Life Stories and Beyond

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


May 11, 2017


Fluttering In and Out of the Empty Nest: This Time With A Puppy


By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Families all over the place are experiencing reverse-empty-nest-syndrome. The birdies are flying back in from college with either big plans for work, internships, and trips or perhaps big plans for lying on the couch and playing video games. A summer of recuperation from the rigors of college life, they might call it.


What comes along with these college kids? Since we have twenty-year-old triplets, we get three times the “stuff” returning home. They bring mini-fridges, and microwaves to store.   And there are those clear plastic boxes filled with paraphernalia like school supplies, first aid kit, tiny tool and sewing kits, paper plates and plastic ware that never got touched but insistent parents sent “just in case” you need these things. “Be prepared for anything.” We should call those boxes, Just in Cases. Many of us hold onto lots of those plastic storage boxes in closets and attics filled with our own just in case items.


Kids also bring clothes galore to their still full to capacity closets and drawers. All of our trio’s rooms look like a Bed Bath and Beyond meets Target and the entire mall and exploded. I have to confess that one of our kids keeps his room pretty neat and he lives simply with more “just what he needs” than “ excess and wants.” This poor organized kid’s room becomes an extension of the attic while he’s away which means we had to move clothes, sleeping bags, an exercise machine and a childhood tea set from his room before he’s home with his tiny load to stay awhile. Ok, I only moved my out-of-season clothes from his closet and the exercise machine and tea set are still in there, but we’ll work on it. To move things out means one must find room to put those things unless they’re leaving the building in donation bags. Fortunately for Goodwill, that seems to be the case with lots of old clothes they haven’t needed all year.


The other two kids have quite a task in front of them putting away their two semester’s worth of living supplies. Our daughter used her car as a storage container of her dorm stuff for several days to keep it safe from the teething new puppy she brought home. Surprise! She’s been driving her brother’s truck since he came home just long enough for his second knee surgery and then went back to school for exams. His school is only thirty minutes away and he can’t drive yet as his leg is immobilized for the second go around to keep it straight. He’s too long to fit in the driver’s seat with that straight leg.


So about that puppy, I went into a texting tirade when her brother called to prepare me in advance that his sister had bought a dog. By the way, you can’t take back what you say in texts anymore than she could take back that puppy. You have to be a big person and eat your crow even if you have to salt it first. I told my daughter she had tied herself down for the next sixteen years and not to expect me to puppy sit as I don’t plan to be tied down while she’s in Spain with her classmates this summer. I went on and on about all the downsides of her having a puppy. I must have lectured about twenty lines worth.

I’m old enough to know better than to say what I won’t do. We were all smitten as soon as we met the new puppy, Tucker. So I suppose the family and I will continue the house-breaking and crate training in her absence. I did apologize for my texting tirade, but she may have those words on her phone forever.


Our other son is thinking about getting a kitten from his girlfriend’s litter sometime this summer. That should add some more excitement to the nest. Let’s see, our three old dogs, our oldest daughter’s super hyper granddog who visits regularly, our cat that goes outside the box when stressed, this new puppy and perhaps a new kitten.


Can you find the stressed out cat?

No problem. We’ll throw in all the kids’ friends, video games, board games, backpacks and shoes filling the living room. Oh, and drink cans and half-drunk water bottles nobody claims. I’ve almost got them trained to put their dishes in the dishwasher and not the sink. That’s progress.


The nest is full of noise and fun again for three months or so. Surely my hubby and I can handle helping potty train a puppy since we did so already with four kids. And three of them were at the same time. We’ve got this. It’s all good. It’s going to be a really busy summer.

May 5, 2017


Mayfly Plague

What do you call millions of mayflies swooping in and covering your house, boat, cars and ground? Annoying? Ridiculous? I call it a plague. When these two-inch long cousins of the dragonfly swarm in, there’s nothing to do but watch in amazement.

They covered our family lake retreat in eastern North Carolina with the speed of a Boston blizzard. Only it’s a blizzard of bugs. Within an hour, not just the siding of our red barn shaped house was encased with the critters but also the porch floor and rails, and the bushes nearby. Within minutes, our red house turned tan and the porch railing was almost pretty, adorned with living ruffles. They reminded me of synchronized swimmers in the way they lined up with their wings all facing the same direction.

Strange as it may sound to entomophobics, folks with a fear of insects, we didn’t run back inside. How could we? There was no way to get in through the front door, fully engulfed by now. We had a rough enough time sneaking out through the back screen porch to see what was happening. Moments before, we were merely trying to walk the dog when, lo and behold, we saw dozens of the alien-looking creatures with long antennae-looking tails dotting the front storm door.

By the time my niece, brother, and I closed our jaws to keep from munching a passing mayfly, the lawn and gravel drive were carpeted in a writhing and wiggling love fest in order to propagate their species. Others dangled on shrubbery like earrings. A photographer’s dream, each sight compelled us to take picture after picture.


My niece, already taking photos that could rival those in National Geographic, kept calling us over to look at one fascinating spectacle after another. We especially got a kick out of the little fellows riding around on our feet. I left the photography to her while I googled the life cycle of mayflies. Don’t judge me. Yes, I stood there with bugs on my feet while I researched said bugs. I learned that mayflies rise from the lake bottom to the surface and then into the air to mate, drop eggs back to the lake bottom, and fall breathless onto the water. There, they become a feast for the fish relishing mayfly season. That’s what’s supposed to happen but a strong wind that day must have blown them inland and they were confused. That’s just my theory. Plus, we had lights on.


I also learned that mayflies are drawn to light, which explains why they blessed us with their arrival. Houses all around us were dark, uninhabited at the time, so we won the insect jackpot. In Pennsylvania, mayflies swarm to the lighted bridges, totally covering rails and the road. The bugs have been known to pile up to six inches deep on bridges, causing numerous car and motorcycle accidents. One source claims that driving on the bugs en masse is like driving on ice requiring the slippery critters to be removed with snowplows.


I suppose our measly home invasion was not so bad after all. I should feel sorry for the mayflies as they never eat a bite of food and only live a day or two. What a stinky life. Speaking of stinky, as we squished through the carpet of bugs wearing mayfly ornaments on our ankles and shoes, we smelled a definite fishy odor. It makes sense that they smelled like seafood since they came from the bottom of a lake.


Squealing like little girls, we brushed the bugs from our hair. After taking another picture of them decorating our shoes, we stomped to get them off our ankles and feet, and made a run for the screen porch. We took off our shoes to find the bottoms covered in what looked like nutty brownie mix. So much for my new fancy flip-flops. An unfortunate casualty of the mayfly plague, they still reek of fish so I’ll only get to wear them at the beach. That is, as long as there are no hungry seagulls nearby. I’ve had enough winged creatures landing on my feet.


The morning after shone new light on the final stage of the mayflies’ life cycle. The decorated house would soon be swept and washed clean of the remains and life would be normal again. I felt a little melancholy as I backed my van out of the bug covered gravel driveway. A few dozen insects remained on my windshield. I took close-up pictures of these last survivors and drove away, only to see them blow off a few at a time. Next spring, we’re shutting off the porch lights.IMG_0948Lights caused thisIMG_0745Actual size

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

Why is reblogging so important?

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.

What does the reblog button do in this situation?

Well it is simple. The reblog is how you jump a post from your reader to your subscriber’s readers. That’s it, but that is big! Not only did you share the post, but you…

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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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