Music the Great Connector

Larry and I love music, and our house is filled with it.  Our time with friends and family often centers around the piano as we share the universal love of music. I encourage everyone to develop your passions and see how God opens doors for you as he has for me. “When your passion and purpose are greater than your fears and excuses, you will find a way.” Your love will help you to seek the help you need to develop your talents through friends, classes and even the internet. Be a blessing to others in this world that needs connection. Music is one of those connectors.

Open your home for a potluck and music fest and see what happens as everyone brings a developing talent to the table. Music, the great connector, bridges the gap among all people regardless of backgrounds and political persuasion. It’s so much fun as well.

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A Cup of Cold Water from a Stranger

 

Willow On Wheels, a bicycle and camping group, was going strong at the church during the 90’s.  We would meet on a Thursday night and ride our bikes anywhere from 10 to 30 miles through Barrington Hills. We made some great friends during the years WOW was active. As a result, we planned a biking tour to Kentucky. My husband and I and our teenage son, Aaron, lagged a bit behind the group after crossing a hazardous metal bridge from Illinois to Kentucky towards our next night’s destination.  Then it happened. Aaron got a flat tire. There were no cell phones then to notify our team that we were stuck in a small town in Kentucky.  A man rolled down his window and asked if we needed help.  “We need to find a bike store,” I said. “My house is up the road,” he pointed. “Just go in and use my phone.” I was surprised at his friendly gesture. “Help yourself to some water, too,” he said. We made a stop at the local bicycle store only to find out that they did not carry the unique bike tube. They advised us to set up our tent in the city park while we tried to figure out our next move.  Up the hill we could hear a party going on. It wasn’t long before they noticed us camped below. “Come on up for a hamburger,” they said.   We filled our plates and found out what it was like to live in a small coal mining town where getting a marriage license came before getting a driver’s license.

A young couple asked us if we would prefer sleeping in their living room rather than in our tent. “Thank you— that’s very kind of you,” I said,” but we’ll be fine here.” “But wouldn’t you like to take a shower?” they replied. “Showers,” said Aaron as the sweat rolled off his brow.  “Mom! You better say yes.”

This kind family opened their home to us. It was indeed a culture shock. As I closed my eyes and settled into my sleeping bag, I looked around the walls where stuffed turkey vultures and an assortment of other prized animals decorated the walls. I had never seen walls like that in the Midwest. The next day after serving us breakfast, they loaded our bikes in the back of their truck and took us to Paducah, Kentucky where we got the tube for my tire and soon joined the rest of our team. We will always remember the kindness of the Kentucky folks who shared the little that they had with us out of the kindness of their hearts.

These strangers have inspired me to reach out to those in need and to remember the words of Jesus.

“Truly I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Mark 9:4

 

 

 

 

 

Never Never in the Everglades Feb. 2017

We decided to escape our Chicago winter by flying to Miami FL to visit friends and see sites,  but how ironic that winter in Chicago turned into spring with temperatures close to 70. Nevertheless,  here we were in the land of sun, flowers and yes alligators. We took a gorgeous hike through Fairchild Botanical Gardens where streams gleamed and pink, red and purple flowers adorned the paths. But now Larry was ready for something meatier or should I say downright scary—-a hike in the FL Everglades. As we walked along the boardwalk, we were greeting by large, healthy alligators enjoying a sun bathe in the river below. I had never in my life been that close to them.

Everglades in FL Feb. 2017

 

 

Larry soon returned with our hiking information, and a large burly man handed each of us a long thick stick. I wondered why we would need one for the boardwalk hike. But he pointed across the street where our hike was to begin. Just like Ruth and Naomi in the Bible, I followed not Naomi but my man remembering the line—-“Wherever you go; I will go.” But wait— it’s not a boardwalk but the beginning of a narrow path on very soggy mud.  “Yeaks,”  I thought. How am going to keep my tennis shoes clean here? “Where are you taking me?” I shouted as the path got progressively muddier and the stick stuck deeper.  Yellow flowers lifted their ominous heads mocking me. “Come on,” said Larry who was quite a bit ahead of me.  “Quit your whining.” Now I have followed Larry through caves, up mountains and down steep ski hills. But soon the mud turned into a stream and my imagination went viral while slouching through yet deeper, muddier water.  Now those big, huge alligators were napping across the street. What could possibly keep their cousins from habituating here?—-and, how about their relatives the snakes and lizards.  A childhood song came to mind. I’ve been eaten by a boa constrictor, a boa constrictor, a boa constrictor! Oh no, it’s up to my toe; oh geez, it’s up to my knee; oh heck. I wasn’t going to let it get up to my neck. I yelled out. “Larry, I can’t do this. I’m going back.”  I headed toward the sound of the traffic but I  with my sense of direction I was afraid I’d get lost.  I called for Larry again—  now pleading. After sometime, he appeared wet up to his thighs. “If I had followed you, I’d be swimming in the muck with baby reptiles and who knows what else,” I said.  I happily returned my thick muddy stick to the ranger who was impressed that as first timers in the Glades we had even considered this arduous, insane hike. We gave ourselves and our shoes a hosing off and made our way back to civilized Miami. Now Ruth may have followed her Naomi. But I’ll think twice about following Larry and of course–Never, Never in the Everglades

A Witches’ Brew for a Tasty Fight

 

I am one of those people who loves mornings. I’m looking out the window as the morning wakes up. We have a dusting of snow and a pink horizon with a canopy of purple blue sky. The days are getting longer but the squirrels are not yet scampering up and down the trees in their game of hide and seek. My heart is full of love for my Lord and for my life as I greet another day of promise.

I am happy for so many things—-a warm house, a neighborhood of friendly people and a husband who loves and understands me. Over our long marriage, we have learned the secret of being patient and forgiving regardless of life’s road blocks.

That evening, we quit our jobs around the house to prepare for a volunteer dinner at Brave Heart in Popular Grove which is near Harvard. Larry began volunteering at this therapeutic horse farm to help Veterans suffering with PSD and people with special needs. Larry looked handsome in his cowboy hat and boots. I wiggled into my stylish boots straining to pull up the zipper over my ample calves. I felt good in my new green sweater, a Christmas gift from my daughter, and a new sparkling necklace from my South Korean friend. With excitement, we took off for our long journey through scenic farm land.

After over an hour trip, we arrived at our destination only to find the parking lot empty. Something was not right. We figured the dinner was at another site but Larry did not have his phone with him for contacts. From Popular Grove, we went back to Brave Heart’s other site in Harvard and found out the dinner was February 18th. So here we were in Harvard on a Saturday night in January having wasted our time and gas money. It could have been a witches’ brew for a tasty fight but instead of quoting Macbeth’s “Double, double toil and trouble” we vowed to do better.

In the past, I would have said,” Why didn’t you put the date in your cell phone, and why do you insist on never having it with you when you need it? Why do you even have a cell phone? We could have had a really nice Saturday night. But here we are in the middle of nowhere land.” He would retaliate with,” Stop ragging on me, Miss Perfect.” When was the last time you made a mistake? His voice would get louder while pointing his finger. I would begin crying and say, “Just take me home,” and we would drive home in silence.

But after a marriage of more than 40 years, we have finally learned grace. Instead of ragging on one another, we talked about what we should do next.  The night was still relatively young.

The Bensons had called us earlier inviting us for dinner but we declined because of the volunteer dinner. I called Carol and she had a hearty laugh about our dilemma. We’ve all been there at one time or another. We decided to pick up pizzas and get together at their home in Palatine, another 25 minutes East from us.  We went all around the world but ended up having a delightful evening together. I slept well that evening until I woke up to the sound of racoons racing over our roof—–so glad they weren’t in our attic—but that’s another story.

Lessons learned

  1. Check your calendar thoroughly for events
  2. Bring your cell phone.
  3. Forgive one another. We all make mistakes
  4. Salvage your day in some way.
  5. Turn lemons into lemonade.

 

Now, what’s your story?

 

 

Add Spice to Your Life/Talk to a Stranger

One thing about life with Larry is there is rarely a dull moment. He loves meeting strangers and creating friendships especially through humor. You never quite know what is going to come out of his mouth. Believe it or not I once was a shy rather introverted woman  but that all changed with my life with Larry.  To give you an example, he often shops at an auto shop in Crystal Lake. He came in one day and was waiting to speak to the owner. When the owner looked up, Larry said, “I have a professional question for you.”Larry quickly turned around and said,”Does this coat make my butt look big?” The owner who also had a sense of humor was speechless. His coworkers said, he never was speechless but always had a come-back. Everyone laughed as they remembered the words of their wives asking the same thing.

Larry was flying solo one afternoon and asked the flight attendant a question. “Patricia, may I have more sugar for my coffee?” As a result, he won a bottle of wine simply because he was polite and used the flight attendances name. Now when I am at a restaurant, I get to know the waiter, waitress and sometimes bus boys simply by calling them by their name and asking a little about themselves.

If you look at a stranger as an interesting book and you are checking out the forward and the back cover, you will be amazed at how happy it will make both of you. Last night we met Hailey, our waitress, and found out she has a red-headed two year old daughter named Savannah. Her dad was babysitting her daughter so she could waitress and make money to continue to go to nursing school in Addison. She was delighted to be asked about her life instead of being treated like part of the furniture. Sometimes we tell them we are a praying couple and is there anything they would like us to pray about. ” A man that has friends, must show himself friendly.”{Proverbs18:24} Yes, there is no one that you lock eyes with that doesn’t matter to God. People should matter to us as well. “Each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Philippians2:4

Do you want to be happier today? Then try this out. Learn to listen, laugh and look at people as though they were a fascinating book to discover. In doing this simple technique, you will add SPICE TO YOUR LIFE as well.

Sharing your Life with a Stranger

On Sunday November 13th 2016, the Tribune posted an article entitled,”Readers weigh in on talking to Strangers.” It caused me to remember some very special strangers that came to our aid.

Larry and I and our son, Aaron, were bike touring with friends. We had crossed over a hazardous metal bridge from Illinois to Kentucky towards our next night’s campground when we got a flat tire. There were no cell phones then to notify our team that we were stuck in small town Kentucky. The bicycle tire was unique and the local store did not have it so we put up our tent in the city park. Up the hill we could hear a party going on—actually it was a family reunion.  It wasn’t long before they noticed us camped below. “Come on up for a hamburger,” they said.  So we filled our plates and found out what it was like to live in a small coal mining town where getting a marriage license came before getting a driver’s license.

A young couple asked us if we would prefer sleeping in their living room rather than in our tent. “Thank you— that’s very kind of you,” I said,” but we’ll be fine here.” “But wouldn’t you like to take a shower?” they replied. “Showers,” said Aaron as the sweat rolled off his brow.  “Mom, you better say yes.”

We spent the night in their home where stuffed turkeys  and an assortment of other prized animals decorated the walls. The next day, Sunday, they were kind enough to load our bikes in the back of their truck and take us to Paducah, Kentucky where we got the tube for my tire and soon joined the rest of our team. We will always remember the kindness of the Kentucky folks who shared the little that they had with us out of the kindness of their hearts. What’s your story? Reply on Facebook or www.lifewithlarry.org my blog.

The Power of a Song

My earliest memories  are of my mom putting us to bed upstairs and then returning to the room downstairs to play us a lullaby to calm us down and put us in a state of sleep. My love of piano began with her as she filled the house with music. My older brother would gather his friends around the piano and I sat as a child curled up on the sofa enjoying the singing of various current songs and musicals of the time. Oklahoma was one of their favorites. I was especially moved by my brother’s  gifted voice and my mother’s ability to play just about anything requested.

After retiring from teaching English, I have returned to my love of music by playing the piano at a nearby hospital. I saw the grand piano in the newly built lobby and was drawn to it like a bee to a flower. I sat down to play this fantastic donated piano and then got the idea to volunteer to play it once a week. It was my fourth week of playing a variety of tunes from classical to musicals and pops. After I finished playing, I went up to the receptionist to chat when an elderly woman came up to me and said, “Was that you playing the piano?” “Yes”, I said. Then she told the story about how much she missed her husband even though she knew that God was now her husband. [Isaiah 54:5]. As she walked into the hospital, I was playing Moon River. That was our song. God used you today to help me,” she said. We all got teary eyed and there was an instant bonding.

A Thoughtful Response to the 2016 Election

What a year of turmoil, division, and mudslinging this election season has caused.  Let’s hope we never see the magnitude of it again. My friend Jayne McGrath who I knew through Bright Hope, an organization that works with the very poor in the world has written this response. I share part of it with you now.
The Trumps and the Hillary’s will come and go and the common issues will always be there for each new President and Government. What will be measured is the ability to create impactful, meaningful change through individuals. One way to do that is to take your strongest voting issue and work on it, or volunteer to make it better. Join a board, join a coalition, fund a need, and put your “back into it.”
Spend time IN the issues instead of on the issues.

An example: Many have talked about their core issue was Pro-Life in
this election. I encourage those people to look into a foster care
agency and change a life to foster a child or adopt the over 100,000
children waiting for adoption and 402,378 in foster care nationwide
that did not ask for the circumstance they are in. Less than 49% of
foster youth complete their GED and therefore go on to have employment difficulties, thus adding to our national costs and their suffering.
If looking to foster or adopt a special needs child, please call me to
put you in touch with a 20 year established solid resource. Children
need love of a real family not only money given to charity. Churches
often have programs to help foster or single parent family children in need. Or fight for free birth control, saving the state money on
healthcare and reducing abortions by 40% (program working in CO) or volunteer to educate moms to discuss options for adoption or help single moms care for their children. These are workable solutions,real-time action that actually helps the issue.

Veterans lives matter as well, so pull up an organization to get
involved with re-career training, homelessness or injury
rehabilitation. USO needs volunteers to help make family time
memorable with those in active service. Paralympics/paralyzed vets
need volunteers to help with activities like teaching vets to downhill
ski, fishing etc. Combine your hot topics. Vet and sports or Vets and
homelessness, education etc.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters help children locally, or if interested
in a specific impoverished country to serve, please call me for
referrals if needed. Feeding programs for extreme poverty food packs are held in local communities through Feed My Starving Children. Northern Illinois Food Bank and Chicago Food Depository are always looking for the help of hands and feet.

Environment – there are local activities to help with environmental
issues or plantings, gleanings, animal care and foster, animal and
natural park preservation groups. Many fantastic ones are right here
local.

As we know, there are many ways to make an impact, many of you already are.This is the only way I know of to make things better is to BE better, to collectively put our hands into action. May this serve as a reminder for those that feel powerless to affect change after the
effects of this election. As we enter into a new paradigm with many
new challenges as a nation, I wish you well, Go with God, Serve
others, keep moving forward in betterment through self-development, seek company of others, keep loving your families and direct your steps towards the future, hopefully a better one each day. Thanks for listening to my thoughts, it helps me to write, so consider this your loving gift of a free therapy session for me! Still sad, but faith-filled for a master plan and hopeful through the power of people’s compassion, thoughts, and ideas. Thank you Jayne.
I would like to end with a thoughtful verse from James 2:15-17.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well;keep warm and well fed; but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

 

God is Not My Butler

I looked into the eyes of Joe, a middle aged man, seeking help at church. His complaint was that God was not meeting his needs. As he talked, I realized that so many of us look to God as our butler or valet, someone to meet our every whim. I remember what Rick Warren said in his book, The Purpose Driven Life. “It’s not about me.” We are part of the body of Christ created to fit into a much larger picture. Individually”, we are told to “Work hard to show the results of our salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear,” Philippians 2:4. Yet, I have a picture in my mind of a generation of not workers, but spoiled children whining because God hasn’t given us our cookie when he has provided the means for us to get our own. God is not our butler. The Israelite children grumbled in the desert for better food and clothing.  After being delivered from the cruelty of the Pharaoh, they longed to be enslaved again. They missed the garlic and leeks and didn’t recall having to make bricks without straw. We so quickly forget our enslavement to sin and like pigs become eager to wallow in the mud again.

I was once that spoiled child. After marrying Larry, we moved to the Marine Corp Air Base in Beaufort, South Carolina. I missed my college friends and family and I was feeling very sorry for myself. When Larry would come home from his job as an Air Traffic Controller, he would often find me crying. In frustration, he took a long walk and talked passionately to God about my situation. When he returned, he said, “I don’t want to come home and see you crying. If you are going to cry, cry for someone who is blind, deaf or disabled.“  The mirror he put in my face brought both shame and clarity.   Something inside me shifted and I quit having my pity parties. I started reading the Bible rather than just books about the Bible. As I got the focus off of myself, I was able to see the needs of others. God was then able to use my gifts and my joy returned.

But I will always remember the prison of my own making. Perhaps you are in one saying I can’t escape because the walls are thick and the bars are strong when actually the door is open and you can easily walk out. So many of us would rather stay in prison and complain. When I have a problem, I ask myself this question. “Is this a first world problem or a third world problem?” I have food, clothes and shelter. The Bible says with these, be content. It has helped me be grateful for my many blessings.

As I continued to talked to Joe, I suggested stepping out and looking for part time employment.  I suggested getting exercise to strengthen his back, and I suggested connecting with his maker through walks in nature.  I could tell that my advice was falling on deaf ears. He wanted God to somehow magically come down like a genie he could command  to make things happen in his life. “God promises to meet my needs but he isn’t doing it for me,” he lamented while blaming his creator.

God is not our butler. He has given us the tools to change our lives, but we must take the steps out of our prison to do just that. I’m thinking of my friend who as a child had a leg amputated due to cancer.  Hailey Danisewicz just went to Rio where she won a silver medal in the Triatolon category of the  Paralympics.

She overcame her limitations through discipline and hard work. As a result she brought  honor to herself  and the United States.

What can we do to change our circumstances? We can pray, read the Bible and get wise council from trusted friends, and godly mentors.  The book of Proverbs is a treasure of wisdom teaching us how to live a full and productive life.  As servants of the living God, we are called to diligence and giving.  No, God is Not My Butler.

“We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we may walk in them.” (Esphesians2:10)

 

 

 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Our son-in-law, Geoff, was traveling with our daughter from Illinois to Texas when the engine light went on. He turned to Julie and said, ”Should we turn around and go home?” What would the Schuerr’s do?” She hesitated as the memories filled her mind and said, “Continue on, of course.” I’m sure Julie, now with a family of her own, would remember this childhood lesson in perseverance.

A winter weekend in the 80’s, we decided to treat our three kids to a night at the Holidome. We were enjoying the snow covered scenery and stopped at Mars Cheese House in WI  to use the bathroom. We piled into the van and Larry stepped on the clutch when the linkage broke which meant we could not get into first gear.  You could get into 2nd or 3rd without the clutch. It made the van lurch forward providing excitement for the kids. Life has been a circus of excitement and perseverance would prevail. Larry got on the interstate in 3rd gear and cruised along but eventually we had  to get off the interstate and encounter stop lights and signs. If it was red, Larry would slow down and if it didn’t turn green, he would  make a quick right turn.  In this manner we worked our way to the Holidome where we spent the weekend playing with our kids in the pool and of course, fixing the van. The first word the kids learned with our limited income was “Fic it Daddy.”  He has been fixing things ever since. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” At one time, he used butter to fix a linkage up in the Canadian mountains where no mechanical help existed. But that’s another lifewithlarry  story.

Montana Christmas 010

 

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