Awkward Moment, my Valentine?

Jolyse Barnett PhotographyFebruary fourteenth, the holiday of love, anticipated by some, ridiculed by others. In America, heart displays are featured in the malls and in jewelry commercials with cuddly teddy bears and rose bouquets.

My honey and I tend to celebrate low-key. Winter is a hectic time at work and school is in session. We may watch a movie, go to dinner, or exchange cards. One year was particularly memorable (See LOVE IS IN THE AIR post. My honey still gets kudos from my friends and me for his unique and lasting gift.)

People often remark that we should be as generous and giving like we are on December 25th. I agree and feel the same way about Valentine’s Day. Shouldn’t we appreciate our loved ones every day?

Exhausting, you say? Unreasonable? Perhaps, but as a gal still crazy in love after more years than I could have ever imagined, I believe it’s worth the effort. What are the keys to forever love? I don’t know for certain. Marrying our best friend, learning to laugh at ourselves, growing close in good times, and holding each other closer during bad, never forgetting why we fell in love…that has worked for us.

February Movie?

Rylie and I recently saw THAT AWKWARD MOMENT with Zac Efron and cast. We liked it- a lot. I’m a huge fan of romantic comedies as well as witty, off-beat (sometimes raunchy) dialogue/humor. This wasn’t your typical romantic comedy. It focused on three guys and their relationship issues. Still, I was satisfied with how their characters evolved, and I loved, loved the ending. I really like when a story comes full circle and ties together with a beautiful, metaphorical red ribbon.

So…you can imagine my surprise when I saw all the poor reviews for this movie. I’m curious. Have you seen THAT AWKWARD MOMENT? Did you hate it and regret spending money on it, or did you enjoy it for the elements that made you laugh out loud and the dark moment that left you with a tear in your eye and a lump in the throat?

Whatever your relationship status, Margarita Moments wishes you a wonderful Valentine’s Day.   xoxo  Jolyse

Live Your Life Out Loud

Stormy weather

Stormy weather

This past week my family received a phone call, the kind that causes you to feel as if the rug of your life is being pulled out from under you. My husband’s fifty-year-old cousin had collapsed on the playground while outside with his students at their elementary school. At first the children thought their teacher was being silly, but they soon realized he was in serious trouble. They were right. He had suffered sudden cardiac arrest. Luckily, he was resuscitated by the school nurse and survived the ambulance ride to the local trauma center.


Photo by Natasha Hanova (WANA Commons)

The time from our family member’s collapse to revival is estimated at three to four minutes. The specialists have lowered his body temperature in an effort to allow the brain cells to recuperate from the lack of oxygen, and over the next twenty-four hours, they will raise his temperature one degree an hour until it reaches 98.6. The outlook is uncertain (but I dare say hopeful!). According to statistics, some people don’t come back from this kind of situation, at least not without neurological impairments. His doctors say they will know more about our loved one’s prognosis by Tuesday. Until then, we wait, we hope, and most of all, we pray.

As you may remember from an earlier post, my honey recently completed an intense six-month treatment for recurrent prostate cancer. He has his first post-treatment blood test in a few weeks. We feel blessed to have reached this point, and we are very optimistic about his potential for a complete cure. But news like our recent phone call reinforces my belief:  Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Good or bad. So what are you waiting for?

Live your life out loud!


• Dance or laugh or sing–at least once a day. Who cares what others think?
• Define your success by your standards, no one else’s, and lead your life with your heart.
• Get away to somewhere you’ve always dreamed of visiting, or return to a place you love.
• Contact a friend or family member to catch up with their news and share yours.
• Watch the sun rise at least once a season. Hear and feel the nature surround you.
• Overcome a fear. (I recently overcame my fear of small planes.)
• Tackle a project or finish one you’ve begun.
• Be yourself! Remember, “normal” is highly overrated. Own your own opinions and stand by your word.
• Celebrate life, whether it’s with a glass of wine, chocolate, a run, or whatever makes you connect with yourself and your loved ones, allowing you to step back from the daily grind.

Do you live your life out loud? Share some ways you live it to the fullest.


What Was I Thinking?

“Let’s go for it!” I pedaled faster on Flagler Avenue, intent on gliding our Conch Cruisers to Key West’s east end. I glanced up at the sparkling night sky. We could never see the stars from where we live on Long Island.

“It’s too far.” My husband’s voice held humor.

I knew what he was thinking. I was rarely the competitive one in the family. “C’mon. The weather’s beautiful.” We’d had an incredible day swimming at South Beach and exploring the stores on Upper Duval. After a lazy dinner at Historic Seaport we’d strolled back to Duval, enjoying the random margarita and live entertainment. I should’ve been tired, but I wasn’t. Maybe my energy had something to do with how young and free I felt whenever we rode bikes. “I don’t want our night to end.”

“If you say so, but it’s at least three miles if not more.” He pedaled next to me, the intermittent street lights illuminating his doubtful expression.

I ignored his warning. “Let’s go. It’ll be fun.”

We raced, the flower-scented breeze tickling my face and arms and legs. This was paradise. I would never leave if it weren’t for our two kids back home. I missed them as much as I relished the time away with my man.

After a half-mile or so we settled in for the ride. The pavement whirred beneath our Cruisers’ tires, punctuated by the occasional car zooming past. The brightly lit stores gave way to lone streetlights. I let my mind go blank as we rolled along toward our goal.

Wisps of fog danced across our path. My leg muscles tired. The euphoria of flying through the night wore off, and I began to mull over the equally long trek back to the bed & breakfast. I glanced over at my honey. “Hey.”

He turned and smiled at me, a knowing look in his eyes.

I shrugged, unwilling to admit I’d been overzealous.

He slowed his bike. “Enough adventure for one night?”

“Yeah.”I slowed my bike and stopped with him at the next intersection. The east end of the island was still nowhere to be seen. “I thought it was closer.”

“Told you.”

Two cars flew by.

“I know.” I coasted across the street after him and stopped, facing west once more.

He peered at a dark lane perpendicular to the main road and half-joked. “Wanna see gulfside?”

I smiled and shook my head. “It’s getting late.” I slipped my cell phone out of my shorts pocket. “It’s almost two.” I covered a yawn. “Besides, look at all that fog. It’s coming in like waves. We’ll get lost.”

He whispered. “You can never get lost on an island.”

I laughed. That’s what he’d told me when we’d first moved to Long Island over two decades ago, convincing this country girl I’d acclimate to suburban life. I had. He had a way of making me feel safe, allowing me to take risks. Maybe that’s why I’d suggested traversing the island. He made me feel like I could do anything with him by my side. Even if it meant admitting I’d been wrong. Or I wanted to turn back. There was no shame. I had nothing to prove.

I slipped my phone back into my pocket and touched his arm. “I love you.”

“You better. You married me.”

We kissed, right there on the corner of Flagler and some desolate gulf side road outside Old Town, long past our usual bedtime. What were we thinking?

Have you ever done something completely out-of-character or completely spur-of-the-moment you wondered what made you do it?

They Just Don’t Get It

I have a friend who is a self-proclaimed Shoe Whore, owning over ninety pairs of shoes. She loves the feel of trying on a new pair, the excitement of wearing them for the first time, and seeing them all lined up in her closet. Her husband just rolls his eyes when she talks about Marshall’s footwear selection.

He just doesn’t get it.

PIC_0049My daughter is a Harry Potter fanatic. She has read each book at least fifteen times, owns much of the merchandise, including the collectible trading cards, board games, and collectible pins. Of course, she has dressed as Harry, Hermione, and Ginny on multiple Halloweens. She played Quidditch in college, was a guest on a’s podcast this past fall, and is an avid HP fan fiction reader and writer. When her father threw out her collectible popcorn bucket from the first movie a few years ago, he couldn’t understand why she was so upset.

He just doesn’t get it.

DSCN3054I love Key West. I’ve vacationed there eight memorable times in the past decade, have read dozens of fiction and non-fiction books about the island, seek out #keywest tweeps and travel bloggers, and listen to “Dancing in My Flip Flops” music on Pandora while writing Margarita Moments posts and a romantic suspense set in Old Town. Many people agree with my obsession for the southernmost city, while others I talk to who haven’t yet traveled there express curiosity. No one had ever struck me as not “getting” Key West.

Until yesterday.

2012-07-19 14.22.05As part of my Sunday morning routine, I was surfing the net for interesting articles and photos about the Florida Keys when I came across an editorial in a travel and sports magazine. Excited to read another person’s perspective on my home-away-from-home, I dove right in. After the first paragraph, I was stunned. By the end of the page, I was horrified. In spite of the article’s title inferring the writer knew the key to Key West, I was left with the feeling…she just doesn’t get it.

First, the woman wrote that she stepped onto Duval Street and felt “morally superior” to practically everyone else there, including the locals. Only when she realized she could drink alcohol on the street did she say she grasped Old Town’s appeal:  Being able to do things she can’t do in her hometown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, so the writer has a point about the feeling of freedom one may get in Key West. It is a laid-back, casual island. But to think the island I dream about, the island I can’t wait to return to again and again, and the place I someday hope to reside (even if only in winter) is merely special because it’s a place where people can carry an open container, is nonsense to me. (By the way, Key West has had an open container law since the 80’s. Law enforcement tends to look the other way, as long as people are behaving themselves and carrying a go-cup instead of a glass.)

I was speechless. Then I was angry. When I finally calmed down I thought, “Do I really want a person with that attitude in my tropical paradise?” I reflected some more. Perhaps the person was in Key West during Fantasy Fest or another crazy time (which I’ve yet to experience myself). Maybe she was on a cruise docked at Key West for a half-day and she didn’t have the opportunity to venture beyond the tourist traps on Duval. Whatever the case, I respectfully disagree with the article’s assessment the Conch Republic lacks in elegance, beauty, and charm aside from its architecture, or that the majority of its tourists and locals are loco for wanting to stay at the southernmost key.

But then, that’s just my opinion.

Tell us about your passion, and a time when you realized others just don’t “get it.” How did you react?

REALITY can be rewarding…

espcially if it’s the REALITY blogger award. One of my new cyberspace writer friends, Jill Weatherholt, recently nominated me, and I gratefully accept and thank her.

Seven Facts about Me:

1. I write every day, if at all possible. When I don’t, I become a crankapotamus.

2. I’m a leftie. That’s one reason I got to know my now-husband, a fellow southpaw. He was always lending me his baseball mitt during college for intramurals.

3. I’m a homebody. As much as I love traveling, when we’re at home, I much prefer to be in my cozy den by the fireplace in the winter or poolside in my backyard in the summer than anywhere else in the world.

4. I love skinny jeans, as long as they have spandex in them and I can be comfortable.

5. I am a worrier. But I’m working on that.

6. I’ve been gluten- and dairy-free for one year this month. At times it seems like the worst diet in the world (especially when faced with cheese dishes or homemade bread), but I am healthier than I’ve ever been.

7. I still don’t have a phone connected to email. I know. I’m a relic from the past, but I don’t see the need for one when I have a laptop at home, a desktop at work, and a Kindle Fire with internet. Besides, I’m frugal.

The five lovely bloggers I nominate with the REALITY award:

Until next Monday, may you be busy doing what you love!

Thankful to Be Living in the Moment

Ever have days where you didn’t want to get out of bed, you just wanted to sleep until the bad stuff went away? Ever have days when you thought you couldn’t bear to face the world, put on a brave face, and go through your normal routine? I know you have. Everyone has stuff to deal with that gets them down now and again.

Like you, I don’t sweat the small stuff. Recent personal issues–BIG, BAD stuff–have gotten me down though. Boy, have I sweated it, and I’ve struggled to move forward. Hell, I’ll admit it. I’m still struggling. Thanks to a colleague of mine, though, I have a strategy to navigate the unknowns these coming days and months. (And no, this is one case where a margarita isn’t the answer.)

This friend knew, without me telling her, that I was at my wit’s end. She knew, without me telling her, that I needed someone to talk to, but I didn’t want to share my burden. She insisted we go out to lunch, get away from everything, and talk. Poor thing didn’t know what she was in for, because as soon as we got in her car that afternoon, I spilled. Everything. Then she shared such simple, yet profound advice I knew I’d have to share it with you: Don’t project. These two words gave me hope that I will be the person I need and want to be for my family, and for me.

Now, you may have heard about the importance of not projecting your feelings or problems onto others, but apparently this phrase means something else entirely. It’s more along the lines of Carpe Diem, or Live for Today. If you are a regular reader of Margaria Moments, you know I’m a huge believer in taking time out of your hectic schedule to enjoy a moment for yourself.

Seems so simple, doesn’t it? It is, and it isn’t. When the Big Bad Stuff has you scared out of your mind about your financial security, or a loved one’s health, or your child’s safety, you can easily go down the Path of Negativity. Don’t do it. Don’t go there. Take it one moment, one day at a time. In other words, don’t project. Don’t worry about the what-ifs in your future. I’m famous, or infamous perhaps, for always saying, “Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Enjoy and treasure everyone in your life.” Now, I’m not saying to ignore planning for the future with a sound retirement strategy, or forego researching a medical diagnosis needing treatment, or not ensuring your child has the best caregivers and education available. What I’m saying is plan for the areas of your life you can control, and do your damnedest not to worry about what you can’t.

Live for today. Each day. Be the best person you can be, make the best decisions you can with the knowledge you have, and be present–in your life and that of your loved ones.

Since that lunch conversation, my home life has been more peaceful and joyful than it has in many weeks. I hadn’t realized how much my anxiety was affecting my family, how it took me away from them emotionally. I’m so grateful for the change, and grateful that someone took the time to reach out to me in my time of need. I only hope to be the positive difference for others as this friend was for me.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching romantic comedies. Today I watched, “While You Were Sleeping” for the umpteenth time. I thought you may enjoy this part, where Jack (played by Bill Pullman) demonstrates to Lucy (played by Sandra Bullock) a lesson about body language (It’s the first minute of this ten-minute clip):

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, or it’s been awhile, it’s a great holiday flick to watch with your girlfriends or for an at-home date night. Wishing you a happy holiday season, and hoping you’ll stop by next Monday for a Key West post.

What are you thankful for or how has another person’s kindness changed your outlook on life?

What on Earth Are You Here For?

The following post is adapted from my article, “The Purposeful Writer” published September 2012 in SHORELINES, the Long Island Romance Writers newsletter. Although the original was written for fellow writers, I believe it’s easily adapted to any life pursuit. Let me know what you think!

What On Earth Are You Here For?

By Jolyse Barnett

One of the most influential non-fiction books I’ve read as an adult was The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren. As I began my quest as a new writer, quotes from this bestselling book would pop into my head, and I soon realized many applied to my life as a writer. They easily apply to whatever your passion or life pursuit entails. Here are three of my favorites:

“Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is “T-I-M-E.”

If we are passionate about something, we take the time and effort to learn it. We don’t try to cut corners. Learning your craft well takes time. For writers, that means write, write, and write some more. Read about writing, read a variety of genres, and consider story elements in the various dramatic forms. Accept the ebb and flow of writing. Think about writing, keep a journal, talk to your characters, and people-watch for character and dialogue ideas—whatever inspires creativity.

One of the greatest lessons I learned in my first two years as a serious writer was the importance of thinking like a writer, not a reader. A reader enjoys the well-crafted novel, but the writer understands the purpose of each part of a story, and how they interconnect to convey a particular mood and move the story forward. Time spent writing allows the writer to develop her voice as well.

 “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time? One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, Earth is not heaven!”

People at all stages of their career likely experience setbacks or at least little roadblocks during the learning process. Yet-to-be-published writers like me may fret about getting an agent or selling that first book. Debut authors may worry about sales and getting the contract for their next story. Multi-published authors may be concerned with meeting deadlines, juggling the business aspect of writing, and maintaining their love for the art of writing. Remember, follow your dream career not because it’s easy, but because it’s your passion.

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain.” 

You invest yourself and your time into making your dream a reality, and it’s painful to fail. Your hard work is rejected. This experience may cause some people to give up, hide from judging eyes, and move onto less frustrating, wound-inducing pursuits. When I received my first rejections as a writer, I was very disappointed, but I determined to use that experience to improve my first novel and future work. Learning from your failures in life, and persevering despite failures will lead to ultimate success. I’m not a quitter, and neither are you.

What on Earth are you here for?

Can You Go Home Again?

I’ve escaped the suburbs for a few days, visiting extended family in upstate New York. The car ride to my childhood home is breathtakingly beautiful in sections, including this one:

Adirondack Mountains

Expressways and bridges lead to the Northway, followed by narrow winding roads. A lone blinking street light in the country hamlet just south of our destination signals memories of my grandparents, town Fourth of July celebrations, and trick-or-treating.

Fields Leading to Lake Champlain

Every mile between town and my home is as comfortable as a favorite pair of slippers–having walked and biked that path countless times. I take in the Lake Champlain waters, stone walls lining open fields, and my family’s church.

Home again.

Mom's Plants

I step into the house where my parents raised five children, where they lived, loved, and laughed together until she was taken from us far too soon. Although it’s been over a decade since she’s graced this house in human form, it’s filled with her spirit. Every room in the house reminds me of her, and I’m enveloped in warmth. I miss her so much, but when I’m in this house, it’s almost as if she never left.

Hide and Seek, anyone?

Of course, my childhood home holds a myriad of other memories. My little brother and I used to play inside the living room closet and Mom would warn us about pinched fingers. We’d peek around the stairway corner to spy on adults on Christmas Eve. And how I loved to sit on those stairs, my skinny legs over the edge as I read book after book.

An unlikely reading spot

I’m glad we traveled north this weekend. Sometimes I need to go back in order to move forward again. I love my Long Island home, with its ocean waters, vineyards, and NYC all within a short distance, but I will forever have a soft spot for the Adirondack Mountains, with its evergreens, birch trees, and rugged hillsides. Like my wise brother-in-law has been known to say, “You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl.”

What’s your experience? Can a person really go home again?

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