You know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” Well, I have a new one ”When life throws you curve balls, find a different field to play in.” The curve balls thrown at me were enduring a double fusion surgery on my back, followed by a major car accident. Instead of being able to rehab and go back to the classroom for my 34th year of teaching, I found myself filing for disability. And finding a new field to play in---the field of writing a children’s book.
I knew I wanted to continue advocating for children and their families. Now that I had the time I could use the experience from 30+ years of teaching, mostly first and second graders, to write a book that would encourage a message of acceptance and love. A book that many people could see themselves in and one that could challenge us (kids and adults) to think about how we treat others different than us. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a pro at this, or even good at it at times. We all have work to do. I wrote it to help initiate conversations to bring us together, not push us apart. I wrote and wrote, erased (yes, I used a pencil for a lot of it), typed, deleted, typed, deleted…..you get the idea.
For three years I worked on my story. I became the student again, learning from books, social media groups, professional groups, articles on topics in the story, friends in education and my “coach” (publisher in the book world) Katie from Pelton Press. She was professional, supportive, and always had the best interest of the book in mind. Family, friends, former coworkers and the staff at the church I attend became my cheerleaders. Were there still curve balls? Yes, because that’s how life is. But I believed in my story and wanted to continue making a difference in children’s lives, so I continued on.
So Katie and agreed to work as a team to write and publish this book. But we needed a third team member, an illustrator. I knew from my experience as a teacher and parent that vibrant pictures helped lure their readers into stories. Lucky for me a friend suggested I check out the art work of Camilla Herbel, a graduate of Moorhead Public Schools, where I had been teaching. I loved her paintings of people; especially their expressions. Since the story of my book would involve conflict, which meant feelings needed to be shown in the characters I decided to ask Camilla if she was interested. Our first phone call ,of many, lasted hours. We discussed the desire to have the book represent many populations. Working on this book would be a first for both of us. I got the feeling right away we wanted to support each other fully to see this story come to fruition.
Once a teacher, always a teacher is a familiar saying. That describes me to a tee. I have high hopes for this book starting conversations at a young age around differences to move people towards each other instead of pushing them apart. I also hope the readers and listeners talk about other topics woven into this story. That’s why I included six questions at the end of the book. I also have high hopes for our world becoming a better place to work, play and live. To do that we need to own up to our prejudices, biases, privilege and start being the change. Find others who want the same. And…..when life throws you curve balls, go find a different field to play in. Because it usually is not IF but WHEN.
I hope you enjoy reading MY TWO DADS and look for other ways to support Pelton Press and Camilla Herbel. They were amazing team members to work with which made the entire process an experience I’ll never forget. Find the field you want to play in and become the best teammate possible. Life is better that way.
"We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light." ~Mary Dunbar