. I consider the entire process…signing the ticket, getting a safe deposit box, getting lawyers and a financial team.  I think about how to allocate the money.  What charities will I be able to pass some on to?  Which family members?

Then comes the fun part…how would I spend the money?  Would we buy a big compound in the mountains and add solar and wind energy?  Would we take a year long cruise? How would we tell our children and what would we do for them?

IMG_6541And to me, the pleasure lasts longer than a Star Wars movie and costs less.  It is fun to have the occasional dopamine dreams. Reality tells me that I don’t have a chance whatsoever.  But, I have a better chance if I buy a ticket. If I don’t buy a ticket, I most certainly won’t win.  But only this time.  I am participating in history!

Money, Money, Money…ain’t it funny, in a rich man’s world.  I am running down a dream and, as Aerosmith sings… Dream On!

But only this time….

Countdown 365: #310 – Wicked, The Musical

(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.)

Ticket and Program for Wicked

Ticket and Program for Wicked

Over the Thanksgiving weekend Julianne and I, along with Marissa and Adam, were blessed with the opportunity to go to Louisville and enjoy the spectacle of the traveling Broadway performance of “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” which included parts performed by Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd.

I count this as one of my blessings as it is EXTREMELY rare for us to go to a Broadway production of this caliber…even if it is a National Tour production of one.  Tickets are pricey and getting there, etc., can be a hassle.

But we had to go to this one.  First of all, Julianne’s cousin was in it.  Tregoney is a Broadway actress and performer, an acting and voice coach and an all around fun person!

Julianne and I with Tregoney Shepherd on the Wicked stage after the performance

Julianne and I with Tregoney Shepherd on the Wicked stage after the performance

Tregoney Shepherd as Madame Thenardier in Broadway production of Les Miserables

Tregoney Shepherd as Madame Thenardier in Broadway production of Les Miserables

We were blessed to see her a few years ago when she came to Louisville in the National Tour of “Les Miserables,” where she played Madame Thenardier.  That too was an amazing performance.

More recently Tregoney was in the National Tour of “Mary Poppins” and has been in “Wicked” for the past few months.

(L to R) Blake Segal, Tregoney Shepherd, Rachel Wallace, Michael Dean Morgan and Elizabeth Broadhurst in “Mary Poppins” Photo: Deen Van Meer

(L to R) Blake Segal, Tregoney Shepherd, Rachel Wallace, Michael Dean Morgan and Elizabeth Broadhurst in “Mary Poppins”
Photo: Deen Van Meer

Another photo of Tregoney in Les Miz (photo courtesy tregoneyshepherd.com)

Another photo of Tregoney in Les Miz (photo courtesy tregoneyshepherd.com)

One of the Wicked trucks that carries all of the stage equipment

One of the Wicked trucks that carries all of the stage equipment

This post is not as much about Tregoney (though she DOES deserve one of her own…she is a real gem honestly), as it is about the AMAZING musical “Wicked.”

Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. It is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, an alternative telling of the witches from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Like most people my age, I grew up with this movie and have seen it dozens of times.

A stage scene from Wicked of the witches Glinda and

A stage scene from Wicked of the witches Glinda and Elphaba (photo from Louisville Courier-Journal)

The musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz; its plot begins before and continues after Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from Kansas and includes several references to the 1939 film and Baum’s novel. Wicked tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda, who struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government, and, ultimately, Elphaba’s public fall from grace.

Wicked Stage Scene (photo: Stock Promo photo from Kentucky Center)

Wicked Stage Scene (photo: Stock Promo photo from Kentucky Center)

Seting at Wicked...5th row, with Julianne, Marissa and Adam

Seting at Wicked…5th row, with Julianne, Marissa and Adam

Like any Broadway production, the stage is spectacular and the costumes are phenomenal.  And, of course, the acting and singing are as good as it comes.  Thanks to Tregoney, we were able to land some great seats…5th row. We could almost touch the actors on stage.

The house was packed on this Saturday matinee version of the performance. The venue is a great place to watch a huge production like this…no matter where you sat.  But our seats were fantastic.

Sumoflam with the stage behind him... a giant dragon that has glowing red eyes and breathes smoke. The curtain is a map of Oz and the Emerald City.

Sumoflam with the stage behind him… a giant dragon that has glowing red eyes and breathes smoke. The curtain is a map of Oz and the Emerald City.

Scene from Wicked...Elphaba above the cast. Amazing

Scene from Wicked…Elphaba above the cast. Amazing (photo from a promo site about Wicked)

Everything about the musical really made it worth the trip and the price of the tickets. The props were very realistic.  One of the walls in one of the scenes was covered with vines.  It all looked so real (and, after our private backstage tour with Tregoney, we could see that they WERE real!!).  The show had some great scenes, but one of my favorites was of Elphaba flying high above the cast.  The lighting was like a burst of light coming from her.  It was classic!  Fortunately, I found a photo on the web from a promotional site that shows the scene (photos were strictly forbidden during the performance and even on the back stage tour).

Julianne and David in front of the Wizard of Oz prop from Wicked. This is the only prop allowed for photos.

Julianne and David in front of the Wizard of Oz prop from Wicked. This is the only prop allowed for photos.

After the performance, we were fortunate to get a backstage tour with Tregoney.  Honestly, this was almost as amazing as the performance.  We didn’t get to meet any of the actors, but we did get a unique look at all of the props, the stage floor and a close up look-see-feel of the costumes, all of which were obviously handmade and intricate. As noted, photos were not allowed.  Everything…the props, the costumes and even the makeup is copyrighted.

Tregoney explained that the green make-up used on Elphaba is all trademarked.  She may not leave the stage area with that make up on and close up photos of her are not allowed.

Alyssa Fox and Carrie St. Louis Photo by Joan Marcus 2015

Alyssa Fox and Carrie St. Louis
Photo by Joan Marcus 2015

We learned how the actors make their quick changes for scenes.  We saw the intricate and custom designed stage flooring that is carried from venue to venue.  It contains holes for the smoke and vents for fans to blow wind out for flowing hair and robes.

Glinda’s dress, as seen on the right, actually has a carabiner sewn into it to keep her attached to the floating props. These costumes are all very heavy and appear to be not too comfortable.  But, they are truly elaborate.  Seen up close you can see that no expense was spared.  The audience doesn’t see the complexity, but up close it is really amazing (sorry, running out of adjectives).

Stage shot with Tregoney, Julianne, Marissa and Adam

Stage shot with Tregoney, Julianne, Marissa and Adam

Overall, this was a wonderful experience for us and we are so appreciative of Tregoney who took the time to visit us on Thanksgiving Day and then to bless us with a feast for our eyes in Louisville.

Opportunities to enjoy the arts are a blessing.  The creativity of people is inspiring whether it be musicians, writers, actors or even set and costume designers.

I count it a blessing to be able to participate in opportunities like this.

And a final word…Wicked ends in Louisville on December 6.  But it will be in St. Louis and Kansas City in the near future.  There will be shows in California, Dallas and Houston coming later in 2016 as well.

Countdown 365: #336 – Joselyn Love Noe – Grandchild #4

Joselyn5Today is my granddaughter Joselyn’s 8th birthday.  She is my 4th grandchild.  In a few days she will be baptized into the church and enjoy the blessings that will come with that.

But Joselyn is also a blessing to me.  For eight years I have been able to enjoy her presence and her presents…her gifts of joy, love, happiness, curiosity and goofiness.  Since she lives in Lexington, I get to spend a great deal of time with her and her brother and sister. How much fun is that?

Joselyn is the oldest child of my second Joselyn2daughter Marissa and her husband Adam.  She came into a family filled with love and that became her middle name as well. And she exudes the middle name as she shows love to all around her and to the world she lives in.

I get great joy and happiness with her on park excursions as I watch her look at the world around her with great curiosity.

I smile when I think of the way she makes the world her stage as she dances and prances.

11994126_10153597866027090_111569480_oJoselyn also loves being on the beaches of lakes and oceans.  She seems attracted to the beautiful surroundings around her. She loves nature whether it be leaves and plants, insects and butterflies or the sands on the beach.

Joselyn is a joy.

 

Joselyn4

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IMG_2063Of all of my grandchildren, Joselyn is likely the most well traveled.  In fact, she is practically my “travel buddy.”

In her short eight years of life, she has traveled to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, Canada, Maine, Georgia and many states in between.  Many of these trips have been with me and she is a GREAT traveler.

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, with her uncle Solomon

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, with her uncle Solomon

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

At the "Field of Corn" in Dublin, Ohio

At the “Field of Corn” in Dublin, Ohio

The Gothic House in Eldon, IA

The Gothic House in Eldon, IA

West Virginia

West Virginia

Givong Grampz a "Hershey Kiss" in Hershey, PA

Giving Grampz a “Hershey Kiss” in Hershey, PA

On the beach in Hilton Head, SC

On the beach in Hilton Head, SC

IMG_0853Because Jos lives in town, I am able to go to the movies with her and her brother and sister and sometimes her cousin Autumn, my oldest grandchild.  These are fun affairs.  We take goofy pictures together.

We always find a way to have fun with each other on these outings.  And the kids always know that when they are with Grampz, it is always a photo opportunity.  And Grampz becomes a kid again for a little while.

And it is always that way when I am with Joselyn. Since her mother is a photographer, Jos is always in front of a camera lens. And it is really no different with Grampz.

Cuddle time with Grampz

Cuddle time with Grampz

On the road with Grampz

On the road with Grampz

Visiting Grampz at Bountiful Baskets

Visiting Grampz at Bountiful Baskets

IMG_0673Of all of my grandchildren, I think that Joselyn has proven that she can be the best “goofball.”  She is great at making faces and her expressions are priceless.

I really get a kick out of saying – “Time for a goofy picture” because I know that Joselyn will ALWAYS come through, even if the others kind of shrug it off.

Joselyn is tons of fun!

Making faces

Making faces

In Tucson, AZ

In Tucson, AZ

Making Faces - Part 2

Making Faces – Part 2

Ice Cream Nose at Chick-Fil-A

Ice Cream Nose at Chick-Fil-A

Heart Face

Heart Face

Giving Grampz long hair

Giving Grampz long hair

DSC_1975Over the years, she has grown from a baby to an infant to a wonderful young lady.

She is always serious about learning and loves everything around her. The world is her classroom and she engages with it.

I am grateful to see this beautiful person blossom like a butterfly from a cocoon. And indeed she has.

Following are a few pictures from earlier birthdays and other good times.  I love my sweet Joselyn.

She is a great blessing in my life and in the lives of all those whom she touches.

November 6, 2008

November 6, 2008

At the Cincinnati Zoo with her cousin Autumn and her cousin Savannah (my sister Sherry's daughter) in August 2009

At the Cincinnati Zoo with her cousin Autumn and her cousin Savannah (my sister Sherry’s daughter) in August 2009

Hanging with the "big girls" in August 2009

Hanging with the “big girls” in August 2009

November 14, 2009

November 14, 2009

Running - July 2009

Running – July 2009

Running - July 2011

Running – July 2011

And just a few more photos of this amazing kid!

At Ballet in the Park

At Ballet in the Park

Cave Run Lake, KY

Cave Run Lake, KY

Cuddle Bunny

Cuddle Bunny

A big helper

A big helper

Fun with a cat in 2008

Fun with a cat in 2008

Flower Child

Flower Child

Holding a butterfly

Holding a butterfly

Listening

Listening

I love Joselyn…..she is a blessing in my life

 

 

Countdown 365: #346 – Falling for Fall

DSC_7238Honestly, fall is my favorite time of year.  Maybe it is because I was born in October.  Maybe its because the temperatures are cooling down to the fifties. But, most likely it is because of the change of the season, the striking colors (at least in Kentucky) and the eye candy that the colors bring. Joy points. Nature’s soup for the soul.

Last Sunday, October 25, I took a drive in the countryside early in the morning. All of the photos on this post were taken then. So, you can get a glimpse of one day of fall.

I consider myself blessed to be living DSC_7289in Kentucky. I am thankful to live in a neighborhood that is just minutes away from the pastoral settings of the famous Overbrook and Juddmonte farms, two of Kentucky’s famed thoroughbred horse farms.

There are many scenic byways surrounding Lexington, and the Delong Road/Walnut Hill Road area is one of the best.  Just five minutes from my house I can be driving down Delong Road and witnessing the beauty of the rolling DSC_7277hills surrounded by the black plank fences of the horse farms.  Any time of year is great to get away and do this.  But fall is by far the most amazing time to do so.

The drives on these two lane roads make me slow down and visually, as well as emotionally, take it all in.  The Grand Canyon, the Tetons, Glacier National Park…all of these may be breathtaking, but the simplicity of the fall colors lining the black plank fences is just as breathtaking to me.

DSC_7287DSC_7285DSC_7267DSC_7264DSC_7259DSC_7280DSC_7279DSC_7260DSC_7297I also enjoy looking at the colorful leaves up close.  From a distance they all look the same, but, on closer inspection, each one is like a snowflake.  They each have their own hues of red, yellow, brown and orange.  They have blemishes. They are different sizes and shapes. Another great example to me of nature’s complex simplicity. I am certain that our kind Father in Heaven created this time of season for us to take time to reflect upon the richness of this earth that we live in.  Its a time to have wonder in His grand creations.

DSC_7262DSC_7246DSC_7248DSC_7305DSC_7231Then there are the little surprises.  As I drove around the back country and snapped photos, I missed a few things.  In editing and reviewing my photos before I wrote this, I notices something interesting on the tree.  On closer inspection I discovered that a little frog had photobombed my autumn leave shot.  Can you find the little critter in the photo below?  Chock up another joy point!

Notice the frog on the tree

Notice the frog on the tree

DSC_7233Even driving the neighborhoods of Lexington, I can find some great scenic beauty.

The city is blessed with a variety of trees and thus an astounding array of colors dots the neighborhoods.

Every October my excitement grows as I wait for the two big trees just a couple of blocks from our house to explode in their yellows and oranges. They are delightful.

DSC_7230FallTreesDSC_7301DSC_7303Indeed, I am grateful for fall colors.  They are a blessing to my life each year.

Countdown 365: #360 – Grandkidz Rawk

(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.)

David and Sam Sept 2015. Grandchild #10

David and Sam Sept 2015. Grandchild #10

On August 31st of this year I became a grandfather…for the 10th time! Almost one month later my oldest grandchild turned 10. What a joy.  What a blessing… or should I say “What Joys! What Blessings!”

Over the course of this countdown, each of my grandchildren will get their own special posts on their individual birthdays.  This one is the “Cumulative” post of gratitude for my grandchildren in general.

Back in January of this year I wrote about 40 years of blessings on the 40th anniversary of my baptism into the LDS Church (see post here) and noted that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have ANY grandchildren before I turned 60…and, before I was 59 I have ten. I wonder how many more will come along over the next 2 years??

With 9 grandchildren on Christmas 2012...the last time they were all here together

With 9 grandchildren on Christmas 2012…the last time they were all here together

Making faces with my 10 year old Autumn, back in 2014

Making faces with my 10 year old Autumn, back in 2014

I love hanging with my grandkidz (yes, with a Z!!) who call me Grampz (yes, with a Z!! I’m a hip grandpa).  They are fun and I can feel like a kid again.  We go to the movies, to the park, to fast food joints.  I love to take them places.

As a grandfather, on these special Grampz and Grandkidz outings we have already developed a routine.  “What is the first thing we do when we get out of the car?” (No, its not look both ways…)

Their reply is now always…”Take a picture with Grampz.” Sometimes it is said in fun and excitement.  Other times its like its a drudgery, until we do it.  But, they know it brings joy to Grampz’ heart and soul.  They are all truly my little sunshines.

Taking a picture with Grampz at the movies...Landen, Autumn and Joselyn

Taking a picture with Grampz at the movies…Landen, Autumn and Joselyn

Taking a picture with Grampz in Washington. My Matthews grandkidz - Livvy, Benson, Charles and Kade in summer 2015

Taking a picture with Grampz in Washington. My Matthews grandkidz – Livvy, Benson, Charles and Kade in summer 2015

Rockwell and Grampz at Old Orchard Beach in Maine in September 2015

Rockwell and Grampz at Old Orchard Beach in Maine in September 2015

40314-GrandchildrenI am also blessed that I have children who make sure lots of photos are taken of the grandkidz. And I too take lots of them without me in them (believe it or not!!)  Here are a few favorites from the past couple of years.  There will be many more appear on this blog throughout the next 359 days.  You can rest assured!!

Rockwell and Sam Kravetz - the only "namesake" grandchildren

Rockwell and Sam Kravetz – the only “namesake” grandchildren (photo by Marissa Noe)

Hanging with all of the grandkidz except the Matthews Christmas 2014

Hanging with all of the grandkidz except the Matthews Christmas 2014

Landen Noe in 2014 (photo by Marissa Noe)

Landen Noe in 2014 (photo by Marissa Noe)

My sweet wife and I with grandchild #10 in Connecticut, Sept. 2015

My sweet wife and I with grandchild #10 in Connecticut, Sept. 2015

Olivia Matthews at the beach in Washington 2015

Olivia Matthews at the beach in Washington 2015

The Matthews kidz on a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park in 2015

The Matthews kidz on a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park in 2015

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The Noe kidz 2015

The Noe kidz 2015 (photo by Priscilla)

Reading to Grandkidz in Montana in 2014

Reading to Grandkidz in Montana in 2013

Olivia and Benson buried in sand at the beach in 2015

Olivia and Benson buried in sand at the beach in Washington state August 2015

Hanging with Autumn Summer 2015

Hanging with Autumn Summer 2015

Young Lyla scampers along the beach in Maine in September 2015

Young Lyla scampers along the beach in Maine in September 2015

Rockwell on his first day of school August 2014 (photo by Holly Kravetz)

Rockwell on his first day of school August 2014 (photo by Holly Kravetz)

Baby Sam Kravetz - September 2015 (photo by Marissa Noe)

Baby Sam Kravetz – September 2015 (photo by Marissa Noe)

Joselyn Noe - her (soon to be) 8th birthday photo shoot

Joselyn Noe – her (soon to be) 8th birthday photo shoot

Olivia and brother Charles, who turned 8 earlier in 2015

Olivia and brother Charles, who turned 8 earlier in 2015

Getting ready for a treat at Wendy's early in 2015

Getting ready for a treat at Wendy’s early in 2015

Fun with little Bensy in Washington August 2015

Fun with little Bensy in Washington August 2015

Cousins in summer of 2011

Cousins in summer of 2011

Lyla plays peek a boo on a road trip to Nebraska in 2013

Lyla plays peek a boo on a road trip to Nebraska in 2013

Joselyn inspecting a plant in Connecticut Sept. 2015

Joselyn inspecting a plant in Connecticut Sept. 2015

Kadester...Washington 2015

Kadester…Washington 2015

Landen at the park in 2015

Landen at the park in 2015

Lyla romping at a park in 2015

Lyla romping at a park in 2015

Charles at the Seattle Market

Charles at the Seattle Market

Livvy taking a dive into a pool of water at the beach in Washington 2015

Livvy taking a dive into a pool of water at the beach in Washington 2015

Yes, my grandkidz bring me immense joy and happiness. Money is nothing and cannot compare to the wonderful feeling being with these amazing souls can bring.

Fun with the Grandidz on my 59th birthday, Oct. 4, 2015

Fun with the Grandidz Landen, Lyla and Jos on my 59th birthday, Oct. 4, 2015

 

Feeling Lucky on Friday the 13th – Part I

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

Number 1 – Wonderful Wife

My Wonderful Wife of over 35 years

My Wonderful Wife of over 35 years

I most certainly Married Up!

I most certainly Married Up!

Number 2 – Great Family/Children

My Wonderful Family - 1993

My Wonderful Family – 1993

My Wonderful Family - 2012

My Wonderful Family – 2012

Number 3 – Grandkids (of course!)

Grandchildren!!

Grandchildren!!

Number 4 – My Siblings

My Siblings - ca 1971

My Siblings – ca 1972

Number 5 – My Cleveland Family

My family in Cleveland

My family in Cleveland – ca 2001

Number 6 – My Wonderful Cousins

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

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

Number 7 – My Friends in the Philippines

My Filipino friends - ca 2006

My Filipino friends – ca 2006

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

Number 9 – My Friend Antsy McClain

With Antsy ca. 1998

With Antsy ca. 1998

Singing with Antsy around 2008

Singing with Antsy around 2008

Number 10 – I’ve Been Everywhere

I've Been Everywhere

I’ve Been Everywhere

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

Being Weird is Awesome

Being Weird is Awesome

Number 12 – Bountiful Baskets – Veggies are Good!

Bountiful Baskets!

Bountiful Baskets!

Number 13

Living in a Wonderful World!

Living in a Wonderful World!

#TBT – Asahi Solar TV Commercial in Japan – 1990

DavidAsahiSolarHappy Throwback Thursday!  This is the first of my #TBT looks back on my work with me in Japan and around the US over the years.

Perhaps the most viewed item in my career, the following video includes the original Asahi Solar TV commercial from Japan, which aired all over the country for nearly half of 1990.

I have not written much about this video, though it has had extensive viewing since I posted it on YouTube a number of years ago.

Basically, at the time it was taken, I was the Director of International Business for Asahi Solar Corporation, which was Japan’s largest marketer of rooftop installed solar water heaters.  In the 1990s it was a big business.

Bunta Sugawara in one of his mob boss roles

Bunta Sugawara in one of his mob boss roles.  He died in November 2014

We had a famous actor from Japan, named Bunta Sugawara (8/16/1933 to 11/28/2014), who did most of our TV commercials.  He was (and still is) famous and was like a mix between the Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood of Japan.  The producers of the commercial didn’t feel that he was a fit for the theme of this particular commercial, though he was included in a bit part on it.

This particular commercial included a little doll called “Solar Bo” and was a bit too goofy for his liking.  So, they chose a big “gaijin” (foreigner) to do the part (that was me!).  I was to go to the Dentsu Advertising Agency’s recording studios in Tokyo and spent over 8 hours in a fake bathtub that was heated with an electric prod every hour, while they filmed the two 30 second spots.  We did a number of takes.  It was fun, but it was also grueling.  The video below contains the commercial as well as a collection of outtakes by Dentsu synched to the music of the Ghostbusters theme.  Yes, I am in a bathtub flying over Tucson!!

AsahiSolarClipAfter the commercial began to air, I had some minor celebrity as I traveled the country for Asahi on business.  People at airports and train stations would come to me and ask if I was the guy in the commercial.  It was fun and was an amazing ride!  Without further adieu, here is the video of the commercial and also the outtakes.  Enjoy!!

Coming Soon to Sumoflam Singlewide Blog – 2015

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

As 2015 has already come on strong, I already have plans in the works for new blog posts and, honestly, I can’t wait, so I thought I would pop in a little teaser of what to expect over the next few weeks:

#TBT Posts

Cartoon2

Cartoon from Oita Godo Shinbun (Oita Daily News – Japan)

The #TBT (Throwback Thursday) movement is getting bigger and I have already boarded that train on my Less Beaten Paths Travel Blog as I look back at old travel journal entries that are now going to be integrated into the blog.  For this particular blog in 2015 my #TBT Theme will be “Sumoflam in the Media” and I will resurrect magazine articles, newspaper articles, television shows and commercials that I have been in over the years.

 

 

 

Second Mesa, AZ

Cover article for the Asahi Solar Magazine – Me with Hopi Indians, providing a Solar Water Heater to them in 1990.

In this I will include my short-lived TV documentaries from Japan, translated versions of my newspaper column while living in Japan, more recent publications in American Magazines and Newspapers. And, there may be a few other fun surprises.  Watch for these every Thursday (or at least every other Thursday).

A TV Food Competition Primer

FN-ShowLogo-Chopped-1920x1080I have become an avid viewer of great Food Competition programming on television, including Food Network shows such as “Chopped,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “The Great Food Truck Race,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and more. While listening to judges, I have learned all sorts of interesting things from cooking styles, food names and, most interestingly, terminology such as “flavor profile” and others.  I will introduce you to some of these and try to explain them away. Appearance and taste aren’t the only winning things with these shows as many culinary experts are becoming TV stars.  I’ll introduce some of them as well.

Scampering with squirrels – a Photo-Essay

DSC_5838Over the last couple of years I have become enamored with squirrels!  Through all of my wildlife photography, I have captured some great squirrel shots.  At the same time, as I look out by back deck door I have thoroughly enjoyed the amazing shows that squirrels present including their leaping, their frolicking with others and their foraging.  My fascination is seemingly endless.

How to be “Awesome, but getting better”

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

I have become known for replying “I’m awesome, but getting better” when asked how I’m doing.  I am a firm believer in trying to take a positive vent on things and be resilient.

Life may be hard, but the attitude one takes can really be life changing. I enjoy every day of life despite the stresses, challenges and obstacles thrown at me. I hope to share some of this positivity in an upcoming blog post.

The Joys of Being a Grandparent

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

My nickname is “Grampz” to my Grandkidz.  We are all hip…we use the letter Z at the end.

I never dreamed of having 9 (and maybe more) grandchildren.

I may have been an OK parent, but I like to believe I am a Helluva grandparent!

2014 – Year in Review: Livin’ the Dream

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

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

Celebrated my 35th Wedding Anniversary

35 Years of "Merried" Life

35 Years of “Merried” Life

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

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

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

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

First grandchild baptism

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

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

Seeing ALL of the children and grandchildren

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

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

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

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

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

    Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Fun with Lyla

    Fun with Lyla

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

    Three Generations of Kravetz…David, Rockwell and Seth

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

    Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

Kravetz Family Reunion

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

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

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

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

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

Extensive Travel Opportunities

Welcome to Louisiana

Welcome to Louisiana in 2014

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

Visiting Oklahoma

Visiting Oklahoma in 2014

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

    Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

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

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

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

On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

Meeting New Friends and Old Friends

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

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

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

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

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

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

Building My Own Business

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

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

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

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

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

Sumoflam in the News

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

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014.  My article about Jacobson Park

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014. My article about Jacobson Park

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

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

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

NativityFest

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

A Few More Odds and Ends

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

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

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

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

My SmugMug Photo site

My SmugMug Photo site

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

Life is Good

Life is Good