One Heartbeat at a Time

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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?

 

 

Try Something New – A Guest Post by Author Laura L. Smith

 

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Ever feel that itch, that urge, that tug inside to change something? It could be your scenery, your haircut, maybe you crave a new identity, even a new phone cover would help at this point. Ever been bored, or exhausted or numb, from your current set of circumstances?

 

Maybe you just finished up your school year and you’re not sure what summer has in store for you. Or maybe your summer already seems to be dragging out like a long string of the same hot day over and over again, like in the movie Groundhog’s Day.

 

Well, you don’t need to be Jason Bourne and grab a different passport from your safety deposit box to jazz things up. But it is up to you to get out of your rut. Sitting around wishing things would change won’t do the trick.

 

Now some of you change your address or hair color as often as others of us change our socks. To you, there’s no need to make drastic changes, you already do that, daily. But for the rest of us there’s something refreshing, maybe even daring about trying something new. Summer can be a lazy time to fall into old routines, or a chance to change your perspective and relight your inner spark. It’s up to you. Which one is it going to be?

 

Here are a few ideas to get jump-started: Continue reading

Top Ten Healthcare Questions You Didn’t Think To Ask Me

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In light of the first Government Shut Down in eighteen years, I felt compelled to write a post on #healthcare. Since I’m married to a doc, I hear the other side of the story all the time. 

Healthcare reform is all the wrong hands. 

People making the decisions don’t even have a medical background. 

 Now we get paid more for keeping people out of the hospital. Oh, you’re bleeding? Put some pressure on it, take two Aspirin, and you’ll lose five pounds by Wednesday. 

Sure, I suppose that last one I might have taken a little liberty on the interpretation.

 But, I’m not the best patient either. In fact, I just returned from my first physical in like five years, and I can honestly say that healthcare is going to pot.

*NOTE: this is not a knock on my physician. I love her. She’s smart. Funny. And never once, okay, maybe once she reminded me that I haven’t seen her in a long time. BUT, the overall experience was rather disappointing. And here’s why: Continue reading

Mommy, What’s Twerk Mean?

AMC_8259Read the tweets and Facebook statuses of millions for the last two days if you’re confused by the Blog Title. And to be honest, I have no intention of rehashing the general schools of thought circulating, but I will tell you that they tend to side with shock and embarrassment; wow, you go girl; or same old, same bold.

I find it interesting that Miley Cyrus’ twerking got labeled tasteless by some, because Robin Thicke, the artist performing while Miley did her thang, is a dad and a husband. Last I heard, Miley’s still engaged to Liam Hemsworth. And according to those oh so reliable Hollywood reporters, Paula Patton, Robin’s wife, barely batted an eyelash.

So what’s my point, you might ask? Continue reading

I’m That Runner

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I cover from head to toe last Sunday to set off for my five-mile run in arctic temperatures. When it hits the low 20s in New York, you feel a little closer to the Santa and imagine Polar Bears might attack if you don’t pick up speed, the latter good motivation to not quit. In my no-can-show-skin get-up, I can easily be mistaken for ski patrol or, say, a bank robber, my ear lobes the only parts exposed to the elements. I am determined to run. But I am even more determined to stay warm. Music set to my SuperHero playlist, I am out the door, off and running. SuperHero, because I always feel like a Superhero by the time I make it back home. Plus, my go-to song is actually “SuperHero” by Family Force 5. My run usually slows to a jog when it comes on. Because I can’t run as fast when I sing out loud. And when you have headphones in, you can’t tell how loud or how off-key you’re singing. Yeah. I’m that runner.  Continue reading

What’s Your Dream?

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Sarah: “You know Mom, everyone has their own dream! I don’t have to be writer.”

Me: “Okay. What’s your dream?”

Sarah: “I want to be a candy shop.”

Me: “You mean a candy shop owner?”

Sarah: “Yeah. A candy shop owner.”

***
I don’t think I ever told my five-year old that she HAD to be a writer. I might have told her she has a fun imagination, an ingredient that makes great writers. And passion. My five-year old is all kinds of passion. Especially about candy!  Continue reading

There’s No Run like a Snow Run

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Years ago, back in the dating days, hubs and I spent the day at the Lincoln Zoo in Chicago on a sunny summer Saturday. Or maybe it was a Sunday. My memory is a little fuzzy. What I do recall and what we joke about even now is how we came upon a sign to see the “Snow Tiger.” But the Snow Tiger was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she was napping behind the large oak or camouflaged in with the white paint on the back wall and we just couldn’t see her.

“There’s no Tiger.” My comedian friend said. “Get it? Ssssnow tiger.”

Now whenever we visit Chicago and reunite, inevitably something comes up that creates the perfect opportunity to rehash that old joke. Snow. S. No. Maybe you just had to be there. Continue reading

October Rainfall Run

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Wake up this morning with every intention to run. Then I hear the patter of rain outside my bedroom window. I do not want to run in the rain. 

Truth is, I do not like to run. I don’t hate it like I used to. But I am so not there. That runner’s high people talk about? I’m thinking the closest I’ve ever come is one time when I got distracted by the music on my iPod during a jog and ran into a parked car and went flying HIGH into the air, but miraculously landed on my feet and kept running. 

Okay, so the story above is slightly skewed, but there was a time when my husband biked into a street barrier, flew off his bike, and landed on his feet and actually continued down the street running. I swear! True story. Ask his friends in Miami. He was the campus SuperHero…for like a day.

So anyway, this morning, I am thinking of all the reasons I cannot possibly run in the rain. What if I fall? What if some speeding car whizzes by my and bumps me off the road in a wake-making blur? What if my pinky toenails fall off? Continue reading

Operation “I Can Do This!”

Couldn’t pull off the Karate Kid Final Kick Position…kept slipping off the log! Balance Issues…
Day 99: Reporting

So thirteen days ago, I began Operation I Can Do THIS! And I vowed to do it for 112 days. Because my trainer extraordinaire and owner of Metaburn Fitness—Coach Rahz *Not to be confused with Raj, says, “If you do something consistently for 16 weeks, you’ll see a real difference.” 

And that’s what I’m looking for. These prego pounds that have clung to me for the last decade have gotsta go. I want to wear my sleeveless dresses and see a nice soft roller coaster effect going down my jiggle-free arms. And my butt. Plan to leave it behind. Pun intended folks. This is all kinds of serious. Finally, I’m *brace yourselves, 41 years old. Not getting any younger here. And if I don’t kick this body into high gear now, menopause lurks around the next corner, just waiting to punch me in the face and tell me, it’s too late. Have to beat her to the punch. Pun intended. Is that even a pun? Continue reading

Life is Dangerous…Live Anyway!

 Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, tears his ACL during playoff game #1 against the Sixers and is done for 2012 NBA season.

New York Yankees’ Joba Chamberlein hurts ankle while playing on trampoline with five year old son and is out for 2012 season.

New York Knicks Jeremy Lin recovering from knee surgery and now rookie Iman Shumpert is out for eight months after tears to his ACL as well as a lateral meniscus.

Life is dangerous. Each of these players knows. They’re hurting now. But, the truth is, they probably have the option to come back. Hopefully make their game stronger. And play some more. 

When hubby and one of his best friends trotted off to catch the shuttle bus over the the Pocono Raceway for their first Tough Mudder competition, I can’t lie. I was a little nervous. The description and videos of the event included obstacles involving fire, electrical shocks, ice water, climbing walls, and dark tunnels. The twelve to thirteen mile course is broken up with these army-simulated challenges that you cannot complete apart from your team.  Continue reading