Movies with Grandkidz is a blessing!
Really, what more can I say?
Movies with Grandkidz is a blessing!
Really, what more can I say?
Sometimes, we overlook the simple things in life. Here are a few that I count as blessings…. (all photography by David Kravetz/Sumoflam Productions):
(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.)
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??
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.
I 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!!
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.
Last week (July 14-16, 2015) I had a sudden opportunity to go to Utah for a quick work project for former Navy SEAL and Author Rob Roy. It was a good opportunity for me to return “home” and to also visit with two of my life’s most influential and long lasting friends, namely Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. I was blessed to spend a couple of hours with each of them (I will detail more at the end of this post).
It all started in the late summer of 1973 as my step-father was transferred from Bozeman, Montana to Salt Lake City, more specifically, Murray, Utah. At that time I would attend my third different high school in three years as I started as a senior at Murray High School.
We had moved to the heart of Mormon country and I was not Mormon. But, as a fairly religious 16 year old, I decided to learn more about this church by also choosing to attend seminary, which in those days was held in a building just off of the high school campus and could be attended during school hours.
Through seminary I had the opportunity to meet new people and this was where I first met Jonathan and Russ. It turned out that I lived in their neighborhood (and also their Church Ward).
Jonathan and Russ were part of the “in crowd” at Murray. They were popular, they were on the football team and had lots of friends. I was fortunate to become acquainted with them as one residing in their ward. I was often invited to participate in church youth activities with them, which I relished. I really felt lucky.
Having lived in Montana for three years (and loving it!), I spoke a lot about the state and thus received the nickname “Monty Montana” from Jonathan. I didn’t mind the nickname and it stuck through my senior year and beyond. Everyone at Murray knew me as “Monty.” Even to this day I chuckle about that nickname, the only other one I really had besides my now well known “Sumoflam.”
As I pondered this early friendship the last couple of days, I was struck by the selfless and caring nature that Jonathan, Russ and a few other choice souls, mainly from the Murray 20th Ward, befriended this sort of braggish kid from Montana. I had come from a fairly dysfunctional family, wasn’t Mormon and was starting all over again in trying to make friends as a senior in high school while still trying to find myself. Ultimately, these friends, and especially Jonathan and Russ, changed my life direction for ever and for good.
As the school year progressed I visited Jonathan’s house often. He lived about a block away. His father Boyd was the Bishop of the Ward and ultimately became like a second father to me as I attended church and eventually became a member in 1975. I spent a lot of time at Jonathan’s house because there was so much contention in my home. I wasn’t happy there, but I felt loved and accepted at the Jensen house.
The same could be said for Russ. He and I got on very well. We were both jokers and experts at the art of the pun. He lived a couple of blocks away and I visited his home often as well. In fact, his mother Doris became like a second mother to me. Unlike Jonathan, Russ grew up in more modest circumstances. His father had died a number of years before and his mother was a single mother raising a large family. I think that Russ and I appreciated each other because neither of us had much. But, the one thing I loved about Russ’s home was the love I felt whenever I visited. Not the love for me…but the love in the household. And I loved going there.
As I mentioned above, I eventually joined the church in January 1975 and Jonathan was the one that baptized me. I was grateful for this. You see, I was kicked out of the house for wanting to do this.
I need to note here that these guys were not interested in me as a “potential member” of the church. They were interested in me as a person, as an individual and as a friend. They were really the first true friends I had ever had in my short 17 years of life. I relished this friendship and it was the love and unselfishness nature of these guys that ultimately made me feel that I was where I was supposed to be,
In fact, I am certain that my kind Heavenly Father placed them in my path and facilitated the way for us to become long lasting friends. And these two, Jonathan and Russ, have continued to be close friends through the years, despite any distance or length of time without communication.
They left on their LDS Missions in 1975, Jonathan to Sweden and Russ to Canada. I was fortunate to still have other friends from the ward, but I really missed them. I had a fairly good job for an 18 year old and in December 1975 I too received a call to serve a mission to Nagoya Japan. Just the day before I had been offered a big job opportunity for an 18 year old and I had to spend a weekend stewing whether to serve a mission or to take this high paying job. In the end, and unbeknownst to either Jonathan or Russ, I chose the mission and it was due to their excellent examples and their unfettered and unselfish friendship for me that led me to make this correct decision.
After returning home from my mission I spent many fun times with these guys. I went to see Marx Brothers movies with Russ many times. I ultimately moved into a house in Provo with Jonathan as I attended BYU. The friendship continued. When I married my sweetheart Julianne, Jonathan came to the wedding in Arizona. I was honored and grateful that my “brother” would take the time to come down from Utah for my special day.
Through the years since the 1970s, our paths diverted as I went to Japan and they got busy. We rarely stayed in touch, but in those times when we did get together, it was as if there had never been a separation in time. It was like old times. In 2004, Russ and one of his sons made the trip to Kentucky to visit and then we ventured to Memphis to attend the Liberty Bowl as BYU played Louisville. It was a fun time for us. Louisville beat BYU, but that was not the memory I cherished. It was time with my good friend Russ Graves that I valued and cherished.
In October 2007 I had the opportunity to attend a huge missionary reunion in Bountiful, Utah, which is where Jonathan lives to this day. As the true selfless individual he was, he offered me a place to stay at his home during the visit. It was great to see all of those with whom I served on my mission with, but the real treat was spending some time with Jonathan and his family. I attended a football game, I visited with his Dad and we spent some quality time together. I was amazed at how he made sure he had time to spend with me in the short three days I was there. It was great to get to know his children. He also took me into Murray to meet with Russ. We had a great time together.
Over the years, I have been able to call Jonathan for consoling, advice or to just fill him in on life. He too has called me. We don’t communicate often. He has a huge family and is a busy attorney. My conversations with Russ are even fewer. Russ has about 15 children and has done well as a software developer.
And now, in 2015, all of us are in our late 50s (and will all be in our 60s before 2016 is over). All of three of us are grandparents. All of us have had children serve missions. But, the lasting, unselfish friendships still remain. And last week’s events were a testament to this.
My flight to Salt Lake City last Tuesday had some unexpected schedule changes and this caused Rob Roy’s staff some challenges in trying to get me picked up at the airport. I had already let Jonathan know I was coming in and that I had hoped we could meet up, even for a few minutes.
As I arrived in Salt Lake, I received a text message from Rob Roy’s staff that they were going to have trouble getting me picked up. So, I called Jonathan to see what his schedule was like. Fortunately for me, he had enough flexibility to come out and pick me up, even on the spur of the moment. This is the same place that he picked me up in April 1978 as I returned home from my mission. It was not my parents…it was my best friend Jonathan Jensen. And here he was 37 years later again picking me up. We went for a drive south to have something to eat (and in typical Jonathan fashion he treated me). I had let him know about the schedule mess up and Jonathan said he would take me to Sundance resort. Bottom line, he literally dropped everything to accommodate me…the same selflessness he had shown me in 1973 as he became a new friend to a lost and lonely soul in high school. I was overwhelmed.
We took a fabulous drive past the Draper Temple and saw a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley. From there, he took me back behind the mountain and into Alpine, UT (which, ironically, is where my father in law Maurice Bateman grew up). We took the beautifully scenic Alpine Loop up and over into the approach to Provo Canyon and ultimately Sundance Resort.
Jonathan could have easily said he was too busy to take me to Sundance and I would have totally understood. But, he took me up there and then spent time talking. We reminisced, as we always do, but we also talked about his father, who passed away in 2014, we talked about his children and their missions, their marriages and then we talked about his grandchildren. I got my stuff together and we walked and sat on a bench with a great view of the lovely Mt. Timpanogos. I was at home in the Utah Mountains and spending time with one of my all time heroes. And he made the time to do so. We parted ways finally as he needed to return. However, he got into Lehi and discovered I had left my wallet in the car. Despite his schedule, being tired, etc., he turned around and brought it all the way back up to Sundance. And that is ALWAYS how Jonathan has been…selfless, caring and loving. I am so indebted to this guy I will never be able to repay him.
While I was with Jonathan, we called Russ. We were all friends of course, and have gotten together in the past. Unfortunately, Russ couldn’t make it, but he did offer to pick me up on Thursday morning. I was staying in a hotel in Orem, UT and Russ showed up to get me early. Once again, like Jonathan, he moved his schedule around on the spur of the moment to do this. We enjoyed a nice breakfast, had conversations about family, talked Marx Brothers and Russ whipped off his puns as always. He told me about his dear mother, who is now in her 80s and in a nursing home. We visited his lovely (and huge) home in Murray, where I go to see the family missionary wall, the grandchildren wall and experience the joy and warmth of his home. I got to chat with his sweet wife Gayle, whom I still recall as the young sweet girl from Wyoming I knew in the late 1970s as she and Russ were married. Then, like Jonathan, Russ exhibited his unselfishness and loving nature and took me into the Salt Lake airport for my flight back to Kentucky.
Over the years I have developed dozens of good friendships. Many of them will be eternal friendships. But, of all the friends and acquaintances I have, there are none to rival the bonds that have developed over the years with Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. Indeed, I owe my very life’s course to them. They changed my life forever (and for better) and for this, I will always treasure the friendship. They have taught me over and over what true friends are.
Thank you Jonathan and Russ.
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
Number 2 – Great Family/Children
Number 3 – Grandkids (of course!)
Number 4 – My Siblings
Number 5 – My Cleveland Family
Number 6 – My Wonderful Cousins
Number 7 – My Friends in the Philippines
Number 8 – I am on the Right Side of the Dirt
Number 9 – My Friend Antsy McClain
Number 10 – I’ve Been Everywhere
Number 11 – Don’t Mind Being Weird — Its Awesome!
Number 12 – Bountiful Baskets – Veggies are Good!
The 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!
Celebrated my 35th Wedding Anniversary
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.
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”
First grandchild baptism
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.
Kravetz Family Reunion
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.
Extensive Travel Opportunities
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
As a current awesome father (according to my kids) and now a helluva grandfather, there is nothing better than Christmas with children. I am so blessed to be a grandfather to nine lovely children.
My daughter Marissa recently put together a wonderful video with my grandchildren. It is a beautiful Christmasy video and expresses the joy better than I can in words. Please watch it and share it and use #sharethegift