Life Stories and Beyond

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

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June 3, 2019
lisakunk

7 comments

Pet Hair Piling up? Your Feet May Hold the Solution (This is not an ad. I’m just smart.)

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Pet hair got you down? Tired of spending money on sticky rollers and gadgets to remove that hair? I’ve found the solution for your furniture, rugs, even your fabrics. Take off your sneakers and put them to work. Check the bottoms for gross stuff. Then use your cleanest pair to rub the rubber soles of your shoes all over that fluffy pet hair squishing it up into a ball and “Voila!” Hair-free surfaces and a cleaning process that doesn’t cost a dime (except for whatever you paid for those sneakers of course). Seriously. It works. Check out the before picture of my nasty cat tower.

Now take a look at my quick fur gathering system, courtesy of my walking shoes. Then scroll on down to see pictures of the final results.

 

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Cleaning rugs is especially fun. Just scrub your sneakered feet around and the hair comes up in bunches. I found this out by accident rubbing my feet over a clump I saw on a carpet. I was amazed. I’d discovered a miracle method. Now y’all have fun. It’s almost as exciting as using a power washer to write on your pavement. Try it on your own fur covered house and let me know how it works. Enjoy.

May 20, 2019
lisakunk

9 comments

Empty Nest: Obstacle or Opportunity?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

 

“For every stage your baby passes through, for every sweet phase you think you’ll miss, you’ll get new stages, new phases. It’ll keep on getting more and more interesting all the time. Just wait until you can have a conversation with your nine-year-old. It’s wonderful. Change doesn’t have to be bad. It’s different of course, or it wouldn’t be called change.”

 

This is a paraphrase of what I told my oldest daughter as we discussed her dreading to see her nearly four-month-old baby boy change so fast. I remember having this same conversation with our very wise veterinarian when he asked me how I liked being a new parent. Yes, veterinarian, not pediatrician. I had taken my dog in for a checkup, not my child. You never know where your pearls of wisdom will come from so keep your ears open.

 

Yesterday, while sitting in church experiencing what we call “Youth Sunday” I was struck with how much I missed the years my husband and I were youth leaders; having an intimate knowledge, a friendship with so many young people like those leading this service. As a trio of young ladies sang their solo parts and then harmonized, I was taken back to a time when that would have been my oldest daughter and her singing partners. I recalled how our triplets, now twenty-two used to sing, play their instruments, speak, and participate in mission trips like these kids were doing. I thought back to days when we’d have anywhere from forty to eighty young people and their families at our house for what we called, “Fun on the Farm” or a “lock in” or just to hang out. Those were busy, exhilarating times.

 

For a few moments, I allowed melancholy to set in. I even told our minister and a few friends how looking back had hit me. They all get it. They’re in similar stages of life where their kids are off doing their own things, forging paths, as we all did a few decades ago. I marvel at how little time I spent back home once I left my parental nest. I was off to whatever life held, hardly giving a thought to how my absence affected my parents. It’s hard to know what an empty nest feels like until you’ve tried it for yourself. Now, I can’t get enough treasured time in my mom’s nest, heading there every chance I get.

 

Life is one change after another. One more readjustment to a new normal. Unless we live in a household where nobody leaves, and the whole extended family stays on the block or the farm, there’s bound to be change. An alteration of sounds, smells, and activity. Perhaps an empty feeling or possibly, a feeling of completion. A million unexpected feelings may swirl around in all that newfound space.

 

Like it or not, babies grow, turning into people with their own paths to explore, mountains to climb, and passions to pursue. Hopefully, we grownup people keep exploring, climbing, and pursuing. There are opportunities enough to go around for each age—each stage. It’s all in how we look at them. Are they obstacles or opportunities? A change might squeeze our hearts or a change could allow more time to work on a long-ignored bucket list or at least time to tackle a to-do list.

 

While trying to keep up with our household of six and their busy schedules, I remember saying on a regular basis, “I’ll do that once the kids are grown.” Well, they’re grown and gone. Actually, they’re more like in and out, here and there which is fabulous.

 

After four years of this big-old-empty house business, I’m actually enjoying this new stage of life. The one where my calendar is less filled with my kid’s schedules and more filled with my own. That’s a pretty sweet place to be. I must admit, with a new grandbaby, I’m happy to fill a few of those calendar blocks with his schedule needs. Keep Baby Wesley. I’m moving into a new stage, yet again, and it keeps life interesting. Whatever we give up in one stage, we get back in multiples in the next ones. That’s what my wise veterinarian told me about parenting, and it’s still true.

 

 

 

 

 

May 7, 2019
lisakunk

12 comments

Our Dogs, The Garden Protectors

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Does your dog take time to smell the roses? Ours do. And the new hydrangea. Like typical work foremen, they watch our every move making sure we spread grass seed just so. They crouch among the budding flowers, guarding them from all the scavenging deer that even eat thorny rose bushes. Neither one of our colorful dogs is designed for camouflage, at least in our yard. Maybe being seen (and heard) is their greatest skill as  garden protectors. I don’t see any deer in these pictures.

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April 28, 2019
lisakunk

6 comments

How to Eliminate Weeds Without Poison

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Once again my husband is working smarter not harder. We have an invasion of burweed that is hazardous to pet and human feet. I was talking about covering it with plastic to kill it. I went into the house and came back to find my husband taking care of the problem. We needed to order some topsoil anyway for some low areas of the yard. We shall just get a bigger load to go with the grass seed. Or maybe we should just plant clover.

April 12, 2019
lisakunk

7 comments

Think of Chores as a Workout

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Who needs a gym when you have farm and yard work to do? Pull some weeds, pick up sticks, rake some straw. Or, do a full day’s work before “work”.

Here’s one example of my husband’s morning workout before he leaves for his real job.

 

April 7, 2019
lisakunk

13 comments

Jellyfish Have it Rough to Be So Smooth

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

When I walk on the beach, I look for oddities. I think jellyfish fall into that odd category so I always take a moment to honor the life of the poor washed up jellyfish. Actually, I measure them with my big old feet and admire how each blob is different. Nature sure is creative. I take a picture to remember them by. Ha Really I do it because I’m a little odd myself and take pictures just because they are unusual critters. And “they’re” using them in medicine to help increase memory so I heard. If that’s so, I should say, “Thank you.”

Rest In Peace guys.

March 2, 2019
lisakunk

10 comments

Finish the Book Already: Ignore Distractions

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Have mercy! Between my husband chopping wood outside my office window, my cat lounging all over my messy desk, my dogs underneath my feet begging to go in and out, this book is on the slow track to completion.

 

My thought is, those who can’t do, watch. And be distracted. That’s me. Distracted. Enough already. He’s done with the wood so I’ll get back to editing.

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Even the cat watches

 

At least I have a potential book cover now. Thanks so much to everyone for the feedback. Opinions Needed: (You Don’t Hear That Very Often) Finalizing Book Cover and Title Selection

The middle example was the winner by a slim margin. See what I did there? Margin?  IMG_BC985C481567-1

Trying out the clever writer talk. Thanks again. This is a combination result of the proposed middle picture, brightened up like the others with a different font. This publishing thing is a whole new learning experience. When people say, “Write a book,” little did I know that would be the easy part.

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Opinions Needed: (You Don’t Hear That Very Often) Finalizing Book Cover and Title Selection

 

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

 

I have several potential designs for a book cover and am looking for input. Have mercy! I never knew how tough it would be to publish a book. Actually to prepare a book for publication. Wow. Writing it was not the hard part.

Decisions, decisions.  I never thought much about book design but I think about it now. In awake-time and in sleep-time. And this is only about the cover. There are oodles of other decisions to make for the interior. So, I need some friendly eyes and kind opinions on the following photo cover examples.  Here’s your chance to be opinionated. (Consider the first photo to be A and the last to be E and read them like a book left to right in your input.)

 

I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track now but would appreciate some confirmation or suggestions. Many of you have been through this process and may have some words of wisdom. It’s taken several great minds to get this far and I want to get it right.

 

Thanks ahead of time.  I’ll get by with a little help from my social media friends.

 

23 comments

From Buzz Cuts to Bombs: Innocence Lost and Secrets Kept (A Classified Incident Declassified)

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I remember finding the tiny manila envelope, tucked under a blanket in the trunk of your Oldsmobile eighty-eight. When I discovered the black and white military photos inside, I was both shocked and thrilled. Seeing you and your army buddies with a couple of tiny-waisted ladies sporting floral summery dresses, I wondered if one of them was the French girl you befriended that cost you the corporal stripe.

I felt like I’d uncovered a different man, leading a different life. So surreal compared to your life as Mr. B, the ladies’ retail salesman, devoted husband and father. You wore a confident, almost cocky, “I can conquer anything” expression. Youthful and handsome as they come, in one picture you were the centerpiece, standing between bookend pals, one with a hand on your shoulder and the other with an arm wrapped around your back. And that cigar in your mouth. What was that all about?  Were y’all posing for the ladies?

This must have been before. Your hair, long and wavy on top, was not the buzz cut you so despised. You told me that the hardest indignity about the enlistment process was losing your pretty hair. I think you said it took three trips before it was cut as short as the Army required. Since your hair had time to grow, this picture must have been after boot camp. In the states or where? Tents in the background look like those in old war movies. I imagine they smelled musty as a tobacco barn at curing time, and were just as hot at bedtime. Perhaps you were too exhausted to care. D01A3847-9DA1-45EC-88C0-25A62B82A11B

This must have been before the foxhole, you three, with those good looks and clean uniforms, full of mixed feelings of pride and unacknowledged fear; leaving loved ones wondering if you’d ever return. It must have been before the bullets whizzed by your head as you tried to radio in about the Germans just over the hill. This must have been before you prayed harder than you ever had, when the radio went out and then you switched to prayers of praise when the radio repair guy came into your bunker. I still wonder how he got there, with all those whizzing bullets.

Was this before you fired your sixty-millimeter mortars and wondered how many German men you’d hit? You said men, not soldiers. You shared that thought in a moment when you let your guard down and told me some of your experiences. There were stories you couldn’t tell.

This picture was before the classified incident which soldiers in the 66th Panther Division were forbidden to discuss. The one that must have eaten at you or been smothered, shoved down to depths too deep to revisit.

These smiling young faces didn’t yet know about the classified incident to come. The torpedoed ship that you nearly boarded. Weren’t you one of the last ones to get on the SS Cheshire? So tired from Christmas Eve KP duty in Southampton, England, up since the middle of the night peeling all those potatoes nobody ate, when the call came to load the two ships. It’s no surprise you rested on your pack while waiting on the dock and fell asleep. The miracle is that you woke up in time to load the troopship, the SS Cheshire and not the former passenger liner repurposed as a troopship, the SS Leopoldville on December 24, 1944. Divisions were separated in the hasty boarding to cross the English Channel to the shore of Cherbourg, France, on the way to the Battle of the Bulge.

What must it have felt like, watching the explosion and fire when the two torpedoes from the U-Boat hit the other ship, knowing but not registering the atrocity, while switching to survival mode; you told me your ship zigged and zagged to avoid another torpedo, trying in vain to contact help from nearby ships, communications and decisions hampered by Christmas revelry on the shore. Allied forces celebrating with their own Christmas dinners a mere five miles away failed to mobilize in time to rescue the victims.

You must have mourned in shock. Your fellow soldiers and friends, your innocence, and even the anticipated Christmas turkey dinner more than fourteen hundred men would never smell cooking while thinking of home. A horrifying total of 763 soldiers and 56 crewmen perished either in the blast or in the frigid waters of the Channel a mere five and a half miles from shore. The uneaten Christmas meal is easier to mourn than all those young lives lost, young people hoping to save the world from evil. Is it wrong to wonder what happened to all that food?

When the incident––“The Sinking of the Leopoldville”, as one survivor’s book called it––became declassified in 1996, you and your fellow survivors could finally open up and let the pain pour out. A painful stench of memories and visions trapped within your minds’ wall like a dead rodent, inaccessible yet a constant reminder of the rot that shouldn’t be there?

I saw your smile widen, although I never knew it was incomplete, when your lips were freed from government-imposed bondage, fifty-two years later. Why so long? I’ll never understand. I heard there were threats of losing GI benefits as civilians if anyone spoke of the sinking.

But the truth came out. In 1984, when divers discovered the shipwreck, the story was freed from the bottom of what had remained silent as a secret grave. You survivors finally shared your stories with your families and friends, with each other at that long overdue memorial ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia. Some wrote books, and some, like you, told your story to historians, wise enough to salvage such events while the survivors could still tell the tales so long silenced.

You told me that because your 66th Infantry Division called the Black Panthers was at half strength, your destination, which was The Battle of the Bulge was diverted. For supper the night of the sinking of the Leopoldville, you survivors dined on English candy instead of turkey and all those peeled potatoes. I don’t allow myself to think of the possibility that none of our family would even exist if you’d gone to the Bulge or boarded the other boat.

You often said, “My little mama was at home praying for me and my brothers, all four of us boys across the ocean fighting that war. She must have had some powerful prayers since we all made it back. I felt those prayers. They kept me going.”

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I’ll never know why you stored those photos in your trunk. At the time I thought it was because you did not want Mom to see the women in a few of the pictures. You eventually told me they were just some girls y’all met on leave in Florida, so there was nothing to hide from Mom. I assume it was easier to bury that part of your life by hiding the photos so that conversations about the war would not arise, those conversations that you were forbidden to have.

Your little mama prayed for the boy in the picture––still innocent and handsome. Her baby turned into a man, on loan to her country. A man who would someday hold back stories and hide photos. A man who would bury parts of his life to honor his country and protect his family’s innocence.

 

19 comments

Chewing Dogs Pretend They’ve Outgrown It: Don’t Believe It

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I saw my shoes by the front door when I left the house for writing class. I thought to myself, Tucker, our sweet grand dog seems to have outgrown his chewing phase. I won’t be gone long. Surely they’ll be fine.

Yeah right. I am such a sucker for some big beautiful eyes. So much for those prescription orthotic innersoles that have helped relieve my planter fasciitis so nicely. So much for the doggie doo plastic bags on his leash that happened to be lying within his reach somewhere. And just moments ago I heard a strange noise out on the front patio, a clicking sound. Checking that out, I found a planter chewed in half and it’s former contents, a Clematis, tossed aside with its naked root ball exposed.

Let this serve as a warning. Once a chewer, likely always a chewer. Stay vigilant. Keep your guard up. Dog proof your house and your yard. When something gets chewed up keep in mind that it must be your fault. And if you have any doubt while you’re scolding your dog, look into those eyes and you’ll start to feel guilt. Don’t believe it. Your dog may be yearning for you to leave.

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