My Life With Gracie…Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day

You may have noticed for the past few weeks Emily and Bessie have been doing the artwork for our posts. This has given me extra time to work on the illustrations for our next book.

Emily shared this drawing with me as soon as I got home from work on the evening before Valentine’s Day. While her beak and comb looked calm, I could tell by her twitchy tail feathers she was eager to give me her latest drawing. Who would have ever imagined that a slightly faded sheet of red construction paper could end up being so beautiful?

“Emily, that’s very pretty, and I like it tremendously. Do you need help adding some words like maybe ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’? I can spell the words for you.”

She shrugged her shoulders as if she was unsure what more needed to be said.

“It’s not really about Valentine’s Day,” Emily confessed. “I know you wanted a picture to share with everyone for Valentine’s Day. I’m sorry for letting you down. I don’t have a Valentine’s Day drawing for you.”

“What do you mean? There are valentine hearts all over it.”

“I know. But they are what you would call an artistic afterthought. They just fill the empty spaces between the chickens.”

“I see.”

“The drawing really isn’t about all of those valentine hearts. The most important part is all of the chickens who are dancing ballet. That’s what the picture is really about. I was hoping you would like that part the best and not worry about Valentine’s Day.”

“Why is that?”

“Because you’ve told us how you often think about us dancing ballet at night when you are trying to go to sleep.”

“That’s true. I always seem to sleep better when I imagine dancing ballerina chickens.”

“So this picture is really to wish you sweet dreams and a happy tomorrow. And it’s not for just one day, it’s for all days.”

“I think it’s the most wonderful picture you have ever made, and it’s much better than a picture for only Valentine’s Day.”

We smiled together.

“I am so lucky to have you in my life, Emily. This drawing has you all over it.”

“I don’t understand. None of those dancing chickens are me. They are all Gracie. She is the best dancer.”

“When I look at this picture you’ve drawn just for me, I can’t help but see you. But I don’t see you on the paper. I see you in my heart.”

Her comb blushed a bit redder and she hurried off to put away her art supplies for another day.

I thought about placing her drawing by the lamp near my bed. It would be the last thing I would see before turning out the light and the first thing I would see in the morning. But for that Valentine’s Day Eve, I just sat and enjoyed the pure beauty of who Emily is.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me love, real love, isn’t just for one day. It is for all days, and for sweet dreams, and for a happy tomorrow.

We have also included a sheet of “Art By Emily” Valentine’s Day cards you can download, print, and share. There are no words on the front or inside. When you print, cut, and fold them, you can add your own words if you’d like. I think they might also look nice framed…maybe on a bedside table?

Here’s wishing you, our readers, sweet dreams and a happy tomorrow!

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

My Life With Gracie…A Chicken’s Life Is Not So Bad!

A Chicken’s Life

This post is the conclusion to a short series which began last week. You can begin at the beginning by reading here if you’d like.

“So what do you think about all of the treats you collected?” I asked. “You almost filled your bag, and it was a big bag too.”

They looked at each other, unsure of what to say and who should say it. I waited.

At last, Gracie spoke up and said, “Honestly, we felt really sad, especially for the other kids.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we got corn. But it was hard. Not like what we get at home. And when we tried the little pieces of it, they tasted terrible.”

“Emily had to spit hers out,” added Bessie.

“I see. Was that all?”

“The worms,” said Gracie. “We got plenty of worms, but they were covered with white sand. They were hard and rubbery too. And sour. We don’t like sour worms.”

“They wiggled like real worms when we shook them, but they weren’t real worms,” said Amelia. “They must have been some kind of trick worms for trick-or-treating.”

“We got tricked,” said Bessie. “And that was no fun.”

They all nodded in agreement.

“I would have been disappointed too if I was you. Is there anything else?”

“There was one more thing,” said Amelia. “We didn’t like being called ‘the funny kids with the homemade costumes’ by the other trick-or-treaters.”

“That was not right or fair,” added Bessie.

“Yes, I heard that too. But you were right not to say anything back to them. That might have only made things worse. Their costumes did look like they came from a store. But the stores don’t sell chicken-sized costumes.”

“Why not?” asked Bessie. “Chickens have rights too.”

“I think it might have something to do with the fire code.”

“Oh,” they all said, and nodded knowingly. Chickens do not like fire even though they don’t know what a fire code is. (This answer has helped me out of a good number of tough conversations. Hopefully they will never ask what a fire code is.)

“Why would they make fun of us like that?” asked Emily. Her feelings seem to have been hurt the most. “They were loving all of their treats. They thought everything was really tasty. They were getting exactly what they wanted, but we weren’t. And then they had to make fun of us too.”

“But you did enjoy making your costumes and wearing them. Didn’t you? And you did enjoy doing all of this together. Didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

I leaned in and lowered my voice as if I was about to tell them the biggest secret in the entire universe. “Can I tell you something?”

“Okay,” they whispered back to me.

“In a few years, those kids, even The Big Boy At The End Of The Street, will have forgotten all about their store-bought costumes. They will have forgotten about how tasty all of those treats were for them. But you will still remember how much fun you had making your costumes together and all the times like this that you spent together.”

They thought this over carefully. Chickens do have very good memories.

“What’s more…You have real friends all over the world, and if you had shown up on any one of their front doorsteps, your real friends would have given you the best chicken-loving kind of corn and the best chicken-loving kind of worms you could ever imagine. Even without the scary Halloween costumes. Just because you are you.”

“Really!?!”

“You are my little flock. And that will never change. Even when you go out looking for better treats than what we have right here in our own backyard, you will always have this place and each other. This will always be your home, and this will always be your family.”

They looked around their back yard and at each other. Their eyes brightened.

“What if I take these treats and give them to some kids who might not have been able to go trick-or-treating?” I asked.

“Then we can do a little work together in the yard and garden. I need to do some raking, and I’ll bet there are crickets hiding in the leaves. What do you say?”

“We say we are your flock of chickens, and we would like that very much.”

“So you aren’t ‘the other kids’ any more?”

“We are what we are,” they said with one voice. “And we are very happy with what we are.”

“And next year,” Gracie added, “Maybe our costumes will even let us flap our wings and dance ballet.”

Then because she could not hold it in any longer, Pearl put her foot up in the air and sang out, “Trick Or Treat! Smell My Feet!”

And all was right once again in the world of our little backyard garden.

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

Poll Results for “Scariest Halloween Costume Contest!”

👻 BOTH!!! 👻……33%

👻 “Finger Lickin’ Ghoul” 👻……33%

👻 “Eat More Chikin” 👻……22%

Other……13% “The chicken in the pumpkin” and “Both! AND Pearl in the Pumpkin too! Peek-a-Booo!”

 

My Life With Gracie…More Than What We Are Right Now

More Than What We Are Right Now

Recently someone asked me, “Is Gracie your chicken or your wife?”

I replied, “Gracie is one of my absolutely amazing chickens. She is a beautiful Buff Orpington with a very gracious heart which is why she is named Gracie.”

My own heart enjoyed this question, though I am not completely sure why. I hoped this had been asked because the questioner found a special love in my words and illustrations.

I remember once, a little more than twenty-four years ago, when someone had told me, “We can never be anything more than what we are right now.”

Those words come back to me today, almost as clearly as when they were spoken on that front porch swing. It was a summer night, warm with only a light breeze. A golden retriever lay nearby, listening and trying to figure out what those words meant.

The most fragile realities seem to be the ones which depend the most on other people.

And so I wonder if that has anything to do with why I love Gracie so much. She gives me the dream of having someone to come home to, and I give her the dream of being someone to come home to…and of dancing ballet.

As long as there are stories and drawings, Gracie and I will surely be more than what we are right now…L’artiste et son beau poulet dansant…The artist and his beautiful dancing chicken.

I could tell there was still something troubling her. “What else do you want to know, Gracie?”

“In the ballet book, can you draw a picture of me dancing with you in the streets of Paris? I don’t think we will ever really get to dance there together.”

“Of course, Gracie. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

From “Seasons Of Friendship”

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Today is my 62nd birthday, and today just seemed to be the best day to share this story and illustration.