Friday, December 7, 2012

The Happy Book Blog Has Moved!

Hey, dear friends!

Just wanted y'all to know that The Happy Book Blog has moved to my official "author" page: www.jolinapetersheim.com, where I will still be seeking Divine joy in the simple life.

Hope y'all will come over and join me!

Hugs,

Jo

Friday, November 23, 2012

Resurrection

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
 
Her life, my womb once effortlessly sustained, is now cradled in fumbling hands.

I rest my palm on her narrow fontanelle. My heart pulses to its beat.

I peel off her onesie and dip her in a tepid bath. I wrap her hot, chilled body in a pink and yellow towel. She clings to me, peering beneath the hood of heavy, glassed eyes.

I hope she cannot feel how I shake.

She sleeps, a marionette devoid of strings.

I scour the sink lip and wipe the border of the floor. I reply to emails and sort laundry.

I check her temperature…100, 101, 102.

Last night, it reached 103.4.

I swirl fermented cider and curdled half and half down the drain.

She coughs, coos from her playpen. Her dimpled hands clutch a square of sunlight streaming through the kitchen window.

She is so trusting; I am diseased with doubt.

I tie off bags of trash and pluck lint from the gleaming hardwood floor.

My lips form prayers, too antagonistic for requests:

Don’t you take her from me.

When He is the One who gave.

Don’t you do this to me.

When He is the One who knows what I can handle.

In between lighting of candles (to cleanse the scent of illness) and the folding of her satin-edged blanket, I clutch my daughter’s life in a death grip.

Things, people, have been taken from me before. Prayers have gone unanswered.

My life, unprotected.

How can I expect the One who once turned a deaf ear to heal?

Inside, my daughter sleeps. Outside, my breath echoes her labored breath on the baby monitor, both filtered through a stuffy nose and scarlet cheeks.

The sun slips further behind the mountains; the dwindling rays illuminating the white oaks, which have been stripped to bone.

Yet beneath the dead branches, life still lurks.

Waiting to be reawakened.

And I know those who I have lost will one day be regained.

My life that was once unprotected, has been renewed.

And that in giving her back to the One who had her first, I can find my trust again.
 
 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Seeking the Simple Life

 
Have we truly been born in the wrong time period, or is this yearning directing us toward something more?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fault Lines

On Saturday morning, at exactly 11:03, I was sitting on the couch with my daughter when I realized that the upstairs was shaking. The glass rattled in the windowpanes. I stared up at the ceiling, half-expecting it to crack into fault lines and dry-wall pieces to hail down.

The earthquake only lasted long enough for me to identify the magnitude of its force and to question if I should grab my daughter and run outside, but then it stopped just as abruptly as it had started.

The upstairs grew still. The glass no longer rattled in the panes. I rose from the couch with my daughter on my hip and texted my husband to see if he – on his drive home from his parents’ – had felt the same seismic movement that I had.

He hadn’t. I almost thought that I had imagined it until my father told me that Kentucky had suffered from an earthquake, and what I'd felt was simply the pulsing after-effects from the epicenter.
Oftentimes, we do not see the importance of communication until it is too late. We suppress our misunderstandings and the misunderstandings proceeding those, and the energy builds and builds—we collide and chip against each other—until one final misunderstanding claps our edges and huge amounts of pent-up energy are released, splintering us into fault lines.

If we release that pressure timely enough, without allowing that sediment of years to harden our empathy, the shifting of these plates might not be detrimental and a stronger foundation might actually come out of the exchange.
But if we don’t release that pressure, our life foundation is shaken. Fault lines splinter up through our walls and roof until we are left with nothing but glass shards and dry-wall pieces hailing down.

So, I implore you—as I have just learned of another irreparable marriage after twenty-some years spent withstanding seismic waves—if you are suppressing frustrations toward a family member, a spouse, or a friend, be sure to unveil these emotions before time magnifies their complexity and makes your closest relationships harder to rebuild.
It is easier to strengthen teetering walls than it is to start from a brand new foundation.
What is the best setting in which to communicate?
Did your parents set a good example of communication, or are you trying to learn how to communicate with your own family?

Do you fear communication or seek it out?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Prayer Can Move Mountains


A few weeks ago, before I hung up the phone, I told my friend that I would be praying for her.

I resumed cooking supper. From in the living room, my husband asked, “Will you?”

I swirled the pasta and laid the wooden spoon across the top of the steaming, stainless-steel pot.

I said, “Will I what?”

“Will you be praying for her.”

I looked over at my husband, who was letting our daughter pull on the zipper of his shirt.

“I mean--I want to," I said. "I will whenever I think about it.”

I honestly didn’t think too much about our conversation until three days had passed, and I realized that I hadn’t been praying for my friend’s situation like I had said I would.

My husband’s question challenged me as much as my unfulfilled promise to my friend, and both made me think: How often do we say we will be praying for someone, and then never do?

The modern-day church tacks that rote sentence, “I will be praying for you,” like “Bless you” after a sneeze. We know it is a polite phrase when someone is going through a dire situation, and yet we have no concept of how powerful our prayers actually are, or we would actually be praying.

Exactly one week ago, we prayed for my sister-in-law who was ready to give birth at any time. Her previous delivery had been very traumatic, with my precious nephew being whisked to the NICU right after birth and remaining there even after my sister-in-law had been sent home.

Because of this experience, my sister-in-law had deep-rooted fear surrounding the birth and the safety of the child and the responsibility of the child she had already delivered. We did not say it, but the rest of us had fear, too.

When someone you love is facing childbirth, there are worst-case-scenarios that plague your mind. We each tried to annihilate them, and cast them back to the pit from whence they came, but sometimes it is hard to trust when the person you are laying on the altar is sitting right in front of you.

We gathered around my sister-in-law and prayed for a quick delivery, for protection for the mother and the unborn child, that the doctors and nurses would all have wisdom. It was not a long intercession and not very eloquent, but I know I felt much lighter for having had prayed, and everyone else seemed to have renewed peace as well.

This morning – one week after we prayed – my husband nudged me awake and held up his phone.

“What is it?” I rasped, groggy-eyed.

“Read it,” he said.

I took the phone and squinted at the black letters on the white screen. My sister-in-law had given birth to a healthy, almost eight-pound boy. She had given birth so quickly, there was not even time for an epidural.

At first, I thought it was a joke, but my mother-in-law’s text was obviously serious. My husband scrolled through the previous text that we had also slept through and realized that four hours had passed from the time my sister-in-law had gotten to the hospital until she had given birth.

My sister-in-law’s previous delivery had taken over twenty-four hours. This was indeed a miracle.

“Oh, my,” I kept saying. “Oh, my.”

I looked over at my husband and smiled. I then realized that when I next tell a friend I will be praying for her, I will not say it as a rote phrase, but as a promise. We really have no concept the impact our prayers have on the shifting of life’s course.

My newborn nephew is proof.

Do you believe that prayer can move mountains?

How have you seen prayer move in your life?

Do you also say, “I’ll be praying for you," but then struggle to follow through on that promise?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Too Much Information

 
Much to my introverted husband’s chagrin, I didn’t use to believe in too much information. The acronyms TMI stood for Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. But this week, I came upon a video of me and my daughter posted to a stranger’s blog. It was not the person’s fault who had uploaded the video. I had posted it to YouTube, after all. But when I saw it on someone else’s site, I was suddenly worried that I had exposed my child to more publicity than was safe.

And then I thought: What about Facebook? What about Twitter, or my blog, or Pinterest, or Instagram?

After my daughter’s birth, the nurses had advised me not to tie balloons to our mailbox or place announcements in papers because of those who might wish my child harm. I had clutched my daughter and agreed with that easily instilled terror of new motherhood. But I still posted her birth announcement on Facebook along with a picture of her – arms flung, mottled with vernix – on the table getting weighed.

I remember how sick I felt after someone told me to remove the picture because of the level she was exposed and because of those who might wish my child harm. I quickly retracted it, but it kept showing up in my news feed until I crawled through the loopholes required to remove it permanently.
One week later, a writer friend (who I hadn't met at the time but who I trust without question) asked for my address so she could send us a baby gift. My direct message accidentally showed up in my Twitter news feed. So my address was unveiled for about 3,500 people—most of whom I did not know beyond their smiling avatar.
My future website has a section called, “My Life Through Instagram.”
I do not have an Instagram application, since I do not have a smart phone. My phone is so beat up, it barely has an IQ. But after this week, when I saw my precious child's face on a stranger’s site, I started to wonder if I ever wanted a smart phone; if I wanted someone to see what we ate for breakfast that morning or what pajamas my child slept in last night. I started to wonder if perhaps this interconnectivity is disconnecting us from those we love while attaching us to those we barely know.
Where are our boundaries? How do we understand the difference between social media and real life, and is it okay when one superimposes itself over the other--causing true, lifelong friendships to be made with those we've never met, like the writer who mailed us a baby gift?
When I sent a version of this question into the Twitter world, one woman responded that she never mentions her family on Twitter, and that she doesn't share her husband's real name or his pictures, even on Facebook.
When I posted a similar question to my author page on Facebook, I heard only crickets.
It seems this monolith of social media has expanded beyond ourselves until no smart phone application will allow us to manage it.
How, as parents, as writers, as people on this modern-day planet, do we set boundaries so we are able to enjoy the interconnectivity that fuels our creativity and propels our professions, but also keep our children safe?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Babeorexia ~ the skinny on baby rolls

 
Bigorexia: muscle dysmorphia or biorexia is a disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with the idea that he or she is not muscular enough.
 
Babeorexia: chubby dysmorphia or babeorexia is a disorder in which a mother becomes obsessed with the idea that her child is not chubby enough.
 
In the beginning, at the hospital, I had one goal with two motivations in mind: Pump my child full of milk to flush out the toxic bilirubins tingeing with orange her fuzzed newborn skin, and show that I had enough supply to keep the pediatrician from putting her on formula.
 

So pump her full of milk, I did.

For two weeks, I woke my daughter every two hours and fed her for one. At first, she protested. Her eyelids were heavy with dreams of the calm, watery world she had inhabited, and to which I am sure she wanted to return. It starkly contrasted with this bright, demanding place where she was force fed and burped.

But by the time her peach skin reflected her cleansed liver and her birth weight had been regained with a few ounces to spare, she started to wake every two hours and wanted to be fed for one.

You'd think I would have understood that something was amiss. That no child on this terrestrial ball should need to eat with such frequency and duration.

But I could not stand the thought of my daughter going hungry--irrational thought, though it was.

So I pumped her full of milk.

The elastic in her onesies started to leave indentions around her arms. I could only fasten the center snap of her nightie; her newborn cap perched on her head like a yarmulke.

The day I took her to the pediatrician, I stripped off her pastel trimmings and proudly trotted her down the hallway to the scales, like some prize-winning pig.

Thirty minutes later, the pediatrician showed me that though her head was on the seventy-five percentile, her body – sadly – was at twenty-five.

My heartbeat thudded. I looked down at my daughter. I could almost see her ribs beneath the block of her torso. She only had eight rolls on her limbs when she should have sixteen!

If her weight were a test, I would have failed at twenty-five percent. My child was starving.

So I pumped her full of milk.

Her soft belly poofed out above her diaper, and her belly button caved in. Her face lost its contours in the folds of her double chin.

I switched out her three to six months clothes for twelve. Her feet dangled over her car seat. Her head was bigger than mine. We would be wearing the same size shoes soon.

I took her back to the pediatrician. I bit my nails to the quick while he fetched the computer. But, alas, my daughter’s percentile was shooting off the charts!

I was Fern with Wilbur at the state fair. I wanted a blue ribbon or a lollipop. At home, however, my husband watched our daughter cross the living room in four earth-quaking flips.

He whispered, “How big’s she gonna get?”

I switched out her twelve month clothes for toddler. I started hanging upside down on an inversion table to stretch out my back, curved and aching from carting the heft of a twenty pound six-month-old.

Then she started eating “solids”: pureed carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, butternut squash, peaches, prunes, and applesauce.

But I didn’t want her to be thirsty…

So I pumped her full of milk.

On our way home from the grocery last night, my daughter started to growl. She flailed her arms and her legs and rocked the car seat in its holder.

I looked over at my husband. “You think . . . ?”

“She is not hungry,” he said. “She ate an hour ago.”

Still—

I wrenched off the top portion of the passenger's seat and scrambled into the back. The headlights of a tractor trailer illuminated my acrobatics.

I dug through the bags in the hatch and found my daughter’s first container of Happy Baby Organic Puffs.

I twisted off the top and poured a few pieces in my hand.

My daughter thrashed her head; her new top teeth flashed. I popped in a cereal piece, careful to retract my hand. She bit down and chewed and then worked her tongue around the morsel, inadvertently popping it out.

She began to cry, and then chop her jaws.

I popped a new piece in. She grinned.

“Maybe this’s how we’ll drive to Wisconsin,” I said to my husband. “We’ll just feed her puffs.”

Randy laughed. “Yeah, she’d turn into a puff.”

My daughter began to cry again. Her puff had dissolved.

I dumped more pieces into my hand and popped one in.
 
*Is "Mom Guilt" the worst with the first child?
*Do you still struggle with "Mom Guilt" even if your children are grown?
*Image by Ann Gennes
*I received no compensation from Happy Baby Organic Puffs--although, it'd sure be nice. She's almost through the first container.