Life Stories and Beyond

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



The Best Christmas Guest: Guess Who

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

My favorite guest is visiting for the holidays. Each year, our friend hangs out from Thanksgiving until after New Years. There’s a saying that fish and company smell after three days. Not this fellow.  This guy is welcome to stay until he absolutely must leave and he smells great too, by the way. He doesn’t say much but his mere presence comforts me like hot cocoa and marshmallows. Even our animals adore this guest and snuggle up close by. 

No matter what craziness a day holds or how many items remain on the to-do list, at the end of the day, hanging out with my friend in the living room with a fire crackling away in the fireplace, it’s like getting a free massage or relaxation therapy. His quiet presence helps make the Christmas season jolly and bright. Everybody loves him and why not? He lights up the room. 

I usually kick back in the recliner and spend as much time with him as I can. My husband does too but he will head off to bed and leave the two of us up for hours. I hesitate to admit, too often, I fall asleep basking in his delightful glow, and wake up to find him still there, him and his shiny, pleasant demeanor. It’s a good thing my husband isn’t the jealous type. He knows I’ll get over my major crush and be back to normal in the new year. 




Emtpy Nest Between Thanksgiving and Christmas: (It’s shorter than you think)

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I wrote this little ditty, several weeks ago and almost waited too late to post it with Christmas just days away. I’m rushing to get this out, just like the family photo Christmas cards I never got around to sending last year that will go out next week, only one year late. Don’t judge. I even write personal notes in each one. That deserves an award, if you ask me. We’re keeping the post office afloat. Besides, we haven’t changed that much in a year, so who will know?

Hint: Keep “The Night Before Christmas” kind of rhythm going while you read this aloud to yourself or to the pets.

(To all our family: Keep in mind that we thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and we’ll see you back real soon, ya hear? We should charge admission to the cat fights and doggie wide world wrestling matches.)

Empty Nest: Reprieve?

The house is all quiet

it’s like a reprieve,

it’s good when they come

but it’s great when they leave. 

Our pets are relaxing

just lying around,

no grand dogs or grand cats

at all to be found.

The fire in the fireplace

crackles and pops,

while Hubby in front

of the hearth always flops.

Our large empty nest

was full for Thanksgiving,

laughing and hugging

and enjoying living.

Sixteen used two legs

and nine walked with four,

which makes twenty five

but it seemed like much more

The children and pets

have all gone away

we’ll build up our stamina

For the next holiday.

*Disclaimer: I hear we aren’t alone in needing a break from the festivities to wind down a bit. Be brave. Admit it’s overwhelming and enjoy your “me” time when you can. Sneak off to buy more coffee or mustard. It’s okay.


Collecting Memories and Steps: Walking Down Memory Lane at an Antique Mall

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

It’s like a treasure hunt searching through other people’s antiques and collectibles. Some memorable items leave us full of pride while others leave us full of questions like, “What were we thinking?” or “Why in the world did we decide that was a good thing to possess?”


My husband and I spent much of yesterday on an empty nest date, exploring an antique and collectibles mall in Mooreseville, North Carolina, our home state. Of course it was filled with all the basic glassware and furniture we grew up using in the sixties and seventies. I heard several people besides myself saying, “We used to have that” -or- “I wonder whatever happened to our…”


Our meandering walk down memory lane, stopping every few yards to inspect the next consignment booth, produced a surpising side-effect by recording at least four thousand steps on my Fitbit. I’m not sure if such a slow stroll counts but it’s noted anyway on my healthy habits weekly report. Go me.

While my husband Dan searched for record albums, which he’s been collecting for decades, I found doppelgangers of my grandparents’ country kitchen sink and a red and chrome chair identical to the ones in the tiny avocado green kitchen of my youth. I accomplished lots of eating and homework in a chair just like that.



I also spotted several green bowls like my mother and grandmother used to mix biscuit dough or cut up strawberries into. I can taste those drop biscuits with strawberries and ice cream right now. Um. So good. I wonder where those bowls are?


Now about the fun oddities we spotted during our walk-a-bout, the most over-priced collectible was a cast-iron French bulldog, priced to go at $159.00, down from the original price of $199.95. Every home needs one. A door stop maybe? I could hardly lift the little fellow.


My favorite painting was a cow with personality galore. I may never eat beef ever, ever again.  So stinking’ cute!



Now don’t shoot the messenger but someone has a much different vision of what Adam and Eve look like than I do. Painted nearly life-sized on old doors were two versions of Eve: a brunette, modestly shielded by flowers, and a buxom curvaceous blond version with a couple of tiny leaves for very brief coverage. Adam-on-a-door was clean-shaven which I’ve never imagined since I figured finding a razor must have been difficult to impossible in the garden. The artist posed a lion in front of Adam sort of like a living loincloth which I assume meant Adam was in control of every living thing. That was until Blondie-Eve gave him the apple. Daggone that girl!


Moving right along and trying to wipe Blond Eve from my mind, I stumbled upon an original bike air pump like I’ve never seen. A picture in this case is definitely worth a thousand words but I’ll try to describe it. Take a perfectly good bike and cut it in two. Attach the front half to an outdoor umbrella stand. Connect a garden hose roller and bike pedals to the back of the umbrella stand and replace the rubber tire with an extra long air hose rolled around the garden hose storage thingy. Now, lookie there! You’ve made an air pump for your tires and basketballs. If you don’t want to do this tedious work yourself, no worries. You too can own this ready made version for a mere $495.00.

Oh, so much to see and describe, I don’t know where to start. Maybe with the ax hanger for the wall. Or perhaps with the ginormous Capodimonte (whatever that means) soup tureen covered in delicate flowers I would break by breathing on it. A mere $225.00 on sale.

There was a cool mini-version of a claw foot bathtub, raised up for use as a baby bathtub. And oodles of useful items made from deer antlers.

The recycled art painted on old barn wood or rusty steel and tin is a wonderful use of what could have been trash or fire-starters. I love those items even if I don’t want most of them in my house. Well, some of them perhaps. No antlers though. One painting on wood I especially enjoyed was of hats on a vertical hat rack. I could use that.

My favorite things included two pig trays made of tin, cute as could be, and, drumroll, an old-timey orange hairdresser’s chair with an attached hair dryer atop. It was a showstopper for me as my aunt had a beauty shop attached to my grandfather’s house and I adored sitting in her dryer chairs watching while she washed and cut her customers’ hair and gathered the local news or gossip. With that chair, our memory lane trip was complete.

Did we buy anything? Yessir. We hit paydirt, as they used to say of a successful endeavor. My husband found four additions to his historic car glasses and Pepsi goblet collections for a real steal. After looking through probably a thousand lps, Dan also scored a couple of valuable record albums for two dollars apiece. I bought an extra large Corningware casserole for six bucks just in time for Thanksgiving and a brand new stainless steel, flap-lidded trash can that costs way more than seven dollars at Wal-Mart.



All in all, we enjoyed a pretty successful shopping spree at twenty-four dollars total. And as a bonus, later in the day, I ended up fast- walking up and down the aisles, accumulating eight thousand steps total. As I was rushing around, a shopper tried to stop me saying, “You look like you work here. Or you have somewhere to go.”


“Ha. Nope, sorry, just getting in some steps.” She said that maybe she’d try that too. So if you need a good walking spot, you heard it here first. Find a nearby indoor antique and collectible mall. You too might enjoy a walk down memory lane.





Chicken Dog and Scaredy-Cat


By Lisa Batten Kunkleman



While cat-sitting for our daughter and son-in-law, I thought it might be a good time for our car-ride loving Coonhound, Sadie, to tag along and get to know her feline cousin, Lilly Cat. Not my best thought. First, I learned that Sadie is terrified of noisy garage doors. That makes sense as she’s never met one before. Our cars live outside like livestock. Sadie does not, live outside, that is. She’s almost like a person. She has a futon.


It was a struggle getting her to come through the garage and into the house. Once inside, I saw Lilly at the top of the stairs awaiting my visit. Her happy look changed immediately when, instead of spotting me, Lilly spotted the giant dog and took off like a scaredy-cat hiding under an upstairs loveseat.


There’s a famous saying, “What goes up, must come down.” I disagree. Oblivious to the cat, Sadie Mae nonchalantly followed me up a set of carpeted stairs for the first time in her seven years of life. Half way up she rethought the situation and headed back down. Oh my, her long legs went out from under her and in a panic, she turned around and ran back up the stairs to join me.

She checked out all the strange smells, hound-dogging with nose to carpet. She never located the kitty but completed a pretty thorough inspection before standing about five feet away from the dreaded stairs. She froze in fear at the top, refusing to go down. That posed a slight problem, since the stairs were not in our house. I called my husband for emotional support. He suggested I use a leash. Good idea.


With Sadie whimpering and pacing at the top of the stairs, she blocked the kitty from coming down to eat. Sadie is a pretty big girl with large teeth and feet. How was Lilly to know Sadie’s really a big old chicken?Chicken Dog and Scaredy-Cat


After numerous failed attempts at luring Sadie down with sweet talk and begging, I went in search of bribes. Food. Not much junk food in this gluten-free house, but I found a jar of peanuts. Perfect. Almost. Only perfect for Sadie to eat if I doled them out to her at the stop of the stairs. Not so good when used as carrots scattered on each step. Sometimes, fear trumps food. I placed several nuts in a line leading her down but she only ate those within easy reach and shook her head “no” at the rest. More like, “Heck no!”


There I sat on the beige carpeted steps, eating her peanuts pondering my dilemma. I didn’t want to drag Sadie down by her collar. But, I certainly couldn’t pick up her seventy pounds of quivering muscle and tote her down the stairs without both of us tumbling like two sacks of sweet potatoes to the hard wood floor below. No broken bones or concussions needed.


I finally went downstairs and brought up a leash, looping it over her shiny black head. Seated on the stairs, I led her down step-by-step and then was able to stand upright and walk with her once she realized that slowly descending wasn’t as bad as she had imagined. I don’t expect her to go back up a set of stairs anytime soon. And I don’t expect her to be great friends with Lilly. Looks like that relationship’s not gonna work out.


Sadie didn’t hesitate at all going back underneath the loud and scary garage door to our car for the ride home. Sadie is one of the best car riders in our family. She can sit beside me in the front seat looking like royalty around curves and over bumps, hardly moving. On our way home my car mistook her for a person and kept dinging, sending me reminder messages blinking, “Fasten passenger seatbelt, fasten passenger seatbelt.”


I know how Sadie felt. As an invincible teenager, I climbed a Forestry Service fire tower and regretted that decision immediately. At the top, I sat paralyzed in fear, unable to take that first step down. Obviously, I finally did get down since I’m not still up there today, but I clearly remember my feet flying after the first step unable to slow down. I raced down that terrible tower vowing never to get stuck up high again and nobody even offered me peanuts.


Looks like Sadie’s adventure drove her to drink. And not just a little. She needed the whole trough!




A Bathtub of Hurricane Prep Water?

A Bathtub of Hurricane Prep Water?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

What do you do with a bathtub-full of water after the danger of hurricane force winds has passed? Do you pull the plug and watch it glug down the drain, serving absolutely no purpose except to give the pipes a little rinse?

No siree, not in our house. We learned an awful lot about rationing water when Hurricane Hugo crashed through Charlotte in 1989 leaving most of us powerless. In our case with well water, no power means no water.  For nine days with neither power nor water, there’s no way my husband, Dan, and I could let that much water go without serving a purpose. I know that sounds silly to many people but surviving with just a few large pots of water  to brush teeth and take birdbaths really stuck with us.

IMG_3645      IMG_3644

When last week’s storms threatened, we filled a bathtub and double-checked the plug since when we filled a tub before Hugo, we didn’t know our drain plug leaked. Once the most recent threat of high winds and power outage passed, we left the late 60’s purple ceramic bathtub-full of water for about a week, knowing our dogs would eventually need a bath. Call us crazy but it was a good idea. Bath day finally arrived so I washed the dingiest two of our three dogs. Okay, the smelliest two .

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Their reaction was priceless. Neither of these two dogs is fond of baths. But this time, they stepped over the side of the tub and into the foot high water like it was their idea. I suppose they are more afraid of shallow water than deep water. Maybe I’ll find one of them snuggled up in that tub wishing someone with opposable thumbs would fill it for them to have another hot tub experience.



Eclipse Watching Without Eclipse Glasses


By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Eclipse, eclipse, eclipse.That’s sure been a big story on the news. You’d think it’s a rare occurance or something. On our farm in Charlotte, NC, crescent shadows shone everwhere. With no fancy eclipse glasses, of course we couldn’t look up toward the sun and burn our retinas, so we looked down instead.

A scientist on the news advised looking through a colander or simply down at the leaves shadows. I’d heard that another safe trick to see the eclipse was through the holes of a Ritz cracker but since we were fresh out of Ritz, we used a colander and also tried using the hole in an old record album to check it out on our cement driveway. The leaves worked the best, reflecting sickle-shapes everywhere beneath them. When the kids were little sometimes we’d use chalk and outline shadows. I wish I’d thought to do shadow art today.  Here’s my whine for the day. “With the kids away from our empty nest,  I plum forgot to drag out the chalk.”

My husband had planned on using his dad’s old welding helmet but one of our sons asked to borrow it. What are you gonna do? He took the helmet to college. That’s why we were reduced to using a holey kitchen gadget and trees. Afterwards, he said the helmet didn’t work as well as some girl’s eclipse glasses he borrowed. Of course.

We never went completely dark even though we were in the “path” but it got dark enough for our horses to neigh. I must say, it’s more likely that they saw us outside and decided it must be early supper time so there’s that. The dogs wanted to sunbathe on the pavement but I made them come back into the shade. Sadie Hound scared me a little looking up when I called her out of the sun. Hopefully she didn’t look into the sun. She did not understand that at all since she always bakes in the sun.

Speaking of eye damage, I’m wondering how many people will fear they’ve done something wrong in taking their glasses off too soon or putting them on too late or sneaking a peak at the dangerous orb.  I’d love to know how many people will go see an eye doctor just to be sure all is fine. My eyes are starting feel a little irritated just thinking about it. I felt like a daredevil taking a selfie on my IPad with the sun photo-bombing my picture. ABC News said that was ok but I’m still not so sure. Maybe I’ll see the opthamologist next week. It’s about time for a check-up anyway.

I hear a picture is worth a thousand words and I’ll bet the internet is blowing up with a thousand eclipse pictures. Here are a few of ours. Now I’ll go check out everybody elses.


Crescents, crescents everywhere


Improvising with no eclipse glasses


Colander crescents


Crescents on the patio


Some crescent shadows look like rocks in snow


It’s dark out here. Where’s the chair and my hubby?


My selfie sun has a moon shadow beneath it.



Fluttering In and Out of the Empty Nest: This Time With Grand Pets

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

It’s Empty Nest time again. Time to either cry or celebrate, depending upon your point of view. It’s a little different for us this year because we’re sending five family members back to college instead of the usual three. Each of our twenty-year-old triplets came home for the summer, two of them with baby animals. Yep, we needed a kitten and a puppy to add to our six-animal menagerie of cats, dogs, and horses.


It would be so easy to scare those two. Which one should I jump on?


I must admit, I was less than thrilled about the new puppy knowing all the time required for housebreaking and training. Kitties, I think, are a little easier. Anyone who’s ever raised a puppy understands that it’s a full time job. Even with extreme vigilance and hourly trips outside to potty, messes happen. Our hardwood floors have never been spot cleaned as much as they have this summer and we should invest money in pet stain and odor spray products.


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What do you mean I’m all fixed?

Our daughter Sarah’s puppy, Tucker, is a “mess.” That’s sometimes southern for a “bunch of vegetables or fish” but in this case it means “a real handful.” He’s a typical teething puppy that chews almost anything including the other dogs’ ears and feet causing squeals and growls. Chair legs, rug corners, wicker baskets or whatever is nearby will do. He’s a master at chewing up dog leashes, remote controls, and mail tossed where he can stand on hind feet and snatch it. Unfortunately he can’t tell the difference between real mail and junk mail.

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I needed the tape to wrap a present for you.

He removed the handles off my five-pound weights, chewed up my laptop charger, and destroyed a new roll of Scotch tape. I heard him munching the plastic tape dispenser from the far end of the house. On a shag rug, that broken plastic is sharp. Only the bathroom scale survived his teeth. I found the metal scale flipped upside down on my bathroom floor looking like it had begged for mercy.


I thought it was a giant marshmallow.

Having four children, I know that much too often silence means someone is up to no good. I’ve usually anticipated the need to take a picture or video as proof of all the children’s mischief. The same goes for our animals. For example, as soon as I pried a new roll of toilet paper from Tucker’s mouth and headed toward the bathroom to put it away, he rushed back in ahead of me, then pranced like a show dog into my bedroom holding the toilet bowl brush in his mouth like a prized extra long bone. He was so darn cute, I had to laugh and take a picture before telling him, “No” and “Drop.” We played keep-away around the bed until I retrieved the toilet brush and closed off the bathroom.

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What toilet brush?


Now young’un, you need to stop attacking Miss Daisy, now, ya hear? The wisdom of Mandy.

We’ve closed quite a few doors this summer; the trio’s bedroom doors are closed due to our son, Joe’s new kitten, Zhor, named for his moustache and goateed look-alike, Zoro. Zhor bullied our big old black cat, Daisy Mae. That tiny critter thought he was a huge beast and made endless sneak attacks on Daisy Mae, who had zero interest in playing “Wide World Wrestling.” Daisy went along with some playful boxing but the full-on vampire-neck biting, growling, and fur pulling was not her “thing.”


Looks can be deceiving. Daisy isn’t blocking Zhor, he’s terrorizing her at her nap time.

In order to show her displeasure about the two intruders in the house, she did it up right by marking her territory on the bed of each triplet. I guess she couldn’t decide who brought the two annoyances into her house so she punished all three coeds; even our innocent son, Sam, who didn’t even bring home an animal.


The calm before the storm. Daisy and Zhor pretending to be innocent.

Sam, my husband, and I suffered collateral damage. But, I’ve got a strategy for protecting the kids’ beds once they and the new pets are gone and we re-open their rooms. I bought cheap, clear shower curtains to cover their beds just in case Daisy Mae should decide to mark her territory again. She’ll get a surprise when her feet get wet.


Sarah and Tucker doing their morning yoga.

We’re pretty impressed with the new pet parents tending their critters and cleaning up after them even though at times when both kids were at their summer jobs, whoever was home pitched in with pet sitting and all that came with it. That included washing all that cat-marked bedding. With four kids and a husband who enjoys dirty outside work, we’re used to tons of laundry and our washer and dryer purring like background music all through the day but those smelly sheets and comforters tested the appliances’ endurance. They had to be treated and rewashed about three times each. Wow. Daisy sure knew how to make her point.


I love our picnics together, Miss Sadie.

Summer break is almost over and I’m pretty sure we’ve all fallen for those little big-eyed critters. That means, not only will our comfy nest lose three students to college, but it will also lose two adorable fur babies. We may not miss the cat-fighting, the housebreaking and the chewed up belongings, but we sure will miss those funny sweet faces and watching our young adult kids practice responsible parenting, even if their kids are furry. Looking on the bright side, getting into an improved habit of safely putting away our belongings, we’re on our way to childproofing the house for future grandchildren or for when the kids and critters come home again.


Sadie hiding from Tucker who keeps biting her long ears. Tucker also stole the mates to these shoes.



July 12, 2017


I’d like to introduce you to my friend and fellow writer, Lisa Otter Rose. Lisa has a special interest in learning disabilities and wrote a book addressing this issue in a form that parents and children can read separately or together. Her fiction book is called “You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland” and is filled with delightful characters and a wonderful message for parents, children, educators, and anyone who would like a good read. She explains this better herself so I’ll stop here and let her take over.

My Writing Process

#mywritingprocess blog tour

IMG_1532    What’s a business major like me doing in children’s literature? Well, it’s a long story, but the bottom line has to do with my children. All three of my children have learning disabilities, so I wrote this story to help other children with learning differences find comfort and hope.


 Dsc 0669    A big shout out and thank you to Christy Lynn Allen, author of the Samantha Green Mysteries Series for inviting me to join in this blog tour. Christy and I are in a critique group together and she was the one that inspired me to self-publish You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland! Christy is always doing something fun and creative. I admire how many interesting projects and adventures she is involved while still finding time to write.

What are you working on?

I’m working on three things right now. First, as a self-published author, I must wear many hats and one is a book marketer. Being an introverted person, this process doesn’t come easy, but I’m learning a lot along the way. And I feel such joy whenever the answer is yes! A recent success for me was planning and hosting my own publishing party at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte. I was able to entertain and thank many of the people who have been so supportive to me on this journey.

IMG_0249   Maureen Ryan Griffin and Lisa Otter Rose with musician Philip H. Mancuso


Second, I’m working on a new novel that is set in the suburbs of Chicago. The story explores the relationship between next-door neighbors and best friends. He’s in fifth grade and she’s in fourth. The story is told from their alternating points of view. Now that I have both characters voices well established I plan on flushing out the heart of the story over the summer.

Third, I’m working on a story about a sixth grade girl. It takes place in Westcott, North Carolina. Westcott is a fictitious suburb of Charlotte and it’s where my first novel, You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland! is set. I love Westcott because it’s an old-fashioned mill town that has a folksy family vibe. The town brings to life the North Carolina that I know and love.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Considering the fact that one out five children has dyslexia and/or a related learning disability, it is amazing that there are so few books written about children with learning disabilities. Because of the lack of children’s literature dealing with learning disabilities, I am trying to explore these topics through my protagonist’s eyes. All children should know that they are special and perfect just the way they are and I hope Jamie Ireland and my other characters show them that they can find their own inner strengths. I enjoy creating characters that are realistic and multi-dimensional and I believe my writing differs because no two writers are alike. Even the writer I was three years ago is different from the writer I’ve become. And I’d venture to guess, the writer I am now will evolve with time.

All of my stories have strong family values at their core because family is a very important to me. I like to create realistic relationships between siblings. For example, Jamie and her older brother Jake enjoy hanging out together, but they still have their share of sibling rivalry.

Why do you write what you do?

I wrote You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland! to raise awareness about learning disabilities. I have dysgraphia, and although I’ve never been officially diagnosed, I struggle with grammar, spelling, and messy handwriting just like Jamie. I wanted to put a book on the shelves that could reach readers with learning differences. I created Jamie Ireland because too many dyslexic children have been told they are lazy and stupid by adults and I want to put an end to this myth. We need to change the education system in order to teach children in ways that help them achieve their full potential. Often times that means not teaching to the test, but teaching to reach each individual student.

How does your writing process work?

This is my favorite question! Thanks for asking. My process is a multi-layered approach. First, I’m a member of a writing group led by Maureen Ryan Griffin and her class provides a consistent place to sketch out characters, develop plot, receive feedback, and be part of a nurturing community of writers that love and support each other.

Next, I need time to ponder and mull. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but during this stage my subconscious is doing all the heavy lifting. Sometimes I sing plot points to my chickens, sometimes I read dialogue to my dogs, it’s all part of the process.

In the third stage, I go into seclusion and write. I don’t do anything else. I may write for eighteen hours straight, go to sleep for a few hours and then write for another ten. I don’t like to talk to anyone during this time. All I do is write and go for an occasional walk. This may sound extremely lonely and odd, but it’s the best way I’ve found to bring my characters to life. When I reach the point where I miss other human beings, then I know its time to head back to civilization.

And finally, comes the editing phase. Sometimes I love this stage. Sometimes I cry because I have to let go of my dear little darlings that I’ve worked so hard to develop. Writing as a craft comes easy for me, but grammar and spelling are difficult because of my dysgraphia. I keep making the same grammar mistakes over and over. This is time-consuming and frustrating, but I’m extremely grateful to my editors for their patience and understanding with my learning difference. Also spell check rocks.


You've Got Verve, Jamie Ireland! Publsihing Party

Publishing Party for You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland!
at Ciel Gallery, Charlotte, NC

Left to right: Poster of book, Lisa Otter Rose with the Auchmuty children, Neil Auchmuty speaking about dyslexia, Lisa reading from You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland!, Philip H. Mancuso playing Souls Like the Wheels by the Avett Brothers, Books for sale

Photo Credits – Penny Auchmuty

You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland! Publishing Party


July 6, 2017


“Shoulda Ben” and “Wisha Could” Meet “Tim Tation”

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Do you ever have one of those days when you finally get the free time and quiet you’ve been craving, only to find you spend so much time deciding what to do first, that nothing gets done? That’s me. Today, I’m in my mother’s lake house, looking out at the glassy still water, laptop on my outstretched legs, ready to write something fabulous. But what?

lake sunrise 7 5717

This dilemma is not new. Last month, I wrote a piece about the same situation. Having free time to write and not knowing what to do with it. Since I never got around to sharing the original piece from last month, perhaps it’s a good idea to do so now. The draft that never got posted went something like this.


“I lost far too many hours of my life today. Hours I will never get back. With the house to myself, I decide to act like I did in college after each major test and reward myself by doing nothing. Nothing constructive, that is. I used to lounge around in my apartment on the brown plaid sofa or orange shag carpet and watch MTV music videos for hours at a time. Starting in 1981, MTV was the newest TV phenomenon. Some of my first video binge watching included REO Speedwagon’s Keep on Loving You, Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight, and Stevie Nicks’ Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. Man, that was good music.


Today, in this modern, technological age, with plenty of DVR’d shows and Netflix available at a moment’s notice, I choose to watch my favorite show, This Is Us. Not only do I watch a couple of episodes, I stay up until two a.m. watching all of them. Since I am behind the rest of the world in my TV watching and don’t want to hear a spoiler about what’s going to happen, it’s actually kind of important that I catch up. How’s that for rationalizing laziness.


Here’s an analogy, which exhibits a bit more of my expert rationalization skills. It’s sort of like having a multi layer chocolate cake in the house. Some people can look at such a marvel of baking, have a small piece and feel satisfied. Other people, like me, decide it’s best to get that nasty troublemaker, Tim Tation, out of the house. It’s best to go ahead and eat the rest of the cake so Tim Tation isn’t hanging around causing trouble.


That’s what I do with this TV series. I totally give in to Tim Tation. I attempt to ignore other voices like Shoulda Ben, but with little luck. Shoulda Ben stands on my shoulder nagging about phone calls I should make to old friends, and distant relatives. And what about the homebound people that my church tends to? They could probably use a hot meal. But Tim Tation says that can wait til tomorrow because I need to catch up on This is Us. Looking at my options, I agree.


I try to return to watching my third episode from Season One on Netflix, but again, a voice interrupts me. Shoulda Ben destroys my solitude, ranting at me about writing thank you notes, and that drawer-full of Thinking of You cards I could be sending out.


Shoulda Ben starts grumbling at me about cleaning those disgusting corners and baseboards that I would be ashamed even for a cleaning person to see, that is, if I had a cleaning person. Ya’ll know what I mean. I am not the first person who would clean the house before allowing somebody to come clean it for pay.”


Yep, that’s what I wrote a month ago before I gave up and watched Netflix. And here I sit, reading the piece I never posted. Wisha Could is sitting here with me, tossing out ideas I wish I could write about but I can’t decide where to start. Wisha Could says I should stop stressing and finish one thing at a time and post this piece already. Worry later about Shoulda Ben, and spend some time with Ithinka Might for inspiration, as if looking at this lake isn’t inspiration enough. Should I walk out on the pier or not? I think I might. Maybe later, Tim Tation can come back and watch Season Two with me.


June 28, 2017


Who’s running this house anyway?

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I could write all day about our menagerie and explain that Hubs and I usually have three dogs, one cat, and two horses. That number changed when our college kids flew back  into our empty nest bearing two more critters.  A puppy named Tucker and a kitty named Zor. Let’s just say, life has changed. It’s busier, louder, messier, and if I have to admit it, sometimes even happier.  Animals sense that we’re suckers immediately and play us like a dog whistle. Those baby animal eyes are hypnotizing. I think I’ll let these photos do most of the talking.


Four dogs trapping me in the pantry where their snacks are stored.


Daisy Cat and Zor Kitty sharing the same play tower without hissing.


Zor Kitty in a very nasty-looking black cat hair-covered climbing tower.


Tucker Puppy asleep on his surrogate mama, Mandy.

A miraculous video of Sadie Dog and Tucker Puppy sharing the same chewy horn.


Sadie and Tucker worn out from chewing a horn together.


Remy Dog scolding Tucker for playing in the trash.


Me, exercising with Zor Kitty planted on my back .



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