Category Archives: Marriage and Family

My Precious/Lost

I titled this post “My Precious/Lost” because of Larry’s love for the trilogy The Lord of the Rings.  While reading the novel to our three children, his imitation of Gulum was spot-on way before the movie came out. Gulum throughout the book grieves the loss of his precious ring.

It looked like it was going to be a great day volunteering with others using his expert carpentry skills. This particular day, he woke up earlier than usual to travel to  South Chicago.  Larry is not an early riser. His famous saying is “If God wanted me to wake up early, he wouldn’t have made  sleeping in feel so good.” After showering and getting dressed, he looked over to our bed stand to see where he put his wedding band.  But it was nowhere to be found.   “What happened to my ring? Did you see it?” he asked. Larry often takes off his ring while doing construction work.  In the almost 50 years of our marriage, he has lost several rings often due to a hole in his pocket.   He had been very careful with the current band; it was the most costly one and he wanted to have this one for the rest of his life.

With a heavy heart, he asked me to look for it while he made his way to volunteer for www.humbledesign.org/Chicago,  an organization that helps the homeless by turning their newly acquired empty houses into clean, dignified and welcoming homes.   It was hard for him to be his usual humorous and jovial self that day as he replayed in his mind where and how he lost his “precious”. He checked his truck, his drawers, under the bed, etc. I looked all through the garage and rechecked every coat and shirt pocket, to no avail.  I even called the restaurant that he frequents. The day before he had been chopping wood for our wood-burning stove. I actually went to the spot he had been working and raked away debris to see if it had dropped from his pocket.  I thought of the woman in Luke 15:8 who had 10 silver coins and lost one.  “Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it.” And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me’ I have found my lost coin.” The story is equated with God rejoicing over our return to Him.

A few days later when he had given up all hope of finding his ring, Larry put his hand in his drawer to get a pair of socks when he touched an unfamiliar metal object—it was his ring.  We both jumped for joy, our cup of happiness returned—no longer “Glum.”

“Hit the Road Jack” Camping Trip

 

How many of you have been on a vacation that you really looked forward to and yet the outcome was full of unforeseen problems? That is what this blog is about. No matter what comes your way in life, you can learn from the situation and move forward. Here’s our story.

The year was 1987, we had just purchased a used pop-up camper. After packing it with all our belongings, we were finally ready for an exciting maiden voyage out West.  Our plan was first to make our way to see my roommate from college and her family in Denver and then to Kingman, Arizona where Larry’s family resided.  I had started my career as a high school teacher in 1985 and Larry had a good year in construction.  There was finally money for a camper instead of pitching our tent often in wet conditions. Our children, Deb, Julie, and Aaron, worked hard in school and looked forward to this family vacation. What could possibly go wrong?

While singing the top hits on the radio, we were just 30 miles from Denver when we saw a storm ahead. Unlike the Midwest, a storm on the horizon was easy for all of us to see. We had a contest guessing how long it would take for us to enter the storm. “I say it will take 15 minutes,” said Deb. “No, said Julie, “20 minutes”. Aaron just looked ahead in wonderment as we got closer and closer. I was keeping track of the time for the contest.   Ray Charles was singing“Hit the Road Jack” while we counted the minutes. All of a sudden, a gusting wind unfolded sending us directly into the eye of the storm.   “Oh No!” said Larry as he looked out the rearview mirror to see the top of our camper sliced off like a can of Campbell soup and flying onto the road. Fortunately, there was no one behind us. Larry had his head on the steering wheel crying out, “Oh God Why?”

The storm had also blown our personal belongings onto the highway. As we gathered them up, two hippy guys stopped to give us a hand. “Don’t worry, be happy. These things happen all the time,” they chimed.  “We are here to do our good deed for the day.” You can take it to the Camper Repair Shop in town and they will fix it for you.” The rain tapered off and overhead we could see a magnificent double rainbow.  Maybe there was hope. The helpful hippies gave us a hand putting the wind-ripped camper top back on and we made our way to downtown, Denver. Deb reminded us that the song during the storm was, “Hit the Road, Jack.”

Even though our used camper looked good from the outside, we had missed seeing the rotting wood under the metal which was unable to take the impact of the storm. Knowing that there was no way to fix our camper, we dealt with the loss of $675 (a lot of money for us) and took the top to the scrapyard for disposal.

In the Schuerr book of travel, one never turns back but continues ON! Our children were able to experience first hand how to deal with unforeseen problems. It was time for creative thinking. We put our clothes in black garbage bags and we raised the poles and covered them with Visqueen.  We had recently seen the movie Family Vacation as they traveled to Wally World What more could possibly go wrong?

We made our way to my friend’s beautiful neighborhood pulling our decapitated popup camper.  We were greeted warmly by Carol, Skip, and their two boys even though we were the eyesore of the neighborhood. Our closet folded down and I had to raise it in order to get our belongings out. Later, while at the campground we staged pictures of me swatting flies while eating at our table. We were a family that loved to laugh and used humor and ingenuity to deal with our situation.

We were heading to Arizona next where we planned to see the Grand Canyon.  We had heard that the sun would always shine. But instead we had rain on the way to the Grand Canyon and when we arrived, we felt like the Griswalls making It to Wally World, and finding it closed. We got out of our van and peeked over the canyon—but it was engulfed in heavy thick clouds. “Now what,” I said. “This might be the best time to see our former neighbors that moved to Sedona,” said Larry. It should clear up in a day or two. We returned in time to see a beautiful sunset that painted the canyon in shades of pink, purple and gold.

Now fast forward to recent times when my daughter, Julie, and her husband, Geoff, were on their way to Texas. The engine light went on.   With a moment of contemplation, Geoff said, “What would the Schuerrs do?” “Go on, of course, said Julie. “What could possibly go wrong?”

camping in Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for a Happy Life

“Life is not measured by the breaths we take; but rather by the moments that took our breath away.”

We are getting ready to celebrate a big event, our 50th Anniversary. It’s a milestone we want our adult children and grandchildren to remember. We will be celebrating it in the Bozeman, and Livingston Montana area where our eldest daughter and youngest son live. We are flying out our middle daughter, Julie, and her family. Our hope is that they will all learn from our example of a good marriage and a productive life.

How did Larry and I meet? Let me take you back to the field house at Northern Illinois University in 1965 where I felt a large, warm hand gently grasp my neck. It was Larry who I had recently begun dating. There was something about his touch that was protective and secure. I turned around and looked up into his beautiful eyes. He walked me to my dorm and pretended to slip and slide on the icy terrain bumping into me and causing instant laughter. Three years later, I began my ‘Life with Larry’. Our marriage has been filled with humor and adventure. Practical jokes abound with each other and with our family. Each night, when nature calls, I get up around 2 AM and when I come back to bed, I often see my pillow go sailing down the hallway. I get even by filling his pillowcase with shoes and other odds and ends. Laughter is a medicine for the soul and an essential ingredient in a vibrant relationship that washes away the daily problems of life.

Our marriage is far from boring. Larry is my trailblazer setting us off in on one direction or another. Our partnership has included a tandem kayak, a tandem bicycle and more recently, a shiny black Goldwing motorcycle.  As retired teachers, we have devoted ourselves to volunteering for various organizations. We continue to challenge ourselves. Larry is learning to horseback ride with Brave Heart and I am learning Spanish to better equip myself to serve in a nearby care center. I also play the piano weekly at our local hospital.  Larry and I have a deep love that conquers all even our latest trial as Larry prepares for back surgery soon. That love has grown by serving one another, by putting one another above ourselves, and by forgetting who is right or wrong.  We try to follow what the Bible says. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” But, often, we just agree to disagree.  The words of the Bible continue to be our source of guidance because it never changes, unlike the latest counseling advice. Laughter fills our home and we miss one another immensely when we are apart.Laughter is an instant vacation.” Milton Berle  

                                                Be sure to take a trip there often.

 

The Many Faces of Love

  My plan was to go downtown to visit my friend, Cleora, as she was staying on the 49th floor of a highrise apartment near Navy Pier to watch her newborn grandchild, Giulia, while her daughter returned to her teaching  job. Overnight,  the rain had turned to snow so I was wondering how I would have time to shovel the snow to get to the 6:25 AM express train where I would meet yet another dear friend, Sue, a daily commuter on her way to the Illinois Judicial Building.  But then my dear husband,  who hates early mornings, woke up and attempted to shovel the snow for me since our snow blower was on the fritz. Instead, he decided to drop me off in his heavy-duty truck at the train stop. Thanks to Larry I made it on time.

I stepped into the lives of commuters for the next hour and met friends of friends. Sue, being happy to have a me walk with her, treated me to a cup of delicious Starbuck coffee topped with whip cream to keep me warm on my walk toward Navy Pier. I reached my destination and was zipped up to the 49th floor where Cleora and her newborn grandchild greeted me. Now if it wasn’t for my thoughtful husband, I would have missed a very special day. Thank you, Larry. I hope more husbands will follow your thoughtful response.

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. 

 

In Sickness and in Health

The fact that Larry and I have been relatively healthy in our lives makes moments of sickness or times of surgery even more difficult. Larry has undergone numerous surgeries on his knees, shoulders, neck, back, etc.   I was happy we had good insurance as teachers. Unlike most wives, I would drop him off at our local hospital and while he was being wheeled into surgery, I would take off to my teaching job or go cross county skiing around the hospital.   This didn’t bother Larry at all since we both like to make the most of our time. You may wonder how Larry tore his body apart. He was a contractor for many years and he has had bicycle and ski accidents. But like the resilient bunny in the Duracell commercials, he always rebounded quickly. One time he was scheduled for surgery when I got a call from my friend, Cleora, telling me she was at the hospital, too. Her husband, Keith, was being tested for heart problems. That morning we enjoyed a cup of coffee together in the dining room of the hospital and laughed  that both of them were in the hospital at the same time. Fortunately, none of these episodes were life threatening.

But there are times when Larry and I  need each other desperately. I’ve lived my life actively enjoying biking, skiing, and mountain climbing. The only surgery I had was having my tonsils out at 9 years old. Surgeries are Larry’s department. I have been very fortunate. But on Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2017,  I went out to start the van and defrost the windows for my dentist appointment. It was one of the few icy days we had and I slid down our driveway and fell right on my shoulder with all my weight.  I had fallen years before in a biking accident and dislocated the same shoulder. I came in withering in pain and Larry was a great comfort. Now I have a torn rotary cuff and the prospect of surgery is scary for me. The thought of not riding my bike, not playing the piano and being without a right arm for up to 6 months is terrifying for me. So I have been learning to live with physical therapy and without surgery. But I think the time will come and when it does, I know Larry will be there for me and I’ll be more understanding of all he has gone through.

What are the lessons learned here? That when you take a marriage vow, it’s in sickness and in health. It means to be there for one another no matter what. We have learned over our 48 years of marriage to be servants to one another. Larry has never made me feel inferior being a female. It has never been about our roles as husband and wife. It has been about love and respect for the talents  and abilities of each other and what we can do to build one another up to be productive human beings.  I’m a better person because of Larry and he is a better person because of me. We both look to God for insights and wisdom in sickness and health.  I wish that for you in a marriage relationship or in relationships with friends.

<facebook.com/Sue Schuerr>

A Tribute to a Father/Daughter Relationship

August is our busy birthday month. First comes my son, Aaron’s birthday, then our foster daughter, Donna Paluch,  and finally my birthday.  I’m 28 days older than Larry and he reminds me often during the month of August. I remind him that he looks much older—too bad guys generally don’t wear make-up—at least not Larry unless it’s Halloween or he wants to fit in with my tribe of girlfriends. But while Donna was living with us for three years during high school, she entered a contest describing why her foster father should be given the award of Father-of-the Year.  I opened up an unread book we have had on our shelf named The Heart of a Father and found this letter in it. See what she said below.

For years I have been a foster child. I have never known the love a father and daughter share. There was no one to help me with school; there was no one to help me at all. As a child, I had no  one to look up to. I had no one to call dad. I have a dad now. He is the most giving and compassionate man I know. He took in a girl who had no where to go. Not only was she a stranger, she was a stronger with a past. She was me. He has stood with me through moments of hell. We have climbed mountains together the last two years. He gave a girl on the brink of death a chance to experience life. He is an example for all people—-a member of big brother, big sister, an activist for the homeless, an activist for me. I call him Dad.

She won the award and a limousine picked her and Larry up and took them to the Oprah show. She was then on Channel 9 sharing her story and received free tickets for all of us to a Cub’s game.

Before we picked up Donna, she had attempted suicide by taking tylenol tablets. The hospital pumped her stomach and saved her. The three teenage years we had her were turbulent but we knew there was a gem within her. She was smart and tenacious. Today she is a lawyer living in Louisiana with her husband and three children.

God has saved her and used her as a public defender to help those with no hope. There were days during her times of fighting drug abuse that I thought there was no hope. She was hospitalized for a period of time and was strong enough to cut off unhealthy relationships. Donna read  45 books—mostly classics that summer and played basketball with me. She had the advantage being a lot taller than my 5 ft. frame. We are proud of the woman she has become. Happy Birthday Donna.

Larry in FL 030

 

A Hope for the Future

We live in a time when so much information is swirling around us through multiple means of media. When we were raising our family, Dr. Spock was the author everyone was turning to for wisdom. It was a time of no discipline and wisdom crumbled into a time of anarchy.

We raised our children through insights found in the Bible–We found  the book of Proverbs and the words of Jesus our best blueprint for living.  It spoke about how to deal with enemies by overcoming evil with good. Julie, our daughter, was the new kid on the bus and was not greeted warmly. We made cookies and the next day she distributed them and built a bridge of friendship through kindness.

We are living in difficult days where  marriages are crumbling and the suicide rate and death by bullets is at an all time high. Our society has all kinds of directional devices  but not one for living a good life. We need a societal directional system.  Today I put together wisdom I found in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.  I hope it will help you understand the times we live in and give you strength to stand firm.

“People will be lovers of themselves. Boastful, proud, abusive. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers saying what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth. But you, keep your head in all situations. Endure hardship–Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 3 & 4

By committing your life to Christ and spending time in his love letters to us, life will have purpose and meaning.  “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

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Men and Their Hats

hat picsIt was a warm and beautiful day in San Diego where we escaped the winter by staying with my wonderful cousin Dave Berge and his wife Gail. We woke up to the sound of the ocean and the call of the birds and seals. Yes, his condo was right on the beach of Oceanside. We took our morning walk and ended up at a coffee shop. Larry wanted to stop and get a Marine hat. In his picture he is wearing a Navy hat. You see, Larry spent 4 years as a Marine where our daughter, Deborah, was born in South Carolina. But later, he joined the Navy reserves as an air-controller. Even though he was in the reserves for 19 years, he still was a Marine—–once a Marine, always a Marine. We walked into the local military store and checked out the Marine hats. We were not satisfied with any of them and concluded we would buy one at the Marine base in San Diego.

He was still looking around so I left him to join my daughter at the coffee shop again. She was soaking up the rays. (See picture below)

When Larry returned, I said, “I thought we didn’t like that Marine hat. I guess you decided to buy it anyway.” He frantically put his hands to his head to retrieve the Marine hat and said,”Oh no, I walked out with the wrong hat and left my Navy hat at the shop.” Now Deb and I are laughing at the imaginary sight of police surrounding Larry for the theft of an unwanted Marine hat in exchange for the desired Navy hat he left at the scene of the crime. He quickly bolted up the hill two blocks to the store to return the hat and retrieve his Navy hat.

We had a good laugh and I knew I had another Life with Larry story. Now my question is how many of you have done something similar? Have you left something precious to you at a store or restaurant? I was guilty of leaving my cell phone in a restroom at a Cracker Barrel in Kansas.  My point is that in life we need to give grace to those around us. We all make mistakes or have senior moments.  This scenario turned out OK; how about yours?coffee Deb

Deborah soaking up the San Diego sun!

Happy Easter/Passover 2016

 

Happy Easter/Passover 2016

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)

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 can give. We know deep inside that the end of life is not the end. It’s written in our heartsGarden PIC