Life Stories and Beyond

Our Bodies. Our Families. Our Lives. We all have stories we should share. We're more alike than we know.

first

July 30, 2018
lisakunk

8 comments

Long Live Mr. Treehouse: Only Now He’s Mr. Bridge Patio Thingy Over the Stream

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

After seeing our empty-nester treehouse come down last week, many people from all around shared how they felt the pull of childhood fun coming to an end. End? Never! Transform, yes. We live by rules such as Waste not, want not and all kinds of cliches like that. As we will one day transform like a twinkle of a star, so did Mr. Treehouse. Thanks to Dan the man and his buddies, John and Zane, within forty-eight hours, Mr. Treehouse became a new plaything for young and old alike. He is now useful for woods-walkers who no longer climb like squirrels. On morning walks, I’m sure we’ll enjoy parking on the planks to watch nature more often on Mr. Bridge than we would in Mr. Treehouse. Just because we used-to-could, doesn’t mean we should, right?

So now, for your viewing pleasure, meet Mr. Former Treehouse Now Bridge Patio Thingy. Yes, that’s a long name but just go with it.  We look forward to many years of lounging, dancing, camping, and picnicking on his new form. It’s almost like he had plastic surgery, only for free and without pain medicine. It’s all good. Don’t be sad. He’s pretty happy with his new snazzy self. So are we. Picture lying on a sleeping bag, listening to crickets, frogs and the stream running underneath you. Sounds delightful. The adult kids may never sleep inside again.

July 27, 2018
lisakunk

24 comments

Empty Nest Flutterings: Come on Down, Mr. Treehouse

 

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

20180727_134636-120180727_134034-1

There comes a time, when the nest is empty, we push back the tears and make room for other things; like hammocks and memories. Today’s the day. Once a sturdy sight for kid’s eyes. Barn red siding, climbing pegs, and a yellow slide, you were a group project and a work of art. A tree house for people and squirrels. Now you’ve done your job, and it’s time to rest. Come on down. We’ll share our memories in the shade of the very same young trees that both supported and later stressed your floorboards, as they grew tall. Welcome to a new season.

 

Don’t worry birdies, if we ever need another tree house, we can build a new one.

To be continued…

 

July 5, 2018
lisakunk

17 comments

Shelling Out Wisdom From the Beach: Hints for writers, parents, or anyone who enjoys playing

 

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

 

As a writer and parent, I know the importance of inspiration for new ideas. For me, nature and especially the beach are where my five senses heighten like hair standing up in gooseflesh. Thoughts flow in faster than I can put them into long-term memory. Taking photos helps me save those treasured tidbits until I can jot them down.

IMG_1533 3

We realize you kids know everything but right now you just sit there and listen to older and wiser heads.

 

My latest thoughts whirled around how much the shoreline is filled with diversity. Various colors, shapes, conditions, sizes, and ages of shells, serve as perfect analogies of human lives. On my latest beach trip, I filled an empty trail mix bag with sand and brought it home to use as a backdrop to my seashell wisdom ideas. It was too darn hot for straight thinking, playing in the hot sand in a heat wave, so I opted to play in our air conditioning instead.

IMG_1532

Nothing like a little grit with your sweet and salty.

 

I collected shells of all descriptions. Nearly perfect and broken, old and not so old, plain and colorful. A cross-section of mankind.

 

Back in the cool air, playtime began with a cookie sheet full of sand, the perfect sandbox for shell play. Believe it or not, this sandbox kept my husband and me occupied for quite a while arranging and rearranging our pretend humans in the form of shells. I didn’t tell him it felt like playing with our kids again, making up stories for their dolls or GI Joe’s to act out. Only this time it was with my idea man of a husband.

IMG_1555

No sass needed. Come under the umbrella before you have a heat stroke.

 

I’d arrange the shell people and ask what he thought was happening. Our ideas were often very different which suggests this activity may serve as good prompts for writers or parents. These photos and captions represent only a few of the scenarios we developed.

IMG_1551

I like your natural gray. I wish I had the nerve to go natural. Ready to play Bunco?

 

IMG_1552

Okay you can go in the water but only an inch deep. And you girls hang onto the twins.

IMG_1534 2

Why do we have to put on more sunscreen?

 

For parents and writers who need to get in out of the heat or stimulate some new ideas, setting up an indoor sandbox is simple and effective. It’s also easy enough to sweep up the wayward sand, so no need to fear a big old mess.

On my morning beach walk, I met a delightful new friend who shared her own shell analogy. She said,”I’ve noticed how even the beautiful, complete shells still have grit inside. I rinse them and it reminds me of how baptism can make us grit free.”

IMG_1272

Morning shelling is relaxation at its best.

 

I’d love for you to share additional caption ideas for these photos or let me know if this spurs your own creativity.

IMG_1547

Seeing our similarities shouldn’t be so hard. We’re all solid citizens and live on the same beach.

 

June 29, 2018
lisakunk

13 comments

Dead Fish or Brunch?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

An imperfect circle of dead fish littered the beach near the water’s edge. How sad. I asked another morning walker, “Do you think they were discarded by a surf-fisherman who was using them as bait?”

 

He lifted his brows while widening his eyes and said, “Either that or some sharks were out there having a good time.”

 

“I’ll go with my theory, but thanks for that,” I said as I smiled, turned, and continued my stroll. Beach walkers are such fun folks.   IMG_1302

On my return trek toward my shady umbrella site, I could see from a distance, three seagulls enjoying a fish bait buffet. My smile flattened, as I witnessed a photographer get too close and off they flew. He took his camera and left. That’s what your zoom lens is for, Buddy.

 

I stayed back a ways and watched as one little white gull returned and snagged a bite, only to be scared away by a pack of runners pounding the sand. Poor little gull waded about eight feet away to wait out the traffic.

My mom would say, “Somebody left the gate open,” meaning traffic was heavy. Each time he got up the courage to move in for a taste, another runner zipped by. He retreated again to his safe spot in the shallow water.

 

I wanted to toss him a couple of slimy morsels but he would have flown for sure if I strode that close. The tide was going out but one rogue wave fell just barely far enough to pull back a few tiny, iridescent fish for him to snag and munch on. Nature ruled once again. The fish didn’t die in vain and the little gull had a lovely brunch. I wonder if his buddies were watching.

 

June 26, 2018
lisakunk

18 comments

Distractibility at Its Finest: If You Give a Writer An Idea

 

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Distracted as usual from my to do list, I spend far too much time on line reading other people’s blogs and enjoying chats with some of those bloggers. Those conversations, often spur me on to write more blog posts, which is a good thing. I figure I should do so while the ideas are on top of my memory file. Was that clever or confusing?  Blogging would be a good way to spend my time now, except I’m hibernating at the beach for a few days, to work toward finishing my ever-pending book within this decade. Actually, I’ll finish sometime this year if I learn to concentrate.

IMG_9818

“Hey Squirrel, what’s in that feeder?”

 

There is a constant influx of captivating topics that swirl around in my head like clippings under a lawnmower, flinging toward the chute. They have to escape or the machinery becomes clogged. I have to launch that idea out into the grass. I mean the world. Hopefully you get that I’m attempting to make an analogy. Here’s an example of how my blogging mind works.

 

If you give a writer an idea

She’ll need to chew on it

If she chews on it

She’ll need to write it

If she writes it

She’ll need to edit it

If she edits it

She’ll need to share it

If she shares it

She’ll need to monitor it

If she monitors it

She’ll need to respond to responses

If she responds to responses

She’ll get another idea

If she gets another idea

She’ll need to chew on it

 

Now that I got that out of my head, I’ll get to work on the book. Until the next idea takes hold and distractibility wins over.  Then there’s that crowded beach beneath my tenth floor window.  I see one good empty spot near the water where my chair and umbrella would fit between the sea of umbrellas like a puzzle piece.

June 25, 2018
lisakunk

7 comments

What Does Your Eighty Year Old You Want From You Now?

A blogger friend wrote this very thought provoking piece. I must share. The list her 80-year-old self shares with her is right on target for me. I wonder who else it will touch.

Head to Head, Heart to Heart

Imagine you’ve got to eighty years old and you’re as fit as can be expected for your age, with a good mind still intact, and you’re reflecting back on your life. Now I’ve listened to elderly people tell stories of their pasts which function as a kind of celebration of their lives which privilege the listener, with a sense of that person facing the end of their life with equanimity and peace. It’s as if they are ready to face a ‘good death’ and the journey ahead, whatever that may be, with no regrets and a free spirit, along with the conviction that they did the very best they possibly could for themselves and the people they cared about.

And this is the way I want to feel when, or if, I reach this point, because I have also listened to people around this age ruminate on their pasts in…

View original post 1,097 more words

June 18, 2018
lisakunk

21 comments

Hershey Nuggets: A surprising Memory Aid

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

My mother’s memory technique would never work in our house. She uses a kitchen table candy dish filled with dark chocolate Hershey Nuggets for more than maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. If she wants to remind herself to take the trash out to the street, she sets one nugget on the table. Since it’s out of place, in her ultra-organized house, she’ll see it and remember.

There’s no way a wandering piece of candy would work in our house. When our family visits Mom, we’ve ruined her system more than once by putting the candy back in the dish. Well, ok, fine. Sometimes we eat it. So we forget to remember her memory device.

Once when she was trying to remember the exterminator was coming, she said, “You just ate the bug man.” Then she flipped a coaster across the room to leave on the floor as her backup memory plan.

Back when I wore rings, before my menopausal, salt-sensitive fingers started swelling, I used to add my right-hand ring onto my left-hand wedding ring finger. The three ring circles were so annoying, I remembered unwritten items on my to-do list.

IMG_0947

When I’m too lazy write a sticky-note, I use Mom’s method and put an item in a weird place as a memory nudge. For example, I might wonder, Why’s that nasty sneaker on my dresser? Oh, yeah. So I’ll take a walk. It has to be odd to stand out amidst the other out-of-place objects in our house.

I send myself an e-mail reminder, now and then. The problem with that is, my email in-box has 547 unopened emails so the hints the rest of the world already sent smother my reminders. Maybe I should use that reminder app on my phone. I forget to do that.

On a recent visit with Mom, when I spotted a drink coaster on the white carpet between her unoccupied, trendy leather recliner and the kitchen, I bent over to pick it up.   A voice from the adjoining sunroom, said, “Don’t you move my coaster. Remember, tomorrow’s trash day.”

Looking up from her homemade drop-biscuit-strawberry shortcake, she grinned.

“Of course it is. Silly me. Maybe I’ll have a nugget since you’ve switched to coasters.”

 

 

 

May 8, 2018
lisakunk

1 comment

Pre Speech Aphasia Comedy Storytelling: Daddy Was a Talker and Would be 93 Years old Today

Speech aphasia slowed Daddy’s storytelling but here’s a good one from before that happened. Happy 93rd birthday in the great beyond.

Life Stories and Beyond

Goldilocks and the Seven Dwarfs Meet Rudolph With the Big Red Snout

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Before strokes and who-knows-what caused speech aphasia leaving Daddy (Papa Carl) with only about twenty-one words, he was a funny fellow. Downright embarrassing to his wife and kids at times with his humor. He liked to watch us squirm.

IMG_9593

A salesman with a women’s apparel and shoe business, and a talker, he was energized by an audience, especially when it included his grandchildren. This video treasure from 1995 popped up from my archives and I just had to share it. I’ll call it:

Goldilocks and the Seven Dwarfs Meet Rudolph With the Big Red Snout

I say, “While you’re standing there, tell Danielle the story of Snow White.”

Papa Carl begins, “Did you know about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? There was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and they went down the…

View original post 328 more words

April 24, 2018
lisakunk

5 comments

Sadie Hound the Celebrity

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Who knew a hound dog named Sadie would become such a celebrity? Almost losing her to severe kidney cancer and her surviving the surgery is pretty miraculous and her thriving is incredible. My friends and family enjoy keeping up with her progress since her massive, cancerous left kidney was removed. This isn’t surprising as they love the goofy girl. Then there are the bloggers and social media friends who keep tabs on this funny hound they’ve never met. Thanks so much for your interest and concern.

 

At Sadie’s checkups with the surgeon or the oncologist, I feel like the bodyguard for a rock star. She marches in like she’s on a red carpet and announces her presence with a hound dog howl and a whipping black tail. In the suburbs of Charlotte, a howling, long-legged hunting dog, that doesn’t hunt by the way, is quite a novelty. A head-turner. Especially when she begins barking at the checkout desk, announcing it’s 3:30 and therefore is her Lupper time. (That’s an early meal between lunch and suppertime.) Her internal clock is never wrong. She’s like a barking dinner bell.

 

The miracle dog’s blood work looks great. There’s a little protein in her urine but chemo can cause that. A week and a half of taking chemo pills is not diminishing her appetite even a little bit. She’s hungry around the clock and gaining a few pounds. Our other dogs get treats when she does and hopefully they don’t fill out too much as we try to fatten Sadie up. We love having her home romping around like her old self. And she smells good thanks to her daddy Dan giving her a bath. You can rub her slick black fur and not worry about how bad your hand will smell. Thanks for asking for updates. Here’s a video of Her Royal Highness, Sadie, after the latest checkup.

 

 

April 2, 2018
lisakunk

31 comments

Sadie Hound’s Miracle

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

 

I’m about to share what some would consider a First World Problem, yet in our household like many others, pets are family. Sadie, a walking, fur skeleton of a dog, wandered up to us at my mother’s lake house the summer of 2012. We assume she was lost or even abandoned in the nearby, alligator-infested swamp, likely due to poor hunting skills. Sadie’s appetite is insatiable, which is understandable, having gone through starvation. The day we met, she asked for a turkey sandwich and my son-in-law gave her one. The rest of the story is one of love at first sight. She’s been making people smile ever since and is a special part of our family.

 

img_1726

It’s amazing how quickly life can change, and for us, simple blood work and ultrasound testing led us down a rocky path. Our goofy coonhound, Sadie, who brings smiles to the grumpiest face, received a horrible diagnosis. Our vet discovered a huge tumor on her kidney and it was attached to the Vena Cava, a vital blood vessel. Surgery to remove Sadie’s kidney and an adjacent nasty mass would be extremely risky as the chance of hemorrhaging was almost certain.

 

We had to make the decision to take a happy chowhound that looked skinny but completely healthy and put her through a horrible surgery, which might not work and could require the vet to euthanize her while on the table. The veterinary oncologist and the surgeon were very kind but frank about the slim chance of success. Yet doing nothing would mean the tumor would rupture and cause a horrible death for Sadie and a ghastly experience for all of us.

I try to find some purpose or lesson in tough situations and I didn’t have to search far for this one. This experience has made me freshly aware of how many people must make horrendous decisions for themselves and their loved ones, putting them at risk of death or worse in an attempt at saving their lives or making their lives better.

I realize there’s a difference between saving a person and saving a pet. However, we made the decision to do the best we could to save Sadie and hopefully at the same time, provide additional experience and knowledge to the arsenal of expertise of the surgeon and other medical personnel participating in the surgery. We saw it as our small way of helping move toward understanding and curing this dreadful disease, along the lines of donating a body to science.

 

IMG_8794
The two days before surgery were some of Sadie’s best ever. Friends and family came to wish her luck and hopefully not say a final goodbye. She was treated like a queen and ate all the scrambled eggs and treats she wanted. She even ate ice cream before checking in to spend the night on IV fluids and a blood thickener preparing for surgery the next morning.

 

Sadie bounded into the car and strutted into the hospital with head high and tail whipping like a whirligig. I wondered if it would have been easier to leave her if she looked sick. I don’t know the answer but I think it would.IMG_0994

 

Prayers and good thoughts flowed freely for our beloved hound known as Single Stare Sadie, because she can stare and never blink once she’s laid eyes on someone. I could make a photo album of pictures of Sadie staring at someone’s food, and she can lay on guilt even better than most mothers.

 

The morning of surgery was a long one. I thought no news might mean good news but was afraid to get my hopes up. After a three hour procedure and an hour of recovery, the surgeon called and said, “Your girl did great. This was probably the worst kidney tumor I’ve ever seen. It had spread and encased not just the kidney but the vena cava vessel and very carefully separating it meant she hemorrhaged heavily but she made it. She’s one tough girl.”

 

Shock and awe. That’s what I felt and I could never thank her enough. The surgeon told me she’d do everything she could and she did. It was our miracle.

IMG_8844

Fast-forward to the next day and me taking Sadie some turkey since she wouldn’t eat canned dog food for them. I couldn’t imagine her refusing food even if she were comatose and was relieved to watch her scarf down the turkey, and beg for more, tail and whole body wagging. I knew she would be okay. She spent two nights in recovery and observation and came home with a massive cone and a bag of drugs.IMG_8858

 

IMG_8871So far, so good. I’m thrilled to share her survival story and the miracle surgical procedure that kept her around to entertain us. She’s happy to be home and the other pets treat her like a delicate flower that needs tending. Maybe that’s because her huge cone makes her look like a tulip. One dog, Mandy sleeps on Sadie’s bed to watch over her. Funny how animals have such a sense about things.IMG_8912

%d bloggers like this: