Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last Days


PHOTO: Some ferns growing along Robinson Creek.

Hey, friends,

I’m still at camp. LuLu is still sitting in the garage having sleep over’s with the old fridge. But as for me, my heart has blended with the sand and the pines up here and it’s beginning to become hard to distinguish where I begin and they stop. Robinson Creek has become life sustaining; campfire devotions have become my manna.

Have you ever seen a sixteen-year-old laugh so hard they lose their voice? I have this week and it is a beautiful sound. Have you ever had a fifteen-year-old cry so hard on your shoulder from heartache that she was dripping in sweat and gulping for air? This week I have… and it was a healing sound. Have you ever cried at the sound of a hundred teens singing in harmony at the top of their lungs and heart about God’s love for them? Yep, that sound has filled nights.

Only a couple more days to go and LuLu and I will be reunited for a few days. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get in a couple of rides before I’m off again to do research on a new book in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. But, I must stop and thank my trusty, pink bike for the new health she has given me. I’ve been tromping around this camp for over twenty years, and for the first time in many, many years, the Fake Knee has been able to do the many stairs around here without much complaining. It was just a couple of years ago at a camp session that I was only able to get around with the help of a walking stick. One year, I had to leave early because the Fake Knee just couldn’t function on this sifting, sandy soil. But not this time. With the help of LuLu, the muscles around the Fake Knee are now strong. The pain that I usually feel as I walk or bend has been considerably less. That my friends, is LuLu’s doings. My twelve- mile bike rides have made a difference. So thanks, LuLu, and thanks dear hubby, for the gift of this new, pink bike given to me for my 60th my birthday. You’ve both given me back my health… at least as good as it’s going to get considering I’m about as old as dirt. As for the cowgirl, she’s just about as healthy as she cares to get. To her, bike seats are nothing more that a torture device and always will be. Too bad for her.

Must run. The huge bell in the bell tower is about to ring and I’m off to the nature center to teach class. Hug a teen today and try to make them laugh while they drink a glass of milk. Milk coming out the nose is a beautiful sight… for the ones watching.

Love you,


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bald and Happy

PHOTO: My granddaughter, Zella, standing in Robinson
Creek at camp--God's Country.


Okay, so I’ve left LuLu again. I know that the cowgirl and Fake Knee are going to be in for a rude awakening when we return to her waiting pedals and bike seat, but trust me; it has been for a good cause.

Sometimes we feel a calling to leave our normal orbit and give ourselves over to something bigger than ourselves. We can get too comfortable with our lives and grow lazy. So, for the past week and a half, my husband and I and our oldest son, Joshua, have been counseling at a Christian youth camp. It’s a camp we’ve been coming to for over twenty years. I mentioned this place before back in June when my family came here for ‘family camp’. Now Gary, Josh and I are back and sharing God’s Country with about a hundred teenagers and thirty other staff members. We’re up at 6:30 a.m. and our heads don’t hit our pillows again until around midnight (which is about the time I’m writing this).

I love this place. When I’m here, I get a glimpse of the me that God sees. For two weeks, I lay down my will and allow God to have His way with me. Campers tug on me, challenge me, exasperate me, and prick my heart into being as close to Christ-likeness as I ever come. I listen to broken hearts, hug sagging shoulders, love up on, and generally ‘parent’ any child who needs it. Here’s a smattering of what I’ve been involved in for the last eight days: I’ve taught a Bible and an Improv class every morning; volunteered to work in the canteen every afternoon; Cheered wildly at “Washer” tournaments (a game where you toss metal washers into a hole. I know, I know, doesn’t sound like much but is); Played Capture the Flag; Became a living, breathing “Snipe” in a snipe hunt; Battled against determined campers in the middle of Robinson Creek over a huge Zorb ball; Was a cheerleader at the staff/camper soccer game (staff won by the way); Sat on a log next to a child and simply listened and then listened some more; and sat under the stars around a campfire every evening as these one hundred children have blended their voices together in the most touching praise songs ever; My reward? After ‘lights out’ for the campers, me and a couple of other counselors sneak down to the creek and plop our weary bottoms down into the middle of the coldest stream of water this side of Alaska. We sit there until the sweat turns to frost. Don’t have a clue what I’m talking about? Can’t relate? Keep reading…

I’m a Christian. And, I’ve made a promise to try and give myself away until as the Skinned Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit as he was trying to explain what it means to be real. “Being real is when your hair is rubbed off and your eyes have fallen out from being loved.” I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but you get the meaning. If you’re truly being real to the folks around you, there won’t be any part of you that you’ve held back.

I wished I could be myself through God’s heart all year long, but two weeks here may lead to two week there. It’s a start.

I know LuLu misses me, but don’t you think she might be proud of me just a little? If you haven’t totally giving yourself away to another in a long time, I challenge you to try it for a day or an hour very soon. You might be surprised how good you’ll feel bald and loved to pieces.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can’t Have One Without The Other


Well, she’s at it again. Deb has once again left me in the garage whilst she gallivants across the country. She’s back at that camp of hers frolicking with about a hundred teenagers at Senior Camp. To hear her tell it, those four hundred acres of pine trees and waterfalls are quite special.

In the mean time, here I sit alone in a hot garage with only the hum of an old refrigerator to keep me company. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a bicycle. My name is LuLu and my person, Deb, was gifted with my presence on her sixtieth birthday. She has this wild idea that if she pedals me around the country-side long enough she’ll some how morph into some kind of beauty queen/athlete. She’s cute, so I allow her her fantasies.

As Deb pedals along imagining herself an Amazon on wheels, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself. I’m cute too. I’m pink. I have a front basket to die for, and as Deb has told you, I’m sporting the largest bicycle seat this side of the free world. Yet, with all of that going for me, if Deb doesn’t come and sling that Fake Knee over my seat and start pedaling, I’m just another bike sitting in the garage unused. It is Deb’s contact, her love if you will, that gives me my zing. So, to quote her, “there’s a lesson in that somewhere.”

From what I’m gathering from you folks, you need each other. What one of you lacks, another has. When one of you is weak and limping, there is a strong one who gathers and carries. One cries tears, the other wipes them away. One lacks, the other picks up the slack. It’s a neat system you’ve got going. I applaud you. Don’t take it for granted or else you might find yourself sitting in the garage alone next to a rusty fridge.



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Piece of Me...

The LuLu Chronicles

LuLu-ism #21: Chocolate found in coat pockets or in the cracks of your sofa is still chocolate. Enjoy.

On Saturday’s ride, LuLu and I biked five miles. It was in the 90s and humid so I didn’t want to push it. When we turned into the wind it was harder to pedal, but the blowing air helped, albeit, a breeze that felt more like a dragon’s breath after he’d burned down a small village of smurfs or hobbits or something than a cool, rejuvenating breeze. But anyway, I got through it even without the aid of steroids like other more high profile athletes have been known to do. Hey, if I want more pep in my pedal, chocolate is my drug of choice. Before Saturday’s ride, I found some left over chocolate Easter bunny parts downstairs in my family room so I was good to go. Now, don’t snarl at me for eating three-month-old chocolate (Mom). Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, my friends.

I’m now comfortable enough to start doing some of my childhood ‘bike tricks’. Saturday I got crazy and started pedaling a zigzag pattern down the middle line of the road with abandon. I haven’t tried pedaling without hands yet or standing on my bike seat, but who knows, maybe by the end of summer I’ll look like Annie Oakley on wheels.

LuLu has made me feel like a kid again. Every time I ‘saddle up’ I’m transported back to the streets of my old neighbor where after dinner playing cops and robbers on bikes was more regular than dessert. My Wards Signature was my ticket to freedom and my entry into childhood games. I became a player.

Now days, I don’t know how much of a ‘player’ I am, but I sure am enjoying my new found freedom again. Freedom to enjoy nature. Freedom to explore my neighborhood at a leisurely pace, and freedom to return to something that gave me joy.

If there is something like this out there for you, grab it. Don’t let another excuse keep you from whatever it is that gives you back a piece of yourself.

Blessings, ya’ll,


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heart's Desire


LuLu-ism # 20: Be careful what you wish for, it may come with a pile of manure.

Yesterday’s ride was recorded at seven miles. The Fake Knee settled in nicely, well, as good as a glob of titanium can settle in with all that flexing and pedaling going on. The cowgirl whined like a toddler who was refused a cookie before supper. But other than that, all was well until a manure truck passed me. Remember what I said the other day about how wonderful bike riding was because you see everything in detail that you normally miss while driving a car? Well, let me tell you, seeing a truck full of cow dookie up close and personal almost made me recant those words. That was one ugly truck and what it started dumping on the field next to me was about as ungodly as it gets. I flipped LuLu’s gears and got out of there as quickly as I could.

Down the road I passed a house I used to drive by every morning going to work. I remember one winter morning passing this house during a heavy snowfall. School had been canceled and the children I normally saw standing at the end of their driveways waiting for the school bus, were all happily tucked in bed rejoicing in their good fortune… except for these two kids who looked to be fourth and fifth graders. They were out shoveling their driveway. I remembered thinking what would possess these children to do this at six thirty on a miserable snowy morning? Well, yesterday I found out. Their dad must have promised them a pony. Because now out behind that garage was a fenced in area. A stable lean-to had been added to the family garage and grazing as pretty as you please was a pony.

In fourth grade, I would have done anything for a pony. I asked for one every Christmas. I promised to wash dishes every day of my life, or wash the car every week, or mow the lawn or dust the furniture or keep my room clean from now on, if my parents would just consent to buy me a horse and allow me to keep it in the utility room right next to the washer and dryer. “The neighbors won’t care,” I whined. I lived on the same street as Beaver Cleaver with front lawns and sprinklers and houses that were sandwiched next to each other. My parents smiled at my cuteness and then ignored me.

When you were a kid, did you have a hearts desire, something that you wanted so badly your bones ached? Did you ever get it? Was it as good as you thought it would be? Or, was the anticipation and wanting it way better than the actual getting it? There’s a lesson in that somewhere.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011


PHOTO: LuLu smelling the roses


Enjoyed a twelve-mile bike ride the other day! Maybe LuLu and I will make our goal of fifteen miles on a regular basis before summer’s end. One of the things I noticed on the last ride was how much more detailed the scenery is when on a bike verses driving in a car. It dawned on me how much we miss in our hurried, blurring lives. The route I took was the one I used to drive everyday on the way to work. I saw the same houses everyday for six years. But Friday when I pedal my bike past those same houses, landscaping, shade, light, sounds, smells, delighted my senses—all things I missed zooming by with the windows up and making ‘to do’ lists in my head so I could hit the ground running at work.

I didn’t realize that one of the houses had a quaint little horse barn in the back. Another yard had a pond in its side yard surrounded by towering cattails. I waved at folks, some actually waved back. I actually stopped and picked some flowers out of a ditch. Yeah, they were wilted by the time I got them back home, but I sure did enjoy them in my basket for the rest of my ride. And, I must say, LuLu looked quite fetching all dolled-up that way.

When Gary was at the worst part of his cancer ordeal, everything thing fell away except for the truly important. My vision became so clear. My priorities made sense. The hustle and bustle of living stopped and was replaced with savoring all that was precious. That’s what it felt like the other day on my bike ride. I savored. I didn’t hustle. I saw my surroundings clearly for the first time on that route. The joy of just truly being in the moment was intoxicating. Nothing got past me—the cardinal perched in the cedar tree, the red door on a particular house, the breeze on my face… the ache from my cowgirl (just kidding, the cowgirl enjoyed the ride as well… sort of…).

That saying is true and life affirming: Stop and smell the roses. Some things are only with us for a season. Don’t miss them.

Happy rose sniffing,


Thursday, July 7, 2011



LuLu-ism # 19: To read or to ride- that is the question. But, I’m thinking why not do both. Throw a book in your basket and ride until you find a nice shade tree.

Well, LuLu and I have been a bike riding team for three months now. I got her right before my sixtieth birthday in April. My husband wanted to buy me a Kindle for my birthday. You know what that is, right? For those who don’t (Mom) it’s a little computer-like contraption you can download on to it every book that has ever been written so that in the middle of the night if you can’t sleep you can turn on your little contraption, the size of a hand mirror, and read, let’s say, War and Peace or Harry Potter, or There’s a Monster in my Closet, whatever you’re in the mood for. That would have been nice, but I’m still a hold out where Kindles and other e-readers are concerned. I’m a page-folder-downer. I’m a book sniffer. I still think piles of books around my bed, the coffee table, lying under chairs, etc., are charming. So, I told the hubs that if given the choice, I’d rather have a new bike.

Thus, LuLu, came into my life all pink and shiny and ready for adventure. I fancied myself riding her great distances and losing a ton of weight… literally. Well, I’m up to riding eight miles or so, and as for the ‘ton of weight’, does eleven and a half pounds count? I’m disappointed I haven’t lost at least a hundred pounds by now, after all, I’ve risked my life to start this new healthier lifestyle. If you will recall, I’ve been chased by a rooster and pretty near hit in the head by a duck. But if I’m honest, my eating habits may be hindering my weight loss just a tad. I’m still debating which is the better for me— carrots or a Hersey candy bar… with almonds. That’s a tough one. I’d like to see the research on that. Until I do, who’s to say?

So, happy three-month anniversary, LuLu. So, far it’s been great fun, at least most of me is having fun. The Fake Knee and Cowgirl would have voted for the Kindle, but I didn’t ask them.

If you’ve dusted off your bike this summer and rode along with LuLu and me in your imagination, I’d love to hear some of your tales. Keep riding, friends. We’ve still got a lot to learn.

Still pedaling,


Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The LuLu Chronicles

Happy Post July of Fourth, Ya'll!

Look to your right and you'll see me and Cian Maccrae Cleveland hanging out right before eating our Independence Day bratwurst. It was a great day of thanksgiving.

Okay, so then this morning, LuLu and I are back at it. I decided I'd like to share with you one of my bike routes and give you a tour of what I see every morning. I feel so privileged to live in out in the country. While raising our three boys, Gary and I tried selling our house in town several times to no avail. So, we raised 'city kids'. Which was okay. Our house butted up against a soccer field (eventually all our boys got soccer scholarships that helped pay for their college tuition) and the boys could all walk to school. Cedar Street was our holy ground for twenty-three years. Then, when then the last chick flew the coop, we finally sold our house and moved to the country.

As LuLu and I pedal along, we greet all kinds of mailboxes. Nothing too fancy out here cause, well, they get bashed in by naughty teenagers on a regular basis. It seems it's a right-of-passage out here. Mailboxes give me comfort. They speak 'home' and 'place' to me. Someday, with all of our technology, they'll probably become obsolete; But out in the country, we'll just incorporate them into a flower garden of some kind along with our tractor tires and old bathtubs.

Now keep in mind, I'm pedaling and steering and trying to take pictures all at the same time. Hence, you will see a lovely shot of LuLu's basket-- oh, and the Fake Knee, and a blurred landscape (almost fell over on that one).

We pass several fields of corn. And yep, it was "knee-high by the Fourth of July." I had my doubts this year with planting being so late because of such a wet and cold spring. Have you ever heard corn grow? You can. If you get a chance, go out late at night and sit in the dark by a corn field. You'll be amazed... if not slightly creeped out.

I'm so excited to be able to show you a picture of our neighborhood donkey. He/she hee-haws at me every morning when I pass by. Today, I snapped his/her picture. This is where the peacock lives as well. The Plumed Prince has hiding in a large, round corn crib behind the donkey. However, I thought it best to move on. After all I was trespassing.

On the road where our house sits just down a bit, is were the Wascally Wooster lives. Didn't see him this morning, but his barn-mate, Trigger, the horse, was out grazing. I've never seen this horse being ridden, but my grandchildren and I sure love feeding him apples.

You'll also see a pic of a bit of road and a 'no passing zone' sign. That my friends, is the Danger Zone. Where no kitten is safe and no bike rider is free from low flying ducks.

The last photo on the tour is of a stop sign. A very important stop sign. I've almost gotten flattened here a few times. I try my best not to stop at it, because if I do, it's a bugger to try and get back on my bike and begin pedaling again. So when I come to it, if a car is coming, I circle. You know, do a one-eighty in a circle until the car has past. This corner annoys me because I've been known to run the stop sign, and my city-slicker upbringing haunts me when I do. I don't give hand signals out here either. You know the ones, we teach our children to use when biking in the city when turning left or right or slowing down? Do we still teach our children those hand signals? I wouldn't know, but I feel guilty when I don't use them. It's one of the dilemmas of country living.

However, there are way more joys than dilemmas to the country life. I think LuLu is settling in nicely. I'm sure she had her hopes of being owned by some classy lady in the city who bikes her to the farmer's market on Saturdays and fills her basket with cut flowers and scones. But alas, she got me-- just a broad trying to lose a bit of weight, keep her knee from freezing up and who tries to smell the roses along the way...when she's not trespassing on other's property, being chased by a rooster or running stop signs.

Hope you enjoyed my little bike tour. Think of LuLu and me in the mornings and we'll think of you and hope you're having as much fun as we are.


Friday, July 1, 2011


LuLu and I wish you all a happy and grateful Independence Day!