Jeannie Bruenning Author

Generational Living | Prickly Pear

Blog Banner“We’re doing the generational living thing,” I heard my daughter say.

Generational living? That’s an interesting term, I thought. Then it hit me. We are doing the generational living thing…and that makes Jeff and I … the old people!!

Less than four weeks ago the thought of changing our lives and doing this thing called generational living was a dream. Today, there are three households cleaning out closets and boxing up all their earthly belongings because, next week, we will all own a portion of a big blue house – sitting on top of a hill – with a million dollar view – and it’s just two miles in that direction.

So how are we doing this?  Well, Jeff and I are providing the down payment which we are taking from our retirement fund. The payoff for us is at some point, we think some time around our 70th birthdays, we will stop paying on the mortgage and leave it up to our kids to take over. We get a lovely home to live in when we really are those old people.

What do our kids get? The chance to develop an amazing property in California. Best of all, we are all part of creating a place that one day our grandkids will be making decisions for the next generation. That’s the plan…three families that currently represent three generations.

Once we close on the house, there will be a few more legalities. We will either establish a family trust or actually form a LLC, this will protect us legally if needed. We will also be discussing how to handle the more difficult situations like what will happen in the case of death, or divorce, and who and how will ownership be transferred from one generation to the next. That’s the big scary stuff. 

The smaller scary stuff is who gets to decide the color of the kitchen, whose cooking our first meal, how will we divide two refrigerators, and what day will be your laundry day?

Then there is the really big exciting stuff, and that’s endless. How many dogs can we have? Who is going to name the goats? How many chickens fit into the chicken coop? How many cars fit in the driveway? Just how big can Oktoberfest be? Are we going to be ready for our annual Purim Party? Whose starting the coffee in the morning and what time is the bon fire?

There’s a few other events I’m waiting for. The first time Emery realized that every night is like a sleep over. When Liam decides every dinner is the perfect meal for one of his home made pie creations. Happy hours that start at 5 and end counting the stars. And when Miss Amilea learns to crawl and makes a bee-line for Neenee and Hoppie’s house, which is just down the hall.

Yep, we are doing the generational thing…there’s going to be lots of adventures, lots of decisions, a lot of what ifs? And even more, we didn’t see that coming. 

We’re doing the generational thing and we’re looking so forward to being the old people.

Here are some before pictures of the big blue house…


…after pictures will follow over next few years. Stay tuned!!

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The Right Wrong Number | Prickly Pear

I’ve heard it said that waiting for something to happen is sometimes more about how long we feel is necessary rather how long it really takes. I was pondering this idea one morning as I walked through our neighborhood.

What if we don’t have to wait two years for our hacienda? What if it could happen sooner than 2020? Am I prolonging it because I think two years is somehow required?

And then the fear of the unknown, loan approvals, inspections, closing costs, and leases overtook me, so I turned it off and admired a beautify palm tree, the blue sky and the white ocean waves.

A few days later I sat on the sofa deeply engulfed in a project when the phone rang. I glanced down and saw it was a local number and felt the need to answer.

“Hello, this is Jeannie.”  (long pause – callers always mistake me for a recorded message.)

“Oh, hello,” the voice replied. “My name is Lauri, I’m a local realtor and I’m calling to see if you have considered selling your home?”

“No, I’m sorry, we are currently renters.”

“Well, have you considered buying…”

Lauri continued to tell me about the current market and how she could assist us in finding a new home. Her voice faded in the background as two other conversations began playing in my head. Sometimes we stand in the way because we have predetermined our own timeline and Lady you have the wrong number!

Then the phone went quiet and I realized Lauri had finished and it was time for me to say something. Get out of the way – maybe this could lead somewhere – go ahead and tell her about the Hacienda dream – Really? You want a realtor calling you every other day to check up on you….it’s way too soon…

Well actually,” I heard myself say, “we have a plan, but we are really early in it and we won’t be ready for two years…” I told Lauri of our hacienda dream, how it would be three families and we all needed separate living space. How we really hadn’t even begun looking…cause, did I mention, we were still two years away.

“Let’s just get some information and I’ll start sending you listings and if anything looks interesting, you can call me.” So we did and she took the info about pricing, size, bedrooms etc.

“And your last name is Hardy?” she continued.

I laughed and said, “No, that not my last name.” At that moment I think we both realized that this may have been the strangest conversation of the day. Wrong address. Wrong last name and a Chicago phone number – what a were the odds?

Fast forward four weeks…

…I’m shaking Lauri’s hand for the first time as we are stand outside a big blue ranch house on top a hill with a view to die for. One week later six of us are signing paperwork in the kitchen of that house and putting in an offer on a dream.

Is it possible that we do stand in the way of wonderful things happening to us? 

Perhaps time is only defined by us, not the universe.

Have we’ve been waiting for things to happen and we really don’t have to?

Maybe wrong numbers are really right numbers and miss-information is exactly the information  needed.


More on our family hacienda:

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Prickly Pear

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I’ve been saying it for years, Someday, we’re going to have a hacienda…lots of rooms and California style outside living spaces where we can live, dream and create.

My great excitement was usually met with blank stares, wrinkled noses and a few rolled eyes. You see, my loving family are more of the dream busters type than the dream makers.

In 2018 I changed my approach. Someday we’re going to have a little ranch where we can all live in separate houses (this is very important to dream busters, they don’t like co-habitating). We’ll have a goat, chickens, a cow and we can develop the land….

To my delight and amazement the eyes stopped rolling and I actually got a few nods. One of those dream busters said, “This is the first time it sounds interesting.”

I’m not sure what it was, the goat or cow or chickens, but we all began to talk about our new dream.  We said things like;

  • Just 2 miles in that direction where it’s a little warmer in the summer.
  • Maybe not a cow, it would be hard to eat old Bessey after raising her.
  • We can have lots of gardens…
  • 2 years, in 2020 we’ll all be ready…two years…

Something magical happens when a group of people start believing in a dream. When they start seeing an idea as a possibility, their worlds begin to shift.

It’s the end of January of 2019 and less than two short weeks ago we made an appointment to see the first property that looked like it may have potential. A large ugly blue ranch home on 2.9 acres sitting on top of a hill just 2 miles in that direction.

Tomorrow is February 1st, the day our loan will be approved, notices will be given, packing will begin and this family of dream busters will prepare to begin a new adventure of creating our very own California Hacienda.

Hidden amongst the overgrowth of scrubs and weeds that cover the hillside on our new property is a large cluster of the cactus with giant rubbery leaves that appear to be stuck together making each a unique shape. This intriguing cactus is called Prickly Pear.

What a great name! The sweetness of a pear combined with the prickliness of a cactus. What a great description for a group of individuals beginning a new adventure that will undoubtedly stick us together in unique ways.

So here we go, three separate families endeavoring to make a new way of life on top of a hill… just 2 miles in that direction!!

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TreasuringThere is a little verse in the new testament that says, Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. The task that Mary had been given wasn’t an easy one. Raising the Son of the Creator of the Universe no doubt was a lonely journey and came with big challenges. But somewhere in it all, she found things to treasure, moments to cherish, and these, she kept in her heart. 

I’ve been doing a lot of cherishing this past week. Our little family has had a big dream of creating our very own California Hacienda. A place where each family can live independently on a piece of property that brings us all together. Last week one such property popped up on my computer and we made an appointment to see it.

I’ve learned to smile and simply agree when people say, “You’re so lucky to have your kids close.” But inside I’m shouting, “If you knew the journey that brought us all together I don’t think you’d call it lucky!” It’s been a journey of loss, illness, surgeries, and giant size personal battles. As we walked through the main house on this new property, I was overwhelmed with the thought of How did we get here?

Next came lots of discussion as six adults sat around the table talking about options, offering opinions and making decisions. We talked about chickens, a goat, paint colors and lots of outside living spaces. Financial paperwork was filled out and sent off. Financials – this is the time all my positivity goes out the window. That journey of loss, illness, surgeries and giant size personal battles that got us all here – had a big price tag.

When I opened the email providing us with our pre-approval letter, the second line said, “If you can come up with more money…” my positivity took it’s cue, began to pack its suitcase and looked for the nearest window. 

Then my heart spoke up.

“Oh sir, if you only knew. If you had been there when the file on the lost home was finally closed, when a career came to an end because of a weird allergy, when the doctor asked just how far two young parents where willing to go to save their new born daughter, the dark days of divorce… No sir, this is what we have – and it is more than enough.”

There are new treasured moments being tucked safely away in my heart. A now eight-year-old grand-daughter who is a survivor. A daughter-in-law who stands quietly and boldly with her husband as they walk through a custody battle, businesses that are breathing in new life, careers that are beginning to explode, and a dream of a California Hacienda that could someday become a reality. 

When that day comes there will undoubtedly be those who say, “You are so lucky to have everyone so close.” 

And my heart will respond, “I’m treasuring every moment.” 


Check out our Hacienda Story at

Coming this spring – The Captive, a story of faith and forgiveness

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What About Grace?

What about grace post from Jeannie Bruenning


My sisters and I are in complete agreement that when God was handing out the Gift of Mercy, he missed our family completely, at least our generation. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the Gift of Mercy, don’t stress over it. We’re preachers kids and learned all that bible stuff before we were tweens. We can quote The Gifts, The Fruits and break into song when reciting the Books of the Bible. None of which qualified as a talent in a beauty contest.

We grew up in church – literally. In fact, if you can get to heaven with church attendance frequent flier miles, the three of us could fill multiple 747’s with friends and family  – one way tickets only.

My eldest sister always felt led to start a Slap Ministry. We all thought it was a good idea. Someone does something stupid and who do you call? The SLAP MINISTRY of course. Mercy – it’s just not part of our DNA. 

But what about GRACE? Where does grace fit into life? Grace is when your actions deserve a punishment, but grace comes in and offers forgiveness and lets you walk away. I love the idea of Grace. To be honest, as a person who doesn’t have an ounce of mercy, showing grace doesn’t always come easy.

Today, as I looked down into the biggest green eyes I’ve ever seen, these words past over my lips and into the bruised heart of a sixteen year old. “There is no reason why I should allow you to do this, but…” and she finished the sentence, “you’re going to let me?” 

“Yep,” I said. “It’s called grace and you need to learn about it.” We got into the car and it took all my self-control to hold back the tears. Grace received is amazing. Grace offered is an indescribable experience. I’m all about accountability. I believe for every action there is a consequence. But there are times that Grace supersedes them all. 

Where does this thing called Grace come from? It’s not on the list of a fruit or a gift. It just is. Maybe it’s like forgiveness, always available. Maybe it’s like spiritual air that is all around us, a never ending supply and we just have to breath it in.

How do we learn about grace? Only by experiencing it. How do we experience it? Because someone who had every right to punish us says, “You’re forgiven.” 


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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.

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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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