From the ups and downs we all experience, we know life isn’t as easy as it looks. In the sweet innocence of childhood, these girls show that a single step — or jump — might bring out the unexpected smile.
Today, the honeybees were busy sipping nectar from the flowers of an ironweed plant. This little bee’s abdomen and legs are speckled with pollen as he goes about his business. Each worker bee can visit thousands of flowers in a day and during its lifetime will produce one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. The anything-but-simple wonders of nature never cease to amaze me.
When my children’s grandfather took his own life, the last thing I wanted to do was tell them how Grampa died. But when a newspaper headlined the details, I knew I had no choice. I went to bed that night wondering how I would tell them, and The Story of The Bear came to me in the night.
It was a way for me to open the difficult conversation. After I told them the story, my then 7-year-old son said, “That was a good story, but it’s too bad the bear had to die.”
And then I told them the rest of the story.
On Memorial Day 2017, my husband, Fred, and I drove to Marceline, Missouri, to watch the pages roll off the press at Walsworth Publishing. I didn’t know how it would feel to have the long-time dream of publishing The Story of The Bear become a reality.
While I wrote the story to help my children understand their paternal grandfather’s suicide, I like to think that at some level the book honors their grandfather — a kind and gentle man known for his intelligence and leadership. The fact that he had been a World War II veteran added meaning to the Memorial Day printing.
Walsworth sales rep Sallie Buck took photos during the press check and led us on a tour of the impressive printing facility. Nestled in the small town of Marceline, Missouri, Walsworth is the third-largest book publisher in North America.
Incidentally, Marceline is the home of Main Street USA, the downtown that inspired former resident Walt Disney when designing Disneyland. Before leaving town that day, we attended Marceline’s annual Memorial Day program, held of course, at a city park on Main Street USA.
Writing this story 28 years ago was an act of desperation. Publishing The Story of The Bear — and putting it out into the world with the hope that it will help others — was, and continues to be, a labor of love.
Having garnered rejection letters when I sent this story to various publishers, two years ago, I began to think about publishing it myself. I asked a friend who is a retired English professor if she would review my manuscript. When she gave it back to me, she told me that her sister illustrates children’s books.
Her sister, Linda Shaw, lives in Ohio; I live in Kansas. Though we have never met, we quickly connected through phone calls and emails. Linda developed a deep understanding of The Story of The Bear, as you’ll see in her illustrations. A little over a year after my first phone call to Linda, and with the expertise of designer Sarah Meiers, The Story of The Bear was ready to print.