A Week of Gratitude 2018 – Part 1: Life’s Journey

Our Life Journey is a long road

As we approach Thanksgiving 2018, I have taken tome to reflect on those things that I am thankful for, probably more than I have in the past.  As a 62 year old, I have a great deal to look back on and to be thankful for.  So, for the next week, through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am doing a post each day to express my gratitude for the various segments of my life.  Some of what I write may be more personal than others may want to see, but to me, these are the main things I want to express my gratitude for.

Which way do we go?

I want to start out this week long effort by expressing my gratitude first and foremost for my life’s journey.  Each of us must walk the paths of our lives’ journeys.  Nobody else can walk this path. Interestingly enough, our journey is not really our own until we leave our parents and our homes.  We all start our journeys on the backs (or in the hands) of others.  And that initial part of the journey may very well lay the foundational footpath for our own personal journey.

 

We must all have our choices

Being a Christian and believing in a pre-existence and an after-life is always helpful to me in understanding and appreciating my journey.  I believe that my Father in Heaven let me know what treacherous and difficult paths would lay ahead of me as I came to earth.  I accepted that knowing as well that I would be blessed with guidance from Him along the way as well as the ability to choose which way to go.  I don’t believe for a moment that God laid out a specific course for me to take.  Rather, he set things in motion for me to take paths with many forks in the road.

I believe this is the earliest known photo of me, taken in October 1956, shortly after I was born.

My journey began in Cleveland, Ohio in early October 1956. I was born into an Italian family (my birth name was Carmen David Laurienzo), but to a Jewish mother. My father, Joe Laurienzo, was a the son of a migrant Italian name Carmine Laurienzo.  From all I know, Joe was a hard working individual.  He lived in the same home as his father on Murray Hill Road in the Little Italy district of Cleveland.

I will never know for sure how my Italian Catholic father met and ultimately married my German Jewish mother (Orene Goldberg, later to be known as Jennierose Lavender). But, I was conceived and was, at the time, the beginning of the third generation of Laurienzos to be born in and live in the house on Murray Hill Road.

The home I was born into on Murray Hill Rd. in Cleveland, OH. This was taken about 1956/57

Joe Laurienzo and Orene ca. 1956 or 1957. This is the only photo I have of both of my natural parents together.

And thus began my amazing journey.

Mother Orene and me

By the time I was 10 months old, in August 1957, my journey took a turn.  Giving in to pressure from her staunch Jewish mother (Marion Goldberg) in Albuquerque, Orene left with me while the Catholic side of the family was all celebrating the Feast of Assumption Festival…one of the biggest annual events in this little corner of Cleveland. I was essentially snuck away, never to meet my natural father, who, I came to find later on, was heartbroken.  Just a little over one year later, Orene was being remarried to the second Joseph in my life, Joseph Kravetz, in a fairly social Jewish ceremony.  They were married in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 1958.

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958

David and brother Aaron, probably in August 1960.

As a very young child, i had already experienced some major directional changes in my journey.  And this would ultimately be the way of life for me for at least the next 15 years of my life. Orene and Joe K ended up having a son together in 1960 (Aaron). Then she left us.  She left Joe Kravetz alone to raise my younger half-brother Aaron and me.

As a young four year old, I am sure that somehow I managed to blame myself for her leaving.  As for Aaron and me, we ended up with a number of babysitters to take care of us while my Dad worked. Some of them would come and go.  It was a tough rocky road for these two little boys.

David and brothers Aaron and Danny, probably about 1962

Joe Kravetz eventually participate in some single-adult parent organization (or something) and later met Marjorie Biel (nee Tudor), who had become divorced and had a young boy (Danny), 16 days younger than me.  I believe that they both married out of necessity more than love.  Nonetheless, as a young child, I was piggybacked into this relationship, which brought forth two more children (Gary in 1964 and Sherry in 1967).

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

Joe and Marge in 1978 in Jemez Springs, NM. By this time they were divorced but posed for this photo.

Through adoptions, all of us became Kravetz kids.  But it was a hodge-podge family.  Dad worked all the time for a drug store chain.  Mom (Marge) was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and would take us to the Kingdom Hall a couple of times a week. She diligently sought to make sure we had a religious upbringing.  She had health issues and struggled in her relationship with Joe.  But, kudos to both of them as they made the courageous choice to stay together, despite deep-rooted differences and a great deal of family dysfunction and challenge (Danny was “mentally retarded” – a term used in the 1960s/70s). Aaron and I could be unruly.

Between 1965 and 1974, we had moved four different times to four different cities due to my Dad’s job transfers. More rocky, rutted roads for my life journey lay before me.  New homes, changes in schools, new friends, leaving old friends. It wasn’t easy for any of us.  By the time we were in Bozeman, Montana, I had run away from home twice to get away from the dysfunction…  I was ready to journey forth on my own personal journey and off of the piggyback roller coaster ride I had experienced.

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister – Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978   This was the only complete family photo we ever had.

I will say here that Joe Kravetz and Marge did the very best they could with what was handed to them.  They both had their emotional baggage and the five children, who were, without choice, along for the rocky ride, had to learn to deal with it all, and we all did in our own ways.

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

I had always been the prayerful type.  I believed in a God and I prayed for a miracle on many occasions.  Mine came in the chance meeting of some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bozeman in the summer of 1973.  The one week that I spent visiting with this family from New Jersey every day set me on my own path and in my own direction…one that would ultimately get me asked to leave my home as a 17 year old in Murray, Utah in the summer of 1974.

So, finally, in 1974 I began my own journey, making my own choices on my life’s direction….both good and bad.

After graduating high school in Murray in 1974, I had to make many huge, life-altering choices.  I came to one fork in the road after another, knowing full well that the choices made at those crossroads were ones I could never go back on and “try again.”  That’s the funny thing with choices.

Working as a missionary in Japan from 1976-78

After choosing to be baptized into the LDS Church in January 1975, I had made choices to leave jobs to take on other “grass is always greener over there” kinds of jobs.  Then, it happened…  the first big big big choice.  Do I serve an LDS mission or do I take the really good paying job?  It would have to be one or the other.  In the long run, I chose to serve and this really set the direction for my life journey from then on.

Since that time, my journey has meandered in many directions.  Life has had many challenges, ups and downs and frustrations.  But it has also been filled with joy, happiness and smiles.  Bottom line, I have had a wonderfully rich life and over the next week will show my gratitude to the many things that have crossed my journey’s path.

I am very grateful for my personal journey and for those that have spent part of their journeys walking by my side on mine.

Life’s Been good

Livin’ the Dream – Following the Reinvention of Myself

Last week I put up a post on my Less Beaten Paths travel blog noting how writing that blog lead to a reinvention of myself and my career path (and also celebrating that blog’s 50,000th visit). This post is a follow-up to that one and I do it on my Sumoflam’s Singlewide blog because it’s not really associated with travel (though I do note some travel things in here….let’s face it, its in my blood).

Livin' the Dream

Living the Dream – masking Antsy McClain

I have called this “Livin’ the Dream” as that is the best way for me to express what my current career situation is for me.  I have gone from nightmares to living the dream and doing what I am passionate about.

DreamJob1To me, a “dream job” does not necessarily mean a job that provides tons of income, but rather a job that provides satisfaction and doing what I love doing. Don’t get me wrong, income is necessary and more of it is better.  But doing what I love while earning money to do it…now THAT is a Dream Job!

My fist real dream job - being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

My first real dream job – being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

Over the years, I have had a number of dream jobs. Perhaps my first was working as a tour guide in Flagstaff, Arizona in the early 1980s.I drove vans and buses and took tourists all over the beautiful locations of northern Arizona to places like Sedona, Monument Valley, the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, the Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater, and many other fabulous locations including the Grand Canyon. I met wonderful people, saw beautiful scenery year around, and I truly had a great time.

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

It was not until the late 1980s when we had an opportunity to go to Japan as a family that I was able to experience my next “Dream Job.” After graduation from Arizona State University with a Master’s Degree in Political Science/International Relations, I landed a position through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) to work for the Oita Prefecture Government as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR).  In fact, I was one of 32 Charter CIRs in the first year of the JET Program, which also brought nearly 500 Americans, Canadians and British to Japan to teach English.  This was my second “dream job” as I once again got to work with people from all walks of life from different parts of the world as they visited Oita and I got to travel, I did TV shows and had a wonderful two years on that gig (as well as an additional 2 years with Asahi Solar Corporation. My children were in TV commercials and all of these were a result of that particular position.

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita's Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita’s Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian Gymnast from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I did many TV shows while in Oita.  This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum.  I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I did many TV shows while in Oita. This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum. I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I was a co-host for a New Year's Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989.  Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

I was a co-host for a New Year’s Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989. Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

Upon returning from Japan in 1991, I struggled to find gainful employment for quite a while and ended up doing a lot of Japanese translation work and other work related to my Japanese language skills. Though very skilled in Japanese, I believe that I went through a “burnout stage” because of all of what I was doing. Indeed, it was a Japanese-related position that brought the family to Kentucky in 1993.

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Nevertheless, it was interesting to work in manufacturing plants such as the big Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky (1997) and the Toyota plant in Woodstock, Ontario (2008). I worked in a number of parts manufacturers plants as well. Learning the manufacturing process was quite enlightening. In between a couple of those jobs, I worked on a Japanese-owned horse farm (which was beautiful) and I also spent a number of years working at Lexmark where I thrived on the job, but I would never call them “dream jobs.” The best part of the job at Lexmark was the opportunity I had to travel to Cebu in the Philippines (where I trained my eventual replacements!).

Island Hopping in the Philippines

Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with "Team Higante", the crew I was training in 2006

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with “Team Higante”, the crew I was training in 2005

The trips to Cebu (which altogether totaled about 7 weeks) were definitely one of the best parts of the job. Despite the daily work routines, I spent many evenings and every weekend traveling around Cebu and other islands.  In fact, my first real trip journals (which lead to my travel blogging) were borne out of these trips (check out these early trip reports). Little did I know back then what my travel writing would do for me!

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

After Lexmark I did more Japanese work and eventually made my way to Ontario (which I noted above).  I really did not enjoy the translating work, but it brought income.  The best part was the travel to and from home every two weeks.  I took a different route each time, took lots of photos and wrote lots of trip journals (see them here).

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led "tour" of Southern Ontario

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led “tour” of Southern Ontario

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

After my Ontario gig ended, I spent nine months in a job that was a literal hell for me.  I worked as a call center rep for Sprint, then Boost Mobile, then Apple.  I hated the jobs…low paying, low morale and no challenge.  I sought for opportunities to leave at every corner.  And, then in 2009 it finally happened.

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

My next real “dream job” evolved from being hired by iHigh.com in 2009. I have always enjoyed working in web design and web related services. I have also always enjoyed working with people. And, furthermore, I have loved working in things related to sports, especially high school sports. As a result, my position became one of great passion and enjoyment. Indeed, I did not even take a vacation for almost 3 years. My job was practically a vacation.The job also included a great deal of travel and meeting with people at high schools around the country. I got to do broadcast work which I enjoyed immensely.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park - we broadcast a number of Pony Club events.  Was great fun.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park – we broadcast a number of Pony Club events. Was great fun.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events.  I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events. I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

That dream job came to an abrupt end on November 2, 2012. At that time the company had made some major decisions in the business direction and the shifts left both my wife and myself unemployed as we did not fit into the new program.I was devastated as my “dream job” had fallen out from underneath me.

Had to Ponder the Future

Had to Ponder the Future

From the time I lost that position in 2012 through 2013 I struggled again to find any full-time employment. And that is where my previous post begins and how I have participated in the “reinvention of myself” and my skill sets.

Resilience in hard times is always best

Resilience in hard times is always best

I like to think of myself as being resilient. I have learned to adapt to change and always try to take a positive angle towards it despite any challenges, frustrations, hurdles, etc.I also make a great effort to not burn bridges along the way and to do a good job wherever I am up until the last day.

Working with VYPE

So, this reinvention of myself and my skill sets led me to learn the WordPress CMS through my travel blog and then through this blog and others. Relations that I had created such as those at VYPE.com brought me work and I was able to continue to build on the foundation that I had learned through my blog. With VYPE.com I worked with a developer and helped build the entire network after VYPE left iHigh and had to build their own network.and now, for over a year, I have worked with them and manage their entire Web structure which is all based on the WordPress platform. Through them I picked up other work and through other connections I picked up even more work to where I now have number of clients and I was working from home. I was doing things that I enjoy as putting together websites is just a form of creativity that I seem to thrive at.

Working with Antsy McClain

Working with Antsy McClain

With the freedom of working from home, I have reestablished the management of a number of websites I had done in the past. One of these was moving my good friend and well-known singer/songwriter/recording artist/graphic artist Antsy McClain’s website into the WordPress platform.  I once again manage this for him and work closely in his promotion. Indeed, this has been part of “Living the Dream” as I remain in the music industry, something I had dreamed about as a high school student.

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

Then, in early September I got “The Call.” I had been doing some work with my former boss at iHigh.com who now runs a multimedia company called BlueMillion.com. Blue Million is a digital technology and marketing company specializing in social media, digital marketing, and live video to online and mobile audiences around the world. Through this work, he called me from the offices of iHigh, Inc., which runs the Great American Rivalry Series.

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

This company used to be a sister company of iHigh.com, but recently split away as iHigh.com moved to VolarVideo. I was asked to use my web skills and social media skills to be their “Control Central” during football season. This has literally brought me full circle as I am now working out of the old iHigh Office on Mondays and Fridays and then from home during the week.  Like the days of iHigh, I watch and monitor high school football from the office on Friday nights.  I get to work with many of the high school coaches and broadcast organizations of the past as well. I count this both as an immense blessing and a recognition for my devoted hard work ethic.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Coupled with this, I have partnered with Fieldhouse Media Group as their Web Manager (and as an extension I am the Digital Media Coordinator for VYPE.com, part of FMG now). I work with many wonderful people. As a result of this work, I am once again working with a number of broadcast groups across the country and am able to bring them on to the VYPE network as partners.

David&Tui

Sumoflam with Texas author and blogger Tui Snider

Another wonderful “dream fulfiller” which originated with my blog writing was “meeting” other bloggers, photographers and writers. They have all inspired me in so many ways that I will continue to “reinvent” myself and move towards writing some books about travel the back roads of America…an extension of my blog. (Shown above is Tui Snider, author of two books recently and blogs at Mental Mosaic).

A couple of others that have become an inspiration:

Derek Ace a professional photogapher...does amazing work.  We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014

Derek Ace, a professional photographer…does amazing work. We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014 (See some of his work on Facebook)

A video about Minnesota Travel Writer Seth Hardmeyer, who does the Highway Highlights blog about Minnesota (and beyond).  We have shared many inspirational stories and places.  He has been an inspiration.

The Dream Job is here and better than ever. Its not about the money, its about the doing what you enjoy and excel at. I now have a photo blog, a photo site on National Geographic and have become a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association  Life is Good!

Life is Good

Life is Good