Life Stories and Beyond

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



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 .



May 24, 2017


I Just Realized I’m Old

In honor of my mom, @Lois Batten’s birthday I’m reposting this one. She’s still the bomb diggity.

Life Stories and Beyond

By Lisa Batten KunklemanIMG_2457IMG_4075

“Lisa I just realized I’m old. How did that happen?” Mom says.

I say, “Beats me. You may be up there chronologically but you sure don’t act it. You and Betty White are ‘Da Bomb Diggity’.”

Today is Mom’s birthday. Number eighty-something. Unbelievable. She can’t believe it either. If nobody let on about her age, people would continue thinking she is much younger than her octogenarian status, confirmed only by her birth certificate.

As it is, we use her age to shock folks who are chattering away, to her or in her presence, about So and So who is really elderly, and still driving.


They chat on not knowing they are talking to a contemporary of the “elderly” person they’re mentioning.

“Well, I’m almost eighty-eight,” Mom tosses out with a smile.

The conversation stops while the speaker stares at her in disbelief. “You’re not serious…

View original post 182 more words

May 23, 2017


All Tuckered Out: Training a Puppy Named Tucker

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman


Tending a puppy is a reminder of what life is like with toddlers around. Exhausting. Time consuming. Frustrating. Impossible. I’ll try to remember that most dogs do end up house-broken and finish teething. I made it through the toddler-years-times-four, and my kids are all potty trained and no longer bite. Puppy parenting should be a piece of cake compared to that. Wrong.


Our youngest daughter Sarah came home from college for the summer bringing a puppy she named Tucker. Sarah was home only a week before taking off gallivanting for two weeks through Spain for Art History college credits. When she returns, she’ll find her puppy is twice as big, lost his puppy breath, and is swapping his soft puppy fur for a coat of coarse dog fur. She’ll find her puppy is partially house-broken and bites a little less. She’ll find a puppy delighted to see his mommy.


I’ll be delighted to see his mommy, too. She gets to take over cleaning up messes and making endless trips outside to potty. She gets the pleasure of dealing with sharp teeth piercing hands, shoes, pajama pants. She gets to pull the puppy off our big sweet older dog’s jowls, which he bites far too often.


He bites everything. Like puppy, like mama. Almost twenty-one years ago, teething was bad enough with Sarah. That girl had eight teeth pop in at the same time and she’d bury them into the shoulder of anybody brave enough to pick her up. We called her The Piranha.


After repeatedly peeling Tucker’s teeth off my hands and bedspread, I head out into the hallway only to find an unopened, plastic peanut butter jar riddled with teeth marks. How the heck did he get that out of the pantry? I give him and our three other dogs numerous rawhide chews hoping to solve one problem but only creating more. Tucker wants his and theirs too, yielding squeals, growls, and snaps. Nothing deters Tucker for long.

This puppy follows a long-time doggie tradition of eating cat poo. I see him sneak into the laundry room/bathroom, snatch a snack from the litter box and dart away before I can retrieve the pretend brownie bite from his shark like teeth. A few moments later, he comes back for more and I discover him standing with all four feet in the litter box, ready to have a full meal. I wonder if I could train him to do his business like the cat: in a litter box.


I am five foot nine and he’s not even a foot tall. How can such a little creature require the attention of everyone in a house full of tall people? He can go outside and do his potty business and receive a gold medal’s worth of praise for his performance only to sneak off to “go” some more behind the guest bed, or the TV cabinet. My closet is also a favorite secluded spot if I forget to close the door.


We’ve raised all our belongings up high and closed off closets and bedrooms that provide attractive chewy items or secluded potty spots. This is all so similar to child-proofing. This puppy sure is bringing back memories of how challenging parenting can be.


While the puppy naps, I try to accomplish a thing or two. As a new mom I remember always hearing, “Nap while the baby naps to keep up your strength.” It was impossible for me to do when our children were little because that was the only time I could catch up on chores or me time. It’s the same with a puppy naptime. Who can sleep when there’s so much to do?


Perhaps this puppy business is preparing me for grandparenthood on down the road. Parenting either baby or beast is a full time endeavor. There’s a famous saying, “It’s a good thing babies and puppies are cute.” No matter the aggravation and sleep deprivation, they’re worth the effort. This stage will pass. It must! In the meantime, I’d better take this puppy out the minute he wakes up. I appreciate him napping long enough for me to write about him. I don’t want to forget this experience. Fat chance. I can just look for teeth marks on the chairs’ legs. And my legs, too.

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.


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