July 16, 2020


Meditation or Irritation?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Not that I understand how to meditate properly but I’m pretty sure I picked the worst possible guided meditation from an app I loaded on my phone. It was about “being here” and started with birds and water-sounds. The first part was delightful. Soothing. That’s what I’m talking about.


I was shocked from my bliss when out of nowhere a man’s voice began intruding on my relaxation every few seconds, telling me, “Bring your attention to this place which is already here. As you bring yourself only to the sense of presence, ignore the pecking of outside things.”

What outside things? His instructions were my only pecking outside things. He said, “Don’t worry about anything like phone calls, interfering thoughts, or images because you are like a screen and those things are only projections on you. Just as a screen with a fire image isn’t really on fire or a screen showing waterfalls isn’t really wet, all those extraneous things are simply projections. Not interrupting your meditation.”


Have mercy! He was my interruption. “Please hush up, Mister Disturbance Man.”

He finally stopped his chatter for a few minutes and I congratulated myself on how well I had prepared my meditation posture by relaxing on my leather sofa, feet propped on the coffee table. A lovely fire crackled on the opposite side of the table. I felt warm and restful. For a mere few moments.


That’s when my hot flash started. I sat with eyes shut trying to concentrate on not concentrating but all I felt was the roaring fire inside my reclined body, cooking away this time with real sound effects from the fireplace. On top of the flash, I heard the heat come on in the rest of the house. The last thing needed was more heat.


Trying to breathe steadily and focus on the irritating man who had started back talking was no help. My roasting insides, sweaty upper lip, and dampening hair on my neck took all my thoughts away from his words. Next, an itch on the side of my eye became as a gnat landing and taking off my cheek. Landing. Then off. Unable to stand it any longer, I reached up and tried to wipe away the intruding irritation.

Cooling down in three or four minutes, I focused on the tightness of my fuzzy slippers, like my feet must be swollen. My thoughts reeled around salt. The salt I kept adding to tonight’s bland noodle concoction I’d not enjoyed eating an hour before. My rings felt tight too. All I have to do is look at salt and I swell.

“You are here. Don’t think about what you need to accomplish later today. Don’t think of anything except being here. You can move around within your body and that’s okay,” the man’s voice brought me back to my task. This meditation effort truly was a task and I had at least ten more of the eighteen minutes to listen to a man talk about things I couldn’t comprehend. What the heck did he mean by moving around within your own body?

My whole body wanted to move. I had restless leg syndrome all over my body and I was itching to stop the agony and move. Peeking one eye at my phone where I loaded the meditation app, I saw the number 1:10. Oh Lord. Only a minute more. Oh Lord, a whole minute more. Could I make it? Surely I could. I was in labor for fourteen hours and pushed for two of those hours.

The man stopped his infernal chatter and I heard the blessed sounds of birds and water once again. Thank you mister for your silence. At last I can unwind from his anxious twitch-inducing verbal meditation experience. Aaah. Hopefully the water and birds would last a long while.


Nope. Wait. Where’d they go? Give me back my water and birds!

One quick glance at my phone and I saw that the next meditation which started automatically was “Heart Chakra Tibetan Singing Bowls.” Ooh do I hear water, crickets and singing bowls? That sounds like a winner. Better get my swollen feet up higher and close those eyes. Relaxation here I come.


May 23, 2020


Dancing Cheek to Cheek is Different These Days

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I saw my mother the other day. Yes, during quarantine, we saw each other. It’s different and distant and yet, it’s better than not seeing her at all. When I walked in her back door she immediately said, “Here’s your air hug,” as she did her twisty hug-herself dance. She and I have always been huggy dancers.


I’m amazed at how quickly our family has gotten used to this different life. It’s been over two months, but in a grand life span, it’s hardly any time. I’ve laid eyes on her a handful of times and the closest we’ve come to hugging is me sitting on the floor and hugging her long thin legs. They were safely covered in pants so there was no actual body contact.


Hubby and I delivered Mom a couple of coolers for when her ancient refrigerator dies and she needs to save all her condiments. It’s been around for decades.


“The fridge has always been a bing-bonger and a hummer but it’s singing a different tune over the past few days. It’s sounding more mournful. Usually I can smack it and the sounds go away. When it’s quiet, I give it a nice pat and say, ‘Thank you.’”


I advised her to shift the frozen foods from the fridge-freezer compartment to the full-sized upright in her garage, just in case the old cold machine conks out. There’s not much food to worry about. My brother and his girlfriend keep her well-fed with home cooked meals since they are nearby. I wish I could have been there sooner and helped more than I have. I think I have caregiver envy since I live several hours away.


I call every day and ask Mom how she’s doing with all this isolation. She always says, “I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m still here. I’ve been practicing social isolation for too many years to count now. I’m practically an expert.”


Seeing her for only the third time since the quarantine began, I wanted to put her in a bear hug and rock back and forth like we usually do. But I can’t and I hate it. Before leaving, I stood back to back with Mom and we did a little tushy dance, actually shaking our bottoms together. It’s more personal than tapping elbows but not as dangerous as face to face hugging. For now, Mom and I are dancing cheek to cheek.

May 7, 2020


Wide Awake at Three AM: Hot Flashes and Worries by the Alphabet

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Lying in bed with my head under the ceiling fan and my feet beside my husband’s face, enduring yet another hot flash, I listen to the storm outside our open window. I absorb the pounding rain and rumbling thunder. The flashes of light before the boom. Fabulous sounds to sleep by unless you’re a nighttime worrier like me.

I happen to love storms. What I don’t love are my two twelve-year-old dogs pacing around my room, panting like they used to after a good squirrel chase. Now, it’s anxiety-based heavy breathing for these old pups.

There’s also the gentle purring snore of my husband. Sometimes his snoring resembles a storm but at the moment, it’s pretty serene. He’s on his side of the bed thanks to my incessant hotness which is also the reason I am lying here unsettled with my head on my cooling gel pillow under the whirring fan.


The fan isn’t alone in all that whirring. My mind imitates the spinning paddles, grabbing my thoughts and flinging them all around my head so the winds of worry keep me awake for hours. The better to listen to the storm my dear, I suppose.

I think about all kinds of things that don’t come to mind during the daylight hours. Why now, during rem sleep time? I think of my vibrant mom who turns ninety-two in a few weeks and how we can celebrate in time of quarantine. I think of my college aged triplets and where their lives will take them. Will there be jobs? Housing? Family? Oh, and weddings—or not?

I think of our grandson who is only surrounded by adults, thanks to social distancing. Parallel play with a fellow toddler may never happen. He’ll be nearly grown soon. Is that a stage that he can skip? Some kids skip crawling and go straight to walking. Hopefully missing a stage or two doesn’t hamper anything important in child development.FA7BED03-499C-4F6F-86A3-C657FB8CB069

Right now, there are many growth stages and other milestone markers missing for young people the world over. Proms, graduations, sports events, dance and music recitals, plays, concerts, exhibitions and competitions. And colleges, oh my, how they’ve been interrupted. Humanitarian work, scientific study, internships, student teaching, foreign exchange programs, clinicals, of all sorts.

I won’t go into the closed businesses and job loss. Hungry people. Deeply suffering families. That black hole of worry would turn my hot flashes into cold shivers and nervous chattering teeth. Nope. Can’t go there.

Let’s direct my worried sleepless mind to what I can do. I can lie here and pray about all these worries. I can try to get them out of my head and share them with a power larger than myself. It’s hard to let go. I chew on worry like it’s worn out gum. Doing nothing but giving my teeth and jaw some worthless activity and potentially dental problems to add to the mix.

My lack of sleep doesn’t help anything or anyone. It merely slows my metabolism, along with my ability to concentrate during daylight hours. So that means I’m not fully functional night or day. Should I worry about that?

“Oh, hey Daisy Cat. Are you feeling needy? Get it? You’re “kneading” my chest like we do that bowl of quarantine sourdough bread rising in the kitchen. You’re safe from the scary loud storm now so you can purr instead of meowing. The dogs settled down so you can too. Hear all that snoring? I want to snore too.”IMG_4246.jpeg

Maybe I should go through the alphabet and think of something to pray for that starts with each letter? I’ve never tried that. Let’s see.

A for animals. Or air quality. No that’s too broad. How about my Aunt Thetus? No that would go under the letter T.

B for butter beans. The ones I planted that are finally growing. Please help them grow and flourish. Good.IMG_4255.jpeg

C for Daisy Cat’s kidneys so she’ll stop having accidents. Or should that be a K for kidney? Or a D for Daisy? No, I know what D is.

D for our old dogs. May they stop with the panic pacing and panting.IMG_4254.png

They are calm at the moment. But radar shows more storms coming. So, there will be more whirring worries. Better get back to my alphabet and hopefully some sleep. I’ll use ceiling fan for the C and K will be kitty for the one on my chest. Or should that be K for “kneedy”? Ha

H for Hot flashes! I’m so tired of “not-sleeping” under this fan plus having another one blowing from across the room. My poor husband looks like a blanket burrito. Yes, I know I’m going out of order and E is next but please take away these hot flashes? I’ll be eternally grateful.

How about E? Everyone. Or everything? May everyone and everything be ok. And may my eyes close and let me sleep. I’ll worry about all this tomorrow because after all, tomorrow is another day. At least I hope it will be. Should I worry about that too?

“Goodnight Scarlet. I mean Daisy.”


April 10, 2020


Is Stay-at-Home, Social Distancing Order Easier for Some Than Others?

Can life experience, interests, and personality affect how one deals with being told to stay at home and socially distance? I wonder if it’s easier for the following people to deal with the stay-at-home orders than some others? Just pondering.

A person who has most everything needed for survival, like shelter, food, medicine, power, money, and proximity to other needed emergency items.IMG_2967

A person who can pay their bills and has plenty to eat.

A person who enjoys being alone to write, paint, sculpt, tend animals, garden, exercise, or for various other interests.img_5637-1

A person who can read their life away, traveling through the written word.

A person who has spiritual beliefs, prayer, or meditation life.

A person who reaches out to others to stay in communication and help where needed.

A person who is already used to living alone.

A caregiver of an elderly person, a sick person, children, or a person with handicapping conditions that requires spending much time at home.

A person who considers him or herself prepared for emergency situations with multiples of things, stored up foods, an active garden, and seeds for expansion.IMG_3565

A person who is naturally an introvert and enjoys time to themselves and perhaps gets their energy from that condition.IMG_3293

A person who has been wanting time at home to tackle a huge to do list.

A person who has been craving time at home either to be alone or with family/loved ones and has them there.IMG_3602

A person who knows loved ones are as safe as possible and checks on them regularly.

A person who already works or studies from home or stays home for other reasons.lisa feet and laptop for blog

This is a partial list that came to mind. There are many more.

Disclaimer: I hereby announce LOUDLY that I personally have no knowledge on this subject. I might have degrees in psychology, sociology, and counseling but I’m as lost on this pandemic’s effect on the world as anyone else. Not having a clue about the accuracy of what I’m writing, I, like so many, have a great deal of time nowadays to ponder. That’s what I’m doing. Pondering.


April 9, 2020


Everything Longs to Be Free

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

While appreciating our shelter and safety we seem to always want those greener pastures beyond our own space. You know how the strawberries always look plumper and redder on the next row over but you have to pick on your assigned row? Such is life at the moment.

So explain again why our cousins can’t come over to play?

April 1, 2020


Pandemic Care Package for Our Daughter

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Never, ever did I expect to be mailing our 23-year-old daughter a care package during a pandemic. But here I go. Thank heaven for the postal service still being an option. 

Pandemic care package contents

The used mailing envelope I stuffed is available thanks to my compulsion for keeping such things, just in case. I also had plenty of stamps for postage and packing tape to seal the deal. My husband and I both grew up with parents who lived through the Great Depression and as a result, were nearly always prepared for lean times. The waste not, want not generation. It must have rubbed off on us. That and being in Scouts. You know, that part about being prepared?

Today, simple living is a huge thing. I appreciate that philosophy. Materialism can get in the way of truly enjoying life. I know from experience. I spend far too much time shuffling my stuff around instead of giving it to someone who needs it or at least would appreciate it more than I do. I’m working on it. This care package is a tiny example of giving things to someone who needs them more. 

Living in a studio apartment means our daughter keeps only her basic needs around since there’s no room for storing extra items. She has to save room for art and yoga supplies and a doggie bed. An artist and a yoga teacher, she, like so many others, is now working online from home. Every little bit of floor space is essential yet during this stay-at-home period, a few extra items we have in our house are essential for her as well. 

This package contains items she can’t easily obtain at the moment: Heartworm preventative and ear medicine for her dog, pepper spray for all her dog walking excursions, a roll of paper towels, hand sanitizer, Tylenol, muscle ache lotion, and a pair of sandals. As a heartfelt bonus, I included a fun greeting card in an extra-large envelope with a personal message from moi, stuffed with note cards, envelopes, and stamps because sometimes, you have to send a check somewhere or communicate by mail. Essential goods are heading to our daughter, no longer taking up space in our house, but needed in hers. Sending them and our love, just in case.

Pandemic Care Package

March 28, 2020


Gardening Just in Case

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

We used to garden all the time and put up veggies (for non-gardeners, that means preserved foods in jars or the freezer)

This year, with our stay-at-home order to fight this infernal coronavirus, I decided not only to stick the root ends of my romaine in a bowl of water and wait for it to sprout leaves, but also to start a pot garden on our deck. No. Not that kind of pot. I planted seeds I found in my kitchen junk drawer that I had saved just in case I felt the urge to patio garden. Well, the urge hit. The thoughts of not having green leafy veggies at hand inspired me. You would not believe how fast those suckers, I mean seeds, pop up and start growing. I’m so excited. It’s gonna be Saladville around here. We’re gardening again. Deer, you’d better stay off our deck.

March 20, 2020


Veterinarians Serving With Care During COVID-19

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Today, in the midst of COVID-19 I experienced veterinary care at its finest. First thing this morning I received a call from our vet, Dr. Baron, telling me about kidney issues with Daisy Mae Kitty’s bloodwork from last week, back when life was nearly normal and their office was bustling with pets and people. We discussed the need for a recheck for her and for our dog Mandy who he also saw last week for her continuous pain and panting.


Our clinic sent out an email explaining options for our COVID-19 safety which included pretty much a pet drive-thru service. They offered Drop-off options, Low Contact Appointments, and Curbside Service for meds and food pickup. I chose the Low Contact Appointment where a tech would come outside and get animals from owners and the owners could choose to either leave the pet for a while or wait in the car until time to speak with the doctor. That could be a phone consult if desired.


What a concept! I walked my dog around outside so she could sniff everything as we waited for the tech to come fetch her and Daisy Mae, also known as Ninja Kitty since she doesn’t like to be held and disappears regularly. The tech offered to take the animals or we were all invited to go into a room if I was comfortable with that.  I chose the room. Wow. We walked in and went straight to the examining room which was squeaky clean as always.


Mandy had blood drawn and Daisy tolerated having her blood pressure taken before the doctor came in to discuss our situation and possible steps to make things better. Our animals are old so they have health issues and I know they’ll likely continue but I left with a plan to improve their golden years.


Even with the craziness in our world right now, it’s a huge relief to know there are compassionate people ready to help ease pain and suffering for both pets and people. Health professionals deal with all kinds of medical needs that have to be tended, from oncologists providing lifesaving treatments, to orthopedists repairing broken bones, to speech therapists helping babies learn to eat. Not to mention emergency medical personnel on the front line. The world comes to a screeching halt in many ways, yet some things simply cannot do so without severe ramifications. Risk worth results is what I keep hearing.


That thing that I take for granted all the time, an open veterinary office didn’t have to be there for us. The fact that it was available was comforting beyond belief. I thank them for taking great pains to protect us all in these scary contagious times, yet being there as helping professionals. They almost made the world seem normal today.


My sincere thanks goes out to all those folks putting their own safety on the line for others. Hopefully, when life settles down, we will all remember those acts of kindness and pay them forward.

IMG_2728 2

March 14, 2020


Food Hoarder Maybe, But Not for a Pandemic

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Okay. Honesty time. It’s official. I have a food problem and it’s not got anything to do with how much I eat. I am going to swallow my shame and admit, I’m a food hoarder. Oh no, not a pandemic hoarder. I haven’t shopped for that at all. Why? Because I have two fridges in my kitchen loaded with food. Ever since we had the triplets, we’ve had two fridges. Actually, that’s not true. We’ve had them forever, since we used to can and freeze a gardenful of organic veggies. There’s a newer one, the older one, and in the barn, there’s the oldest one still good enough for drinks and excess holiday leftovers. There’s also an ancient freezer in the barn with some backup items that don’t fit in the house. Who needs to buy more food?



Apparently, I do. Feeling unusually productive, I decided to check the dates on the foods in the barn freezer. Ah ha! There were those five loaves of garlic bread I couldn’t find so I kept buying fresh frozen ones for each Italian meal. No problem. It was a beautiful day to handle old icy meats and veggies so I grabbed a few empty grocery bags, filled them with ease and chunked those old ice blocks into the roll out trash bin. Realizing the next day would be trash and recycling pickup and still feeling energetic, I continued my purging project in the house starting with the second oldest kitchen fridge, a side-by-side. The one where you’re supposed to be able with a glance to see what you have. Right. Except for those items in the back that haven’t seen daylight since the last solar eclipse.7624D839-A344-445D-9DD6-830A979B843E_1_105_c


This is really embarrassing but since I’ve started confessing, I’ll keep going. Have you ever cleared out your freezer and hit six-year-old “best by” dates? Even if you’re standing in front of your freezer staring at the sell-by 2014 date on the stirfry vegetables and no one else is around to know, you can still feel shame. That well of embarrassment digs deeper with each ancient family size glacier-like bag of yellow squash and broccoli. Wedged beside the no longer healthy food section, I found four-year-old boxes of waffles in both glutenous and g-free varieties. I kept digging. Oh yeah. Jackpot. Boiled peanuts and cooked collards. Yay. Those are in unlabeled Ziplock bags so they’re probably still good. I wonder if Pillsbury biscuits will still rise if they’re over a year old? Might as well cook them and see what happens. I shoved them back in for a later decision time.


Here’s the thing:  I despise grocery shopping. Therefore, when I finally go, I buy enough to last through a Boston blizzard. I stock up a bunch of food for special occasions, for when the kids come home, for holidays. Then I ask the hubby to pick up fresh foods on his way home from work. You know. Milk, bread, eggs, salad stuff and fruit. He can get in and out with the items on my list and not get suckered into all the buy-one, get-one free deals that suck me right in on every aisle. If I went shopping regularly, our fridges would explode along with our credit card.



But Houston, we have a problem. By the end of my purging fridges and freezers, I’d filled our tall kitchen trash can three times, not to mention the boxes and bottles in the recycle can. Heck! After my numerous trips to the rolling bins outside, it was all I could do to tilt the heavy cans and roll them down the long hill that is our driveway. Who knew cleaning out old food could add up to steps and an aerobic workout?


There you have it. I’ve cleared my conscience and my fridges. I’ve added far too much to the landfill in my haste to get the bins down the hill before dark. I should have composted most of that frozen food and I’ll have to live with that big icy chunk of guilt. I’m a Southern woman so I know how to gnaw off a big bite of guilt and chew on it for a good long while. I’ll do that. It’ll make me feel better about all this embarrassment. I vowed to use all the food that is now remaining in fridge and freezer and stop buying like I did for a family of six. This nest only has the two of us now. Oh, wait. What am I thinking? I need to shop for the kid’s upcoming breaks and when our local daughter’s family comes over. That means I need to restock the gluten free items and food for the grandbaby. And about that pandemic thing. Maybe I should start hoarding a few canned items. I’ll have to make sure to get a good sell-by date.


March 10, 2020


Procrastinating or Saving the Landfills?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

A prime example of procrastination involves my To Do List that I didn’t do. In addition to not writing, I did not make the phone calls on my list, nor do the online banking. I didn’t go to Lowes for longer cabinet knob screws, nor take the cat to the vet for shots. I did, however, attempt to remove a goopy candle from a small glass container and not toss it in the trash. The wick was gone and the wax was honey-like so I used hot water to loosen the wax so I could chop it up and pry it out with a butter knife.


It made sense at the time. That is, until I realized how many gallons of running hot water went down the drain and how much electricity I wasted in order to run the water heater. In my defense, I was attempting to save the landfill from one more useless item. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound as good as it felt while I was digging out the melted wax. Dang it. Even when I try extra hard to be a responsible earth citizen, my carbon footprint grows. Well shoot. But on the bright side, we have another glass.

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