My Life With Gracie…Christmas Eve Wisdom and Wishes

“The most important thing to know about laying an egg is that it is about giving. Light and Life and Love are about giving, not getting. Don’t ever make any of these things about getting.”

Chicken Wisdom from Blanche in
“How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

We are so thankful for all of you who have been following along with our adventures and bits of “chicken wisdom.” More than anything, we want to help bring peace and joy into your heart. With everything we share here, that is our goal.

For my chickens, they just go about their daily routine doing what chickens do. For me, I just draw illustrations and write words to go with them. There’s nothing special in any of those things.

So if anything here touches your heart, it’s not from my chickens or me. It’s from something far greater. It’s from the source of Peace and Joy. It is from Light and Life and Love.

“My Life With Gracie” wishes you Peace and Joy…and Light and Life and Love…and a very Merry Christmas too!

Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Amelia, Emily, and John

The Most Perfect Plan Ever!

The Most Perfect Plan Ever

This is an excerpt from “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” In this chapter, Pearl believes she had found the explanation that will help her understand Christmas and will also help her get what her heart wants most.

Pearl had been studying the decorations at The Bottle Cap Lady’s House without her knowing it. She did not want to be in a Christmas Chicken Freak Show. It was difficult to know when she could trust The Bottle Cap Lady and when she would be unpredictable and maybe even dangerous.

Early one morning Pearl listened as The Big Boy from the end of the street explained Christmas to The Little Boy from the end of the street. The Big Boy’s front yard was the one with The Big Blue Hippopotamus in it, so he must know a good deal about Christmas.

“Don’t be stupid. There are three more days to Christmas. Three more nights and Santa Claus will bring my new go-cart and fill my stocking with candy.

“If you haven’t made your list, you’d better do it now, right now. If you don’t have a list, you get leftovers nobody else wants. If you’re not in bed and if you’re not asleep, you get nothing.”

“So what do I put on my list?” asked The Little Boy.

“How should I know, you little goof!”

“I’d like a puppy. That’s what I’d really like.”

“You don’t want a puppy on your list. Put a new bicycle. You can always get a puppy. People are giving them away all the time. You don’t see anybody giving away free bicycles do you?”

“No. I guess you’re right.”

“I know I’m right.”

They went off to throw rocks in the little creek across from my house. Pearl saw The Big Boy pointing out all of the places he would be riding his new go-cart in the empty field there by the little creek.

Pearl had figured out this much about Christmas. You make a list of what you want most. Only special things. Not everyday free things. You must be home on Christmas Eve. You must be asleep when Santa Claus comes. When you wake up on Christmas morning, you have everything on your list.

This was perfect! This was the most perfect plan ever! Why hadn’t The Bottle Cap Lady explained all this to her? Did she just want Pearl to get leftovers nobody else wanted?

The next day, Pearl found a scrap of paper. She took some of the pomegranate pips from her food bowl and broke them open so that the bright red juice would make a puddle. This would be her ink. Then she took a feather and nibbled at the end until she had a point that would hold some of the pomegranate juice ink.

Then she made marks on her paper. She loved making marks. These marks would give her the wonderful new life she had wanted for so long.

Dear Santa

Please

Blanche

and Pumpkin Seeds

Love

Pearl

She wondered if it was acceptable to write “Love” to someone she didn’t even know and hadn’t ever met.

What if Santa thought she wrote “Love” only because she was trying to get gifts? But she would love Santa for sure after he brought Blanche back home, and so it wasn’t really a lie. She wasn’t really trying to take from Santa without loving him.

She rolled up the paper so it would fit through the fencing and called to one of the songbirds to come and get it for delivery. She was looking especially content when I sat down nearby to read the newspaper.

“What are you so happy about today, Pearl?”

“Secrets and presents.”

“I see. So you finally figured out what the big blue hippopotamus and the other decorations are all about.”

Pearl nodded happily.

“Well, listen. You don’t really need to give me anything for a gift. I will be plenty happy just watching you enjoy the special Christmas Day treats I have for you.”

Pearl looked at me questioningly. I thought it was because she was trying to figure out what treats I might be saving for them. I found out later that she was wondering about giving gifts. The Big Boy and The Little Boy from the end of the street had not said anything about giving gifts, only getting gifts.

Maybe every time somebody gets a gift there has to be a different somebody who gives a gift. That made sense.

Pearl decided she needed to give The Bottle Cap Lady a gift. She could not imagine anyone else giving her a gift. It would not be good if The Bottle Cap Lady had a gift for Pearl but Pearl had no gift for The Bottle Cap Lady. And even if she didn’t have a gift for Pearl, it was fine because Pearl’s best gift was coming from Santa Claus. He would be bringing Blanche back home along with piles of roasted pumpkin seeds.

But what should she give to The Bottle Cap Lady? Christmas had just gotten much more complicated again.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated.

In real life, as in this book, Blanche died on Easter morning. Writing this chapter, I thought of all the children who are asking for something like what Pearl is asking for in her letter to Santa…an end to the hurting they feel in their hearts, hurting that can’t be easily fixed.

If only something as simple as writing a letter to Santa could heal those hurts, it would be such a perfect world, wouldn’t it? Instead it is up to us to heal the hurts when and where we can and to work towards a better world for everyone, including those with the gentlest and most trusting hearts, like Pearl.

“Pearl, My Little Girl, You Sure Have Changed!”

Today’s post is my current best version of Pearl as she will likely appear in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” The background is a scrap of old gift wrap which fits the story’s two main characters: Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady.

And so she began studying the lights which she hoped would be new friends to take the place of the fireflies and Blanche.

Over the next evenings, more of these lights appeared up and down our street. Some blinked. Others did not. Some had colors which Pearl had never seen before. The more she studied them, the more she wondered if they were truly fireflies. She had to find out. She would need to sneak beyond the boundaries of our safe yard.

Pearl moved quickly from one front yard to another, hiding behind the shrubbery. She would lay very low and then wait to see if anyone or anything had noticed her. She listened for dogs. She watched for silent cats.

When she got as close as she dared to the yard that had the most lights, she was amazed at what she saw. There were strings of lights just like there had been when she did her comedy show in our backyard, but there were more of them and with many more colors than she could have ever imagined.

Her heart beat faster. What a wondrous sight! Perhaps this was where Blanche was. It was certainly a beautiful place. Blanche belonged in a beautiful place.

There were lights and decorations everywhere, just as the wrens and songbirds had described. Some looked shiny and new, but most had the worn look of some of the things Pearl had collected after they had fallen out of the garbage truck. Still the strings of Christmas lights made everything appear beautiful against the darkness of the night.

Pearl wandered slowly through the decorations. They seemed to be set out in groupings to tell stories, and she studied them to figure out what those stories might be. In some places there would just be an assortment of odds and ends. Those didn’t feel like they had come from the pages of a story book like the others did, but they were still beautiful.

Blanche had to be somewhere close by.

Just as Pearl was ready to call out for Blanche, the front door opened. A dark shadowy lump of a figure stepped out onto the porch and sat down in a rocking chair. Pearl squinted her eyes to see more clearly.

From “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

If you have followed my posts for a while, you know the illustration style for this book has really been a struggle for me. No matter what, I always seem to come back to this particular colorful cartoon-like style, and so I guess it’s what is best for my chickens and for me!

The app that I have been using up to now, Tayasui Sketches, has been fine until a recent update has made it difficult to use on my iPad due to the size of my files. The “new Pearl” above was drawn using Affinity Designer.

Because of this change, Pearl is no longer a “Raster Girl.” She is now a “Vector Girl.” (Unless you work with graphics, these terms may not mean much, and really, it’s the results that count. But for some reason, “Raster Girl” and “Vector Girl” make me imagine Pearl wearing a motorcycle jacket and singing “Born To Be Wild.” But that is another drawing for another story!) Anyway, there was a huge learning curve for me to make this transition, but the results were worth it.

You may notice a few differences in how Pearl is drawn. This is especially true of the outlining which does not use the standard blueish-gray that has been in all of my other chicken drawings. Instead the outline colors vary based on the portion of Pearl they are outlining.

Moving back in time, below is an illustration of Pearl in the same pose (without a hat) from “Seasons Of Friendship.” Some subtle changes were made for improved printing quality.

Moving even further back in time, below is the original post illustration of Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady. It was made when their story was just a two-part post. At the time, I had no idea of ever developing their transformations into a 32,000 word novel or even of ever trying to publish a book.

You will notice how an irregular crayon drawing tool was used for outlining which did not do well in print. Because of that, I changed to the smoother outlining you see in the illustrations for “Seasons Of Friendship” directly above.

After comparing the illustration below with the one at the very top, hopefully you will agree with me when I say, “Pearl, my little girl, you sure have changed!”

My Life With Gracie...How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 2)

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!