One Heartbeat at a Time

DSCN5244

 

My Sunshine and I endured a one-hour road trip down winding roads, around mountainsides, past palm trees and street vendors selling mangos and star fruit, guava and passion fruit. All because the only OB on the island of Dominica that had a functioning sonogram machine was in the capital city of Roseau. Except that when we arrived, the machine was down. Five months passed, and aside from the nausea and food aversions, I still wondered if I really was pregnant.

 

When we arrived back in the States, and Hubs came with me to my first appointment with an OB in Michigan, the doctor covered my tummy with a cool gel and then pointed to the screen. “Hear that?”

 

The whooshing sound grew stronger as she moved the device.

 

“Your baby has a lovely heart beat!” she said, and the tears began to flow and when I looked over to hubby, he was tearing up too.

 

This was for real. We were really pregnant, and this baby was on her way. Her heart beating was the song I had longed to hear for all these months, and it was even more amazing and precious than I had dreamed it would be.

 

When our second princess was born, the doctor told us she had a heart murmur and she would very possibly outgrow it. She did.

 

On Monday, December 8, 2014, I had just dropped off my youngest at school when hubby texted for me to please come home. He needed to talk to me. I left my laptop in the car, thinking whatever it was, I could hear him out and then get on with my day and my writing. Barely inside the front door, hubby met me and pulled me into his arms as he barely managed to say the words, “Julie’s son, Mikey.”

 

“What is it? What’s wrong? Is he hurt? Has there been an accident?”

 

But he only said two words, “His heart.”

 

And as we wept in silence before going over to our dear friend’s house, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what none of us could change. Twenty-five year old Michael Gomez, Division One Wrestling hero, State Champion, coach, and up and coming police officer had a heart attack in his sleep, and an entire community hurt deeply for the loss of such a treasure. And for the pain of two parents, two younger brothers, grandparents and all those who were grappling with the devastation.

 

It was a long week as funeral preparations were underway, and during the service, whatever each person heard, no one walked out of there without the sober reminder that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Each day is a gift. Each heart beat.

 

During this particular week, hubby who had been training for the past sixteen months to cycle from Seattle to New York City started a work up on his own heart in search of an explanation to an abnormal stress test he had—one in which he felt little to no discomfort, but the readings clearly showed a lack of blood supply to his heart when his pulse reached 160. But when he stepped off the treadmill, it took fifteen minutes for this to go away and a normal flow to return.

 

One test lead to another and with each step, it seemed that maybe it was just a false positive or maybe the machine was broken. I suggested his generous gift of chest hairs interfered with the readings. His coronaries were clean, and he’d never felt so fit in his whole life. The final test was an MRI on his heart, and the cardiologists and hubby felt pretty certain it would be fine too, and they’d have to somehow dig deeper. But then the MRI Tech called for him to return to get more images.

 

This whole time, I felt at peace. But that afternoon when I got the text that he had to go back in for more pictures, my panic button went off. Why did they need more pictures? What did they see? I needed to talk to someone. Someone I could cry with. So I called my parents. And as I spoke with Mom and Dad, I told them my fears, and they listened, encouraged me, and made me laugh, and called me, Crybaby. When my mom asked me, “Why are you crying?”

 

I said, “I don’t know. I just needed to cry. So I called you.” And she passed the phone back to my dad. He reminded me to trust God and just be patient.

 

The next day after hubby came out of his second MRI, I knew from the look on his face that he knew something. They saw something. And as we sat in the car, he told me that the tech suspected thickening of his septum (the middle passageway in the heart) and the diagnosis was very likely cardiomyopathy.
When he got the official report the next day, hubby met me outside and this was the first time in two weeks of testing that he broke down. We made our way to the kitchen table as he read the report to me and explained the terms to me. He has hypertrophic cardio myopathy, and there’s no way he can cycle across the country. Moreover, he can’t really do anything right now to make his heart work too hard while we wait it out and let his muscles inside his heart hopefully return to a healthier thickness.

 

Telling the girls wasn’t easy, but our second princess offered to wake up twenty minutes early so he and she could walk to school together. J Walking is safe for hubby to do. And in the midst of tears around the dinner table, my fifteen-year old nephew who was visiting for Christmas Googles something on his iPod and says, “I know this is really sad news, but I want to encourage you.” And he proceeded to share verses from the Bible on God’s grace and hope and love for his uncle at this time. The words were like rays on sunshine piercing through our cloud-covered hearts.

 

FullSizeRender-1So these days, we are counting our blessings. First and foremost, hubby is still with us. The diagnosis was found fairly early. He’s still leading the c4c Cycling for Change team, just from a driver’s seat of the RV now. And he just fixed the leak under the kitchen sink, for which he earned a Superman coffee mug. He’s my hero, even if the sink still leaked. Because maybe there’s something wrong with hubby’s heart from a medical perspective, but sometimes I wonder if his heart became too strong, not from all the cycling or some genetic disposition but rather from loving me so hard. And so much.

 

And as we lay in bed on the morning of the New Year, I said, “Good Morning. I want to dedicate a song to you for 2015.” And then I pressed play on my phone as Smokey Robinson broke it down for us. “One Heartbeat at a Time.”

 

Because sixteen years ago, we vowed, “To have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…” And as I dropped off hubby to the airport this morning for a class, he sent me a text after he got through security.

 

“Love you! Thanks for being my rock! For what for you foreva!”

 

Because that’s how our love story started. We promised to wait for each other. And now we continue to wait on God. As God unravels this new chapter, we wait as He helps us to understand Hubby’s new normal. Our new normal. And for as many heartbeats as he gives Hubby, I’m so thankful to be the one to get to hold his hand. Be held in his arms. And walk this life with him.

 

One heartbeat. At a time.

 ***

And you? Have you been needing a word of hope and encouragement during this new year? What challenges are you facing? How can I pray for you?

 

 

Latest Reviews, Guest Posts, and Waterfalls

in_search_of_waterfalls-background.jpg

So I’ve been blogging here and there and feels like everywhere some days, but I didn’t want you to think I quit writing or anything. Here are a few places you can find me, reviews on my books and the occasional interview that was posted in the last couple of months. Thanks, always, for reading and telling your friends about my crazy Masala-marinated YA world.

On USA TODAY, Serena Chase reviewed Swimming Through Clouds, calling it “Must Read YA,” saying, “It is no wonder this novel has received so many award nominations and has garnered praise from critics, bestselling authors, and readers, alike. It is a work of art.” Serena is a YA Author herself so her opinion is valued and valuable!

At Brown Girl Magazine, I did a little ditty on my writerly life and the crazy Cinderella life I lead.

On MasalaMommas, I wrote about a special moment when my seven year old blew me away with her celebration of the family. Through a fashion show. :)

And Masalamommas shared the recent blog with HUFF-POST Canada Living on Top Ten Ways to be a Contagious Parent. Thanks to my seven year old who keeps giving me material!

At The Write Conversation, I guest-posted a Ten Step, Crash Course on how to navigate Instagram, hoping to trend #MaryPoppinsLeap by the end of the week, so pop on over and post yours!

My young blogger friend, Saloni of My Fantabulous Bookshelf, who I met at YAFest, recently posted an author interview and fun VLOG-review of her May Reads which included a sweet shout-out to Talia, Jesse, and Lagan!

Oh, another little Instagram post for authors and readers over at Kim Vandel’s blog.

This Girl Reads A Lot (aka Jazmen) wrote up a pretty dizzying review on Swimming Through Clouds and added a fun little Instagram love too.

AND there are more, but I thought this would suffice for now.

What else? I’ve been enjoying a book club chat here and there and I love having the face to face about my books with readers. The conversation invariably starts with the daring first question, “How did you come up with such a cu-razy story?”

To which I answer, “Yeah. I’m still taking meds to recover from chapter two of Swimming Through Clouds. Kidding. But ya know, sometimes I wonder if I should get my head checked out.”

AND… kinda fun, okay BLOW-MY-MIND-AWAY fun to have two interactions this week with people of influence. For someone who feels like I’ve been one or two degrees of separation from someone famous for the last couple of years, it’s nice to make real contact with real people. The first came from a surprise email from a gentleman who works for Amazon. Sure, no big deal, right. Except that he was searching for a success story of a self-pub’d author and the reviews on Swimming Through Clouds made him stop and skim. Then he kept reading. And reading. And finished the book! Next he emailed me to chat and at first, I wasn’t sure if he was legit or just a salesman trying to get me to buy some expensive marketing product. To my surprise, he was legit. And we’ll see what comes of that.

The second was a shot in the air. Like a fishergirl, I throw out my line here and there and everywhere and wonder if anyone will bite. Yep. I’m the girl that mailed First Lady Michelle Obama my book. Ya never know, right? And she actually sent me a post card to say, “Thank you for the gift.” I hope she reads it. But the fun news of today was a tweet from the Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief (say that five times fast) of Seventeen Magazine, requesting a copy of my book. Yes, I asked. A week or so ago. But when I didn’t hear back, I assumed my request got swallowed in the Bermuda Triangle of tweets. So I popped it into the mail and, once again, we’ll see what will come of that.

Little by Little. That’s how it seems to work. Like so much of life, and I’m okay with that. More than okay.

Happy Swimming, all. And Seeing too.

Best,
Raj

First Day of School Must Knows

photo-11

 

The sound of Family Force5 on my iPhone jars me out of a really good dream. Darn that alarm just when I’m getting to the part where I fly across an ocean with wings made of see-through glass. So what if Wonder Woman was my favorite super hero growing up. I see no connection.

My now two middle-schoolers are already changed, and my oldest is crossing things off a list—her new go-to way of being organized. One day down, only 300ish to go. Time to make the pancakes.  Continue reading

Prison Bathroom Upgrade

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

When you move from most anywhere in the world to the vicinity of New York City, the price tag on just about everything doubles and you learn to make do with less space and, simply, with less, in general. Unless you’re related to the Rockefellas or the Goodfellas!

I still remember driving around North Shore Long Island eight years ago as Hubs and I decided to search for our first house. We had rented for more than three years when we got the memo that the monthly rent would double when he no longer served as a resident [Attendings didn’t get the same breaks.] We knew it was time to become a home owner. Not sure which, if any, home we could afford, but we had to try.

So we drove around different neighborhoods within a ten-mile radius of Hubby’s job. Because we hoped we could find something that would at least cut out the commute time out of his day. Hearing him tell me he dozed off at the wheel after working all night during residency one too many times had me convinced that we had to be a hop, skip and a jump from the hospital. Little else mattered. Continue reading

Valentine’s Dad

DSCN4576

When you’re the father of four princesses, Valentine’s Day can be quite intimidating. The girls are watching you. What will Daddy get for Mommy this year? Does he buy her the quality long-stemmed roses or the cheap bouquet from the grocery store? And does he remember the chocolate. Cuz Mommy loves her chocolate.

And did he do the same thing as last year? Or did he attempt to be a little original? Does he get her a teddy bear, or give her extra kisses that  morning? And does he pick out the perfect card? And write her a poem or pour out his heart with as many words can fit on the inside of the card? 

Truth be told, as much of a romantic as I am, Valentine’s Day is not the most important day in my year, and I hate that everything costs more the week leading up to the day: flowers, chocolates, and cards as well. But a day later and everything is 75% off? Hmmm. Does that mean somehow that timing is everything and the price tag on one’s love is slashed if you’re a day late?  Continue reading

Siri … ously in Love with my iPhone5

Christmas came early in the Paulus household. For me that is.

Found a package on my steps on Friday with hubby’s name on it. Didn’t bother looking it over. Figured it was some auto part or something guy-related and just chucked it on top of the shelf. Placed it nicely, if you must know. And forgot about it.

Then hubs comes home from work hours later and tosses it to me while I’m sitting on the couch.

“It’s yours.”“But…” and I’m terrified.
Continue reading

From Andrew to Sandy… A Survivor’s Story

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

If you missed Part One of this story, take a moment to catch up and come back to read the eye-witness account of a hurricane survivor. Someone whom I love dearly…My hubs. Sun’s family weathered through 92’s Hurricane Andrew in Miami, and he’s here with us today to share what life was like, post storm days. 

Raj: Hi Bubs! Thanks for guest-blogging today in my Hurricane series. Let’s start with a visual question. What did you see immediately after the hurricane passed and you were able to get out of the garage? Was anything still in tact?  

Sun: Let me back up a bit. Continue reading

Operation Save the Tree House… Part One

Almost five years ago, hubby began dreaming about building a house. But not just any ordinary castle. His idea was to create a structure that would both invite and delight. A place our daughters could play in. And a home that they could share with their friends. A tree house.

So hubs did what all dads without Engineering degrees do when they want to build something. He drove to Home Depot, talked to a bunch of employees, each with his own idea of which tool will do the job, and then he bought two books on Tree Houses. And Hubby doesn’t consider himself a reader.

Almost a year later, neighbors were asked and informed, consulted and queried. Everyone gave his idea two thumbs up and back to Home Depot Hubs went. To buy the first of many pre-cut pieces of pressure-treated wood to protect the developing structure from the elements of wind and rain and snow. Because he knew and we all knew, that this baby was not going to be finished in one day.  Continue reading

What’s in Your Treasure Chest?

 Returned from vacation to find my parents in my living room. They called while we were on route from Acadia National Park, and when your mom asks where your house key is, the first thought is “Yeah!” immediately followed by, “Yikes! Did I leave any dishes in the sink? Did I make my bed? Oh shnappity shnap! I think the clean laundry we didn’t pack is still covering the living room carpet!” Sigh. What can you do? 


I warned mom that the house was not perfect, and she just laughed. This is a good thing. There was a time when my spoons’ drawer [where a fork or two slip into the spoons’ slot while I’m sleeping] frazzled my mother. In fact, after one visit, I found all my spices in a totally different cabinet. The one Mom felt was more conducive to cooking. And she was right. She often is. Continue reading