Reflecting on our Lost Love Ones

The words of Norman Maclean in the book A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT have haunted me since I first saw the movie.” As an old man, he wrote about his loved ones from the past.  “The RIVER was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.” His memories stir in the ripples of time and rise up while he casts his rod on the banks of the Big Blackfoot River.

It made me think of all those who I have loved and lost, and how they have impacted my life.   My father had encouraging words, my mother gave me the gift of music, my brother taught me to stoically face adversity when his cancer was uncurable, and my sister’s words and laughter are with me daily.   

Like Norman, we may not have understood our loved ones thoroughly. Often, we may have cast a rod to help them only to discover that the ones we love the most are hardest to help.   

We can look back to the basement of our time and reflect on how they have shaped who we are today, and how God has used them in our lives.  Like fish rising to the surface at sunset, they speak to us from the roof of timelessness.

The Magic Kingdom Get Away

I feel like a fairy princess this morning waking up in my magical kingdom in the Black Walnut B&B located in Sturgeon Bay, WI. The 1890 house with each multiple rooms decorated and themed is freshly painted and newly renovated while keeping the original veneer. Each room is equipped with its own jacuzzi which even my 6ft 2in husband could comfortably enjoy despite his recent shoulder replacement. He was so happy to be completely relaxed and pain free.  The jacuzzi faces a mirror for the romantic couple wishing to be framed.  We slept in a very comfortable queen-sized bed adorned with blue and white fluffy pillows and blankets.  While looking for a place in Door, a friend suggested we call the Chamber of Commerce in Sturgeon Bay since there was no place to stay in the Upper Peninsula.  It was reasonably priced with a military discount in a high demand season. Queen Amanda, the owner, greeted us each morning with wonderful breakfast which included ample fresh fruit garnished with Greek yogurt. We dined on the deck outside our room where the sun beamed in and birds sang beautiful songs.  What a wonderful place to get away and spend quality time with my Prince. Sturgeon Bay was less crowded than the Upper Peninsula and easier to find a good restaurant for dinner. There was also interesting stores and live plays close by.

The Black Walnut Kingdom
Our beautiful Fairy Princess Room

It was a short drive to Whitefish Dunes where we spent several hours. I walked along the beach and enjoyed watching children play; it our first time on a beach this summer. We checked out on Sunday morning with warm memories of our stay in the Magic Kingdom refreshed and ready for our volunteer assignment with Humble Design/Chicago on Monday.

Fading Summer 2022

I wake up in the morning to the sound of birds, humming birds are at our feeders and go from flower to flower at the plants Larry planned. Each day is a gift as the days get shorter.

Larry had shoulder replacement surgery and struggles at times to find a comfortable position to sleep in. On the otherhand, I usually sleep well and wake up early to grasp the best of the day for me. But Larry still would use each day to one handedly complete tasks around the house like mowing the lawn and feeding the birds while up on a ladder. As he got better, he continued his volunteering by making Welcome Home plaques and serving at Humble Design, Adaptive Adventures and Habitat for Humanity. I marvel at his dedication in traveling miles to help others with the high prices of gas.

visiting grandson Jasper and daughter Deborah

When I knew he could easily take care of himself, I hopped on a plane to Bozeman MT, and spent 8 days with my Montana family. It was such a delightful time to go with my son, Aaron to his workouts at Cross-Fit at 7 PM. Afterwards, he made me a delicious foamy coffee latte that gave me energy for the day ahead. Aaron and Lynelle have built an art studio and apartment in their yard. I’m so impressed with how they have used the internet to learn how to do difficult tasks like plumbing, etc.

Deb and I went hiking to beautiful places in Montana and enjoyed a lunch with her friend, Bradford, who is an actor and teacher at MSU. We talked about theatre and I shared about directing plays and teaching high school English.

Each day I was there, the mornings and evenings would be cool with the sun becoming intense during the day. A highlight to my week was seeing Shakespeare in the Park’s Twelfth Night at Chico, a beautiful resort in Pray, MT.

The frosting on the cake, was the time I spent with my grandsons, August, Jasper and Isaak. They are young men now with a love for karate and the outdoors. They are so close to one another. I took a walk with Isaak, the youngest of the three, to Yellowstone River. As I absorbed the beauty of the place and listened to the roar of waters, I became emotional about such a special place to visit. I wished it was closer.

As much as I enjoyed my vacation to MT, I missed my husband, my home and friends. There is beauty in almost every place we visit if we can look at it with fresh eyes. I love, love, love summer and I’m holding on to each beautiful day that comes our way. We are so blessed.

Christian Nataionalim is in direct Opposition to the Teaching of Jesus

“Normal Christian political engagement is humble, loving, and sacrificial; it rejects the idea that Christians are entitled to primacy of place in the public square or that Christians have a presumptive right to continue their historical predominance in American culture. Today, Christians should seek to love their neighbors by pursuing justice in the public square, by promoting religious liberty, fostering racial justice, protecting the rule of law, and honoring constitutional processes. That agenda is different from promoting Christian culture, Western heritage, or Anglo-Protestant values.”(Christianity Today)

God calls us to live a life embracing the tenants of Matthew 25: Jesus said in illustration, ” For I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick or in prison and you visited me. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, YOU DID FOR ME!”

This is our life mission as a couple—to live out these tenants on our short journey called LIFE! We also have found that true happiness comes when you reach out and help someone else. It’s then that you forget yourself and your worries about what others think of you.

True joy comes with living the life God called you to live. He said, “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” (John 10:27)

You will find Him when you seek Him with your whole heart.

Music Brings Me to Ukraine

On Thursdays, I volunteer in the lobby of Good Shepherd Hospital playing background piano music during the staff lunch hour. I was playing the song, The Shallow, when Olga asked if she could videotape me playing the song. We got to talking and I found out she was from Eastern Europe and had a job in the Ophthalmology department at the hospital.  She needed help in English to pass an exam. I said, “I can help you since I used to teach ESL.” We got together about three times before the pandemic hit. She told me about her desire to have a baby, but that she had to be cancer free for 5 years before she could safely conceive. It has been four years now of being cancer free.

When the war in Ukraine hit on February 24, 2022, I thought of Olga and I still had her in my contacts. When I called, I did not know for sure where she was from. She called me back in tears telling me how her mother lived in the beautiful city of Kharkiv in Ukraine known for the arts and exquisite buildings.  Her home town was being bombed and she feared for her mother, relatives and friends’ lives. She sent me a video of what the town looked like before and after the bombings. This was a first hand view of the war I had only seen on the news. My heart went out to Olga and her family.  Her mother has decided to stay in Ukraine,  but her husbands’ family of four came to live with them in April, 2022. There are now 7 people living in a small apartment in Buffalo Grove. The youngest is a 15 year old high school student named Nevor.

Larry and I decided to meet and gift them at their apartment one evening. We sat around their kitchen table hearing their stories and weeping with them. We tried to figure out how to help connect them to World Relief and Willow Creek’s Care Center. Not only did the whole family come to the Care Center for food, but Olga has applied to volunteer at the Care Center where they need her language skills for the many Ukrainian and Russian clients who will be entering their doors for food, clothing and medical help.

We had all seven of them over to our house on Sunday, May 29th. The men helped with lawn and tree removal in our yard.  The woman earlier helped clean my house. They wanted to demonstrate their gratitude. They are hard-working and talented individuals.  One is a nurse, the other has a degree in computer science and film directing, another has a factory job and an on-line business.  The youngest is a student at Buffalo Grove High School. They are quickly learning English.We had a team meeting and lunch at my house recently to figure out ways we can pool our talents to help Ukraine in its fight for democracy and for the needs of the incoming immigrants. So far, they are very touched by the welcome Americans have given them.  

A Storyworth episode/ Julie as a toddler

Julie was always a happy, energetic, strong little one. She was born with curly red hair and I was certain I had the next Shirley Temple or Annie. I remember when Gloria Rendleman came over for a visit and seeing Julie with a cute new hairdo with curls circling around her face, she said,” She’s so cute, I’m going to cry.” Cindy Ginther, also a red-head, wanted to adopt her.

Deb and Julie were the best of friends, almost like twins. Julie was brave and outgoing while Deb was quieter and more introspective. Julie had a laugh that would fill the neighborhood as she wrestled down the boys. One time, they decided to go outside right after their bath. I let them run around naked while I answered the phone. I then got another call from a neighbor saying, “Sue, look outside your girls are going down the slide butt naked.” Yikes.

I remember one time after being up late with Larry that I heard her walk down the stairs to the kitchen. I thought to myself, I better get up and see what my 2-year-old is up to. But it was quiet so I slept a little longer before I came down the stairs to see her covered with powdered sugar. A friend had given us a dozen donuts and Julie had taken a bite out of most of them leaving her and the kitchen a royal mess. I looked at her and said, “Julie, you won’t need any breakfast this morning.” Speaking of breakfast, Larry and I went on a ski trip and left Deb and Julie with Barb and Ken. They fed them pancakes and Julie was able to eat as many as 240 Ib. Ken.

Dad would place Deb and Julie on the dresser and have them jump to him. After Deb jumped, Julie would not hesitate to jump almost immediately afterwards showing her total trust in her dad to catch her. Her spirit of adventure was evident at a young age. Even though Deb was 15 months older, she insisted on doing everything Deb did.

We went on a picnic with a Jesus People group and the gnats were buzzing around Julie’s nose. I had to take her to our VW bus to keep her safe from them. I took her to the doctor the next day, and after some time he found that she had something up in her nose that was rotting. When he removed it, all was well. We never knew what it was. but it brought back memories of my mother putting her finger in a meat grinder out of curiosity and of me trying to make my little iron hot like my mother’s by transferring the heat with my hand.

We loved to take the kids camping at Kettle Moraine and we have pictures of Julie shirtless on the Merry-go-round. We would sleep under the stars and play Hide-and-Seek and Mother May I. Dad and I loved playing with our kids at all their ages.

I remember one trip to Kentucky to see the Mammoth Cave. Dad had a bout of unexpected diarrhea and had to go immediately. He used Julie’s little potty I brought with us in our VW Conversion Van. The rest of the way, Julie chimed in saying, “Julie’s potty, Daddy’s potty” which gave us a lot of giggles.

At a restaurant, we sang songs to entertain our kids while waiting for our food. We just finished singing Six Little Ducklings when the waitress arrived. Julie said, “My daddy calls my mommy “Wibble Wobble”. Dad had names for all of us. Deb was Bear and Julie was Hulia.

Julie never talked baby talk. She could speak full sentences at an early age. She would grow up to be an excellent student, singer, actress, guitar player and a strong and self-assured leader.

Do you hear their Mourning?

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

Happy Easter/Passover 2022

I heard a flock of sand hill cranes overhead beaconing the end of winter. Sitting on my deck, I see budding trees, the crocuses and my new rhubarb plant. Yes, what looked like death is certainly now alive. Nature is such a beautiful picture of the resurrection of Christ. In the background, I love listening to Handel’s Messiah and the song, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”. It is the perfect Easter message.I am so thankful that Cornelius existed in Christ’s time, because he gave us a picture of God’s love. Cornelius was a centurion (soldier) in the Roman Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing. But he was not a follower of Christ at that time. It says in Act 10 that he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. As a result, an angel spoke to him and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. He was then instructed to get in touch with Peter who was visiting Simon, the tanner. At about the same time, Peter was praying and had the same vision three times where he was instructed to eat meat that was forbidden to the Jew. He then had a knock on his door and was instructed to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. When Peter saw that God was opening the door to the Gentiles, he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who reverence him and do what it right. Then he told them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. As a result, before he finished speaking—the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them.We are thankful for the Jews who faithfully and accurately penned the Old Testament with the prophecies of Christ throughout. (See Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for examples). Also reading Acts 10- I see that God hears the prayers and cries of the non-Christian and answers them if they seek Him with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) Be a true follower of Jesus Christ and follow His teachings {Matthew 25:31 and not the so-called Christianity of today that is alienating so many. For example, I looked up at the sunset and called out to a God as a freshman in college. I didn’t think He existed. But I was looking for meaning and purpose in my life. I told God if he was there, He could have my life. Then I added, “Make something wonderful happen, if you truly exist.” That night, I met Larry at a dance—-my soul mate for life. Together we have seen the hand of God on our own lives, our families’ lives, and so many others. How he speaks to you may be entirely different. Just like nature is filled with a diversity of flowers and trees, so God has many ways to call his own to himself. Most of us have a thirst for more than this life. We know deep inside that the end of life is not the end. It’s written in our hearts.

24Lily Tang, Jerry Kublank and 22 others6 CommentsLikeCommentShare

Can you trace your Roots?

Ancestry Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Go to Kettle Moraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips on how to live a long and fulfilled life