Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Slide Show


LuLu-ism #32: Whatever it is that gives you joy, the kind of joy that makes you dance in your sleep and hum without thought, is the present that God most delights in giving...

As I write this Gary and I are back in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic. We've had a bump in the road when Gary's last PET scan revealed another lymph node with cancer. So, another surgical procedure later, we're back getting things checked out again.

We're coming off of a week of being at a retreat where our cups we're filled with fellowship, worship, and a renewal of spirit. If anything could get us prepared for where we are now, those few days at Fallhall Glen were it. God is so good that way, providing what is needed exactly when it is most needed.

As I get ready for bed and an early morning of doctors and waiting rooms, my heart goes to a happy place. I am basking in the warm glow of friendship. The retreat put me in the arms of so many who love us and have been praying for us for over a year now. Arms around the shoulders, gentle touches on the arm, and a hand held. It was also three days of lots of laughter. I'm here to tell you there is no better medicine.

I'm also resting in a thankfulness for the care and nurturing that only God can supply. Laced through that nurturing is a gentle nudge to remember all in which we have been blessed. Whenever it gets a little tough, I have a slide show begin running through my head of faces and smiles and moments that fortify my soul and walk me safely to next thing, whatever that thing is. So, without anymore words, I share with you some of the images that plump my heart tonight, as I await what tomorrow may bring.

I love you all and can only hope that you have a similar slide show that fills your cup.

Monday, September 26, 2011


PHOTOS: Murphy hamming it up


LuLu, Murphy and I wish you all a colorful and joyful autumn! I wish those of you not living in Wisconsin could experience the beautiful fall we're having. The colors, while not at their peak yet, are gearing up to be spectacular. Last Saturday I donned my sweatshirt, hat, wool socks and headed out on LuLu to enjoy the sights. It was my fifteen mile day.

Have you ever seen a field of soybeans so vibrant that you think you're looking at golden coins? Ever seen rows and rows of corn the color of baby blond hair? Ever ridden by a pumpkin patch that looked like it was peppered with huge orange dots? Ever seen a rolling meadow in the fall lush in purples, yellows and blues? Ever ridden your bike down a path lined with a dozen Autumn Blaze Maples? If you haven't experienced any of those sights, what are you waiting for? Get on your bike or your walking shoes and get yourself out into the country side (especially if you're living in WI) and soak it all in. This splash of color doesn't last long, please don't miss it.

Like I said, Saturday was my fifteen mile day. The bike ride was great, however, when I got back home I couldn't tell my Good Knee from my Fake Knee, both were smartin' pretty bad. And, the Cowgirl was acting like I'd made her ride the whole time sitting on a cactus. What a baby. But, I do not regret the experience.

Regret. Isn't that a lousy way to live a life? Always thinking "I should have..." or "I wished I would have..." What stops us from doing something we're yearning to do or experiencing something new? What kind of bad self-talk goes around in our heads when we're itching to burst from our shackles of decorum, and on the verge of taking off white socks and replacing them with lime green ones, but then we don't?

Do it! Life is just too short to regret not doing half of it. Do. It. Now.

Happy doing,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The yellow chair


Poor LuLu. We haven’t gone for a ride since last Friday. It was too busy of a weekend with the grand boys and then took a little trip from Sunday till now. And today, I was hoping to hop on her but woke up to wind and a drizzling rain. I’ve been pretty persistent in my bike riding and don’t mind rain if it’s a nice warm summer rain. But a cold fall rain is a whole other animal. Hence, I settled for going out to the garage and giving her a pat and promising her that tomorrow was another day.

I’m disappointed because I really needed LuLu today. I needed to clear my head. I needed to find some focus. I needed some prayer time. LuLu gives me all of those. Her little pink self does some amazing things if I just start pedaling.

So I climbed up stairs and straddled Rusty, the indoor exercise bike. Nope. No clarity and focus found there. What to do?

I find myself gravitating to the yellow wicker chair in our bedroom. It’s an old chair, real wicker. When I sit in it, the air sometimes quiets around me. It did today. I bowed my head. I allowed my heart to cry. I emptied out the glass that has splintered my soul the last couple of days. Then I sat, spent, quiet, alone.

The yellow chair wasn’t LuLu. But she was the next best thing today. Lesson learned: God will provide a time and a place if we truly want one.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Keep it simple

PHOTOS: Below are actual flowers from my garden. The yellow ones I call Long Stemmed Yellow Flower. The pink ones I call Pretty Pink Flower, and the last one I think is a daisy. If it isn't, I call it White Pedals w/Yellow Nose Flower.


LuLu-ism #31: Don’t eat one M&M when you can eat two. Never miss an opportunity to hug someone you love. And, never, ever turn down an invitation to lie on a blanket late at night and look at the stars.

Last Friday LuLu and I were pedaling around our block when I begin to notice that just about all of my neighbors had begun putting their flower gardens to bed. It’s fall in Wisconsin and that’s what a gardener in good standing does. You know what that means, right? It's cutting your flowers back, fertilizing, replanting, separating your bulbs, stuff like that. Well, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, put my flowers to bed. It all depends on how lazy I get or how cold it gets before I get around to it. If I don’t get to it, I tell myself the birds who don’t fly south will have a treat eating little seeds and twigs I graciously left for them.

I'm here to admit that I’m an accidental gardener. I piddle in the garden, but nothing is on purpose. I don’t read gardening books. I can name a few varieties of flowers but I can’t tell you how best to care for them. I sort of let the flowers themselves teach me what they want. Kind of like babies do with their parents. They whine to let them know if they have poo-poo in their pants, or want to be fed, or want to be held. Same with flowers. Waaa, I need water! Waaa, I need more sun Waaa I need less sun! Waaa, pull these weeds you fool!

I’m not proud of the fact that my flowerbeds look so pitiful sometimes. However, apparently I’m not totally embarrassed by it, because here I am sixty–years-old and still can’t tell a mum from an aster, or a hydrangea from a whatever and it doesn’t seem to bother me.

I guess I’ve approached biking that way as well. I was clueless when it came to knowing what I was looking for when it came to buying a bike. I knew I wanted a pink one, a fat seat, fat tires and handlebars that didn’t make me hunch over. That’s about it. I found LuLu. I didn’t do so badly.

Sometimes we make things so complicated. I’m not suggesting we just walk around bumping into walls and ignorant about life. But I’m here to tell you that life simply doesn’t have to be that complicated most of the time whether we're talking flowers, bikes or just living life. Here’s a guide I use sometimes when I get flustered: Jesus first. Others next. Yourself last. Pretty simple, huh? Try it for a week or two and see…




Friday, September 16, 2011

Things I've Learned from LuLu this summer


LuLu-ism # 30: Who’d of thought that getting back on a bike after all these years would be so fun. Goes to show you should never let the Cowgirl rule the roost.

Summer is gone where I live. Temps dipping near the 30s at night. Highs during the days in the 60s or less. It’s officially autumn. What that means to me is that my biking wear changes somewhat. Gone are the capris and the sun visor out come the sweatpants… and the wool hat, the heavy sweatshirt, socks and sometimes gloves. But I love riding in this weather. It feels different, smells different and it makes me pedal a little faster.

The end of summer also makes me reflect on the things I’ve learned for my LuLu during these carefree days. This summer LuLu has taught me:

~ to spit and not splat on myself (never could do that before)

~ there is no comfortable bike seat

~ flip flops make for horrible biking shoes

~ think about how far you ride, you have to ride the same distance back

~ which way the wind blows does matter

~ bugs taste bad

~ roosters can run … fast

~ if you have a hole in your pants, don’t get off your bike

~ just because you ride 12 miles in one day doesn’t mean you’ll lose 12 lbs

~ the first rotation of the pedal leads to the second

~ life is not a race, it’s a slow steady cruise

~ you’ll only find out if you can do something if you try

~ doing your personal best is its own reward

~ and… blessings come packaged in all kinds of surprises, even pink bikes

Hope your summer was everything you had hoped.

Love you guys,


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pedaling Makes The Mind Go Round


LuLu-ism #29: To quiet the head, stop talking, stop forcing, stop trying to tell it what to do. You know, stop acting like your mother. (Just kidding… I love you, Mom.)

So, I’m riding LuLu Saturday morning when all of a sudden it hits me. You see I’ve started a new book- my fifth. Two have been published. One is sitting in a drawer waiting for major rewrites. It was my ‘starter novel’. One is on an agent’s desk waiting for me to get started on some rewrites. And, now, I’m working on a new one. I was about 7,000 words into this new book, but I had a false start. I couldn’t seem to get my storyline clear in my head, or my characters, or voice or anything. I was struggling… until LuLu.

I’m riding up a little hill Saturday morning and I don’t even notice the lovely landscape around me. I’m mumbling and sorting my thoughts when suddenly, everything falls into place. I hear my character’s voice. I know my first line and I think I even know the last line off the book (which will be written many, many months from now). I did it, with the help of LuLu.

I started out my bike ride with this clouded notion and jumbled thoughts, but the more I pedaled and the more distance I put between me and my computer, the words came. The story started to reveal itself.

I love writing. I love telling a good story. I’ve tried to stop a few times, thinking it a big waste of time. But, I can’t seem not to write. It is as much a part of me as eating chocolate or decorating the Christmas tree. I will never stop doing those things. They give me too much pleasure. Writing is depleting and hard. After a day of struggling to put just the right words on the paper (or computer screen these days), my brain feels like I’ve fried it on the sidewalk on a hot, sweltering day. Yet, I feel so complete, happy and ready to do it all again the next day.

Some days, the words have to be pulled out of me like I’m sadistic dentist with pliers. Other days, they just flow out of me like I’m taking dictation from a nonstop talker. On those days have a hard time keeping up as my fingers fly over the keyboard. Those are good days.

LuLu has become my think tank so to speak. Riding her clears the head of clutter—pushes it aside and makes way for a stream of consciousness that has been extremely beneficial these last few months. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m thinking of writing our President and telling him if he wants to solve our country’s ills he need to get himself a pink bike… and soon.

Need to work some thing’s out? Leave the house. Ride a bike.

See you, Thursday.


Friday, September 9, 2011


Photos: (above) Some of my good stock- my mom at the World's Longest Yard Sale. (below) LuLu's Grandma Schwinn at the yard sale.


LuLu-ism #28: If you catch yourselves looking and acting like your mother at the odd moment, God bless you. It must mean you’re doing something right.

In early August my mom and I checked off something on our bucket list: the World’s Longest Yard Sale all along highway 127- six hundred and seventy-five miles of junk and treasure. From Gadsden, Alabama to Hudson, Michigan, you can buy anything from a butter urn to a 1945 Ford pick up truck with its original three-speed transmission. Or, if you’re lucky, a push mower welded onto a bicycle (No lying).

Mom and I didn’t drive the whole 675 miles, but we did get in a mile or two before we had to move on. I’m telling you this because on one of our stops, I ran into LuLu’s grandmother. I was looking at some vintage stained glass windows sitting next to a six-foot wooden Indian when I look to my left and got the chills. There she was, Grandma Schwinn, kickstand down, original fat tires and some killer fenders. She was quite a looker. Not bad for an old gal. If I had not of had my own sweet LuLu waiting for me at home, Grandma would have come home with me.

Seeing the stock that LuLu had come from gave me an odd sort of pride. Grandma was the prototype, the first of her kind. She was made well, and if she could have talked, I’m sure she would have told me stories about all the folks who had had great adventures while pushing her pedals around town.

It got me to thinking about the stock I come from. Lots of hardy women, intelligent women, true matriarchs that held families together, pinched pennies, baked from scratched, hung sheets on the line, and knew what to do with a washboard. They were women who raised children to be virtuous, pushed their husbands to be their better selves, and canned and pickled any vegetable they could get their hands on. Their families wore clean clothes, never went hungry and were always tucked in at night. These women were the first ones up and the last ones to bed.

Good stock. I thank God for the legacy the women in my family have given me. And, I’m thinking LuLu is probably just as proud of Grandma Schwinn.

If you come from good stock, you’ve got something extra to thank God for tonight. Don’t forget.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Three Women

Photos: (top) Erin and my son, Nathan with grandson, Cormac. Little Cian was to be born a few months later. (Bottom) Sarah and my son, Matthew with granddaughters, Paisly, Zella and twins, Kasia & Isamae.


LuLu-ism #27: Family, God's lesson in love... and peanut butter hand prints on your patio doors.

I’m late in posting, I know. Good thing I’m not getting paid for blogging, huh? Just think of it like your trash pick up. I don’t know about your area, but when holidays happen, our garbage man comes a day late.

Labor Day was such fun around the Cleveland household. Grandchildren and children filled the house and yard with beautiful noise and lots of activity. My kitchen floor is sticking to my feet this morning and there are not clean towels to be had. But such is love.

One of my favorite memories of the weekend, of course, has to do with LuLu. My daughters-in-law are into jogging these days. So, LuLu and I tagged along Monday morning for a six-mile jog/bike ride. Here in the North, fall has arrived, and on that morning was this cool, crisp light air that made all three us of think we could probably jog further and bike further than we really could. So off we went.

I love these young women. Both of them have blessed and added to this family beauty, grace, and fun. They are part of my reward for having to raise boys. God had mercy on me and one day said, “She’s done enough, let’s reward her for all the burping and tooting at the dinner table she had to endure all those years.” Thus, I have Sarah and Erin.

So, they’re running. I’m biking. We talked and encouraged and kept moving. Sometimes, I’d let the downside of a little hill take me ahead of them a bit, and stand on my pedals to allow the Cowgirl some breathing room. Then, every once in a while, Sarah would dart out in front in a fast jog to stretch out her legs (she’s been jogging seriously for over a year), and, Erin, who just had her second baby a few months ago, kept a steady pace and was determined to make this run her personal best.

Simple. Three women. Laughter. Quiet Talk. A family. It is these moments that color my life with a brilliance I don’t deserve, never expected, but am so honored, touched, and humbled to be experiencing.

I hope your day was as joy-filled.