Friday, April 29, 2011


LuLu-ism #8: The test of a true princess should be sitting on a bike seat without flinching.

In honor of the royal wedding of William and Kate I will be writing with a British accent. Yes, I set my alarm this morning at 4 a.m. stumbled to the couch, snuggled in my blankie and watched on the telly Princess Diana's little boy, Wills, marry the love of his life. Thirty odd years ago, I did the same for his mum. I must say, this seemed like a much happier event in retrospect. Lots of pomp and circumstance as they say, but despite all the hoopla, it came down to just a boy marrying a girl. The romantic in me wishes them the 'happily ever after' part as well. It would do us all good to watch a healthy marriage play out before us, now wouldn't it? Let's pray for them, shall we?

Since my day started so early, I was hoping I'd get my bike ride in early as well. For the first time in two or three days, we have sunshine and no rain. So, out I went with only a sweatshirt. Well, I had clothes on and stuff, but no coat, or gloves or hat, which has been part of my riding gear since I started. I limbered up the Fake Knee on Rusty before I saddled up on LuLu, then off we went.

I wished I could tell you I had a great time. In my mind's eye, I see myself tooling along these country roads with butterflies fluttering about, bluebirds singing and the breeze in my hair. You know, very princess-like. I'm sure Kate was thinking the same thing this morning as she dressed for her wedding. Everything would be perfect. And, far as I could tell, everything was... for her. For me, not so much.

The Fake Knee still doesn't like LuLu. At one point, I thought I was going to have get off and walk, the pain was almost too much. The scar tissue that has built up behind the fake knee cap is pretty pleased with itself and isn't budging, at least not yet. By the end of my four mile ride, I felt a slight bit more of flexibility, but not much. It hurt, plain and simple. I've got a long way to go, friends.

So, here's my questions for today-- First the royal wedding question: If you had been invited to the wedding, would you have had the nerve to pin one of those silly hats on your head and waltz in front of millions of folks pretending you didn't look like some bird died on your head? And second, the pink bike question: Why is the good stuff like exercise, eating right, not lying (I just threw that in) so hard?

Well, it's time for me to tootle on as they say across the pond. Long live the Queen and all those other folks traipsing about with fruit baskets as hats.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011



LuLu-ism #7: Somedays they ain’t nothing go right.

Ever have those days when nothing seems to go your way? When every step is like pulling your feet out of mud? Can’t you hear that messy, suction-y slurp right now? You know what I’m saying. Well, that was my yesterday. I was anxious. I couldn’t stick with anything. And, I kept dropping stuff and stumbling over stuff and running into stuff. When I laid my head down last night on my pillow, I thanked the good Lord that I got through the day without losing a limb or accidently putting the dog in the refrigerator.

Today has been much better. I’m on task and I’ve even been able to check a few items off of my ‘to do’ list. So, I figured it was safe to hop on LuLu and go for a spin. I mean, I hadn’t bumped into a wall today or lost anything. So, here I am peddling, against a blustery wind by the way, but still enjoying the scenery, when all of a sudden, I guess my peddling startled this duck floating in the ditch beside me, and wouldn’t you know, that silly duck flapped so close to my head I lost my balance and almost toppled over into the ditch myself. Who knew it was so dangerous out there? Suddenly, all of yesterday’s mishaps and anxieties dropped before my eyes like a projection screen and I felt my confidence leave. What should I do? Turn around and walk LuLu home? I was about a mile from the house. Or bravely trudge on?

I got right back in the saddle, my friends and started peddling. As I turned the corner on to Old Country Club road, I was humming the theme song to Chariots of Fire at the top of my lungs. Da da da da da dum… da da da da da! No duck was going to keep me from accomplishing my goal of a three-mile ride! No brisk wind was going to make me skip my date with LuLu! The only thing that could have defeated me… was me.

Needless to say, LuLu and I got home safely with no more duck malfunctions. And I must say, I was a little bit proud of myself. The old gal still has enough balance in her legs to keep from sprawling into a watery ditch, and the Fake Knee rose to the occasion and kept me upright.

Got challenges? I say, meet them head on and stare the duck down!



Monday, April 25, 2011

Chocolate Bunnies & Bikes


LuLu-ism #6: There’s riding bikes and then there’s riding bikes with a grandchild. Priceless!

I'm hoping all of you had a life-affirming Easter Sunday yesterday. We got to worship with kids and grandchildren, so that was special. Plus, Gary has healed enough from his infection ordeal to be able to preach again. That was very special. The Lord could have returned at that moment and all would have been well. As it turned out, He didn’t, so we came home and had a delicious lunch, holiday-style. Then outside to play. We actually had some warm weather and sunshine. And then… the bike ride!

Ever since LuLu and I hooked up, I’ve been looking forward to the day that Paisly, age six, and I would ride bikes together. Yesterday was the day. LuLu was introduced to Paisly’s little blue Schwinn and off we went. Happiness! We were both kind of wobbly at first. Paisly from inexperience and me from too much experience. The Fake Knee didn’t much like the impromptu ride. I usually limber it up with a few spins on Rusty first, but not yesterday. A whole lot of complaining ensued, as I tried to ignore the creaking coming from the knee area. Paisly giggled. I giggled and then I almost go us both run over by a passing truck. Note to self: Just because the road is in front of your house, you do not own it. So keep an eye out. But all was well. The nice truck driver slowed down and waved. At least I think that was a wave…

As I peddled down the road with Paisly, I felt this wave of gratitude flood through me and this overwhelming sense of joy. The Fake Knee no longer had my attention and the Cowgirl did not even register on the pain-scale. I felt otherworldly. I was riding bikes with my granddaughter! Who gets to do this? Who gets to look to her immediate right and see this beautiful child with golden hair and dimples peddling beside her and looking at you with such light in her eyes? My breath became wisps of spring air, the road underneath us became clouds and for one brief, sliver of a moment I got this overwhelming, serendipitous feeling that God’s eyes were watching me and that they had just crinkled up from a smile. This was the day He rose from the grave and it was on this day a couple of thousand years later, He gave Deb Cleveland another gift… and it was good.

My prayer for you all is that you be on lookout for what He has done and is doing for you as well, because not all of His gifts will include a pink bike.



Friday, April 22, 2011

LuLu-ism #5: Don't say something out loud, unless you're darn well sure you mean it. It could get embarrassing.

I had a first yesterday. While LuLu and I were riding , we had to dodge snow lumps in the road. Crazy. And, today, it's raining-- a cold, icy rain that grabs your bones and gnaws on them. No outside riding today. But, here's a little recap: Since my birthday, LuLu and I have been out on the road three times and two days before that; Pounds lost: 2; Fake Knee: Still, complaining, but I noticed yesterday that I could peddle with the middle of my foot instead of just the heel, so my flexibility is getting a tad better; Cowgirl: On a pain-scale of one to ten, with TEN being the worst, she's at a six.

While I'm a little excited that the Fake Knee has improved a tad, losing the two pounds is just ho-hum. You see, I've lost the same exact two pounds at least a hundred times-- this year. They keep returning. Then I lose them, then one of them creeps back. Then I lose three, then I gain two and then... well you get the picture. Since January I've lost eleven pounds-- a couple of times now. Hopefully, with LuLu's help, I'll be able to stop this silly yo-yo-ing thingy and finally drop down to a weight that feels good and doesn't give LuLu a flat tire. That's my goal. In fact my true goal, and I can't believe I'm going say this out loud, is to lose 60 pounds this year. That's right. In my sixtieth year, I want to lose 60 pounds. Can it be done? Well in the words of Vinnie Barbarino, "Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope live in the woods?" (If you don't know who Vinnie is, Google John Travolta.) Yep, I'm gonna do it. And, I'm expecting you guys to keep me honest. Deal?

Have a thoughtful and thanks filled, Easter, friends. See you on Monday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


LuLu-ism #4: There are days you’re simply not going to be able to do what you want. Whatever! Just don’t let those days pile up on you.

Lovely picture isn’t it? Ah, December in Wisconsin. Wrong! I took this picture of my backyard this morning, April 20, 2011. I want to weep—so do my daffodils and tulips. Can you believe it? Where’s all that global warning they keep telling us about?

Well, LuLu is just shaking her handlebars at me and just daring me to go near her. Looks like it’s Rusty to the rescue. My old exercise bike will have to save the day for me… again. There’s nothing more frustrating than to do all this peddling and go absolutely nowhere. Yikes! Have I stopped talking about bike riding and started preaching? Think about it, how many of us live our lives that way? Spinning, spinning, spinning and going nowhere? I know I have at times. I’m busy. It’s hectic. There’s so much to do. Yet, when I take a moment to look up from all my spinning, I find I’ve done nothing of value, except work up a sweat.

Life’s too short, folks, to allow busy work to rule. Yeah, there’s no getting around the fact that living on this planet requires a certain amount of just running in place. However, shouldn’t we expect more? I want scenery. I want purpose. I want joy. Don’t settle; at least don’t settle for long.

Okay, old Rusty will have to do for today and from the looks of it, tomorrow as well. But I deserve more. And so do you.



Monday, April 18, 2011


LuLu-ism #3:
Let's be honest here, they simply don't make a comfortable bike seat. I don't care how big the honking thing is, it's going to hurt your cowgirl, period. And, it's going to hurt for a very long time.

You may have heard that yesterday (April 18) was my birthday. Thanks to so many who e-mailed, Facebook-ed or called with such sweet wishes for the day. As I had hoped, I did get to ride my bike yesterday. The wind died down, the sun popped out and 42 degrees it turns out is okay bike-riding weather. So I jumped on LuLu and did something I always do on my birthday, I visited a graveyard.

I've been snooping around in graveyards on my birthday for many years now. No, it's not the morbid in me, it's the writer in me that calls me to these places. Do you know how many stories are buried there? So much history. Yesterday, I visited with a guy who was born in 1773! He lived almost a hundred years! You might be wondering what he told me, yes? Well, grave stones can tell you a lot about a person. He was a beloved husband, father and German. He lived very close to where my house is now. I know that because this little graveyard is across the road from an old church building that used to be the worship house of a congregation of German Lutherans. Several years ago, the old church building was renovated into a house. A lot of Swiss and German folks settled in this area when they got off the boats. They started farms, built a church, raised their families and lived and died in this ten-mile radius around my house. Cool, huh?

Others folks were lying near by like Heida, Gertrude, Wilhelm and about seventy-five others. I sat there under a tree and wrote a couple of vignettes about a few of them. Someday, one of them might show up in one of my stories.

LuLu looked out of place in the graveyard-- all that pink and those shiny spokes surrounded by all that old, mildewed stone. Yet, she turned into a metaphor right before my eyes: Never forget the past, but don't linger there too long. Visit and remember those who went before and what they can teach you, then hop on your bike and get out there and live. Make your own memories. Tell your own story. Leave your own mark.

So, I did. I paid my respects and then LuLu and I took off. I sang out loud as I peddled. I can do that because I live out in the country and no one can hear me. And, I'm now sixty years old. I've decided that sixty-year-olds can get away with a lot if we look pitiful enough at times. The Fake Knee had a hard time keeping up, but the old gal hung in there. The Cowgirl, on a pain scale of one to ten, with ten being screaming-out loud-painful, was still at about an eight, yet, we peddled on. I spied my first spring Cardinal, a big fluffy guy perched on a branch looking like royalty. A couple of bunnies hopped across the road in front of me. And, a rooster had the audacity to chase me down the road. If looks could kill, I'd be laying in the gravel right now with that feathered bully still picking at my flesh.

All in all, it was a good day. I've decided to make this a birthday week. I'm sixty. I can do anything I want.

love you guys,

Sunday, April 17, 2011



LuLu-ism #2: Just because today is your 60th birthday doesn’t mean you can’t ride a bike, or walk six miles, or decide you might want to become an astronaut.Well, maybe starting to learn astrophysics in your sixth decade is stretching it a bit, but whatever! Birthdays are just numbers arranged in a sequence. Now is the time to put more stock into dreams than numbers. I’m just saying…

PHOTO: My birthday cake. It was made out of 60 cupcakes

Thank you, family!

Today, at 7:15 p.m. I will officially turn sixty years old. For years on my birthday, my daddy would tell me about the day I was born. According to my dad, I was born with a pointy head. I’m assuming then, that I was not the cutest puppy in the nursery… however, I was probably the most interesting.

All my life I have felt like I was special. Maybe that was due to my parents extraordinary doting skills, or the fact that I have always been able to touch my tongue to my nose, or maybe it was the pointed head thing. Whatever, I’ve always believed I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. With that said, it makes me wonder on this my sixtieth birthday why I am just me, instead of someone that turns heads or cured cancer or invented Post-Its. After sixty years, I’m still just me.

As I was riding LuLu this morning, in the cold (remember I live in Wisconsin) I had a thought. Being just me is okay… even after all these years. No, I haven’t contributed in some highly public and astonishing way, but I have managed to stay out of jail. What I mean is that I think in my sixty years on the planet, I’ve done more good than harm.

No, I didn’t become a world famous photographer with National Geographic (something I thought I might want to do someday). But, I have taken some photos of my family that are priceless. Nope, I didn’t become that Marine Biologist I thought about who would skin dive and swim with giant turtles. But I am teaching my granddaughter how to dog paddle and float on her back. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Have I traveled aboard? Nope. Am I well versed in…well, anything? Hardly. Well, okay, I’ve written a couple of books and I’m hard to beat at Scrabble.

Let me tell you what I really am… As I was peddling down the road with my fake knee and my not too comfortable cowgirl, it dawned on me: I am happy. Life has been extremely hard this year. I’ve had challenges that should have broken me, discouraged me and left me for the buzzards. But they didn’t. God simply wouldn’t let them. By His grace, I’m still standing. I’m sixty years old and I’m not only standing, I’m peddling! And with each rotation of my bike tires, I feel new dreams bubbling up inside me. I’m thinking about taking up painting and archery.

I’m happy. Not bad for a gal who started out with a pointy head, wouldn’t you say?


Thursday, April 14, 2011


LuLu-ism # 1: If the wind is blowing strong enough to nail you to the garage door, you might want to reconsider riding your bike.

I got up early ready for my date with LuLu. However, when I looked out the window I was reminded that, oh, yeah, I live in Wisconsin. The wind was kicking up a storm, literally. The outside thermometer was struggling to reach 32 degrees, and on top of that it was sleeting*. Not to be deterred from my daily bike ride, I took a vote from the stakeholders asking for a “Yay” or “Nay” response.

Fake Knee: “Seriously?”

Cowgirl*: “Duh!”

So, I caved. No bike ride today. Picture LuLu in the garage with her little peddles spread across the garage door, screaming, “Don’t make me go out there, please, please! I beg you! Have mercy!”

Okay, “Plan B”. Any self-respecting, serious health nut determined to get into better shape has one, right? Well, I do too. LuLu has a sidekick. Hop-A-Long Cassidy had Gabby Haze, right? Before you were born? Well, how about Batman and Robin? Better?

Meet Rusty. Picture in your mind a stationery exercise bike from the days of the Olivia Newton John “Let’s Get Physical” era-- including leg warmers and pink headbands. I found Rusty at a St. Vincent De Paul thrift store for five bucks. He’s my go-to guy. He’s not pretty, but he’ll give the fake knee a run for its money.

So, as I’m peddling along in the loft over looking my living room, I start to think-- What’s the lesson here? First, in bike riding and in life, we need to heed the warning signs. No more head in the sand type decisions. Yeah, that may be your dream house, but can you afford it, really? Or, yeah, the guy’s cute, but the fact that he showed up at your house for your first date with his mother, well, BIG warning sign, sister. Think! Heed! Pay attention!

Hurricane force winds, sleet and body parts were waving red flags the size of a duvet off of a California-King bed, screaming, ”Don’t do it, Grasshopper!” How many times in life have I not heeded the warnings, the gut feelings and the voices of reason and plowed ahead anyway? Too many to count, I’m afraid. I’m going to work on that.

Second, sometimes life is all about Plan B. So have one.

Until tomorrow…



*Sleeting: frozen rain. Very cold.

*Cowgirl: my buttocks

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Meet LuLu. She’s my new bike. I got her for my 60th birthday even though I’m not quite sixty yet. I will be April 18. I wanted to get a head start with my bike riding since here in Wisconsin if you don’t get outside right when the ground starts to thaw, you’ve missed spring. You may be asking yourself, “Why would a sixty-year- old want a bike anyway?” Good question. My answer: I think it will be a great way to try and get my aching, aging, overweight, almost, practically disabled body back in shape…she said foolishly. So here’s the deal: As of today, I’m starting The LuLu Chronicles. For some reason my new little Schwinn bike has the name “LuLu” painted on her. Go figure. But it fits, I think. I want to ‘record’ my progress or lack of and hopefully learn something along the way about myself, challenges, longsuffering and anything else my new friend, LuLu, thinks I need to know. I’m actually going to write this blog as if someone is reading it. Although I do think I have three faithful readers. Bless your hearts.

Actually, I’m on day two of bike riding after a week of trying to find the perfect bike seat. Three seats later, bingo! I think I’ve found the largest bike seat this side of the Mississippi. I still hang off of it a bit, if you know what I mean, but it will do nicely. Of course, just because my new seat is the size of Montana and Wyoming combined, doesn’t mean it’s comfortable or that I’ve been able to avoid the dreaded ‘bike butt’ phase of my new venture. For the record, from now on, I think I will refer to my butt and all those parts near by as ‘the cowgirl’ (you know, the bike seat being the ‘saddle’ and all). I’m doing this to avoid any shady characters that happen to Google looking for porn the trouble of finding their way to my sight. That just creeps me out. Plus, it sounds more lady-like, sort of. Anyways, the cowgirl has bike butt after two days of being in the saddle.

Here are my challenges:

I’m middle aged. (Yes, I plan on living to be 120)

I’m over weight.

I have an artificial knee that is a HUGE whiner.

And… I have a terrible track record of sustaining anything that’s good for me for longer than, let’s say, three and a half minutes.

So there you have it. Day Three of bike riding will start tomorrow. If you’d like, join me along the way. I’d like company. Let’s see what we can learn…


PS. The dog in the picture with LuLu and me is Murphy. Little does he know that I've order a little 'doggie basket' for him that fits on my handle bars. Aren't we going to have fun (heh-heh).