The polar vortex arrived this morning with a vengeance. It was -26 in our little town of Fox River Grove, IL. It brought back memories of our time winter camping in 2002 up at Kettle Moraine, WI. Larry talked me into winter camping up at Kettle Moraine, WI after our first night in a motel. It had been a relatively mild winter and after begging me to camp, I finally agreed, half heartedly. The advantages he said were as follows: No bugs, no mud, no loud obnoxious campers, almost free lodging and our choice of campsites. We had bags that went down to zero degrees and a tent used on Mt. Everest. During the night, I was cold and put on his stinky sweater. He had been X-country skiing in it for the past two days. I spent the night ducking in and out of the sleeping bag. Under the bag, I would gage because the sweater smelled like stinky feet. Outside the bag, it was freezing cold. We woke up at 6:30 AM to -12 degrees and rushed over to our favorite coffee shop in Oconomowoc where our teeth chattering while drinking our hot coffee. Like a homeless person, I made my way to the bathroom and brushed my teeth once they settled down. This was another lifewithlarry adventure but my heart goes out to homeless people who be looking forward to much warmer temperatures at the end of the week.
In a life time, the heart will beat 2.5 billion times. What is your heart beating for? What is your vision? What keeps you up at night? These are questions I ask myself. I strive to make each day a masterpiece. I have found that my greatest joy comes from helping others attain their vision. Without a vision, the people perish. If you listen well to others, you will know what makes their heart skip a beat. Then I can come along as a mentor and help them climb their ladder. We cannot remain stagnant if we want to grown spiritually, mentally or physically. John Wesley has worded it so well. “Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”Just think of Forest Gump as he ran across the United States inspiring others to run. Fictional, but it had a point.
Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it, is your gift back to God.” Have you noticed that the talent you have been given needs to be developed and honed by hard work, sweat and tears. My goals are to be a better writer, to improve my piano skills, to speak Spanish and to be in good physical condition to accomplish my goals. You may ask. Why these goals? These are the tools I can use to further the kingdom of God. . To bring others into the abundant life I am experiencing. Our purpose is the change the world. Now that is a lofty goal. “In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa. That is true but Helen Keller had another way at looking at life. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. “ Continue to check my blog, www.lifewithlarry.org for tips about stepping out of your comfort zone and into the person God created you to be.
There is so much to do in the month of December. It can be a stressful time as we prepare for the holidays. But my advice to you is to take time to laugh at yourself and with others. Larry and I love to laugh. No matter what trials we have faced, we can’t stay blue for long. And that is a good thing. “Laughter is good medicine.” Physically, laughter triggers the release of endorphins that cause a sense of well-being. Studies have demonstrated that children laugh on average more than 300 times a day. We adults only laugh a dismal 15 times a day. No wonder grandparents enjoy being with their grandkids. I watched a group of three-year-olds today. I was the big bad wolf who was trying to blow their house down. They called themselves the piggies and ran from one house to the other. They squealed with laughter and brought out the child in me.
So find people that make you laugh. Play with kids. Pass around good jokes. Be like the Proverbs 31 woman who smiled at the future. “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Victor Hugo
Share a laughable moment on my website. I have a great one to tell you called Sweet Delusions.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today, because someone planted a tree along time ago.” (Warren Buffet). Now you have time and the World is your Oyster! But you won’t know it at first. In the beginning, retirement can be difficult as you step into the new you. It takes time to shape who you will be next. My advice, step in and out of many doors. I was eager to start a blog named www.lifewithlarry.org to share what I have learned over the years and my life experiences with my husband, Larry. As a mother of three, and grandmother of five and as a former high school teacher, I gained wisdom about how to live a fruitful life. Being a mentor to the next generation and using my talents and skills have been a priority. Now is the time to spend time with grandchildren if you have them or help children in your neighborhood. Of course, if funds allow, travel. I have reconnected with many through Facebook and have visited them personally.
Now you have the gift of time. Time to develop interests and talents. I loved waking up to the sound of birds and being able to have a second cup of coffee. I live by the PSSS acronym. To be fulfilled, it is important to cover the following facets of your life- Physical, Social, Service, and Spiritual.
Physical/ I love the outdoors so hiking, biking, jogging and soon, skiing are some of my passions. I joined a health club to be able to use weights and as an avenue to meet new friends.
Social/ I started a book club. We meet once a month at Panera. There are 7 of us. Keeping it small is wise. We have gotten to know each other well. Each summer, we go to a WI summer home for two days and hike, bike, kayak, play tennis and discuss our books. I also joined Toastmasters both for social and intellectual enrichment. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. I keep my connections with teachers and friends by getting together for coffee. We open our home by having potluck dinners with themes like Italian or Mexican Night.
Service/ Find Your Passion-My first serve was with Habitat for Humanity. It took me 12 times to pound a nail. But in time I got better. I love playing the piano in the lobby of our local hospital. At first I was very nervous but with practice, I have improved as a musician. I also wrote for Compassion and Justice issues at Willow Creek Church and I have been published in some anthologies. Being an extrovert, I love meeting new people as the Guest Host for a Care Center. I’m working on learning Spanish by doing a Duolingo App on my phone. I join my husband and daughter by volunteering for www.humbledesign.org/Chicago. I would recommend trying many service organization to see what suits you best.
Spiritual/-At the age of 18 when I was searching for meaning and purpose in life, I looked up at the sky and told God–” I don’t think you are there: but if you are, please show me.” That night, I met my future husband and became a follower of Jesus Christ. I love reading Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament. There is wisdom on how to live an abundant and fulfilling life. Over and over again, I see his presence in my life. He is the hub in the wheel of my life.
We decided to escape colder weather in Chicagoland by traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico in October. But it was colder than at home. Finally warmer weather and sunshine made its way and we took a tram to the top on the Sandia mountains within the Cibola National Forest.
The boy running our tram had been on the job for about a month. He had penetrating blue eyes and a pierced nose and ears adorned with various sparkling piercings that sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. I asked him if this meant he was able to snowboard in the coming winter for free. “Yes,”he said. “How do you get a job like this?” I said. Well, you have to be able to get on the top of the tram which is 10,678 ft high in case there is a problem or the need for an adjustment. “Yikes, that sounds scary,” I said. “Many who try getting up there just freak out and that ends the application process.” he said. I thanked him for sharing detailed information about the mountain and handed him a small tip for doing a good job getting us safely up and down the mountain. It was a breathtaking site.
Our stomachs were growling and I saw an ad in a magazine for “Happy Hour” at a nearby restaurant. I was interested in the free food so I talked Larry into driving to Nob Hill restaurant near the University of New Mexico. But we missed the “Happy Hour”by two minutes. We had passed many ethic restaurants and decided on Ramen. It was full but they said we could probably get seated in 15 minutes; but after 40 minutes of waiting, we talked about leaving. The young man next to us noticed my husband’s retired Navy hat and he said,”Thank you for your service. You can go ahead of our party. We are just hanging out visiting, anyway.” I found out that Miguel was in the police academy ready to graduate soon.
After 8’o’clock, we finishing eating our delicious healthy meal and asked our waitress for our bill. She said,”There is no charge. Someone else has paid your bill.” I knew it had to be Miguel. I told him how touched I was with his generosity and that I would make it a point to pray for his safely as a police officer and that God would bless his life.
There were many young people at Ramen. Meeting Miguel and his friends made us realize that the future is in good hands.
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.”
Where were you on 9/11? I remember teaching a class in British Literature where we were studying Beowulf on 9/11/01. A student went to the nurse’s office and came back with the news about the twin towers. We thought he was joking since he was the clown of the class. Beowulf is about the nature of good and evil and we read the rest of the book with this thought in mind. In the end, good overcame evil but not without sacrifice. I thank God for the protection he has provided our nation since then. Let us stop and remember and pray for those who lost so much that day, and for those who have died with illnesses related to that day.
On our block, we lit candles in remembrance of those who died. The silence of no planes overhead was eerie. The nation was in mourning. The churches were full as many were looking for direction and answers. One of our teacher’s husband, a fireman, volunteered at Ground Zero.
We rejoiced the day President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. Just like in Beowulf, justice was measured out with the help of the Navy Seals.
Sometimes I wonder why we get so upset over a triviality when so many in our world have gone through so much trauma. One way I measure problems is to ask myself this question,”Is this a first world problem?” If it is, I can deal with it and thank God it isn’t something worse. Wish all of you well, and feel free to share where you were that day either here or on my Face Book page Sue Schuerr
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?”
It doesn’t take long for Larry to want another adventure in life. He had back surgery on July 9th. It was July 25th when we took our trailer up to Lake Farm Campground about 4-5 miles outside of Madison’s Capitol building. The weather was a bit windy but perfect for a bike ride pass Lake Mendota where we saw a class of scuba divers and many fishermen.
At one point, we asked a woman the best way to get to the Capitol where we were going to stop for coffee. She said, “Just go around the bend and you will see a bike elevator to take you near the Capitol. A bike elevator I thought—how clever and thoughtful of the city to provide such a thing. Soon, I clicked this picture.
If you are looking for a getaway that is close to Chicago and the suburbs, think about traveling to Madison. There are endless campgrounds and trails for biking and hiking. Being a university town, it has all the perks of entertainment to enjoy as well. We chose to go to Madison because we could camp right on the bike trail and it was flat for Larry to work on his therapy.
It was a great step for Larry but his endurance and strength still has a long way to go. He took a long nap afterward to recharge. Formal physical therapy starts tomorrow.
We hope to return to Lake Farm Campground or another nearby campground in the fall to enjoy the endless trails and to possibly take our kayak up to this wonderful outdoor-friendly town. We hope you can join us when Larry is in better health and has greater stamina. For more information, see www.visitmadison.com and sign up for their newsletter.
As part of Larry’s back surgery therapy, we went to Pro-Fitness to work out on a stationary bike and light weights. On the way home, he mentioned his concern about how painful his foot was and wondering if he was developing a hammer toe. When he got home, he took off his shoe and a stuffed sock in the toe area dropped out. We both had a hearty laugh. It was the first we have had since surgery on July 9th.
By the way, I certainly move quickly if his foot descents anywhere near mine.