The Family that Plays Together

  We enjoyed a wonderful family time in Montana with the unseasonably warm weather.  We stayed at a cabin in Silver Gate near Cook City and skied in Yellowstone with Aaron and Lynelle and grandsons. It was a late Christmas celebration. We had no Wi-Fi and no telephone service… just electricity. It’s the greatest way for family bonding.  Praying with your kids and grandkids is important but playing is as well. I have memories of running up and down playground equipment playing tag. Larry has been described as a little boy in a big boy’s body.  Camping is another wonderful way to bond. There is something wonderful about our memories of camping at Devil’s Lake while sleeping out under the stars as a family. But we have even slept in our backyard minus a tent well before mosquito invasions. I guess the main point is breaking the routine. Yes, the family that prays and plays together stays together. Now how do you create memories with your loved ones?


Ever Try Building a Snow Cave?

CIMG5040This past week’s weather brings back memories of the winter of 1978.  The ample amount of snow and cold made it a record breaking winter—the kids had four days off of school.    Larry ordered a sewing kit from Frostline to make his own sleeping bag and coats for the kids.  Yes, Larry is the seamstress in the family.  Construction of any sort is his forte. After constructing his sleeping bag, he wanted to test it out to see if it was really good for -20 degree temperatures as it claimed.  So he built a snow cave in the front yard of our house on Rt. 31 in Crystal Lake, IL. We had so much snow the winter of 1978 that the kids could jump off the garage into large snow drifts. Our mailbox was decapitated by the snow plow — we just stuck the poleless mailbox  in the drift and got our mail that way. The snow plowers were  so far behind in getting to their customers that Larry had to cross-country ski groceries to our friends trapped in their home.

But Larry was made for winter. He relished in it and always grew a beard in the winter to keep his face warm.  It didn’t take him long to build a prize-winning snow cave. He kissed me and our three kids good night and off he went into below 0 weather to test his new bag. Samson, our trusty St. Bernard, lay at the front door as a guard dog in case of an Eskimo invasion.

I was warm and comfortable under my blankets thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t have to join him in this experiment. By 5 AM I heard the door open and my 6′ 2″ husband now in the shape of a pretzel and frozen like a popsicle snuggled up to me and awakened me with frozen pea like toes on my warm toasty legs.  He then said,” My knee was bothering me too much to stay out all night.”  When adventure doesn’t come to you, make your own by winter camping in your front yard. You too can freeze almost to death and live to tell your grandchildren.  Stay tuned in—there were other winter camping experiences that I did not escape.

New Year’s Commitment 2015

CIMG5143“Life is not measured by the breaths we take; but rather by the moments that took our breath away.”

As I was walking through the field house at Northern Illinois University, I felt a large, warm hand on 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 me to laugh heartily. Three years later, I began my ‘Life with Larry’. Our 46 year marriage has been filled with humor and adventure. Practical jokes abound. Each night I get up around 2 AM. Just before I rest my head down, my pillow may often go sailing down the hallway. I get even by filling his pillowcase with shoes and other odds and ends. Our marriage is far from boring. Larry is my trailblazer setting us off on one adventure after another. Our partnership has included a tandem kayak and a tandem bicycle. We have a deep love that conquers all. That love has grown by serving one another, by putting one another above ourselves and by forgetting who is right or wrong in matters. We try to follow what the Bible says. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Many times we just agreed to disagree. We can both be very stubborn.  But the Bible continues to be our source for guidance because it never changes unlike the latest counseling advice. Laughter fills our home and we miss one another when we are apart. “Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

We have experienced many of the same problems other couples face like financial woes, differences of opinions, and accidents. But we always have lived life to the fullest. Somehow we were certain we could overcome any trial we faced with our own ingenuity and God’s help. We learned to forgive and forget, to concentrate on the positive actions of our spouse and to hope for the best. Larry will always forget to shut doors and leave a pile of clothes by the bed. I will fail to turn off the bathroom light and mess up anything mechanical. But we accept one another with our weak and strong points. We normally go on volunteer trips together. We have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse and Love INC and currently, American Blind Skiing Foundation.  But this time I will be staying home. Larry will be going to Galena, Alaska with Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild homes destroyed by the flooding of the Yukon River. They want people who have expertise in carpentry which I do not have. I hope by sharing our secrets to a happy marriage, you also will find wisdom to build a strong marriage as well.

How to be Safe while Serving in Construction

safety (Click here to see the video)

The house we built in a week with Habitat in Katrina, Bay St. Louis
The house we built in a week with Habitat in Katrina, Bay St. Louis

Larry has been working with my son-in-law on remodeling their house. Yesterday they worked on installing electrical sockets, etc. As a result they both got mild shocks—-they soon discovered the problem. Larry has worked in the construction field as a contractor, a teacher, and now in retirement. Click on the above link to see the Blitz Build safety video he shared with a team at Willow Creek Church before going to help Katrina victims in Bay St. Louis. Not only is it helpful, but quite entertaining. He mentions and shows footage of Mike Breau giving a message and accidentally stapling himself. Enjoy and learn some tips.



Hats the new owner gave us to combat the intense sun.
Hats the new owner gave us to combat the intense sun.

A Cold Get-Away/ And Christmas Past

Gardinerski 005 Merry Christmas Everyone!   It’s Christmas 2014 in Fox River Grove, IL this year. But I remember a  few years back when we traveled to Yellowstone to celebrate.

There’s nothing like seeing a bison come ambling down a hill behind you as you cross-country ski on Tower Falls Trail in Yellowstone at 6278 ft. elevation and – 6 degrees. Yes, Life with Larry has given me another first time experience with extremes. Our son, Aaron Schuerr, is a chip off the old block. He arranged the two night winter get away at the Yellowstone Institute in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. When I heard that it was predicted to be bitterly cold, I assumed we would be canceling.  But the word cancel is not in the Schuerr vocabulary.   I was comforted with the fact that the cabins we would be staying in were heated; nevertheless my bottle of water turned to lumps of ice by the morning. I tried to negotiate with my bladder at 1:10 AM telling it to shut up and let me sleep. But it persisted so I grabbed my fleece coat and gazed at the breath-taking stars that filled the dark sky until I remembered that I had to be on the look out for stray buffalo who often wander into the camp. I heard the sound of a coyote in the distant and hoped it was not hungry for a short squat Norwegian-American. Finally, I made it to the bathhouse 50 ft. away which doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but it was -28 degrees.  “But it’s a dry cold,” they say.

After a hardy breakfast, we covered nearly every inch of skin and donned our cross-country skies to face the -6 degrees. I didn’t want to get out of the truck until August, my 10-year-old grandson said, “Suck it up Grandma,” ——such inspiration.  I shut the door on the van as my thumbs were the first thing to freeze and my toes felt like frozen peas. But soon the constant activity, lack of wind and beautiful sunshine warmed me like slow pouring heavy syrup. “It’s a dry cold,” Larry would remind me. When we got to Calcite Springs, we poured cups of tea and nibbled on Cheesites. A hot toddy was what I had in mind. But that would have to wait.

Montana winters didn’t bother Larry.  He must have been born in a deep freeze.  He even made himself a Frostline tent when the kids were little.  We had a lot of snow that winter so he built an igloo in front of our house on Rt. 31 in Crystal Lake, IL.  It was Larry and our St. Bernard dog.  But he came in at 5 AM in the shape of a cramped pretzel. That night he was testing the quality of his sleeping bag. “My sleeping bag is only rated to -20 degrees.” he said—-his excuse for coming in early. These days we are happy for cabins.

I made it to 2:30 AM before my second trip to the distant bathroom. As it turned out, the temperature improved to a balmy 10 degrees the next morning so we put on snow shoes, a first for us, and became Louis and Clark explorers. By 1 PM Grandpa and Grandma said good-bye to the hardy campers and headed to Chico Natural Hot Springs in Pray, MT to thaw and recuperate knowing that tonight we would sleep in a real bed with real heat.

It was an adventure, I’ll never forget.

Gardinerski 003


Two Indians and a Cowboy


 All little boys growing up in the 50’s were influenced by the cowboy characters, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and John Wayne. The good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. Of course, both were always fighting the Indians. Larry, whose nickname was Skip, was no exception. He and his two younger brothers, Bill and Ken, were glued to the TV screen soaking up the many lessons to be learned about how to be a real cowboy. They were thrilled to have electricity and a TV in their small primitive summer cottage supported on posts. It was located in Lilymoor, just outside of McHenry——a better place than the city for three boys to grow up.

 In 1952, Skip’s dad bought the summer cottage from his half-brother who used it as a flop house, a place to get inebriated on the weekends. The goal was to convert the summer cottage into a year round home. Insulation, heat and indoor plumbing were non-existent, and they had to take a bucket to the hand pump on the front porch to pour the water down the indoor outhouse to flush it. The wood burning stove sizzled with scraps Skip’s dad brought home from his carpentry jobs.

“We’d wake up in the morning to snow on the floor,” Larry recalls. “With room for only one bed, we nestled close to one another for warmth. For Christmas each of us received two presents—-a piece of clothing and one toy and when the VFW came to the door with a turkey and a box of food, I saw my dad cry for the first time, “said Larry.

 Larry’s dad, a man whose arms resembled Popeye, dug a well and installed a pump by the sink in the kitchen similar to what we had seen on the TV series, Lassie. After the wood stove was installed, the next ongoing project was to dig out a basement under the house. First, walls with windows were built. When Larry and his brothers got home from school, their job was to remove five wheel barrels of dirt through the basement window where later it would be hauled to the dump.  This was a Herculean task for three young boys.  

 But at least the cottage was theirs, and the TV provided a mental escape to help them endure. There were trees to climb, sticks to turn into guns and plenty of new places to explore.

 Ken, the youngest of the three, was often the target for taunting. When it was Ken’s turn to swing from the rope on the tree, Skip the chief, would tell him when to jump. Of course, the oldest brother was always right.

 Ken would yell, “When should I jump?”

 “Not now,” screamed Bill and Skip.

 With their early understanding of physics, they would wait until the distance between Ken and the ground was greatest and then they would yell, “Now”.

 As would be expected, they all got wounded regularly just like the real cowboys and Indians on TV and Dad, the medicine man, was an expert at making butterfly bandages. Going to the hospital was out of the question.

 Another time, they ventured into a dairy farm behind them and visited the cows. Bill and Larry talked Ken into grabbing the tail of a Holstein cow to see what would happen. When the thrill of seeing their brother fly on the end of a cow’s tail passed, they yelled.    

 “Let go.”

 But the shock of being dragged by a moving cow, made Ken grab on even harder.

 “Let go,” yelled Bill and Skip even louder.

 But  Ken continued to grab on even harder as he bounced off stones, sticker bushes and manure patties. Now that was enough adventure for the day.

 Rainy days were really a recipe for disaster for the growing family who lived in the space of a double garage. Mom and Dad were playing cards with friends down the road and the three got to rough housing. It wasn’t long before they put a hole in the thin wall.

 “Mom is going to kill us?” they screamed in unison.

 “We’re dead meat,” cried Bill

Skip came up with an excellent solution. They would move the refrigerator to cover the hole——-Mom and Dad would never notice.  With a great deal of pushing and shoving, the hole vanished behind the mayonnaise, mustard and sour cream.

 When Mom and Dad came home, they asked who moved the refrigerator.

 “Not me,” said Larry

 “Not me,” said Ken,

 “Not me,” said Bill

 That left their little sister, Mary, cooing in the corner.

 Digging out the basement was an ongoing project. By then real plumbing was installed and Shirley, their mom, decided to have a Tupperware party.

 As usual, the boys came home from school and worked in the basement shoveling the dirt out the window. The boring, laborious work cried for adventure.  The three Indians remembered seeing a special episode of Roy Rogers where——–

The memory was crystal clear in Skip’s mind and he diverted his attention from throwing dirt out the window to digging a large hole. He coaxed Bill, the cowboy, into climbing into it. Bill obediently jumped in. The Indians, Ken and Larry, buried their victim up to his neck. All they needed were cowboy hats and feathers—–until Bill’s piercing cry.

 “Help! Get me out of here.”

 The Tupperware party was in full swing upstairs as the ladies inhaled their Lucky Strike cigarettes, munched on brownies, and practiced burping their new lettuce containers.

 But the call persisted, “Help, Help, Get me out of here!”

 Ken ran upstairs and whispered in his mother’s ear. “We need you downstairs,” said Ken as innocently as possible.

“Go play,” said Shirley

“We really need you downstairs,” pleaded Ken

“Why?” said Mom

“We buried Bill,” said Ken.


 Shirley politely said, “Excuse me ladies.  It looks like I’m needed below.”

Stomping down the basement stairs, the first thing she saw was Bill buried up to his neck and then Skip standing in the distance with a shovel trying to be an innocent bystander.  The spell was now completely broken—–the Calvary had arrived.

 She grabbed a shovel and furiously began to excavate her middle son promising,” I’m going to kill you guys.”

 In the next breath she called upstairs in a never heard before—-  sweet voice, “I’ll be with you in a minute, ladies.”

 She shoveled some more while Larry and Ken flew up the stairs at a speed that would have given the FLASH a run for his money.

Two weeks in the woods might give their mother time to settle down. They remembered many episodes about how to live on roots and bark.

But it wasn’t long before the Indians, forgetting the pain, escaped into the wonderful world of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Tonto—–with visions of future exploits dancing in their heads.

By Sue Schuerr/ with Larry and Ken Schuerr











Larry and his Fight Against Wood Lust

larWhile writing this entry,  I’m sitting downstairs in front of a roaring fire in our wood burning stove which feels good today considering it is November 15th and we woke up to 18 degree temperatures. Not exactly what one would expect this early in the season. But that has not deterred Larry.  For the last two weeks, he has been gathering and cutting wood. We have enough wood for the next three years;  but he just can’t control himself. The free wood is calling out to him,”Come get me. I may never come this way again. ” Yes, the power company in the Fox River Grove/Barrington area has been cutting down whole trees under the power lines. This may not happen again for another 10 years.

Now Larry not only cuts wood for himself but for the elderly neighbor across the street and people he doesn’t even know on Lincoln Avenue. He just can’t stop gathering and cutting. What should I do? Is there any therapy for WOOD LUST??

Fishing for Grandpa Owie

dadA favorite place for us to camp when we are in the Bozeman/Livingston area is in Hyalite Canyon. In the springtime when the water is high, there is a spot in Chisolm campground where our grandkids August, Jasper and August like to fish with their Grandpa Lou. It’s a place where the creek comes in and it’s a supermarket for catching large cut-throat trout. Now the grandkids are fortunate because they have two Grandpa’s who like to fish—–Grandpa (Owie) Larry is a fly fisherman and Grandpa Lou is a spin casting “dirty worm dunker”.

We were out on our summer visit to spend time with our Montana grandkids. The oldest, August, hit a snag and didn’t want to snap off the hook. “I’ll wade out and clear the snag,” said Grandpa. It had been thigh deep which is perfect when wearing waders. “ I started to walk out and found out why there were so many large fish congregating,” said Grandpa Larry. “I took another step and discovered the second reason why the fish were so large. On the third step, I discovered the second most important reason why the trout were hanging out there when I went from knee deep water to water that was frigid and over my head. Trout love deep holes and I found a very deep hole. The first was the in-coming creek which washes in insects that the trout feed on and the second was With one step, I went from knee deep to water over my head. Fortunately waders have a waist belt and an elastic cord around the top of the waders. Both are designed to keep the water from rushing in. But regardless, as I crawled my way to the shore, frigid water began to trickle into my waders and ran down into feet. Whatever water comes in stays in. My grand kids roared with laughter to see my demise. But all’s well that ends well.


Daddy’s Home


In honor of Deborah Lynn Schuerr’s birthday on October 24th, I share my next Life with Larry story. One afternoon, I was giving Deb a piano lesson. Getting her to practice was like getting a fish to swim in water.  She loved playing. I sat next to her on the piano bench as she was playing a classical song. Then all of a sudden, we were interrupted by a loud boom that shook the house. We looked at one another and  said, “Daddy’s Home”. Yes, Larry had pulled into our down-sloped driveway and threw the clutch into what he thought was park. But somehow he missed the gear. The van was on a run away course and quickly picking up speed. “My first instinct was to try to stop it,” said Larry.  “But I soon realized  tangling with a flying van was not going to make me the winner. I watched helplessly. Fortunately, a newly planted evergreen slowed down its momentum and it clipped  the side of our attached garage with a two foot gash in the wall.” Being a builder/carpenter at the time, Larry cleverly turned the gash into a plant holder. It ended up being a life lesson for the family. Life can throw us some curves but we can always learn and grow from them.

Today Deborah plays not only the piano but violin, and many other instruments. Deb teaches music part time at Headwater’s Academy in Bozeman, Montana and gives music lessons to 48 students.

My mother, Alice Gram, was a music teacher and organist at the Lutheran church we attended.  She inspired our love for music.  On Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would gather around the piano and perform Fiddler on the Roof.  I would play the piano and Deborah played the violin and Julie the flute.  My brother Bill, who has a voice like Frank Sinatra, would  top off our occasion singing “The Old Man River”. He now says,” I am the old man river”.   Aaron would sit at the piano and play jazz while Larry played his favorite instrument—the radio. Happy Birthday to our first born—Deborah Lynn. May the love of music continue through the generations.


Volunteering Brings Joy and Purpose in Life

Cascade 2013 020 Larry and I met at a Valentine’s Day dance over 40 years ago. It’s a love that deepens with the years. Hopefully, our story will inspire you to build a stronger and more lasting relationship with the one you love. After retiring from teaching, he has devoted himself to working for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Bright Hope, Faith in Action, Love INC and most currently Adaptive Adventures. In the past, Larry managed, with the help of friends and family, to fix up and give away more than 2,000 bicycles. We have always been a team. We have a tandem kayak, a tandem bicycle and I wouldn’t miss a ride on the back of his Gold Wing Motorcycle up to Lake Geneva. This probably is one of the reasons why we are close. We choose to serve together, pray together and play together. Not that we don’t have our problems like any other couple. But our nature is to love and to laugh and it’s hard for us to stay angry for very long. We try to follow what the Bible says. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Many times we just agree to disagree. We can both be stubborn at times. We look to the Bible for guidance as it is a source that never chances unlike the latest counseling advice. Finding happiness, we have discovered, comes from serving one another and helping others. It once has been said,” A person makes a very small package if he is totally wrapped up in himself.” We both love people, the outdoors, and each other so that is why our latest serving experience is so perfect. It embodies all of our passions. Larry is my trailblazer setting us off on yet another adventure.

For the past four years, Larry has been an instructor at Wilmot Ski Resort where he noticed a group of Adaptive Adventure Skiers in the cafeteria. Being retired military, he immediately wanted to know how he could get involved helping GI’s returning with causalities from Iraq and Afghanistan. He met Reilly who lost a leg in combat. We were so impressed to see how well Reilly skies and how he teaches others the sport. We knew it was an organization we wanted to get involved in. It wasn’t long before Larry was spending two full days a week helping disabled adults and children. My first experience with Adaptive Adventures was a weekend up at Cascade. I thought I was going to shadow Larry. But before I knew it, they had me skiing with Hailey, a legally blind 17 years old. She was so excited to be on the mountain on a warm, sunny day. We talked non stop about her family, school and skiing. As a former English teacher, we discussed The Scarlet Letter, Shakespeare, etc. We talked about poetry slams and decided to write a poem about Jeff, the young man who taught her how to ski. We could only find paper plates and a marker to write our hilarious poems. The most I had to do for Hailey was to take her by the arm as we got off the lift and to guide her down the hill. She did a splendid job avoiding any potential hazards.

We came in for lunch and the table looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. It was surrounded with prosthetic legs. I never knew there were legs for skiing as well as legs for walking. Sarah, an Africa American teenager dressed all in pink, just beamed as she smiled at Hailey and me. She and her friend were taking a break from their morning adventure on sit-skies. Yes, a paraplegic can ski while sitting and control the directions.

Yes, life with Larry has been full of adventures in our quest to help others and in so doing—-help ourselves.


Tips on how to live a long and fulfilled life