the infamous "bucket list"

original bucket list info... After my holiday surgery (2008) and not so wonderful prognosis, it was obvious that it was time to start living every day to the fullest.

In my reflection and recovery, I pulled out something Dwayne and I created in 1993 when we met. We each had a "list of things we wanted to do before we died" sadly, only 1 had been marked off in 15 yrs!

The original list contained only 15 items... In the last 6 months, it has grown. After the amazing movie, "The Bucket List," we had a better name for the list. Now we are on a mission to get these done while we can! With a very obtainable list, why were we not checking them off? Simple- when you think you will have a long life, there will ALWAYS be time for things "someday." Well, who knows if that "someday" will be there for us? Nothing is guaranteed.

Kara's bucket list (current)

~ Swim with the dolphins- DONE!
~ Repelling
~ Sailing- DONE!
~ Hot air balloon ride
~ Ski in real snow- was recovering from surgery but got to SEE real snow- considered DONE! (enjoyed seeing hubby and Skyler Ski)
~ Finish and publish my book or any book
~ White water rafting
~ Crash a wedding
~ Go to see Ellen show or Oprah-(got the call for tickets for Ellen
4/29- was in the hospital ...)
~ Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square
~ Ride horseback on the beach
~ Learn to fly a plane-(just get it off the ground)
~ Party all night and watch the sunrise as an adult- DONE!
~ Parasailing- DONE!
~ Make six figures on my own- DONE!
~ Visit Venice with hubby and the kids
~ Visit a vinyard/winery
~ Get a SMALL tattoo- DONE! "LIVE" on right wrist...
~Spend night at the "haunted" Season's Bistro in McDonough- DONE!
~Take or paint a picture someone would proudly hang in their home.
~ Hookah- DONE!
~ This one is my secret...
~ Create something bigger than myself to last far beyond myself...
(working on this)

and then, God willing- these things would be included... (these are out of my control...)
~ See my kids happily married
~ Be a grandparent


Kara Casteel- the fundraiser

I realize that I have not blogged in the past 2 months- here is how I have spent my time...

We started Team Kara- "Hustle and Flow" a couple months back and with life as hectic as it is for everyone, I took on the fundraising planning and prep single handed. Ofcourse my type A personality thought, "no sweat! I can do all of this." Actually, if I am being honest, it was probably a way to keep my mind overactive and working toward something to keep my sanity.

This was the first time I have ever done any type of funrraising and boy have I learned a LOT! Mainly, how to do it way different next time.

First of all, you need a team of people in the planning stages. 2 heads are better than one- so many are great!

The next lesson I learned is you have to have money upfront to fund the fundraising. I took so many expenses for granted... paper and ink for flyers, simple supplies that you forget someone has to buy, copies, etc. Boy how it adds up!

What else have I learned? people are genuinely good, without a doubt. When there is a cause, there are people who care and are willing to support the cause. I have started to find that there are many great people that I have not taken the time to know that are amazing and can truly enrich my world.

Every door that shuts leads to another one that opens... I may have lost my job this year due to my medical condition, yet I have gained a wealth of knowledge that I can not put a price on.

The fundraising have been hit and miss the first time around, but I am thankful for the ability to grow from the experience and to develop relationships that I may not have had the opportunity to know without the fundraising platform.

I can not express my thanks and gratitude to every person who spent their time, talents and energy on helping me on my team Kara challenge. Your priceless to me!

sometimes time flies- sometimes it stands still...

As I see Christmas decorations start going up around town before Halloween, I recognize how quickly the seasons change and how fast the world is turning. We now live in a world that is so eager to monopolize on the income that is made by holidays that we tend to not even enjoy our days when they are hear because we are forced to prepare for the next big thing instead.

When I reflect on this year at some points I say "wow, this year is almost over." and some days I wonder if the time could go any slower. My outlook is always based on how I feel at the time.

2010 has most definately been the longest and shortest years ever.
I vow to slow down and remember to enjoy every day for what it is and not look too far into the future for I may miss some of the beauty of today.

October 26th... How are you?


I wouldn't change the pain for what I've learned...

I just took a second to read my last entry. It was over 6 months ago. Wow- it seems as if I knew that day just how hard this battle was going to be. It has been worse than I imagined. Since that last post, I did not endure 1 major surgery and one life chance... I have endured 8 surgeries, 11 hospital stays totaling 82 days in the hospital since 2010 started,) and dealt with many obstacles along the way.
Let me sum up my last 6 months.
The illeostomy placement/resection was, indeed, done on 1/29 as scheduled. It did not go well and there were multiple complications that Short Bowel caused that were not expected. We didn't know just how little of my intestines I had left. My surgeon who had told me I had minimal time left in 2008, now said we were at the peak "looking over." I thought, "Wow- not good news- I am only 40!"
The fistula remained an issue and I had 2 repairs done to try to repair this issue that was going to inevitably cause me to become septic. No success here.
After 3 months of hell with an overactive ostomy and challenges with infections, I changed surgeons and had to go through a second ostomy placement.
If this was not enough to deal with, my kidneys became involved. I had 2 kidney surgeries as well.
To this point, I had somehow remained as positive as any human could be. I had already lost my position at work (and was the breadwinner of the family), but now my disability had also run out.
June of this year, I truly hit rock bottom. I was no longer physically strong and now not mentally strong either. My kidney stent had became calcified (but we had no knowledge of this) which caused me to stop eating and drop 25 pounds in the matter of a month. On 6/10/10, I left my home to be readmitted in the hospital, and was not sure if I would ever return. I truly thought I was facing death. The hardest part is Dwayne did too.
Once I had another kidney surgery in late June, I began to come back to life. My mentality was good, I began eating again, and started gaining weight back. I still had complications with my blood levels, nutrient absorbtion, strength, etc. but I wanted to be alive again and this was an improvement!
Now here is where I am... Medically- The fistula to date remains repaired. (3 months and counting) I have started losing weight again and weigh in now at 112 pounds which at 5'6'' is not good, I take all liquid or IV meds to help with absorbtion, I still have the illeostomy and the overactive output. I have not had more than 3 hours of straight sleep since Jan, nor do I see this changing in the near future. I have surgery next week to place a permanent port to allow TPN at home (IV feedings) and all nutrients and fluids daily. NEVER SAY NEVER- Boy have I learned this! Financially- well priorities have certainly changed even more now. We are trying to make the most of every day and build GREAT memories while we can. The bills are challenging to say the least. There is nothing we can do to fix this right now. We hope to stay in Lake Dow as long as we can- but if we can't- we will be happy together somewhere else.

I am trying to fit in anything and everything I feel up to even if I push myself to do things. I want to live life to the fullest. BECAUSE I CAN! that is the new motto. "There is no way out but through"- and I am going to live every day as full of life as my body allows me to. Time to change me for the best.


the disclaimer...

why blog- for my sanity... no other reason...

in a very uncertain time in my world, I quickly tell you that although the hopeless optimist I still am, things are pretty tough right now... I will still try so very hard to find the happy things... but please bear with me when I fall below your expectations at times. These next few months are going to be the hardest I have ever faced. I hope to find rainbows and butterflies each day- but reality is that with the rediculous amounts of medication and the lifestyle changes I am facing- I may not always make you feel better about you or leave you inspired by my words. PRobably really not tonight.

What I can promise is honesty. Some probably really want to know my reality- truly- others probably don't and that, too is okay.

My reality hit yesterday in a 2 hour span with a home health nurse. She was eager to inform and so sweet, yet I just wanted her to stop- tell me nothing and not act like life was not about to change. As I found myself breaking down to a complete stranger, I had my first pitty party I have had... let's see... EVER. The hard part is it hasn't stopped.

So with that said, I am allowing myself 2 minutes to get it all out so I can move past it and get my attitude right before Friday.

... I watch life going on around me and realize that this is my fight- no one else's. I try to remember when my priority was what I was going to do Friday night, what I would wear, and all the other trivial things that really do not matter anymore. It's nothing about the fear of the surgery, that is the least of my worries. I have a pain tolerance untouchable by most. It's truly about the emotions. I am just so sad right now- and can't even explain it. Sometimes holding back tears when there is nothing to cry about.

Pretty sure it is the uncertainty... (coupled with high doeses of steroids) The good 'ol control freak that I am- uncertainty is about as comfortable as a wedgie. It's about needing my family and friends like never before, just to be there- just to make me smile, to help me find my smile when I am not searching in the right place for it, or making me find a new way to smile or get through my fears. I feel like an outsider in my world- not sure why... seeing things in a different way-

ok- 2 minutes are up- not even going to re-read this- for it is truly what came out without my editing or wanting things to sound ok- it was raw.

Ok- lied- I do have another expectation of this "reblogging".... I hope to regain one thing. My strength- mental and emotional strength that is. This entry is to give myself a swift kick in the ass like no one else can. I have to face this head on and find my strength to go day by day...

ok- if I EVER do that again- someone needs to kick me harder....



"objects in mirror are closer than they appear" - that's an understatement. As the kids are starting school, they all can't wait for the next break, the end of their senior year, until they get their license, until they are on their own... We have all been there. Tomorrow looks so promising- it HAS to be better than today.

As parents, we tend to do the same thing... we can't wait for them to walk, stop teething, start school, you name it. Those milestones seem to allow us something to look forward to every day.

So maybe this is healthy, who really knows. It may drive us to keep on keeping on everyday, or drive us to miss the most beautiful times of our lives in the todays that we are missing. We may plan so hard on those "what will bes" that we take for granted those days that we are living in.

I have listened to my husband as he is with families of the dying, or someone who is close to their last breath. These people never wish they had more time to work, or do chores, or extend their education. In those last moments- they always want more time to enjoy their family and friends, travel, and simply enjoy the days they were given.

“We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.”

Today is full of beauty. Even in the hardest days- there are so many things that should give us joy. Tomorrow may or may not come- no one knows-

What a better world it would be today for us all if we deleted words like "Someday..." and "One Day...;" All I know is that if it's worth seeing, listening to or doing, I want to see, listen to or do it now...."Time is a valuable thing; watch it fly by as the pendulum swings."


these are a few of my favorite things...

well- it's my list... all over the place- but that's me!

no particular order- a few of my favorite things.....

any cherry candy- especially ring pops

the smell of the air after a nice rain

birds chirping early in the morning

an ice cold coke

a powerful thunderstorm
the word Serendipity

big fluffy clouds

orange Popsicles- comfort treat


Hilton Head Island

laughing until I cry

all music- music makes anything better- (it moves me)

my husband's crooked grin when he is up to something

my daughter's smile

my son's unexpected text messages

roller coasters

the sound of crashing waves

the smell of a baby's head after a bath

bubble wrap


the smell of Christmas- (pine in Nov-Dec)

a tough one...

"I beg your pardon... I never promised you a rose garden..."- I wonder if God sings this? He should- I know I would if I were him and humans felt they deserved a pity party when the rough days surface...

In a nutshell... Step one to the return to normal every day life... coming off the steroids, which anyone who has ever been on high doses knows what this does to your emotions... yuk! Been on a steady dose since 6/3 and the weaning off- oh, so fun. You never know if I want to cry on your shoulder or punch you in the face! It's nothing personal- really! I know when I am acting unbearable- luckily my close friends and my family know the deal- and seem to handle me oh so appropriately... to that ever so special person that just lets me ramble on and on... like today when I needed to- you are always there right on time. Thank you!

Even on days like these, when I feel down and really unsure of what tomorrow will hold, I find myself in awe of other's strength. Just today at the store, I watched a man with arm braces and struggling to walk proudly work his way through the store, shopping for himself even when it is obviously difficult, and as others approached to ask if he needed help, I found myself thinking, "no! Don't! he WANTS to do this on his own!" I can tell. I know when someone sick or hurting wants help and when they want to do it just BECAUSE THEY CAN. He was the latter of these 2. I knew it. Others didn't. Instead I gave him a sincere smile and asked about the weather, as I would anyone else who was in line with me. His returned smile told me all he didn't say- "thanks for treating me like everyone else."

He inspired me tonight. He displayed strength. LIVE INSPIRED. Yes- it is truly in line with the legacy I have been working on for a month or so. Just when I was letting my energies go toward the negative, God through someone my way to get my attention. It worked. Back o track, though I know it isn't the easy path...

Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

"you can turn off the sun, but I'm still gonna shine..."


my... how priorities change...

Boy, when life throws you a curve ball that is life changing, it is amazing how priorities change.

We have never been wealthy or never NOT had to worry about finances... seemed to always be in the same place no matter what our income was... we always lived to our means. WE have no extravagant toys, pastimes, or habits and although we have not saved as we should have- we have always been comfortable.

I have held executive management positions in multiple industries and have made really good money, always proud of what I did and the ability to be a provider for the family. My husband does well for a paramedic/firefighter due to tenure and an amazing work ethic that spins him into always having a second career, and for many years even a second full time job.

There have always been sacrifices on both our parts- Him by working 48 hr shifts straight with 24 hrs off to recoup, me... well by settling on a career path that has never fulfilled me or made me feel like I make a difference in the big picture of life. I envy his career every day. He makes a difference. A REAL difference!

a bit of history... 2008 reality... a nice home in a nice neighborhood- (honestly more than we need,) drive average cars- eat out far too much as we get caught up in the rat race called life, and have all we need, even though we do not spend on those things we WANT simply because there is not enough money to go around.

take 2- the news... major health issue has worsened, and info that an expiration date to come... wow- a punch in the gut. 4 months out of work in 2009 so far. Time to re-evaluate.

We looked back to the happiest memories in our lives and it is funny... one was when we lived in a duplex in Macon GA, (1000 sq feet and up to a family of 4) made 40,000.00 COMBINED annually, Skye was not here yet, and Jordan was 3. We spent Saturdays on the back patio in a hard $10.00 baby pool- YES, all 3 of us... me, Dwayne AND Jordan. Good times. No. GREAT times.

This brought a keen realization that happy is as happy does- NOT what happy owns, where happy lives, or what happy does for a living... time to simplify.

Ch-ch-ch-changes. Time to establish better priorities, and find a way to enjoy and add beauty to simply being human.

Our kids are amazing! Non-materialistic, MORE than understanding, and unbelievably resilient. They have always been fearless when it comes to change. This is part of what make us who we are. In this time- we could not ask for better qualities as we started discussing the present situation with them.

We all agreed... We needed to find the new normal.

Live simple- live inspired- and live every day to its fullest. Simple as that. okay... mindset is right... now time to take action!

Dwayne and I drove around the county today and tried to decide what kind of home change would be acceptable for our family in this time of change... amazingly- we realized that when that curve ball was thrown our way- we would have sold everything we owned and move into a shoebox if we could all be healthy and happy.

We can do this! Together we are an amazing force of strength, resilience and bravery.
We don't have all the answers, but I do know one thing. It's a start.

Time to put all pride aside- none of that matters anymore. All that matters is to find our personal freedom and start living the life we imagine. Time to go out on a limb- who knows... if it breaks- we just may realize that we could fly all along. It is time to design a life that we can love living every day together as long as God grants us the time.

and you know what? We ALL have an expiration date- sometimes we know it is coming- sometimes there is no warning. Who knows which is better...

If today was your last day... would you do what you did today? If you were given a year to live- what changes would you make? Would your priorities be the same as they are right now?

I know we still have some work to do!

all in all- a quote said it best..."life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." May I have this dance?

"When you come close to selling out... Reconsider. Give the heavens above More than just a passing glance... And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance I hope you dance."


leave your mark- everywhere you go

every day we have the opportunity to impact others lives in either a positive or negative way. It may be through a jesture, quick temper, judgement, slip of the tongue, or a smile. No one is perfect- we all react in ways we wish we didn't from time to time.

As I vow to slow down my reactions and think before I act or speak- I hope to not negatively impact others going forward in any way.

Why is it we are so kind to strangers, but the ones we love the most we are most impatient with? I read an email forward recently that said when a stranger gets in our way, we say, "excuse me."... but if our kid gets under our feet- the response is usually not as kind. Hmmm... something to think about indeed.

In every day we can all leave our footprint. Every interaction or reaction. Why not make it a positive one...

What I hope will be my footprint... Smiling through life's challenges... Even when it is hard.

What could possibly be better to be known for than a smile.
THERE'S a success.

"It's the time, you must keep on trying. Smile... what's the use of crying... you'll find that life is still worthwhile- if you just SMILE."

reflections of the way life used to be...

okay- by the title, you can probably tell that music not only inspires me... it drives me. No matter what is going on in life, there is always a song lyric to make me see things a different way. So you will probably recognize many things in my blogs from songs you know. (just as my statuses on Facebook.)

Everyone has a story...

Ever ask yourself...how did we get here? When we dream as a child of where we will be when we grow up, how many of us really end up there. VERY FEW. Actually with that said, if we take the time to recognize the beautiful blessings around us, we are probably far better off. It's all about those unanswered prayers. Truly believe they are one of God's greatest blessings...

Nothing that happens is by accident. We are right where we are suppose to be as we create our history day by day.

There are highs and there are lows- no matter who you are, where you live, or what you own... without the lows- the highs mean nothing. Ironically enough, when we face the hard times we seem to appreciate everything good so much more.

Well known as a control freak, I have always liked to plan out every minute of every day and plan ahead... In the last 8 months we have faced the tough reality that we are not promised a "some day" or a "future" or even a "tomorrow." Yes, life truly does happen while we are making plans. It also seems to wake us up when we least expect it or begin taking things for granted. We learned overnight last December that there are many situations that we can not control, change, or quite frankly do anything about at all. A bad prognosis to a chronic health condition is one of them.

I had a choice to make... accept it and face it head on and begin living everyday to the fullest as long as my body would allow it, or curl up and have a pity party. I choice door number 1.

I feel I was given this life because I can handle what is thrown my way. That does not mean it is easy, or everything is fun... by all means it's not. There are many days I put on a fake smile and pretend I feel great just so I don't miss the life that is going on around me. This is my way of coping. It works for me...


"Some of God's greatest gifts are all too often unanswered prayers."

the start of it all...

To start it all, I truly feel that life is not planned out for us. We write our life story every day by the choices we make and the chances we take. This blog will be about life- everyday life... what has led to this chapter in my life- today as it is... and where I go from here. Hopefully it can and will be inspiring to at least one person.

I have been accused of being overly optimistic or seeing the glass as half full in a time when all indicators determine it should appear half empty. All I can say is it helps keep me in a better place mentally, so it seems to work. Not to say that there are not hard times. Gosh knows we have seen our fair share... but I truly do believe the 'ol cliche.. "life is 10% what happens and 90% how we respond." The reaction defines the outcome.

Webster defines life in many ways...

1- The physical, mental, and spiritual experiences that constitute existence...
2- The interval of time between birth and death...

with both of these in mind- I have to believe we determine the outcome for the most part. Maybe not how we would choose it, or how we would have it in a perfect world... but we shape our world with every action and every interaction.

So how do you know if your life is successful? It certainly is not about how much money you make, or how beautiful you are, or having 2.5 kids and a picket fence... We all define success in our own way. Here is mine...

A successful, happy life is when the good times outweigh the bad times. We will all have storms to face and mountains to climb... It's all about how we choose to face these obstacles and challenges.

No matter what you are facing... always know that someone else has it worse than you, and there is always another story to make your problems look minimal.

Every life is a good life. Enjoy it every day.