My favorite book, as a kid, was about this puppy that always lagged behind the others. The Pokey Little Puppy sniffed about, dug holes and gazed through fence gaps while his mates raced ahead, found all the bones, then raced home for dinner. The bowl was always empty when he finally showed up. I named the stuffed dog I slept with “Pokey.” He still sits in my window seat. Do you see, now, how it happened? Those bare patches? All that pokiness rubbed off on me.
“Congratulations! It took you long enough!” a friend laughed this week, regarding my upcoming picture book. Hey! Only three and half decades! Right. If I were a dog, I’d be Pokey. If I were a plant, I’d be that century plant that takes a lifetime to bloom.
My whole life, I wanted the same three three things: to be a cowgirl, a writer, and a mom. They seemed like humble enough goals. I set off blithely into adulthood to lasso them.
Sadly, cows don’t actually roam the wide-open plains much anymore, serenaded by vaqueros. Mostly, they’re corralled in big feedlots, and the roaming ones are often herded around by guys on ATVs. I put that dream on hold while I worked out my options.
The dream of writing eluded me too. I failed Journalism due to showing up a day late for the final. You see how it goes. I submitted stories by the dozens to book and magazine publishers. The stories were mostly terrible. The editors were mostly kind. Still, I needed an umbrella to shield me from the rejection slips raining down upon me. My writing career went along about as well as my cowgirl career.
I turned tail and fled to Plan B: becoming a speech therapist, where at least I could get a paycheck. There I could work with kids and words too--while I waited for publishers to pound down my door. I married my high school sweetheart. After his medical training was complete, I announced it was high-time to start a family. I still believed dreams were like peaches--mine for the picking.
But becoming a mom was trickier than I’d guessed, as well. Unlike most people-- who make babies without half trying, I couldn’t get the stork to fly anywhere near our house. After two years of "trying" and failing, I started the long trudge through the land of infertility.
I’ll skip over the misery of this era. If you’ve been there, you know. It’s enough to say that sadness follows infertility patients like a coyote tracking a rabbit. While friends are throwing kid birthday parties and heading off to Disney Land, you're trying to climb out of the hole of another failed cycle, smile through a friend's umpteenth baby shower, and face down another weird, uncomfortable fertility procedure. I was 36 and all my best dreams were dangling way out of reach.
And then, miracle of miracle, just as I was trying to imagine being childless forever, the stork arrived. As infertility stories go, I hit the Baby Jackpot. One year after our first son arrived, two more followed in quick succession. In spite of the overwhelming exhaustion of three babies in three years, I've never taken these blessings for granted. We dove into into family life with gusto, making up for lost time. The mess and mayhem, hilarity and hijinks of raising three boys so close in age are hard to describe. But I don't question my miracles.
Once a month, I took a welcome break and soaked up the exhilarating tonic of a writers' group near me. This bunch of talented, brilliant, passionate and accomplished women who wrote just for kids. They saved my brain from dissolving like a sugar-lump in hot tea. They taught me their craft, critiqued my blunders and inspired me. A member recommended a small publisher for a story I’d written, so I sent it off, with little expectation.
A year later, another miracle arrived. Not a baby (thankfully) but a contract, to publish my story. I was dumbstruck. And euphoric. And confused. Because nothing really happened for a long time. More messy, loud, chaotic years passed, with little contact from the publisher. I began to wonder if I dreamed that contract. More years went by. My boys grew up and went off to college.
In the mean time, the publisher, illustrator, and publicity women, all in Minnesota, were busy making other picture book dreams come true. In due time, they turned their time and talents to my manuscript. Picture books, it turns out, are a time-consuming, collaborative affair. During the years we've been in contact, I've come to know, admire, and treasure this extraordinary, inspired, environmentally-passionate group of book-makers that are Raven Publications.
Big Fish Dreams is based on a true story about a salmon and a family fishing trip. Consie's artwork is glorious. Johanna Dee Hyde, an amazing publisher, editor, fire-fighter and canoeing guide-- taught me so much about watershed and the plight of salmon. It was her vision to help salmon in a more direct way. Part of the proceeds will go to stream and river restoration, so you'll be helping our watersheds if you decide to purchase a copy. Big Fish Dreams is due to be released this May 1st to bookstores and Amazon, but can be preordered from www.ravenwords.com . I hope you'll enjoy it with a kid you love.
Nothing beats a dream coming true, no matter how late it shows up. Perhaps slow-moving dreams just seem slow because we have an arbitrary timeline in mind. Like peaches on the tree, they ripen when they're ready, not one minute sooner. I'm pretty sure that wherever we are, at any given time, is exactly where we're meant to be. It's our job to figure out why.
I may never gallop across the plains herding cattle, wind in my hair. But then again, who knows? They probably have cow-girl camps for dreamers like me. In the meantime, I have two cherished, ancient, backyard horses waiting for me to bring them breakfast.
Some lucky folks are sprinters, knocking accomplishments off their lists with ease. But lots of us are wanderers, poking along, with plenty of detours along the way. Thankfully, sometimes even the pokiest pups find a bone. One way or another, the longed-for baby arrives. The century plant blooms. And sometimes-- the damn book finally gets published. However, if I hope for any more books in this lifetime, I may need to get Pokey an assistant. I'm thinking of a stuffed jackrabbit. Or a road runner. Because, wow. This really did take me long enough.
Feeling moody? Here's a favorite of mine!
Willie Nelson, My Heros Have Always Been Cowboys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMko5LelBdA
Welcome to Streamriffs.com, a place for fellow creek- walkers and nature lovers. Lori Fisher Peelen lives in California with her family.