As many of you know, I work in the Superhero business. I know superheros. And Julianne has proven time and again that she is a superhero. In fact, sometimes she is Captain Marvel. Other times she is Wonder Woman. All times she is Supergirl.
I have to admit that my life is rich and joyful. This past year has been one very interesting and challenging year. There have been more ups and downs then a roller coaster ride in Kings Island. But I made it through the year with a smile on my face!!
The year started off on a high note as we were in Maryland finishing up a Christmas vacation and I saw a beautiful sunrise. We had some nice travel and then I started a new contract job for PrecisionHawk, a company that manufactures drone software. I was very excited, though it was a contractor position, I was able to work from home which made it very nice. My contract was supposed to be for one year but later on in the year the company transitioned management and many decisions were made, including one to eliminate all positions outside of North Carolina, which included me. That was totally unexpected, but, those kinds of things happen in this economy nowadays so one has to just roll with the punches.
In February my daughter Marissa and I made a trip to Houston to drop off a trailer to my son Seth and his wife Holly. We took Missy’s kids and had some fun stops along the way there (in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) and back (in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri). Road trips are always a blast, but are even more fun with Grandikidz!
Time in Houston was fun as well. Found a great quirky burger joint that we all went to. Pretty unique…
After visiting the family we returned home, first with a stopover in Uncertain, Texas to see the swamps. Though uncertain about things, we met Aaron Applebaum (Mystique Tours) who took us on a boat tour through the swamp. Didn’t see gators, but this February morning was a nice ride. The kids even go to drive the boats.
from the swamps of Texas/Louisiana, we headed north through central Arkansas and Missouri — a route that brought both planned and unplanned adventures. In the middle of Arkansas, we came across a massive flock of migrating Snow Geese as we crested a hill. What an amazing sight!! We went through Missouri and then had a super time in Metropolis, IL.
Later in the month my wife and daughter had a trip to Indianapolis to attend Time Out For Women. Wanting a road trip, I went along for the weekend ride. We went out of our way to visit Story, IN and the Story Inn for lunch. While they were at their conference, I visited some places in Indy. Always seeking adventure!
We didn’t travel in March at all, but I was thrilled to attend an amazing concert in Lexington, where I got to meet up with my old Australian musician pal Anthony Snape, who performed with the amazing Tommy Emmanuel. I took Marissa and she had a blast!
Later in the year I also got to attend a couple of other concerts, which I’ll note below.
Julianne’s sister had a time share reservation in Virginia and so they set up a three night stay over Easter Weekend. As always, I wanted to drive. I would take Julianne up there and then drive back on Easter morning. I had a spectacular Easter morning visiting Shenandoah National Park and celebrating my own Easter Sunrise Service. Had a spectacular moon (and even got a photo of Venus!!!) and took a really nice shot of a deer.
By July I was out of “full time“ work and was striving to make it on the two or three small contracts that I had for a number of years with Vype magazine. That made things very difficult.
That said, it was probably fortuitous that my position was eliminated because in July one of the highlights of the year came along and that was being able to be with my entire family for the first time in five years. All of my children and all my grandchildren were gathered together here in Kentucky and we had in some cases up to two weeks of reunion with family members.
With the family reunion came some additional fun as we traveled with parts of the family to a number of diverse areas including Mammoth Cave National Park, New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant and along the way a couple of beautiful state parks with amazing waterfalls, then on to Cleveland where we had another huge family gathering with my Laurienzo family and most of my family that was with us on the trip.
My sister Sherry came up from Texas with her husband Brian and daughter Savannah to join us for a couple of days. Had a thrill going with them to see the band Chicago perform in Cincinnati. I hadn’t seen them since 1975!!
The two weeks in July was an amazing time and one which most of us will not forget too soon. We even got some family pics, including this goofy one at Waveland State Historic Park near Lexington. I was contracted by the park to do their official photography for websites and other materials. It has been fun to do this throughout the year.
The year also brought sadness for me as one of my very good friends, Joseph Higginbotham, got ill and eventually passed away. Joseph was a good man and he had no family, very few friends and really nobody there for him, so I made numerous trips to West Virginia while he was in intensive care, a nursing home and ultimately in hospice. I was with Joseph at his bedside when he passed away.
I also had a dear sweet cousin pass away. Donna Shoemaker, a cousin of mine through my Laurienzo family, passed away this year. She was one of the sweetest and kindest souls I’d ever met. Knowing her added luster to my life!
During 2017 I was also able to visit in North Carolina with one of my very close friends from college days who had also worked with me at Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ. Charles Snow has been a friend of mine for well over 36 years, and I was thrilled to visit with him in North Carolina. He too has had some major illnesses and it breaks my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out for him daily as he suffers and struggles from a rare disease and from congestive heart failure. This kind of thing brings sadness to my heart. Besides him, I have a few other friends who are struggling.
But, where there are downs, there are also upsides. And the year brought many wonderful and exciting things for me, some of which were lifetime thrills!
When you speak of the highlights of your life, it often centers around children being born, getting married or some big events like that. I have had many of those in my life, but this year I had three big “Once in a lifetime” type of rare events happen.
The first of these occurred in January when I had heard about the possibility of seeing the migration of sandhill cranes as they come through Kentucky. In mid-January ventured south to Barren River Lake to check it out during their sandhill crane event. I was excited as I saw 200 or 300 Sandhill Cranes far out in a field. I couldn’t ever get very close.
But, I had also heard that there might be some near Cecilia, Kentucky, which is near Elizabethtown. So that morning I drove up I-65 to Cecilia and drove around a little bit. Soon I came across a flock of these tall, beautiful sandhill cranes. To my astonishment, I soon saw that there were thousands of them! They surrounded me in every direction. The eerie sound they make echoed in my ears while I saw the beautiful grace of these birds taking off and landing in massive numbers while many others stayed on the ground feeding on the leftover corn in the farmland that they were in.
I hung around for nearly 5 hours watching this beautiful event, all the way until sunset. It will always remain a highlight of my life, though I plan to visit and revisit again in future years, including this upcoming January (2018). Ironically, in December of this year we went to Barren River Lake State Resort Park and stayed three nights. I once again saw hundreds of this birds!
Another event happened, also in Kentucky. The middle of the year there was the famed great solar eclipse of 2017. It was a full eclipse which is very rare. In my 61 years of life, I had never seen one. So I took the day off and I booked it down to Hopkinsville, Kentucky where it was supposedly the epicenter and perhaps the best place in the world for viewing the eclipse. Thousands and thousands of people gathered from all around the world to witness this natural event. I was one of them.
For a couple of hours I drove around witnessing the “circus“ atmosphere in Hopkinsville. People were dressed in eclipse T-shirts and many had their Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon“ T-shirts on. Of course, everyone had their solar sunglasses!
As the event got near, I sought to find a place away from many people. I eventually found a small church that had parking for $10 and I paid them and I went and parked and sat and watched the event with amazement. I tried desperately to find a good filter for my camera in the previous weeks, but was not able to, so I had to wait until the actual event occurred to get some photos, which are shown below. Talk about a wonderful highlight!
The third big exciting event of my life happened just a few weeks ago as I published my first book. I plan on publishing another 11 in the series, but my first book, titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” is a book that took thousands of miles of travel and a lot of visits to out of the way places. I had written many blog posts and taken hundreds of photographs to finally create enough content for this book and those that will follow.
Another highlight and good note for me for the year was being hired as a full-time employee by the website ComicBook.com in October. This was my first hired position in over five years and I have to say that I was filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity. I am currently managing their database, which is massive and includes movies, television shows, anime and many other things. It’s a great opportunity for me and it’s a blast to work with superheroes all day!
This year I spent many hours visiting the nearby Jacobson Lake in Lexington, taking photographs of sunrises, sunsets, nature scenes and lots of birds. It has become my “happy place” where I can seek solace and enjoy the wonderful variety of God’s creations.
I got my first good photographs of eagles in 2017. There are two bald eagles that are hanging around the lake and I was able to photograph them and experience that wonder.
Not only did I get to see eagles, some of them close up as the photo below shows, but I also was able to witness a massive flock of Snow Geese in Arkansas as I traveled with my grandchildren, I was able to watch Osprey dive in the water and grab fish, I watched with amazement as a Baltimore oriole wove its nest in a sycamore tree over a number of days. This year became my bird watching year and it was wonderful.
I am amazed at nature and the variety that it offers. It’s been wondrous to watch cormorants swimming in groups in the lake as they “herd“ fish into a corner and then feed voraciously! It has been interesting to see the unusual and curious looking merganser ducks swim in flocks together. It is always peaceful to watch the graceful flight of a great blue heron or a great white egret. Both of which I’ve been able to experience this year. (I’ll be doing a subsequent post on my best bird shots of 2017 — so watch for it.)
Then there are others….
Despite the negative political climate that has evolved in America, the terrible hurricanes and earthquakes and fires that are devastated much of America, I have been very blessed to be in a lovely place and not be directly impacted by any of these things. I have been able to enjoy life to its fullest this year. I’ve been able to see God’s creations. Through my photography I have made many new friends. I am fortunate to get to see many of them at the lake. I’ve been able to have joy with my 10 grandchildren, my five children and my lovely wife throughout the year.
Some of my photographer friends….thanks to them for making 2017 a good year
Finally, we finished off the year on a high note. Earlier in the year I had been contracted to do the photography for Waveland State Historic Park in Lexington. Through them we coordinated an agreement with the Barren River Lake State Resort Park. We spent three days in a unit down there (read Staycation) between Christmas and New Years. Saw some splendid sunrises and sunsets and got to revisit the Sandhill Cranes. There were thousands of them all over the sky.
When I look back on the year 2017, it will be with joy and happiness and many many many fond memories.
So, as 2017 comes to an end, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy and I look forward to a splendid 2018!
Over the year 2015 I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to both coasts and a few other places. I also made a few trips to local areas to score some “joy points.” With camera in hand I took 1000s of photos and following are some of my favorites from the year, with a brief story behind each photo.
Among the 1000s of photos are selfies, family shots, friends, scenery, wall art, nature and an abundance of other photos. I will not include selfies in this collection as I do a separate post on selfies and the fun I have with those. Rather, this post is a collection of my favorites (and in some cases there are some viewer favorites as well).
Top Ten Photos from 2015
#1 – Horses Grazing in Fall Colors – This photo was probably the hit of the year. I posted this and a few others on November 3 in a Photo Gallery on Facebook (see original post here) and it had over 3000 shares. This photo was taken on a drive back from Louisville. I decided to take Old Frankfort Pike, which is one of the Bluegrass Area’s most famed back road drives. When I saw this variety of horses, I checked my rearview mirror and saw there was no traffic coming. I stopped on the road, opened the car window and took this shot, hoping it would come out.
#2 – Seagull Eye – We visited our daughter and her children in Port Orchard, WA in late July and early August. On one of the days we took a ferry across the Puget Sound into Seattle. While on the boat, some folks were feeding the seagulls and I was able to grab some nice shots. This one, in my opinion, was a doozie. I took this with my telephoto lens, so I was able to get very close.
#3 – Fog Over Golden Gate Bridge – During the Memorial Day weekend I had the unique opportunity to attend Woodflock, a music/camping adventure sponsored by singer/songwriter/poet/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain. It has been held for 6 years in a row in at a campground in Red Bluff, CA. I flew out there and was picked up by Carla Lockwood, who was kind enough to be my host for a couple of days and take me up to Red Bluff from San Francisco. Along the way, we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge for a spectacular view of the bridge and also of San Francisco across the bay.
#4 – Geese in Flight at Sunrise – I make numerous visits to Jacobson Lake in Lexington. It is my “Joy Point Factory” as I can go on an early morning, catch a sunrise, look at the birds and just relax from the cares of the world. On one glorious sunrise morning, I caught this flock of geese taking off. I have many photos of geese in flight, but this one was different as the sunlight glowed through the translucent wingtips of the birds. It was a lucky catch.
#5 – Sunrise on Old Orchard Beach – In September we made a visit to my son Seth and his family on the occasion of the birth of our 10th grandchild. My daughter Marissa and her children accompanied us on this trip and, during the visit, we ventured on a two day trip to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. We spent the night at Old Orchard Beach, south of Portland, ME and I got up early in hopes of catching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. I capture over 50 shots of this amazing morning, but this one was the best of the lot. This was not filtered…it is exactly as it looked that morning.
#6 – Raindrops on Lilacs – We have a huge lilac bush that grows on the side of our house next to our deck. In the spring it is a wonderful sight to behold. One morning it had rained early and I went out on the deck and noticed droplets still remaining on the flowers. I was able to capture the simple beauty as well as the miniature reflection in the raindrop.
#7 – Blue Heron in the Morning – I have noted many times on my blogs that I have a fascination with blue herons. When I make my frequent trips to Jacobson Lake, I am always on the lookout. One morning, while driving close by the lake, there was a heron on the side of the road standing in low water. These are nervous birds and they typically take off. But, this one sat there. I rolled down the car window and was able to capture the closeup beauty of this magnificent bird. He/she was literally only 7 feet away from me and didn’t take off until it got aggravated by me sitting there for five minutes enjoying its beauty. I scored extra joy points that day!
#8 – Sunbeams Over Lexington – During 2015 I did a good deal of work in downtown Lexington. One morning as I parked in the Victorian Square parking structure, I saw a glorious sunburst floating over Rupp Arena. I took a few shots and was fortunate to capture one that really represented it well.
#9 – Sunrise at Jacobson Lake – I made 20 or 30 visits to Jacobson Lake during the year. Some mornings were not as vivid, but brought me the relaxation I desired. But there were the rare morning where the clouds and sunrise were phenomenal. November had two or three of these. The sunrise captured below was taken on the morning before Thanksgiving.
#10 – Full Moon – 2015 seemed to offer some amazing full moons, more than I can recall (perhaps we had more clear skies this year!) I had a couple of opportunities to snap some great full moon shots. This one was probably my best one, taken in the summer.
Of course, only 10 photos really does no justice for the year as there were many more good ones. Following are quite a few others that I would like to share. Just a title and the photo.
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 daughter 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.
Joselyn 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.
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.
Because 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.
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!
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.
And just a few more photos of this amazing kid!
I love Joselyn…..she is a blessing in my life
One of my favorite pastimes is driving on the open roads of America. There is something about the freedom of the highways that attracts me. I can be driving through a bleak desert or in the mountains or in the high plains and it is always the same. More joy points.
Some people hate long drives. They get uncomfortable. They want to get out and relax. But for me, driving on the open roads IS relaxing. The view is always changing. Wildlife may be in the distance. Unique buildings. Mountains and hills. The variety is astounding.
I love the excitement and anticipation of what might be seen over the next hill or around the next bend. Maybe there will be a spacious view of a lake
in the distance, or maybe just a narrow canyon to drive through with towering walls of basalt on both sides of the road. Either way, it is wonderful. And this is what I refer to as enjoying the ride.
I have driven on gravel roads for miles with the sounds of small rocks banging on the bottom of the car and dust flying out behind me. In the 1930s that is what most of the roads were probably like.
Following is a selection of some of my favorite “road scenes”. My joy rides if you will.
Today is Columbus Day 2015. When I think of Columbus Day, obviously thoughts of Christopher Columbus come first. But ultimately, I think far beyond him and think about many of the other great explorers that reached out to the world especially in the age of discovery in the 1400s and some even earlier than that.
I am grateful for the bravery, vision and wanderlust in these individuals. Certainly, they all took risks and many of them went exploring for their respective royalty, who paid them well in hopes of gold and in hopes of converting souls to their version of Christianity.
On this day I see many derogatory remarks about Columbus on Facebook, and perhaps some of it is true. But, we cannot discount the efforts he made to reach out, as did many others.
A few that I am grateful to have studied and learned about….
Leif Erikson (b. ca 970 – d. ca 1020): Leif comes from Viking heritage and was likely born in Iceland, though he also lived in Greenland. Around 999 AD he made his way to what is currently known as Newfoundland, but did a great deal of exploring, eventually calling the land Vinland.
According to the stories written in the 1200s, he gathered a crew of thirty-five men, and mounted an expedition towards the land he had heard about from a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson described. Leif’s father Erik the Red was set to join him but dropped out after he fell from his horse on his way to set sail, an incident he interpreted as a bad omen. Leif followed Bjarni’s route in reverse and landed first in a rocky and desolate place he named Helluland (Flat-Rock Land; possibly Baffin Island). After venturing further by sea, he landed the second time in a forested place he named Markland (Forest Land; possibly Labrador). Finally, after two more days at sea, he landed in a luscious place with plentiful stores of salmon. As winter approached, he decided to encamp there for the winter, and broke his party into two groups – one to remain at camp and the other to explore the lands. After discovering grapes and vineyards, he named the land Vinland.
Zheng He (1371–1433 or 1435): Zheng was a Hui court eunuch, mariner, explorer, diplomat, and fleet admiral during China’s early Ming dynasty. I first learned about him while in college in a Chinese History class at NAU. I was fascinated. Zheng commanded expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. Zheng He’s fleets visited Brunei, Java, Thailand and Southeast Asia, India, the Horn of Africa, and Arabia, dispensing and receiving goods along the way. Zheng He presented gifts of gold, silver, porcelain, and silk; in return, China received such novelties as ostriches, zebras, camels, and ivory from the Swahili. The giraffe he brought back from Malindi was considered to be a qilin and taken as proof of the favor of heaven upon the administration. He had massive ships and it was said that his fleet had over 24,000 sailors.
Ferdinand Magellan (c. 1480 – 27 April 1521): Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organized the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth. From 1519 to 1521 he traveled around the world, many times facing extreme danger, bad weather and even struggled against his own Portuguese leaders. He eventually died in the Philippines. On March 16, 1521 Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crew left. Members of his expedition became the first Europeans to reach the Philippine archipelago. Magellan relied on Enrique, his Malay servant and interpreter, to communicate with the native tribes. He had been indentured by Magellan in 1511 after the colonization of Malacca, and had accompanied him through later adventures. They traded gifts with Rajah Siaiu of Mazaua who guided them to Cebu on 7 April.
Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly towards Magellan and the Spaniards; both he and his queen Hara Amihan were baptized as Christians and were given the image of the Holy Child (later known as Santo Niño de Cebu) which along with a cross (Magellan’s Cross) symbolizes the Christianization of the Philippines. Afterward, Rajah Humabon and his ally Datu Zula convinced Magellan to kill their enemy, Datu Lapu-Lapu, on Mactan. Magellan wanted to convert Lapu-Lapu to Christianity, as he had Humabon, but Lapu-Lapu rejected that. On the morning of 27 April 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small attack force. During the resulting battle against Lapu-Lapu’s troops, Magellan was struck by a bamboo spear, and later surrounded and finished off with other weapons.
Ironically, I have been to Cebu (see my journals of visits in Cebu) and Mactan and visited the site where Lapu-Lapu’s troops killed Magellan. I am grateful to have set foot in a place where this famed explorer went.
These four explorers, as well as other greats such as Marco Polo (whom I will have a separate post on), Lewis and Clark (also a separate post) and John Wesley Powell (yet another post) have always meant a lot to me.
I love to travel and am thankful for the spirit of wanderlust and adventure borne into me. Like, Columbus, Magellan, Zheng and Erikson, I seek after new and unique places. It is a different world today, but I have still been blessed to experience some of the same things – the smells and sights of China, the Philippines and Japan. The varied landscapes of the United States and Canada. The oceans and Great Lakes.
Truly, I have been blessed with the spirit of adventure and I am grateful to be able to walk the paths and read the stories of their encounters. They have made the world a smaller place.
On 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Throughout my travels I took over 3000 photos in 2014. Many are travel and quirky things, but there were a number of nature photos I took while on the road as well as right here at home in Lexington. I have grown to love nature…watching squirrels play in the trees, watching geese fly overhead, gaining joy points from a sunrise. Herein are my ten favorite nature shots from 2014 and the stories behind them (and a few honorable mentions).
NUMBER 1 – BLUE HERON AT SUNRISE
This shot was captured only a few miles from my house on a late spring morning. I frequent Jacobson Park on nice mornings after dropping my wife off at work at the University of Kentucky. I like the lake there and the wildlife and the sunrises on partly cloudy days. This silhouette of the heron against the bright orange lake was one of many “lucky shots” for me in 2014.
NUMBER 2 – THE SNOWBALL SQUIRREL
Many of my Facebook friends have seen this shot of a squirrel that looks angry and appears to be getting ready to chuck a snowball at me. This little guy was frolicking in our front yard after an overnight snow in February and I took about 20 photos. As I began reviewing them, I was delighted to a chuckle to see this shot!
NUMBER 3 – MAGNIFICENT SUNRISE
There are many mornings that I am able to catch the sunrise after dropping of my wife. On this particular fall morning in October I caught the magnificent glow behind the clouds. I had to drive through a couple of neighborhoods as I saw it coming up. To my good fortune, I came to a clearing and was able to get seven or eight nice shots.
NUMBER 4 – SPIDER WEB IN SPRING
On one trip to Jacobson Park, I came across this droplet enhanced spider web. I love Spider Art!!
NUMBER 5 – PELICANS
In June I took a trip to Galveston, Texas and became fascinated by the brown pelicans (see my blog post). They flew gracefully, in very specific formations and in synchronized flight. I took this shot while sitting on the beach relaxing…a rarity for me in my travels. But, mind you, I was there for a family reunion and we were all at the beach. Love the pelicans.
NUMBER 6 – WATERCOLOR SKY
My good friend Antsy McClain has a song entitled Watercolor Sky (unreleased on any albums – I have a demo version). When I see skies like this it reminds me of the title, though the song is about a broken up love relationship. “We cut our way through evergreens that stood a mile high, through a patchwork quilt of farmland and a watercolor sky.” I love to look at the skies as I drive through the evergreens, the mountains and the patchwork quilts of farmland. This photo was taken in Lexington, ironically.
NUMBER 7 – THE BEARTOOTHS
I fulfilled a life long dream on Memorial Day weekend in 2014 as I got to drive the Beartooth Scenic Highway in north central Wyoming. These mountains are spectacular (see my blog post) and my photography could never do them justice.
NUMBER 8 – ANTELOPE CONVENTION
On my trip through Wyoming (see my blog post) I ran into a herd of about 10 antelope on the side of the road. I stopped, stayed in the car with the window open and took about 30 photos of these beautiful animals. Apparently, in Wyoming they outnumber people. After a while they all gracefully sped away…they are the fastest land mammals in North America.
NUMBER 9 – BIG SKY COUNTRY
As I drove on US 89 heading south in Montana, I caught this expansive view of clouds over the plains. The dark clouds and blue sky are so Montana….
NUMBER 10 – SUNRISE
This was an amazing fall sunrise I captured one late October morning in Lexington. I could see it peaking as I headed down Richmond Rd and found a place where I could pull off. The clouds intensified it. As I look at this it reminds me of woodblock drawings from 1600 Japan…the land of the Rising Sun.
I have a few more shots I wanted to include in this post….other shots I am proud of.
In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for a company called Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was blessed with the opportunity to take hundreds of people all over northern Arizona to places like Monument Valley, the Navajo and Hopi Reservations, Sedona and a number of national parks and monuments. (more about this on my Less Beaten Paths Blog in a #TBT special post)
In 1983 I had a writer named Lea Lundberg from Arizona Living Magazine take a tour with us and she wrote a nice 2 page spread about it, including a number of quotes from me. Following is a Flipbook with the actual article from July 1983. (Note that I am using a demo version of Flipbook Software, so there will be an obnoxious ad in the middle…)
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:
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.
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
I 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
Over 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”
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
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!