“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
“The sun is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.”
After a month of rain, the sun is on the horizon—-a big yellow-red ball finally making its appearance and guiding us to our favorite place—Kettle Moraine, WI. Larry wanted to take his Goldwing and camp in a small tent in the woods. But I know that we will never shed our winter coats (extra pounds) by riding a motorcycle; we opted instead to take the trailer and the tandem bicycle. It was a good choice since we did have a few sprinkles during the night.
At Ottawa Lake Campground, we were greeted to a symphony of birds. Over the lake, we saw the return of the herons and sand-hill cranes. We have been coming up to Kettle Moraine now for over 39 years. In my mind, I can still hear and see our red-headed 4-year-old shirtless Julie giggling nonstop while spinning around on the merry-go-round. We gave our toe-headed son, Aaron, an Indian name—because he had such short legs compared to his long torso—just like his dad. We called him Little Silver Top–whose crotch runs close to the grown. Deborah, our oldest, was nicknamed– Bear. It was a derivative of De/Bear/ah. Her long blonde hair would blow in the wind while chasing her brother and sister in a game of hide-and-go-seek. We also ran up and down playground equipment playing “tag” with our kids. While hiking, we would stuff our backpacks with undomesticated apples savoring the thought of the delicious applesauce we would later make after cutting out the rotten spots. As a retired couple, we still cling to the memories of our children’s faces and voices. Our grandchildren are now enjoying the beauty and wonder of Kettle. ( See pictures)
Larry and Elliot
On one occasion, we could not get a campsite—the park was full. We thought we’d make the best of the day and head home that evening. But it wasn’t long before our kids were splashing around with the local Kettle kids. Julie, the most gregarious one, must have shared the fact that we were soon going home because one of the Kettle parents invited us to set up our tent on their property just a few miles from Ottawa Lake. A family friend was born and Larry ended up going fishing later that summer with the father.
Larry and Sue with Nata and EB
Now fast forward to May 2013. We hopped on our red tandem bicycle and cruised up and down the winding roads pass lakes and fusions of blue and yellow flowers bending their faces to the sun. We rode pass Pine Creek Campground and inhaled the awesome smell of freshly cut pines in the tree farm across the street from the camp.
Soon we could smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods at our destination spot—–The Old Milwaukee Trade Center Coffee House in Delafield, WI. There are three spacious rooms with large windows and outdoor sitting at this coffee house on steroids. We hardily recommend it to all. It was a wonderful 25-mile round trip ride from our campsite.
Here are Julie, Geoff and Nata
We found ourselves laughing a lot as a result of our first local get away in the sun. 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 His creation. “The heavens declare the glory of god; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech,” Psalm 19: 1-2. We love the harmony and tune of nature—it always seems to refresh us. Kettle Moraine is the cure for any ailment. Now next time, we’ll hop on our Gold-wing and I’ll let Larry have his wish and camp in the pines under the stars.
Picking Wild Raspberries
Kettle Moraine is located North of Lake Geneva. Take Rt. 12 up there and be sure to see the La Grange Store on the way up. It’s a restaurant/bike/health food store. They can give you directions to great hiking, biking and camping just s short distance from their store. If you camp at Ottawa Lake, be sure to go to either Delafield or Oconomowoc. Both towns have great stores, restaurants and coffee houses, and you won’t want to miss the beautiful beach outside of Oconomowoc.
It’s Mother’s day, May 13th, and it’s raining with temperatures in the 40’s. I checked the weather in Chesterton, Indiana, a place we enjoyed biking and camping in the past. Less than two hours from us, the sun was shining on beautiful Lake Michigan. Since we planned our Mother’s day celebration for next Sunday, I woke up Larry and said, “We are going to get out of Chicagoland and enjoy a day in Chesterton, Indiana with a stop at the National Lake Shore Dunes. Larry was more than eager to go. The weather got better with every mile.
We had brunch at the beautiful Volstead Restaurant in downtown, Chesterton. Since the place was for reservation only, we had to sit at the bar which meant we got waited on faster. I ordered a delicious Sprout Breakfast Bowl and Larry ordered Blueberry Cream pancakes. We both had a mimosa to drink—a wonderful brunch.
We spent some time at the park across the street, and then headed to the National Lake Shore where we often took our bike club. After walking along the shore, we checked out the houses from the 1933 World’s Fair where they found a permanent home on the National Lake Shore. There are a plethora of unique homes along the shore and in front of one was a stone structure I have included in my picture gallery. I hope you will consider visiting this summer. It is well worth the trip.
Visions of Cowboys and Indians Dancing in their Heads By Sue/Larry/Ken Schuerr
Today, April 28th, 2018, we have a Celebration of Life for Kennith Schuerr. We will remember him as a wonderful husband and father who loved to laugh and lived life to the fullest. He enjoyed reminiscing about his childhood. Below are some of those stories.
All little boys growing up in the 50’s were influenced by the TV cowboy characters Roy Rogers, Hop-a-long 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 was no exception. He and his two toe-headed stair-step brothers, Bill and Ken, were glued to the TV screen soaking up the many lessons to be learned about being a real cowboy. They were thrilled to have electricity and a TV in their small, primitive summer cottage supported only on posts. It was located in Lily Moor just outside of McHenry, a better place than the city for three growing boys.
In 1952, Larry’s dad bought the summer cottage from his half-brother. The goal was to convert the summer cottage into a year round home. Money was a scarcity so the transformation took years. The 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 water down the indoor-outhouse to flush it. The wood burning stove sizzled with wood scraps Larry’s dad brought home from his carpentry jobs.
“We’d wake up in the morning with snow blowing through the eaves onto the floor,” Larry recalls. “Only one bed would fit in our room and we nestled close to one another for warmth. For Christmas each of us received two presents—-an article of clothing and one toy. One evening, the VFW showed up at our door with a turkey and a box of food. It was the first time, I saw my dad cry.”
Larry’s dad, a man whose arms resembled the cartoon character 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. The next ongoing project was to dig out a basement under the house. This was a Herculean task for three young boys. First, walls with windows were installed. Then Larry and his brothers, Bill and Ken, would dig out the basement by throwing the dirt out of the window.
But at least it was their place, and the TV provided a mental escape from on-going chores. There were trees to climb, sticks to turn into guns and plenty of new places in the country to explore
Ken, the youngest of the three, was often the target for taunting. When it was his turn to swing from the rope on the tree, Larry, being the chief, would tell him when to jump. Of course, the oldest brother was always right.
Ken would yell, “When should I jump?”
“I’ll tell you when,” said Skip.
“Not now,” screamed Bill and Larry
With their early understanding of physics, they would wait until the distance between Ken and the ground was greatest and then yell, “Now”!
As would be expected, they all were wounded regularly just like the real cowboys and Indians on TV; Dad, the medicine man, was an expert at making butterfly bandages and other repairs to their frequently wounded bodies.
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 to see what would happen. When the thrill of seeing their brother fly on the end of a cow’s tail passed, they yelled.
But the shock of being dragged by a moving cow, made Ken grab on harder.
“Let go,” yelled Bill and Larry even louder.
But, Ken continued to grab on even harder as he bounced off stones, sticker bushes and manure patties.
Rainy days were 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 boys got to rough housing. It wasn’t long before they put a hole in the tender wall.
“Now, what do we do?” said Ken
“We’re dead meat,” cried Bill
But Larry, the ringleader, came up with an excellent solution. The three would move the refrigerator to cover the hole——-Mom 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, she asked who moved the refrigerator.
“Not me,” said Larry
“Not me,” said Ken
“Not me,” said Bill
That left their little sister, Mary, gurgling in the corner.
Digging out the basement was an on going 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 of the window. The boring, laborious labor cried for adventure. Larry remembered seeing a special episode of Roy Rogers where——–
The memory was crystal clear in Larry’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!”
Shirley politely said, “Excuse me ladies,” It looks like I’m needed below.” She was angry about missing the latest gossip tidbits.
Stomping down the basement stairs, the first thing she saw was Bill buried up to his neck and then Ken and Larry standing in the distance with shovels trying to be innocent bystanders. The spell was now completely broken—–the Indians were on the run with past wallops in memory.
She grabbed a shovel and furiously began to excavate her middle son promising retribution,” I’m going to kill you guys.” In the next breath she called upstairs in her sweet voice, “I’ll be with you in a minute, ladies. ”She came close to excavating Bill while Larry and Ken flew up the stairs and out the door in ear shot of her impending promise, “I’m going to kill you kids.”
It was hours before they returned home for dinner. But it wasn’t long before the trio once again escaped into the wonderful world of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Tonto—–with visions of future exploits dancing in their heads.
My latest interview with Ken in March, 2018.
After school, the Indians would go down to Lily Lake to skate around the Lake below our house. It was rather slushy. Larry, whose nickname was Skip, was skating toward the shore wearing a heavy old winter coat with a hood that pulled tightly around his head. Suddenly the ice broke and he sank into the water. Ken, remembering what he saw on TV, laid on the solid ice to keep from sinking himself, and extended his hands forward to help Larry get out. After a struggle, he emerged and quickly rushed to the safety of home escaping Hypothermia. Thanks Ken for saving my future husband.
Our adventures often entailed a dangerous challenge. Ken was the youngest and smallest of the three Indians. They were having fun jumping off the pier while avoiding pockets of water. But little Ken, while jumping, ended up missing his target and slid torpedo-style under the ice. He was disoriented and unable to figure out up from down. He imagined himself being Houdini the character they got to know on TV. Like Houdini, Ken finally managed an escape and with the assistance of his big brothers managed to get home, escaping hyperthermia. Barb would like to thank them for saving her future husband.
Living in the country, one of the favorite sports of the three boys was to climb trees. Mary, who was younger than Ken by three years, wanted to climb the tree too. She was eager to experience a little adventure herself, being the only girl in the family. She climbed the tree successfully but was unable to get down. The thought of descending what seemed like a mountain to her was more than she could handle. She sat there for hours while her brothers tried to coax her down, with no success. They finally got hungry and set out for home. Mom said, “Where is your sister?” “Oh her, um, she’s stuck up a tree,” they said nonchalantly afraid of getting punished. Instead of serving dinner, she fetched Mary out of the tree. Kirby, Mary’s husband, would have said, “Thanks for saving my future bride.” No thanks to the three boys or she would still be up a tree.
Grandpa lived next door to the Schuerr family. His house was a haven for the brothers who loved nibbling off the many fruit trees in his yard. That day, they were playing War Games. Ken had stuffed his pockets with tasty ripe plums. Skip, being almost four years older, tackled his enemy– and crushed the plums in Ken’s pocket. Wow, it looked like real blood. “It sure was sticky and gooey,” said Ken who wobbled home to the chagrin of his mother.
Grandpa decided to build a small pool where he enjoyed watching his fish while cooling off. The boys loved it too. But it would not contain the water so eventually Grandpa replaced the water with sand and in the winter, the Indians filled it with snow. Now the war game was to jump off the roof and land in the pit. If they missed it, they would be hurt by the surrounding concrete blocks. Little Mary, while watching her big brothers jump said, “I want to try it.” She managed to climb to the top of the roof and holding her breath with fear and trepidation, she successfully jumped into the round sandpit. But once was enough for Mary who had proved herself in the eyes of her big brothers.
Do you remember some encouraging words you received from a parent, teacher, coach or friend that helped shape your life today? Conversely, you may have received some negative words that shaped you as well. I recently read a book entitled Just a Minute by the founder of Compassion International, Wes Stafford. In it, he discussed the power our words can have on young people and how our influence even briefly can help shape a life.
In my childhood, I recall an old black typewriter where I started coining my stories often about my brother, Bill. I even started a local neighborhood newspaper with a joke section about Fords being junk. My Dad, a Chevy owner, said “You’re a pretty good writer—maybe you’ll become a journalist or a teacher.” My mom shared her love of music by playing lullabies on the piano for us and introducing us to classical music. With words of affirmation, they both encouraged me to love reading, writing and music. My children grew up with the same passions and have surpassed me in their skill level. Larry read to them each evening went he got home from work. It was break time for me. He started with C S Lewis’ Narnia series and continued with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Now Larry didn’t just read to them, he acted out each character giving them a voice and mannerisms. He had Gollum down long before the movie came out, and when Thorin Oakenshield died, they all cried around the dinner table. I remember one time I drifted off to sleep while reading a magazine. All of a sudden I woke up in a panic and ran down the hall to the kitchen where I heard,” Fire, Foe, Arise.” I thought the house was on fire. My heart was in my throat—— but it was only a line dramatized by Larry from The Lord of the Rings.
All three of our children were in plays and musicals and Aaron still acts regularly in them. They grew up with a passion for the arts and parents who encouraged them with affirming words and actions. The power of our words played a key role in their lives.
Conversely, negative words can also shape young lives. But that will be continued in another blog. Feel free to comment.
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.
It was a cold winter morning and we decided to grab a cup of coffee at Panera before heading off to church. We finished our second cup while perusing the Tribune. I looked at my watch and said, “It’s time to go.” Larry promptly refilled his takeout cup of coffee with five creams and five teaspoons of sugar. I followed him to our gold Honda Odyssey van where he promptly set his coffee cup in its secure home. He was surprised that the door was not locked and the rug was moved but he attributing it to seniorities.
I made my way to the passenger door and noticed two big gashes. I yelled out, “How did this happen?” Larry came over to inspect my door and said, “Someone really banged it hard. Look how deep these gashes are. ”
I opened the door, sat down and saw an electronic device. “Larry, when did you get this?” I said. Larry has a habit of buying things on sale and then quietly sneaking them into the house out of my sight. Our house is filled with plants. He just can’t pass up a deal on a plant or one in its death throes he thinks he can resurrect.” So my accusatory tone was well within reason.
As I lifted the electronic device to examine it more closely, Larry yelled with a frantic voice, “This is not our van.” I quickly put down the device and slammed the van door. We scurried off to our vehicle two cars down while looking over our shoulders for the owner or worse the police. When we were on Rt. 14 and safe from apprehension Larry, moaned, “My coffee, I left it in the other van.” Now I imagined the owner, who forgot to lock his door, settling in and being welcomed by a cup of hot, steaming coffee saying, “Where did this come from?” Sure hope he likes his coffee very, very sweet.
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” Yesterday, as part of our Christmas present to our grandkids, we took Natalie and Elliot downhill skiing with their dad up at Wilmot in Wisconsin. It was the warmest day in over a week of below 0 temperatures. As a result, a record number of our best friends joined us on the hills. Finally, we made it to the magic carpet where Nata’s lesson began. Geoff and Elliot took off for higher terrain while Larry and I started teaching Nata the fundamentals of skiing. She listened carefully and progressed quickly to the chairlift. Now skiing for me was not as difficult as learning the fundamentals of the chairlift. The first time I skied, in my 30’s, I was told to wait until my feet touched the ground to get off the chairlift. Being less than 5 ft, I never touched the ground, and I could see vividly the hills of unknown destination ahead. As we started to make a turn, I did the most sensible thing, I jumped off. Fortunately, I was ok but this memory has always stuck with me. I wanted to make sure Nata knew how to get off the lift which she navigated well. Lesson 1-We learn from our mistakes.
“Point in the direction you want to go,” said Larry as he gave Nata skiing instructions. “Go across the hill and not straight down.” Before we knew it, she was making perfect turns. Lesson 2-Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take one step at a time. To reach your goal, set much smaller ones to achieve first. Now Nata was developing some self-confidence. She knew we had her sandwiched in with Larry ahead and me in the back. She was protected and assured of protection. Lesson 3-Find a mentor to help you reach your goal. I remember skiing at Steamboat, which was a big step from skiing at Wilmot. My friend and ski instructor, Cleora, was in front of me and my friend Lynn, an experienced mountain skier, was behind me. I skied better than I ever did because of my mentors and those who believed I could achieve success.
After lunch, Elliot wanted to head off to the terrain park which takes the skills of an advanced skier. When Nata saw the hill, she froze and started to whimper. It was too much too soon. Lesson 4- Set attainable goals in your comfort zone. We took off our skies and made our way back to a familiar hill. It was a “green”. Toward the end of the day, we challenged Nata to try a “blue”, a more difficult run. I said, “Let’s just go over and look at it.” You can always turn around and go to the easier hill.” She said, “I think I just want to stay on the greens today.” Larry said, “This is all in your head, Nata, you can do this one. Trust me, You now have the skills to do the blue run. I know you are up for this one.” Lesson 5-Trust your mentor and plunge into a challenge using your newly acquired tools. With Larry leading and me following, Nata fought her fears and turn by turn mastered the difficult hill. She actually sped up at the end of the run, out of our control, with arms up in victory. It was the end of a great day which will stay with 11-year-old Nata as she faces the future challenges of life knowing she conquered the blue.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind ” (2 Timothy 1-7).
“Have yourself a merry Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.” From our home to yours—-Here are the lyrics to one of the songs I enjoyed playing on the piano while volunteering this past year at the Good Shepherd Hospital. It was a year filled with family, fun, and volunteering.
Our grandchildren are sure making us feel old. Larry affectionately called them “ankle-biters” but now I’m the “ankle-biter” being the shortest of them all. August (17) Jasper (15) Isaak (13) continue to love the Montana snow with passes to Bridger Bowl. They are turning into mountain men with Aaron leading them up steep mountain climbing adventures. August will be going to Germany with class members. Aaron and his wife Lynelle will take off to Maui this February for an Art Workshop/Show and a long-awaited first-time honeymoon.
Geoff and Julie, fortunately, live in Chicagoland. They stay busy with their jobs and raising Elliot (13) and Natalie (11). Elliot plays soccer year-round and both are excellent students while they continue to master the Chinese language. Natalie loves singing with the Chicago Choir and playing the piano. We have enjoyed many soccer games and musical recitals this past year.
In 2017 we traveling to Montana, Florida, and Tennessee. We are thankful to still be able to hike up mountains and participate in the Hilly Hundred Bike Ride. Larry, now a cowboy, volunteers with Brave Heart, an organization that uses horseback riding as therapy for veterans and those with special needs. He also volunteers with his buddies at Conference Point/Lake Geneva Youth Camp where there is never-ending construction work. I still volunteer at the Willow Creek Care Center and continue to write for non-profits. We both started volunteering with Humble Design, a Chicago based organization that turns a house into a home for veterans and single-mothers and their children.
The culmination of this year has been the production of a Nativity Play entitled A Gift to Remember. We wrote it a couple of years ago and each year we add more and refine it. Here’s a picture of some of the cast. It was performed in downtown Wheaton where people from the community and neighboring churches gathered to remember The First Christmas.
Our motto is to Seize the Day and to remember that—-“It’s more blessed to give than to receive” John 13:15. Happy New Year to all my dear friends and family. You can keep up with us during the year on Facebook Sue Schuerr/Larry Schuerr or see my blog www.lifewithlarry.org. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s stay in touch.