The New Ink Pen

“What are you doing?” asked Gracie.

”I’m trying out the new pen I got for Christmas.”

“That’s Pearl, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s a drippy and messy pen sometimes. Sort of the way Pearl can be. Even though it’s not perfect all of the time, it still makes beautiful lines. You just have to know how to look at them.”

“Messy but beautiful, just like with Pearl,” Gracie said with delight. “But who are the baby chicks? We don’t have any baby chicks here any more.”

“I know. Pearl wants to be a Momma Hen more than just about anything these days. She misses having Blanche at her side. She would like to have some baby chicks that look like her. So I made this drawing.”

“It’s like you’ve said before. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

“And that is how you and I will dance in the streets of Paris even if we never get to travel there together. But that is many drawings from now. I still would like to really go to Paris with you, Gracie.”

“Is there a reason why you did this drawing without any bright and pretty color? Besides Pearl being mostly white, I mean.”

“You and I both love pictures. And our readers love pictures too. But books with pictures in color are very expensive to print. So all of our books with color have to be short. No more than sixty-four pages. But it’s going to take more than sixty-four pages to tell some of the stories we want to tell.”

“So these books with black-and-white pictures mean more adventures?”

“Exactly right.”

“Even though you didn’t stay inside the lines all of the time?”

“For me it’s harder to go outside of the lines than to stay inside the lines.”

Gracie laughed, and we smiled together. It didn’t make much sense to either of us, but it didn’t matter.

“What kind of more adventures?” she asked.

“Adventures like Amelia flying to the moon and back. Adventures like you dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet. Adventures like maybe even Pearl having her own little family.”

“And some baby chicks wearing little tutus would be very nice. Can you draw that too?”

She nudged me with her head to make sure I was listening.

“That would make both Pearl and you happy, wouldn’t it? Yes, I can do that. But it will all take some time. A drawing that shows how much I love you takes time to get just right.”

“We can wait.”

“You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you have always said.”

My Life With Gracie…A Most Unfortunate Chicken

A Most Unfortunate Chicken

Today’s illustration has been provided by Emily. You may remember some of her previous artwork from the series titled “Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp.” This is the story behind her drawing for today.

“I really do admire all of you chickens,” I said to Gracie. “I would make a lousy chicken. Probably the lousiest chicken in the whole history of lousy chickens.”

“Chickens do not keep history the way people do. There are no lousiest chickens.”

“You know what I mean, Gracie. If I was a chicken, I wouldn’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain.”

“Yes, you would. We would make sure of it.”

“I know you would, Gracie, because you are so kind. But that’s not quite what I mean.”

We looked at each other, not sure who should speak next.

There was a gust of winter wind, and the others trotted over to where Gracie and I were standing. They gathered around her, and everyone turned slightly to face into the wind as it shifted a little more from the west.

“You see, that’s exactly what I mean!”

They all looked up quizzically. Only Gracie had an idea of what I was getting at because the others hadn’t been listening.

“He is telling about why he would make a lousy chicken,” she quickly explained.

“There are no lousy chickens,” said Bessie. “There has never been a lousy chicken in the whole history of chickens.”

“Chickens don’t keep history,” reminded Gracie.

“All the more reason why there has never been a lousy chicken,” said Bessie, confident that her point had been unmistakably proven.

The wind gusted again, and five beaks and bodies moved to point into its slightly changed direction. I kept my back to the wind and pulled the collar of my jacket up higher on my neck.

“See! There you go again!” I said.

Their confused expressions returned.

“You face into the cold wind, no matter how hard it blows. If I was a chicken, I would turn my back to the cold wind and wait for it to die down.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” said Gracie with utmost confidence. “Well, maybe only once or twice.”

“Why is that? Because you would teach me and make sure I didn’t?”

“That is a lesson you would learn for yourself the first time that an icy cold wind got up into your tail feathers!”

Everyone thought this was hilarious as they imagined me as a chicken with a beard in front and tail feathers in back. I had to chuckle some myself.

“You would not be a lousy chicken,” said Gracie, “But you would be a most unfortunate chicken until you figured it out for yourself.”

Then I realized there is a reason my chickens face into the wind. They are streamlined that way. The wind may be cold when it hits their faces, but the rest of them remains warm and protected. The wind can’t get up into their feathers.

Another cold gust of wind came at us from a slightly different direction and all of the chickens adjusted a bit to face more directly into it. This time I faced into the wind with them.

“Foofity boofity bottomy feathers!” Pearl began to say over and over until the words turned into a song. “Foofity boofity, boofity foofity, bottomy feathers for you, for you!” Her silliness made everyone laugh and soon the cold didn’t feel as cold any more.

My Life With Gracie taught me to face into the winds of hardships rather than turning my back to them.

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

This brief story was inspired not only by the cold winds we have been having this week, but also by some of the hardships that you, our readers, have had recently. (You know who you are.) Your ability to face those hardships head-on is an inspiration to us all.

A Brief Retrospective Look At December 2019

December 2019 Favorites

The beginning of a new year seems to be a good time to look back on the old and look forward to the new, and so some type of retrospective of our illustration and story posts also seems appropriate.

(These are shown above from left to right. Links to the full illustrations and posts follow.)

First “Most Popular” Post December 2019

“Christmas Eve Wisdom And Wishes” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (Not only was this the “Most Popular” for the month of December, it was also the “Most Popular” for all of 2019!)

Second “Most Popular” Post December 2019

“Immersed In The Joys Of Life read it in full here if you’d like. (This was one of my favorite posts for the year, not so much for the illustration, but more for what it said about life and love.)

Third “Most Popular” Post December 2019

“The Most Perfect Plan Ever!” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (The illustration for this post shows Pearl’s imagination at work as she wonders what it will be like when Santa Claus reads her Christmas list. I love her innocent hopefulness that all of life’s problems could be solved with a simple letter to Santa Claus.)

Well, my friends, we made it through the entire 12-month retrospective! Thanks for joining me. I have enjoyed this chance to look back and see what you as readers enjoyed the most!

I can’t help but close with one more “Most Popular,” and it’s the “Most Popular Family Photo Friday” picture for all of 2019. I was pleased to see that it was of Gracie who I seldom photograph just by herself. That’s just the kind of modest girl she is and one more reason why she will always be “My Best Girl Ever.”

Family Photo Friday

We appreciate the time you have spent reading our stories and leaving “likes” and “comments” to encourage us when we got things right. We also appreciate the times you have made us think about how we can do better. All of your “hearts” and reposts, all of your award nominations and mentions, all of your kind words, all of it…is so tremendously appreciated.

We hope very much that we have returned to you some small part of the great joy you have given to us.

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Blanche (who we still hold in our hearts), Amelia, and Emily