Life Stories and Beyond

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


April 25, 2017


Rainy Day Doggie Potty Blues

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Eureka! Sadie Hound finally went. All day I’d been begging her to go outside and do her business. Her eyeballs had to be floating. Every time the torrential rain slowed down a tad, I tried again. Of course I’m the one who got wet, standing out in the rain trying to cajole her to me, where I stood in a flowerbed that’s her regular spot.


Back inside we’d go. Even Remy Dog, our Sheltie’s nipping at her hips couldn’t herd her off the front porch but he certainly tried. He even went back out in the rain a second time and demonstrated what I wanted her to do. No chance. Back inside, I had to keep Sadie in whatever room I was in to be sure she didn’t make a lake on the hardwood floor.

Our Boarder Collie/St. Bernard mix, Mandy went out easily and did her thing, but played games when it was time to come back in. She sat on the doormat as a sign that she was content on the porch. Five minutes later, she was whining. I opened the door to see her lying on her rug, making no effort to come through the door. Just whining for the heck of it. I closed the door.


In the kitchen where I was rearranging a cookbook shelf, I heard Mandy bark and I headed for the front door to let her in. She was standing this time, apparently wanting some company outside, not in. Remy joined her for a few moments. I do mean moments. More whining led me to reopen the door to let Remy in while Mandy stood there asking me to come play.


No thank you. As I started closing the door, Mandy stepped inside with her front feet and kept her rear section on the porch. I shut the door further on her big furry middle and low and behold, she came inside smiling and wagging her tail behind her.


Addendum: The rain finally stopped for a few moments and the four of us walked to get the mail and Eureka! Sadie went! Hallelujah, at least until the next time. This rain is supposed to stick around through tomorrow evening. I’m pretty sure she cannot hold it that long.


April 15, 2017


Enable Your Reblog Button

I needed to read this information. Thanks for taking time to explain reblogging.

HarsH ReaLiTy

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Think of WordPress like a river and from that river come smaller streams that are each individual’s personal “reader.” The Reader is that button in the top left corner that takes you to all the active posts being shared publicly by tag or that you follow. The word “active” is important in this sentence because the posts are shown in real time, as they are being posted, unless you are lucky and get placed into these new features they are creating. Most of us Users use the reader to store and separate the bloggers from the other bloggers we don’t read… like Gary.

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April 12, 2017


Life, the Great Classroom

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman


I’ve always wanted to be a professional student. If time and money allowed, I’d be signing up to audit all kinds of classes. No tests or projects for grades, thank you. Now that we have an empty nest, how fun it would be to sneak, unseen, into the back of my three college-kids’ classes and simply absorb the content, from dynamic teachers of course, so we can converse about what they’re learning.


Speaking of absorbing, I want to learn about all kinds of odd things. Like moss, for example. I understand that good old absorbent moss can help us monitor environmental pollution levels. If the moss disappears, look out earthlings. The same thing happens with falling birds, dwindling bees, and five-legged frog sightings.


I’d probably enjoy classes like The Joy of Garbage, The History of Toys, and Kitchen Chemistry, but not so much Underwater Basket Weaving and Advanced Calculus. I’d rather learn survival skills just in case I’m ever plopped in the wilderness and have to find my way home without becoming somebody’s lunch or starving.


Learning about parenting before I had four kids would have made sense. I’d also like a redo lesson on child development and abnormal psychology, which is either a funny or pathetic desire since I’m a psychology major. It would have been lots more fun to audit those psych classes instead of cramming like crazy for exams.


Don’t most of us wonder how things are made? I could binge watch YouTube How To’s. How in the world is duct tape made without getting all stuck together? Why doesn’t super glue stick to the bottle?


I’d love to take a field trip to see icebergs and another trip to lie in a hammock in a rain forest to watch for iguanas and toucans while listening for howler monkeys and bare-throated bellbirds. I have no idea what the last two are but they sound pretty amazing.


How incredible it would be to conquer fears that keep me nestled in my comfort zone, afraid to explore new heights and depths. That stifling fear that whispers don’t do it, either due to age, aches and pains, or physical risk. Or for fear of being judged as selfishly wasting time doing frivolous things.


I’d like to be that free-spirited, eccentric character every family needs, who enjoys life and provides spice to any conversation. If that’s my plan, I’d better get on with it as middle age is a little fickle on the knees, eyes and well, the rest of the body. I’m ready to explore and learn in this incredible classroom called “Life.”

April 1, 2017


I’d like to Change “The Change”

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Why do women get to experience so much change in life? I’m referring to “The Change.” I’ve long passed the age where I find change fun and exciting. I may have some spontaneity left in this old girl but never knowing when my insides will boil and my face will turn red and bead with sweat is not my kind of living on the edge. This kind of living is simply annoying. Cooking from the inside out may be okay for a crock-pot but not for a woman.


The title, “The Old Crone” used to sound funny before I became one, an irritable wretch for as much as two minutes per hour. That’s two times twenty-four. That’s forty-eight minutes a day that I’m a fiery, untouchable, hot ball of walking lava. Move out of the way or my steam might scald you too if my agitated words don’t take you down first. I should tell you I’m normally a very nice, peace-loving person.


My husband, Dan, who, bless his heart, sleeps with my feet in his face at various times every night, told me this morning, “You’re burning up.” He feels a flash coming on before I do if I’ve snuggled up to him in our heavily blanketed bed.


Heavily blanketed sounds counterproductive I know, but I peel them off like Pillsbury flaky canned biscuit layers as my personal global warming comes across in waves. Take off the top cozy spread, then the brown fleece blanket, then the sheet and I’m free to flip my head to the end of our California King bed that we only use my third of. If Dan wakes up, he might risk his life rubbing my feet as I cool off with the ceiling fan swirling overhead as it does every night, all four seasons.


It’s a wonder he hasn’t had black eyes and bloody noses for all the times I’ve kicked my feet and groused, “Puleeze don’t touch me. I’m trying to cool off here.” “And don’t flap my pant legs. That doesn’t help.”


I often stomp off to the blue-tiled bathroom where I splash cold water on my face and neck, feeling my already wet skin and hair become wetter. In the mirror, I look sunburned, bloated, and blotchy.


The cold water does nothing but make me damper than I was but it gets me out of the smothering bed that touches one whole side of my frying body. Standing upright in front of the ever-present little purple fan on my dresser allows air to circulate on my whole self except for the bottom of my feet.


As I’m returning to the bed, Dan says something nice like, “Are you ready to come back up here, right side up?”


“Lord what’s wrong with you? Can’t you see I’m sweating to death? No I don’t want to go back up there where you’ll roast me like a marshmallow. I should go outside and cool off. It’s an oven in here and only twenty degrees out there. I’ll open the window a crack. ”


Knowing from his silent response that I was evil to Saint Dan, I crawl back into bed, head beside his. In mere moments I feel a chill and pull up the sheet, the fleece blanket and the cozy top comforter. I nestle into my husband’s toasty body and we fit like spoons.


“It’s really cold in here,” I say, pulling his arm around me and lacing my fingers with his.

March 27, 2017


School Band: Great for improving Musical Ability, Physical Fitness, and Interpersonal Skills

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman (Originally Posted in The Charlotte Observer in 2014)

Ready or not, high school class registration for next year is about to begin. Elective courses range from automotive services to yoga to oodles of other classes to consider– including marching band. 

This isn’t yesteryear’s stereotype of geeky kids playing the school fight song. Band today is a melting pot of kids with a myriad of interests. It’s camaraderie, friendship and a place to fit in. 

Marching band, a combination of athleticism, dance moves, and musical ability, is a huge commitment but well worth it. Stamina, fitness, memorization, organization and, yes, socialization skills are honed.

The Providence High School kids highlighted below have participated in one or more of the following activities: Track and field, JROTC, Chorus, Firefighter Safety, Jazz Band, and Theater Orchestra Pit. They also play multiple instruments in multiple ensembles at Providence and maintain excellent GPAs.

Emily Lucero, senior and four year band student, said, “When I run track it’s all about competition, where in band it’s all about working together. We’re only as good as our weakest link. We try to build each other up and make each other feel good about ourselves.” Emily plans to major in biology at Appalachian State University and looks forward to playing clarinet as a Marching Mountaineer in the fall. “I’ll already have a connection with band people.”

Brothers, Joe and Sam Kunkleman, are juniors at Providence. They have been in marching band for three years, and plan to make it four. 

Joe said, “Imagine carrying a sleeping St. Bernard on your left shoulder, while doing math homework in your head, while dashing through a maze. That’s what it’s like to play tuba in a marching band.” 

He does it because of the friends. “Starting my freshman year with a group of people to sit with at lunch made my transition to high school a lot easier. The band room is like a second home.” 

Sam agreed and said, “Band camp and rehearsals require a lot of work but it’s worth it in the end to be part of a great production and entertain.” 

Eric Belongea, a junior and third year band student said, “Band provides you with a good group of friends that guide you in the right direction through high school. It’s just all around goodness.”

Marching band is certainly a class worth considering at registration time. 

What’s better than making friends, getting exercise, and having mental challenges?


Animal Behavior is Confusing: Bullying or Flirting?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

How can you tell if animal behavior is good or bad? While I was out of town, my man Dan sent me a short video of our male horse bullying our mare. He was aggravating her with his head and trying to bite her rear. When I got home Dan called me outside to see the live action version of the behavior. I marched out to where Titan, our white-faced gelding, was biting our beautiful reddish brown mare, Sassy, on her backside. I shouted “No” and “Stop it, Titan.”


Nipping or nuzzling

(Sorry but that isn’t a video. Just a screen shot from a video that wouldn’t load.)

He gave me a puzzled look and started to nip her again. I called Titan to me at the fence. He let me rub his nose and give him a kiss, then moments later he put his head over the tall fence and tried to bite my hand. I’m not much of a yeller or user of physical punishment but through shock and instinct I swatted his nose and scolded him again.

Dan joined me at the fence and asked me if this new wild side could be mating behavior. I was thinking the same thing. Even though Titan had been “fixed” long ago, perhaps his libido was still intact. He’s usually a pretty gentle soul.

Naturally, I Googled Mating behavior in horses, and Can a gelding still mate? Oh my, the number of answers was vast and decisive. In a word, “Yes,” all his symptoms met the criteria for a male, gelding or not, having a strong sense of smell and desire for a female in season. He sure was sniffing her mare perfume all over her neck and rear quarters.

I felt guilty for yelling at Titan and yet, I felt sorry for Sassy, an older woman with bad knees, getting her hiney bitten repeatedly. Surely she wasn’t enjoying his over-zealous attention. But who am I to know about horse-flirting?

Having two mares in the past, this was never an issue. They only fought over food and human attention. I guess Titan is like most males who act stupid around a “sexy” woman. I’d never thought of our girl Sassy as a femme fatale. Funny, I now realize Sassy did lots of tail lifting which I attributed to releasing nervous gas instead of being an attempt at seduction and saying, “Hey big fellow.”

The horses aren’t the only confusing species. There’s our hyperactive grand dog, Charlie the Vizsla, the handsome tank that could mow down a whole canine football team when he’s at full speed. He’s a licking machine, lover of people and pets, and sometimes a personal space invader. Sadie, our big black and tan coon hound hides when her doggie nephew comes over. He won’t give her a break with the licking and wrestling.

While dog sitting Charlie, I was pleased to see the big puppy being more gentle with our three dogs, which we call, “his aunts and uncle.” I even recorded his good behavior on my phone. It was so cute. He asked the cat to play and got a hiss instead of a kiss. He licked our Sadie hound’s jowl, and laid his head across her body like a snuggle. He even sniffed our boy sheltie Remy’s rear quarters. Remy showed his teeth, ready to teach him who’s the king of this castle, causing Charlie to move on to our passive Border-collie/St. Bernard mix, Mandy. He nuzzled her without biting and pulling the fur off her fuzzy ears. That was a first. While Mandy lay on the fireplace rug, Charlie stood over her; he placed his head and front paws across Mandy’s neck and wallowed all over her like a happy pig in mud, as she stayed there pretending to sleep. He appeared to be swimming in her gorgeous long fur. Finally, Charlie laid his long, copper body snuggled up to her and rested his head on her soft back. They slept. I was so happy to catch this momentous occasion on video. All of us have used Mandy’s soft body for a pillow at one time or another. And the dogs have used us as pillows, as well. We’ve all piled up like puppies.

When my daughter came to fetch Charlie, I showed her the video, knowing she’d be pleased that he was not roughing up her fur siblings. She watched for a minute and said, “Mom, I can’t watch this. This is not sweet behavior. It’s dominant behavior. Don’t let him do that to sweet Mandy. He’s being a bully.”

Well pooh! After years of parenting animals, sometimes I still can’t get it right. I think romantic advances in horses are bullying and I think bullying dominance in dogs is romantic and sweet. I wonder if my judgment is off in lots of other things. I’ve got some pondering to do.


Just Because I Used-a-Could, Doesn’t Mean I Should

Lisa Batten Kunkleman

If a horse named Mojo reared up like a wild bronco with a twenty-something man in the saddle, would you expect a fiftyish woman to get into that same saddle? My first clue to keep my feet on the ground should have been the extra twenty pounds I had to lift to get into the saddle at all. At my age, just because I could get my foot up to the stirrup on this extremely tall horse didn’t mean I should.  As my kids and I sought a safe and friendly companion for our lonely mare whose field mate recently died, I had to test ride all contenders my horse dealing friends brought for us to test drive, I mean test ride.

After the horse experts changed the bit that was probably hurting Mojo’s teeth and causing the bucking action, I got on his brown and white speckled back and assumed the bucking was history. His pouty pink bottom lip and shaggy winter coat gave him a cuddly, gentle look. He didn’t flinch when I mounted and he walked with my slightest heeltap. Perfect. We rode around the pasture and bypassed two pokey riders. Approaching a mucky place ahead, I guided Mojo off the trail and through the trees to stay on drier ground. That was a bad plan. I realize now it wasn’t a bad bit, it was the tooth pain any bit caused when the reins pulled sideways to make turns. Mojo needed a horsey dentist to fix a bad tooth. Guess we learned that a little late.

As I turned him left, he headed for the open gate toward the barn and my pulling back on the reins just made it worse. He wasn’t slowed one bit, no pun intended, by my five-syllable southern “Whoa” either. I was determined he wouldn’t take me into the barn and whack my head on the doorframe so I pulled back harder and he bucked higher.

I thought about jumping off but couldn’t decide how to do it safely, so I flopped around the saddle like a drunk girl on a mechanical bull in a B-rate movie. Since the bucking ride didn’t stop, I gave in to gravity, which pulled me off to the left. I aimed for ground as far away from Mojo as possible in case he didn’t stop his tantrum. The damp ground met my left knee and hip, and I caught myself with my left arm. Man, was that a jarring feeling. There was a shock going from my back up into the base of my head followed by a tingle like I’ve never experienced. Mojo calmed immediately and stood there like a big dog with a saddle, looking sweet and innocent.

Since my young adult kids were yelling for my medical stats, I stood up and walked toward them. Channeling my best John Wayne swagger and attitude, I said, “I lost my Mojo.” Then, “He didn’t like that bit even a little bit.”

They all laughed, except my oldest daughter, Danielle. They even said my fall was pretty graceful. It would have been worse if I stiffened before hitting the ground. Danielle was unimpressed with my gracefulness.

She said through tight teeth and with misty eyes, “I bet you never had to watch your mother get bucked off a horse! It was horrible. I thought you’d die.”

I didn’t tell her I thought the same thing. We just had a nice long hug. “You’re right, I haven’t. I’m sorry I scared you. I scared me too,” I said.

My middle-aged horsewoman buddy, Pam, who has been thrown many times, led me to sit on a log with her to watch the kids ride the safer horses. She whispered, “You need to fill the tub with hot water and soak in Epsom Salt cause we don’t bounce back like we used to. One good thing about being over fifty is, if you fall off a horse, you know that rule about getting back up there? We don’t have to do that anymore.”

Twenty-four hours later, after a muscle relaxer-induced sleep that lasted till lunchtime, I’m sporting a messed up shoulder, a scraped wrist, and a rainbow-colored knee. Perhaps I should start acting my age but I feel more like Evil Kneivel than Poor, Pitiful Pearl. I won’t get back on Mojo, but I’ll definitely get back in the saddle and I plan to stay seated next time. I may be sore but it was worth it all to see the photo my daughter’s boyfriend snapped as I was flung off Mojo. I’ll probably frame that one for the mantle.  I could have injured a shoulder falling down at home just carrying a laundry basket or I could have been thrown off a horse at the ripe young age of fifty-two. I know that just because I used-a-could, doesn’t mean I should, but since I survived the incident, I sure am glad I did. We’ve got more potential horse pets to test in a couple of weeks. Guess like the old song says, I know I’ll be, “Back in the Saddle Again.”

(This incident happened several years ago and we did find a cute white-faced horse buddy for our mare. I’m pretty sure this event helped age me more than I knew at the time. Especially my left knee. And about that back in the saddle thing, maybe once in awhile but the swagger is definitely gone. I’ve turned the riding over to the younger generation. But not with a horse named Mojo.)



January 25, 2017


Monday Morning: Breakfast Time!

A post by a fellow blogger, David Kanigan from a fabulous nature site called biomorphosis. I couldn’t resist sharing. I’m so in love.

Live & Learn


Source: Kangaroo sleeping and eating via biomorphosis

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Parenting Invincible Young Adults

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman


Parenting young adult children is a whole new experience. If you think parenting and protecting children from birth through the teen years is tough, look out for the twenties.There’s a huge difference between being invincible at twenty and cautious at mid-life. I’m definitely in the cautious at mid-life stage when it comes to my kids.


I recently wrote about my youngest son, Sam, shattering his kneecap, after falling full-weight on his knee, when a door frame pull-up bar collapsed. Since then, he’s had his first of who knows how many surgeries. His knee is now wired together.


After a long, painful process to become as mobile as he is currently, he is allowed to put weight on that leg. That means he’s moved from wheelchair to crutches to what the doctor calls peg-legging around his college campus. He still can’t bend his knee although his brace can be adjusted for bending further as his scar tissue breaks down and allows for more movement. He’s in physical therapy to speed up the bending process.


I set the scene because I’m sharing a video clip that boggles my brain and that of several of my fellow parents. Sam loves climbing, perhaps more than anything. When he was home from college recently, he walked by me and said, “Mom, I’m going to climb a tree.”
I think, He’s such a kidder. I went along with him saying, “Ok. Have fun.” Out the door he went.


Did I realize who I was talking to? Thinking one of my daredevils was joking. Nope. He was serious. While I went on about my business, Sam’s father took out his cell phone and followed him, assuming Sam might be serious and therefor planning to be nearby if anything exciting happened. Good plan, as Sam used only his upper body and arm strength to climb a rope he’s climbed too many times to count, up into the tree. Then he swung limb to limb to get down to a low enough height to drop. I only knew about this later when I watched the video.

Remember, he’s twenty. Not an easy age to put in time out for doing something dangerous. Since showing different people the video, opinions are split, smack dab down the age continuum.


Fully grown, older sensible, cautious adults said things like, “Wasn’t he afraid he’d get hurt?” or “Oh my gosh, ya’ll could have been starting all over. Weren’t you terrified?”


I said, “What if his hand got a cramp or like his brother and sister, what if his shoulder popped out?” (His triplet sister, Sarah, is also in physical therapy to tighten up a formerly dislocated shoulder. See her in the photo above and note I’m wearing my orthopedic boot. Our Christmas picture? No. Refer back to blog posts: “Of Course I’m Wearing an Immobilizing Boot. Isn’t Everybody?” or “Mom, Where should The Ambulance Take Me?” if you need a refresher.)


Young adults, being his friends and siblings, said, “Go, Sam!” or “That’s so cool.” Or, “Don’t worry Mom. Sam’s smart and super strong and he’d never do anything to hurt himself. He knows what he’s doing.”


Those words came from his triplet brother, Joe, also obviously age twenty, who acts like a stunt man himself much of the time doing crazy flips and jumps. Joe is currently wearing a sling and is in physical therapy also, since his shoulder surgery to prevent further dislocation. He’s away at college too, so all I can do is pray he’s wearing his sling and playing video games to stay occupied and safe.


Parenting young adults is a whole new ballgame. Part of that empty nest phase where you realize you are not in control when they’re away. Oh my. Be still my heart.

And Then There’s Remodeling, Pt. 2

January 19, 2017

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

When our “And Then There’s Remodeling, Part One” saga ended, we had just ordered granite choice number two by mistake. At this point in the process, did we even care? Not really. We had an island and cabinets sitting in the middle of our kitchen, ready to be topped with something. A large slab of just about anything would have been preferable to no top at all. We even threw a couple of our old,now removed doors on top to pretend it was finished. The doorknobs didn’t really work out.

The giant topless island didn’t slow down our young adult kids and their friends one bit. A Christmas cookie competition took place in spite of the mess. We carried on with meals cooked on our fifty-year-old appliances a little longer. Yes, you heard right. We had two fifty-year-old ranges that still mostly worked, minus a burner or two. Together they equaled about one and a half workable ranges. They really don’t make them like that anymore.

Then the painters came. Time to close off the kitchen from fumes and wagging dog tails. Lousy timing in a way, since they came on the same day as our son’s shoulder surgery. My husband and I had to divide and conquer. He stayed home with the painters while I tended to medical details, getting our son, Joe, through his difficult day.  Fortunately, Joe wore a pain pump which dripped continual medicine, blocking his nerves  for the first few days, so he was feeling pretty great. He did fantastic. And so did the painters. We all had a good day.

We arrived home from the hospital to “Acceptable Gray” walls in the kitchen and a “Ceiling White” ceiling. Real paint names.  Appropriate names. Plastic once again covered floors and cabinets, but what an “acceptable” mess to come home to. The ugly honeydew-green walls were gone. Forever. That evening, family and friends attended our oldest daughter’s band concert. Even the patient attended. He had promised his sister, “I’ll be fine to go after surgery.”

We all said, “Yeah, sure you will.” Dang if he didn’t.

Next up, painting the cabinets white had to be done before the granite arrived. There was a problem. The granite people called saying they must deliver early morning or put it off till after New Years, two weeks away. Oh no, that wouldn’t do as we were having a small gathering to bring in 2017, and we were tired of looking at a topless island.

They only had men available to lift the heavy stone during early morning. We came up with a compromise. Promising if they’d give us time to get the painting done that morning, the painters agreed to help them bring in the island top. Done deal. Poor painters had no idea how heavy the six hundred pounds of granite would be, but they grit their teeth and brought that monster in the house.

Counter top in place, the installers put on toxic-dust-blocking masks and sawed a hole in the stone for our cook top. I watched while sparks were flying out of the cut stone. Precision is essential. One wrong move and they can ruin a stone. High pressure work. Cook top in, granite topping the island, paint on the walls and cabinets, we were rounding the home stretch of this remodeling adventure.The kitchen part at least.

Along came Christmas. A needed break for everybody and continued use of our one remaining copper-tone colored range. We baked our multi-layer chocolate “Jesus cake” in that oven for a last hurrah. Seemed a fitting farewell.

We’re still not done. The saga is “to be continued.”

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