Priceless Penny

Author Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf Available from Amazon Priceless Penny chronicles one dog’s amazing journey from lonely stray to pampered pooch. Penny was abandoned by her previous owners and left t…

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Nullifying No

My husband is one of the hardest working people that I know.  He goes above and beyond the normal expectations of his job daily.  And he simply refuses to give up on a project until it is completed.  Maybe that is the reason why I only get to see him on the weekends…

Even though *Cole has remained loyal to the same company for six years, promotions seem to be elusive.  When a position does manage to become available, the job is simply handed to someone that is chosen by the powers that be.  No interviews are even offered to interested employees.  So much for loyalty.

I began to see the warning signs two years ago.  New responsibilities were being piled onto my husband without any talk of compensation.  He also found himself working numerous back to back open to close shifts.  Did I mention that he has a two hour commute?


While Cole is very proud of the work that he does, I can tell that it is simply wearing him down.  He hardly ever gets enough sleep and he certainly does not have any time to relax or unwind.  I told him that it might be time to start looking for other job opportunities.


At first, he seemed excited at the possibility of finding a new job.  Maybe he would finally be able to work a normal schedule.  He might actually be able to spend time with me and our fur babies.  That’s about the time when the no’s started rolling in.


Cole would check his e-mail every morning.  I learned to stop asking if he had any nibbles.  Breakfast time was soon filled with expletive laced rants about how unfair the working world is.

By week two, a definite change had come over Cole.  Instead of being angry, he was something far worse:  defeated.  He had completely given up.  All of the rejections had taken their toll on his self esteem.

I am not going to lie; I do not have much sympathy for him.  I know what you are thinking.  How can I be such a heartless wife?  The truth is, I know the great potential that lies within Cole.  I also know that he has a tendency of being meek.  When life pushes him around, he refuses to push back.


However, I find that the “no’s” in life are what fuel my passion and drive to succeed.  I see every “no” as a challenge.  A chance to shatter all expectations and show the world what I can do.


I refuse to let the “no’s” define me.  When one bank refused to give us a loan for our house, I did not sit in a corner and cry.  I grabbed the phone book and started dialing.  We have now been in our wonderful home for four years.


I wrote a manuscript for a children’s book about our three-legged dog, Penny.  I sent my story to every literary agency that I could find.  The flood gates of rejection soon opened.


Most were just generic canned messages.  Some stated that there isn’t a market for my story.  Others claimed that it did not have a hook (something to grab the reader’s attention).  But something inside of me refused to give up.  I was determined to prove the naysayers wrong.


I decided to self publish my story.  I even went a step further and created my own company:  Theuerkauf’s Tails, LLC.  The illustrations have been tested on children in my target audience group.  The result?  Children love Penny!


The book, Priceless Penny, is going to be published at the end of this month.  The book launch party is being held at Stray Rescue St. Louis.  Penny and her amazing spirit are going to change the way that people view differently-abled animals.


Cole needs to realize that there is great power in the word “no.”  It should never be seen as an ending, but a chance to fight for a new beginning.


*Name has been changed

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Mighty Midget Mascot

For decades, this comical character has adorned the hallowed halls of Freeburg Community High School.  He is a symbol of strength and drive.  The true embodiment of the community’s spirit.  Yet, some are demanding that he be banished forever.

The Little People of America claim this character to be offensive.  He is viewed as a derogatory depiction of people with short stature.  This is not the first time that the group has tried to change the mascot.

Four years ago, the LPA brought this case to the Freeburg School Board.  Representatives explained the story of how the mascot came to be.  In the 1930’s, a journalist coined the phrase “Mighty Midgets” after witnessing the passion and tenacity of a basketball team that was made up of very short members.  The LPA came to the decision that the mascot was not meant to be offensive, but inspirational.

Nothing about the mascot has changed.  So, why now?  How can this mascot suddenly become offensive again after just four years?

What I find offensive is the idea of people who do not even live in the community breezing into town and demanding a change.  Have they ever come to a Midget’s football game?  If they had, they would see the crowd going crazy in the stands.  They would hear the cheering and applause from the Midget’s adoring fans.

The Midget inspires all sports teams to play their hearts out  Even if the opposing team is larger, we face them head on with no fear.  When in the midst of defeat, we never give up.  That is the spirit of the Mighty Midget.

I also find the reasoning behind wanting the change to be lacking.  In the clip that is circulating on TV, a spokesperson for the LPA states that:  “If you ever have a family with dwarfism, you are going to create an uncomfortable situation for them.”  He also went on to say that bullying would ensue.

I fail to see how a cartoon mascot would make someone uncomfortable.  The community would treat such a family the exact same way it treats all of the town’s residents, with respect.  I also feel that the bullying comment is a complete stretch.  Why is our community and its residents being judged based upon our mascot?

This mascot does not affect the livelihood of the Little People.  He does not prevent anyone from living a happy and fulfilled life.  So why is he the target of such hatred?

As I mentioned before, the Midget is a CARTOON character.  He is completely fictional.  Is the LPA planning on attacking other fictional characters as well?  How about going after Disney for those scandalous dwarfs in Snow White?  And they most certainly will want to go after the producers of The Wizard of Oz for the demeaning munchkins, right?  We won’t even mention the despicable Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I feel that the LPA is quick to get offended.  You do not hear of people with speech impediments petitioning Warner Brothers over Porky Pig.  They realize that he is just a character created to bring laughter and joy to others.  No one is laughing at people with speech impediments when they enjoy a Porky Pig cartoon.  Much in the same way that no one is making fun of Little People by maintaining our mascot.

I believe that the Midget represents our community’s heritage.  A heritage that we are proud of.  Why would anyone seek to take that away?

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Wild Weather

Lightning flashes across the sky.  Thunder crashes in the night.  Amidst nature’s fury, a siren pierces the air.  A tornado is coming.

I race to the local storm shelter.  As a volunteer shelter manager for the local Emergency Service and Disaster Agency (E.S.D.A.), it is my responsibility to open the shelter when a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued.

Sadly, many people refuse to take action.  The watches and warnings are viewed as a joke.  Some even leave their safe area in order to film the impending storm.  This is how lives are lost.  In 2011, a devastating tornado ripped through Joplin, MO.  Numerous people perished that day because they did not heed the National Weather Services’ tornado watch that was issued.  Instead, people continued with their outdoor activities until it was too late.

Some are brazen enough to think that they can “out run” a tornado or severe storm.  With winds raging at over 100 miles per hour, throwing debris and destroying all objects in its path, tornadoes can easily overtake a vehicle.

My father has been the E.S.D.A. Coordinator for over 40 years.  Weather awareness has always been important in our family.  I can still remember being scared of the weather alert radio that would blare from my parent’s bedroom.

Weather Alert Radios are devices that are activated via a special tone when a watch or warning is issued.  The device has evolved greatly since I was little.  Not only are portable versions available, but many models can be programmed to only activate for specific weather advisories.

In today’s tech savvy world, there is no excuse for people to ever claim they are “unaware” of impending weather events.  Numerous free weather apps are available on iTunes, Google Playstore, etc.  Many TV stations have their own version of “Storm Mode” where they will not return to scheduled programming until all severe threats have passed the viewing area.

What I cannot understand is why a great number of people call the TV stations to complain.  I recently watched a meteorologist on Channel 4 apologize profusely for interrupting an episode of “Big Brother.”  Seriously?  People are more concerned about a faked “reality” show than they are about keeping their families (and themselves) safe?

Even with all of the advanced technology, there is no substitute for common sense.  People have complained to my dad that they cannot hear the outdoor warning sirens from inside their home.  The key word is OUTDOOR.  These sirens are not meant to penetrate walls, basements, etc.  They are designed to be heard OUTSIDE.

One resident became furious when he found out that a new siren was going to be installed in his subdivision.  His issue?  He claimed that he moved there for “peace and quiet.”  I suppose he is not concerned about the safety of his neighbors.

In 1968, a tornado ravaged our town.  My dad decided that something needed to be done.  He gathered his friends and went door-to-door gathering signatures to petition the mayor for outdoor warning sirens.  Definitely not your typical high schooler.

Thousands of signatures later, the mayor purchased two sirens.  Through grants, my dad was later able to secure two additional sirens.  We are also designated as a StormReady Community by the National Weather Service.

Being weather aware is crucial, especially for those of us living in Tornado Alley.  Remember that a watch means that conditions are favorable for severe weather/tornadoes.  A warning means that the severe weather/tornado is happening now.  In the words of Channel 5 meteorologist Scott Connell, “Don’t be a statistic.”

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Meltdown Maggie

The change had been a long time coming.  At first, I attempted to turn a blind eye to the things that *Maggie was doing and saying.  I attributed it all to a phase, like a mid-life crisis.  Now it is very plain to see that she will never be the person that she used to be.

Maggie had always been a sweet, caring, fun-loving person.  She was a beyond loyal friend willing to lend a hand even when she wasn’t asked.  As the years passed, Maggie slowly began to narrow her focus of the world onto one thing:  herself.

Instead of being the vibrant, confident individual that I had known and loved, she suddenly turned into a narcissist.  Maggie began needlessly comparing herself to others.  I still cannot understand why.

She is blessed to call one of the most amazing men on the planet her husband.  This man showers her with jewelry and flowers for every holiday and anniversary.  Even the obscure holidays that really have nothing to do with love.

I received a call from Maggie last December.  She was completely enraged.  Imagine my shock when her complaint was that the Christmas flowers she received from her husband “were not the right ones.”  Yes, she was whining about the size of the bouquet, the color of the flowers, the type of vase.  I was blown away.  What type of person complains about receiving flowers?

That is also about the time that Maggie became addicted to fashion and home decorating magazines.  She would dreamily leaf through the glossy pages and decide that certain “upgrades” needed to be made to her home.  And she even went so far as to have a custom piece of glass made to cover her dining room table to “prevent scratches.”

Suddenly, she was allowing the magazines to dictate her life.  If “they” said that purple was the “it” color, she would immediately run to the mall and purchase a purple blouse, jacket, purse and shoes.  So much for being an individual.

Her life had turned into a never ending episode of Keeping up with the Kardashian.  She recently flaunted a new necklace that she found at an art show.  Maggie then mentioned that *Janet, a fellow co-worker, had a similar one that was bigger.  As if this was not bad enough, she attempted to push her snobby feelings off on me.

A visit to my house is now a critiquing session.  She will point out “flaws” and give her expert opinion on how I can make things better.  Of course, all of her ideas cost massive amounts of money, which we do not have.

She then hones her critical eye on me.  Starting with my straight hair and ending with the comfortable Keds on my feet, I am made vividly aware of how off trend I am.  Honestly, I cannot stand half of the clothes that Maggie wears.  She has become obsessed with cheetah prints!  But I understand that we both have different tastes.

What I find to be amusing is the fact that Maggie claims not to care what other people think about her, yet she appears to be desperately seeking the seal of approval from the world.  And my eyeshadow that she absolutely loathes?  I get complimented on every time that I wear it.  Who’s the trend setter now?

Every conversation suddenly turns into a one-woman show.  I had been telling Maggie for months that I was in the process of publishing my first children’s book, Priceless Penny (  When I brought up the subject a few weeks ago, she gave me a very smug reply:  “Oh, you’re self publishing?”

More hurtful than her disbelief in me was the fact that she had been tuning me out for quite some time.  I always gave her my undivided attention.  Why was she not doing the same for me?

In the midst of trying to understand why Maggie was emulating a housewife from Atlanta, I made a huge discovery.  She was not truly happy.  Despite taking two vacations every year, shopping every weekend and going to restaurants almost every night of the week, something was still missing.

I believe that the greatest difference between myself and Maggie is that I am living in my truth.  I love the person that I have become and I am not going to change just to “fit in.”  Living the life of a social chameleon must be exhausting because you constantly have to change.

Something that Maggie told me at dinner one evening really opened my eyes.  She said, “What happens when *Larry retires?  I can’t see us meeting friends in a restaurant or having people over to the house.”

That is when it hit me.  Maggie was living out a pattern instilled by her mother.  Maggie’s mom was constantly worried that her house, furniture, dishware, etc. was never good enough, so she refused to have people over.  Now Maggie does not feel that she is good enough.

By this point I am sure you are wondering why I have not simply cut her out of my life.  How can you have a relationship with someone who is only focused on themselves?  And who wants to deal with all of that baggage?  The truth is that Maggie is my mother.

Shocking, isn’t it?  The person that I have spent almost my entire life with now appears to have become a complete stranger.  I have begun to wonder if I ever knew the real Maggie at all.

What terrifies me the most is the sheer idea that I will become like her.   While my husband and I cannot afford to do half the things that my mother can, we are very much happy.  We love the life that we have made together.

My self worth does not come from the opinions of others.  It comes from inside of me.  I have never placed great value on material things.  Truthfully, I would rather spend my money (what little I have) on something meaningful, like donating items to animal shelters.

As crazy as it sounds, I am thankful that I have noticed my mother’s transformation.  It has awakened something inside of me, making me more aware of the numerous blessings in my life.  I have also become more vigilant about preventing her habits from influencing me and the decisions that I make.

It is my sincere hope that one day Maggie will be able to see beyond the mirror.  There is a world filled with people who love her just the way that she is.

*Names have been changed

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Bad Business

The sound began in late November 2014.  My husband and I tried to ignore it.  With each day, the sound not only became more audible, but more visual.  Seeing the standing water in our bathtub was the final straw.

We had tried the “duck tape” fix as I like to call it.  Even my wonderful father-in-law came over with his extensive tool collection to see if we could be spared from having to call a plumber.  No such luck.

In February of this year, it was revealed to us that our hot and cold knobs had gone bad.  The seals were cracked, which explained why the water would never fully shut off.  We also discovered that this was the reason for the water never maintaining its proper temperature.  If you ran nothing but hot water, you received a lukewarm soak at best.

I sat nervously in the living room as the plumber went straight to work.  Loud banging noises as well as the unfamiliar smell of solder filled our house.  In three hours, we had a new, top of the line faucet and shower head (with adjustable settings).  Guess what else we had?  A hole in our bathroom wall leading from the top of the shower head to the base of the faucet.  The plumbing company that we used does not patch the hole or do any type of enclosure work.

So, the search began for someone to complete the project.  My mom had suggested a long time friend of the family.  In fact, he had even worked on their own shower enclosure.  He came over right away to take measurements.  We were told that we would receive several samples via e-mail by that Friday.  The e-mail never came.  My husband diligently called twice a week for two weeks, leaving messages each time.  Our calls have STILL not been returned.

We decided to take matters into our own hands and headed to Lowe’s.  After finding a simple (and affordable) enclosure, we asked one of the workers about scheduling an installation.  We were informed that Lowe’s no longer handles installations, but contracts through other local companies.  The worker printed off a list of their top five groups and told us that we would need to get in touch with them.

Matt called the first company on the list the very next day.  The scheduler made an appointment for us to receive a free estimate.  *Fred was so nice and polite.  He was actually the person that had installed our toilet years ago.  We showed him a photo of the enclosure that we wanted.  He told us that he was going up to Lowe’s later in the day and would look at our top choice and call back that Friday with a quote.  Three weeks later, we have STILL not heard from Fred.  Matt called and left several messages on his cell phone and messages on the company phone.

We began trying the other companies listed on the sheet.  One told us that they charge $50 just for an estimate.  No, thank you!  Still another told us that they don’t go “all the way out to Freeburg.”  I grabbed the phone book and headed straight to the yellow pages.  My husband reported that the very first number he called also stated that Freeburg is “too far away.”  And this coming from a company with a Belleville phone number!  We are literally 20 minutes away from Belleville, but you would think we live in Siberia.

Matt was able to schedule two plumbers this week.  A wonderful man from Spengler showed up promptly when he said he would and treated me like royalty.  Another plumber was supposed to come today between 9-11:00 a.m.  Notice I used the words supposed to.  Why?  HE NEVER SHOWED UP!  And he didn’t bother to call.

I like to think of myself as a very caring and understanding person.  If there is a sick family member, I totally understand needing to reschedule.  We had some pretty strong storms and even a tornado rip through parts of Illinois yesterday.  I would not have been surprised to hear that the plumber’s house may have suffered damage that needed immediate attention.  Instead, I received nothing.

What I would like to know is how are these businesses managing to stay in business?  You cannot tell someone that you will give them a quote and then simply never get back to them.  This is known as lying (something that you are taught not to do in kindergarten).  And not returning a potential client’s phone calls is rude and unprofessional.  Not to mention standing up a potential client with no given notice.

While I have purposely not listed the names of the offending companies, I would like to praise the two that actually showed up and did what was promised:  Spengler and Bell-O.  Even though Bell-O was almost a week late in giving us our quote, we did receive one.  We have a second meeting scheduled for next week with Spengler when the quote will be presented.

As my dearly departed Grandpa would say:  “The joys of home ownership.”

Will it ever be fixed?

*Name has been changed

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Witchy Wendy

The clock slowly ticked away.  In exactly five minutes, my favorite T.V. show would begin.  I set my phone on silent so that I would not be disturbed.  I was ready!  Or so I thought…

Wendy Williams has been my favorite T.V. show hostess for years.  I love how her show is always positive and upbeat.  There are no “baby daddies” or women throwing chairs at each other.  Just juicy gossip about the stars of Hollywood along with some fashion, make-up and cooking tips.

She had just queued up a picture of Mariah Carey with her new boyfriend, Brett Ratner.  Wendy went on to say that she did not trust Brett.  Why?  Her exact words:  “If you have never touched a drop [of alcohol] or drug in your life, something is wrong with you…”

I was stunned, then outraged.  I, at 30 years of age, have never drank alcohol (except for Communion wine) or done drugs.  And why does Wendy consider this a bad attribute?  She claims that “people need to have fun.”

When I think of having fun, being wasted or high does not come to my mind.  I think of going on shopping trips, vacations, reading, playing with my fur babies, spending time with my husband, etc.  I want to make memories that I want to re-live, not ones that I am praying everyone on the Internet forgets about.

I have always lead a clean and healthy lifestyle.  Here are just a few of the numerous benefits of doing so:

1. I met and married the love of my life (who has also never drank or done drugs).

2. I graduated Suma Cum Laude from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

3. I have adopted five wonderful dogs and two mischievous cats who fill my life with joy.

4. I have published a poetry book entitled “More Than Words.”

5. I created a self-publishing company called Theuerkauf’s Tails, LLC.

To me, that does not sound like a boring life.  And I did not need to be influenced by substances in order to achieve my dreams.

Let’s take a look at what kind of “fun” you can experience if you are a frequent drinker/drug user:

1. Alcohol poisoning, in which you could die

2. Suffering from a hangover in which you spend an entire day throwing up and have a massive headache

3. Drug overdose, in which you could die

4. Drunk driving, in which you could die or kill/injure someone else

5. Getting arrested for DUI and spending the night in jail and possibly pay a hefty fine

6. Damaging your brain and other vital organs from frequent use

I was fortunate enough to have parents who instilled things called values and morals early on in my life.  By the time I reached high school, I knew exactly who I was and never pretended to be someone else.  And I still had a large group of friends who accepted and loved me for who I was (and still am).

Even people who simply dabble in drinking and drugs can suffer horrible consequences.  *Erica, a former co-worker, told me a harrowing story about her brother.  He had been drinking at a bar one evening and decided to walk home.  On his way, he was hit and killed by a drunk driver.  Even though walking home was the responsible thing to do, he ended up paying with his life.  Had he not gotten into the habit of frequenting bars, he may still be alive today.

My opinion of Wendy Williams has completely changed since viewing this episode.  I feel as if she is saying that people who have not drank or done drugs are not worthy of her time and attention and that she will always be suspicious of such people.  Why is she afraid of wholesome individuals?  Do we make her feel guilty about her alcohol and drug littered past?

Please understand that I am not saying that those of us who have not drank/done drugs are better than those that have.  What I am saying is that we should not be ridiculed or mistrusted because of our values and beliefs.  Further more, I am concerned that young girls may look up to Wendy as a role model. This is NOT the kind of wisdom that she should be imparting on today’s youth.

I will no longer watch the clock in anticipation.  Instead, I will do something more important with my life, such as publishing my first children’s book.  That’s how I’m doin’, Wendy!

*name has been changed

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