Sweet Delusions/Comedy

It was a cold winter morning and we decided to grab a cup of coffee at Panera before heading off to church. We finished our second cup while perusing the Tribune. I looked at my watch and said, “It’s time to go.” Larry promptly refilled his takeout cup of coffee with five creams and five teaspoons of sugar. I followed him to our gold Honda Odyssey van where he promptly set his coffee cup in its secure home. He was surprised that the door was not locked and the rug was moved but he attributing it to seniorities.

I made my way to the passenger door and noticed two big gashes. I yelled out, “How did this happen?” Larry came over to inspect my door and said, “Someone really banged it hard. Look how deep these gashes are. ”

I opened the door, sat down and saw an electronic device. “Larry, when did you get this?” I said.  Larry has a habit of buying things on sale and then quietly sneaking them into the house out of my sight. Our house is filled with plants. He just can’t pass up a deal on a plant or one in its death throes he thinks he can resurrect.” So my accusatory tone was well within reason.

As I lifted the electronic device to examine it more closely,  Larry yelled with a frantic voice, “This is not our van.” I quickly put down the device and slammed the van door. We scurried off to our vehicle two cars down while looking over our shoulders for the owner or worse the police.  When we were on Rt. 14 and safe from apprehension Larry, moaned, “My coffee, I left it in the other van.” Now I imagined the owner, who forgot to lock his door, settling in and being welcomed by a cup of hot, steaming coffee saying, “Where did this come from?” Sure hope he likes his coffee very, very sweet.

Face Your Fears in the New Year

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” Yesterday, as part of our  Christmas present to our grandkids, we took Natalie and Elliot downhill skiing with their dad up at Wilmot in Wisconsin. It was the warmest day in over a week of below 0 temperatures.  As a result, a record number of our best friends joined us on the hills.  Finally, we made it to the magic carpet where Nata’s lesson began. Geoff and Elliot took off for higher terrain while Larry and I started teaching Nata the fundamentals of skiing. She listened carefully and progressed quickly to the chairlift. Now skiing for me was not as difficult as learning the fundamentals of the chairlift.  The first time I skied, in my 30’s, I was told to wait until my feet touched the ground to get off the chairlift. Being less than 5 ft, I  never touched the ground, and I could see vividly the hills of unknown destination ahead. As we started to make a turn,   I did the most sensible thing, I jumped off. Fortunately, I was ok but this memory has always stuck with me. I wanted to make sure Nata knew how to get off the lift which she navigated well. Lesson 1-We  learn from our mistakes. 

“Point in the direction you want to go,” said Larry as he gave Nata skiing instructions. “Go across the hill and not straight down.” Before we knew it, she was making perfect turns. Lesson 2-Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take one step at a time. To reach your goal,  set much smaller ones to achieve first. Now Nata was developing some self-confidence. She knew we had her sandwiched in with Larry ahead and me in the back. She was protected and assured of protection. Lesson 3-Find a mentor to help you reach your goal. I remember skiing at Steamboat, which was a big step from skiing at Wilmot. My friend and ski instructor, Cleora, was in front of me and my friend Lynn, an experienced mountain skier, was behind me. I skied better than I ever did because of my mentors and those who believed I could achieve success.

After lunch, Elliot wanted to head off to the terrain park which takes the skills of an advanced skier. When Nata saw the hill, she froze and started to whimper. It was too much too soon. Lesson 4- Set attainable goals in your comfort zone. We took off our skies and made our way back to a familiar hill.  It was a “green”. Toward the end of the day, we challenged Nata to try a “blue”, a more difficult run. I said, “Let’s just go over and look at it.” You can always turn around and go to the easier hill.” She said, “I think I just want to stay on the greens today.” Larry said, “This is all in your head, Nata, you can do this one.  Trust me, You now have the skills to do the blue run. I know you are up for this one.” Lesson 5-Trust your mentor and plunge into a challenge using your newly acquired tools.  With Larry leading and me following, Nata fought her fears and turn by turn mastered the difficult hill. She actually sped up at the end of the run, out of our control,  with arms up in victory. It was the end of a great day which will stay with 11-year-old Nata as she faces the future challenges of life knowing she conquered the blue.

The Blue Run!

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind ” (2 Timothy 1-7). 

 

Merry Christmas 2017

 

“Have yourself a merry Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.” From our home to yours—-Here are the lyrics to one of the songs I enjoyed playing on the piano while volunteering this past year at the Good Shepherd Hospital. It was a year filled with family, fun, and volunteering.

Our grandchildren are sure making us feel old. Larry affectionately called them “ankle-biters” but now I’m the “ankle-biter” being the shortest of them all. August (17) Jasper (15) Isaak (13) continue to love the Montana snow with passes to Bridger Bowl. They are turning into mountain men with Aaron leading them up steep mountain climbing adventures. August will be going to Germany with class members. Aaron and his wife Lynelle will take off to Maui this February for an Art Workshop/Show and a long-awaited first-time honeymoon.

Geoff and Julie, fortunately, live in Chicagoland. They stay busy with their jobs and raising Elliot (13) and Natalie (11). Elliot plays soccer year-round and both are excellent students while they continue to master the Chinese language.  Natalie loves singing with the Chicago Choir and playing the piano. We have enjoyed many soccer games and musical recitals this past year.

In 2017 we traveling to Montana, Florida, and Tennessee. We are thankful to still be able to hike up mountains and participate in the Hilly Hundred Bike Ride. Larry, now a cowboy, volunteers with Brave Heart, an organization that uses horseback riding as therapy for veterans and those with special needs. He also volunteers with his buddies at Conference Point/Lake Geneva Youth Camp where there is never-ending construction work. I still volunteer at the Willow Creek Care Center and continue to write for non-profits. We both started volunteering with Humble Design, a Chicago based organization that turns a house into a home for veterans and single-mothers and their children.

The culmination of this year has been the production of a Nativity Play entitled A Gift to Remember. We wrote it a couple of years ago and each year we add more and refine it. Here’s a picture of some of the cast. It was performed in downtown Wheaton where people from the community and neighboring churches gathered to remember The First Christmas.

Our motto is to Seize the Day and to remember that—-“It’s more blessed to give than to receive” John 13:15. Happy New Year to all my dear friends and family. You can keep up with us during the year on Facebook Sue Schuerr/Larry Schuerr or see my blog www.lifewithlarry.org. Our email is sschuerr@gmail.com. Let’s stay in touch.

Sweet Delusions

It was a cold winter morning and we decided to grab a cup of coffee at Panera before heading off to church. We finished our second cup while perusing the Tribune. I looked at my watch and said, “It’s time to go.” Larry promptly refilled his takeout cup of coffee with five creams and five teaspoons of sugar. I followed him to our gold Honda Odyssey van where he promptly set his coffee cup in its secure home. He was surprised that the door was not locked and the rug was moved but he attributing it to seniorities.

I made my way to the passenger door and noticed two big gashes. I yelled out, “How did this happen?” Larry came over to inspect my door and said, “Someone really banged it hard. Look how deep these gashes are. ”

I opened the door, sat down and saw an electronic device. “Larry, when did you get this?” I said.  Larry has a habit of buying things on sale and then quietly sneaking them into the house out of my sight. Our house is filled with plants. He just can’t pass up a deal on a plant or one in its death throes he thinks he can resurrect.” So my accusatory tone was well within reason.

As I lifted the electronic device to examine it more closely,  Larry yelled with a frantic voice, “This is not our van.” I quickly put down the device and slammed the van door. We scurried off to our vehicle two cars down while looking over our shoulders for the owner or worse the police.  When we were on Rt. 14 and safe from apprehension Larry, moaned, “My coffee, I left it in the other van.” Now I imagined the owner, who forgot to lock his door, settling in and being welcomed by a cup of hot, steaming coffee saying, “Where did this come from?” Sure hope he likes his coffee very, very sweet.

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.

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