Life Stories and Beyond

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



Sometimes Ugly is Good for You or My Ugly Smoothies By Lisa Kunkleman

Since posting this in 2016, while I feel much better from the outside in, my cholesterol levels budged only a little. After my miracle worker doctor finally convinced BCBS I was a great candidate for Repatha self-injections twice a month, I’m seeing nearly normal numbers for the first time in about two decades. Hereditary cholesterol issues are a bear to fight but the Repatha is working like magic. And no side effects for the girl who hates drugs due to the side effects. If you have lipid issues and have tried everything to fix them, you might consider asking about this. And by the way, nobody is paying me to say this. I wish they were.

Life Stories and Beyond

Dang that’s a good one. Not long ago, while chewing my first smoothie I knew something wasn’t quite right. In a valiant attempt to regulate my cholesterol and triglycerides, I added a cartload of new foods to my diet. New, to me at least. Being southern born and fed, I enjoy eating all kinds of greens, like collards, turnips, and kale which lots of folks wouldn’t touch for fifty bucks. Our family even grew them in our garden for a couple of decades. That was before new neighborhoods popped up, the deer became pretty much landlocked on our farm and began munching on our bounty and bushes.

Several months ago, on a nutritionist’s suggestion, I took to drinking my kale. I’ve allotted lots of fridge space to fresh fruits and veggies through the years but it often involved cooking and serving them on a plate or in a bowl. Now…

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Clutter, Collectibles, and Critical Keepsakes: Barriers to Clearing and Controlling the Chaos Even With an Empty Nest

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

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Today, while clearing some space on a bookshelf over-stuffed like me in Spanx, with photo albums, baby books, and home movies, I discovered an unlabeled, black three-ringed binder. Opening the notebook, I was pleasantly surprised and reminded of how organized I have always tried to be. Especially when paperwork is involved. I’ve done four baby books and journaled nearly every day of our kids’ lives, and the rest of our extended family, until now that our kids have flown from the nest.

It used to be magazine and newspaper clutter and piles of papers to deal with. Back a few decades, with no such thing as the internet, as a young parent, I saved helpful and interesting magazine articles on all kinds of topics but especially on parenting. In a controlled, organized manner, I made this big notebook with the highest quality, expensive, acid-free sheet protectors.

My first thought was, Oh yay: let’s clear this old stuff out and turn it into a notebook for another branch of our massive family tree. But as I was emptying the page protectors, the articles caught my eye. Uh-oh. I should never read when I’m purging but oh well.

The notebook was filled with good ideas like, “20 Things Bored Kids Can Do At Home,” and “How Real Parents Handle Discipline Problems.” I like the titles, “When Your Child Won’t Go Out and Play,” “Mom, The Kids Don’t Like Me,” and “Kids and Stress.” Some issues are timeless.

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Now that my kids are adults, my second thought was, this will be great for when the kids have kids. Or for me when I’m a grandparent to somebody besides all my grandpets, one of which is this dog who’s lying  on the bed, helping me sort through all of these papers.

So I started, stopped and restarted removing papers from the sheet protectors and decided maybe I should put them back in and present it to whichever kid becomes a parent first. Then I decided not to waste this notebook with information that may never be used. But just in case, instead of recycling these articles, I chose to save them in a file called “Parenting Ideas.” Not a bad plan since now I have a free notebook complete with page protectors, and I’ll keep that file tucked away until I present it to one of my adult kids. I’m sure he or she will say, “Oh mom, you realize of course that you can find all of this online anytime you want to.”

Then my feathers will flop because that truly was my first thought when I was about to recycle all these pages. But I shoved that thought away and allowed my conscientious, rationalizing, clutter-keeper side of my brain to win out once again. No need to recycle this pile of paper yet. I’ll get some more use out of it first.

And, so my file cabinet has one more fat file folder, filled to overflowing with family fun. And there’s some fabulous alliteration for you.

(There was an awful video here but I took it off. You should thank me for not wasting your time. Ha)

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Seizure Assistance Dog Is Ready and Waiting for Our Friend’s Son Zachary: Zachary Must Be Trained First and It’s Very Costly

    Meet Zachary Robert Coger!  Zachary is in need of a Mobility Assistance Dog. We are so excited and honored to be chosen by 4 Paws for Ability to begin our journey to provide Zach with the best possible tools we can to succeed in life!

    Zachary is our miracle baby.  Born at 27 weeks gestation, he spent his first three months in the NICU. The likelihood of his survival was 50%. Suffering two strokes and multiple illnesses, Zach pulled through and is a strong, resilient 11-year-old boy who wishes to be “like everyone else.”  Due to his extreme prematurity, Zach lives with medically intractable epilepsy, spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, anxiety disorder, optic nerve atrophy, along with an additional list of developmental disorders. Zach must take multiple medications throughout the day and has a VNS implant to help regulate his seizure activity.  He uses a wheelchair and is hopeful to be able to walk with the assistance of a walker in time.

    Zachary is not defined by these disorders.  He is a very active boy who enjoys attending school, playing wheelchair basketball, participating in Boy Scouts activities and interacting with his older siblings. Most recently Zach has encountered some challenges in his behaviors and anxiety as he begins to negotiate life as a pre-teen.

    Based on the determinations from his medical team, and information from other families facing similar challenges, we were introduced to 4 Paws for Ability.  Zach’s medical team feels a service dog would be beneficial to assist him with some of his life challenges. We have completed the application process with 4 Paws for Ability, which included medical recommendations, referrals, and an interview session. Zach was approved for the program and now our family has begun to raise the $17,000 for 4 Paws for Ability.

    Training a service dog to meet the specific requirements is very costly.  On average between $40,000-60,000 is necessary to raise, train, and place a service dog at 4 Paws for Ability. Although we have been accepted into the program, Zachary cannot attend a training class until the $17,000 is raised.  We are fundraising to help cover the fee required to provide him with a life-changing service dog. We are hoping to have the support of our community and others to receive assistance and make this life changing addition for Zachary.

    Zachary’s service dog will provide a sense of safety, comfort, and independence, greatly improving his quality of life.  This dog will help him to interrupt an escalation or meltdown with his behavior, detect anxiety, provide stability in ambulation, and assist in everyday tasks to allow him some independence from parents and caregivers.  Some of those everyday tasks are mobility tasks such as: stand/brace, retrieval, and pushing the handicapped door button. In addition, this dog will provide Zach with a catalyst in the community to allow him to interact with peers and others and a non-judgmental, 24/7 friend who will love him unconditionally, the “forever friend.” We believe this will help Zach become more independent and successful in life.

    Thank you for your time and interest in Zachary. We are asking for help to provide this service dog as we strive to provide Zachary with the tools necessary for daily safety and improved quality of life.  Many families have assured us that the addition of this specialized service animal into the life of Zachary will not only change the quality of life for Zach, but also for the entire family.  Please join us in making this a reality!

    Please visit the 4 Paws for Ability website to see the amazing changes that service dogs have provided to children just like Zach!

    Donations in support of Zachary should be made directly to 4 Paws for Ability – be sure to write Zachary’s name on the memo line.  Mail checks to:

    4 Paws for Ability
    In Honor of Zachary Coger
    253 Dayton Ave.
    Xenia, Ohio, 45385.

    If you wish to make an online donation, the website is  Include Zachary’s name in the “instructions to merchant” through PayPal.  You may also call to make a credit card donation over the phone at (937) 374-0385 – Monday through Friday 9 AM to 4 PM EST.

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    January 21, 2018


    We Got a Real Snow This Time

    Sometimes one has to eat their words while eating a snowball. Yes we had more snow this time than a broom could handle.

    Life Stories and Beyond

    By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

    Back in 2015, I made fun of our piddling little snow storm saying all we needed was a broom to clear a path. Well, two years later, I have to eat my words at least a nibble. We have real, honest to goodness fluffy snow. Not ice and haven’t lost power for a change. Better knock on wood from saying that. This time, I’ll pull out not just the broom but copy a friend’s idea and use the leaf blower. It looks like this snow may stick around for more than twenty-four hours since it’s going down to fifteen degrees tonight. But have no fear. It’s going back up into the sixties for the weekend. And that’s why we love a snow day in the south. We all know it’s best to close everything especially school, and keep drivers off the road. Might as well make…

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    January 4, 2018


    Oh, Christmas Flu

    By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

    Just kidding about the cat. He was not hugging the commode but was drinking in this picture and actually, he’s been drinking heavenly toilet water for several years now. However, with our triplets home from college and lots of family around, the two legged critters in our house or some of the adult children who’ve visited have sported some variation of flu, virus, and or sinus crud. Tamiflu and the fireplace help. In addition, we’re bringing on the natural remedies. Drinking delicious Turmeric Golden Milk as I type.

    Health is on the way. I can feel it. We’re getting sick germs out of the way for the new year.

    Warning. Video is depressing and lacks beautiful melody and the bottom of my face. This is how we roll right now. Kind of running on half speed. Don’t forget to wash your hands.

    December 17, 2017


    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. 



    December 15, 2017


    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.

    November 12, 2017


    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.




    October 24, 2017


    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!



    September 21, 2017


    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.

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    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.


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