Category Archives: Inspiration

Do you hear their Mourning?

As we wake up this morning to the sound of birds, and to the rising sun, to flowers and the sound of children stirring in bed— can you hear their voices–the mothers weeping for those lost in War? They may be half a world away, but God hears their mourning this morning. God, please gently wrap the deceased in your loving arms and take them to a place of peace where the sound of war has ceased. As we go about our daily chores, have us continue to hear their voices and pray for peace in our world. We are all connected in one way or another. It’s the brotherhood of man. We were given free will, free will to make choices— good or bad. Make the right choice today to promote freedom in our land and to give a helping hand to try to understand. This morning, we hear the sound of birds, we see the rising sun—will we extend a helping hand to those from another land? This morning–do you hear their mourning? See Psalm 37

Happy Easter/Passover 2022

I heard a flock of sand hill cranes overhead beaconing the end of winter. Sitting on my deck, I see budding trees, the crocuses and my new rhubarb plant. 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 existed in Christ’s time, because he gave us a picture of God’s love. Cornelius was a centurion (soldier) in the Roman Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing. But he was not a follower of Christ at that time. It says in Act 10 that 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 had 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.We are thankful for the Jews who faithfully and accurately penned the Old Testament with the prophecies of Christ throughout. (See Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for examples). Also reading Acts 10- I see that God hears the prayers and cries of the non-Christian and answers them if they seek Him with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) Be a true follower of Jesus Christ and follow His teachings {Matthew 25:31 and not the so-called Christianity of today that is alienating so many. For example, I looked up at the sunset and called out to a God as a freshman in college. I didn’t think He existed. But I was looking for meaning and purpose in my life. I told God if he was there, He could have my life. Then I added, “Make something wonderful happen, if you truly exist.” That night, I met Larry at a dance—-my soul mate for life. Together we have seen the hand of God on our own lives, our families’ lives, and so many others. How he speaks to you may be entirely different. 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. We know deep inside that the end of life is not the end. It’s written in our hearts.

24Lily Tang, Jerry Kublank and 22 others6 CommentsLikeCommentShare

Can you trace your Roots?

Ancestry Question

Those in the family who have studied our ancestry have told me that we descend from a 15th century girl who survived the black plague in Norway. I guess mankind has been fighting diseases from the beginning of time.

My grandfather, Lauritz Gram, immigrated to the US through the St Lawrence Seaway in Canada and made his way to West Allis, Wisconsin when he was 7 years old. In Norway, his family worked in the antique business and it is said that Edvard Grief, the great composter, had a candlestick holder on his piano from one of our relatives.  The Grams were pastors and teachers in Norway. Education was important to them; all three of Lauritz Gram’s kids received a college education. He married Emma Carter, and loved baseball and Model T’s—- he was a proud owner of a 1920 Ford Motel T.   He had two boys and one girl; my father was their second child.  Lauritz made his living working for Allis Chalmers Company.  He walked daily and said his alphabet backwards to improve his mind. He was a thin, wiry man with a good sense of humor.

The name Gram is a Danish name. There was an ornate Gram building in Denmark.  But when I had an Ancestry test, Danish ancestry did not show up. It’s possible that the Norwegians lived in Denmark at one time.  

The Berge clan is from Norway near Bergen. They immigrated to Wisconsin to be farmers. It was a difficult task to cut down trees and clear the land. They settled in a little town called Valders outside of Manitowoc WI. I remember my grandfather and my Uncle Oley and Aunt Dagny. They were wonderful people who welcomed us to stay at their large farm home in the summer. My sister, Ginger, loved the farm and was happy to settle on one when she married, Jim Fay. There was always an occasion to visit the farm for family gathering, but my focus was to play with the current crop of kittens and occasionally take one home. Twinkle Toes and Cookie were a couple from the farm.

The Berge’s are related to members who served in the Civil War. There is a very interesting diary one wrote about the family losing children to the flu and almost dying after their serve in the Civil War. Deborah and I have copies of the story. We come from some very hardy and healthy people who also had a strong faith in God. Grandpa and Grandma Berge read their bible, which was on a table near their bed, daily.

My DNA Ancestry test said I was 66% Norwegian and 9 % Swedish which makes me 75 % Scandinavian. I have a grandmother from the British Isles that makes up for the 25%. Her name was Emma Carter. My husband’s ancestors are from Southern Germany and Poland. Larry’s grandfather cooked dishes from Southern Germany. We learn a lot about our relatives by the dishes they cooked. What dishes do you eat on the holidays?

Why Go to Kettle Moraine

“The sun is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.”  

 As we entered Kettle Moraine, we saw the return of the herons and sand-hill cranes, and enjoyed the fusion of blue and yellow flowers bending their faces to the sun as it disappeared in the pink and purple horizon.   We have been camping in Kettle Moraine now for over 45 years

 Being in nature is like taking a shower and ridding oneself of the dust of daily living. It refreshes the soul and brings one closer to God and one another.  On a beautiful day, we often returned to Kettle Moraine Wisconsin staying at Ottawa Lake or Pine Creek campground. It was less than two hours away from home.   I can close my eyes and still see our three children.  Deborah, our oldest, we nicknamed, Bear. Her beautiful hair would capture the sun rays as she searched the trees for ripened apples. Julie, our curly red-headed daughter, would be giggling nonstop while spinning around on the merry-go-round shirtless. Then, there was Aaron, our youngest, who we gave an Indian nickname name, Little Silver-top whose crotch runs close to the ground. Dad and Aaron have similar body types, both have long torsos and shorter legs. While hiking, we would stuff our backpacks with undomesticated apples savoring the thought of the delicious applesauce we would make at home.

On one occasion, the campground was full. We thought we’d make the best of the day and then return home. But Julie, being her gregarious self, shared our lack of a campsite to a local girl who was her swimming pal.  They invited us to set our tent up on their property nearby.  We all made friends with the family and later Larry even went fishing with the girl’s father.

Whenever our adult children came back to visit, we would once again go up to Kettle. Geoff and Julie and family would hike the trails with us, and introduce Elliot and Nata to the beauty of nature. For a couple years, Nata invited her friends to celebrate her September birthday. We would bring up our trailer for a place to gather in case of inclement weather.  Sometimes we would visit Oconomowoc and feast on a delicious Mexican dinner and enjoy the Wizard of Oz statues and a beautiful beach.

Throughout our careers, we would head up to Kettle with our Willow on Wheel friends and take long bike rides. After we retired from our jobs as teachers, we purchased a motorcycle and continued to visit Kettle. Instead of riding our bikes from Ottawa Lake Campground to Delevan, we rode up and down the hills on our Goldwing with much less exhaustion. There’s a lovely coffee house in town where we had lunch.

This is our grandson, Elliot, who was about three years old at the time. He was discovering the joy of the outdoors which he continues to love.

Kettle Moraine has continued to be the place we visit often. We love the harmony and tunes of nature at its best. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of His hand’s. Day unto day utters speech.” Psalm 19: 1-2

The language of nature has always spoken to me. I hope it speaks to you as well.

My Favorite Job! What was Yours?

Storyworth-My Best Job

When my children were young, I supplemented our income by teaching ESL through McHenry County College and Elgin Community College. When Aaron, my youngest, was 12 years old I accepted a job teaching English/Speech/Drama at Cary-Grove High School. I would say these were my favorite jobs because they challenged me to grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

I was always fond of learning about other cultures and ESL was a way to travel vicariously. I had students from Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland and Sweden to name a few. I often invited my student over to our house to meet my family, and to give them a healthy meal. At the end of the semester, we would have a Christmas party and each student would bring an ethnic dish and tell about their country’s traditions. I remember Julie coming with me to these parties. . She vividly remembers a Russian woman with an extreme amount of make-up.  Deborah was in school and Aaron was too young to come. My students demonstrated their appreciation with hand-made gifts like colorful doilies.  

When Aaron was 12 years old, I accepted a full-time teaching job.  The first two years were difficult having to learn the material and prepare lesson plans. But when I was working toward my Master’s degree, I felt more confident.  I   I loved teaching literature and often connected books like Animal Farm to history. We covered literature about the holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. But my favorite subject to teach was British Literature. We read Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Knights, King Author, Chaucer, and Shakespeare. I added Princess Bride and a few episodes of Mr. Bean for fun. My students did research and presentations in all my classes. I was teaching Beowulf at the time that 9/11 occurred. It then became a study of good vs evil. We went to see the movie Beowulf with Angela Jolie playing Grendel. Afterwards we went to the Village Squire to discuss the difference between the book and the movie. The students overall loved the class because unlike American Literature we were able to laugh especially reading Chaucer.

Teachings Speech Communication and Drama helped me to get to know my students better. My goal was to help them learn skills that would enable them to be better speakers and listeners. Teaching was very time consuming during the school year, but the summers were a great time to engage more with family and friends and to travel more. It was a job that stretched me and challenged me to grow intellectually and relationally. Although I am enjoying my retirement, I often think of my love for teaching and connecting with students and faculty. Face Book has help me keep my connections.

The highlight of my career was taking my students to perform Taming of the Shrew downstate. We also put on Sleeping Beauty with Mary Casta who was the voice of Sleeping Beauty in the film.

My Memories of Ginger, my younger Sister.

My dear sister, Ginger, passed away on January 17th2022 from Covid/Pneumonia.  The last I saw her, she was active and healthy and celebrating a milestone, fiftieth wedding anniversary.  I thumbed through old pictures which brought back many wonderful memories.

When I was born, my parents were going to name me, Ginger. Their friends said, “You can’t name your daughter, Ginger. It’s a name for pets.” But the love of the name prevailed and Ginger got her rightful name. She was full of spunk and looked up to me, her sister two years older.  Being the baby of the family, she would run off to a friend’s house after dinner to avoid the pile of dishes. Boy, did she make up for it and later life.  

Ginger and mother were very close. She told her, “I don’t ever want to leave you. But if I get married, I’ll live next door.” Ginger and her family took care of mom, who lived at the Garden Apartments in Waterman, until her death at 93 years old. When Ginger joined me at NIU, she also put her faith in Jesus and soon met the love of her life, Jim Fay. Jim was trying to escape being a farmer by going to NIU to become a Spanish teacher. But the love of the land prevailed, and she and Jim married.  Ginger would call me and say, “Sue, are you sitting down?” Then I knew she was going to announce another pregnancy. Getting pregnant was not easy for Ginger, who experienced morning sickness with each of her six children. She always had a smile on her face except when she suffered a miscarriage in late term.   I came out to comfort her as we sat around the kitchen table in tears. Her family was the very fabric of her life.

In the Spring, Ginger would call and say, “The corn and tomatoes are ready; come out and get them.” There was nothing like their wonderful sweet corn. My three children loved to escape suburbia to visit the Fay farm.  “We had so many adventures,” said, Aaron.  We would play in the barn and pretend we were lost children who had to forge our way in life.” They had a motherless lamb, that Ginger had to bottle fed.  It became the family pet. Now, how many children had a pet lamb like the Fay children?  To cool off on hot summer days, there was the large swimming pool near the house.  I believe it was Karrie who was trying to teach one of the third world kittens how to swim, with no luck. Ginger always had a great lunch for us and the whole family would come out for Thanksgiving celebrations.

 Loyalty and love prevailed at the Fay house. Not only did they love their children and grandchildren unconditionally, but they filled their large farm house with many who were trying to find their way in the world. They lived Matthew 25:35, where Jesus spoke of those who would inherit the kingdom of God. “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.” Yes, many strangers were fed literally and spiritually on the Fay farm.

Ginger came to almost every major event in my life. We stood up at each other’s weddings. She was there when my son Aaron was born and I was there when Heather, her youngest, was born.  When I directed the school plays at Cary-Grove High School, she would bring our mother and her mother-in-law to attend our matinee performances. 

 Now in her resting place, Ginger will always live in our hearts.  She loved people of all walks of life and expressed it in her actions.  I will miss meeting her this March in Geneva to celebrate her birthday. Thanks, Julie, for asking me this question on Storyworth. The tears are now flowing, and I am experiencing some healing.

What friendships do you have that have endured time?

Are you Still friends with any of your friends from high school? How have they changed? 

My friendship with Adeline, Margo and Cookie goes back to elementary school days in the 1950’s.   

We all attended Warren Elementary School in Chicago. I remember looking out my door and seeing Adeline being dragged along by her Italian parents to school.  She had a great love for stars like Pat Boone and Elvis Presley.  Adeline openly shared her opinions on every topic under the sun, and she still does today.  I would walk over to her house to study geometry after school. The house was filled with the sound of opera and the aroma of some wonderful dish.  Realizing I ate bland food at home, Adeline’s   mother would save me a tasty dish of Mostaccioli or Lasagna, etc.  I often wished I was born in Italy, too.   Adeline was a strikingly beautiful woman who was part of the homecoming court as a freshman in high school.   Her parents were very strict and would not allow her to date.  She never married and took care of her parents until their death. But she had a wonderful career as a business teacher at Robert Morris College, took many trips to Italy and was a wonderful aunt to her extended family.

Margo moved to Chicago from West Virginia. She lived a block away from me in a town house where her divorced parents lived one upstairs and the other downstairs.  Margo had blond hair and dark skin. At the beach, she would get so dark that it was said, “If you get any darker, you’ll need police protection.” So sad to say, but racial profiling was big in the 60’s. After school, we would walk over to her dad’s auto repair shop and have a coke while we waited for her dad to drive us home. Being part of a bowling league, we often walked a block from the auto shop to see how many strikes and gutters we could get.

Cookie or Karlene had a warm and pleasant personality. She would ask very personal questions and would listen attentively. Her mother had a salon in her basement where we often played. Cookie and her mother would get into fights and sometimes a brush would go flying in the air. She smoked at an early age and would pretend she was a movie star like Irma la Deuce showing off her fancy cigarette holder. She was a very good student and much more outgoing and daring than I was. But she was conscious of her weight and had a friend pretend to be her on the phone. The friend asked a boy if he would go to the prom with her. He said, “Yes”, to the impersonator pretending to be her. We laughed until our ribs ached about that ruse.  Humor was a big part of our lives. Our job was to gather lots of jokes during the morning to share at lunch time. We would laugh so hard the milk would come out of our noses.  

Communication had been off and on throughout the years, while all three of us had full time jobs, children and now grandchildren. But now that we are all retired, we are reconnecting again. What’s great about having a long-term friendship is that we can once again share stories from our past and get each other’s different perspectives. Although we are now 75 years old, we can still enjoy prosperous lives. I think of the song, “Sunrise, Sunset, swiftly flies the years, one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.” We have been there for both.   

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.