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

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Giving Thanks 2013

Today in the United States we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving, begun in 1621 at Plimouth Plantation. The Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with their Native American friends, the Wampanoags, for three joyous days.

In addition to the traditional blessings, I am especially thankful for these three:

DSCN7956My honey is in complete remission from prostate cancer, his blood counts back to normal for a man his age. He hardly broke stride this past year, and I pray his good health and attitude continues.

My readers, followers, and friends through social media are a treasure I could never have anticipated when I began this journey toward publishing three-and-a-half years ago. I have learned from you, laughed and cried with you, but most of all, have welcomed into my heart your wonderful friendships from around the world. Thank you all. You are dear to me. I wish I had endless time to respond to every post, Facebook Update, and Tweet I read of yours. Please know how important you are to me and how your being there has impacted my life. I only hope I have brightened your life half as much as you have brightened mine!

Row your little boat. You'll get there!

Row your little boat. You’ll get there!

Finally, thanks to all of you who encourage me to keep writing, to keep querying. I recently received an offer of contract from Entangled Publishing to make my romantic suspense/magical novel part of their Ignite line of ebooks. I promise to share all the incredible details as soon as I can!

Hugging Couple outside Key West Museum

Hugging Couple outside Key West Museum

In the meantime, I appreciate my family’s support as I clickety-click on the keyboard of my laptop, gaze into space while I imagine instead of clean, and work out story elements at the dinner table, on car rides, and–okay–pretty much everywhere they will allow. I realize how lucky I am they believe in me and my dreams.

And for you all, a big virtual hug.

Enjoy the moments!

Key West Sunset 2013

Key West Sunset 2013

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.

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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!

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• 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.

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Beautiful Day

Are you as excited as I am to welcome Summer’s little sister, Spring, to your hometown? The grass is greener, the flowers more colorful, and the days longer and sunnier. Enjoy the Moment, and enjoy the season, with this little gift I created just for you–filled with flowers and feathered friends.

 

What’s a sure sign it’s spring in your part of the world?

Our Experience with Prostate Cancer

Courtesy of ClkerAt forty-eight, my husband appears the picture of health. He jogs an average of ten miles a week, lifts weights, eats healthy, and has an incredible amount of energy.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Six years ago, my superman spouse was diagnosed with prostate cancer. To say we were shocked would be an understatement. One day we’re planning our next getaway to Key West and the next we’re fighting for his life. We had assumed this was an older man’s disease.

We researched all the treatments, including a wait-and-see approach that made us both leery. He elected to have the cancerous organ removed via nerve-sparing robotic radical prostatectomy. As I’d expected, he tolerated the procedure very well with minimal side effects. His greatest issues physically were regaining urinary control (That concern cleared up within months.) and ED (You’ve seen the commercials. There are pills for that.). The post-surgery test results all pointed to a healthy future. He just needed to follow up with yearly PSA tests in the rare case stray cancer cells returned to cause trouble.

We viewed this experience as a bump in the road.

Yes, it changed us, but mostly for the better. Life is even more precious, our enjoyment of the little things greater. If you’re curious about intimacy after such surgery, from my perspective it’s been better too. Different in some ways, but still incredible.

Life has been good.  

Trouble arrived this past October, with an annual blood test showing my husband’s PSA count had risen. Our belief is that cancer cells must have escaped during the initial biopsy, lying dormant for years in the lower pelvis before growing again. Our earlier experience with this cancer taught us it’s unpredictable, but with many treatment options and many possible quality-of-life side effects. As you may know from your experiences with cancer, the days after diagnosis are the most frightening. We cried, we worried, and we waited for test results, including a full-body bone scan, there being a possibility of the cancer traveling into the bones. Apparently, that’s where bored prostate cancers like to migrate. There’s not yet a cure for that kind of prostate cancer, it’s painful, and the treatments compromise a person’s quality-of-life. The results were negative.

We could breathe again.

After more research, my husband chose an aggressive, two-pronged attack of his disease. He is undergoing six months of hormone therapy, which temporarily halts his testosterone production and in turn starves the cancer cells. Testosterone levels is a factor why a younger man’s battle with prostate cancer can be more challenging than that of an older man. In addition, my honey is being treated with radiation, fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, for thirty-five sessions, with the ultimate goal of eradicating those weakened, stunned cells. There are possible side effects to radiation, of course, including fatigue and interference with urinary and bowel function. These concerns are more likely to occur late in treatment and up to months afterward as the body heals.

What’s the prognosis?

Our goal is a complete cure, a miracle if you will, and the reason we’ve willingly sacrificed six months of physical intimacy and our family’s routine. The prognosis from the doctors is that his cancer is very treatable and manageable–whatever that means.

“Life is all about the experiences.”

Shortly after we learned the cancer had returned, my husband shared the above quote and added that this must his obstacle to live with or overcome. He didn’t exhibit self-pity. When he learned that part of his treatment would chemically castrate him for a half-year, steal his muscle mass and strength for up to eighteen months or more, and add hot and cold flashes and mood swings to his daily reality, he didn’t blink twice. I haven’t once heard him complain about being tired (although I know he must be). To me, this man epitomizes the saying, “No Excuses.”

Lessons I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. We are very blessed. My husband’s disease is treatable, with the potential for success. Many people diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses aren’t as fortunate. I pray for them to receive grace and dignity through their trials.
  2. Intimacy is the love shared between souls. The physical act can be an extension of that emotion, but it doesn’t define it.
  3. Don’t wait! Take a risk! I’ve been writing seriously just shy of three years. I’m as of yet unpublished, part of the reason is I haven’t risked putting my work out there enough. At my husband’s urging (and my writer friends), I’m preparing to submit my romantic suspence short novel to three ebook publishers next month.
  4. Love the people in your life. I always knew this, but this health scare has reinforced my commitment to nurturing relationships despite my shy nature.

Why share this now?

Months ago, my husband asked that I bring awareness to prostate cancer and to encourage men his age and younger to be as proactive about their health as many older men are by getting annual physical exams.

I’m a romance writer. Cancer ain’t sexy. This blog is about forgetting your worries. Life-threatening illnesses are one of the heavier topics a writer can broach. I’ve tiptoed around the subject, but I struggled divulging such private, sad information to the world.  Lately though, I haven’t been able to concentrate when writing my weekly blog post. How can I lose myself for hours a day writing and revising novels, but be stumped by a 500-word article? That’s when I realized I was holding back from you, avoiding my secret pain, because then that would make it real. No going back.

Today I take a risk (Lesson #3) and share with you the silent battle my family has fought for the past six months. It’s part of us now. We’ve adjusted. We are doing well, dealing with what comes and enjoying each day. We look forward to the future. We’ve booked our family vacation with the kids for the summer, I’m attending the RWA convention in Atlanta in July, and my husband and I are headed back to Key West in October. Life goes on, and for that I’m very thankful.

I’m hopeful this story encourages you to make the most of each moment with your loved ones. If you don’t get annual physicals, please start. Maybe this post really does fit this blog’s theme. I look forward to bringing you a Margarita Moment on Monday.

xoxo

Jolyse

Just Keep Swimming

Disney’s cartoon movie, Finding Nemo, came out in 2003 and fans have been happily quoting from it ever since. Some of the flick’s more memorable lines are:

  •  I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy.
  •  He touched the butt.
  • Hey. You guys made me ink.
  • I didn’t come this far to be breakfast.
  • Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.
  • I’m H2O intolerant.
  • Just keep swimming.

When the northeastern United States was hit by Snowstorm Nemo this past Friday, the last quote seemed especially fitting to many. Life often gives us no choice other than to plod forward through the tough times. Builds character, right?

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Two of our vehicles, wipers up.

Jolyse Barnett PhotographyI grew up in the Adirondacks, so I’m not frightened by a little snow, or even a lot, but I have to admit the commute home in white-out conditions ranked as one of my more harrowing experiences as a driver. Once home, howevever, I was able to enjoy nature’s beauty. Old Man Winter and Jack Frost had painted everything white.

My favorite image, though, was the sight of my neighbor’s flags flying proudly.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

After the Storm

After the Storm

Don’t let the storms in life get you down, there are always blessings and signs of hope ahead. Hang in there! Spring is around the corner, and you will enjoy it even more for having weathered the difficult days.

How has your winter been? If you live in the north, what are you looking forward to most when warm weather returns?

What’s your favorite Finding Nemo line, and why?

If These Shoes Could Talk

I click on the closet light and yank a sweater off the shelf to pull it over my head. That makes three layers. I lean down to slide my hand along the chilly wood floor, pushing aside wool skirts and cordoroy slacks as I search for my fuzzy slippers. No luck. I do find a colony of dust bunnies and a pair of sandals, however. The shoes must have accidentally been left behind in the Columbus Day transition.

Our Seaplane Adventure - That cute flip-flop and his twin followed us everywhere

Our Seaplane Adventure – That cute flip-flop and his twin followed us everywhere

I glance down at the girly-girl heels in my hands. I miss summer. I bet they do, too. If my sandals could talk, what would they say about our years together? I sit on my bed, hugging them close as ideas float through my head.

We biked through Old Town, Key West and sunned ourselves at South Beach. The sand was quite hot!

We treated ourselves to pedicures. Our favorite color was Powerful Pink, a stunning combination with my metallic blue leather, if I do say so myself.

We attended a July wedding and my comfy soles allowed you to keep up with your Dad and son on the dance floor.

We explored Jefferson Fort at Dry Tortugas National Park and climbed to the top for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic. You appreciated my sturdy heels.

One of many incredible views at Fort Jefferson

One of many incredible views at Fort Jefferson

We splashed through rain puddles (and we didn’t complain) while you played at Universal Islands of Adventure with the family.

We lounged in the backyard with girl friends and you drank strawberry margaritas and listened to island music. Thank you for being careful and not spilling sticky drinks on me.

The margarita reference reminds me of the task I still have to finish, the one I was in the middle of when I became too cold in my den to concentrate. I shake my head and laugh. Yes, I’m caught, guilty as charged–Number One Procrastinator. I have a post to write, and here I am, reminiscing about summer with inanimate objects. I shiver under my three layers of tops. Darn, it’s cold in here. Maybe I’ll grab a blanket out of the linen closet on my way downstairs, make a cup of hot chocolate, and sit by the fireplace while I brainstorm more ideas.

I set my pretty blue flowered sandals on the tippy-top closet shelf. That way they won’t have to fight off the dust bunnies while they wait for summer to return.

If an item of yours could talk, what would it say?

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