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.