Jeannie Bruenning Author


You know those times that it feels as if a dark heavy cloud has fallen around you and nothing makes sense? Good seems to be losing ground and all the crazies are finding ways to infiltrate every open crevasse? It’s like a thick fog has fallen and clouded everyone’s vision.

I know those times. Unfortunately, I know them well. It’s was during one of those dark times I yell out to God, what do I do now?

I was quickly reminded of an Old Testament Bible story where the Israelite army was at war in a valley and Moses watched from a hilltop. In the story, the Israelite army grew stronger when Moses’s hands were raised and when they weren’t, they began to lose the battle.

I heard this story many times as a kid. And even as a kid there was something odd about it. First of all, why was Moses sitting on a hilltop when his army was in a battle? Secondly, what’s so important about raising his hands? Recently I began to ask, what was he doing?

 I had always assumed Moses was pleading with God. Bagging for God to make it right, to fix it, to force someone to change. But when people are pleading they usually aren’t on their knees with hands raised. Pleaders stand with fists flailing in the air, or face down, spread-eagle pounding the ground.

Being on your knees with hands raised is typically done when you are in awe of the beauty of the world. It is the position of someone who is overcome with so much lovethat you can’t help but embrace it with open arms. When all one can do is look to the sky, overflowing with gratitude and thankfulness. It is a pose of surrender.

Is that what Moses was doing?

In the midst of a battle, he, the leader of the army (and nation) was filled with gratitude.

When I began writing what I thought was this light-hearted little blog, I felt I couldn’t help but be grateful for everything in my life. I had figured it out! I was the queen of gratitude. It only took one text message; a disappointing and unthinkable response and that thick dark fog fell. I wasn’t grateful. I wasn’t even going to pretend. I was disappointed. I was angry. I was heart-broken, and my raised hands turned into fists. How? God, why don’t you do something? Is that really who you are? Why is this OK? Why don’t you fix this? I was far from grateful and nowhere near thankful.

That fog hung around for a few days. Happy songs would pop into my head and I’d quickly turn them off. Thoughts that I could change my attitude would knock at the door but I wasn’t home. How can I be happy when others are suffering? Why should I carry the joyful banner when others are hurting?

Everything in our life is a choice. We choose to be happy or we choose to be angry. We choose to listen or ignore. We choose to love or to hate. It’s all us. It’s all within our power.

In the story of Moses we are told that Moses grew tired and couldn’t physically keep his arms raised, this is when his friends came along, help up his arms and supported him.

Maybe that’s the reason we need to always choose love, happiness, joy, gratefulness and forgiveness. Maybe those who are currently fighting the battles in the valley of life need our quiet support. Maybe our gratefulness offers them strength in ways we can’t see. Like a super power, we have the ability to burn through the heavy fog and bring clarity and strength from a distance.

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Plus 2 | Prickly Pear

“And now I know you’ve lost your mind!” my friend replied to my text.

But I had been looking for my Sadie dog for some time. Even the grandkids knew that Sadie was coming to our house. “Neenee, go get Sadie!” Liam would say. “I’m looking for her,” I’d reply. “She’s coming, she’s just not here yet.”

I had an image of what Sadie would look like. Big, fluffy, loving, happy, the Old English Sheepdog type. Sadie would be our next great dog. When friends asked Jeff about the new dog, he’d laugh and say, “We’re not getting a dog.”

On Thursday morning I opened craigslist as a distraction from dealing with life’s drama, (you know – when it feels like good never wins and the crazies are taking over the  universe!!!)  I clicked on community and found pets. I scrolled down the list and the words Lab Puppies Ready Now, caught my attention. I hadn’t considered another Lab but it was worth a peek.

The post said that 5 puppies were ready for their new homes. I opened the images of puppy #1, puppy #2 and the moment #3 opened I proclaimed, “Sadie, there you are! I’ve been waiting for you!” I stared at her. Those sweet sad eyes looking right through the camera and sucked me in. Her brown paws gently folded in front of her.  “I’ve found her, I found Sadie!”

Sadie the newest member at PricklyPear by author Jeannie Bruenning

I clicked on puppy #4 and then #5…

Charlie the newest addition to PricklyPear by author Jeannie Bruenning

How could I possibly leave #5 behind?!?

I began texting; are they still available? Is puppy #3 a girl or boy? When will they be ready? Are they a mix?  Is puppy #5 still available?

Yes they are available, #3’s a girl and #5’s a boy, they are ready now, both parents are black labs, I’ll send you their picture, do you want both, when would you like to get them…

Give me till 12:00, I need to get a few approvals…

A few approvals? Ha!! There are five other adults living in this house, two of them have an eight-month old and one of them is convinced he’s not getting a dog!!

The next two hours were filled with;

You’re crazy!

            I don’t really like puppies but you do what you want.

            Is this really a good time for puppies. (Is anytime a good time for puppies?)

At 12:07 I replied, I’ll take both!

Where would you like to meet?

I’m coming from Pismo and not sure if I can come until Sunday.

I’ll be happy to deliver them.

That would be great!

I’ll be there in 3 hrs, around 3:30…

She may have been right, I may have lost my mind!


Hello World!!

Meet Sadie and Charlie – the newest additions to our Prickly Pear Family!

Yes, Charlie loves beer…

beer loving puppies at prickly pear


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Lucky or Unlucky? | Prickly Pear

I spent time imagining what this new living arrangement would be like, being in the same house that our youngest grand daughter would learn to walk in, she’ll go to her first day of kindergarten from this house and some day move out. I’ve tried to picture how having a space like this is going to make the holidays different. I’ve tried to calculate what Oktoberfest, Purim and Passover might look like?

It was never our intention to have regular family meals but in our first week of being here, Megan’s mom and grand-mother brought us two meals which were wonderful and allowed us to stop unpacking and gather around the table for dinner. Then we had a pizza night, a Megan’s Cooking!! night and Liams Surprise Dinner night and soon we were checking with each other about what we should do for dinner.

While the ten of us sit around the table enjoying the meal, the kids talk about their school day and the adults about what’s the next project. It didn’t take long to realize that this time of the day provides an abundance of unexpected fun. Amelia can now join in as she can sit in a high chair. She laughs at us and we laugh at her and when we forget that she is the center of the universe, she squeals and let’s us know we’re ignoring her. Emery comments on the spiciness of the food and Liam usually has made desert for us to enjoy later. 

Our kitchen/dinning room is almost a third of the size of the entire house. In fact, it’s almost the same size of the condo we owned in Chicago. It has 2 refrigerators, a new sparkling oven, a table that seats 12 and is becoming the hub. The place we gather to eat and drink and stay connected. 

The other night Austyn read a short story that Emery had written. The assignment was to write about a time when you felt lucky or unlucky. This is her story…

I feel lucky for living in this house.

We live on a hill and have more space to play and walk around.

It is beautiful.

We can see lots of things like hills, palm trees and lots of sky.

I am lucky.

That night we all realized just a little bit more how lucky we are.

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Make it Amazing! | Prickly Pear


Today I repurposed a Jade plant. It’s most likely the largest succulent plant I have every seen. It took hours to thin it down and load it in my new Gorilla Wagon, the coolest wagon in the world! 

I took my awesome wagon down the hill to replant the pieces I had removed and trimmed. I dug small holes, gathered two or three stems and carefully placed them in their new home, patted the soil back around them and with each new planting said, “Today, I give you new life…make it amazing!”

We’ve had a lot of comments about this multi-generational living thing. Many who think it’s wonderful. Others who wish they could do the same. Some who want to movie in with us. And several who say, “I couldn’t live with my kids.” 

I get it. Jeff and I would have said the same thing a few years ago. But our kids have been through real life. They have had trauma, pain, difficulties, success and they made it through. If we were really faced with the situation of having to choose who we’d be stuck on a deserted island with, it would be our kids…including their spouses.

“I couldn’t live with my parents. They are too controlling,” is another reason we hear of this impossibility. If you’re in your twenties and figuring out life, you most likely shouldn’t be living with your parents. But usually, I’m not talking to 20 somethings, rather, forty and fifty year olds. 

Why as parents is there the need to control our kids? The common commands that are barked out such as, “It’s my way or the highway!” or “If you live under my roof…” or the tough love thing that says, “Live my way if you want my approval!” are the acceptable ways of raising kids – even when they are adults. As parents, why is raising obedient children the focus over raising kids to become amazing adults who know how to control their own lives?

One reason our multi-generational adventure is working is because this isn’t Jeff and my house. It’s truly our house. Our son-in-law and daughter-in-law have as much ownership as we do. I love that! I love watching them making decisions. I love having them take control. 

In twenty years when my newly planted succulents have spread across the bottom of the hill and have made a new amazing life for themselves, we will be watching the next generation of adults making choices, a new generation of toddlers figuring out life and I hope I’m still saying, “Today, I give you new life…make it amazing!”

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A Few Too Many

When you put three households together you quickly figure out where everyone has spent their money. We have a dozen bikes, this is more than the amount of people residing in our home. It’s also about 11 more than get used.  We have 3 jeeps, 2 sedans and a Subaru in the driveway, and yes, they all get used regularly. We have 2 TVs in the storage room since every room that could possibly contain a television has one.

We did realize that the kitchen is one of all of our favorite places. We have 4 food processors, 3 blenders, 4 crock pots and more spices than Trader Joe’s. In fact, we tossed out 1/2 of the spices and still have too many. 

Not only do we have the supplies and equipment to prepare mega meals, we have enough dishes, glasses and silverware to set a table for 50 with complete place settings.  

If you are having difficulty envisioning this, here’s some images…



Prickly Pear

Just in case we decide to open a meat market, we’re set with carving utensils…


Spices anyone?

Prickly Pear spaces

Best of all we have our very own greenhouse, minus the house. There are citrus, avocado, and almond trees, succulents, and starter plants for our garden. In the multitude of citrus trees there isn’t one lime tree on the lot. This clearly means we aren’t done, who doesn’t need limes?


Best of all, a few years back Jeff and I took all the grandkids to a local store to buy baby succulents to be planted in the “Neenee Garden”. Each succulent has been cared for and some have grown so large they required a house of their own. The rest of the collection have been cohabitating in this, now over-grown, planter. The “Neenee Garden” is coming soon.



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Writer, Author and Coach. Jeannie started a publishing comapny in 2009 called A Silver Thread. Resides in a small beach town on the Central Coast of California and has a passion for people and stories. Click here to learn more.

New Release

LIVING UNSTUCK is a collection of lessons to navigate through the journey of finding joy and living a life unstuck. Released Feburary 1st. Learn more...

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