All posts by Sue Schuerr

I chose lifewithlarry.org because it's about my life with this remarkable and unique man named Larry. We met at Northern Illinois University in 1965 and have been married for 46 years. We have three adult children and five grandchildren. Our motto in marriage is to learn to serve one another and put God first in life. We hope through our many experiences in life that you can gain some wisdom about how to have a happier marriage or a better life as a single person. "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with-----plenty or little." Phillipians 4:12

An Unusual Fishing Venture

The crystal clear water of Devil’s Lake, a hidden jewel in Wisconsin, is surrounded by high bluffs which are magnets to hikers, campers and rock climbers alike.   My husband, Larry, and I were fortunate to find an available campsite on a picture perfect weekend. We set up the tent just in time to enjoy watching the birds fly over the breathtaking pink and purple sunset. We eagerly looked forward to our friends, Lola and Thom’s, arrival so the hiking, biking and, most importantly, laughing around the campfire could begin. Then I heard a sound that changed everything, “Bang!”Larry shut the door of our 2000 Windstar Ford van. I heard him gasp in shock, “Oh rats! I thought I was unlocking it, not locking it. I left the keys in the van.” “How could you do such a thing?” I moaned.

Sure enough, there they were, laid out between the seats, resting like a silver trout between two pond cup holders. And, as luck would have it, our spare key – tucked under the right wheel – had long since disappeared.

In less technical days, opening a locked vehicle was so much easier. Back when I taught ESL classes at a synagogue, a student from India came to class frantic because he had locked his keys in his car. I promptly marched into the synagogue kitchen and retrieved a handy black spatula and proceeded to squeeze it through the rubber between the windows. Voila, the car opened.

Another time Larry locked the keys in our Ford station wagon. A group of foster teenagers Larry invited camping with us opened it with a coat hanger.

“We learned this trick in our juvie days,” they laughed.

But with computerization, the days of opening cars with a spatula or coat hanger have ended.

Not accepting defeat, I walked around the van a couple of times, before observing one glimmer of hope. The back vent window was opened about two inches. I also noticed a group of male campers toasting their feet around a cozy campfire, after what looked like a fruitful day of fishing.

Normally Larry is a good problem solver, but for some reason this one stumped him. Having given up hope, Larry saw no other solution but to borrow our friend’s car to retrieve another set of keys. I grimaced at the thought of an unnecessary six-hour trip. What a way to ruin a beautiful weekend!

In a frantic state, I walked up to the fishermen and said, “Do you have any ideas how to retrieve our keys from our locked van? The back side vent window is open about two inches.”

“Well, we have a fishing pole and lure,” one camper replied. “But the pole is not long enough to reach from the back of the van to the front. Scratching his head, he said, “We could attach it to something, but what?”

“We could duct tape the lure to my fiberglass tent pole,” Larry piped in with renewed hope.

The ideas continued to swirl from one camper to the next as our plan unfolded. Eventually we decided to tie a treble hook to a twelve inch long piece of fishing line, which we duct taped to the end of Larry’s tent pole, turning the pole to wind the line around it. Where would mankind be without duct tape?

Move over Rover, duct tape is now modern man’s best friend. Getting more excited by the minute, Larry and the fishermen continued to pool their ideas.

“What we have here,” I said to myself, “is a near impossible venture, at least a challenge, and men with nothing better to do. It’s male bonding at its best. MacGyver would be proud of them.”

Larry, our appointed fisherman, assigned us our positions as we prepared to go for the keys. Fishing for car keys – how absurd was that! My job was to stand by the side of the van with a flashlight, while Larry blindly and painstakingly fished his way through the back vent window to the front of the vehicle. He manipulated the fishing rod up and down with help from the campers.

Being the only one who could see clearly, I gave the directions about how to move the pole, “Slightly to the right, Honey,” I told him. “Now move it to the left, and down a bit.”

We were all tense and focused as we engaged in our most unusual fishing venture. As the typical fisherman’s wife, I really didn’t have much hope for its success. But I watched in wonderment as these men maneuvered the pole until it finally hovered over the steel fish–our keys.

“How far above the keys am I?” Larry asked. “How much line should I unravel?”

I watched as the lure made its first scooping attempt, about an inch shy of the capture.

“Try again, Lar. This time more to the right,” I said.

He lowered the hook and unwound the line. After a couple more tense tries, I watched in disbelief as the keys flickered in the moonlight, drawn up into thin air.   My heart raced and my stomach did summersaults as they worked the pole backwards.

The fishermen were delighted at the capture, but they didn’t see what I saw – the potential entanglements, including: tossed clothing, camping supplies, and the velour seats, any of which could so easily ensnare our coveted prize. Touch anything and we’re cooked.   I continued directing the blind fishermen to move the pole in such a manner as to avoid entrapment. With a sense of empowerment, I was the Siren commanding my ship of male servants who were painstakingly following my directions. I relished the fleeting moment.

In sheer delight, I saw the keys within inches of the vent window. We were breathless with excitement. Handing the flashlight to one of the fishermen, I wedged my tiny fist through the vent window, capturing our prize.

We all jumped up and down in disbelief, and our shouts of triumph could be heard throughout the campground. Where was “America’s Funniest Home Videos” when we needed them? Did we really fish for keys? Larry, having redeemed himself, proved to be an excellent fisherman, though not without his team and sheer luck.

Lola and Thom pulled up, wondering what was causing all the commotion. They were not surprised to hear Larry had locked the keys in the van. He was known for creating problems that required fleets of fishermen to solve.

Enjoying the beauty of the evening and huddling around the inviting campfire, we laughed about our most unusual fishing venture. We already knewit was going to be a weekend to remember.

 

 

Welcome to the Land of Confusion

We went to the Door County 2012 Peninsula Plein Air Festival where our son Aaron was a feature artist. We all stayed at my brother’s summer home in Fish Creek. While sitting around the kitchen table eating corn on the cob, our 5 year old granddaughter, Natalie, bit into her corn and discovered her front tooth imbedded in the cob.

This was a surprise to us, since she never mentioned a loose tooth. She examined her treasure with a big smile. But then at bedtime, she had a perplexed look on her face. “I don’t think I should put my tooth under the pillow in Fish Creek. It might confuse the Tooth Fairy who knows I live in Chicago,” she said. I immediately had a vision of a fluttering Tooth Fairy dressed in proper fairy attire flying back and forth from Wisconsin to Chicago wondering where to land to retrieve Nata’s rare jewel.

Her cousin Isaak said, “Nata, if you lose the one next to it, you can put a straw in the space and whistle. That was an intriguing idea to her. On her way home in our van, Nata held her treasure and examined it often. “I really don’t want to give my tooth to the Fairy at all. I like it too much,” she said. Immediately, I saw the deflated Tooth Fairy evaporate into the mist.

Contact information/sschuerr@gmail.com

To see Aaron’s award winning art go to www.aaronschuerr.com

 

 

 

A Life with a Purpose

When Larry and I just got married at the tender age of 21, we saw this poem that has been our life inspiration.  When we have problems, I remind myself that it is a first world problem and not a third world problem. We still have daily food, clothes and a roof over our head. Somehow, it lessens the problem and makes us look at those that really have needs.  We share this poem with you now.

“I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and you discussed my hunger. Thank you.

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel in the cellar to pray for my release.

I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.

I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.

You seem so holy; so close to God.

But I’m still very hungry and lonely and cold.

Sunset Beach in Fish Creek/ Peaceful?

The Many Faces of Larry

At Sunset Beach in Fish Creek crowds gather for the big event—watching the glowing sun disappear over the Lake Michigan horizon where earlier we saw pelicans flying like pearls in the sky. Parents and children skip rocks and lovers embrace one another while gazing at the halo of orange and pink. Larry and Sue along with three female friends are ready to join the crowd for applause that begins with the sunset.

Somehow Larry got on the topic of hunting remembering the nightly jaunts of the deer crossing our yard nibbling our flowers and shrubs on their way to a save haven of soft underbrush where they nestle for the night. Our son, Aaron, is a hunter because that is what one does in Montana to get meat for the year. Larry has always longed to join him but the cost of the tags are too expensive. Over the past five years, we have seen the deer population grow exponentially in our suburban neighborhood.

Waiting for the sun to set is a celebration anticipating the guest of honor to arrive. The joyful atmosphere transforms strangers into friends. The picture changed abruptly as Larry explained loudly how he would love to hunt Bambi in his own backyard but he said, “My chances of killing a deer with a single bow would be close to impossible. An arrow would slow it down, but then I’d have to chase it through the neighborhood with a knife and slit its throat. I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate that very much.” The mental shift from a setting sun to a slit throat causes us to cringe. The man on the rock below us was squirming while eavesdropping.

Next, we drove into town to get ice cream when Larry suddenly pulled over to the curve and parked. He then took us to a circle of lilacs and told us to breath deeply. “It’s the most pleasant aromatic smell. Isn’t it wonderful? I just love it and had to share it with you,” said Larry.

Our friend Lu, a counselor, burst out laughing saying to me, “One minute he is slitting Bambi’s throat and the next minute he has us all gathered to smell the lilacs. What’s that all about?”

Yes, Larry hasn’t hunted anything more than a pheasant and cries first at the movies. My former Marine husband will stand up for the needy and oppressed, yet he will stop for a sunset and to smell lilacs—–the many faces of Larry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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A Motorcycle Trip to Praire Du Chien

When you see signs labeled Bad Ax River and Lone Elm Tree road, it’s a clue you are no longer in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Actually, we were in the outskirts of Prairie Du Chien. It’s where the Mississippi and Wisconsin River meet. Our mode of transportation was a 1981 Honda motorcycle loaded with everything we would need for a two day adventure. You might call it a midlife crisis, but then no one lives over 120 years unless they are eating Dannon yogurt in some remote village in Russia. Yes, after twelve years of begging and the sky high prices for gasoline, I finally gave Larry permission to buy another motorcycle. Permission, you may ask! Well, Larry crashed his first motorcycle on the Ides of March in 1995— when he gazed at a police officer giving a poor soul a ticket. The woman in front of him suddenly put on her brakes and Larry slammed into her trunk resulting in his broken pelvis, a demolished  motorcycle and a lost teacher spring break. Fortunately, no surgery was needed and the wider pelvis would enable Larry to have our next child.

Every time we went through Sturgis on our way to Montana, I would have to wipe off the drool from Larry’s chin as he lusted after another motorcycle. But Larry wanted his wife as a partner, and he waited twelve years for me to finally give consent. Now I have to admit, I love the freedom and fun of a motorcycle myself.

.Over the past twelve years, gravity has played havoc with Larry’s 6’ 2”, 240 lb. frame.  To get on his motorcycle, he grabs his pant leg and throws it over the seat and does a little jig when a cramp sets in. I’ve promised to teach him yoga and stretch moves to remedy his condition but he shows little interest in learning. Getting off the motorcycle is also a trick since the body wants to stay in the bent over position. Other than that, we had a wonderful time enjoying the onset of fall and the flocks of pelicans landing on the Mississippi river.

The first night we camped at Governor Dodge State Park right along the cliffs. It was late September and we had the place to ourselves. We pitched our backpacking tent and made an attempt to sleep well on insulate which is like sleeping on old cardboard boxes. Following tradition, we strained to read before bed with our trusty headlamps and foggy glasses. I dreamed of our first motorcycle trip to Galena twenty years earlier when we traveled with four other couples surrounded by a lightning filled rainstorm. I was young enough not to worry too much about the metal tent poles attached to the back of the motorcycle. There are some advantages to growing old—such as gaining wisdom.

I highly recommend a trip from La Cross to Prairie Du Chien and then over the bridge to see the Indian Mounds in Iowa. From there, continue on to Galena and back to the land of more sophisticated names for rivers and roads. By the way, the lowest gasoline prices were in Dubuque, Iowa —just $3.66. You might also find a deal on a motel, but then you’d miss the beauty of being so close to nature at its best.

Since writing this post, we have a better motorcycle which is much more comfortable for me. We just took a trip up to Delafield through Kettle Moraine and to Lake Geneva WI. It was a beautiful July day and we celebrated our anniversary by walking around part of the lake and going to Tuscany’s for dinner. Life is good and the gas less expensive in Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

After two days of rain, I was pleasantly awakened by sun streaming into my bedroom window. The earth is  clean and sparkling but chilly.   I can’t remember waking up and being able to see my breath in July with temperatures in the 50’s. But it promises to be a beautiful day in the 70’s.

Life with Larry means a lot of volunteer work. We have been up to Conference Point in Wisconsin and the Life Center in Schaumburg. We are at that stage of life, being retired, where we are blessed to be available. We are praising God that we have the ability to be used in this way.

A few years back, we went to Bay St. Louis where the Katrina disaster took place. We helped Willow Creek build homes there and made many close friends doing it. The temperatures were so hot at times that Larry’s muscles cramped. But the job got done.  A very cheerful black woman gave us these hats as gratitude for helping build her Habitat for Humanity home.  I’ll treasure this picture and the memories. When we finished one of the homes, we got in a circle and all sang and danced to —“Sweet Caroline”.  Every time we hear the song, we remember.

Blitz Build 09 027

 

 

I’m Married to a Turtle-5/18/11

A green and white neck brace encompasses Larry’s 171/2 in. neck making him look like a turtle. He does the impression quite well. His large head pokes in and out like a Sesame street character.

His speech is sometimes garbled, but I’ve always had to interpret for Larry whose original language is mumble. The neck brace doesn’t allow for much mobility. Although his neck fusion happened in January, 2010, he continues to wear the brace occasionally to deal with yet another problem: swallowing his tongue.

Yes, I controlled his every move for a month or so. I was the Siren in charge of his destiny. Even if I’m not quite five ft. and he is six-two and-a-half, he cringes at the thought of me driving his 4×4 testosterone laden King cab pickup truck. It has a special button to raise the pedals enabling me to drive. This is good because Larry refuses to add blocks with electrical tape like my dad did when I rode my first tricycle. I have to adjust the side mirrors which I haven’t quite mastered. Scary, since the rear view mirror is useless. He has to submit to my wonderful driving techniques. We had a Fox River Grove policeman as a neighbor who would stop me on the way to school telling me my stops were totally sloppy and what was he going to do, give me a ticket? For some reason, I was always in a hurry.

Geoffrey Chaucer
Larry’s neck brace

When we take off, Larry holds his head; otherwise it might fly off and topple to the ground like the headless horseman in a future horror flick. I threaten to push him out in the snow if he complains one more time. I have waited years to get even. This is the man who, while laughing, throws my pillow down the hallway a half a block when I get up at 2 AM. My secret desire has been to exchange weights and heights for at least a week to get sweet revenge.

Every once in awhile, he takes off his neck brace and turns into a frog hopping from one activity to the next. Maybe if I kiss the frog, he’ll turn into a handsome prince. But the doctor’s orders are that he remains a turtle for at least a month.

So now I eat with a turtle

I sleep with a turtle

I drive a turtle around town

If he doesn’t behave, I threaten to turn him into turtle soup. Control over men is what Geoffrey Chaucer has said every woman desires.

Larry and Washed out Technology 8/2008

 Unshaven— retired—Larry is dressed in his usual ragged attire of holey blue jeans and a multi-stained red flannel shirt. He is feverishly pulling weeds in our front yard flower garden while tunes float from his iPod. His newly purchased cell phone is securely fastened to his tattered belt for instant retrieval. Less than a year ago, macho 6’ 2” Larry would not be caught dead with either one of these devices. He mocked the cellular world by taking a dead phone and banging it on the table shouting, “Can you hear me? Can you hear me, now?” But Larry wanted to buy a travel trailer for retirement years to see two of our grown children and grandchildren in Montana, and I would not approve of the purchase unless “I” got my desired wish—a cell phone.  The devices are now precious commodities to him. I was given the golden cell phone rule, “Thou shalt not talk on the cell phone while driving.” If I committed such a crime, my punishment would be confinement to the backyard shed for a week with nothing more than bread and water for sustenance.

Life has radically changed over the past year. Now that I am also retired from teaching, I have more time to clean the house and to do the wash properly. Did I say properly? Honestly, I checked his pockets, but missed his precious iPod in his back pocket. To my dismay, it was doing a backstroke on the bottom of the washing machine. It has been secretly drying out in the kitchen drawer for a week now.  Do I tell him or continue to lead him to believe the iPod is missing in the cluttered menagerie of the house? I called Best Buy and Circuit City for life support and advice on how to renew sanitized iPods. Their bleak statement was to run while the running was good, or I might be confined to the attic with no food at all.

I reminded myself that it was just a gift from our precious daughter, Julie,  and her husband Geoff so they didn’t have to listen to Enya, Elvis and Hank Williams while Grandpa Larry remodeled their 118-year old home in Chicago. They only downloaded 750 songs for him.

Have I heard somewhere that being retired is like returning to those carefree days of yesteryear?   What carefree days? Who has them with the economy on the brink of disaster, and bread at $4.00 a loaf? Now that’s a thought; I might not get bread while serving time in the shed.

To the astonishment of us all, the iPod did dry out and works well today.

 

 

 

A Wounded Warrior

 

I peered into the sad eyes of a 25 year old 6’4”man named Bob sitting in a wheelchair. He had a handsome ruddy complexion and a desire to communicate. It wasn’t long before he told me his life story. Five years ago he was in a snowmobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. A few years later he lost his mother. I wanted to comfort him like I would my own son. My heart was heavy when he responded fatalistically, “It is what it is.” We talked about medical science and the progress they were making helping people like Bob and we talked about God and his plan for his life. “You know what I miss the most,” he said, “the adrenalin rushes. That’s why I am here at Adaptive Adventures. I was hoping to ski today but the slots are filled.” I put it on my calendar to be there when Bob tried a sit ski for the first time. Adaptive Adventures provides an opportunity for a handicapped person to down hill ski with an able bodied person. My husband and I love volunteering with them. As fate would have it, Larry was Bob’s teacher. They worked together learning to ski at Wilmot Ski Resort. Just like an able bodied skier, one directional turn can be stronger. But by the end of the day, it all clicked and Bob triumphantly cruised down the hill solo all the way to the lodge with Larry and his good friend following. He was ecstatic about his new accomplishment, and he certainly experienced an adrenalin rush. Bob now has a passion for skiing and other sports offered by Adaptive Adventures. Bob now has hope for a better, more fulfilled life.

The week before, Larry worked with a client named Ted who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force while Larry was merely an E5 in the Marines. This was quite a role reversal for both of them. Larry’s method of teaching was to treat the Vets as though he was their gunnery sergeant. “Turn left he would shout. Make it a harder left turn. Get up and do it again.” Ted, Larry’s client, was a pilot in the Air Force. When he was discharged, he joined the reserves and started working for United Airlines. But during the Iraq war, the Air Force Reserves took him from his job and family to serve where he suffered an injury as a result of a cargo plane crash. Today, he walks hunched over with a cane as a result of being partially paralyzed. But he has a passion for skiing and his dream is to join his lovely wife and child on ski adventures in Colorado.

While Larry worked with Ted, I volunteered with Vince, the gentle bull dog. He was a guerrilla sniper in the 80’s. He talked about his deployments in Grenada, El Salvador and Panama. He vividly recalled a rescue effort of nuns and priests in El Salvador. Sadly, they were all executed before his team of guerrillas arrived. Vince suffered trauma on his final deployment and currently has a rebuilt shoulder and hip. He also suffered a stroke that has limited his movement on the left side. My fellow instructor could understand Vince’s condition; he also suffered a stroke on the same side. As the only able bodied skier, my job was to demonstrate how to ski down the hill and to help Vince stay steady. We took him up on the magic carpet and worked on getting him down the bunny hill which looked like Mt. Everest to him. Vince did fall a couple of times and we wanted him to quit, but quitting was not in Vince’s vocabulary.

Larry and I both have worked very hard in Adaptive Adventures, but the real heroes are those that are overcoming their disabilities with courage and passion.

For more information, see www.adaptiveadventures.org.

 

“Band-aids and Screwdrivers” 2/27/09

Why did I choose the subtitle “Band-aids and Screwdrivers”?  Geoff, our son-in-law, was helping Larry put away his tools after a hard day working on their recently purchased 118 year old house, and he asked him what he wanted to keep.  Larry looked around and said,”Leave just the band-aids and the screwdrivers.” Geoff announced, “There’s a great subtitle for Sue’s ” Life with Larry” blog which was lost in the process of moving from Go Daddy to Word Press. Be patient and I will be redoing this blog from the past to the present. We have so much to share about marriage, family, retirement and living a full life. You’ll be sure to gain a refreshing perspective on life.

The band-aids represents Larry’s many wounds. His grandchildren affectionately call him,”Grandpa Owie”.  Larry replies, “I do have a name”. Not only has he had a bicycle and motorcycle accident, but he has broken five ribs and punctured a lung while skiing. His body, like an old car engine, has gone through a complete rehaul. It includes hernia, nose, back, neck, shoulder and knee surgeries. He occasionally sets off the metal detector at O Hare Airport. However, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He still rides in the Hilly Hundred Bicycle Ride in Indiana, tears down a black diamond hill in Montana, and teaches skiing at the Wilmot Ski School in Wisconsin.

The screw-driver represents his skill as a carpenter/builder and his occupation as a high-school Industrial Art’s teacher. Currently, Grandpa Owie is using his retirement days to volunteer in organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Bright Hope, Love Thy Neighbor, His Working Volunteers and  Faith in Action.  As a retired English/Speech teacher, I’m learning how to use power equipment and how to drive a nail before 12 attempts.  Larry and I are a team.

Larry loves to laugh and play practical jokes. He scared our son-in-law’s mother by wrapping Geoff’s arm  in a  catsup covered rag.  Bonnie freaked out when Larry asked,”Where’s the nearest hospital.” Geoff is an Urban Planner and construction was a trade he was learning from Grandpa Owie. His mother feared for his life and his limbs.

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