Laughter is the Sunshine that Drives Winter Away

Larry and I love to laugh. No matter what trials we have faced, we can’t stay blue for long. And that is a good thing. “Laughter is good medicine.” Physically, laughter triggers the release of endorphins that cause a sense of well-being. Studies have demonstrated that children laugh on average more than 300 times a day. We adults only laugh a dismal 15 times a day. No wonder grandparents love to hang out with their grandkids.

Did you know that 85% of what we worry about never happens; and if the problem occurs, our excellent coping skills help us to manage successfully?

So find people that make you laugh.  Play with kids. Pass around decent jokes.  Be like the Proverbs 31 woman who smiled at the future. Here’s a question. Have you ever mistakingly gotten into the wrong car? See my post.  Sweet Delusions And tell us about your laughable moments.  “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Victor Hugo

Travel to Central Italy Economically

My best friend growing up was Adelina Gina Maria Sangineto.  I clearly remember seeing her parents grasping her little hand as she stumbled behind them to register for elementary school. She had sparkling brown eyes, long black hair and an effervescent personality. She soon became my best friend. In high school, we studied geometry together at her house while listening to the background operatic music of Enrico Caruso. Her mother would share a small dish of magnificent food like mostaccioli, ravioli or lasagna—all so different from my bland American diet.  Adelina would brag about her many trips to Italy where flirting included proposals and being pinched numerous times. I knew that someday I would visit this enchanting country of beauty, history, and culture.

That dream became reality a few years ago when Larry and I traveled Space A—retired, military from Baltimore Airport to Aviano, Italy with our Military Living booklets, our Italian phrase book and Rick Steve’s list of recommendations in hand.

We squeezed into a Fait—-a tight squeeze for my husband’s 6’2” frame. The car did not have a GPS system which forced us to study the maps more intensely and to meet more Italians who could help us with directions. The local roads use the rotary system and we ended up embracing them; when we were indecisive, we just went around a couple times before being ejected to the correct town. Our destination was Tuscany, where Camp Darby Army Base is located. For information concerning lodging see Darby Military Community Center Bldg 202/Tel: +39 050-54-7580/ DSN Tel: (314) 633-7580.   There are several reasonable options for housing, a room, a suite or a summer cabin  Our lodging was at the center of our daily excursions in central Italy. I’m sure there will also be wonderful Air B& B’s as well.

We decided beforehand that when we got lost we’d make it an adventure rather than a time for a feud. We looked at it as an opportunity to interact with the locals and to see unexpected cities. Helpful Italians are everywhere. For instance, a father and daughter were washing their store windows when we approached them for directions. “Porfavore, Dove esta Sienna?” I said. The daughter knew English but did not know the directions. The father knew the directions but did not speak English. They became an exciting duo as the father explained with much gusto in Italian and the daughter erect like a soldier translated. The father was so animated that words were not necessary. We often heard easy, straight ahead—but nothing in Italy was straight ahead.

The locals referred to this area as FIPILI which stood for Florence, Pisa, and Livarno. Our first adventure was to Pisa which is like visiting the United Nations. It is one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. The circular stairway was so narrow; Larry’s shoulders touched each side.

Next, we visited Lucas—the birthplace of Puccini, the great composer, whose family member was to perform that evening. Lucas is one of the two cities in Italy with walls totally intake to protect them from neighboring ferocious Florence.

On our way to Sienna in Tuscany, we took the back roads enjoying the country view of olive gardens and abandoned villas. We stopped in Volterra where we drove up a mountainside reaching a town, known for their alabaster wares, that took us back to medieval times.  Our destination for lunch was a restaurant in a cellar resembling a catacomb named (La Vaverna della terra di mezzo/ Via Gramsci 64, 56048 Volterra (Pi)/ 0588-87394) www.dapina.it. We had soup, wine, and delicious bread. Another evening we had tasty ravioli while we sat outside under the star-filled skies.You cannot go wrong even if you are forced to eat at McDonald’s where the spinach bun melted in my mouth and the tiramisu was as smooth as silk.

Next, we visited Cirque terra—-the Italian Rivera with five colorful towns cut into the mountainside.  Soon we had our own hiking group—We were drawn like a magnet to anyone speaking English. We met a couple from New Zealand and another from Florida. While having lunch together we served as our own tour guides by sharing our knowledge of the area with one another.

Our final destination was Florence—a place where fairy tales were created. We saw a cathedral constructed with three distinct colors of marble. But the highlight of the day was seeing the breath-taking statue of David, Michelangelo’s crowning achievement. His majestic height, rippling muscles, and strong expression brought many to tears. On a lighter side, Larry was drawn in by commercialism. He could see no reason why he shouldn’t purchase the pair of swimming trucks or apron featuring a graphic picture of David from the belly button to the knees.

It was sad to say goodbye to Italy. We certainly hope to do another week in the future to Venice, Rome, and Naples. We found October to be a great time to travel to Italy—-tourist season is winding down and the weather is still pleasant.

Be sure to include a trip to Italy on your bucket list, and do it economically by perhaps driving and forming your own tour group. You will meet wonderful people, eat delicious Italian cuisine and see unforgettable sights. Learning some Italian phrases,  and bringing a Garmin and Rick Steve’s travel books will be very helpful.

By the way, despite five proposals, my friend Adelina Gina Maria never married but instead devoted her life to her parents and her teaching career.

Arrividerci/Chow,

Sue and Larry Schuerr

Aunt Esther’s Winning Recipe for Life

 

Life with Larry took me to the Schuerr reunion in Fox Lake, IL on a warm, Sunday afternoon.. Larry greeted his  90 year old Aunt Esther by kissing and tickling her neck. He has greeted Aunt Esther in this manner over the past 30 years. She smacked him and said, “Stop it, Skip.” Skip was Larry’s boyhood nickname. Aunt Esther was always Larry’s favorite aunt even if she was instructed by his mother to shave his head completely bald every summer.

Here’s Aunt Esther at 96 with her niece Mary Schuerr Donnellan

We soon noticed that smiling Aunt Esther was proudly holding hands with her 91 year old boyfriend, Emil. The lovebirds reminded us of high school sweethearts. Yes, Aunt Esther could easily write the recipe for life. Her laughter and teasing personality lightens up any room. She and Emil arrived in an orange, convertible Prowler like Cinderella going to the ball only accompanied by the prince. Emil sports two hearing aids and his sight isn’t great, but Aunt Esther is his eyes and ears. When Emil was no longer able to drive, he would pick up Aunt Esther in a riding lawn mover and set her on his knee.

As late as last summer, she road on the back of John’s Harley like a true motorcycle mama wearing only a scarf on her head. But now, Emil consumes most of her time. “I’ve been jilted by another man,” laughs John while flipping burgers.

On Friday’s her son, Jim, picks Emil and Esther up for a fish dinner.      “I sneak peeks from my rear view mirror and catch them smooching. What a role reversal,”  said Jim.

Watching Esther and Emil hold hands at the family reunion brought smiles to all our faces. Her recipe for life is simple. “You’re never too old to love and be loved.”. Regardless of ailments, the couple may well live to see their 100th birthday. Now that’s an occasion for another Schuerr reunion, for sure.

Now for an update: October 2017

I visited Aunt Esther last week. Regardless of her aches and pains, Aunt Esther’s twinkly blue eyes and big smile brings a warmth to anyone who visits her.  She is now 96 and Emil 97. They still care for one another but see  each other less. She recently attended her 1939 reunion at Grant High School in Fox Lake as the honored guest.  Her children have created adventure opportunities for Esther such as down-hill skiing for the first time at 70, skydiving, horseback riding and tubing behind a boat, last year. Esther’s great sense of humor, her zest for life and  her love for others is unique. She is my role model as a woman who knows how to face the future.

A brief biography of Esther Janseen Schuerr

 Aunt Esther had six children. Her fifth child, Bobby, lived until 21 years old with cerebral palsy. Normally, a child in his condition would live  no longer than seven years.  But the whole family was trained to help Bobby who had to be hand fed and diaper changed. After his death, Aunt Esther and her husband took in an older gentleman who had no one.   He stayed with them until his death five years later. She also has helped raise many of her grandchildren and you can always catch her making a batch of chocolate chip cookies even at 96. 

 

What To Do When Your Goal Is Just Around The Corner

We signed up early for the Oct. 7th/8th Hilly Hundred Bicycle Ride near Bloomington, IN knowing that having a goal in the summer would motivate us to build endurance through exercise and good nutrition.  The huge hills were no surprise to us since we have been doing this ride most years since 1992.  As seasoned seniors, we knew that without training, we would never succeed.  When setting a goal, expect interferences.  Larry was having problems with his shoulder and an MRI confirmed that surgery was needed. The surgeon Larry trusted the most had an opening Oct. 9th. “What,” I said. “That is cutting it close.” To do 50 miles on Sunday and then turn around and drive 5 hours home for a Monday surgery was a super human goal. But we booked the surgery. 

Day one arrived with hot temperatures in the mid-80’s.  We encountered some difficulties such as the chain coming off twice and getting a flat tire.   We biked 53.7 miles with an elevation gain of 3229 ft. while sweating profusely.  I was pleased that my training rides with my good friend, Cleora, had paid off. Unfortunately, Larry and I did not get as much training on the tandem we ride for the Hilly.

Day 2 arrived with the promise of cooler temperatures.   I had a good night’s  sleep and was ready to tackle another day; but my tandem partner had a bad night with his sore shoulder and was not in any condition to ride. Instead of reaching our goal, we drove the 5 hours home with a sense of wisdom and disappointment as well. We  talked about what we could have done differently. We could have lost more weight with less to carry up the huge hills. We could have possibly rescheduled the shoulder surgery. But that didn’t seem like a wise option.

So what did we learn from this experience? We learned the importance of setting goals.   “Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). We learned to be satisfied with  reaching the half way mark. We learned that we are a team and we need to respect the needs of one another. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up, (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)  There will be other opportunities to press on. In the words of Martin Luther King, JR. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience , but where he stands at times of challenge. “

 

 

The Solar Eclipse Has New Meaning/See Why!

What is it about weather events that brings us to a screeching halt and makes us aware of our finite being on planet Earth?  Along with thousands, we made our pilgrimage to Marion, IL to see a 2:26 minute total eclipse while the phenomenon crossed the United States bringing glimpses of the moon covering the sun to millions. Tom Skillings, the WGN TV weatherman in Carbondale, was so overwrought with emotions—- he was moved to tears that rendered him speechless.  Surprised by his reaction he said, “This has never happened to me before.”

Larry, my husband, said this is a lifetime event; we must go.  Due to traffic, it was an eight hour trip both ways.  We gathered together at the town square where we met people from as far as England to as close as our neighboring town, Lake in the Hills. Later, we met Dan, a Physics Teacher Assistant at the University of Chicago who had a wealth of cosmic knowledge.   We all shared where we came from and why we traveled to this little town.  Glenn, from Northern England, had the best photo set up having witnessed a complete solar eclipse in the 1960’s; the rest of us, using our solar glasses, were in a state of amazement as the moon ate up the sun causing the crickets to chirp and the street lights to turn on at 1:30 PM. We cheered, clapped, and some of us sobbed as we witnessed for the first time the diamond ring corona.  We thought of ancient people who would sacrifice to a sun god to keep it burning. Someone suggested we sacrifice my 6’2″ Larry.  Yes, as strangers we became instant friends, by teasing one other. But he said, “No, I’m too big. How about my slightly under 5’O” wife.”

On our way home, I thought of another time when night ate up the day. “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice. ” Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46)?  At that moment, He carried all our sins on the cross and breathed his last while the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The darkness I experienced in the early afternoon reminded me of the darkness Jesus experienced on the cross as he paid the price for you and me with his own blood. I look at the brightness of the moon and feel the warmth of the sun and wonder why he loves me so much. Like the apostle James, I ponder. “For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

But one day, because of his love, he will come for us; it will be like no other day. “The dead in Christ shall rise to meet him in the air. And then those that remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17).  Now there’s an experience and a reunion I don’t want to miss.

Total Eclipse of the Heart/A Communal Experience

We made our Mecca-like pilgrimage to Marion, IL to see a 2:26 minute total eclipse. It was an 8 hour trip both ways. We were not disappointed as we gathered together at the town square. We met people from as far as England to as close as our neighboring town, Lake in the Hills. Later, we met Dan, a TA and physics major at the University of Chicago. We became instant friends sharing our cosmos experience and knowledge.  Glenn, from England, had the best photo set up.  The rest of us, using our solar glasses, were amazed as the moon ate up the sun causing the crickets to chirp and the street lights to turn on at 1:30 PM. We all cheered and clapped when we saw the corona.  We thought of ancient people who would sacrifice to the Sun God to keep it burning. Someone suggested my 6’2″ husband, Larry.  But he said, “No, I’m too big.” So I guess that meant I would be the sacrifice at just under 5′ feet.  We laughed and became instant friends with so many.  For more pictures, see my Facebook page, Sue Schuerr.

Care Comes from the Heart

To those who are close to retirement or if you are looking for a place to volunteer, I highly recommend looking for a Care Center. It has been a blessed year for me and hopefully for those I have served. Each Saturday morning people walk through the doors looking for food, clothing, shelter, dental/eye care or legal help. We provide in various measures according to the need.

My job is to be the greeter and show them around our facility and explain the many services we have. Sometimes as they tell me their life stories it’s as simple as, “Thanks for listening to me. No one takes the time to really listen anymore.” I tell some, I need to practice my Spanish and I help them with their English and explain that we have classes for them at the center. Others are looking for jobs and we have job fairs and employers looking for employees. Sometimes, we have women who have been victims of abusive situations and don’t know where to turn next.  But we have a wonderful staff of volunteers at the center as well.  This past Saturday we focused on Dr. Donovan who is featured in this picture.

He is a very busy  doctor who teaches other doctors and yet he takes the time twice a month to help our many clients and staff with their health by taking blood pressure and giving advice. He told me if I cut my intake of salt, I could have a second cup of coffee. I still can’t eat a tomato without salt. But my blood pressure has gone down and is normal.  I encourage everyone at the Care Center to see Dr. Donovan even if they speak little English.  We look forward to his visits and his wealth of knowledge.  In this picture, we awarded him a pin that said, “Peace” because that is what he brings to our clients and volunteers—-a sense of peace and hope for a change if needed.

Know how you are wired and how you can make a difference helping others.  It’s also a wonderful place to teach your children or grandchildren the benefits of volunteerism.  As a guest host, I look at each client as a jacket of an interesting book to read and I see in my heart the love that Jesus has for each one of them. It doesn’t matter what their religious or ethnic background may be. We welcome them ALL! 

An Unexpected Passenger/Travels with Larry

We were on our way to Livingston, Montana. We were about 45 minutes from the famous Wall Drugs when we saw a young man walking along Rt 90 with a small backpack. We looked at each other and said, “It’s 95 degrees and that young man must be roasting.” We backed up and waited for him to catch up to us. “Do you need a ride?” said Larry. “Yes, ” he said. I’m on my way to Rapid City. We looked at one another. That would be at least two hours by car. Robert sat next to Larry in the front seat enjoying the beverage and fruit I handed him. We found out Robert is a Sioux Indian from Rosebud. He was hanging dry wall in Rosebud but the job ended. He hoped to find work near his aunts in Rapid City.

We asked him if he had ever been to Wall Drugs. He said, “No”. He had never been West of Rosebud. That surprised me since he must have been around 28 years old. “Would you like to go and get ice water and a 5 cent cup of coffee?” “Yes,” said Robert. His eyes were the size of half dollars as he took in the sights at Walls. If you have been there you know it has a circus quality, many mannequins, an assortment of historical pictures, shops and restaurants. He took it all in like a first grader on a field trip to Mars. He especially enjoyed the pictures and articles of Cowboys and Indians displayed throughout the buildings. We found out Robert loves art and is artistic himself. He gave Larry a bracelet with an Indian design on it. He said it was made from porcupine quills from the porcupines his cousin hunts. We did not rush the experience but let him know he might be able to find a job at Walls in his future.

We made our way, which was a bit out of our way,  to Rapid City. He said that his aunt worked at the hospital. We said,”Does your aunt know you are coming?” “No,” he said.  I asked him if there was anything we could pray about. He said, “A job and a chance to work on his art.” So I added Robert, the Sioux Indian,” to my prayer list.

You just never know what adventure one may have while traveling with Larry.

Are You a Good Listener?

“God  has given us two ears and one mouth that we may hear more and speak less.” I work as a guest host at a Care Center in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago. My job is to explain how our center works and to tell new people about the many benefits that could be theirs. After I give them a tour, I listen to their life story. Last Saturday, Emily poured out her heart. It was therapeutic for her. She told me, “No one listens to me. When I tell about my problems, they just butt in and bring up their own.”  “You think that is bad,” they say,”let me tell you what happened to me.”

Listening is a skill that takes time to learn. While someone is sharing, be respectful and focused.  While keeping eye contact, look below the surface of the words and ascertain what the person is saying and not saying. Ask questions to get the person to really open up. Looking at individuals as if they were the jacket of an interesting book has worked for me.  Be mentored.  Larry, my husband, has helped me be a better listener by pointing out how I would ask someone a question.  Instead of listening to the response, I would start a conversation with someone else. I’m dismayed about my lack of sensitivity.

As Emily shared her story, tears were flowing down her cheeks. She was so grateful for a listening ear. Telling her story helped her get a grasp on her own life and the direction she should take next.

What would our world be like if we truly listened to one another and if we didn’t  jump in with our opinions as soon as our friend took a breath. We would have better relationships, better communities and a better world. Let’s give it a try today.

In Sickness and in Health

The fact that Larry and I have been relatively healthy in our lives makes moments of sickness or times of surgery even more difficult. Larry has undergone numerous surgeries on his knees, shoulders, neck, back, etc.   I was happy we had good insurance as teachers. Unlike most wives, I would drop him off at our local hospital and while he was being wheeled into surgery, I would take off to my teaching job or go cross county skiing around the hospital.   This didn’t bother Larry at all since we both like to make the most of our time. You may wonder how Larry tore his body apart. He was a contractor for many years and he has had bicycle and ski accidents. But like the resilient bunny in the Duracell commercials, he always rebounded quickly. One time he was scheduled for surgery when I got a call from my friend, Cleora, telling me she was at the hospital, too. Her husband, Keith, was being tested for heart problems. That morning we enjoyed a cup of coffee together in the dining room of the hospital and laughed  that both of them were in the hospital at the same time. Fortunately, none of these episodes were life threatening.

But there are times when Larry and I  need each other desperately. I’ve lived my life actively enjoying biking, skiing, and mountain climbing. The only surgery I had was having my tonsils out at 9 years old. Surgeries are Larry’s department. I have been very fortunate. But on Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2017,  I went out to start the van and defrost the windows for my dentist appointment. It was one of the few icy days we had and I slid down our driveway and fell right on my shoulder with all my weight.  I had fallen years before in a biking accident and dislocated the same shoulder. I came in withering in pain and Larry was a great comfort. Now I have a torn rotary cuff and the prospect of surgery is scary for me. The thought of not riding my bike, not playing the piano and being without a right arm for up to 6 months is terrifying for me. So I have been learning to live with physical therapy and without surgery. But I think the time will come and when it does, I know Larry will be there for me and I’ll be more understanding of all he has gone through.

What are the lessons learned here? That when you take a marriage vow, it’s in sickness and in health. It means to be there for one another no matter what. We have learned over our 48 years of marriage to be servants to one another. Larry has never made me feel inferior being a female. It has never been about our roles as husband and wife. It has been about love and respect for the talents  and abilities of each other and what we can do to build one another up to be productive human beings.  I’m a better person because of Larry and he is a better person because of me. We both look to God for insights and wisdom in sickness and health.  I wish that for you in a marriage relationship or in relationships with friends.

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