What were my Grandparents like?

I was asked this question in my Storyworth gift for Christmas. I’m asked one question a week and at the end of the year, they put my answers in a book form.

What were your Grandparents Like 

I remember my grandparents on my dad’s side better than on my mom’s side. They would come and see us on their way to and from Naples, FL-their winter getaway. Grandpa Lauritz Gram was a friendly and interesting man who was born in Norway and came to the US through the St Lawrence Seaway. He settled in West Allis, Wisconsin. Grandpa worked for Allis Chalmer company. He loved baseball, fishing and keeping his mind alert by listening to Readers Digest on tape, and by saying the alphabet backwards. He was almost blind and had to tilt his head to see us. I wonder how he ever drove back and forth to FL with his trailer attacked. He lived until almost 98. We attributed it to the fact that he ate oatmeal every day.  

Grandma Emma Carter Gram was English/Scottish/Irish and was not as warm and friendly as Grandpa. I heard that when my dad had friends come over from college; she’d go to her room and pretend to be sick. When we had Sunday meals around the dining room table, Grandma wasn’t very happy to have anyone other than the family around our table. But my mom would often invite others for a lamb or pork roast dinner. I loved those times, because that’s when I learned the most about family history.  

Grandpa and Grandma would take over the master bedroom, and each night Grandpa would pour a glass of Mogen David Wine for the two of them. When Grandma Gram came down the stairs, he would whistle a tune and sing, “Here Comes the Bride.” He was devasted when she died at 89 years old.  

Ginger and I would entertain them with a dramatic show. We would dress up and do a lot of giggling.  Sometimes we’d sing an advertisement ditty. “Pamper, Pamper, new shampoo. Gentle as a lamb so right for you. Gentle as a Lamb (I’d say) Yes, Ma’am (responded Ginger) Pamper, Pamper, new shampoo. I would continue the show by standing on my head and doing a backbend and then walking over to a cup of water. I’d pick it up and pretend to drink and then put it back on the floor and continue to walk back and pull myself up.  I would get a resounding applause for that trick. 

In the summer, Grandpa and Grandma lived in Crivitz WI where I remember catching one fish.  But otherwise, we would see them in West Allis for special occasions like weddings and graduations.  

My mother, who was born in Valder’s WI, was the 12thchild in her family. She was raised by her older sisters and didn’t interact very much with her mother.  I remember Olean Berge as a quiet woman dressed in black and sitting on her rocker. I imagine she listened to my mother play the piano which was my mom’s fun activity along with playing the game,  ball and jacks.  

Grandpa Anton Berge was born about the time that Lincoln died in 1865.  He did the hard work of tilting the land for farming. I loved seeing the cows and calves, but I was scared to death of the bull.  There was a part of the barn that had old farming implements and a horse-driven sled.  I imagined what it must have been like to have Grandpa drive my mother and her brother to school in very bad weather. But my favorite activity was playing with the kittens: I would often take one home.                                                     

Uncle Oley and Aunt Dagney, and my cousins lived with Grandpa and Grandma.   Grandpa, also Norwegians, would call her “Yudy” which I found unusual since her name was Judy.  He would yell “behivity” to my three male cousins if they were misbehaving. He told me he worked as a cobbler when he was younger before becoming a farmer. He gave Ginger and me a silver dollar to keep as a remembrance of him.  He took care of the chickens and the bees and continued to drive until his death at 94.  

A Christmas Past memory

Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Was Not Well!/by Susan Schuerr

Larry and I finished loading up our van with luggage, gifts, various types of  skis and ice-climbing gear. We finally were on our way from Chicagoland to Bozeman, Montana where two of our three children lived.   It was Christmas break and as a teacher, I was looking forward to my two weeks of freedom.  Flying was out of the question.  Our sleigh was too heavy for any plane.

We had an old Ford van; the mechanic had looked it over and said, “You’re good to go.” This man must have been Scrooge in disguise. We made it to Sauk Center at the Minnesota border when the van, to our dismay, stopped abruptly. We hopped over a fence and knocked on a stranger’s door. Being in a Christmas mood, the friendly folks took us into town where we found a mechanic and a motel for the night. When the faulty wire was finally reattached, we continued Westward on Rt 94. We kept our spirits up by singing Christmas carols, eating homemade cookies and hard-boiled eggs. But Larry was tense and worried that we would encounter another hiccup. I was getting colder and colder by the minute as the wind whistled through the drafty van and the temperature dropped. To keep warm, I snuggled into my sleeping bag feeling like a caterpillar in a cocoon. 

It was Christmas Eve in Jamestown, North Dakota and the sun was beginning to set when the van 

started hiccupping more violently.  We looked up and as fate would have it, we saw a Ford dealership. Larry was able to clickity clank into the driveway before the van heaved to a death defining halt. The franchise was getting ready to close when the mecahnic confirmed our greatest fears, “Your van is  toast.”  he said.” Scrooge was wrong; our vehicle would never make it beyond the Jamestown junkyard.  “Now what?,” we thought. The jovial Santa-like car dealer came to our rescue with a holiday special.  He showed us a beautiful used white and green conversion van in our price range. We filled out the loan paper work; but being Christmas Eve,  the dealer could not check our financial status to verify our bank information.  But the spirit of Christmas prevailed and the dealer not only took our word on faith, but gave us $500 for our hunk of junk. We moved our luggage, gifts and skis/ ice climbing gear to our new vehicle while shaking the hands of the friendly ford staff. “Merry Christmas” we shouted while streams of Chistmas music filled the air. God bless you merry gentleman, I quietly sang. 

Now on the road again, we thanked our Heavenly Father for the gift of a new van. No longer was I confined to  my sleeping bag. The new sleigh was warm and comfortable and soon I drifted off to sleep with visions of our Montana family dancing in my head. Larry, my wonderful husband, continued  his way to Bozeman arriving at 3 AM. We had made prearrangements to stay at our daughter-in-law’s parent’s home. They left the door open for us. We sank into our bed totally exhausted but so happy to have reached our destination by Christmas day.

The next morning, the in-laws woke up and saw our new van in their driveway.  “Whose here from North Dakota? ” they wondering seeing our temporary license plates.  It would be one of our best Christmas celebrations ever as we shared our tale-Twas the Night Before Christmas and Now all is Well.

By Susan Schuerr

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

We are celebrating Thanksgiving a little differently this year 2021. This year we are in Sebring, Florida volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. We are Care-a-vanning for the first time. All the workers except for a few are traveling from site to site in their self-contained trailers.

We met a wonderful group of giving people with building skills. Larry fit in like a glove. I fit in like a left-handed glove on the right hand, but I’m learning to paint, and to caulk.

It feels good to spend time now writing once again on my neglected blog. After spending 8 days volunteering, we will stop at Nancy and Steve’s home in Florida for Thanksgiving dinner. From there, we head back to Chicagoland.

I will be posting pictures of our serve soon. Larry’s backsurgery is finally healed and he has been careful not to overdo do it here as we volunteer.

how to roll with the punches/

Since Larry’s backsurgery, we have not been camping in our RV very often. When we heard it would be in the 80’s, we made plans to go to Starved Rock for a couple days. As we were loading our camper, I quickly looked at the wheels and thought– I sure hope they are all good.

We were almost halfway there when a truck driver got Larry’s attention. Not only did we have a flat tire, but our tire literally exploded. Now we were on the side of the road trying to figure out where everything was to change the tire. Fortunately Larry had checked the spare tire and knew it was good to go. Now the temperature had risen to 91 degrees. Larry was a pile of sweat changing the tire and I was a feast for hundreds of hungry gnats.

When Larry found Big Boy’s Tire Company, he said,”I’ve never seen a tire that highly shredded. The tires are about 7 years old which is the life of an RV tire we were told.

We are camping in a beautiful neck of the woods and took a short hike at Matthiessen State Park. Larry and I then stopped at Starved Rock just in time to see the big show-large groups of pelicans enjoying the sunset with us. We said good-bye to groups of Canadian geese going South for the winter. I’m sure happy some of them leave the Midwest in the winter.

We ended our day by stopping at Lodi Tap House for a cobb salad. If you are in the area and want to see us, please respond. We would invite friends but lifewithlarry.org is always on the spur of the moment.

What can curiosity teach you?

My dear friend, Lola, came to visit us this past week. Everyone flocks to see her when she visits from Virginia.  Not only is she beautiful, discipled and fun, but she has a childlike curiosity about life.  And that brings me to a book I just got done reading entitled SENT by Heather and Ashley Holleman. They write about “Curiosity” as being the magic bullet to begin conversations with strangers and to connect with friends. She often begins a conversation with a question and then listens intently to your answer therefore remembering your answer years later. “When we allow ourselves to feel curious about other people’s lives, we believe that we will discover something meaningful and valuable from the interaction.” As we value the person before us, we need to remember he or she is made in the image of God regardless of social or economic standing. 

A bike ride with Lola means being prepared to hop off to pet a dog, to observe a plant or just to capture the moment with a picture. An Asian man down the hill from me has spent endless hours on his garden by the road.  I have been curious about his plants, since I’ve never seen some of them before. So through the Spring and into summer my curiosity simmered but never to the point where I would stop and ring his door bell. That happened when Lola was with me. She had such a level of curiosity that she echoed the words, “Old and Bold”, and rang the doorbell. The man came out and she asked her question about his flowers and I asked about the plants. The man hesitated and said, ”I don’t speak English.” Now that opened the door of curiosity for me and I said, “I can teach you,”. I taught ESL years ago. When I spoke slowly to him, I discovered he was able to answer many of our questions in English and now that Lola was “Old and Bold”, I will help him learn English and then we will discover how he grows the most amazing plants. What have your friends taught you?

Lola visiting Chef and Butch in my neighborhood!

Reflecting on tragedy and Hope

Like me, you probably enjoyed the month of June with all the sunshine but then our grass was turning brown unless we watered it often. Now each day is filled with rain and the Fox River will fill up again and the grass and plants will flourish. As part of nature, we too need the sun and the rain to grow. Where do we get the nourishment, we need for our lives? Pascal once said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of each man/woman which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only God the Creator.”

It often happens late at night in the quietness of our soul when we have time from a busy day to reflect on our lives and where we are heading next. Each of us is born for a purpose to make a difference in the world and to family, friends and those who pull at our heart strings. Right now, my heart strings go out to the victims of the building collapse in Miami-Dade. We may ask why? “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, NO! But unless you repent, you too will also perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all of the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, NO! But unless you repent, you too will perish.” Luke 13:1-4

Our lives are but a vapor. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away.” James 4:14. But God through his word and through his son, gives us hope for each day while we inhabit planet Earth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Following him gives hope that whatever calamity comes, we can trust him to hold the future. Jesus understands calamity, he hung on a cross for our sins and paid the price for our eternal freedom. We can live without fear if we repent and follow the resurrected Christ.

So, as you reflect on your life, open your heart and ask God to show you He exists and has a purpose for your life. Then watch as He unveils the blindness you once experienced. He talks to you through nature, through life experiences and through his word. “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; It has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.” Martin Luther

Down on my knees

We had very few people on my last scheduled volunteer day at Good Shepherd Hospital. We began dismantling the vaccine clinic and bringing it back to its pre-clinic state as a conference/ educational center. One of the jobs was to remove the blue tape on the cement floor used to direct the patients to registration and to the vaccine clinic. Getting down on my knees was not too difficult for me since I stay active, walking, exercising and riding my bike. But my finger nails were really taking a beating while I continued pulling up the stubborn tape. I began conversing with a lovely volunteer named, Judy, who apologized for not helping due to physical restraints.  “No problem,” I said.  I enjoyed conversing with her about her daughter working in Norway and her mother in a nursing home. At one point, I said, “Well here I am on my knees; Is there anything I can pray about for you?”  “I pray all the time,” she said. And then our sweet fellowship began.   I told her as a kid in the Lutheran church, I had memorized prayers like the ‘Our Father’. I would try to say it at bedtime, but I always fell asleep before the end of the prayer. Then I’d feel guilty.  As a child, I only knew Jesus as an historical figure and not as someone who wanted to have a close relationship with me.  Now I understand how much he loves each of us and wants us to come to Him with everything. He has created an empathy in my heart for others like my new friend, Judy.  “How has prayer connected you to others and deepened your relationship?”

volunteered at the clinic from February to the end of May

thoughts On racism

Music the International language

In light of the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, I decided to write about my own experience with racism. I grew up with educated parents who taught us to love people of all races and religions. At an early age, my dad took me to the library and I still remember a book called April Love about an adorable black girl who suffered injustices. At the Lutheran Sunday school, we sang “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. The pastor’s wife taught us about missions in the world helping those of other races. But I never knew a black person until high school. I played soft ball with Thorpe High School in Chicago and they would always beat our Warren Elementary team.  I found myself fearful of unknown people, but then in my homeroom I met Harriet, a beautiful black girl. I was getting to know and love her but then one day she was gone. I found out that she was pregnant and back then a pregnant girl did not attend high school.

When I met my future husband, Larry, I also met his black roommate, Troy. Larry and Troy became close friends, and would tease each other with Mother jokes, etc. An example would be “Your mother wears combat shoes.” They would refer to Larry as fish belly white—all in good humor. Troy’s girlfriend, Gladys, taught Larry how to dance. To this day, Larry is a smooth dancer. They wanted him to join their fraternity and he would have been the first white person in a black fraternity. But Larry didn’t stay in school long enough to have this happen; instead, he became an air-controller in the Marine Corps.  One Saturday night, Larry and I along with Troy and Gladys went to a Beach Boys concert and we decided to switch partners to see how people would react as we crossed the street. This was during Martin Luther King’s marches in the 60’s. Larry observed a young, white couple sitting in their car. The woman was looking at us and pretending she didn’t see us. She poked her husband and with her body language, pointed to us as we made our way to the entrance. Larry stopped, smiled and waved at the freaked-out couple.

I admired Martin Luther King and his non-violence stance.  My family and I were shocked and deeply saddened when he was shot. I recall his prophetic words, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”  How sad that we are still so far from the Promise Land. In the 90’s, Walter Payton was not allowed to join Barrington Country Club because of his race. How heartbreaking that so much emphasis has been placed on race.

As a high school teacher, I did my best to teach my students through literature and personal experience about the importance of loving others regardless of their race. We read Raisin in the Sun, the Power of One, stories about Rosa Parks among many others. When Obama was running for president, the students would turn to a black student in my class and ask him if he was going to run for president someday. Fast forward to today. I thought we were making headway, but I think we are moving backwards.

If we claim to be Christians, then our actions must reflect God’s love for each human being. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24)” He is the light that enlightens every person who comes into the world. How can we be enlightened? It’s a process of stepping outside of the lines and shaking hands with new friends. Volunteering with Humble Design in Chicago and working at the Care Center in Barrington has given us an opportunity to forge friendships and to become color blind.

Feeling a bit squirrely today

Larry, my husband of over 50 years, has had a love affair with his feathered friends for many years now. Our breakfast nook faces out to our deck where he has installed five bird-feeders to attract a variety from cardinals to our best friend, the large red headed woodpecker. Having a conversation with him at the breakfast nook is often difficult while I compete for his attention. . If I die first, a cardboard cut-out of big bird would be a good replacement for me, his loyal wife.   His war with the rogue squirrels began with the installation of his first two bird feeders.  They found every possible way to get to his concession stand—-by leaping from the deck, hanging upside down to suck nectar, and balancing on the umbrella stand above the feeder. “I will not be outsmarted by a squirrel,” said Larry.

One morning, while quietly enjoying our eggs and bacon, my 6’2” Marine husband witnessed the especially aggressive antics of Fred, the Olympic champion of champions.  Larry jumped into action by pounding on the window and throwing open the door. Terror stricken Fred fell 15 feet to the ground with a well-earned bite of suet in his mouth. Larry took off to his favorite store, Home Depot, and bought a longer pole to extend the now 5 bird feeders further into thin air. And yet even then, a few like Fred, made their way to the tasty suet which attracted our colorful woodpeckers. “I will not be outsmarted by a squirrel,” Larry said.  During a sleepless night, a brilliant idea came to him. He woke up, skipping his eggs and bacon, and bought plexiglass which he installed on the deck rail to prevent the squirrels from jumping to the bird feeders. The next morning, we saw paw and face marks on the plexiglass as the squirrels frantically tried to get through.  Larry proclaimed victory. “See, he said, “I’m smarter than a squirrel.”

Fred

But then a couple months later, he felt a measure of compassion, especially for ferocious Fred. He began throwing out some seeds on the deck floor for his former nemesis.

returning back to normal

I’m looking out the window at a foot of accumulated snow on my deck table, and I’m thinking what good snow that would be to ski on but then I move to my indoor thermometer and see that it’s only 4 degrees with a possible 6 degrees high for the day. It’s an improvement from yesterday when the morning temperature was -6. It’s a good morning to catch up on my writing.

By this time in February, Larry and I would have been up to Wilmot to ski numerous times and we would be making plans to ski out West; but this winter is different. Not only are we still in a pandemic, but Larry has had lots of back pain. He continues to volunteer at Humble Design/Chicago and at Conference Point, a camp in Lake Geneva but he returns home with lots of pain. The good thing is that he is scheduled for back surgery on February 22nd. Hopefully lifewithlarry will be more exciting after the surgery. But Larry doesn’t complain and loves to cook and help the neighbors by snowplowing their driveways.

I’m excited about getting my first dose of the Covid 19 vaccine. Now, I will return to Good Shepherd Hospital not to play the piano yet, but to help with the vaccination program. I’m including my picture to show that it is safe and that I had no problems, not even a sore arm. If we want to put this pandemic behind us, we need herd immunity. I sure hope the vaccine will be available for you soon.

Feb 3, 2021 my first dose

I remember Mom holding my hand while waiting in a long line at South Chicago Hospital for my polio vaccine. I would imagine that then like now there would have been many who were fearful of the vaccine but the results were wonderful—eradicating polio. Let’s do the same with Covid 19 so it will be unable to morphe into something even more deadly.

Tips on how to live a long and fulfilled life