How many of you have been on a vacation that you really looked forward to and yet the outcome was full of unforeseen problems? That is what this blog is about. No matter what comes your way in life, you can learn from the situation and move forward. Here’s our story.
The year was 1987, we had just purchased a used pop-up camper. After packing it with all our belongings, we were finally ready for an exciting maiden voyage out West. Our plan was first to make our way to see my roommate from college and her family in Denver and then to Kingman, Arizona where Larry’s family resided. I had started my career as a high school teacher in 1985 and Larry had a good year in construction. There was finally money for a camper instead of pitching our tent often in wet conditions. Our children, Deb, Julie, and Aaron, worked hard in school and looked forward to this family vacation. What could possibly go wrong?
While singing the top hits on the radio, we were just 30 miles from Denver when we saw a storm ahead. Unlike the Midwest, a storm on the horizon was easy for all of us to see. We had a contest guessing how long it would take for us to enter the storm. “I say it will take 15 minutes,” said Deb. “No, said Julie, “20 minutes”. Aaron just looked ahead in wonderment as we got closer and closer. I was keeping track of the time for the contest. Ray Charles was singing“Hit the Road Jack” while we counted the minutes. All of a sudden, a gusting wind unfolded sending us directly into the eye of the storm. “Oh No!” said Larry as he looked out the rearview mirror to see the top of our camper sliced off like a can of Campbell soup and flying onto the road. Fortunately, there was no one behind us. Larry had his head on the steering wheel crying out, “Oh God Why?”
The storm had also blown our personal belongings onto the highway. As we gathered them up, two hippy guys stopped to give us a hand. “Don’t worry, be happy. These things happen all the time,” they chimed. “We are here to do our good deed for the day.” You can take it to the Camper Repair Shop in town and they will fix it for you.” The rain tapered off and overhead we could see a magnificent double rainbow. Maybe there was hope. The helpful hippies gave us a hand putting the wind-ripped camper top back on and we made our way to downtown, Denver. Deb reminded us that the song during the storm was, “Hit the Road, Jack.”
Even though our used camper looked good from the outside, we had missed seeing the rotting wood under the metal which was unable to take the impact of the storm. Knowing that there was no way to fix our camper, we dealt with the loss of $675 (a lot of money for us) and took the top to the scrapyard for disposal.
In the Schuerr book of travel, one never turns back but continues ON! Our children were able to experience first hand how to deal with unforeseen problems. It was time for creative thinking. We put our clothes in black garbage bags and we raised the poles and covered them with Visqueen. We had recently seen the movie Family Vacation as they traveled to Wally World. What more could possibly go wrong?
We made our way to my friend’s beautiful neighborhood pulling our decapitated popup camper. We were greeted warmly by Carol, Skip, and their two boys even though we were the eyesore of the neighborhood. Our closet folded down and I had to raise it in order to get our belongings out. Later, while at the campground we staged pictures of me swatting flies while eating at our table. We were a family that loved to laugh and used humor and ingenuity to deal with our situation.
We were heading to Arizona next where we planned to see the Grand Canyon. We had heard that the sun would always shine. But instead we had rain on the way to the Grand Canyon and when we arrived, we felt like the Griswalls making It to Wally World, and finding it closed. We got out of our van and peeked over the canyon—but it was engulfed in heavy thick clouds. “Now what,” I said. “This might be the best time to see our former neighbors that moved to Sedona,” said Larry. It should clear up in a day or two. We returned in time to see a beautiful sunset that painted the canyon in shades of pink, purple and gold.
Now fast forward to recent times when my daughter, Julie, and her husband, Geoff, were on their way to Texas. The engine light went on. With a moment of contemplation, Geoff said, “What would the Schuerrs do?” “Go on, of course, said Julie. “What could possibly go wrong?”
It doesn’t take long for Larry to want another adventure in life. He had back surgery on July 9th. It was July 25th when we took our trailer up to Lake Farm Campground about 4-5 miles outside of Madison’s Capitol building. The weather was a bit windy but perfect for a bike ride pass Lake Mendota where we saw a class of scuba divers and many fishermen.
At one point, we asked a woman the best way to get to the Capitol where we were going to stop for coffee. She said, “Just go around the bend and you will see a bike elevator to take you near the Capitol. A bike elevator I thought—how clever and thoughtful of the city to provide such a thing. Soon, I clicked this picture.
If you are looking for a getaway that is close to Chicago and the suburbs, think about traveling to Madison. There are endless campgrounds and trails for biking and hiking. Being a university town, it has all the perks of entertainment to enjoy as well. We chose to go to Madison because we could camp right on the bike trail and it was flat for Larry to work on his therapy.
It was a great step for Larry but his endurance and strength still has a long way to go. He took a long nap afterward to recharge. Formal physical therapy starts tomorrow.
We hope to return to Lake Farm Campground or another nearby campground in the fall to enjoy the endless trails and to possibly take our kayak up to this wonderful outdoor-friendly town. We hope you can join us when Larry is in better health and has greater stamina. For more information, see www.visitmadison.com and sign up for their newsletter.
As part of Larry’s back surgery therapy, we went to Pro-Fitness to work out on a stationary bike and light weights. On the way home, he mentioned his concern about how painful his foot was and wondering if he was developing a hammer toe. When he got home, he took off his shoe and a stuffed sock in the toe area dropped out. We both had a hearty laugh. It was the first we have had since surgery on July 9th.
By the way, I certainly move quickly if his foot descents anywhere near mine.
When taking marriage vows, it includes for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. Over our many years of marriage, we have experienced all accept death. I once met an elderly man waiting in line for coffee at Panera. Looking outside, I said, ” What a miserable day out there!” He said, “Every day I wake up is a good one whether it be a storm, a hurricane or a blizzard. I am here and I am still alive,”he proclaimed with a little dance step.
Larry had back surgery– the damage was the result of years of construction work and sports-related accidents. The stress finally caused bulging discs, bone spurs and a pinched nerve that made it difficult for him to walk. Fortunately, our teacher and military pensions have covered the cost. But it’s July 2018 a very hot summer without air-conditioning and with a plethora of mosquitoes. It is testing our relationship. This is my former Marine husband who built our home, who tackled any task that came his way and who used his many gifts to help others. Now, I am his often inadequate caregiver and chauffeur. It has been difficult to see this happen but I thank God that Larry has a future. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble.” Job 2: 10.
As I write this entry, I’m looking out the window at the flowers and trees in our yard. We are engulfed in a green splendor with a chorus of birds singing at 7 AM. A stillness helps me tune into my Creator with thanksgiving as we take each day for Larry to once again heal and do the things he loves. I think of those who will not heal and whose condition will worsen with time.
Yesterday, we got mail from World Vision about the child we sponsor. They asked us to consider sponsoring yet another child, a 12-year-old boy from East Africa. I was hesitant since we also have one from Compassion International: but Larry really wanted to help this boy. We read that one of the boys from the soccer team in Thailand trapped in the cave with his coach was a Compassion International boy. And that the boy who discovered where the team was located was also a Compassion International boy. Both organizations are doing great things to help kids in poverty grown up to have meaningful lives.
As we face trials, I am reminded of those who need far more help than we do. It’s a (For Better or Worse) time and we hope to learn the lessons God wants to teach us to develop a life of character and compassion for others. We know we are not alone—-thanks to family and friends. The better times will come.
“Life is not measured by the breaths we take; but rather by the moments that took our breath away.”
We are getting ready to celebrate a big event, our 50th Anniversary. It’s a milestone we want our adult children and grandchildren to remember. We will be celebrating it in the Bozeman, and Livingston Montana area where our eldest daughter and youngest son live. We are flying out our middle daughter, Julie, and her family. Our hope is that they will all learn from our example of a good marriage and a productive life.
How did Larry and I meet? Let me take you back to the field house at Northern Illinois University in 1965 where I felt a large, warm hand gently grasp my neck. It was Larry who I had recently begun dating. There was something about his touch that was protective and secure. I turned around and looked up into his beautiful eyes. He walked me to my dorm and pretended to slip and slide on the icy terrain bumping into me and causing instant laughter. Three years later, I began my ‘Life with Larry’. Our marriage has been filled with humor and adventure. Practical jokes abound with each other and with our family. Each night, when nature calls, I get up around 2 AM and when I come back to bed, I often see my pillow go sailing down the hallway. I get even by filling his pillowcase with shoes and other odds and ends. Laughter is a medicine for the soul and an essential ingredient in a vibrant relationship that washes away the daily problems of life.
Our marriage is far from boring. Larry is my trailblazer setting us off in on one direction or another. Our partnership has included a tandem kayak, a tandem bicycle and more recently, a shiny black Goldwing motorcycle. As retired teachers, we have devoted ourselves to volunteering for various organizations. We continue to challenge ourselves. Larry is learning to horseback ride with Brave Heart and I am learning Spanish to better equip myself to serve in a nearby care center. I also play the piano weekly at our local hospital. Larry and I have a deep love that conquers all even our latest trial as Larry prepares for back surgery soon. That love has grown by serving one another, by putting one another above ourselves, and by forgetting who is right or wrong. We try to follow what the Bible says. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” But, often, we just agree to disagree. The words of the Bible continue to be our source of guidance because it never changes, unlike the latest counseling advice. Laughter fills our home and we miss one another immensely when we are apart. “Laughter is an instant vacation.” Milton Berle
“The sun is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.”
After a month of rain, the sun is on the horizon—-a big yellow-red ball finally making its appearance and guiding us to our favorite place—Kettle Moraine, WI. Larry wanted to take his Goldwing and camp in a small tent in the woods. But I know that we will never shed our winter coats (extra pounds) by riding a motorcycle; we opted instead to take the trailer and the tandem bicycle. It was a good choice since we did have a few sprinkles during the night.
At Ottawa Lake Campground, we were greeted to a symphony of birds. Over the lake, we saw the return of the herons and sand-hill cranes. We have been coming up to Kettle Moraine now for over 39 years. In my mind, I can still hear and see our red-headed 4-year-old shirtless Julie giggling nonstop while spinning around on the merry-go-round. We gave our toe-headed son, Aaron, an Indian name—because he had such short legs compared to his long torso—just like his dad. We called him Little Silver Top–whose crotch runs close to the grown. Deborah, our oldest, was nicknamed– Bear. It was a derivative of De/Bear/ah. Her long blonde hair would blow in the wind while chasing her brother and sister in a game of hide-and-go-seek. We also ran up and down playground equipment playing “tag” with our kids. While hiking, we would stuff our backpacks with undomesticated apples savoring the thought of the delicious applesauce we would later make after cutting out the rotten spots. As a retired couple, we still cling to the memories of our children’s faces and voices. Our grandchildren are now enjoying the beauty and wonder of Kettle. ( See pictures)
Larry and Elliot
On one occasion, we could not get a campsite—the park was full. We thought we’d make the best of the day and head home that evening. But it wasn’t long before our kids were splashing around with the local Kettle kids. Julie, the most gregarious one, must have shared the fact that we were soon going home because one of the Kettle parents invited us to set up our tent on their property just a few miles from Ottawa Lake. A family friend was born and Larry ended up going fishing later that summer with the father.
Larry and Sue with Nata and EB
Now fast forward to May 2013. We hopped on our red tandem bicycle and cruised up and down the winding roads pass lakes and fusions of blue and yellow flowers bending their faces to the sun. We rode pass Pine Creek Campground and inhaled the awesome smell of freshly cut pines in the tree farm across the street from the camp.
Soon we could smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods at our destination spot—–The Old Milwaukee Trade Center Coffee House in Delafield, WI. There are three spacious rooms with large windows and outdoor sitting at this coffee house on steroids. We hardily recommend it to all. It was a wonderful 25-mile round trip ride from our campsite.
Here are Julie, Geoff and Nata
We found ourselves laughing a lot as a result of our first local get away in the sun. Being in nature is like taking a shower and ridding oneself of the dust of daily living. It refreshes the soul and brings one closer to God and His creation. “The heavens declare the glory of god; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech,” Psalm 19: 1-2. We love the harmony and tune of nature—it always seems to refresh us. Kettle Moraine is the cure for any ailment. Now next time, we’ll hop on our Gold-wing and I’ll let Larry have his wish and camp in the pines under the stars.
Picking Wild Raspberries
Kettle Moraine is located North of Lake Geneva. Take Rt. 12 up there and be sure to see the La Grange Store on the way up. It’s a restaurant/bike/health food store. They can give you directions to great hiking, biking and camping just s short distance from their store. If you camp at Ottawa Lake, be sure to go to either Delafield or Oconomowoc. Both towns have great stores, restaurants and coffee houses, and you won’t want to miss the beautiful beach outside of Oconomowoc.
It’s Mother’s day, May 13th, and it’s raining with temperatures in the 40’s. I checked the weather in Chesterton, Indiana, a place we enjoyed biking and camping in the past. Less than two hours from us, the sun was shining on beautiful Lake Michigan. Since we planned our Mother’s day celebration for next Sunday, I woke up Larry and said, “We are going to get out of Chicagoland and enjoy a day in Chesterton, Indiana with a stop at the National Lake Shore Dunes. Larry was more than eager to go. The weather got better with every mile.
We had brunch at the beautiful Volstead Restaurant in downtown, Chesterton. Since the place was for reservation only, we had to sit at the bar which meant we got waited on faster. I ordered a delicious Sprout Breakfast Bowl and Larry ordered Blueberry Cream pancakes. We both had a mimosa to drink—a wonderful brunch.
We spent some time at the park across the street, and then headed to the National Lake Shore where we often took our bike club. After walking along the shore, we checked out the houses from the 1933 World’s Fair where they found a permanent home on the National Lake Shore. There are a plethora of unique homes along the shore and in front of one was a stone structure I have included in my picture gallery. I hope you will consider visiting this summer. It is well worth the trip.
Visions of Cowboys and Indians Dancing in their Heads By Sue/Larry/Ken Schuerr
Today, April 28th, 2018, we have a Celebration of Life for Kennith Schuerr. We will remember him as a wonderful husband and father who loved to laugh and lived life to the fullest. He enjoyed reminiscing about his childhood. Below are some of those stories.
All little boys growing up in the 50’s were influenced by the TV cowboy characters Roy Rogers, Hop-a-long Cassidy and John Wayne. The good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. Of course, both were always fighting the Indians. Larry was no exception. He and his two toe-headed stair-step brothers, Bill and Ken, were glued to the TV screen soaking up the many lessons to be learned about being a real cowboy. They were thrilled to have electricity and a TV in their small, primitive summer cottage supported only on posts. It was located in Lily Moor just outside of McHenry, a better place than the city for three growing boys.
In 1952, Larry’s dad bought the summer cottage from his half-brother. The goal was to convert the summer cottage into a year round home. Money was a scarcity so the transformation took years. The Insulation, heat and indoor plumbing were non existent, and they had to take a bucket to the hand pump on the front porch to pour water down the indoor-outhouse to flush it. The wood burning stove sizzled with wood scraps Larry’s dad brought home from his carpentry jobs.
“We’d wake up in the morning with snow blowing through the eaves onto the floor,” Larry recalls. “Only one bed would fit in our room and we nestled close to one another for warmth. For Christmas each of us received two presents—-an article of clothing and one toy. One evening, the VFW showed up at our door with a turkey and a box of food. It was the first time, I saw my dad cry.”
Larry’s dad, a man whose arms resembled the cartoon character Popeye, dug a well and installed a pump by the sink in the kitchen similar to what we had seen on the TV series, Lassie. The next ongoing project was to dig out a basement under the house. This was a Herculean task for three young boys. First, walls with windows were installed. Then Larry and his brothers, Bill and Ken, would dig out the basement by throwing the dirt out of the window.
But at least it was their place, and the TV provided a mental escape from on-going chores. There were trees to climb, sticks to turn into guns and plenty of new places in the country to explore
Ken, the youngest of the three, was often the target for taunting. When it was his turn to swing from the rope on the tree, Larry, being the chief, would tell him when to jump. Of course, the oldest brother was always right.
Ken would yell, “When should I jump?”
“I’ll tell you when,” said Skip.
“Not now,” screamed Bill and Larry
With their early understanding of physics, they would wait until the distance between Ken and the ground was greatest and then yell, “Now”!
As would be expected, they all were wounded regularly just like the real cowboys and Indians on TV; Dad, the medicine man, was an expert at making butterfly bandages and other repairs to their frequently wounded bodies.
Another time, they ventured into a dairy farm behind them and visited the cows. Bill and Larry talked Ken into grabbing the tail of a Holstein to see what would happen. When the thrill of seeing their brother fly on the end of a cow’s tail passed, they yelled.
But the shock of being dragged by a moving cow, made Ken grab on harder.
“Let go,” yelled Bill and Larry even louder.
But, Ken continued to grab on even harder as he bounced off stones, sticker bushes and manure patties.
Rainy days were a recipe for disaster for the growing family who lived in the space of a double garage. Mom and Dad were playing cards with friends down the road and the three boys got to rough housing. It wasn’t long before they put a hole in the tender wall.
“Now, what do we do?” said Ken
“We’re dead meat,” cried Bill
But Larry, the ringleader, came up with an excellent solution. The three would move the refrigerator to cover the hole——-Mom would never notice. With a great deal of pushing and shoving, the hole vanished behind the mayonnaise, mustard and sour cream.
When Mom and Dad came home, she asked who moved the refrigerator.
“Not me,” said Larry
“Not me,” said Ken
“Not me,” said Bill
That left their little sister, Mary, gurgling in the corner.
Digging out the basement was an on going project. By then real plumbing was installed and Shirley, their mom, decided to have a Tupperware party.
As usual, the boys came home from school and worked in the basement shoveling the dirt out of the window. The boring, laborious labor cried for adventure. Larry remembered seeing a special episode of Roy Rogers where——–
The memory was crystal clear in Larry’s mind and he diverted his attention from throwing dirt out the window to digging a large hole. He coaxed Bill, the cowboy, into climbing into it. Bill obediently jumped in. The Indians, Ken and Larry, buried their victim up to his neck. All they needed were cowboy hats and feathers—–until Bill’s piercing cry.
“Help! Get me out of here.”
The Tupperware party was in full swing upstairs as the ladies inhaled their Lucky Strike cigarettes, munched on brownies, and practiced burping their new lettuce containers.
But the call persisted, “Help, Help, Get me out of here!”
Shirley politely said, “Excuse me ladies,” It looks like I’m needed below.” She was angry about missing the latest gossip tidbits.
Stomping down the basement stairs, the first thing she saw was Bill buried up to his neck and then Ken and Larry standing in the distance with shovels trying to be innocent bystanders. The spell was now completely broken—–the Indians were on the run with past wallops in memory.
She grabbed a shovel and furiously began to excavate her middle son promising retribution,” I’m going to kill you guys.” In the next breath she called upstairs in her sweet voice, “I’ll be with you in a minute, ladies. ”She came close to excavating Bill while Larry and Ken flew up the stairs and out the door in ear shot of her impending promise, “I’m going to kill you kids.”
It was hours before they returned home for dinner. But it wasn’t long before the trio once again escaped into the wonderful world of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Tonto—–with visions of future exploits dancing in their heads.
My latest interview with Ken in March, 2018.
After school, the Indians would go down to Lily Lake to skate around the Lake below our house. It was rather slushy. Larry, whose nickname was Skip, was skating toward the shore wearing a heavy old winter coat with a hood that pulled tightly around his head. Suddenly the ice broke and he sank into the water. Ken, remembering what he saw on TV, laid on the solid ice to keep from sinking himself, and extended his hands forward to help Larry get out. After a struggle, he emerged and quickly rushed to the safety of home escaping Hypothermia. Thanks Ken for saving my future husband.
Our adventures often entailed a dangerous challenge. Ken was the youngest and smallest of the three Indians. They were having fun jumping off the pier while avoiding pockets of water. But little Ken, while jumping, ended up missing his target and slid torpedo-style under the ice. He was disoriented and unable to figure out up from down. He imagined himself being Houdini the character they got to know on TV. Like Houdini, Ken finally managed an escape and with the assistance of his big brothers managed to get home, escaping hyperthermia. Barb would like to thank them for saving her future husband.
Living in the country, one of the favorite sports of the three boys was to climb trees. Mary, who was younger than Ken by three years, wanted to climb the tree too. She was eager to experience a little adventure herself, being the only girl in the family. She climbed the tree successfully but was unable to get down. The thought of descending what seemed like a mountain to her was more than she could handle. She sat there for hours while her brothers tried to coax her down, with no success. They finally got hungry and set out for home. Mom said, “Where is your sister?” “Oh her, um, she’s stuck up a tree,” they said nonchalantly afraid of getting punished. Instead of serving dinner, she fetched Mary out of the tree. Kirby, Mary’s husband, would have said, “Thanks for saving my future bride.” No thanks to the three boys or she would still be up a tree.
Grandpa lived next door to the Schuerr family. His house was a haven for the brothers who loved nibbling off the many fruit trees in his yard. That day, they were playing War Games. Ken had stuffed his pockets with tasty ripe plums. Skip, being almost four years older, tackled his enemy– and crushed the plums in Ken’s pocket. Wow, it looked like real blood. “It sure was sticky and gooey,” said Ken who wobbled home to the chagrin of his mother.
Grandpa decided to build a small pool where he enjoyed watching his fish while cooling off. The boys loved it too. But it would not contain the water so eventually Grandpa replaced the water with sand and in the winter, the Indians filled it with snow. Now the war game was to jump off the roof and land in the pit. If they missed it, they would be hurt by the surrounding concrete blocks. Little Mary, while watching her big brothers jump said, “I want to try it.” She managed to climb to the top of the roof and holding her breath with fear and trepidation, she successfully jumped into the round sandpit. But once was enough for Mary who had proved herself in the eyes of her big brothers.
Do you remember some encouraging words you received from a parent, teacher, coach or friend that helped shape your life today? Conversely, you may have received some negative words that shaped you as well. I recently read a book entitled Just a Minute by the founder of Compassion International, Wes Stafford. In it, he discussed the power our words can have on young people and how our influence even briefly can help shape a life.
In my childhood, I recall an old black typewriter where I started coining my stories often about my brother, Bill. I even started a local neighborhood newspaper with a joke section about Fords being junk. My Dad, a Chevy owner, said “You’re a pretty good writer—maybe you’ll become a journalist or a teacher.” My mom shared her love of music by playing lullabies on the piano for us and introducing us to classical music. With words of affirmation, they both encouraged me to love reading, writing and music. My children grew up with the same passions and have surpassed me in their skill level. Larry read to them each evening went he got home from work. It was break time for me. He started with C S Lewis’ Narnia series and continued with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Now Larry didn’t just read to them, he acted out each character giving them a voice and mannerisms. He had Gollum down long before the movie came out, and when Thorin Oakenshield died, they all cried around the dinner table. I remember one time I drifted off to sleep while reading a magazine. All of a sudden I woke up in a panic and ran down the hall to the kitchen where I heard,” Fire, Foe, Arise.” I thought the house was on fire. My heart was in my throat—— but it was only a line dramatized by Larry from The Lord of the Rings.
All three of our children were in plays and musicals and Aaron still acts regularly in them. They grew up with a passion for the arts and parents who encouraged them with affirming words and actions. The power of our words played a key role in their lives.
Conversely, negative words can also shape young lives. But that will be continued in another blog. Feel free to comment.