Thursday, June 28, 2012


Here's someone whose hair I'd love to have...granddaughter Harper Grace.


So last week I was canoeing on the Wisconsin River. Sleeping in tents. Living off the land… well, not really, but we did eat pretty well, thanks to my friend, Mary. She plans and packs the meals for the group. I’m pretty sure I gained a couple of pounds from all of the Nutella and peanut butter and Chicken Slop. I’d like to think the weight was new muscle from all the paddling, but I know better.
We had a great time. Even slept on a sand bar one night. When I camp, I loosen up a bit when it comes to grooming. I truly don’t think I combed my hair the whole trip. Just woke up, shook it out and put a hat on it. When I got home, I was aghast to see that I was sporting a unibrow. I didn’t pluck either, and my mustache needed attention. And, that long hair protruding from my chin was new. My legs were beginning to stick together like Velcro, and let’s not even talk about the underarms, okay? Let’s just say I was beginning to look very European.
What is it with hair, especially as we grow more … mature? Where’s it all coming from, I mean, really? When I was eighteen, I don’t think I ever had to trim my nose hairs, did you? Or, pluck errant hair from my top lip. And let’s not talk about what’s going on with the ears. Hair is starting to grow everywhere except where I want it—on the top of my head. I’m not going bald but my crowning glory is not as thick as it used to be.
Aging toys with us and taunts us like a bully on the playground. Maverick hair growing in odd places is just one of it’s nasty tricks. So, what can we do about this?
Make peace with it and keep your tweezers handy. Nothing is as sad to me than seeing an old movie star who has over done it with the plastic surgery. Lips puffed up like sponges. Cheekbones realigned. Skin peeled down to the bone. And, electrolysis’s out the wa-zoo.
Bodies are going to change as they age. They just are. Our jobs are to keep them as healthy as we can, and cleaned and fueled. Beyond that, we’re grasping at the wind.
It’s not the gray hair, or chin hair, or lip hair or knuckle hair or any other kind of hair that should define us. It’s who we are down deep that matters. It’s the heart. The soul. The spirit. And, well, if hair starts growing on any of that… embrace it. Style it Go with it. It was just meant to be.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home again, home again gig-ga-de-gig

The whole Cleveland Clan at the upper falls. God is so good!


I know. I know! LuLu and I have been missing in action. Sorry. The last two weeks have been a blessing straight from God himself. But, I took you with me in spirit, okay?  First, we spent four days at Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp, God’s Country! The first two days, Gary and I had the five granddaughters in a cabin by ourselves. What fun. Except for the first night when I got about two hours sleep the whole night. Squirming girls, a slanting, dipping mattress, and freezing cold might have had something to do with that. The last two nights their parents joined us and then the last day the grandboys and their parents joined us. Then the party really began. Cousin Camp! Critter chasing, water balloons, lots of sand play, lots of fresh air and then there was the… creek.
Robinson Creek is holy ground to the Cleveland clan. It’s a place where you can cool down, frolic and renew your soul. Two waterfalls, constant motion and then the songs…yes, the creek sings. It has captured every song that has ever been sung at WCYC and returns it to you amidst it’s rapid, roaring waters. I promise, if you listen closely you can hear voices from the past still captured between it’s falls, laughter, prayer, singing, and names. What a joy to share this place once again with my sons and now with their families.
Then, last week Gary and I rushed home from camp only to wash and repack for our church’s Youth Trek- four days of canoeing on the Wisconsin River with eight of the greatest people you’d ever want to share a canoe paddle with. Spending time with these teens has renewed my hope for God’s church and for this nation. What sweeties! What wisdom, courage and strong spirit lives in these kids. The days were filled with floating down the river being escorted by bald eagles, sand cranes, turtles and a variety of other birds and creatures I’d only have to guess at what they were. But, they were beautiful and welcomed us to their territory without much fuss.
I’m back home now and the last two days, LuLu and I have made up for lost time. I came home fitter than when I left, a fact which impressed LuLu to no end as I pushed her hard down the side roads around here.
Summer is grand. Enjoy yours. Fill your days with loved one, good friends and a deep appreciation for what God has created for us with such delight.
See you Thursday!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just under the board

2Pops & Granny Jane with their great-grands

 I was five years old.  He was 29.  I was standing at the end of the high dive looking down at my dad treading water just below me.  He was looking up at me smiling, encouraging.  “It’s okay, Sissy. Jump when you’re ready,” he said.

         Being up on that high dive was my idea.  My brother, who was three years older, had already jumped, and there was no way I was going to let him do something that spectacular without me trying it too.  Of course, Mom had already told me I couldn’t; but Dad said I was ready.  And there he was, young, strong, tanned, waiting... for me.

         I could just see his legs kicking underneath him.  His arms outstretched.  It hardly looked like it took any effort for him to keep afloat in what seemed like a bottomless pit of blue water.  Yet, he never drifted from under the diving board, arms waiting... eyes reassuring.

         I took a deep breath.  Squeezed my nose as hard as I could and stepped off the end of the board.  I felt his arms even before I hit the water.  He was there just like he promised. 

         Today, I’m 61.  He is 85.  Dad is deep into Alzheimer’s now, and while he can’t always remember my name, I hope somewhere in the back of his heart he can still see us that day at the pool. Me, on the diving board with my skinny, shivering legs, and wildly beating heart, and he just under the board. “It’s okay, Sissy.  Jump when you’re ready. I’m here.”  

And I always did.  And he always was.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads who are always there… waiting… just under the board.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Be cautious


LuLu and I have several routes we ride. I’ve got most of them ‘clocked’ out and know how many miles each route is. One of my favorite six-mile trails takes me up a pretty steep hill. I’ve made it up every time so far, but by the time I get to the top, the Fake Knee is whining like a weenie, and I’m breathing pretty hard. I’m rewarded for my perseverance with a lovely ride through a quiet country neighborhood loop filled with flowers, lots of birds and friendly folks.
So, the pink bike and me pedal the loop and then eventually come back around to that hill. On the way home, it’s downhill all the way as I’m transformed into a kid again. I stand on the pedals and whiz down the slope with the wind in the hair, and a little flip in the tummy. Wheee!
Unfortunately, the slope brings me straight down to a stop sign and a cross road with the possibility of meeting up with a car, or truck, or tractor coming down the road.  The first time I whizzed down the hill like an Olympic downhill skier, I shot out right into that road and in right front of an oncoming car. Not smart. Thankfully, I had shot out on the road a few seconds in front of the car giving the surprised driver time to slow down. Since then I’ve renamed that little area Dead-Woman-On-A-Pink-Bike Road.
Now when I come down that hill, I give myself a few seconds of pure freedom… feet off the pedals, cruising at warp speed, hair blowing in the wind. About halfway down I start testing my brakes, grip the handlebars and by the time I get to the bottom of the slope I’m going a cautious, controlled speed.
Life has lots of thrills that are good, but as with most things, be smart, be cautious and expect the unexpected… and live to ride another day.
Be careful out there…

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Chase is on...


Yesterday was garbage day around here. Big loud, trucks that gobble up anything from coffee cans to half-eaten carrots were on the hunt. LuLu doesn’t like them. They’re too loud for her sensitivities. However, we pedaled out of the drive way just as the noisy truck was making a snack out of our neighbors trashcans. Bad timing for us, but off we went, me pedaling hard trying to put some distance between us the menacing truck. Picture Luke Skywalker being pursued by the blood thirsty Darth Vader. Or, Indiana Jones running away from a huge tumbling bolder with pygmies shooting poisonous darts at him. I pedaled. The truck pursued.
Okay, it wasn’t as dramatic as that, but the truck was annoying as I tried staying out in front of it.  The Fake Knee was none too pleased with our pace I might add. As this little cat and mouse game continued I was suddenly reminded how this is exactly what life is like—us trying to stay out in front of whatever is nibbling at our heels. Whether it be debt, or sickness, or woes of any kind, something seems to be always pursuing us… threatening.
Satan is like that garbage truck. He wants us. He knows he’s going to hell someday and he doesn’t want to be there all alone, hence the chase… the relentless nibble.
I was finally able to put a safe distance between us and the growls of the beast. But, every once in a while I could hear that hydraulic burp behind me, reminding me the chase was still on.
The chase is on folks. Keep your distance. Stay ahead. Pace yourself. The beast is out there looking for whom he can devour. 
May your pedals be strong and your tires always full of air…

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I forgot it was Tuesday. Can you believe that? I did. I truly did. I even called my daughter-in-law to ask her if I was a babysitting on Tuesday, and bless her heart, she had to inform me it was Tuesday.
Anyhow, the day isn’t over, so I’m not late posting. Okay, yesterday I rode LuLu at 6 a.m. Today, I just finished riding LuLu. It’s 6 p.m. Flexibility. I love that word.
I’ve decided, along with many great minds of the world, that flexibility is a good thing. It’s a lifesaver. It’s a life enhancer. It’s just a good idea.
If you’re one of those folks who go through life with a plan, a strict, inflexible plan that come hell or high water you will not change, even if your grandmother is being carried off down the river in a Volkswagen camper in a flashflood, I think you may want to reconsider.
Inflexibility is stressful. It causes hives (or so I’ve heard). Laughter runs from inflexibility. Joy hides from it. And, it’s simply hurts. If you can’t change a plan, or a dream, or a destination because he wrote it down once and that’s just the way it is, then woe to you, brothers and sisters. What that means is that you just may miss out on something good because you’ve got your butt stuck in a rut. You can see only one path. One method. One timeline. One way.  Bottom line, you see… just yourself.
Having a plan is great. I highly recommend it, despite what I’ve just said. My disclaimer is that you should own the plan; the plan should not own you. Had I been inflexible with my bike-riding schedule, I would have missed out on a lovely, late afternoon ride. If I would have said, “Oh, well, I couldn’t fit it in this morning, I guess I won’t get to ride LuLu today because the plan calls for a morning ride, not an afternoon ride, so tough luck, deb.” Then, I would have missed out on something pretty sweet, and I wouldn’t have expended the calories I needed to expend today simply because the plan says… ‘I ride LuLu in the mornings.’ (Read that last line in a robot voice, it’s way more effective.)
Have a plan, then adjust when called for. Flexibility… it’s a good thing.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Hey, look! There's grandchildren growing in my garden!

Okay, so I’ve been missing in action this week. Sorry about that. This doesn’t happen often, or ever actually, but I simply couldn’t write this week. My cup has been over flowing with family and emotions that simply pushed writing deadlines to the bottom of the list. I love to write.  Books, articles, blogs, email… anything really, but not so much this week. I searched and nothing was there. It was like the ink well had just a small residue stuck around the insides of the bottle, but not enough to form words or thoughts.
So, I found myself living totally in the present. It was all I had the strength for and quietly honestly, the heart for. All around me were grandchildren, sons, daughters-in-laws, parents and family pets. Every nook and cranny of our house and my heart was filled with laughter or tears or squeals or teasing or jokes or conversation both serious and silly. Silence had been forced to run for the hills as cousins—three three-year-olds, one fifteen-month-old, a five-year-old, a seven-year-old and an eight-year entered the doorway with drawn light sabers and an ark-load of dolls and stuffed animals. 
My dad is deep into Alzheimer’s. So, what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger, right? I love this man. He taught me to drive and to dive, however, now he can’t find his way out of my living room without help. Most of the time I felt like my heart was being stung by a thousands bees at once. But every once in a while, we’d get a glimmer of the man that was and the rest would be worth it.
And then there was my mom. She’s Dad’s caregiver and it’s taking its toll. I see our roles slowly reversing. She was the strong one, my anchor, and the one who made it happen. Now, it’s my turn to balance the role of mother, wife, daughter, and mother-in-law and grandmother like plates in the air. I’m praying I can catch them all in sure, strong, loving hands… like she used to.
Sorry, I missed my blog deadlines this week. But, I was where I should be and doing what I should have been doing. Life is like that sometimes. It narrows down to a pinpoint… and then expands to every corner of the room.
And, God saw that it was good.
See you next week… on time I should think.