May 22, 2023


Pretend to be a Gardener: My Secret Recipe for Pretending you are A Plant Whisperer by Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Simple gardening 101: Geraniums

My favorite pet flower is the geranium. I call it pet because it makes me smile when I see it blooming away, just being itself, just like I enjoy watching a cat or dog living the good life being themselves. My geraniums are not constantly demanding food and water like many needy plants. They’re happy just lounging in a sunbeam and blowing in the breeze. They appreciate my efforts now and then to remove their dead blossoms, (that’s called deadheading), give them a good slug of water when the rain is busy elsewhere and maybe a sprinkle of plant food if the bloom production slows down a bit. But even without such attention, they tend to do their own thing till a freeze comes along. Being the good parent I am, I take my pets in when the weather calls for a freeze and I protect them until conditions are good to get back outside for the next year. A little extra plant food wakes them up from the cozy winter inside and they are off and blooming. If you wish your thumb was a little green, you might find success with the non demanding, beauty of a pet plant, the geranium.

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Happiness is so Fun To Watch by Lisa Batten Kunkleman

When life gets tough, try to find things to make you smile. Use all your senses to find it. Smell that toast. Rub that fleecy blanket. Listen to upbeat music. Taste that good smelling toast. Watch our granddog living large with his best friend, Water. He’s using all his senses I’m certain.

Tucker Dog and his best buddy, Water.


Storm Prep Tips before the Wind, Rain, Loss of Power or Water

Living for decades near the coast and on a farm with well water has made me be a storm prep fanatic. After nine days without power or water following Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and other storms to follow, I do the following while the weather people are forecasting:

Stock up on sink water. No need to go buy out the bottle water supply. Fill pots, pitchers, sinks or tubs with water. This is vital if you lose water and sewer when power goes out. It can be used for drinking, washing, flushing.

Charge up everything. Phones, laptops, tablets, flashlights, and anything chargeable.

Find your flashlights and lanterns. And batteries too. Check to see that these little used items actually work.

Move cars to safety. Try to move out from under trees and power lines if possible.

Secure all lightweight items in the yard. They can become projectiles that can cause damage and even break windows. Bird feeders, trash cans, umbrellas, lightweight furniture, potted plants.

Protect your pets. They will be scared and need shelter, food, and water.

Storms can range from gentle, lovely, and fun to massive, intense, and scary. Do what you can to prepare to make it easier. If you’ve got candles and flashlights to go with your water and sewer, you’ve got this.

If you’re lucky enough to not need your preparation because the storm misses you or lessens, that’s great news. You’ve cleaned up your yard and have pots ready to make tea and noodles and a bathtub ready to add some hot water to bathe a person or pet. Be safe and be prepared.

August 3, 2022


Missing Pieces or Extra Pieces?

By Lisa B Kunkleman


Seriously? We worked on this big ol’ Coca Cola Ads puzzle for a week and now that we’ve finished, there’s one piece missing and, are you kidding me, we have three duplicate pieces! How does that even happen? So now what do I do with this massive defective puzzle? Give it to Goodwill and let an unsuspecting buyer find out he’s bought a box of disappointment the same way we did?   

 Maybe I can give the puzzle to a local art teacher who appreciates all our reusables for her projects. I see all kinds of ideas on Pinterest using puzzle pieces. And how about the incomplete playing card sets I just found while rummaging through drawers in our hutch. There are oodles of creative uses for a misfit deck of cards. I’m sure the art teacher would love to have them, too. 

I found a fun collection of dice, an hourglass that measures a minute, and long lost playing pieces for games. Let’s see, here are Skip Bo, Taboo, and Catch Phrase instructions. We all know how to play but who knows, maybe we’ll forget as we age. Oh and here’s a little house from The Game of Life. I’m not sure if we still have that game but I’ll keep the house in case it turns up. Seems like the spinner broke and we talked about donating it to Goodwill years ago.

Here’s the Ziploc bag of orphan puzzle pieces. I hope we didn’t give away their parent puzzles. Aha, that’s where the guitar picks got to. And the marbles for Chinese Checkers. Yay. Now more than two people can play at a time.  

Found some more loose playing cards. Our grandson will love playing fifty-two-card pick up with the wayward cards. He can’t count to twenty-two, much less fifty- two but he might stay occupied for at least two minutes if we’re lucky.

I guess it’s time to take apart the puzzle. Man, it was a good one even if it was defective. Should I be honest and write in Sharpie on the back of the box what the situation is? “This is a box of disappointment.” I’ve gotta put those extra pieces back in there.Wait. I have an idea. Maybe I should add in all my other extra homeless pieces. Oo how fun is that? I know what I’ll write, “Enjoy. This one has a surprise ending.”

March 20, 2022


Even Windchimes Have Off Days

If you’re feeling kind of “off” and not your usual melodic or chipper self, take a look inside for stuff that needs to be cleared out. Even windchimes have visitors like dirt dobbers and spiders that leave gunk behind, clogging up lightness and tinkles. Don’t keep that mess inside clogging up life. Talk to someone about the junk that’s blocking your lightness. Clear the path so you can see light at the other end and make life a lovely sound.

Get a friend to help you get rid of your junk and clogs
Lightness and beautiful sounds once the junk is removed.

March 11, 2022


Tweezers and Flashlights

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I really should keep tweezers in my car, along with other preparedness items like jumper cables and a flashlight. I’ve had several appointments lately where a medical professional needed to mess around my neck—and thanks to my new menopausal hair that grows in all the wrong places, my biggest concern was not some dreaded disease but that several whiskers had sprouted up overnight.


It bugged me so much, I brought it up with a nurse. When she asked how I was doing, I said, “I’d be a lot better if I had a pair of tweezers. All the way here I was feeling this little pokey hair under my chin but I can’t pull it out with my fingernails. When the doctor is supposed to be feeling my formerly hairless lymph glands, he’s gonna get pricked.”


The nurse said, “ I know girl. Right? Those little stinkers can pop up overnight. You can have a whole forest under there and never even know it until somebody shorter than you is looking up under your chin and rudely points it out.”


A week or so later, dang if it didn’t happen again. I was sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for whatever fun Hygienist Jenny had planned, when I remembered a hair on my chin that mocked me in the rear-view mirror while I sat at a stoplight. Let me tell you, that’s the best place to pull out the tweezers and work on wayward growth. The daylight in a vehicle is amazing. I have got to get a pair to leave in the car.


Jenny was busily excavating and probing my teeth, (did you ever notice they use the names of cars for dental instruments), when I asked her, “Any chance you have a pair of tweezers so you can yank that obnoxious beard hair out? I’m sure you can see it with your spectacular goggles.”

Jenny laughed out loud. “Nope, I don’t have tweezers and I also can’t give Botox. I wish we could provide some fun services since our patients are already reclined like they’re relaxed and ready to stay put.”


“Oh Jenny. You may think I’m asleep in this chair while you’re picking and flossing, but actually I’m pondering. I’m imagining how haircuts, head massages, and mani-pedis would go over well, and even better, some moustache waxing. The possibilities are endless.”


Jenny laughed again and said, “By the way, my peripheral vision is so bad with these magnified glasses on, all I can see is tiny teeth that are made bigger, so don’t worry about me seeing a stray hair.”


  • Back at home, perturbed with the bad light in my bathroom, I aimed a mini flashlight up into my neck shade. Wowza! What a difference light makes. I saw the beginnings of a new grassland. Maybe a savannah. The flashlight is the bomdiggity. Heck, I’ll stock up on tweezers and little flashlights and leave them all over the house like people do with reading glasses. Maybe tweezers and mini flashlights should be sold as a set. I may never be bearded again. Oh my. What am I thinking. Forget the flashlight. There’s already one in everybody’s phone. I can design a tweezer pouch to attach to the phone case. QVC TV shopping, look out.



Give Me Paper and a File Cabinet by Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I’m trying to understand this trust in technology embraced the world over. As I type, my curser is doing a weird flicker and the beachball of death pops up to taunt me every once in a while. Even with all the apocalyptic movies out there providing ample warning that our power grid could disappear the moment the first aliens arrive, I know plenty of highly intelligent people who have all their documents, photos, emails, videos, and work on The Cloud. Really? Why?

I don’t even trust that electricity will always be there when I need to charge my phone or the internet will work at my house, for crying out loud. Our home internet has given me plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Have you ever experienced a flood or hurricane, or a big ice storm when the power goes out leaving stores unable to function without their high-tech cash registers? Banks that can’t operate without their computers? Street lights out, disabling drivers? Even a fallen tree branch on a power line can send whole neighborhoods into a helpless frenzy. Especially during quarantine when so many kids must do online school and those fortunate to have a work-from-home job are left to find wi-fi out in the scary, germy world.

So, have you given any thought to your medical records? The information we don’t think about until we need the backstory of a condition when it rears its symptoms again? I love trees as much as anyone, maybe even more than many but I do not scrimp when it comes to paper copies to refer to when the storms of life interfere with the world wide web. I learned too late of medical records that were purged after sitting around dormant for years. I may never know the details of my urology visits in years of yore if I were not such a journal keeper. It might take a little searching but I’m pretty sure I can find that information should another urologist need the origin of issues in that area.

I’ve learned to be wary of my on-line medical records as I’ve found far too many errors keyed in accidentally, perhaps by a typist squinting at a doctor’s abstract scribble or words of dictation that make absolutely no sense. I’m giving data input people a little slack even though I’ve been labeled with high blood pressure when it’s actually low, and with a terminal cancer nobody has ever heard of. Not even my doctor. That one could explain some insurance approval issues a while back. I don’t suppose the rumor of my demise on my son’s medical record helped with that either. Yep. Sam’s record said I was deceased. On my cardiac record, I discovered that I’m not sexually active. Who decides that? Is there a cut off due to age, or record of menopause, or perhaps it’s a visual decision of a patient based on graying hair or spare tire? I’m a little offended.

Thanks to incorrect records, computer crashes too many times, and living through a few natural disasters, I’m a backer-upper in the extreme. I share photos and old letters with people who might care, and store duplicates of important papers in separate locations, just in case. Because you never know. Don’t you love those cliches? Well, they’re pretty accurate. I don’t want to ever say, we lost all our photos or irreplaceable things. And so, I let my slight OCD tendencies guide my preservation instinct.

Often, I think I’m the only paranoid person who backs up life on flash drives, external hard drives, and on paper. I know that storage space is valuable both in a computer and physically in a home or office. I realize with our big old rambling farmhouse that my husband grew up in, I am beyond fortunate to have an office lined with file cabinets. Family history, medical records, normal people records, and my writings are filed with precision as paper backups of our entire lives.

When my husband and I leave this earth, our kids will be so grateful. And their medical records? I’ve made four giant notebooks of the highlights of their health journey so they can take it to appointments should the need ever arise to know what happened before they were old enough to remember or care. I can just see it now. They’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving for my being so thoughtful.

Ha ha. Just kidding. I know they’ll look for all the life insurance and bank records and probably recycle the rest so they can sell the file cabinets but I’ll be in heaven so what will I care? Won’t they have fun reading my journals to find out which of the four kids was my favorite? Maybe I’ll start a rumor saying they’d better look closely at each journal and document as there might be clues to a treasure hunt. If they fail to read carefully, they’ll never find where we hid the real treasure. Sweet. I’m going to get right on that since we never know what life holds. I only know that my life holds lots and lots of paper.

April 28, 2021


A Message From a Friend From Heaven

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I was clearing out bookshelves a couple of days ago, March 26, 2021, when I’m pretty sure my friend poked me from her heavenly home. Purging away, I came upon a book with an e-mail tucked inside from my friend Pam Medlin. Unfortunately, Pam, a non-smoker, died far too soon from lung cancer on March 27, 2017. I was thrilled and surprised to see a little memory of her pop up out of nowhere. What timing! I put the paper on my desk to read the next day, on the fourth anniversary of her moving on to renewed health and happiness once again.


The email was titled, Four Boyfriends, author unknown, and sent to me on October 8, 2008. The ending has a surprise analogy twist. I love analogies. They give you something to think about. And the topic of death read on the anniversary of her death seems like a message from beyond. The condensed gist of the story is this:


A girl had four boyfriends. She loved them differently and treated them differently.


The fourth one she adored and treated him to riches and the finest of everything. She doted on him completely.

The third one she loved dearly and showed him off. However, she feared he would someday leave her for another.

The second one was kind and considerate and patient.  She loved him and considered him her confidant and helper through difficult times.

The first one was completely loyal. A partner who made great contributions for her life. Helping her maintain wealth and her kingdom. She paid him very little attention, hardly noticing him.


When she became gravely ill, she asked each boyfriend, “Will you follow me and keep me company?”


The fourth one said, “No way.” And walked off.

The third one said, “No. Life is too good. After you die, I will marry someone else.”

The second one said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time. I can only accompany you to your grave.”

The first one said, “I’ll go with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” She was grieved that she had hardly noticed this one who was always with her. “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance.”


These four boyfriends can represent our lives.

The fourth one is your body. No matter how much time and effort you lavish in making it look good, it will leave you when you die.

The third is your possessions, status, and wealth. When you die, it will all go to others.

The second is your family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for you, the furthest they can stay by you is up to the grave.

The first is your spirit. Often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasures of the world, your spirit is the only thing that will go with you when you die. Cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now since it will continue with you throughout Eternity.


Wisdom from an old friend. I hope it touches others as it did me.


April 14, 2021


We’re Stuck Like Goo

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Looking at the yellowed pages of our wedding album, I knew it had to go. The album, not the photos. Trying to slip the eight-by-ten photos from each sleeve didn’t work. In frustration, I tried separating the yellowed and crinkly plastic from the white edging and found that it was a gluey mess. Each picture that I removed was rimmed on one side by white goo.

Oh my gosh. What could I do to get that tacky mess off? Every photo I placed in a pile added more goo to the photo beneath. I discovered this too late. At least half the photos stuck together.


What do you do when desperate to find answers? I googled it, of course. “How do you get glue off photos?” Passing up ideas of scraping the glue off with fingernails or razorblades, I came upon a hot idea. All I needed was a hair dryer and some paper towels. A two-ingredient life hack. That’s my kind of trick.

I grabbed my dryer from the linen closet and went to work heating each gooey edge and pulling the sticky white stuff off with a paper towel. It may sound easy but it took forever. Before starting the ungluing process, I went online and ordered a new wedding album to slip the cleaned-up photos into. The old book was trash. Would you believe Amazon got the book to me before I was finished unsticking the pictures?  They sure did. 

While the photos were out, I labeled the backs with our names and the date and even the location of the wedding. Just in case people a hundred years from now should find the album, or the pictures, lying around willy-nilly in some box in an attic, might want to know the details.

I’ve wasted far too many hours of my life trying to identify people in photos left to us by our families. We even took our kids on a meet the relatives tour of the Midwest back in 2010. We travelled from town to town, hauling a suitcase filled with decorative, cardboard-framed sepia photos that we found in Dan’s parents’ house after they died. It seemed to me that such fabulous old pictures from the early to mid 1900’s deserved some recognition. 

What a treat it was to show the photos to a house full of relatives who gathered in Ohio or Indiana to meet us and have an octogenarian uncle say, “That handsome young man with a head full of hair is me.” Oh my goodness, that was so special. We had so many questions answered and stories shared on that trip. My grandmother might say, “I wouldn’t trade that for a pretty thing.” Some things are indeed priceless.

Our wedding pictures fall into the priceless category. We possess the originals and there were not many copies. I vowed to learn a thing or two about protecting old photos after this old album experience. First of all, I advise you to join me in removing photos from those old albums before the acid eats the pictures. And label the backs. Maybe some grandchild not even born yet will actually care about ancestry. Don’t shake your head. You never know. 

I am sure there are crunchy old envelopes filled with negatives of our old family photos tucked away somewhere but who has time to go through those, holding each one up to the light to see what’s what? I decided to scan the wedding pictures in to my computer before labeling and placing them in the new album. I’ll share the scanned photos with my children, maybe even in a Shutterfly book, so they won’t have to fight over the gorgeous refurbished album. Ha. I wish they would fight over all the historic items I’ve saved. It’s more likely they’ll draw straws to see who gets to dispose of it all. The work of all my years as the family historian may end up in shredded piles of compost or sold at a flea market for photo craft projects. Oh, my heart. 

I remember a time when I made two, three, four, or more copies of photos when our kids were little. The kids will never have to go through and divide them, I thought. They can each have their own sets of photos of their lives. Wasn’t I clever?

No. It just means I have multiples of everything organized and lovingly labeled in photo boxes and bins taking up my storage space until they come to their senses and want to house their own copies. All those ballgames, dance recitals, choral concerts, Halloweens, birthdays, Christmases. Mission trips to sad, rough, and foreign places. Vacations to the mountains and the beach. Oh, and even those dark dreary shots from Chuckie Cheese’s and skating rink parties. And the pets. So many pet photos. And now GRANDCHILDREN. I can’t bear the thought of not having baby books and boxes of mementos of those sweet babes so I’ll make books, print photos to label, and clear a corner somewhere to house those treasures as well. 

So much good stuff to go through. Memories to enjoy and chat about. That’s going to happen when I’m in my nineties. That’s how I want to spend my twilight years, when I enjoy sitting more than going. Reminiscing, reading old journals as if they are novels, laughing, and swapping stories. 

Don’t tell me that won’t happen. That’s my dying wish. Well, my closer-to-death-than-I-am-now wish. I’m currently going through such treasures with my mom who is nearly ninety-three. We laugh and sigh and expand on the stories behind photos. I’ve learned so much from this precious time I’m spending with her and wish I’d done so with others who have as mom says, “Gone on to glory”. 

For now, I’ll relish the fact that I saved this wedding album. Our pictures are no longer stuck like goo. It looks like our marriage is sticking pretty darn well. After all that was the original goal behind that wedding. Before I move on to tackle scanning in all the other old photos, maybe I’ll take a break and spend some time outside my office and the history collection. I’ll hang out with the people for whom I’m preserving all these tangible memories and do some living worth recording for history. 

March 3, 2021


What Makes You Smile?

In pondering the question of what makes me smile, I realize that I have no plans to get rid of any and everything in my life that doesn’t bring me joy. This ideology seems to be the deciding factor of the question “to keep or not to keep” these days. But I’m not buying it. If I did only keep joyful items, we would have very little furniture, flooring, or bathroom tile. Sometimes I make peace with things that I may not adore, accepting that they are functional even if they aren’t beautiful. I guess I’m from the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset like my Great Depression era parents. 

I have no need to fill landfills with my out-of-style possessions just to be fashionable. That money can be used in more meaningful and even charitable ways.  I can, however, make an effort to acknowledge what does bring real joy or at least a smile. Like an out of the blue flower arrangement and smiling balloon from my friend Marcie. That made me smile so big and made my day. Because I’m a real sentimental sort who loves the act of sharing and caring, anything that evokes warmth in my chest, and I don’t mean a hot flash, or evokes a memory worth revisiting gets a pass as a thing to keep.  

When I made the bed this morning, I smiled at my quilt. Do I have a patchwork fixation? No, but I thought instantly of the artist that put together my warm bedcover. My daughter Sarah dismantled well-worn tee shirts from places we’ve travelled and from activities she and her siblings have enjoyed, and then stitched those memory squares together to create a masterpiece. 

Looking at that quilt takes me back to mission trips in West Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, plus to all those ski trips with our church youth group. It reminds me of the kids’ school choirs, marching band, German Club, soccer and track teams. The time, talent, energy, and love it took to create such a historical and functional thing of beauty as a surprise for her parents is what makes me smile. 

Last week, another piece of artistic delight entered the house along with the bills and junk mail. What a surprise to see a handwritten address on a card-sized envelope. Inside I found a hand painted valentine card sporting a beautiful watercolor otter, created by my artist and writer friend Lisa Otter Rose. Each February she sends me a one of a kind, hand-decorated card filled with words of affirmation and friendship. That smiling otter propped up on the kitchen counter makes me smile back as I fix a sandwich and reflect on my friend’s thoughtfulness.

The new wall hanging my oldest daughter, Danielle, created for me definitely sparks joy. It’s made from a curved piece of driftwood found on our lake house waterfront, copper chain links that are works of art in themselves, and precious stones—each a different mineral and color. Danielle is a former jewelry designer. Once she turned mom and speech therapist, she packed up her jewelry-making supplies. The fact that she pulled them out again to make this for me speaks to the beautiful human being she is.  I can’t help but smile.

Just this very moment, I’m smiling from cheek to cheek at the peanut butter smoothie my nephew Michael just brought me that I’m sad to say is nearly gone. I see a major connection here between what brings joy and acts of love. Gifts of love and acts of caring make me smile. Instead of giving up what doesn’t bring me joy, I need to make more of an effort to share joy with others. Make something, take something, share something. That would make me smile.  

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