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Month: September 2016

Where have I been?

Where have I been?

Where have I been?

More like where haven’t I been! Here is a map of all the places the Bucket List Project has travelled in my 40 years of life and it only covers 11%. Oh well, I guess it just means that I need to start travelling more! On a positive note, I have been to 4 out of the 7 continents and I will have added India which is a big section of Asia to the map by mid January!

So where should I go to next? Which country do I need to visit as soon as possible? In terms of continents, should I hit up Africa, Australia, or Antarctica next?

Let me know what percentage of the world you have travelled is, which continent I should go to next, and which country I need to get to soon in the Comments Below!


The Second Bucket List

The Second Bucket List

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Wow. I can feel you losing interest.

Ok, how’s this: I had a brilliant, sparkling, insanely talented, kind, magical friend and Ovarian cancer stole her from me. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, being more interested in a person than a disease. People do not like to hear about ovarian cancer. While she was sick, and after, I posted things on Facebook about her and her family, and pictures of the two of us. I also posted statistics and graphics from the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and The Mitchell Cancer Institute, where she was treated. The pictures and stories would get “likes,” comments of hope and support, and private messages asking how I was, how she was, while also promising prayers and offering well wishes. The graphs got maybe one or two weak “likes.” Yet, the majority of my Facebook friends are women  and while Breast cancer gets so much well deserved attention, gynecological cancers get significantly less.

jean-nicole-happyI met Nicole Teague in college and I heard her sing before I heard her speak. We were both auditioning for a musical and she sang something from the show we were auditioning for. My first instinct was to dislike her, out of jealousy and intimidation, but after 14 years of friendship, I don’t know a soul who could ever truly dislike her. She was one of “those people.” Anne of Green Gables called them “kindred spirits” and try as I may, I can’t think of a better way to say it. Before I met Nicole, I was sullen and closed off, but she almost seemed to accept that as a challenge. We forged a friendship very quickly and I poured myself into her in a way I had never done before, or since. I feel terrible saying that because I have awesome life long friends and cousins and two incredible, wonderful sisters. But she was the platonic love of my life.

I really never could describe the grace with which she approached death. To most of us, it’s an abstract concept, a distant, far-off event. The traditional “bucket list” is a fun thing, even the name, implying “Things I will do before I kick the bucket,” is filled with whimsy. Nicole created her bucket list knowing that she had a limited amount of time to fulfill it. As a result, it was at some points a kinder, simpler list. She had the obligatory desire to climb Machu Picchu, of course (don’t we all?), but she also wanted to have red hair – a very simple wish – and take her two wonderful daughters somewhere on a plane. She wanted to travel to Italy, but cancer stole that from her too, she was too sick to be away for that long. fountainShe wanted to jump into the Fairhope fountain with all of her friends (what, were we going to tell her NO?!) and we did that. She wanted to ride a Segway and ride in a police car, and she did those, too. She had wanted to run a full marathon since before she was diagnosed, but was far too weak and in pain from the chemo, so one day in January 2013 my husband and our friend Dane each ran 52.4 miles- one marathon for themselves and one for her.

There was also a second, unspoken bucket list. One entry involved spending time with her friends. At both of the hospitals she spent time in, her room had to be arranged so that it would be near a waiting room – because she had so many visitors, there had to be space for overflow. Someone would be appointed door monitor and retrieve people now and then from the waiting room (“Nicole will see you now”) like at a doctor’s office. Another item on the list was arranging things for after she was gone. The last time I spoke to her coherently, she was adding and figuring (she was excellent at Math) on a list of bills. She compiled a checklist for her husband with important facts and numbers for him to be able to conduct the business of life without her. Because not only did he lose his wife, he lost his team captain.

joe-nicole-and-daneShe planned her own funeral. She and Dane compiled a perfect slide show, selected hymns and chose her flowers. She very quietly wondered out loud to me one day who would be able to speak about her at the funeral. I was dizzy as I responded. I could. She called my husband and asked him to be a pallbearer, the way another woman her age may ask someone to be an usher at her wedding. He was honored beyond words.

But the most important item on Nicole’s unofficial, unspoken bucket list was her daughters. She read the Harry Potter books with them. She sat on the couch and watched Barbie shows on Netflix with them (a saintly task, as anyone with young girls knows). She painstakingly wrote both of them letters for major events in their lives (turning 13, starting high school, wedding day) that she wouldn’t be there for. She quietly hoped that her younger daughter would be baptized while she could be there; one day, during a simple, mother-daughter conversation, she indicated that she was ready, and Nicole was able to see her baptized.

Nicole had achieved most of the most important bucket list items before she even made the list, and far before she was diagnosed with cancer. She met, fell in love with and married a man whom she doted on and adored, had two brilliant, healthy girls, secured many steel-strong friendships, completed a bachelor’s degree, lived in her dream town, performed in many plays and countless church services, traveled to France, England, Mexico and Scotland, lived all over the United States, and was lucky enough to have two incredible, wonderful sisters (hey, just like me!).


She also did something she didn’t realize. She made people better. She scoffed when I told her, but when I am faced with certain obstacles in my life, I try to do what I think Nicole would do. When meeting a new person, I’d like to give a half nod and smile (I may still do that, now and then) but would Nicole do that? No! She’d introduce herself, flash her bright smile and make that person feel like one of the most important people in the world. So, that’s what I try to do. One day, sitting on her couch, I mentioned that someday I wanted to volunteer at the Reading for the Blind radio station. She gestured to my phone on the coffee table and said, “You have a smart phone! Go to their website! Email someone right now!” So, I did.

Nicole lost her battle to Ovarian Cancer but Early Detection is a chance for survival. Read Why! Click To Tweet

This is difficult for me to discuss, because we only talked about it a few times, it was too hard. You see, with Ovarian cancer, early detection is nearly the only chance for survival.  ovarian-cancer-info

It’s so easy to say, “This is an older woman’s problem. I’ll worry about this when it’s time for my hysterectomy,” but Nicole was diagnosed at 34. That means she started having symptoms at 33. By anyone’s standards, she was a very young woman. The signs are so subtle. Feeling full after not eating much, abdominal discomfort, bloating, frequent or urgent urination. It’s come to light recently that many women with Ovarian cancer used talc products, so please do not allow anyone you love to apply baby powder to their “bathing suit region.” Research is being done at the Mitchell Cancer Institute in Mobile, Alabama to develop an early detection test- which is absolutely essential. One in 75 women will be diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, if they detect it early, their five year survival rate is 90%. Nicole was diagnosed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 and died Tuesday, September 9, 2014. I’d have been thrilled for 3 more years.

She did so much in the short time she had. Truly. She softened the heart of this hardened grump and she made everyone love her without trying at all. She took chances, put her neck out, went for the big part, volunteered from the audience. I miss her every moment of every day and September has its own special sting for me. I’d be willing to bet that if you have ovaries, there’s someone who loves you who wants you to pay attention to them. And I’ll also bet that if you don’t, you love someone who does. Please know the signs, educate others, like NOCC and The Mitchell Cancer institute on Facebook, wear TEAL for ovarian cancer awareness in September (or purple, for all gynecological cancers). And tell your loved ones how you feel, every day. why-teal

I complimented a new acquaintance on her coffee mug the other day, it was covered with rolling pastures and hills. She thanked me, and said that someone had given it to her because it reminded them of Italy, and she always said that heaven was just like Italy. I think I startled her with the exuberance of my response, because I yelled, “Score! That’s one more item down, then!”

*I mentioned Dane briefly, but his role in Nicole’s illness was not brief at all. To learn more about him and Matt, her husband, please read Matt’s words at:

*Nicole wrote her own beautiful entry on her bucket list, the tangible one. You can read her lovely words (and see her lovely face) at:

*If you want to help fund Ovarian Cancer research, consider donating to the Mitchell Cancer Institute at:


Funny But True Things about the Camino de Santiago

Funny But True Things about the Camino de Santiago

wp-1471473731096.jpgOn Monday, June 27th, 2016, I embarked on perhaps one of my greatest adventures of 2016, to fulfill Bucketlist item #109) Walk the Camino de Santiago from France to Santiago, Espana.

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is 490+ mile pilgrimage often starting in St Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, Spain where it is believed that the remains of the Apostle St. James the Greater are buried.

People make the pilgrimage for many reasons: a retreat for their spiritual growth, to discover their past or reveal their future, in hopes that a miracle will touch them or someone they love, and many other reasons.

It all kind of sounds like some mystical, religious, self-discovery adventure right out of a C.S. Lewis or Paulo Coehlo novel and there can be some of that if that is what you truly seek.  But while you walk on the Camino for days on end, there are also many real life quirks, funny truths, and even insanities that accompany you on this journey.

Here are some of the major ones, Enjoy!

You will give away the deed to your house back home for a bottom bunk

It doesn’t seem to matter if you are 18 or 80, the idea of climbing up to the top bunk at the end of a hard day of walking is enough to make anyone cry! In most albergues, it is kind of a first come first serve situation, while in others they have an over 40 rule.  However, you will bargain your treasures for the bottom bunk. If you are unfortunate enough to get the top bunk, then you must take care of everything before the climb because you will then enter the contest of “how long can I hold it before I have to climb back down to use the bathroom!”

You will politely HATE ALL CYCLISTS!

The first time you see a cyclist struggling to push their bicycles loaded with their saddle bags up a mountain, a sense of pity will encompass you.  Don’t fret, that will only last about 4 hours because then you will pray for them to crash down a mountain.  Why? Because these cyclist will come zipping by you, out of no where, at top speeds nearly clipping your arms and shoving you off the trail as they happily shout, “Buen Camino!” It’s insanity to say the least.  They own a $1,000 bicycle and can’t afford an effing $2.00 bell to warn you!  Stupid Cyclists…”Buen effin Camino!!”bikes on the camino

By day 3 everyone qualifies as a registered podiatrist

Feet, feet, feet!  Everyone discusses their feet or the feet of others on the Camino.  Between blisters, bruises, twisted ankles, and lost toe nails every possible subject regarding feet is discussed – by everyone!  The earliest records of visits paid to the shrine dedicated to St. James at Santiago de Compostela date from the 9th century. So, as you walk you will start to wonder what type of space aged leather the pilgrims used for shoes as the Roman roads beat your feet into mush like Ivan Drago beat Apollo Creed’s face in Rocky IV!

Everyone admits to seeing The Way, reading The Pilgrimage, or owning a Brierly guidebook

You are so excited to start walking in the beginning, especially after seeing THE WAY or reading The Pilgrimage or your Brierly guidebook!  You will ask everyone if they have seen or read them and openly admit that you they are the catalyst to this adventure for you.  I mean why not, they make it seem so wonderful and easy!  But by the first week, you will wonder what map Martin Sheen had because his character was all over the place! On day 2 you will start to create voodoo dolls of John Brierly and wonder if he has ever even walked the Camino because this is way harder than he describes.  With regards to The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coehlo, you will think he must have been tripping out on some serious shrooms as you walk through towns he visited and had his visions yet see nothing that resembles the mystical world!

Spain’s metric system is more of a general average rather than an exact science 


Spain’s definition of 1 kilometer seems to vary from place to place and sign to sign with a +/- variance of +4 or +10! Wait or was it -22?

But seriously, reading your guidebook or maps will drive you insane as you walk for endless kilometers on end with no similar scale from day to day.  Even legitimate government road signs will vary along the many hours you spend walking toward Santiago, only to find out the next sign added 5 kilometers to the initial sign you read that morning!

The Funny But True Things about the Camino de Santiago is really funny! #Camino #travel Click To Tweet

You will hate energy & water conservation, but only in the bathroom

Spain seems to be doing wonderful work with energy conservation as you see the beautiful horizons lined with windmills.  However, after awhile you are willing to sign any petition that will get the timers off the bathroom lights or the shower water button to last longer than 38 seconds!

No one will question that you are following graffiti to your destinationyellow-arros

The Camino de Santiago might be the only time in your life where you will deliberately follow crappy yellow spray painted arrows across an entire country and no one will think you are crazy!  I mean imagine if you were back home and you told your parents that you found some spray paint markings under some bridges or on random trees & you wanted to see where they led. They would definitely try to talk you out of it! But on the Camino, you search for them and start get nervous when you don’t see them after awhile!

You will carry the Camino with you every day

No this isn’t some sort of deep thought! This is a literal statement.  Every time you take off your boots you will pour out pounds of dirt, rocks, and unknown particles!  Suddenly you will feel like Andy from the Shawshank Redemption as he emptied his escape route into the prison yard.

You will become a Pyrenees Snob

Well you might become a Pamplona snob, a Burgos snob, a Leon snob, or another location snob to anyone who starts after you! I mean come on, you suffered far harder circumstances and have become an expert on the Camino in the 3 days before they started! Well, everyone can agree that the jerks that start in Sarria will never understand! It’s weird when you realize your contempt for those who start in Sarria as they complete the bare minimum length of the Camino.  Even in John Brierly’s guidebook, he warns to “Beware of signs of irritation at the intrusion on ‘my’ camino…” as new pilgrims enter at Sarria!

You will Gain Weight

wp-1468854786206.jpgThe Camino de Santiago must be the only event where you will burn 9 million calories a day hiking and come home 15 lbs. heavier! How? Perhaps, it is because the only things to do besides walking is eating & drinking!  Every day you stop for a second and third breakfast before lunch. Then, there is the pilgrim’s menu served everyday for $10 or less where you eat like Arnold getting ready for a Mr. Universe body building competition.  Plus, with 95% of the Camino participating in Siesta, the only thing you have to do in the afternoons is eat and drink wine or ice cold pints of beer!

Everyone smiles in the same language

It doesn’t matter where people are from or how good your foreign language skills are, you will be able to talk to anyone – if you want. Don’t get me wrong, you may become an expert at charades by the end of the Camino, but it will be worth all the laughter and memories!




Benjamin Franklin

“Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.”

― Benjamin Franklin

One of the biggest challenges I often have when pursuing my bucket list is finding others to participate in the events with me.  This challenge comes at me from multiple angles because everyone always seems to have something holding them back.  Perhaps it is fear, but that isn’t usually the objection they present to me.  When I ask for participants, cost or physical ability are given as reasons why they can’t join me.

However, one of the biggest objections people offer is time!  This of course is an overall category that can include time to take to complete the event, time off of work, time to save the money, or fear of taking the time away from their  current lives.  Inevitably, everyone says they want to do said bucketlist event, but try to push it off to a more “convenient” time for them.  Now I understand that when it comes to my bucketlist items, just because I am rip roaring and ready to go do something now, it doesn’t mean that everyone else is ready.  But what bothers me is how people blow off their own personal bucket list items and dreams! In my humble opinion, I think it is sometimes fear that is the biggest culprit of time and perhaps people don’t realize that is what is actually keeping them from saying “yes.”

Time is probably the most precious gift we have. You need to watch Prince EA's video! Click To Tweet

Time is probably the most precious gift we are given and we as humans abuse and waste this gift in the worst way.  People bank on the idea that they will have time -later – but sometimes, later never comes!  They hope and pray that they will have the time and resources to accomplish items on their bucketlist when they get “older” or retire, but often, it doesn’t happen.

So in the spirit of inspiring others, I wanted to share this great video.  It was written and presented by Richard Williams, better known by his stage name Prince Ea.  I hope that it will inspire even just person to live life to the fullest now and move past all of the objections, fears, and limits put upon them.  Don’t end your life with regrets.  Remember it is better to have lived just 1 day but as a Lion than to have lived a 1,000 days but as a lamb.

Words and performance: Prince Ea

Client: Neste
Agency: TBWA
Creatives: Steve Brown, Pia Grekula
Marketing Director: Sirpa Tuomi
Business Director: Iikka Maunumaa

Director: Taito Kawata
Producer: Kimmo Manninen
Production Manager: Siiri Koponen
DP: Johan Wasicki
AC: Antwon Tevajärvi
Post: Dermot Gallagher, Arttu Rautio
Music: Markku Mäkelä
Grade: Marko Terävä / Post Control
Local production: Bui Baldvinsson & Finni Hardarson