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.

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A Tribute to a Father/Daughter Relationship

August is our busy birthday month. First comes my son, Aaron’s birthday, then our foster daughter, Donna Paluch,  and finally my birthday.  I’m 28 days older than Larry and he reminds me often during the month of August. I remind him that he looks much older—too bad guys generally don’t wear make-up—at least not Larry unless it’s Halloween or he wants to fit in with my tribe of girlfriends. But while Donna was living with us for three years during high school, she entered a contest describing why her foster father should be given the award of Father-of-the Year.  I opened up an unread book we have had on our shelf named The Heart of a Father and found this letter in it. See what she said below.

For years I have been a foster child. I have never known the love a father and daughter share. There was no one to help me with school; there was no one to help me at all. As a child, I had no  one to look up to. I had no one to call dad. I have a dad now. He is the most giving and compassionate man I know. He took in a girl who had no where to go. Not only was she a stranger, she was a stronger with a past. She was me. He has stood with me through moments of hell. We have climbed mountains together the last two years. He gave a girl on the brink of death a chance to experience life. He is an example for all people—-a member of big brother, big sister, an activist for the homeless, an activist for me. I call him Dad.

She won the award and a limousine picked her and Larry up and took them to the Oprah show. She was then on Channel 9 sharing her story and received free tickets for all of us to a Cub’s game.

Before we picked up Donna, she had attempted suicide by taking tylenol tablets. The hospital pumped her stomach and saved her. The three teenage years we had her were turbulent but we knew there was a gem within her. She was smart and tenacious. Today she is a lawyer living in Louisiana with her husband and three children.

God has saved her and used her as a public defender to help those with no hope. There were days during her times of fighting drug abuse that I thought there was no hope. She was hospitalized for a period of time and was strong enough to cut off unhealthy relationships. Donna read  45 books—mostly classics that summer and played basketball with me. She had the advantage being a lot taller than my 5 ft. frame. We are proud of the woman she has become. Happy Birthday Donna.

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What’s Larry Up to Today?

A friend asked what Larry was up to after his knee replacement.  It has been 4 weeks since his surgery on June 1st,2016. Larry was on the roof cutting down limbs from a tree. That is what he was up to. I told him he was crazy to be up there but he just asked me to throw up a broom. He was on his mountain bike last week taking a short ride. The physical therapist said he is way ahead of schedule at this point. But he has trouble sitting for prolonged times so long trips are out of the question.  He needs to still take it literally one step at a time.

He is already planning serving opportunities and helping our daughter who had a massive plumbing problem that destroyed her bathroom ceiling.

Yes, Larry is on the move and I’ll do my best to keep him off roofs but then again I’m not even 5 ft. and he is 6 ft. 2 in. Any suggestions?

Fill Your Home with Life and Laughter

 

Do you have the gift of hospitality and enjoy having your home filled with life and laughter? Would you like to enjoy the company of your friends but fear all the work and preparation it would take? Then learn from our years of experience having potluck meals. It’s an easy way to gather friends and family and connect in fellowship with one another. We send out an Evite invitation with a theme such as A Time to be Thankful or Celebrate Spring. Then we ask our guests to bring their own meat (sometimes we provide it) and a dish to pass. We provide Ice Tea, lemonade, pop and coffee.

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Next, we fire up the grill and wait for the scrumptious dishes to arrive. It’s always exciting to see what the guests will bring. We would never have time to prepare the food that comes through the door. It doesn’t matter who does or doesn’t show up. When they arrive, I give everyone a name tag so they don’t have to remember each other’s names. But most importantly, on the name tag include something about that person. Here are examples of what I write on them with their permission: Hart, the gardener, Joe, the biker, Carol, the Super Mom, Rick, the guitar player,  Helga, the reader and Rachel, the nutritionist, This immediately gives strangers a chance to strike up a conversation.  If someone looks disengaged, I ask them to help me set up and keep up a lively conversation with them about our various guests.

For summer potlucks, have simple games for people to play. Bean toss, badminton and bocce ball are a few of our favorites. We also enjoy having a Music Fest where we will ask people to bring guitars, keyboards and noise makers.  We provide words for songs ranging from show tunes like The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and the Beatles to hymns like Amazing Grace and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.  Fortunately, we have a piano and guitar but it’s not essential. Your guests will enjoy sharing their talents with other like-minded music-lovers. But music is not the only way to connect. They may have a poem, a favorite Bible verse, and a mini-message or life experience they want to share. It’s kept short and focused.

An added benefit is that my husband will tackle unexpected house projects. One time, though, he re-sanded our wooden kitchen floor, stained it and put three coats of polyethylene on them. I couldn’t clean the house until the last day for fear of stirring up dust—–but now I have a beautiful, new floor.

For summer potlucks, don’t worry about cleaning the bedrooms or basement.  Your guests will be outside enjoying your deck and the beautiful weather.   Around Thanksgiving, we ask people to prepare a short three minutes talk about something they are grateful for.  At Christmas, we gather around the piano and sing carols and enjoy delicious homemade cookies.

By following these simple steps, your gift of hospitality will be in full swing with little labor and cost. Your home will be filled with joy and laughter and your guests will be begging you to do it again. Now feel free to add your ideas to my blog entitled www.lifewithlarry.org.

 

A Hope for the Future

We live in a time when so much information is swirling around us through multiple means of media. When we were raising our family, Dr. Spock was the author everyone was turning to for wisdom. It was a time of no discipline and wisdom crumbled into a time of anarchy.

We raised our children through insights found in the Bible–We found  the book of Proverbs and the words of Jesus our best blueprint for living.  It spoke about how to deal with enemies by overcoming evil with good. Julie, our daughter, was the new kid on the bus and was not greeted warmly. We made cookies and the next day she distributed them and built a bridge of friendship through kindness.

We are living in difficult days where  marriages are crumbling and the suicide rate and death by bullets is at an all time high. Our society has all kinds of directional devices  but not one for living a good life. We need a societal directional system.  Today I put together wisdom I found in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.  I hope it will help you understand the times we live in and give you strength to stand firm.

“People will be lovers of themselves. Boastful, proud, abusive. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers saying what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth. But you, keep your head in all situations. Endure hardship–Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 3 & 4

By committing your life to Christ and spending time in his love letters to us, life will have purpose and meaning.  “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

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