The Head and the Heart: A Valentine of Sorts

This year Valentine's Day is particularly poignant because Booth's heart nearly killed him, and mine nearly broke in the process. Every day has become Valentine's Day since we found out that Booth had "Left Main Disease," a genetic heart disease that is also known as "The Silent Killer" and "The Widow-Maker." We were lucky we caught the 90% blockage in Booth's left main artery and we were lucky that the triple bypass surgery fixed the problem. Unfortunately there were surgical errors which nearly killed Booth, collapsing his right lung and causing him to lose over two liters of blood, which also led to thoracic surgery to remove a blood clot that was almost a liter in volume. The blood clot scarred his right lung and the surgery punctured it. Every day we worried that there might not be a next day. Every day our hearts ached with fear of the loss of the love we have.

Booth is healing and I am trying to heal in a different way. I have learned a lot about many things during this arduous journey- things about the nature of love and sacrifice. I have learned so many things about our bodies, science, medicine, pain, signs and symptoms of shock, when to call 911, who to call to be with you when you have to drive to the ER at 9pm and stay in the ICU until 2:30am realizing if it wasn't for the fire department, the man you love would be dead.

I have also learned a lot about the heart itself. 

When Booth's cardiologist, the wonderful Dr. Willems first came back after the angiogram to explain that Booth needed open heart surgery, he drew a heart. He drew it just like you would draw a Valentine, but then he drew the aorta coming from the lungs, and he drew the high pressure chambers of the left side which receive the fresh oxygenated blood brought from the aorta directly through the left main artery. He drew the lower pressure right chambers where the spent blood returns to circulate back through the lungs. He did such an efficient job of explaining these functions that we gained a new understanding of the heart as a pump, the arteries and veins as plumbing, and the cardio-surgeon as a plumber. A very high paid plumber. Booth's heart pre-surgery was only getting 10% of the freshly oxygenated blood it needed to supply his entire body. With the triple bypass, it is now happily pumping away to its hearts' delight.

This made me do some deep thinking about the heart. We talk about thinking with our hearts, not our heads when it comes to matters of love. Now I know that is just a figure of speech, a metaphor, but after this experience, I can't help but think of the heart as anything but a beautiful pump... a powerful, rhythmic, dumb muscle that does its job and keeps the incredible machine that is our body, going. And yes, our brains are a collection of cells and neurons firing, and a chemical balance that is beyond my comprehension. Our brains are not supposed to do the thinking in matters of love, yet they process it all using every sense that we have been given- some of it common, and some of it seemingly mysterious. When our brain chemistry goes awry, as is the case with my father's bipolar disease, we can be fooled into believing things and become delusional. I have realized that never in his entire life has my father told me, "I love you." He is incapable of that emotional connection. It was a painful realization, but my brain allowed me to process it and let it go. 

With Valentine's Day we are bombarded with so many heart images and references it is truly a heart attack. I'm feeling a little gun-shy about this. I'm feeling the fragility of life itself as I ponder freshly oxygenated blood traveling through our arteries and veins. I'm feeling the intense love for the man I've shared the past twenty-four years with, hoping there will be twenty-four more, at least. But I don't think I'm using my heart. Or my head. I think I'm using my soul. I know our souls are connected, his and mine, and after this experience, I feel that connection even stronger. 

So this Valentine's Day we will continue to do what we have been doing: sharing our love... heart, mind, body, soul, whatever you want to call it. There will be some chocolate, too. (I'll be making Flourless Chocolate Raspberry Cakes.) 

My wish for you, my friends is to keep your heart healthy, your brain strong and balanced, and love with all your soul.

Happy Valentine's Day.


The Next Big Thing Blog Tour

This is something completely new for me. A blog tour. I have to admit that I've been very low key about my blog, but maybe it's time to play higher key? So what is a blog tour? A blog tour gives those on the tour a chance to meet different authors by way of their blogs. The Next Big Thing began in Australia. I've never been to Australia, but I'd like to go someday. Each week a different author answers specific questions about his or her upcoming book. The answers are posted on authors' blogs. Then we get to tag another author. On and on it goes. It may go around the world a couple of times.

The tour came to me from Oregon. I was tagged by my virtual friend Eric A. Kimmel. He was tagged by his friend Pamela Smith Hill. She was tagged by her friend Judy Cox. I'll add who I am tagging at the end of this post.

And now for the questions:

What is the working title of your next book?

The title, which is the actual title, not the working title is "Once Upon A Memory." The working title was "Does A Feather Remember?" which shows that working titles do change!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea actually came from an eagle feather that I found on our beach. There is a belief in Native American/First Nations culture that eagle feathers should be left to return to the creator. I held the feather and wondered, "does a feather remember it once was a bird?" That question led to many others, which led me to write the poem that became the book. The poem is about memory and transformation, but it's ultimately about childhood. It has many layers and is conceptual and deep.

What genre does your book fall under?

"Once Upon A Memory" is a picture book. It is also a poem, but it's not really a poetry book. I have a habit of defying genre with what I write sometimes. I think it's a book that will mean many things to many people, and I hope that everyone will find something in it that they love.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is funny. I have other books I've written and illustrated that I would love to pick out actors to play... but this book is not character based, even though the illustrations do have incredible characters in them. I would pick a fine animation house to do a beautiful animated short  that would win an Oscar- in my dreams! Maybe Morgan Freeman with his soothing velvety voice could read the text.

Who is publishing your book?

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is the publisher. It will be out in December 2013, so stay tuned!

How long did it take you write the first draft of the manuscript?

Truthfully, this was written over a period of a couple of years. I started the initial poem and wrote a good chunk of it. Then I let it sit for a while. When I started to think that maybe it was a book, I thought it was a board book for toddlers, and I submitted it that way. Then it revealed itself to be a picture book, and my editor Connie Hsu at Little, Brown gave me thoughts and comments. We went back and forth as I shaped it into the final evocative piece it became. 

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

I wrote this book at a particularly difficult period in my life. Up until this point, my previous books (over a dozen titles) have been quite different than "Once Upon A Memory," but I'm quite proud that I had to dig deep to produce this, and I hope that it will show a very enchanting and magical side of my writing that hasn't been seen before. There is a poet that lives in me, and she is in the pages of this book.

The next stop on the tour is the beautiful and talented author/illustrator Ashley Wolff who lives in San Francisco. You will be able to read her post for this blog tour next week by clicking here.  In the meantime, you can go back and read Eric Kimmel's post here

And... soon I will be back to my regularly unscheduled blog posts in a lower key!
Thank you for visiting.

With Love,