Book Review – ‘Love, Life and the List’ by Kasie West

An idea to broaden one’s horizons for the sake of art – great idea, flat delivery.

Love, Life and the List Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

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Another cutesy addition to my collection of Kasie West novels. But this one feels average in its place of West novel rankings. ‘Love, Life and the List’ lacked complexity, and quite frankly, failed to drag out any of the feels. Where some of her novels feel like a blockbuster rom-com, ‘Love, Life, and the List’ felt like a made-for-tv movie on the Hallmark channel. Not that it is any way a bad thing, just that it felt like it lacked layers and sophistication. I wasn’t even feeling the angst. For some, this might be the death knell for a book. But we still get West’s ever-present positivity and sunshine. Cuteness overload. It’s vanilla, very vanilla. Which is great for an afternoons escapism when you don’t necessarily want to be dragged over the coals of hurt and pain to get some character development, and where you know you’re going to get happy smiles at the end.

Our protagonist Abby felt a little flaky, though I love how she decided to challenge herself with ‘the list.’ Notably, her achievements weren’t character defining, but merely experiences to help broaden her worldly view.

The chemistry between love interest Cooper was already existing – like an old married couple – so there wasn’t a lot to expand on. So consequently the vibes between these two felt a little flat. And also because the ‘G’ rating of this book don’t expect any twixt of your nethers, or engorging love scenes. This is very Disney.

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But the concept is intriguing… like a bucket list for personal growth. Testing out things you know to be true. And West does write an interesting complementary cast. Addy’s mother was a great addition to the story struggling with anxiety, and the all-knowing-but-hip grandfather was endearing. He reminded me of ‘Pop’s’ from ‘The Goldbergs’ in a way.

So while I enjoyed this book, and had a pleasant afternoon whiling in its pages – for the most part it’s forgettable. I think if there were some bigger challenges to test Addy personally and emotionally, and a more dynamic storyline with an arc or two thrown it, it would’ve ticked all the boxes for me.

I still enjoy West’s writing style, it is so easy to fly through, and just descriptive enough to let your imagination fly.

This is the start of a trilogy of companion novels, so it may have felt flat because of setting up all the characters in this universe (but it didn’t really feel like that) so we’ll see what characters take the torch in the next few novels and how they stack up against ‘Love, Life, and the List.’

Only recommend for hard core West fans, and younger readers with a thing for contemporary romances.

Overall feeling: cute, but flat.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Building my own library

Dream vs reality in creating that perfect space to read and show off your book collection.

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For those who didn’t know, I’ve had a couple of brushes with death. Cancer nearly claimed my life twice, and I had a long and painful battle to get a life back. But there is more fight in this old girl yet *I jump side to side like a boxer pumping my fists.* That has taught me to dream big and make sure my experience on this planet is a happy and fun one. So I keep a bucket list, try to tick off big goals and little ones as often as I can… One of the more personal, but materialistic items has been around my reading and writing life. Who doesn’t like a nerd-mecca in their own house!

Building my Library Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI’ve had a fantasy of my own library, whiling away hours sequestered in a cozy reading nook. Collecting pictures of my dream library and window boxes for winter reading. Even couches lit by gorgeous floor lamps, decorated with fur throws and cable knit cushions… It’s all in the ether of my brain, percolating until I get to build my new home. Yet those plans are still a pipe dream at the moment. But getting the blueprints down is step one. C’mon Lotto – I need a big win!!

In the meantime, I’ve settled for reconditioning some antique bookshelves. I found them online for sale by a neighbour’s Estate sale. The aim is to strip them back, fix the cracks and some of the joinery, and then give many coats of white paint and wooden curlicue applications to accentuate the French Provincial feel I want in my work room. It’s where I write, read, and come up with all my ideas. Time to get crafty, pull out the electric sander and dance to girl power music in the garage.

There’s an old chaise lounge I’ll endeavour to get recovered in a romantic regency brocade, either in sliver and pale blue tones, or go bold with red and gold. The space is about half-way there. The wall and ceiling painting has been completed, new white office furniture and floor rugs for ambience. Then it’s about all those other small touches to bring out personality and style. Something about a chaise lounge says ‘I’m classy and important,’ besides the fact that is looks like a normal lounge where one side has melted in the sun.

Building my Library Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI steer towards more of a white, open plan workspace. I find too much colour or clutter makes me feel claustrophobic in the creative process – especially if I’m frustrated with a writing challenge. Plus that decorating pallet helps to highlight the books lining the shelves. It’s not the grand style library I’ve dreamed about, but it’s inexpensive and looks bright and stylish. Something about being in that room is inspiring in itself. I’m most likely at least half a year away from finishing as the restoration work is intricate work, and the massive bookshelves are tremendously heavy and I only have friends over on weekends to help me move the shelving. The furniture reupholstery is going to cost a bit too; so I have to save.

But is should be a marvellous Christmas present to myself if I can get it all done by the end of this year. I could get it finished much sooner if I dropped everything and worked hard, but I’m trying to focus on writing this year, and completing projects. I started way too many last year and feel like I’m not making much progress because I stretched myself too thin. But I’ll share some pictures of my workspace when it’s all completed.

In the meantime, I have various study nooks to work in. One overlooking the coast from the window at the front of the house; one in a sunroom under a canopy of trees overlooking a natural spring where there is always plenty of colourful rainforest birds and purple waterlilies; or in my big white office with heaps of desktop space to spread out on. Or, if I’m feeling adventurous, there’s some great restaurants close by to spend an extended lunch in luxury (and they’re not as loud as café’s); and if the weather is right, me and the dog can sit on the beach. So many great places to cop a squat and read or write. I’d love to spend a day in the underwater aquarium, but the cover charge is hefty and there’s not much space to lounge without interruption – and I get the feeling the staff there would ask me to move on ☹  Though I’ve been thinking that a fish tank would be a fantastic addition to the study… if I don’t spend hours staring at it hypnotised.

What make your ideal study spot or reading nook (apart from bed)?

Bucket List by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Making a difference in the world

After going into remission from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma a number of years back, and deciding not to return to teaching, I was staring at my Bucket List – and the item I’d scrawled out at some stage: Make a difference in the world.

What exactly did I mean when I wrote that in a chemo addled daze? Nonetheless, I want to complete everything on my list. It keeps me accountable. Keeps me on my toes and questioning if I am getting the most out of life – finding happiness and not falling into routine and contentment.

Making a Difference in the World Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.gifI may have meant my entry as some big gesture. Altruistic. Like passing on some profound knowledge, or some big public spectacle for the greater good. I may have daydreamed of possessing a super power or unlimited funds in my bank account ‘You get a car, you get a car, and you get a car

But now, I prefer to think it means to help change the world and attitudes around me for the better through a number of small ways:

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Entertaining people. Making them laugh, smile, or whisking them away to some make-believe place for a while to enrich their imagination. Being the class clown growing up, I was always cracking jokes, falling down, narrating Mum and Dad’s actions with fart noises; sometimes going as far as dressing the dogs up in my clothes and walking them down the street. I wanted to share the love, the fun… and get a little be of attention. Now that I’m an adult and many of those activities would have me locked up in a Sanatorium, that exorbitant, over-active mind for the fantastic is used for writing prose. Which I pray at least one person will find mildly amusing and somewhat entertaining. We all need a little escapism sometimes.

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Meeting new people, sharing my story hoping to inspire and in some way – help them on their own journey. It could be through getting involved in their lives, or it could be something as simple as a smile to brighten their day. I get told a lot that I should write a book about my life. I’ve conquered some big events, accomplished many things and tried different careers and places to live. But that’s just my itchy feet always wanting to try something new, strive for excellence. I don’t really think my life is that amazing or different. Maybe I’m more vocal about it. The thought of writing an autobiography sounds boring (and it’s far from over yet)…

Dear Journal, today I overcame the fear that I have a fat bum, squeezed into a pair of jeans and ventured out into the world to do some shopping and decided that people weren’t looking at me because I am weird, but that I am beautiful… and that isn’t toilet paper stuck to the heel of my shoe.

I know I’ve been thrown a fair number of curve balls in my life, but you just get on with things. So if hearing my story helps someone get through theirs, I’m all for it. Plus, a giggle along the way always makes a situation less scary and dire.

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I like to pass on whatever knowledge I’ve garnered in this life. Knowledge should be free. It’s the teacher in me. Whether it be through my blog, conversation, or tutoring. Sharing knowledge gives independence… and it’s something I’m passionate about. I’m a student of life and love new adventures, experiences, and discovering things in books.

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It shouldn’t matter the colour of your skin, how much money you have, who you love, everyone should be valued for who they are. And so I like to show them acceptance, tolerance, love and mutual respect.

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Yeah it’s all a bit idealistic, but embodies the idea I had when I thought I may be leaving this world. It showed me what was important – and the things I valued the most when I thought it was the end…

I’m not perfect, sometimes I falter, but then I can always look at my list. Remember when I was in a hospital bed and wished I could do something… and so I am. And hey, these ways are so simple anyone can do them!

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Write a novel… and then what?

I’ve had “Write a Novel” on my bucket list since I was a child, but I think I should have been clearer, or at least added a couple of more steps…

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Write a novel? Tick, yes. Done!

But now it’s time to do re-writes. Then off to some Beta readers to get some input. Then another draft. And lastly, off to an Editor to get a final draft.

And that’s just the writing process.

After that it’s off to a publisher… or should I say, go through the submission process to get a publisher (via literary agent).

Then, if deemed a suitable match (and contract negotiations), my manuscript will be published and I’ll see it on shelves at my local bookstore.*

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All of that listed above is what’s really meant to be included in the ‘write a novel’ Bucket List item. How naive I was.

 

I don’t want to be a one hit wonder either. I want several books published. Not through self-publishing, or vanity publishing, or any of the other variety of ways to see your novel in print. I desire traditional publishing. (Plus it’s a validation that you have been deemed worthy… something that plays to my ego.)

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These days, a traditional publisher wants to see that you are a viable investment – a career writer. So, simply ‘write a novel’ has a lot of weight to it if you want to take it seriously. And I do. So what started off as a pipe-dream when I got diagnosed with cancer has turned into a career.

I’m old fashioned that way.

If only my chemo addled brain had made that realisation when I’d scratched out the single most want of my heart’s desire.

You need to have a vision of many books to be written in the future, either stand alone, or a series. Roughly sketched out plots, a timetable.

Now that you have the writing side sorted, there is all manner of elements that go along with it to add to your dossier to be deemed a worthy investment. Like an online presence, previously published works, a network or connections within the industry, a marketing plan, all these are thrown onto the pile just to make life just a little more exasperating. All from the three words “write a novel.”

Granted, you don’t really have to do any of it. You could just complete your manuscript and release it online, or self-publish an ebook. But I’m a glutton for punishment and a purist. I want the dream from my childhood, whether it’s realistic or not.

So I formed a 1-3 year plan. Made a detailed list. And I’m halfway there…

As big and as involved as this innocent little item on my Bucket List is, it has definitely been the most satisfying. I guess anything that takes a considerable amount of effort to achieve is ultimately rewarding… and while I could cross if off the list because the manuscript is complete; I think I’ll keep it there until the dream is fully realised.

But in the meantime I have plenty more items to attack, and life will be ever more richer because of it 🙂

 

Do you have a Bucket List, or are writing a novel? I’d love to hear all about your experiences and goals to help make life more fun and amazing.

*Let me live in this fantasy of perfection – it’s the only thing keeping me going at the moment – that, and a fridge stocked full of Tim-Tams and LOTS of coffee!

Bucket List by Casey Carlisle

 © Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Travel Abroad…?

I’ve always wanted to travel… but how do you pick where to go when there are so many interesting places to visit?

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I WANT THEM! ALL THE PLACES!

That is pretty much what my head screams when I think about booking my next holiday. Truth be told – I’m not that much of a big traveller. Overseas that is. I’ve explored just about all of Australia, but my only overseas trip was on a cruise for my 40th birthday after finally been given the all-clear from the doctors and actually having enough funds for a holiday off the continent.

So now that I’ve broken the seal, taken my first trip, what is holding me back from doing it again?

Well, life I guess. Mum passing away. Selling my house and relocating. But that is all done with now, so the only thing I can think of is fear.

FEAR.

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When did I get so scared to take on the unknown. Okay, I’m not cowering in a corner in a pool of my own making, but am uncomfortable to leave the cushy place I’ve finally been able to create. So much of my life recently has been dealt with uncertainty. But I think losing Mum has put the fear of losing everything in me, and I’ve fallen into the security of the familiar and routine.

It’s time to put away childish things.

So next year it’s time to re-visit my Bucket List and look at another adventure over the great blue yonder. At this point in time it looks like Canada and Alsaska. Maybe some other place on the way back home after that. A cold climate may not sound appealing to some, but I live on the Sunshine Coast – its sunscreen and beach all day, all the time. Plus, I love layering clothes, snuggling up in front of the fire with a good book. So it’s settled.

My dream cruise would be to the Antarctic. Imaging floating past polar bears and penguins, catching glimpses of whales… the delicate hues of blue and white in cliffs of ice. I want to see that.

So 2016 is going to be the year I get back on track with my Bucket List and start stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve had my year of fear and loss and it’s time to live again!

What is on your Bucket List for 2016?

Travel abroad Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Bucket List by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

SHOW . SPEAK . FOLLOW

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I had another gentle reminder from the Universe this week about not letting myself get complacent. My eldest furbaby had to go to the vet for an operation to remove cancer. I was terrified. It brought back memories of my own battle with cancer, of losing my mother. I wasn’t prepared to lose another member of my family. That was my ‘poor me’ moment.

Thankfully it didn’t last.

My puppy pulled through the procedure with flying colours and is happily tottering around my feet sporting stitches and a narly haircut. When the shave parts grow back it will hide the scars. But the fright of such a serious disease threatening my canine companion made me face what it is I’ve been doing with my life of late.

After my own brush with death I set about making a Bucket List and work every day to tick items off. When I lost my Mother I have made an effort to connect with those I love and let them know how special they are to me.

And today… well today was like a kick up the bum to check my progress. There is always room for improvement. I am thankful for everyday, but recently I noticed a trend to fall into a pattern. Losing that spark of adventure and excitement.

So I have to thank my little pooch for the love he has given me, and share more excitement together in our lives yet to come.

The picture above is from my cousin’s wedding – a fitting backdrop as the family comes together to celebrate love.

Show Your Love by Casey CarlisleDo something nice for someone else. Cook a meal, clean the house, give them a cuddle… actions prove so much and we should never waist a moment to let those who are important to us know how valuable they are.

Speak Your Mind by Casey CarlisleWords, as well as actions have a profound affect on those around us. Say thankyou, say I love you. We also want to stay true to ourselves – keep communicating your feelings, your desires. Be you. Lying or pretending to be someone you’re not doesn’t do anyone any favors. Especially you. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be truthful.

Follow Your Heart by Casey CarlisleDon’t let your dreams die! Go for those goals. Whether it’s to travel abroad, talk to your crush, grow a garden – what ever it is that is your hearts desire – got for it! Fill your life with great experiences – and let your smile shine from the inside.

Reading Writing Living banner by Casey Carlisle© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Casey, Cancer and Cabaret

What started out as something on my Bucket List turned into a business and fundraising event that was anything but boring.

Daffodil Day CC220In the spirit of Daffodil Day here in Australia (Friday 28th of August), where we come together to raise funds to help fight cancer, I wanted to step away from the usual blog and share an old story about how I raised funds when I was in the middle of my own battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma…

TLEG Promo shot 01I had launched a production back in 2004 booking dancers and variety acts in Perth, Western Australia. I’d been thinking about it when going through Chemo (the second time) and as I was slowly recovering, launched the business. You could say this was the start of my Bucket List – I wanted to cram as many crazy ideas as I could into this short life. Basically, all I had to do was take bookings and manage a marketing campaign. Most of it was done online and at weekends, so it was perfect for someone who was sick half the time.

The company grew and I added drag and cabaret performers into the mix from hairdressing and ballroom dancing contacts. Business was doing really well, and I was growing the company and getting gigs for just about every weekend. That’s when I had the fantastic idea to form a troupe and create an Australian and New Zealand Las Vegas Styled Showgirl tour…

…until I stopped responding to treatment and needed to have a number of surgeries to remove malignant lumps.

Lavender Casey Carlisle ShowgirlBut I wasn’t about to let all that hard work and money go to waist, So instead I decided to put on a charity event for the Cancer Council in conjunction with the re-launch of the refurbished Perth Town Hall. Initially it was supposed to be dinner theatre for four weekends in a row, but my publicity company dropped the ball and ticket sales were poor. In the end we produced one massive night, getting rid of the meals so we could really pack the place. In the week prior both myself and the cast managed to drum up more publicity than the company I’d paid a small fortune to…

It was all very stressful, and in hindsight I should have let it go as soon as my health started to backslide. But when you have twenty employees counting on you, it’s hard to be so selfish. My partner at the time was the Godsend who got me through it all.

If I hadn’t been so ill, I may have been tracking the publicity company more closely and our original intention realised. But that’s all water under the bridge now.

Adding to the pressure, I had three small operations scheduled in the six weeks of rehearsal time leading up to the event. One to remove cancer growing on the cartilage of my nose; another to remove lumps on my jaw (along with a wisdom tooth and molar) and the final one to get lumps on my throat. There were more surgeries planned for larger areas later that year, but given that I don’t respond well to anaesthesia, as much as could be done under twilight sedation was first off the bat.

Stupid me had re-organised the show for the single night gala, where I was basically the headline act. Not having been through surgery before, I had underestimated the recovery time. I did, manage several walk-throughs and kicked butt in the dress rehearsal… over ten years of a dancing career under my belt enabled me to wing a part of it. My stitches were removed two days before curtain up.

I have to give it to my cast mates and stage staff though, they did an amazing job amongst so much change and adversity. Especially my partner in crime, when I was drained and emotional he picked up the slack and kept everything running smoothly and placated the highly strung creative types in this industry.

Perth Town Hall Dressing Room by Casey CarlisleLeading up to the day, I had half of the cast pull out, or had to replace them (due to no-shows at rehearsals) and ended up with a number of drag performers. We combined the numbers around a Beauty Pageant theme with a comedic twist and used the variety acts as support acts in between the group and solo numbers of the main cast. What had been turning into a dogs breakfast transformed into something beyond even what I could have hoped for. So with a mix of Queens and girls it turned out to be a Connie and Carla extravaganza!

The gang pulled together and helped with costuming – with over 120 individual outfits completed, including wigs, hairpieces, feather backpacks, and head pieces… thank goodness for outsourcing!

–ooOOoo–

FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR CANCER… TINA LOUISE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP STAGES FREE CABARET SHOW TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE W.A. CANCER COUNCIL 

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On the 9th of September, the Perth Town Hall will be transformed into the glitziest venue in the city for a charitable cabaret show to raise funds for cancer sufferers. The Miss Australia Covergirlz Pageant, brought to Perth by the Tina Louise Entertainment Group, this event asks that the audience makes a donation upon entry for the Western Australia Cancer Council.


Audiences will see six performers, Casey Carlisle, Chaise Punani, Sapphire, Gillette Venus, Elle Niño, and Cinnamon dance, sing and dazzle their way through the evening. With her signature red locks, curvaceous body and flirtatious laugh, Casey Carlisle is the founder of the Tina Louise Entertainment Group. Having survived Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma twice and just 2 week ago recovered from surgery Casey is trying to follow her passion of performing and raising money to help those who are fighting cancer themselves. The group’s high energy and extensive repertoire of shows are known for their extravagant costumes and hypnotic choreography. The group collectively has experience in acting, dancing, modelling and M.C. work for corporate, theatre, television, photographic and promotional events throughout Australia. 


Don’t miss all the action on the 9th of September 2005 at the Friends and Family for Cancer cabaret show at the Perth Town Hall, corner of Hay and Barrack Streets, Perth. Donation at the door with all proceeds going to the W.A. Cancer Council . Doors open at 7 pm.

–ooOOoo–

We managed to raise just a sizeable sum for the charity and despite the difficulties and hospitalisation, it was one of the happiest and most entertaining nights of my life. Something I am immensely proud of and will always treasure the memories. And well, hey, another outlandish item crossed off the Bucket List.

In 2010 the company was wrapped up after continuing health issues and needing to relocate for further treatment. It was a sad day, but necessary. Although I had many other challenges ready to face from my Bucket List.

I was lucky to gain much of my health back (thanks to miracle-working doctors and a change in lifestyle). Many of my friends and family have not fared so well. I’ve lost some incredible people from my life. Please support this worthy cause when you can. Buy a ribbon, a pin… or do it in big flashy and glittering style. Every little bit helps.

To those no longer with us – I am truly blessed to have shared your journey. You have changed my life for the better and it has truly been enriched to have had you in it.

I miss your face.

Bucket List by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.