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.

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday (Christmas Edition)

Today’s photograph still has chickens, only chickens made of glass. This is our Christmas tree which is still being decorated. (Just a few ornaments are added every day to extend the anticipation.) These have been collected over the years, but the wooden tree is new this year. (No needles to vacuum up!) The smallest chicken ornaments were purchased many years ago for my first Christmas tree in this house long before I ever thought of having my own backyard chickens. (Funny how that worked out!)

The newest ornament, the one for this year, is a pair of ballet slippers. If you are a regular reader or just a recent reader, you know that all of my chickens, and especially Gracie, love the art of dance. Ballet is their favorite, and Gracie wants to be a ballerina and dance the part of “The Rose Garden Princess.”

If you read “Seasons Of Friendship” here for free before publication (or purchased the book from Barnes and Noble after publication), you know there is a pair of ballet slippers hidden in the illustrations. I enjoyed hiding them, and Gracie enjoyed finding them. Hopefully you did as well! This and other challenges may be a regular part of future books.

I’d like to take a quick moment to remind everyone “Seasons Of Friendship” is still available and all royalties through December 31, 2019 will go to Gracie’s favorite group of women at St. John’s Church in Portsmouth. The ladies do a great job of helping those in our community who need the gift of friendship, the kind of friendship that gives from the heart.

If you have been considering purchasing a copy for yourself or as a gift, please use the links below. We would like to be able to make a $100.00 donation for the year if at all possible, and we still have quite a ways to go.

(The royalties are $1.00 on the eBook and $0.62 on the paperback due to an increase in printing cost. So as you can see, my girls aren’t going to be getting a sauna or a pony anytime soon! We would just like to provide something uplifting to readers that will also be uplifting for our community.)

“Seasons Of Friendship” is now available as an eBook for $2.50 through Barnes & Noble! Go there for “Seasons Of Friendship” eBook!

“Seasons Of Friendship” is now also available as a paperback for $12.50 through Barnes & Noble! Go there for “Seasons Of Friendship” paperback!

Four Parts, Twelve Chapters, Seventeen Full Premium Color Illustrations, White 70 lb. Paper, 5.5” x 8.5” with Matte Cover.

We are truly thankful for you, our readers, and are so appreciative every day for the gift of your friendship!

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

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

Be on the lookout for upcoming information about our next book, “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” It will be our first novel. That’s right, a real 32,000-word, 240-page novel, not just a collection of stories!

My Life With Gracie…Immersed In The Joys Of Life

Immersed In The Joys Of Life

“Gracie, what do chickens think about death?” I asked. It had been a few days since we had our “We Are Not Sparrows” conversation, and I had been thinking over what she had told me as well as what she had not told me.

“What do you mean?”

“What do chickens believe happens to them when they die?”

Gracie looked up at the sky above us. There was a beautiful patch of blue beginning to show where the rain clouds had parted.

Maybe she wanted to find the right words to express something she felt needed no words. Maybe she simply lived out whatever the words were rather than trying to make her life fit what the words meant.

“It’s not something we worry and fret over, if that is what you mean.”

“Is there anything else?” I asked, not wanting to give up so easily.

“Those words are hard to find. Chickens don’t think about death the way most people do,” she said and then added, “But I have questions for you too.”

I smiled. (What else could I do?)

“Why ponder what death is about when we are right in the middle of all this life? It is everywhere around us. We are swimming in an ocean of life. Isn’t it much more important to understand what life is about?”

I thought back to all of the times I had seen Gracie and Bessie when they were young and exploring the world, completely immersed in the joys of life. Although she is older and more mature now, she has still held onto something which I had lost or given up long ago as a child.

“Surely a good understanding of life will hold the key to understanding death,” she said.

“So what do chickens think about life?”

“Those words are easy to find. Life is a gift. You cannot give it to yourself. It is given to you. Where there is a gift, there is always a giver. Life is a gift with a purpose, and that purpose is to make more gifts.”

She said all of this with great confidence, as if all baby chicks come into the world knowing these simple truths. Perhaps they do. Perhaps children do too.

“Life is a gift we were given so we can be a gift to our part of the world. If we busy ourselves in life with being a gift rather than receiving a gift, we have no time to think about what will happen in death.”

“So if everyone is busy being a gift and giving a gift…” I began.

“…Eventually the world will be filled with gifts from the goodness of life. There will be no room for anything else. Not even death,” she concluded.

“Gracie, that is a beautiful way of looking at life.”

“It is the chicken way of looking at life.”

Then, probably so I wouldn’t feel so bad for not being a chicken (or a child anymore), she added, “But it can also be a never-too-late way of looking at life.”

So when I receive this season’s gifts of crayon-scribbled cards and misshapen cookies made by little hands, I will enjoy them differently. They will also be gifts from Life seeking to fill the world with goodness until there is no room for anything else…except maybe just one more still-warm, ooey, gooey, chocolate chip cookie!

My Life With Gracie gave me hope that one day the world will be completely filled with the infinite goodness of Light and Life and Love.

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

If the background looks familiar, you’re right. It is adapted from Vincent Van Gogh’s painting titled “Starry Night” which he painted in 1889. This and many of his other works always make me feel as if I am swimming in the joys of life because they are filled with the goodness of Light and Life and Love.

For me, Van Gogh’s art is an example of what this post is about. I wonder, did he perhaps have a chicken or two?!?