Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Clerk


Several years ago our family was traveling through Ulysses S. Grant’s hometown of Galena, Illinois. After having stopped and gathered some brochures, I began reading them out loud. You can only imagine how much our three sons were enjoying that. There were many interesting facts about this president to be learned, but the thing that got our attention was the fact that in nine short years, Ulysses S. Grant went from being a store clerk in his father’s leather shop(1861) to being elected the eighteenth president of the United States (1869). When my oldest son heard this, his comment was, “Wow, he must have been some clerk!”

How I envy the person that does their best no matter the circumstance. They never stop moving forward, learning, discovering, exploring. These people ooze with determination. They see life from all sides and different angles and then act.

I am not a scholar when it comes to the life and times of our President Grant. But I do know even with the mistakes he made during his presidency, he made a difference in this world. I would venture to say that had he stayed a store clerk, he still probably would have made a difference to those around him—people like him are just that way.

I want to be like that, don’t you? I want to let nothing stop me from being my best self. However, pessimism preys outside my dreams, just waiting to rip them to shreds with its fangs of self-doubt--in the end threatening to make me perform less than my best.

Ulysses S. Grant, the clerk, wore the self-doubt beast down. Ulysses S. Grant, the president,
buried him for good.

We can too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm wondering...


I’m wondering…

Does anyone fry chicken anymore? I mean, cut it up, dip it in milk, dip it in flour, salt and pepper, and place it into a hot fry pan of oil?

Does anyone darn socks anymore? You know, sit down with needle and thread and a darning knob and seal up those little holes in the toes and heel?

Does anyone really wash their windows with vinegar and water anymore or has Windex made that obsolete?

Does anyone sprinkle their cottons anymore, roll them up, place them back into the laundry basket and then iron them?

Does anyone crochet those little orange and red house slippers anymore?

Does anyone ever sit on their front porch with a bowl placed between their knees and snap beans while waving to their passing neighbors?

Does anyone still wear a ‘house dress’?

Does anyone wear an apron anymore—while frying chicken?

Life has changed since my grandmother and mother’s day. Some changes have been good. I haven’t sprinkled my cottons since....well...I’m not sure I ever did. I haven’t fried chicken since the Colonel introduced his secret recipe. I swore never to own a ‘house dress’ (however, I do own and wear the house dress’s first cousin—sweat pants). I bought my first apron two years ago; I’ve worn it once.

Some changes have been good, others not so much. Some practices of everyday family life that we’ve left by the wayside have left us yearning for what they brought into our lives—like front porches and waving to our neighbors and simplicity.

With today’s economy it might not be a bad idea to reinstate some of those practices from yesteryear, like darn instead of throw away. Don’t get me wrong progress and invention are good. I, for one, am so thankful I do not have to chase a chicken around the hen house, wring it’s neck, chop off it’s head, pluck it’s feathers, cut it into parts like a crazed serial killer and… you get the picture. Let’s just keep a watch on invention and convenience. Okay? Make sure we don’t allow them to rob us of important things—like self- sufficiency, the practice of ‘making do’, and the appreciation of where we’ve been. Maybe that’s why I love riding a pink bike these days. It’s simple, it saves gas, it offers exercise, and I get to wave at my neighbors.

See you next week,


Tuesday, February 21, 2012



Random thoughts while elliptical-ing on Hildegard this morning:

~Ann Curry on the Today Show needs to sit up straighter when she’s interviewing folks. She humps over and her chin is practically on her knees.

~Are you kidding? Twenty-nine more minutes to go?!

~Is this what a heart attack feels like?

~Did I shave my legs last Tuesday or was it Wednesday?

~Seven more calories and I’ll be able to cancel out that piece of cake.

~Is popcorn a vegetable?

~If I pass out right now how long would I lay here before anyone missed me?

~Do I have on clean undies?

~I can’t feel my feet.

~What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

~I wonder how old I really look?

~I wonder how much weight I’m going to have to lose to get rid of that little hump on my back?

~Twenty-seven more minutes? Seriously?

May the good Lord bless us all and humor us all and have patience with us all as we stumble and bumble our way toward becoming the people He meant us to be.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Come to Me


LuLu-ism #47: When all else fails, go back to the original plan... silly!

I woke up this morning with this little seed of something trying to grow inside of me. It’s hard to explain, really. But I felt it sprouting root, a little sprig of something delightful. It dawned on me that I’d felt this before; there was a familiarity to it—almost a memory of something wonderful that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it hits me… it’s joy.

Joy, Oh where hast thou been? It knocked me between the eyes that I haven’t felt joyful, truly joyful in a long time. It’s like I’ve been in a dark forest forced to rummage for my own food, forced to watch my own back, and forced to do it all alone; When suddenly I come to the edge of the dark line of trees and I see a meadow. The sunlight is so brilliant I have to squint to see. As my eyes adjust I begin to make out bright, shimmering colors and the smell of fertile, rich earth becomes intoxicating. Oh, and the breeze is just cool enough to chase away the last remnants of sleep, yet warm enough to makes me kick off my heavy boots, tear off my wool socks and run barefoot on the damp, dewy ground.

Joy! I have been so burden down with heavy tarps of worry, with tasks, with responsibility, and yes, I must admit, with fear, that joy hasn’t seen the light of day inside me in months and months. The darkening happened so gradually I didn’t notice and honestly, was too distracted to care.

My husband still has cancer. My latest book is still not published. My sweet parents are struggling with health issues; bills still show up in our mailbox, oh, the list goes on. Life is messy and it gets so cumbersome at times that it’s a wonder we can stand upright at all. But then…

Joy happens. God kicks the heavy tarps away and roars, “ Listen to me! I’m still here! You are not alone! You have never been alone!” And then in a quieter voice He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There it is, right there… Joy!



Monday, February 13, 2012



LuLu-ism # 46: Love makes the world go around. So does food poisoning. So, be very careful what your true love gives you to eat.

It is an old belief that birds choose their mates on February 14. One old English custom had a single girl write the names of the boys she was interested in on small bits of paper and then roll them up in separate pieces of clay. She then dropped the clay into water. The first scrap of paper to rise to the top was supposed to contain the name of her true valentine. In old Sicily, unmarried women would get up before sunrise on Valentine’s Day to stand by their windows watching for a man to pass by. Each girl believed that the first man she saw or someone who looked a lot like him would become her bridegroom within the year.

Today the romance tradition continues. Hallmark makes a fortune on it, so do chocolate factories.

And then there’s my husband. I can count on one hand how many cards and chocolate hearts I’ve received on this worldwide day of romance in the last forty years. Valentine’s Day is a big rub for him. His philosophy— “Ain’t no one gonna tell me when to love my woman” (grunt-grunt). So, I never know if the day is going to pass us by or if I’m going to find a Snicker’s bar under my pillow.

Actually, I do have a whole drawer full of poems he wrote himself. Only one was given on Valentine’s Day. The very first marriage retreat we attended was his idea, and we’ve attended one almost every year since. We have had forty wedding anniversaries that have been celebrated with flourish, mostly through his planning and forethought. My every birthday has his loving stamp on it. (After all, the hubs is the one who bought me LuLu for my last birthday). So, I’m not complaining.

But if you’re a big fan of Valentine’s Day, I wish you a happy one. As far as I’m concerned though, each day and every day you wake up loved is Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caring for Sparrows

PHOTO: My friend, Mike.


The other day I was loping around on Hildegard, the sweatmaker and trying my best not to pass out. The elliptical can be pretty mean when she wants to, so I usually use our thirty minutes together as prayer time. Really. I find this to be a great time to focus my thoughts on praying for others. So, I started going through my list of folks when one name popped into my head I hadn’t thought of in years.


Fifth grade wasn’t easy for me. Mentally I couldn't keep up with myself physically. When I started wearing those blue, pointy glasses it got worse. When I started having trouble with arithmetic, life got darker still. "Ugly". "Four-eyes". "Dummy". No sir, I didn't lack for names.

Then, in sixth grade along came Mike. Mike was one of the best-looking, smartest, most popular guys in school. At least that’s how I remember him. I sat beside him and for some otherworldly reason we became best friends. Mike didn't see me the way other kids did. He always chose me first to be on his kick ball team even though I was a girl. I beat him at tetherball, but he didn't mind. And when I had to stay in at recess to finish my arithmetic, he would stay in with me. Mike is the one who finally made long division make as much sense as it was going to make. He never laughed at me and in sixth grade, because of him, no one else did either.

Life went on and mine got better. My body finally quit all of that awkward stuff, glasses were traded for contact lenses, and I even passed Modern Math. Through junior high and high school we remained friends, but nothing like it was in sixth grade.

I haven't seen Mike in over forty-five years, but for one brief moment in time, he was the most important person in my life. He befriended a frightened sparrow and made her proud of who she was even in blue, pointy glasses.

Is there a Mike in your past or present? If so, know that it isn't just luck. It is a promise. God takes care of His own, even sparrows.

When you get a minute, maybe while you’re exercising on your elliptical, or running, or whatever your exercise of choice is, thank Him today for His tender attention to details.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Survivor Island


LuLu-ism # 45: Man is not an island. Good thing. We’d be doomed.

…It is a good thing. I would hate to think I’d have to go through this life all alone. One, how boring can that be? Two, how many mistakes could one person make when the only input they have is their own? And, three, the loneliness would kill.

In the last couple of weeks, my island has been invaded with two of the loveliest ladies. They’d been reading this blog not because they think it’s so great, but because they like me. We’ve been friends a while now. Then, then after the New Year, we’d been chatting through email about helping each other through this quagmire of dieting, exercise and the road to better health. Well, two weeks ago, we made our pact to share the island and fill it up with daily encouragement, tips, prayer and accountability.

I haven’t been this excited about dieting in… well… never. We’ve just entered our third week and we’ve all had shining successes and some real trials. We’ve about decided that this adventure is just as much about mind and heart as it is about diet and exercise. The mind comes into play because if we don’t keep it engaged, we’ll put just about anything into our mouths without thinking. The mind will defeat at every turn if it is not convinced we’re worth it.

And, our hearts keep us in the game when the scale fails us. It is the connector to something greater than ourselves. It is the hand the reaches out and begs for help. It is the only part of our bodies that is truly capable of understanding faith, forgiveness, and sacrificial love. It is the only part of the body whose home is somewhere else. Without it, the rest is meaningless.

Whatever your dreams, whatever your hopes, whatever your goals, remember to build a big, friendly, welcoming dock on your island. It increases your chances of survival ten-fold.

“I can do all things through Jesus who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

photo by Nutanai Apikhomboonwaroot

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lessons from Belle


For the past two weeks, Belle, the exercise ball, has been my exercise weapon of choice. I took her and her trusty hand weights to Door County with me on my writer’s retreat. And this week, we’ve met almost every morning in my office. With determination we worked through our routine. What I’ve discovered is that not only is Belle a big blue rubbery ball who puts me through the paces, but Belle is also my Mr. Miyagi (remember the original Karate Kid movie? “Wax on. Wax off.”) So I give you Lessons from Belle:

#1: A firm foundation is a must. Bare feet make a horrible stabilizer. You must wear shoes or once you’ve rolled down onto your back, you’re never going to get enough traction to get back up. Trust me. I know this for fact and it ain’t pretty. Being firmly planted is not only a BelleRule it also makes good sense in life, no? But firmly planted in what? That is the question.

#2: Balance is the key. In order to achieve balance BelleRule says you must keep adjusting. Belle is never stable. She’s round, remember? So I must adjust myself constantly to stay in the game. Likewise, life is never stable. We must have the ability to adjust to the rolling wave of what’s thrown at us. How? See BelleRule #1

#3 Stay alert. The minute you take your eye off the ball, so to speak, you’re going to roll off. What I mean is, sometimes I close my eyes while I’m balancing on my back lifting the hand weights over head. I try to shut out what I’m doing, sort of wanting to coast through the exercise. The minute I do, my reflexes relax and Belle, the round ball, sees an opening and bucks me off. Life will do that to us too, if we aren’t diligent. We won’t see it coming, we won’t be prepared and before we know it, we’re laying on the floor wondering what happened. Engage in your life. No coasting. Also, see BelleRule #1.

Oh, there’s more, Belle isn’t done with me yet. But be thinking about your life’s foundation. What stablizes you? What helps you keep balanced. What prepares you for the roll? We’ll see you back here on Tuesday.