Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bedroom Redo

 PHOTO: LuLu trying to look innocent.

LuLu-ism #51: Women over 60 should not be on ladders. It’s like sticking your tongue out at Mother Nature and daring her to strike you with lightening.

The other day while riding LuLu I got this bright idea that it was time to re-decorate our bedroom. When I’m out on my pink bike, I get to believing I can do anything in no time at all and with hardly any money. Hence, LuLu gets me in trouble… a lot.
So, this week I spent a day taking stuff of the walls of my bedroom, patching holes, removing furniture away from the walls, which to my horror I discovered twelve-year-old colonies of dust bunnies, dog toys, grandchildren toys, several socks (None of them matching), and Jimmy Hoffa. Who knew? Then I proceeded to place blue tape around the baseboards and windows. Eight hours later, I’m ready to start painting.
Day Two had me up and down on a ladder for hours with a paint roller over my head, thus enraging my arthritis, my fibromyalgia, and the Fake Knee. LuLu also gave me the idea that I could paint an ‘accent wall’ in a different color with no problem. Wrong! Big problem trying to not bleed the colors over on to each other. I was concentrating so hard on not bleeding colors together that I didn’t even notice that I had spilled almost my whole container of paint I was holding onto my shoulder, down my leg and onto the carpet.  Supper that night was peanut butter… on a spoon.
Day Three spent removing the thousands of yards of blue tape from said windows and trim only to find paint still seeped onto areas I did not want it. Thus, I spent an hour or so scraping and scrubbing paint off of trim. Scooting furniture back in place with the help of the burly Hubs was fun. Having him snarl at the new color was not. Then I had to break my own heart as I put nail holes in those new fresh walls to hang stuff back up. Of course, the new paint color made the old bedspread and old curtains look really shabby. Yep, add those to the cost of paint, brushes, rollers, and drop cloth (which was on the other side of the room when I spilled paint on the carpet), and this quick, easy and cheap re-do has cost me a small fortune… and has the Hubs snarling all the more.
Moral of story: Maybe I should sell LuLu.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Real Deal


This past Saturday Charles Colson died at the age of 80. Some of you may remember him as President Nixon’s “hatchet man” in the Watergate scandal. Some of you may remember him as the founder of Prison Fellowship, a ministry he began in 1976 after being released from prison. Or someone of you may be too young to remember him at all. What I remember of him is that he was the real deal.
I haven’t met too many celebrity types in my lifetime, but I did met Mr. Colson Easter weekend, 2007. I was invited to join him and several others on his annual tradition of spending Easter with inmates. It was a women’s prison in Ohio in which a busload of us were deposited at the check-in site, searched and escorted to the cafeteria to eat lunch with inmates. We went from table to table meeting and greeting and inviting the women to worship service.
In the prison gym in front of several hundred inmates, I watched the once Chief of Staff to the President of the United States humble himself before his audience. As he professed his faith and redemption through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I witnessed an entire room of hard, broken hearts soften. For over 39 nine years his message never wavered.
I had three brief conversations with Mr. Colson that weekend. He agreed to write the foreword to my book, Man From Macedonia, that is “if you don’t write like a fourth-grader” he said. The pressure was on. But what I remember most is that during those conversations, he never took his eyes off me. He talked directly to me, like I was the only one in the room and the only one that mattered… and he did that with everyone he greeted.
Charles once said, "I shudder to think of what I'd been if I had not gone to prison. Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it's not prosperity or pleasure that's important, but the maturing of the soul."

Patty, you and your family are in my prayers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Song


Have you ever awaken with a tune in your head that just won’t go away? You find yourself humming it, singing it, and la-la-ing it at odd moments. Well, yesterday on my sixty- first birthday as I greeted the day, a melody started playing in my head and floating around me as if I had just opened the lid of a music box. So I embraced it and made it my theme for the day. And what a great day it was.

The first day of my sixty-first year started at Starbucks. A friend invited me for tea to reconnect and to talk about writing…one of my favorite topics. Next, I went shopping with my birthday money. Yes, even at sixty-one you can still get birthday money from your mom. Humming my song around in the store, I found this great little round rug with golds and blues and purples on it that simply called to me. It’s going next to my bed and will give me happy feet every morning. Then, I took myself to lunch at my favorite sub-shop. The veggie sub at Jimmy Johns makes me hum and groan while eating it, literally. Good thing I ate it in my car out of earshot of the general public. Next, back home it was time for a bike ride. While the sun finally made an appearance, the wind had not subsided one iota. At one point, I had to get off and push LuLu down the road; but no matter, we were girls on a mission, nothing was going to stop us from our birthday ride.

As we turned south onto Old Country Club Road I was able to hop back on my pink bike and continue on. Oh, friends! I couldn’t help myself; I started singing… out loud, sometimes with my eyes closed, sometimes with my hand waving in the breeze as if conducting a huge choir. The tune, the song, the words bubbled over and became a prayer, a declaration, a hand-shake of conviction as I gave myself, this day and the rest of my days, over to The Song...

Jesus keep me near the cross; There a precious fountain,

Free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvry’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever,

Till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.

Yes, my soul!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Birthday Girls

PHOTO: My first photo with LuLu. April 2011.


"Happy Birthday to us... Happy Birthday to us... Happy Birthday Deb and LuLu... Happy Birthday to us!"

Last year for my 60th Birthday the Hubs presented me with LuLu, my pink bike. Together, bike and rider hit the back roads of Black Wolf, Wisconsin and began the journey of improved health and other stuff. It’s been a year now. Tomorrow, I turn sixty-one and LuLu turns one. So what have we learned? Were some goals met? Did we succeed or fail?

Let me give you the poop with a warning: you might need a calculator: Okay, from April to September 2011, I lost eleven pounds. My first ride on LuLu, I went three miles. By the end of the summer I was pedaling fifteen miles at a whack. My eating was getting better. Choices becoming healthier. Then came September and another couple of bouts of cancer for the Hubs. Not an excuse, mind you, but the eating smart and exercising became less frequent; plus cooler weather moved in. Winter hit. Holidays came and went. Weight returned, at least eight pounds of it. Okay, so now I’m only down three pounds from where I started. Then in February, I get serious about the health kick again, especially when crazy warm weather hits the upper mid-west in what is usually our coldest and snow-iest of the season. Thus, LuLu and I ventured out of the garage on several occasions. Also in February, some friends decided to join me on this venture, so we started reporting in and keeping each other accountable and encouraged. I also started taking measurements so I can track the inches melting off of me (ever the optimist). Okay, from February till now, I’ve lost 16 pounds, but should I add back the first eleven, and then subtract three? Or just subtract 8. Have I lost 27 pounds or 19 pounds or l6 pounds? The answer: Yes, I have.

As for the inches gone: Well, total I’ve lost 15 inches world wide, so to speak. But one week I gained an inch back in a couple of the neighborhoods. So, have I lost 17 inches or 15 inches, because I did lose that inch again? The final answer: Yes.

Okay, are you keeping up? As you can see, I’m going to be slippery to nail down, but here’s the bottom line: It has been a great year. I’m healthier. I’m thinner in parts. I’ve got more energy. The Fake Knee is still working. The Cowgirl is still complaining. The Old Girl, at 61, is still determined to make the best out of what she’s got left. I want to honestly be able to continue to sing the words to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with my grandchildren with as much wonder as they do. I want to going on adventures, even if that sometimes simply means riding LuLu to the Post Office. I want to learn something new everyday. And, I want not a day to go by that I am not grateful… for everything.

Tomorrow, I turn 61. Come rain or shine, LuLu and I will be on the road.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't let them see you grunt


LuLu-ism #51: Whatever you do, do not keep comparing yourself to someone who has maids, gardeners, personal chefs, nannies, drivers, advisers, and a bazillion dollars to spend on a tan and dentistry. You'll lose every time. Although I have to admit, Ms. Loren does have good bones.

Years ago, the actress, Sophia Loren, was interviewed when she turned sixty. The reporter asked her what her secret was to staying so young looking and beautiful. She passed on some sage advice her own mother had given her. “Whenever you get up from a chair or the couch, no matter how much you want to, don’t grimace or grunt.” Those weren’t her exact words, but you get her drift.

Now that I’m on the tail-end of my sixtieth year, I understand more clearly how wise Ms. Loren’s advice was. Some days it is all I can do to not walk like cement has set up in my veins. You know that walk, it’s a waddle really that gives away my fallen arches, my aching back and my Fake Knee. And forget getting up from a chair like a dancer; throw me a rope will ya!

But, as most of you know by now, I’m trying to rectify all of that. I’m on a health-kick. At the very least, this last year has been about retraining myself to laugh without peeing my pants, and to lose enough weight so I can stoop without all kinds of embarrassing things happening.

Yes, it’s almost been a whole year, since LuLu, the pink bike, came into my life and enticed me to try pedaling my way back to better health. Next week, I turn sixty-one. I’ll give you an update then of how it’s going.

Until then, what do you think? Could this be the year you decide is the time to cleanse the temple, so to speak? Spruce up the arteries? Tone up the muscles? Give the heart a new lease on life? Or, you’re getting older, so exactly when are you going to write that novel? Learn to paint? Ride an elephant? Or whatever you’ve been telling yourself that someday you’re going to do?

There’s nothing like the present to get started on fulfilling a dream.

We’ll, talk next week.


Monday, April 9, 2012



All ladies are invited to Oakhaven Church’s SISTER SATURDAY. The particulars are below. Please come prepared to participate in a day that will Glorify our Lord in word and deed. The afternoon talent show is for YOU to participate in, so get to practicing, ladies, as a group or individuals. All skits, songs, or juggling acts welcomed. Lunch will be provided.

Who: God’s women who want to have fun…


When: Saturday May 5, 2012- 9:30 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Where: Oakhaven Church, 2175 Witzel, Oshkosh, WI

Cost: $8 (lunch provided)

What to expect: Fun, Fellowship, and Praise

On tap: a Talent Show, Games, Singing, Devotional

RSVP to: Deb Cleveland- OR

(920) 203-3074 no later than MAY 1.



Thursday, April 5, 2012



"It is finished."

Darkness bellowed across the sky. The earth began trembling slightly and then grew into a jarring that shook the earth from its axis. Boulders split where they sat. Tombs fell open and the dead walked among the living. And finally, man fell to his knees.

A broken body was taken from a crude, bloodstained cross. Roman nails were left in the wood as a witness to horror. The crime had been revenged, but not by the criminal. Tenderly, and veiled through tears, the Crucified was wrapped and taken to a borrowed grave where it was sealed and left in silence.

After three days of waiting, the earth groaned and again shook its foundation. The seal to the tomb was rolled away by arms ordained. A radiant face, a rejuvenated body greeted those who came running. Death was now the broken one. Rocking back and forth to the earth's triumphal roar, the cross creaked powerlessly.

Fear. Envy. Denial. Mocking. Scourging. Thorns. Robe. Cross. Vinegar. Spear. Blood and Water. Forgiveness. Darkness. Waiting. Victory.

He is alive!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012



Here in the north, it’s getting to the end of fireplace season. Yeah, if you’re living in the South or out West, you’ve been done with winter for a while now. But in Wisconsin, winter keeps toying with us as spring plays a rousing game of peek-a-boo. This winter we had some cozy evenings up here in the North Country sans deep snow and logs crackling in the fireplace. But yesterday, as I was cleaning out those nasty ashes and soot from the bottom of the fireplace grate, I found myself mentally calculating how much it would cost to install gas logs. Then it struck me, that despite the mess, nobody at the end of their life is going to say, “I wished I could have sat around more clean, fake fireplaces.”

You can’t beat the real thing no matter how messy. Not in fireplaces. Not in life. Real life is sloppy. It's coloring outside the lines; its mixing colors; its full of oozing paste and glitter; it's sticky puddles of Kool Aid on the kitchen floor; it's chocolate ice cream stains on your best shirt; it's holes in your jeans; it's grass stains on your socks; it's Band aides on your knees; it's laughing till your side aches; it's staying up all night talking; it's tear-stained pages; it's sleeping with a child snuggled up close; and yes, it's riding a pink bike with a bum knee. Real life and real love is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting, yet you can't wait to jump out of bed and get started with it every single morning.

How we spend our time should be thought out and deliberated over. Time is a gift that once gone, we never get back. I urge us all to spend what we've been given wisely-- on the the real, on the messy, on the jump-in-mud-puddle kind of things that in the end of our days we can honestly fall back on our pillow and say, "Yes! I'd do it all over again in exactly the same way."

May your day be filled with gooey, sticky, messy delight,


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Riding tall


Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away lived a little girl in fourth grade that towered over all of her classmates… boys included. She was an Amazon among ten-year-olds. The little girl learned quickly how to slump at her desk to blend in and stoop her shoulders when standing in line in gym class. When her mother took her to Sears and Roebucks that same year and made her try on one hundred and twelve bras with two giddy sales clerk more than happy to assist her in this first-time humiliating experience, the little girl had mastered her slump and stoop. Thus began a millennium of bad posture.

Last year when the little girl, now a middle-aged, vibrant woman was given a pink bike for her 60th birthday her slumping and stooping days were given their walking papers. With each mile logged her stomach muscles finally got some, well, muscle to them. As her core grew stronger, her slump grew less slump-ier. With each goal met, she stood a little taller. Which was okay, since she hadn’t grown an inch since fourth grade. Five foot three inches for a ten-year-old was monstrous; at age sixty not so much. At age sixty, the little-girl-turned-middle-aged has to now fight not to lose an inch in height. Such is the cruelty of life.

Posture. It can tell us so much about one’s life. If you’re trying to hide and blend in the tendency to make yourself smaller is inbred. But if you’re wanting to be seen, noticed, or wanting to take part in what’s around you, you tend to walk tall and raise your hand a lot to volunteer.

The little girl in me is done hiding. Of course, the hump on my back doesn’t help, but I’m thinking it’s time to stand tall and be counted just the same. I’m ready to push the shoulders back and let the boobies fall where they may. Bike riding season is here, so if you happen to pass a woman on a pink bike riding straight and tall in the saddle, wave, honk, smile or laugh, I don’t care. I’m gonna keep riding tall.