(Negative) Bucket List

Although I love to make lists, I do not have a bucket list–and never will. They have always seemed oddly commercial to me, involved with spending money to attain culturally anointed experiences.

I did get to Japan (my kids did that, actually) And live in an artists’ residency in a freezing cold farm house. Was that a bucket list item?

No. I hardly knew that world existed.

And I’ve accomplished things, but I call those things goals. That is, they aren’t wildly aspirational but rather composed of quantifiable, attainable, things. For example, I’m apt to say: my goal is to do five events for this new book. Not–my bucket list is to win a big prize.

So, I’m going to create a NEGATIVE bucket list. Here goes.

  1. I won’t make up with my enemies, bad old friends, or difficult relatives
  2. I won’t need to ever have my appendix removed
  3. Donald Trump will not be president of the United States again

You can see why I don’t trust the efficacy of bucket lists.


I heard Terry read this truly hilarious piece at SFCC on Thursday and am really happy to present it here now! Enjoy!



All year long, but especially at Christmas time, I receive in the mail often ten catalogues per day. Victoria Secret used to be one of my favorites with its tight, low necked sweaters and hip-riding jeans. But once I turned 50, the names of the catalogues changed. And I admit, those low-slung Victoria Secret jeans make my kidneys cold. Also, the deep V-necked sweaters cause repeated sneezing. But still, all of a sudden, now I’m getting “Soft Surroundings” (as though I can only handle surroundings that are cushiony now) and “As We Change” which may as well be “As We Crumble into Dust” because the outfits are not very hip OR cute. Don’t get me started on “Arthritis Today” and “Plantar Fasciitis Quarterly.”

But enough of my trials over catalogue shopping—and yes, I know this is a First World problem. The real agony of December comes in trying to buy gifts for my husband, Mark. I realize there is too much pressure around the holidays for gift giving, though I love offering someone I cherish an amazing present that maybe he has been dreaming about. Still, Mark’s birthday is three days before Christmas, so that’s two occasions in one week that I need to shop for. I used to get him books and music, but he now purchases books and music on his ipad, and i- phone. It’s not like he’s a fussy guy, but he‘s 6 foot two and has long arms, so I can’t get him shirts from any other catalogue but Territory Ahead which provides clothing for the long, tall guys in our lives.

“What do you want for your birthday?” I ask him.

“I don’t need anything,” he says.

“How about a couple shirts?” I ask him.

“I have enough shirts,” he says.

“But some of your shirts have holes in them,” I say.

“I like the holes,” he tells me. He is no help whatsoever.

I mean, I’m no fashion plate, given that I have curly hair and wear orthotics but when Mark goes on an airplane (which is often since he travels for work) in order to keep warm but also have that layered look, he wears three shirts on top of each other. If Tim Gunn from Project Runway saw him, he’d kill himself.

“Honey, why don’t I buy you a sweater?” I ask him.

“I don’t like sweaters,” he says. “Too itchy.”

Last year Territory Ahead ran out of most of the shirts he agreed he might want, so I was forced to get Mark something I thought might be good for him—a small battery operated device that helps him keep a straight posture. Or would, if he used it. He’s supposed to glue it to his collarbone and every time he slouches, it gives him a small electric shock. It was not a big hit.

And I have tried more creative approaches—I have taken him to concerts for his birthday but those choices are not without risk. A few years ago I treated him to Carmina Burana at the Lensic in December, just before Christmas, and the weather that day was in the 20’s, with snow blowing, etc. We settled into our seats at the Lensic but either I had not dressed warmly enough or the Lensic had not paid their heat bill—it was about 50 degrees in there. Thus, for the whole performance, Mark and I huddled together and held hands tightly. The musicians were passionate and magnificent, but afterwards we both had sore hands, fingers, and wrists. Mark said it was a hand holding related injury.

It seemed safer to buy his gifts from a catalogue.

I have tried Hammecher-Schlemmer, (heated gloves cost $200 though, too expensive.) I tried Orvis (“the sleeves are way too short!”) and I’ve even resorted to What on Earth’s catalogue which was a win one year with a sweatshirt that said, “National Sarcasm Society. Like we need your support.”

A definite low point was last Christmas when I bought Mark a box of bacon flavored toothpicks and a yodeling pickle. Though I have to admit I bought myself a yodeling pickle also. I carry it around in my gym bag—it used to be in my purse until the thing started yodeling in my Voice class and sounded better than I did.

Our cats are somewhat easier to please than my husband. I bought him a Trump voodoo doll last Christmas, but our two cats decided it was their toy and ripped it apart, fake blonde hair and all. They’re very political.

To summarize, over the years, I have given Mark massages, dinners out, dinners in, cooked by me—though I am not a great cook, unfortunately. I purchase raspberries, oranges, spinach for Mark each time I go grocery shopping to make sure he eats healthy, especially after his recent heart surgery.

“There’s a wall of spinach in here!” he says when he opens the fridge some days.

Let’s face it—there are no perfect gifts. I would like to create or buy or even put on lay away some incredible substance or product that would fight death, that would guarantee that my sweetheart and I would both live long and prosper. A gift that could guarantee that every moment together is filled with love and understanding, with no difficulties, no disappointment, no grief. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

But hey! I did find the most amazing gift for Mark this year! Moisturizing gel socks that help repair cracked heels! They don’t exactly stop time, but they do hydrate the feet with an aromatherapy blend of lavender and jojoba oil! His feet will be pampered daily, and they come in pastel colors! I think I can get them on Amazon Prime.

Interview with Terry Wilson


Interview questions–

1. I think of your material as funny, quick witted, and based on
observations of daily life. Can you say what your major sources of
inspiration are?

My whole family is funny, and sometimes visiting my Mom (and the rest of my siblings in Buffalo) gives me material for a few new chapters! 😉 I often tell my students that sometimes the hardest experiences are the ones that I (and they) can write about later, once we have some distance on them. I think that even when I’m going through a painful bump in the road, there is a part of my mind that detaches and can see the humor in it. That helps so much! My father taught me comic timing though he wasn’t always easy to be around. And my Mom can still get us all laughing even though she’s 95. Growing up in an Irish Catholic family often inspires dark humor when you least expect it!

2. What are you currently reading? Favorite authors?

I am currently reading My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir. She’s such a strong person and has an amazing attitude about life and her own success. I read a lot of memoir; favorite authors are Mary Karr (Liars’ Club),Jeannette Walls (The Glass House), Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies and of course, Bird by Bird—not a memoir but a comical writing guide.) Rhoda Janzen’s memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is hysterically funny. In fact, many of these stories are rich with humor, and that’s a big draw for me. I also love historical fiction; a book I’ve read a few times is an older book, Rumors of Peace by Ella Leffland (about WWII) and also, Winds of War. Annie Proulx is another author I read a lot of, though it’s hard to beat her Pulitzer prize winning, The Shipping News. And I’ll devour almost any book about Africa; Malaria Dreams (by Stuart Stevens) is hilarious and Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari is an easy book to get lost in! As far as poetry goes, I love Mary Oliver. My husband, Mark, and I used to read her poems to each other. (Hey, Mark, we need to start doing that again!;-)

3. Your first book is out! How exciting. Can you describe some of the
process of editing it all together? What are the major themes?

My book starts with stories about growing up Catholic in the Rust Belt of Buffalo, NY in a large Catholic family and the kind of insane logic that goes with looking up to suffering and dead saints as role models! Another theme is how I survived Catholic school and also my father’s drinking, and then I move on to the strange events that happen to us all while living in Santa Fe (including trying to be a Buddhist)! I discuss my Mom’s Alzheimer’s toward the end of the book and how we still all love her desperately and completely as she clings to life in the green lounge chair in her Buffalo living room with snow raging outside. I finish the book by reclaiming some aspects of Catholicism and spirituality that work for me today.

4. How can readers buy your book?

My book is for sale on Amazon.com; I will give the link below. Also, I have a web page called ConfessionsofaFailedSaint.com (or just look for me on Facebook at Confessions of a Failed Saint). This FB page functions as a blog if anyone wants to discuss my book or just spirituality, humor or life in general. Here’s the link to buy my book! And thanks so much, Miriam for this interview!