20150825_123947Today I’m wishing the happiest of book birthdays to my friend and 2014 Pitch Wars mentor Karma Brown. Her debut novel COME AWAY WITH ME is a gorgeous look at love and heartbreak and finding a way to heal. Her publisher MIRA, is doing a cool contest to celebrate its release. It ends this Thursday, so if you haven’t already entered, what are you waiting for?

If your curious what my bucket list looks like (and why!) here you go…

It seems like such a cliché to say that when you’re young you never think you’re going to die, but honestly it’s so very true. I was that way, not necessarily thinking I was invincible but definitely not worried about how short my life could be. And then at 29, I had a seizure, which led to the discovery of a cluster of blood vessels leaking blood in my brain, and then the subsequent brain surgery to remove it. And all I could think through the whole ordeal was that I couldn’t die yet because I still had so many things I wanted to do with my life. I hadn’t published a book yet. I hadn’t had nearly enough time with my husband. I hadn’t seen so many of the places that I’d dreamed of visiting. I hadn’t seen the people my sister’s kids would grow up to be. There was just too much left to do and to see and to experience.

I came through it grateful to be alive and still able to function the same as before. Still able to write and walk on the beach with my husband and sing my heart out at concerts for my favorite bands. And it pushed me to get my priorities in line and go after some of my dreams I’d been letting sit off in the corner pouting while I ignored them. I started checking off bucket list items with fervor. Not because I worried something else would go wrong, but because doing things you love with the people you love is what life’s all about.

Now you’d think after brain surgery I would’ve fulfilled my quota of big, nasty illnesses and been allowed to go on my merry little way. Not so much. Earlier this year, at 34, I found out I had thyroid cancer, which lead to surgery to remove it, and a round of radioactive iodine for good measure. And again, all I can think is, Nope not yet. There are still things I need to do. Things I want to do. And this small, barely-even-a-fight with cancer isn’t going to stop me from doing them.

The things still on my bucket list might not be earth-shattering ideas or adrenaline-fueled adventures, but they are things that will feed my soul and remind me how grateful I am to be alive and healthy again. Taking a rule from Zombieland, I’m going to enjoy the little things (as well as some bigger wishes too) for as long as I can.

I’m putting some of my bucket list items out here as a reminder to focus on things that will fill my life with laughter and excitement and inspiration and love rather than things that will only weigh me down:

  • Go whale watching in Vancouver, British Columbia: Long before I wanted to be a writer, I dreamed of working with killer whales. Despite being a pitiful swimmer and not science-minded.) Thankfully I found my way from whales to words, but I never lost my love of orcas. And I desperately want to see them in the wild.
  • See Lacuna Coil perform in their home country of Italy: Lacuna Coil is one of my husband’s and my favorite bands. And while they have some hardcore fans in the US, I can only imagine how charged their Italian shows must be, surrounded by local fans.
  • Take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London and visit Platform 9 ¾: Harry Potter. Need I say more?
  • Tour distilleries in Ireland and Scotland: Ireland and Scotland have always been high on my travel list for their sheer beauty, but I’ve never been. My husband loves whiskey and scotch so it seems like a win/win kind of vacation for us.
  • Start a scholarship for creative writing students at my alma mater, UNCW: Moving to North Carolina for college and lucking my way into a creative writing class there changed my life. I would love to be able to help other aspiring writers fuel their passion with some amazing teachers and classmates. #LoveTheDub
  • Sign books at BEA: I’m a severely introverted person, but if I got the chance to go sign my books at BEA, it would be a huge dream come true.
  • Have a Charm City Cakes cake made to celebrate the launch of one of my books: My all of my books contain some sort of baked good. I can’t help it. I‘m just so in awe of people can make art from food. (My personal motto is it doesn’t have to look pretty as long as it tastes good because I have zero food-art talent.) And no one does it better than Duff and his crew.
  • See the Great Barrier Reef: This will most likely take the form of me experiencing it safely from a boat (because I am a notoriously bad snorkeler) while my husband scubas or snorkels, but there’s a very real chance I’d get in the water there. Some things you really do have to see for yourself.
  • See tulips in bloom in Holland: I spent my formative years running around the greenhouses of my (extended) family’s orchid business, and it gave me such a deep-seated love of flowers. And tulips are my favorite. Just seeing them makes me smile, so seeing field after field of them in Holland would be such a lovely thing.
  • Write the book of my heart: I put so much of myself into all of my books, and I love all of them. Even the ones that might never see the light of day. But I don’t think I’ve written the one that’s basically my soul on paper. I have an idea for what it will be, but I’m not ready to write it yet. It’s too important to rush. But one day…
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