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The Anti-Bucket List


haitian hot chocolate and the anti bucket list by quiara pinchina
Haitian Hot Chocolate - full of spices and made with fresh cocoa balls


Author Kate Bowler, who has lived in a lot of uncertianty since her cancer diagnosis in 2015, does not approve of bucket lists. When she thought she was dying in 3 months and people asked what she wanted to do before she died, she didn't make one. Now, over 5 years later, she still speaks against them.


She's not against having amazing experiences, but she thinks that endlessly pursuing the extraordinary can make us feel like we can be enough and have enough. That really anything is possible with enough money and resources. That's what we're searching for - the feeling of arrival. The feeling of my life is enough. I'm really living right now.


God didn't make us to be "enough." And sometimes we're better off just fully embracing our imperfect humanity, and just being grateful for the unexpected moments that make us feel alive and connected with others.


Last week on evening I wrote an "anti-bucket list" - moments that #1 - had already happened, and #2 - had just enough of an imperfect, bizarre twist, or were a bit too ordinary to ever make someone's top 10 list, or even make a good photo op.


Here's a shortened version of my Anti-Bucket List:

  1. Get dumped off a horse in the middle of the woods - mercilessly, in front of cruel friends that just laugh - because horse decided that now was the time to roll in a mud puddle.

  2. Have company for night with no money whatsoever in the house. Send your husband to buy a roll of salami on credit at the store next door to finish supper preparations. Sit and talk about life with your guests on the porch until way too late.

  3. Have your students over to your house for a hot dog roast. Forget to plan for basic things like chairs and silverware. Drag every movable chair out of the house into the half-muddy yard, but pretend everything is normal because maybe they are all 13 so won't notice bad planning?

  4. Perform on a horse drill team wearing a bright yellow dress while riding the horse that has tried to kick and bite team members at every practice for the last 3 wks.

  5. Wander thru a fancy art gallery making comments about things you no nothing about... Because it's free.

  6. Spend the morning before your wedding soaking your feet in ice water with your bridesmaid and your mom because they're swollen from tropical heat

  7. Go to a fancy restaurant for hamburgers when your vehicle is out of gas and actually the whole city is out of gas. Also it's after dark and there are gangsters everywhere. After eating, realize you don't have quite enough money to even pay the bill.

  8. Get up in the middle of the night for a new year's service where the minister's wife shares her testimony of the past year in a flat billed cap turned backwards. Eat pumpkin soup for breakfast, cooked over a charcoal rechon, with all your fellow 2021 survivors.

  9. Ride in an old school bus for 12 hours with about 60 people to meet the man you want to marry at a church conference. Snatch tiny, crazy moments with him for three days - including jumping rope at dusk.

  10. Sit by a river and talk about life with a good friend. Then have a random passerby strip to his shorts and give you his clothes and a bar of soap to wash them with

  11. Ride horse in the woods all day. End barefoot and chigger bit with chili in a cast iron pot and stick bread - pancake mix wrapped around a stick, roasted in the fire, and covered with strawberry jam.

  12. Go skinny dipping at a church conference - well after dark - one of the few white girls wishing their skin didn't glow in the dark

Yesterday ended up being a perfect example of one of those anti-bucket list days. Zèzè woke up feeling very allergic, and a look outside reminded me of March in Louisiana – cool with a damp breeze and no sign of blue skies or sunshine. He decided to stay home from church where he could sneeze in peace and not have to lead any songs.


I made hot chocolate, the Haitian kind, boiled with cinnamon sticks and anise stars, a can of evaporated milk, sugar, and almond extract glugged in at the last. And we drank it by the kitchen table out of Fiestaware mugs while I explained to him that I grew up in a state where the main industry was in fact, turning pine trees to toilet paper. A little hard to believe.


Then we listened to my friend’s wedding – the last of my childhood besties to leave Deridder. I felt a little homesick and Zèzè kept asking me if that preacher was crying. Whites at weddings are a bit hard to understand sometimes. But it felt so perfect too, to be snuggled up in bed with our heads almost touching the phone so that we could hear. And the singing was beautiful, and I thought about crying too but I didn’t.


And then we about jumped out of the bed in fright when someone opened the door without even knocking. Navelie (sister-in-law) was here with bags of groceries to make lasagna for Etzer’s (brother-in-law's) birthday party. I thought Etzer was sick and not having a birthday party, and Navelie thought I knew about the party, and we had a hard time even getting a hold of mom-in-law to figure out what the plan actually was.


We started the lasagna process at 1 P.M., and at 4:30 we finally arrived at the party with the heaviest, fullest pan of lasagna ever plus a baby bread loaf pan, and a platter of too-crispy oatmeal cookies because there wasn’t time to make a cake. The food was delicious, though I think the real party probably took place after church. We saw a crowd of guys headed that way, so it probably got a bit more exciting soon after.


Church was solo and testimony, or volunteer service. It lasted for almost 2 hours, but there was still names on the list waiting for a chance to speak their heart. Sometimes Haitian solo and testimony can almost feel like a revival sharing meeting in North America. We hear whose wife is pregnant, who almost had a motorcycle accident last week, who has been having unexplained headaches, and how God answered a prayer for someone’s sick child.


I admire the fact that so many Haitians are not afraid to just get up with their

hymnal and sing a solo. Some call up their wives or families to help them sing, or the youth, or all the married brethren. But it is hardly ever practiced beforehand, nor do they hurriedly discuss in a whisper who will sing which voice. They just sing. And the congregation hums along, or someone will help get them going again if they stumble around for the tune.


We have a young man – well he’s Zèzè’s age actually – that’s well, really tired of living alone. He wants to get married. He had the best testimony of all last night. After stammering around and half-laughing, he finally just grinned and said, “I know what you are all waiting to see from me. And I know if you will help me pray, it can happen even faster!”


He led a song then, a Haitian-written song that talks about Jesus, our Good Shepherd. The children all love it and the 2 little girls behind me were singing so loud:

Jesus the Good Shepherd, watching over us.

He gives us the promise, he will never sleep.

Because of this in the house of the Shepherd, all the sheep have resting hearts

Yes - they all rest -

In the grace of God.


Etzer had the last testimony – the leader bumped up his name on the list since it was his birthday. He chose the closing song, “I have someone to thank, for every beautiful day!”


Thank God for the many beautiful days. Too ordinary and imperfect to ever make a bucket list, but so full of things to make us feel that our life actually is "enough."


I’m sharing Sallie’s hot chocolate recipe from the Café au Lait Cookbook, in case you have a cloudy morning and need a hot drink. And if reading this made you remember a perfectly-imperfect “anti-bucket list” day or moment, you should tell me about it!


Haitian Hot Chocolate


1/4 c cocoa or grated raw chocolate

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 anise stars

Pinch salt

2 c water


Boil together for a few minutes, then add:


1 can evaporated milk

1/3 c sugar

Splash vanilla or almond extract


Pour through a fine mesh strainer, and enjoy with a piece of bread!


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