May 7, 2019


Our Dogs, The Garden Protectors

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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



April 28, 2019


How to Eliminate Weeds Without Poison

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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

April 12, 2019


Think of Chores as a Workout

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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

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


April 7, 2019


Jellyfish Have it Rough to Be So Smooth

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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

Rest In Peace guys.

March 2, 2019


Finish the Book Already: Ignore Distractions

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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


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


Even the cat watches


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

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

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


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


By Lisa Batten Kunkleman


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

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


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


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



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

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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

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

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


There’s an Empty Bowl in the Empty Nest: When a Furbaby Passes On to Glory

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

This week, after losing our floppy-eared hound, Single Stare Sadie, our empty nest became extra quiet. Sadie was the life of the party. She could howl like a master coon dog, chase squirrels in complete glee, and pose royally like the queen of our menagerie.

I’ll speed through this so I won’t mist up. Six months ago, Sadie survived kidney cancer surgery and months of chemo as we watched her progress in utter amazement . She was the perfect, perky patient. At only eight years old, we figured she’d be with us for years to come.

Suddenly last week, she started sleeping more and losing control of body functions. Her ability to walk came and went, sometimes picking her feet up like a Tennessee Walker, not her normal gait. Other times she fell uncontrollably, drunk-like, but remained determined to get back up. She was first treated for pancreatitis and perked up with IV fluids, entertaining people at the animal hospital with her “I feel better” howling. Once home, she ate as normal but went to bed soon after. I checked on her an hour later and, again, she couldn’t lift her head nor walk. I assumed it was a stroke as her body was completly out of control.

After many trips to and from the hospital, the vet said it was most likely a stroke or cancer metastacized into her brain. Sadie passed away in our arms in the most peaceful manner possible before sunrise. In a softly lit room, on a fluffy blanket with folks who love her, she was at last comfortable.  At the animal hospital, the “Comfort Room” as it’s called, provided a perfect place for easing all of our pain.


As I said, our nest became quieter. Sadie’s bowl and bed, empty reminders of who was missing. We’d grieved her situation while she was alive and I thought I had nearly used up my tears. I was wrong. Our other two dogs missed Sadie also. Things were different during naptime without her lying against her border collie-Saint bernard sister, Mandy, or outside chasing squirrels with her sheltie brother, Remy.

Our empty nest could have been unbearibly quiet except for our granddog, Tucker, who came for an extended visit the day before. Surprisingly, the timing of Tucker’s visit has been a God-send. He is sweet and goofy and a welcome sight to his best buddy, Charlie, our other granddog who came for a visit on our first night without Sadie. The busy little puppy who used to chew up everything in his path, has matured and is now content to snuggle, chase his blue ball, and chew his bones instead of the furniture.

Sadie can never be replaced, no matter how many dogs we love. She was a one and only. I must admit, having Tucker around keeps me busy and helps dull the sadness with his smiles and energy. He got to say goodbye to his pal, Sadie, who was one terrific friend. I’m so grateful for the time we got with our sweet girl and miss her dearly. I’d better go now. Tucker brought me his ball.

October 21, 2018


Lessons From The Empty Nest: Toenail Wisdom From One of The Visiting Birdies

A6D3EC0B-0E95-4034-A535-E86DAE14B757By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I’m delighted to say, I have neglected my blog lately. Yep, happy because I’ve been busy spending time with those kiddos who fluttered out of the nest. We’ve either visited them or they’ve visited us. It’s been so fantabulous. We’ve gotten our baby bird fix and even learned a few things.  I’ll share a bit of that wisdom now.

I decided to stretch my readers’ minds by showing ya’ll how to cut your toenails inside the house without shooting them all over the room. Our oldest (by one minute) son Joe came up with this idea in a mere instant. He was headed to scoop his cat’s litter box and decided to use the bag as a toenail catcher first before becoming a feline poo recepticle.

Now you see why I’m so proud of my birds. They come up with innovative ideas and then teach their father and me how to use their newfound skills. (My dad taught me to sit on the back steps outside to cut my toenails. Sometimes it was too doggone hot or cold. Sorry Dad.)

I hope you will employ and enjoy7EDADC90-450C-4F4B-B15C-5682A405632C this useful life hack. Now clip those nails without leaving a trace of evidence you’ve been there. Carry on.

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