Have you ever left something important behind while traveling? How did you handle your problem? It was the 5th Anniversary of our book club’s summertime get-away. I meticulously packed my suitcase for our two night escape to beautiful Lake Arrowhead in Central Wisconsin, 4 hours away. I had all my bags ready to pack in my van. I stopped by Michele’s house to pick her up and put her things in the back of the van. We excitedly made our way to Renee’s house where we transferred our things. Renee loves to drive and she is like Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rainman—–an excellent driver. After our 4 hour drive talking non-stop, we finally made it to Chris’s summer home at Lake Arrowhead. I ran into her house to use the bathroom while they unpacked the car. Renee said that’s it—everything is out of the car. “What,” I said. “It can’t be. My suitcase is not here.” “It’s all out of the car,” she said again. My glee at having arrived quickly evaporated to depression. How could I have left my suitcase behind? Yes, I put it behind the passenger seat not the normal place. As I was figuring out how I could live in my current clothes for two days. My friends quickly piped up. “Sue,” we will take care of you. ” That is exactly what they did. I got night clothes and a tennis skirt and top from Chris. I got a lovely blouse to wear on our evening out from Michele. Then there were jeans and a necklace from Annette. I got two pairs of shoes, toothpaste/brush and most importantly makeup from Cleora. With a sigh of relief, I could enjoy the two day extravaganza planned for us. At least, I had my food contribution and I gave the book club sisters a chance for a hearty laugh. Never have I loved them more as they offered me more clothes than I ever could have worn. “A true friend is always loyal, and a brother/sister is born to help in times of need.” Proverbs 17:17. Now I don’t recommend leaving your suitcase home, but I didn’t miss the lack of clothes to wash when I got home. This is not a lifewithlarry.org story, it’s life with Sue! See the next entry of another lifewithlarry.org blog that happened when I got back home.
Will we be home today? Maybe once I get Larry up and moving. But Larry deserves much rest. We went to a wedding in Colorado Springs on our way home from visiting our kids and grandkids in Montana. We met a sweet Hispanic couple who flew into Denver for the wedding instead of Colorado Springs. They took a train and then a taxi which cost them $160. When they told us of their dilemma, Larry offered to take them from Colorado Springs to the Denver airport, an hour away. But not only did Larry drive them to the airport to return to Chicago, but he had to get up at 4:45 AM to get them to their flight. Now Larry is not a fan of early mornings. So sleep Larry, sleep and get us home today. In addition, he changed a flat tire for a young boy while instructing him about how to change a tire, and just as we finished helping the boy, we see another elderly gentleman on the campus of the Air Force Academy where we were camping, examining his flat tire. We ended up taking him home. We may never make it to our house today if he sees others in distress. But I do love the man I married years ago on July 6th.
We are getting ready to head to Montana to see our family and friends. A unique culture exists in Montana like none other. Here’s an example. Larry bought a kit at Cabellas for making his own beef jerky. He spent an afternoon making some pretty tasty jerky for our hikes. We eagerly looked forward to a family reunion. Our son, Aaron, rented a newly built rustic cabin tucked away in the woods and surrounded by rivers, hiking trails, and the Crazy mountain range beckoning us to adventure. The spacious Bennett Cabin outside of Clyde Park in Montana is a work of art. Its sturdy 80 year old logs are accented with green cedar shingles. It’s very reasonable to rent since it’s devoid of plumbing which means a 2 AM run to the outhouse.
Aaron and his wife Lynelle climbed out of their van with our three energetic grandsons August, Jasper, Isaac and their trusty chocolate lab, Gracie. Family fun would now begin. But it didn’t take long for Gracie to discover a strange substance she enjoyed chewing. She also rolled into some foul smelling pond and only a bath in the nearby stream could get rid of the stench.
We shared Larry’s delicious beef jerky with the family while hiking along the stream. But after a half hour or so we were stopped by fallen trees that were the result of a June tornado that swept through the area. That evening, we came across a visitors’ journal describing their time at the cabin. We were told to look for a fantastic view of the stars, a visiting owl, and an occasional bear sighting. But what caught our attention the most was an entry from the previous week. It went something like this.
Entry 7/8. We were sitting around enjoying coffee and conversation when a very polite forest service man informed us that our serene time was coming to an end. A downed tree caused by a tornado killed a cow and now they, meaning the forest service, were going to have to deal with it. Yes, they were waiting for an expert to arrive from Bozeman who would help them with the situation as a resident bear had discovered the beast which made it unsafe for cabin residents like us. More trucks began to arrive— some seven or eight of them donned with helmets and chain saws as they cut through the tree. They then covered our cabin windows with plywood and asked us to park the cars behind the cabin suggesting we take a hike. We went toward Target rock over fallen trees not knowing what to expect. Soon an explosion ripped across the mountain—-an earth shattering and auditory resound of military impact. What we were hearing was the sound of an exploding cow. An exploding cow! It took a legend to blow up one single cow. There was enough gusto to take down a herd of cows. Any resident bears must have fled completely out of the Crazies for good——with need of therapy. We went back to our cabin and were greeted by a considerate and good humored forest service employee informing us that the danger was now over. I felt it was my duty to walk to the gate where the deed was done to investigate. The dirt road was strewn with clumps of red meat the size of salmon servings and flies were swarming in mass. The smell was prehistoric. I was witness to something that looks simple, but is complex. Now little critters will nibble the bits. As for bears—the therapy continues.
Now we understood why Gracie was having such a feast. The mysterious substance was nothing other than—Montana beef jerky. Her last treat resembled a cow’s ear—Yuk! Coming from Illinois and chewing our own beef jerky, we knew we were witness to the aftershocks of an event done only Montana style.
Today we will gather at a home on the Fox River for light snacks and a discussion of our latest book by Mark Sullivan’s, Beneath A Scarlet Sky. Our favorite genre has been historical fiction, books about World War II. Considering that today, June 6th, is the anniversary of D-Day— it’s appropriate. One of our members recalls her German grandmother having two pictures on her dresser—-one a nephew in a German uniform and the other her son, in a US uniform. They looked so much alike, it was hard to distinguish them one from another.
A book club is a fascinating way to learn about your group and to share history with one another. We are tuned into one another’s lives throughout the month even though we only get together once a month. We even have a member over seas in Sydney, Australia who reads the same books we do and writes wonderful reviews.
Here is one she wrote for our book club today—straight from Sydney. Spoiler Alert.
Pino Lello, what an amazing man and what an amazing life. Being a huge Historical Fiction fan, I loved this book.
I kept having to remind myself Pino is still alive, while I sat clutching the book tightly, as Pino once again eluded death or capture.
Also, to my shame, I knew very little about this part of WW11, I knew Mussolini was a tyrant and he ended up being hung, I have seen those terrible photos.
But I was unaware of the dreadful toll put on the Italians by the Nazi’s and the fascist fighters.
While the writing of Mark Sullivan didn’t thrill me at times, I think he took poetic license to a new level at some points knowing the fact that Italian history is well documented.
I was so happy to read what had happened to the rest of Pino’s friends and family, at the end of the book, it was also a really good way to tie the book up in a neat fashion.
I was devastated when Anna was murdered and wonder what Pino’s later life would have been like if she had lived??? Did anyone else wonder about that? I feel he was so in love with her that he wasn’t ever going to get a love to match it. I found it interesting that so many of the other characters received awards after the war for the but not Pino.
The author, Mark Sullivan, is from Bozeman, Montana where my daughter lives and where my son used to live. He now lives in Livingston, on the other side of the mountain pass. But his art work is at the Montana Trails Gallery—www.aaronschuerr.com. I am hoping to meet the author while I’m visiting my children and grandchildren.
After celebrating Mother’s Day with Julie and family by volunteering at Humble Design/Chicago, we drove down to Lexington, Kentucky for a change of scenery and some warmth. It’s the home of the University of Kentucky. Lodging here is very reasonable and we are staying at a motel that is right in town. There’s a delicious Indian Restaurant in town. We read about the McConnell Park Bird Program and decided to begin our adventure there. Here are some pictures of the Owls at the Bluegrass Birding Festival. These owls have been wounded and that is why they are out of their natural habitat.
Visit the many restaurants and coffee houses downtown. Have fun taking pictures at the Village Idiot restaurant, but the food was marginal.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today, because someone planted a tree along time ago.” (Warren Buffet). Now you have time and the World is your Oyster! But you won’t know it at first. In the beginning, retirement can be difficult as you step into the new you. It takes time to shape who you will be next. My advice, step in and out of many doors. I was eager to start a blog named www.lifewithlarry.org to share what I have learned over the years and my life experiences with my husband, Larry. As a mother of three, and grandmother of five and as a former high school teacher, I gained wisdom about how to live a fruitful life. Being a mentor to the next generation and using my talents and skills have been a priority. Now is the time to spend time with grandchildren if you have them or help children in your neighborhood. Of course, if funds allow, travel. I have reconnected with many through Facebook and have visited them personally. While I was still teaching, we connected with Vantage Financial in Arlington Heights, Tom Vislisel, who helped us with a financial plan for our future. It has worked very well for us in our retirement.
Now I have the gift of time. Time to develop interests and talents. I love waking up to the sound of birds and being able to have a second cup of coffee. I live by the PSSS acronym. To be fulfilled, it is important to cover the following facets of your life: Physical, Social, Service, and Spiritual.
Physical/ I love the outdoors so hiking, biking, and skiing are some of my passions. I joined a health club to be able to use weights and as an avenue to meet new friends I have friends now from Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico. They teach me Spanish and I help them with their English.
Social/ I started a book club. We meet once a month at Panera. There are 7 of us and we have bonded through our love for books and nature. We have gotten to know each other well. Each summer, we go to a WI summer home for two days and hike, bike, kayak, play tennis and discuss our books. I also joined Toastmasters both for social and intellectual enrichment. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Never, say I can’t. I keep my connections with teachers and friends by getting together for coffee. We open our home by having potluck dinners with themes like Italian or Mexican Night. I am both an extrovert and an introvert. I love being with people and I try to look at each one as I would an interesting book. What story do these individual have to tell me? How can I learn and grow as a human being? Yet, I need time to steal away and read a book, write and play my piano.
Service/ Finding My Passion through Volunteering My first serve was with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes after Karina. It took me 12 times to pound a nail into a wall. But in time, I got better. Then I took my love for playing the piano to the lobby of our local hospital. At first I was very nervous but with practice, I have improved as a musician. I also took advantage of writing opportunities with Compassion and Justice issues and writing clubs. My memoirs have been published in several anthologies. I’m a Guest Host for a Care Center which has prompted me to learn Spanish by doing a Duolingo App on my phone and Synergy Spanish on my computer. I join my husband and daughter by volunteering for www.humbledesign.org/Chicago. I would recommend trying many service organization to see what suits you best.
Spiritual/-At the age of 18 when I was searching for meaning and purpose in life, I looked up at the sky and told God ” I don’t think you are there: but if you are, please show me.” That night, I met my future husband and became a follower of Jesus Christ. The big change came when my focus was no longer focused on me but in helping others. I love reading Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament. There is wisdom about how to live an abundant and fulfilling life. Over and over again, I see his presence in my life and in the lives of others who have been transformed by Him. I found God looking at His creation, not in a church. If you seek Him with your whole heart, you will find Him—–and your purpose in this life. It’s a big adventure for me.
I heard a flock of sand hill cranes overhead beaconing the end of winter. I even saw three fox pups frolicking in our yard. Despite the April 14th snow storm, the trees are budding, the crocuses have pushed their faces through the snow and the days are getting longer. Yes, what looked like death is certainly now alive. Nature is such a beautiful picture of the resurrection of Christ. In the background, I love listening to Handel’s Messiah and the song, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”. It is the perfect Easter message.
I am so thankful that Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman regiment, existed in Christ’s time, because he gave us a picture of God’s love for all mankind. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing. But they were not followers of Christ. He gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. As a result, an angel spoke to him and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. He was then instructed to get in touch with Peter who was visiting Simon, the tanner. At about the same time, Peter was praying and had the same vision three times where he was instructed to eat meat that was forbidden to the Jew. He then heart a knock on his door and was instructed to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. When Peter saw that God was opening the door to the Gentiles, he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who reverence him and do what it right. Then he told them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. As a result, before he finished speaking—the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, as recorded by Dr. Luke in Acts 10.
We are thankful to the Hebrews, who faithfully and accurately penned the Old Testament with the prophecies of Christ. (See Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and google the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for examples.) Also read Acts 10. “You will seek me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart, “(Jeremiah 29:13.) This is the perfect time to do your own search.
Just like nature is filled with a diversity of flowers and trees, so God has many ways to call his own to himself. Most of us have a thirst for more than this life can offer. We know deep inside that the end of life is not the end. It’s written in our hearts.
“Catch on fire with enthusiasm, and people will come from miles around to watch you burn,” said John Wesley. Add humor, purpose and service to your life and cook up a tantalizing dish that is sure to bring happiness and joy. The first ingredient is humor.
My husband Larry and I were hiking in Olympic National Park in Washington a few years ago and having a surge of energy, I went ahead through a circular tunnel leaving my 6’2” husband behind. While in the tunnel, I got the idea to hide at the end and jump out and scare him. It would be revenge for throwing my pillow down the hall in the middle of the night or stuffing my pillow case with shoes. I hid myself among the rocks and waited for the sound of heavy shoes. In my mind, I timed it perfectly, 5,4, 3, 2, 1. “BOO” But instead of being Larry, it was a 6’5” Englishman yelling, BLOODY HELL at the top of his lungs. “I’m so sorry,” I said, “I thought you were my husband,” which gave him little comfort. But I had time to hid my almost 5′ frame in the rocks like a little gnome and still scare Larry. We laugh often about this memory.
Now, I don’t recommend scaring Englishmen, but I do recommend more laughter in our lives. Physically, laughter triggers the release of endorphins that cause a sense of well-being. Children laugh on an average of 300 times a day whereas we laugh a dismal 17 times a day. What has happened to our childlike spirit and to our smile? We are robbed of our joy by worry when studies show that 85% of what we worry about never happens; And if it does, we find we have the coping skills to deal with the problem. As the days grow longer and Spring opens up its beautiful arms to us, take time to enjoy God’s creation. “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face,”Victor Hugo.
While reflecting on God’s goodness, remember the second ingredient for a fulfilled life— purpose. In a normal life time, the heart will beat 2.5 billion times. What is your heart beating for? What is your vision and passion? Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with your talent is your gift to Him. Carve out time to develop your gifts and surround yourself with people who will help you develop them.
Now my third and final spice is service. “Service to others is the price you pay for your room here on earth,” said Muhammad Ali. I volunteer at a Care Center. As a guest host, I have so many opportunities to step into the lives of those in need. The beauty is that our Care Center can help a client not only get food, but dental, eye care and legal services if they qualify. We also find them jobs and a place to flourish in church. But the best gift is an empathetic listening ear. Our motto is James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, and slow to speak”…..It’s such a rewarding feeling to see a person enter with little hope and leave with a sparkle in their eyes knowing that God holds their future in His hands. Our aim is to change the world. Now that is a lofty goal. “In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love,” said Mother Theresa.
Now you have the ingredients to cook up a vibrant life of humor, purpose and service. As we dedicate each day to Jesus, he will open the doors for us to impact lives. It’s an exciting and meaningful job. “We make a living by what we do, we make a life by what we give,” Sir Winston Churchill
by Karen Klotz, my neighbor, who has had MS for 39 years and yet lives a joyful and fulfilled life.
There are many things I can do no more
Like bake my cookies or scrub the floor
Or even run on the ocean shore
Yet a quiet calm is in my soul
For the peace of God I’ve come to know
His love and caring guides my way
And in His arms, I long to stay
As I sit in my chair quietly and still
Watching the birds as they eat their fill
The feeder is hung by the water bath
Bringing a smile as they splash and splash
My body has slowed yet my soul expands
Forever nurtured by His loving hands
The polar vortex arrived this morning with a vengeance. It was -26 in our little town of Fox River Grove, IL. It brought back memories of our time winter camping in 2002 up at Kettle Moraine, WI. Larry talked me into winter camping up at Kettle Moraine, WI after our first night in a motel. It had been a relatively mild winter and after begging me to camp, I finally agreed, half heartedly. The advantages he said were as follows: No bugs, no mud, no loud obnoxious campers, almost free lodging and our choice of campsites. We had bags that went down to zero degrees and a tent used on Mt. Everest. During the night, I was cold and put on his stinky sweater. He had been X-country skiing in it for the past two days. I spent the night ducking in and out of the sleeping bag. Under the bag, I would gage because the sweater smelled like stinky feet. Outside the bag, it was freezing cold. We woke up at 6:30 AM to -12 degrees and rushed over to our favorite coffee shop in Oconomowoc where our teeth chattering while drinking our hot coffee. Like a homeless person, I made my way to the bathroom and brushed my teeth once they settled down. This was another lifewithlarry adventure but my heart goes out to homeless people who be looking forward to much warmer temperatures at the end of the week.