Friday, December 26, 2014

My Labor of Love

Twenty-three years ago, when I was a young married woman and Mr.4444 and I had begun to plan for a family, I started a journal. I had always liked writing, and the unknown territory had my my mind going a million thoughts per minute, it seemed.  I had this irrational fear that I'd have kids and then not live long enough to impart my wisdom upon them.Yes, I'm aware that that was paranoid and bizarre, but it was what it was. I also had a lot of questions about my own family of origin and had so little information about my grandparents and those before them that I wanted to create a piece of history for my own kids.

I started the journal and poured all of my thoughts, dreams, doubts, and fears into it. After Kyle was born, I also added parenting reflections, notes on world and national news, and family history and events. Here are a few excerpts:

 If you are a teenager reading this, I wonder what you are like. I have no dream of what you “should” be, except I only hope that you are physically and emotionally healthy and that you feel loved by your family. I also hope you know how wonderful you are; how special you are, and how much you are deserving of respect. 

An important thing I wanted to tell you about is that our family has inherited the disease of alcoholism.
As your mother, I will try to raise you in an environment that promotes positive self-esteem. I want you to grow up feeling loved and respected. I want you to feel valued and special. 

            Saddam Hussein is truly a sick individual. As the war continues, Saddam is using P.O.W.s from the allied forces to further his cause. In what constitutes war crimes, Saddam is placing P.O.W.s in strategic, dangerous places where they are likely to get killed. Tonight on the news, they released photographs of the men captured. Their faces brought tears to my eyes. Some looked emotionally beaten. A couple held their chins high. It’s terrible. President Bush is starting to look old. 

            In the news today, there is great concern over events in California last night. There was rioting, looting, and fire-setting in response to a not-guilty verdict in a very big case. The case involved Rodney King, a black man who was severely beaten by four or more white police officers last year. Bystanders videotaped part of the beating, and the videotape spurred an uproar in many communities, especially black communities. 

I wonder if I will ever be able to think of Labor Day weekend without remembering its tragedy. Today we learned that Princess Diana (former wife of Prince Charles III of England) was killed in a car wreck last night in Paris. 

I wrote 21 pages of the journal before Kyle was even born. I also wrote quite a bit about my eventful pregnancy with him.

I’ve been reading up on babies, etc. There is sure a lot to know! I’m glad your dad and I are doing this together. He’s so sweet. In the morning I sometimes awake to your him snuggling me, his hand on my belly--He says he can feel you-a boy!  I say it doesn't matter, really. Your dad, too, will be thrilled to have any type of healthy baby. We’re getting excited already.

It was a complicated pregnancy that landed me on bed-rest for three months and in the hospital several times due to preterm labor:

3-27-92 Friday 

            Six days in a row without hospitalization! What a treat! I've had many fewer contractions these days; I have a contraption that allows me to be at home but still be monitored. I thank God for that. Sunday will be 30 weeks! That’s encouraging.

I also included many, many anecdotes about Kyle, this one from when he was four years old:

The other night, as you were preparing for bed, you said, “I think I would rather be a kid when I die.” I asked why. You replied, “I don’t really know what heaven would be like for grownups.” I confirmed that you were saying that heaven is such a cool sounding place, that grownups wouldn't really appreciate it like a kid would. Amazing, the things kids think about. You are charming.

And age three:

Funny remarks - you decided that our cat, Max, needed a vigorous scolding because he was sitting in one of the dining room chairs. You barked out, “Get off that chair, you chicken butt nose blood!”  It was all I could do to keep a straight face!

We've repeated that epithet a few times over the years; it's just funny to us, so that's what I decided to call Kyle's journal, Chicken Butt Nose Blood, One Mother's Memoir.

When Kendall was born, I copy/pasted the beginning of the journal to different one for her and kept both up until they got a little older and the posts came farther and fewer in between. Eventually, I was journaling only once every few months, and then I started blogging (in 2007) here at Half-Past Kissin' Time. I wrote a few blog posts after that, but the last ones I wrote were in 2009.

The kids both know about the journals. When Kyle was in high school, I printed his journal and let him read parts of it. Then I put it away, and we've been too busy to think about it much. For Christmas this year (and pushed a bit by the occasion of Kyle's college graduation), I decided to have the journal hard-bound for Kyle. It was more than 180 pages long, but I decided to copy/paste blog posts about Kyle into the journal, too. Then I added photos to some of the earlier journal entries, too, like this one, from the time Kyle and a classmate collided on the playground and he ended up with a concussion.

The process of editing (the entire document, three times) was incredibly time consuming, as you can imagine. Then I uploaded it to for the binding part and learned that it needed to be formatted a certain way, so that necessitated plenty more changes. I was in over my head, tech-wise, but I refused to pay the fee for them to do it for me, and I learned a lot. This process made me realize why most people do not carry their writing all the way to the book process--It is so much work!! Three hundred and thirty-seven pages later, publishing is now in process; the hard copy won't arrive for another week or so, I'm guessing, but on Christmas morning, I gave Kyle a flash drive containing the final copy for him to read. He was very, very happy.

All in all, I'm certain that I spent well over 50 hours prepping my labor of love,not including the writing itself, and I'd do it again. In fact, I plan to do it again for Kendall, of course. For now, though, I need a rest!

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