Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's new?

Photo: Murphy and I wish you a humdinger of a new year.


LuLu-ism #41: Less yapping. More pedaling.

The hubs and I are still Christmas-ing in Memphis but will be moseying towards Wisconsin on Friday. LuLu, my pink bike, awaits, as does my elliptical, Hildegard, my exercise ball, Belle, and my stationary bike, Rusty. I fear they are not pleased with, shall we say, how much territory the *Cowgirl is beginning to take up.

With that said, I feel some New Year’s resolutions coming on. How about you? Are you a goal setter? Do you have a hankering to reinvent yourself when the New Year timer gets reset?

I do. And, I make no excuses for it. I like fresh starts. Wiping the slate clean. And, beginnings. So here goes:

Health. I didn’t start riding LuLu just to look fashionable pedaling down the road on a pink bike. I’m trying to get my health back. So, more LuLu and friends. Less excuses.

Balance. I need more of it. For every tear that falls, a good belly laugh is in order. God expects me to take care of myself (hence- LuLu), however, I must also be on the look out for a hand that needs held, a limp that needs a strong shoulder, and a lonely silhouette that needs light. I want to sit at the kids’ table more… and the Lord’s. I want to be more focused… and spend as much time as I can discovering bunnies and tigers in funny shaped clouds.

Learning. The Bible. A novel. A poem. An essay. Fiction. Non-Fiction. Literary. Humor. What do the best of these have in common? Bits of God can be found in them all.

Family. Cherish is the word.

Reverence. God made me and that little brown seedy part of a yellow coneflower. He expects something out of both of us. God put the whale in the ocean and the baby in his mama’s tummy. Both tickle his fancy. He decorated the earth with roses and dogwoods. He’s still working on Heaven even as we speak. His trees fashioned a temple and a cross. I need to remember all these things more.

Well that gets us started. Let’s think of more as the year progresses, shall we?

Happy New Year, dear friends. Aren’t we going to have fun in 2012?


*my behind

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Hi, Ya'll!

I'm sorry that I'm a little behind in posting. The hubs and I are still in Tennessee with family. I hope you have enjoyed a Christmas as sweet as the Cleveland/Doughty clan. We've had good food, tender moments, laughter and now new memories to treasure. A new tradition added this year was Skyping. With our kids, grand kids, and a niece & nephew-in-law scattered to the four winds, it was such a tickle to huddle around the computer screen and take our turns chatting with those missing around our tree this year- a 21st Century-kind of family reunion you might say.

I won't keep you. Why spend time with me when you can hug up on someone dear to you.

Bright idea: During this season what is the one memory/experience you will hold the dearest? Once you've decided, why don't you write it down in 25 words or less and tuck it into your Bible or another favorite book that you know you will be reading this year. Then sometime in 2012 when you come across it on some unsuspecting day, you will get to savor it all over again. Fun, huh?

I'll see you on Thursday and we'll have a little chat about New Year's Resolutions. In the mean time, feel free to enjoy a few holiday shots from the Clevelands.

Talk to ya'll soon,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Photo: The Cleveland Tree- 2010


Like most of us, I love Christmas and all it represents. From celebrating the Baby Jesus to gift giving, I love it all. One of my favorite fun things is the tree. Without even trying, the Clevelands built all kinds of family traditions around the Christmas tree itself.

First, the selection: If something needed to be pretty, matched, or a perfect size all the men in my family lost interest. So, while I was wading through rows and rows of evergreens trying to making up my mind, my sons and their father were darting around the tree lot throwing snowballs at each other and making fun of me. And yes it’s true, more times than not, I always went back and picked the first one I saw. It was a tradition.

The food: We simply could not decorate the tree without woofing down chocolate milk and donuts during the process. It was a tradition.

The music: Disco Christmas 70s Edition. It was a tradition.

The lights: Tangled. It was dad’s job to untangle, check to see what strands still worked and then wrap them around the tree with donut in mouth. It was a tradition.

The videographer: It was always our oldest son. His amusing commentary on all our shenanigans was a tradition- albeit always a potentially embarrassing one.

The tree topper: A Styrofoam Frosty, the snowman with a nose that lit up. He is now sitting atop his 40th tree. It’s a tradition.

Now that there are seven grandchildren who have joined in the fun with their own favorite donut request at tree trimming time, all of the above traditions have become even more precious. Of course, I know that the tree, be it a frasier, a balsam or whatever, it's just a tree. But, those dear wrestling, teasing, donut-breathing family members who dance around that tree every year are what truly matter. Without them, Frosty can just stayed in the box with the rest of the decorations.

Remember--traditions are the stuff families are made of, but families are the stuff hearts are made of.

Enjoy your traditions. Treasure your families.

Merry Christmas, dear ones,


Monday, December 19, 2011

Enjoy Now

Photo: While the Cleveland's holiday trips weren't quite as adventurous as the Griswold's, we ran a close second...


Well, Gary and I are on the road as I write this. I left LuLu, and Hildegard, the sweatmaker, Belle, the ball and Rusty, the sidekick in their places at home. I hope they get all rested up, because after Christmas I fear I will need them more than ever. Peanut butter balls, sugar cookies, pecan pie, egg nog (lots of egg nog), and other holiday goodies will definitely take their toll on my waistline and thighs. But oh, how sweet the partaking will be.

We’re on our way to Memphis where my parents live. I don’t care how old you get, there’s nothing like going ‘home’ for the holidays. I guess I’ll always be my mama and daddy’s girl. And, yes, I know how fortunate I am at age sixty to still have my parents with me.

As we travel these roads that I know by heart, memories roll in front of my eyes of Christmases past on this same stretch of highway. Picture Gary and I and our three sons in a Nissan station wagon, the size of small raft. The little boys are in their seat belts in the back and trying their best not to touch each other. On their laps are assorted action figures from Darth Vader to GI Joe. All kinds of sound effects are drowning out the Christmas music their dad is trying to listen to on the tape deck. Yes, I said, ‘tape deck’. Remember those? As we travel down the road, we know it’s just a matter of time until chaos breaks out. After all, Darth Vader isn’t known for his peacekeeping skills. And, then it happens…. “He touched me!” He’s on my side of the car!” “He stole my guy!” “Cut it out!” Mooommm!”

Ah, yes, family holiday travel. I remember it well. There was not a nook or cranny in the car that did not have something stuffed into it… besides the three boys with wrapped presents under their feet and over their heads, there was always Otis, the poodle, trying to nap atop the rubble. Crumbs from some snack were everywhere, as were assorted kicked off shoes and smelly socks. Our holiday trips were sixteen hours long, but felt more like three/four days. But you know what? I wouldn’t have traded them for the world. It is one of those memories I keep safe and close as if it is spun gold and beyond any earthly value.

Today, our back seat is pretty orderly. Oh, there are still scattered Christmas presents and a sleeping dog-- this time he’s a white fluffy kind of dog named Murphy. He has the whole back seat to call his own. He knows not what a fortunate pampered pooch he is.

Cherish whatever you’re experiencing now. Whether it be a back seat full of little boys fussing, or a noisy cluttered house full of holiday sounds and aromas, or adult children going ‘home’ to love up on and honor their aging parents. It all goes by way too quickly. Enjoy now. Squeeze every drop of joy out of it… and give thanks for such a precious gift.

Merry Christmas, dear ones…


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Joy to the World- Part Four


I don't believe that Jesus Christ was born on December 25. I believe that if you did a little historical snooping, you'd find that date isn't anywhere close. But I do believe in Jesus. I do believe he was born, sometime, and that there is probably a really good reason why we don't know the exact date.

It's not the date that is important, it's the event. Isn't it amazing how just the thought of a little baby, dressed in simple wrapping, asleep in a hewn-out trough over 2,000 years ago, can still cause us to be more courteous and thoughtful today?

In remembering His birth, hopefully, I will remember His life. Jesus not only toddled, He walked on water. His mother fed him. He fed five thousand. As a baby, He cried when He was in need. As an adult, He prayed. As an infant, He snuggled on His dad's lap. As a man, children snuggled on His. As a baby, He needed. As a Savior, He gave. As a child, He played hide & seek. As God, He doesn't.

His birth was a miracle. His life was a challenge. His death was a sacrifice. His resurrection was a triumph.

Jesus is to be celebrated on all four counts, not one day a year, but everyday, with joy...great, great, joy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joy to the World- Part Three


LuLu-ism # 40: Ever sit at the 'kids table' with your cousins and giggle so much that milk came out your nose? Ain't nothing like family.

Family is one of the main focuses of the Christmas season. Once we become the adult responsible for all that Christmas joy, the pressure is on to make everything just right. We want our children to appreciate what we give them and our parents to appreciate who we are. We want the gathering of the clan to be pleasant and as Hallmark-esque as possible. An unrealistic goal for sure, but short of a miracle, how can we bring this about?

Simple. Over-look what people really don't mean. Think of Aunt Sally's comments on the dry turkey and tacky tablecloth as much a family tradition as mistletoe and holly. Accept some things as fact and then relax about them. Your children may not appear to be very thankful as they rip open their presents, but when the wrapping paper dust settles, you'll get your hug.

Remember family are people too. They come with flaws and favors just like your friends. They are the people who have known you all your life. Aunts who once held you on their laps; Uncles who taught you how to fish; Cousins with whom you shared secrets; Fathers who worked long hours just to feed you; Mothers who gave up all to sing you to sleep; and children who depend on you. Your family members may not know you as well as you'd like them too, but are there any better people on this earth who should?

Family. They are your strength, conscience, comfort and sometimes your biggest challenge. Over-look them. Accept them. Love them. It's the only way to go.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joy to the World- Part Two

Note to self: Do not wear Capri workout pants to ride bike when it is nineteen degrees outside... fool. P.S. It would also be a good idea if I'd wear socks as well.

Yeah, LuLu and I have been riding this week, but I have a new rule. If I can hear my wind chimes clanging, then it's too windy to ride. Well, friends, here's my second installment from my old column writing days. I dedicate this one to you. Thank you for spending some time with me each week since April. I look forward to our new year together and wish you and yours a most blessed Christmas....

Joy to the World- Part Two

I saw a picture the other day in a magazine that has really stuck with me. It was of a group of people sitting in a living room. Ties were loosened, shoes were kicked off and pleasure was written on every face. The scene was extremely intimate.

The enjoyment of being with friends can be one of the blessings of this time of the year.Because of family commitments, we sometimes feel a little bit guilty taking some time out to be with non-related people. Don't! Don't let the season get by without a gathering of friends.

Can there be joy without friends? Can there be friendship without shared thoughts? Talk, don't just entertain. In our "Entertain Me" world, sometimes communication gets lost. TV, DVDs, and games take the place of conversation. We are afraid of lulls, so we push buttons, roll dice, or watch movies… whatever to keep from actually talking.

TALK! In a room unencumbered by distractions, share what matters most to you. Allow your friends to discover what really winds your clock. And by all means, tell these people how much you love them.

Good friends, good conversation, laughter, and shared lives—what can compare?

This season, don't just party--partake in friendship. What joy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Joy to the World- Part One


I wrote a weekly newspaper column for seventeen years, titled FOOTSTEPS & HEARTBEATS. I stopped writing the column when I started writing books. There were only so many hours in the day and something had to go. But, I remember a particular series of columns I wrote back then that still resonates today. So, during this holiday season LuLu and I would like to share them with you. Are you game? LuLu thinks I should do something productive with my time, since I’ve left her alone in the garage for way too long. So, I’ve spiffed them up a bit and here’s the first one:

Joy To the World- Part One

I wrote a column once where a source was neglected to be mentioned. When I saw the article in print I got angry. I blamed the newspaper. However, when I looked back at my original article I found I was the one to blame. I had forgotten to include the source.

Why are we so quick to blame others for something gone wrong? At this time of the year when joy and peace should reign in our lives, I''m afraid they can actually have a short rule.

Oh, we start off fine. Shopping, baking, and trimming the tree are exciting. But as the weeks wear on, the strain of it all causes us to snap, crackle, and blame. It is the store clerk's fault that the customer in front of you just bought the last bottle of grandma's favorite cologne. As a shop clerk, it's the customer's fault that the item he picked doesn't have the price tag on it and now a price check has to be sought as your line begins to grow with impatient shoppers with children with candy canes stuck in their hair and… well you get the picture.

'Tis the season to be rude to people we don't think matter, like the guy who sits at the stop light a bit too long after it turns green. Honk!

"Please" and “Thank you" are in season all year. We are hustling and bustling to make the holiday season special for the ones we love. What we must remember is that it isn't the trappings of Christmas that make it special… it's the people. If we have to step on someone’s face to create joy in our own small worlds, then the price is too high, don’t you think?

Joy is people.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Irregular People

Photo: Does this lady look irregular?


LuLu-ism #38: Love’em but make’em accountable. And hope they do the same for you.

So, yesterday I was pedaling along on Rusty (LuLu refused to leave the garage whining something about the 19 degrees outside) when the Fake Knee started kicking up a fuss. You’d thought I was asking it to climb stairs at the Empire State Building. All the creaking, aching and stiffness, made for one joy-less ride. You see the Fake Knee is like an irregular person in my life. It’s never really happy. It complains about everything I ask it do it. And, it blames everything else on its discomfort, not taking any responsibility for its own discomfort.

Irregular people are the same. You love’em. You hate’em. And, we all have them—be it a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or the grumpy guy who waits on you at the local Kwik Trip. They are the folks who are never happy, always needy and always sure it’s someone else’s fault. Everything is always too hard, too soft and nothing is ever just right. And if we aren’t careful, they can become bloodsuckers, draining us of our own joy. Because as we all know, misery loves company.

So, what’s to be done with the irregular person in your life? Boot them out? Or, lock the doors and pretend you’re not home? Or, not answer the phone when you know it’s them? To be honest, I’ve done all of the above. I simply haven’t done it for long. I give myself enough distance to regroup and get my sanity back and then I let them in again. I have to. You see, God loves them and He wants me to love them too. It’s part of the deal when I signed on to live my life on Higher Ground.

Of course, while I have irregular people in my life, it has just dawned on me that I just might be the irregular person in someone’s life? You think? Surely not? Well… maybe. If I am, I do hope they love me through my bouts of irregularity. Just like Jesus did. Just like God does.

The Fake Knee finally hushed a bit by the end of our ride. And, for the rest of the day it felt pretty good. Had I given into it’s whining I wouldn’t have helped it at all. Irregular knee. Irregular people. Give them what they need. Not what they want. Love in action.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday Warriors

PHOTO: Don't you just love the crazy Target Lady?


The good news? The turkey and dressing are all gone and there’s just a smidge of cranberry sauce left. The bad news? We’re out of whipped cream. I love whipped cream. I could smear it on anything and be a happy woman. But alas, it’s time to get off the holiday eating high and embrace raw carrots and broccoli. Besides, Christmas is just around the corner… and more whipped cream.

So, did you do your part? On Black Friday were you one of the millions who contributed to our economy by standing in a mile long line for a door buster item? Where were you on Black Friday at 2 a.m.? Were you sleeping or racing down an aisle in Wal-Mart to be one of the lucky ones to snatch a couple pairs of those four-dollar jammies? I am proud to announce that the Cleveland Women were among the mighty. My daughters-in-law rose at 2:30 a.m. and had a Blu-ray player snuggly tucked in their shopping cart by 3 a.m.

I was a little wussier than the younger Cleveland gals, but met up with them by 7 a.m. to join in the hunt. What a day of giggles and triumph. I can hardly think of anything more satisfying then slapping a $10 Off coupon onto the counter next to a purchase that was already marked 60% off. I felt myself morphing into a Black Friday Guru. It was heady stuff. It wasn’t like I was facing down a diabolical enemy set on destroying the world as we know it. But I did save my family a couple of bucks, and in this economy, bagging a bargain isn’t too shabby, is it?

I was a young mother in the 1980s during our last recession. I hardly noticed it. We were living in a one hundred year old house that looked it’s age, still using wooden crates for end tables and could still get out of the grocery store on a fifty dollar bill.

This recession is different. I have more to lose. I’m not sure if that is good or bad, but what I do know is that I have to constantly be checking my ‘want-er’ against my ‘need-er’. Just because I want it, doesn’t mean I need it. Tough times require tough choices. Keeping it simple, being discriminating, and being a good steward has never been more important. Good luck to you as you patrol the aisles. Never be afraid of a bargain, or of walking away if you have second thoughts.

You know what LuLu would say, right? “If it ain’t pink and/or takes you to a better place, pass it on by.”



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thus far...

PHOTO: Thus far, my darling is still with me...God is good.


What are you doing peeking at this blog? It's a holiday, people! Don't you have a turkey to thaw? Dressing to dress? Pies to bake? You shouldn't be hanging out with me when you've got so much to prepare. So, here's the deal, LuLu and I are going to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, now, so you don't have to visit us again until next Tuesday. I don't know about you, but I'm going to have a house full on Thursday, thirteen to be exact. I can't even promise I'll be able to find my computer on Thursday underneath the mix of fall decorations and the beginnings of Christmas decorations. It's like my house is having a bout of split personality disorder. Christmas lights are hanging outside, yet my fireplace mantel has gourds and pumpkins on it. Go figure.

Go. Be thankful. In betwixt all of the holiday hub bub, go to your quiet place, be it the bathroom, a closet or the garage, whatever, and take a moment to just be thankful. Another year is about to end, and you're still here. You're upright. You've survived. Maybe you've even thrived. Be. Thankful.

Long, long ago in a Bible land far, far, away, there was a man named Joshua. He got promoted to head trail boss when God retired Moses number. One day, Joshua was leading the troops in yet, another circle, when the day had arrived that they were going to cross over the Jordan River into a land of milk and honey, as they say in Bible-speak. Josh gathered the masses and tried to calm their fears. "What if we don't like milk and honey?" they shouted. "What if trouble is ahead?" they asked. "What if ...?" You get my drift. When Josh had had enough of their whining and questioning, he stood before them and said, and I paraphrase, "Listen up, people! Hasn't God taken care of us thus far? We've had plenty to eat. We've been kept safe. True, we've wandered around in this desert for about forty years now because somebody refused to stop and ask for directions (naw, he really didn't say that at all, but I couldn't help myself there), yet, here we are fat and sassy, alive, thriving, and about to have a new experience. Thus far, He has taken care of our every need. Shouldn't we trust that He will will take care of tomorrow as well?"

Dear friends, God has taken care of us thus far. Be thankful. I have absolutely no doubt that He will take care of our tomorrows just as faithfully. We have so much to fall to our knees and be thankful about. I invite you to join me there.

Thus far...

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Photo: LuLu's friend, Belle, the ball.


So, here I am teetering atop Belle, the ball, stretching the back out before we get to the hard stuff, when I realize… this is easier than it used to be. Have any of you exercised on a big ball? If you have, do you remember the very first time you sat down on it? The first time Belle and I started our workouts together, several years ago now, I laid back to stretch and immediately rolled off onto the floor—smack-dab on the *Cowgirl. It was not pretty.

I haven’t been on Belle for quite awhile. All spring and summer, LuLu, the pink bike, was my exercise buddy of choice. But now after months and months away, I plop down on Belle and immediately my body morphs into this incredible balancing machine. I stretch, I twist, I do sit ups, I lift weights, all keeping the Cowgirl where she belongs. Balance is a good thing.

I believe all the time I’ve spent on LuLu has taught my body how to compensate and adjust to the little tilts and jolts that come along… and now balance is second nature.

Life is all about balance—keeping yourself upright by constantly adjusting to the jiggles and jolts that are thrown at you. The good, the bad and the ugly have a way of knocking us to our Cowgirls if we aren’t prepared, centered, balanced, if you will.

A lot has been thrown at me lately threatening my balance. And, I must tell you that if I hadn’t already known that prayer, faith and supportive friends and family weren’t the keys to a balanced life, my Cowgirl would have found a permanent home splatted on the floor a long time ago.

Find your core. Keep your balance.



*Cowgirl- your behind a.k.a butt

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do the hard stuff

Photo: Hildegard, the sweatmaker... one of the hard stuff.


Why is it so hard to create a new habit? For example, I know that exercise is good for me. I know that if I get up only thirty minutes earlier, I’d be able to get’er done and then get on with my day. The benefits are many—better heart health, weight loss, and building muscle, to name a few. So, why, why is it so hard to establish this good habit?

Like with anything, creating a new habit, takes practice. It takes sacrifice, it takes saying ‘yes’ to something and ‘no’ to something else, and let’s face it, denying ourselves of something that feels good or takes no effort has it’s charms.

Let’s see, let’s list things I’d rather be doing than sweating on Hildegard? 1) anything else; 2) see #1.

Are we too lazy to create a new habit that is good for us? I don’t think so. Are we too busy? We’re never too busy to do what we really want to do. So, what is it that’s makes it so hard to create a new habit?

Indulgence. We are an indulgent people. At times we’re like spoiled children who cross our arms, stamp our feet and refuse to eat our vegetables. It’s all about us and about what’s easy. We don’t do the hard stuff… not if we can help it.

This little’tude shows up not only in personal habits, but also in the workplace, in our churches, on the playground, and dare, I say, in our politics. We vote for the person who promises us it won’t be hard to get what we want, and that we won’t have to give up anything to get it.

Note to self: All the good stuff is hard to do. Quit yer whining and get on with it.

Assignment: Today, do the hard stuff first.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meet the gang

Photos: The Let's-get-Deb-into-shape Campaign Team.


Okay, here’s the deal. Remember on Tuesday when LuLu and I went merrily pedaling in the autumn rain? Well, yesterday we had a total weather event. First comes rain, then hail, then sleet, then snow, then thunder and then lighting. Thus it is safe to say that winter has arrived in the North Country. I’m figuring LuLu and I will hit the road only sporadically from now until April. Hence, I’d like to introduce you to her friends who will be stepping up to the plate to help keep my cowgirl and Fake Knee from growing even fatter and lazier.

Meet Hildegard, the sweatmaker. Hildegard set up roost in our basement a few years ago. We’ve actually used her enough we’ve had to replace a part. Cool, huh? Well, I’m making a commitment to myself, to you, and to Hilde, she’s going to see me on a regular basis from this day forward. She’s an elliptical drill sergeant who takes no prisoners.

Meet Belle, the ball. She joined us a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen her all summer, but now with the white stuff falling from the sky, she and I will also have a date at least three mornings a week. Hold me to that.

And, you’ve already met, faithful side kick, Rusty. He has a very important job this winter. If I do not hop on him for a spin, the Fake Knee will become a Fake Rod with absolutely no flexibility at all. If I want to be able to hop back on LuLu come spring, old Rusty is my go-to guy.

Oh, you’ll still be hearing from LuLu, she’s the brain behind the Let’s-get-Deb-into- shape Campaign. But picture her in the garage, eating bon-bons and soaking her tires for a few months. She’s on vacation.

Why do I tell you all of this? They say if you tell someone you’re on a diet, or starting an exercise plan you’ll stick to it. Well, so far that’s worked for me. Since last April LuLu and I have put a few miles on her tires and my Cowgirl, mainly because you knew I’d promised to do it. So, wish me and the gang luck. It’s going to be a long, long winter. Oh, and feel free to join me. Get down to your basement and dust off whatever exercise equipment you have hiding down there. We’re going for the burn!



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Get your pink on...


LuLu-ism #37: Go. Pack. Go

Picture if you will, me, LuLu and the Green Bay Packers. Yep, LuLu is a fan of the mighty fine Green and Gold. On our ride this morning (yes, we rode in the rain, and yes, we rode in 40 degrees) we rehashed Sunday’s game. Packers won of course. Our team is now 8-0. I’m trying to get LuLu to understand the significance of that stat, but she’s not all that impressed. However, when I told her that some Packer players have been known to ride an exercise bike on the sidelines during the game, her handlebars perked up. That she’s impressed with.

She wondered if the exercise bikes were pink. I hated to disappoint her, so I diverted her attention to my hat. It was pink, a pink Packer ball cap. When the wife of our former Green Bay Packer quarterback, Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless, introduced the pink caps in support of breast cancer research, I was on board. I bought one for my daughter-in-laws and myself. The pink caps were an ingenious idea. That first Sunday a few years ago when our former quarterback-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless stood on the sidelines at Lambeau Field during a game wearing his pink ball cap with the big ‘G’ logo emblazoned on the front, the caps sold out in a matter of hours. Millions were raised for cancer research.

As I told that story, LuLu got very giddy and strutted her pink, shiny self, as well as a bicycle can strut.

As many of you know, my sweet hubs has been fighting cancer. He wears an additional color in support of cancer research. His yellow Live Strong bracelet rarely leaves his wrist. He got it from donating money to cancer research.

Pink. Yellow. They’re just colors, but creatively placed, they can be a great reminder that there’s a big, ugly, fierce fight going on to stop a killer, a killer that has taken way too many lives. If you get a chance, put your pink where your mouth is, and your yellow where it counts. Let’s cure cancer in our lifetime… and for the Cleveland family, the sooner the better.

Get your pink on…


Friday, November 4, 2011

"What if..."


LuLu-ism # 36: What if my rider (deb) would get serious about her diet and actually lose a pound or two? Wouldn’t that be something?

I know, I know, I’m late posting. You’ll just have to forgive me, please. Yesterday was Colonoscopy Day for me. It was a lovely day, what I remember of it. Of course it was a way better day than the day before, if you get my drift. However, all is well. So, how’s that for an excuse not to meet a deadline?

Okay, I am proud to say that on Wednesday morning, before said colonoscopy prep was begun, LuLu and I took a spin in the rain. It was a light drizzle, but a great ride. At least it was until my head kept bouncing on politics. I’m not much of a political pundit. Nobody really cares what I think on this subject, nor should they. However, what I kept thinking about was what it would be like if a person of true faith, common sense and moral integrity actually became our president one day. You know someone who went to church because of his or her love for the Lord instead of the love of a good photo op. Or someone who when asked, “Do you believe in same sex marriage or abortion?” would say outright, “No, I do not and here’s why…” Or when asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?” would look straight into the camera and say, “No, I have not. I love only one woman and I will be faithful to her until I die.” Or, if that said presidential person was a woman, would respond, “I was a virgin when I married my husband because I made a promise to myself and God that true love waits and then I waited and married the right man, and I will forever be faithful to him” … and it all would actually be the truth.

What would it be like, if this said, fictitious person had made a mistake in his/her early years, say age eighteen or twenty or so and the press discovered it and blasted it all over the air waves, and instead of lying, dodging and covering up, our person was able to say, “That’s old news fellas. I confessed that sin to those I hurt a long, long time ago. I repented of it, prayed about, and have been living my life redeemed ever since.”

What if this fairy tale person made decisions for our country based on common sense and a healthy sense of right and wrong, instead of greed and polls and cover-ups?

“What if…” is a fun thing to ponder on a bike ride in the rain on a chilly fall morning.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Gotta kick the covers off

PHOTOS: Some of my favorite blues


LuLu-ism #35: Everything looks better in blue. Flowers. Wall paint. Socks. I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t prefer in the color blue… except maybe … fried chicken.

This morning, LuLu and I ventured out after a week apart. It was good to get back in the saddle, even if I had to drag the cowgirl kicking and screaming. It was cold to be sure, but what got me so excited to be outside was the color of the morning sky.

Those of you who know me well, know that blue is my favorite color. Well, this morning’s sky was a blue I’d never seen before. It was a dark translucent, blue with aqua flecks highlighting it. The deep green, wet grass was an excellent compliment as ground and sky met at the horizon. Breathtaking.

Had I not gotten up early and decided to ride LuLu, I would have missed this wonderful gift of natural color, honey-tasting air, and that sweet feeling of accomplishment that exercise gives you. It was especially sweet because after not exercising for a week, it was soooo tempting to let another day go by without putting the cowgirl in the saddle.

It is so easy to let go of resolve, whether it’s dieting, exercising, or just about anything else that requires gumption, grit and just plain kicking the covers off. I must admit, there days I just plain fail at it. But, I’m discovering that the trick is to not let that one day of giving in, set the standard for the next day. I must shake it off and then get back out there.

That blue sky was something. I wish I could duplicate it, because I’d love to carry a patch of it with me everywhere. I guess I’ll just have to be on watch for it another morning. Which means, well you know what it means. Gotta kick the covers off. Gotta get my cowgirl in the seat. Gotta do it for me.

Wishing you your own blue, fall skies.


Thursday, October 27, 2011


Photos: Earthworks on the shore of Lake Michigan.


Another day without LuLu. Gary and I are still in Door County celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary. I wanted to bring LuLu to this gorgeous vacation spot but the hubs convinced me that we’d go to all that trouble to get her here and then the weather probably wouldn’t cooperate anyway. As it turns out, he was right… he’s been right a few times during our marriage.

Yesterday, Gary, Murphy and I took a hike on a trail that led down to the pebbled shore of Lake Michigan. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the water’s edge and found ourselves surrounded by a hundred or so man-made rock sculptures stacked along the shore. Balanced one on top of the other, rocks of all shapes, sizes and textures were creatively stacked into the most amazing earthworks. Think Stonehenge only tons lighter and lots smaller.

As we stood among the sculptures, the fresh air, and the gentle rolling waves we couldn’t help but feel that we were standing in the middle of a beautiful, large art piece. We responded in the only way we could-- we began to create our own sculpture. Stone upon stone we stacked and balanced rocks until we got them just right. It was exhilarating contributing to what was already begun. It gave us a sense of community, an extraordinary, anonymous community that simply wanted to say, “We were here. Enjoy.”

It was a serendipitous experience, a sweet gift. By using elements created by God, himself, we were able to create something within The Creation. It was a nice moment.

You can never have enough pleasant surprises.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 23, 1971


October 23, 1971- Pinellas Park, FL- 6 p.m.- She stood in the nursery/cry room in the back of the church building having an out of body experience. Her best friends, one since childhood and one since freshman year in college, flitted around her like bees dressing her with the precision of soldiers going to combat. Her sister-in-law of two months was already in her purple and Ivory bridesmaid dress and holding her veil like it was made of spun gold, waiting for the signal to raise it overhead and crown her with it. Her mother stood nearby and watched through tears that made her daughter seem to shimmer as if in a dream. It was ‘go time’-- the day of fulfilled dreams.

The young bride finally clothed in traditional white heard the harmonizing singers begin just outside the nursery door. Whispered voices had been passing the closed small room filled with baby beds and colorful mobiles for over thirty minutes. College boys, uncomfortable in tight cumber buns and rented cuff links, were on task escorting guests to either the left or right of the aisle. Her ladies-in-waiting giggled. Her mother kissed her on the cheek and gave her only the look of a mama who wanted to shout with joy and weep all at the same time could. Her daughter was marrying a good man. Her baby, however, was leaving her and changing their lives forever.

As the bridesmaids began their slow promenade toward the altar, the bride’s father stepped into view and placed her arm in his. His tears had dotted the chest of his starched white shirt. Never had she seen him this spiffed up. Gone were his khakis and steel-toed work boots. His thermos and black lunch box sat at home, replaced by a carnation pinned to his coat and shiny patent-leather shoes. A moment of panic when her contact lens slipped out of place on the stream of her own tears. Order restored. Dad saves the day one last time.

And then… there he is waiting at the end of an aisle she had been raised walking down, running down, and skipping down all of her life. But, this one last walk would take her to the end of the rainbow. He stood looking back at her as if she glimmered and had silver, wispy wings. She could tell it took all of his youthful patience to wait in place as she slowly came toward him. He wanted her. He’d won her. His love for her was an answered prayer.

She took his hand and in that moment, in the touching of fingers, warm palms, and wildly beating hearts, she gave herself, freely, openly and forever to the dark haired, southern, soft spoken man who would become her husband, the father of their sons, and the man who would keep the promises made that day for the next forty years.

Happy anniversary, Gary Marlin. Your bride still has no regrets.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Be there

PHOTO: Sidekick Rusty and faithful dog, Murphy.


LuLu-ism #34: Deep inside of us, God implanted a button that needs to be switched to ON. Trick is, He's left the 'switching' up to us.

It’s early, dark, windy, and rainy. Another LuLu-less day. So, Rusty, the faithful sidekick in the loft is my go-to guy… again.

This morning as I pedaled with my eyes closed, you can do that when there’s no fear of running into anything or falling over, I was struck with how non-participatory exercise can be. Your body can be doing something, like riding a stationary bike, but your mind can be back in bed, or going over the to-do list for the day, or whatever. That’s when it dawned on me that we can live life like that too… and I have way too often.

There is a little phrase I’ve chanted in my head for years now whenever I realize I’m having an out of body non-participatory moment: Live in the present, fool! So many times I’ve caught myself missing the moment because my head isn’t with me. Before I know it, time is gone, or an event has passed, and precious time was lost. My body was there, but no one was home. I’m convinced that’s not a good way to check off your days.

Be there. Come what may, don’t let one precious day get by you that you weren’t living it on purpose. I mean, even the bad days, the sucky days that have you wishing you’d rather be in Peoria or Bald Knob, Arkansas, just anywhere but where you are. Like it or not, it’s the sucky days that teach us most about life and about ourselves. Sadder still is that we don’t just do that, this wishing away our days, on the bad days. We do it on the good days too. We forget to show up in our own lives way too often. Missing. Regretting. Losing out.

Do you know it’s a proven fact, although I can’t quote you book and verse, but Google it if you don’t believe me that we get more out of our exercise if our heads are into it? As we lift a weight, or do a sit up, or say, pedal a bike, if our heads are counting and aware of the reps, or concentrating on the position of our feet, legs or whatever, our muscles respond better to what we’re putting them through, therefore we get more out of the moment.

I, for one, do not want to cheat my exercise regimen, especially if I’m losing precious sleep to do it, nor do I want to cheat my life of its days. Be there, folks. Be present, all of you, in what your doing, experiencing, learning, etc.,

Live in the present, dear ones…


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Plan B


I’m a wimp… a wuss … a sissy. According to our TV weather dudes, the wind was blowing 30 to 40 mph today. I opted not to ride LuLu. Hence, I’m a wuss, but I’m thinking a smart wuss in any case. I can take the cold, but the wind just does me in. So, I opted for Plan B meaning Rusty and I had a stationary ride in the loft.

How do you handle obstacles or a change of plans? Do they throw you for a loop or do you take them in stride? Well if you’re like me, you’ve probably responded in both ways, depending on how much you’re disappointed or inconvenienced, or how hard the change is.

However, God has been working on me lately in that area. You see my Plan A for life was college, marriage, kids, grandkids, then gracefully growing vibrantly old with my hubby. Plan A had been working well until last year. In 2010, my hubs was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Plan A didn’t include one of us getting sick. Hence, Plan B had to be put into action, which included trips to Mayo, radiation, reoccurrence, etc. I don’t like Plan B as much.

But, like it or not, Plan B is our new normal. I can either, kick and scream my days away, whining the “Why Me” song and live miserably and scared, or lean forward into this new life. I chose the latter.

And it is a choice you know. Yes, I am scared. Yes, I feel like kicking the cat at times. But what I want mostly is to live honorably within our new normal. I want to make God proud. Faith, family and friends have never been more important—thankfully, they are a roll over from Plan A.

Have you recently been kicked to the curb by your Plan A? If so, let me know how you’re doing. Us Plan B-ers need to stick together.

Blessings, ya’ll,


Thursday, October 13, 2011



LuLu-ism #33: Why didn’t God give humans wings? Could it be that we’d groom them and posture them until they’d no longer function, no longer resemble wings but rather stiff pillars holding us to the ground?

This morning while riding my little pink bike around the ‘hood’ I saw two little girls playing on their mound system. Know what that is? It’s kind of like an underground outdoor toilet. Out here in the country we don’t have city sewer, so we dig a big hole in our yards and place our own sewer tanks in and then cover them up with lots of dirt creating this mound in our yard. Grass grows over it giving our yards this lovely contoured look. Anyway, these two girls, I’m assuming sisters, were on the top of the mound with an umbrella and the older of the two was trying to convince the younger to jump off the mound with the umbrella. You know the drill, you’ve seen Mary Poppins, all you need to fly is an open umbrella, right?

I smiled. I got past them before I could see if the little one tried it or not, but it reminded me of a childhood experience. Picture me, age five, standing on the metal railing that surrounded the porch of the church building across the road from our house. It’s a Saturday and no one is around except me and two of my little friends, both older. Yes, I have an umbrella in my hand, and yes, my friends are trying to convince me that if I jump, I will not fall to the ground like a sack of rocks. Instead, said my dear friends, I will float down ever so softly and might even fly a bit around the neighborhood before said soft landing.

I won’t keep you in suspense. Picture me splatted on the ground on top of my mother’s flattened umbrella mad as a hornet. When I came home with the destroyed umbrella, I think it was the first time it had dawned on my mom that I was going to be that child, the one who would give her gray hair. I’m sure at that moment she had a horrible vision of me one day on the roof of a garage with scissors clinched between my teeth holding a board of rusty nails getting ready to leap off into a cup of water simply because some friend either told me I could or that I couldn’t and I was going to see for myself.

Childhood, it’s a grade B miracle that we even survive it. However, what a lovely way to start out in life, convinced you can do anything you set your mind to. What happens to that gumption we once possessed as children—that fearlessness, ever so misguided at times, but nonetheless had us convinced we could conquer the world?

At age 60, I say it’s time I got it back. Who’s with me? Who’s as tired as I am of cowering in the corner of life afraid of what folks will think of us if we step outside the lines, if we do something unexpected, but that gives us joy?

Hey, I’ve got an umbrella. I’ve got a garage. Anyone game?



Monday, October 10, 2011

One Last Look


Okay, I know you must be getting tired of me telling you what a great fall we're having here in Wisconsin. But it is, great I mean. Please forgive me for blubbering so, because in about in a day or two, true fall weather will be here; By that I mean, highs in the 60s, and then a few days after that highs in the 50s and a couple of days after that ... winter. So, I simply must blubber and bask in the sunset of our good weather.

My last hurrah was the Harvest Party my husband and I hosted for friends and neighbors this past Saturday. It's a tradition with us. We spruce up our three acres, dot the yard with pumpkins and mums, coax what flowers we have left in the beds to live just a few days longer and call it a party. Highlights this year were the pumpkin carving contest, apple bobbing, a haunted hayride and a bouncey house for the kiddos; And, lots of eating, snacking and good old fashion visiting was had by all. It was a perfect day.

Since LuLu and I got together this past spring, we have been blessed with more than our share of perfect days. Now six months later, my pink bike and I are old friends. She has treated me to many miles of good bike riding and I've introduced her to the neighborhood and the lovely changing seasons around us. It's been a good match. Of course, hopefully, I'll be brave enough to keep riding her through the cooler weather ahead... at least until the snow flies that is.

But for now, I want to share with you one last view of our autumn and our recent Harvest Party. I do hope you have been enjoying your autumn days just as much.