Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Last week, the first official copy of “Seasons of Friendship” arrived in my mailbox. Previously I had received a proof copy and had made a few minor visual changes, probably nothing that most people would notice, but I did.

Just so you know, I tried both Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The quality of printing provided by Barnes & Noble was much better than that done through Amazon. The colors were much truer to the original digital artwork with the test copy from Barnes & Noble.

If you would, compare Gracie in the photo from the book and Gracie in the digital image from the upper right corner. They are even closer when viewed side-by-side.

The illustrations printed by Amazon also had a slightly glossy sheen which did not work well for graphic images. The glossiness might be appropriate for a book which contained photographs, but did not work well for my illustrations.

The feel of the paper from Barnes & Noble was also slightly better which is very important with a print copy. The time from order to delivery was basically the same, one week. (They both use print-on-demand technology rather than a warehouse for self-published books like this.)

Today’s photo is from one of my favorite chapters which is based on this post from the first month of “My Life With Gracie” and this post from earlier this year. It also may be considered the turning point chapter of the book when Gracie learns one of the key lessons of being a good leader.

Classifying “Seasons Of Friendship” was not easy and may still change. It is not really a novel but more of a story collection. Here is how I described it in the preface:

The stories here are rambling. They are simply collections of thoughts, anecdotes, hopes, and dreams. Each is complete in itself, yet they all fit together to tell a bigger story. This is much like life itself.

All are loosely bound together by a common theme. They free range like my chickens exploring their backyard but always coming back home. They aren’t great literature, but they are from my heart.

This book is perhaps best read outdoors in a shady peaceful spot, perhaps in your own little backyard garden, real or imagined. Whether you read just one chapter at a time, one seasonal section at a time, or the entire book all in one leisurely afternoon, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you choose as a reader, I hope you will imagine Gracie and the others sitting at your feet, bringing you peace and friendship.

“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.

Need a preview, just to be sure? Download “Seasons Of Friendship” sample!

As with the eBook version, all royalties from “Seasons Of Friendship” until the end of the year will be donated to the women’s group at St. John’s Church that sponsors our annual Flower Festival. This year, the Flower Festival followed the Hatchday for Gracie and Bessie, April 25th. Each chapter in “Seasons Of Friendship” is illustrated with garden plants as a celebration of beauty and friendship. What a perfect combination of events!

The “A.W.E.-some” women of St. John’s always give and they always give their very best. They love everyone no matter what, and I’ve never known them to turn anyone away who needed help. They always have a smile and a kind word, particularly for those who are the most vulnerable and have no voice. These are just some of the reasons why Gracie and Bessie call them their friends!

A Leap Of Faith

The Villain King

It was easy to tell Gracie was worried and trying to hide it, so I scattered around some sunflower kernels. While everyone else was enjoying their treat, I called Gracie to me to see what was concerning her.

“There’s been a monster creeping around here when it starts to get dark and before you come home,” she said all at once.

I could tell she felt a bit better just by saying something about it. So I asked her to tell me what it looked like, and she did.

“With a long narrow snout and all of those sharp pointed teeth, that sounds like an opossum,” I said. “Did it have a naked pink tail?”

“Yes,” she said, relieved I believed her and knew what she was talking about. It hurt me to see her trying to be brave while carrying such a heavy responsibility all alone.

“Gracie, Sweetie, you were right to be alarmed. Remember though, it’s an opossum, not a monster. It only becomes a monster if you let it become one in your mind. Understand?”

She nodded.

“But tell me, why didn’t you say something before now? Is it because you didn’t want to make the others scared?”

She nodded again and then added in her softest voice, “I didn’t want you to think I wasn’t a good leader. I don’t know how to protect anyone, not even myself, from something so mean looking.”

She waited to see if I was going to say I was disappointed in her. When I didn’t, she continued, “And he hisses the most evil things at us! So I just stood there, looking him in the eyes and not moving. But I didn’t do anything.”

She lowered her head, waiting for me to say something, even if it was something she didn’t want to hear.

“You are a better leader than you realize, Gracie. Are you afraid right now?”

“No. But that’s because you’re here.” She looked up and saw I wasn’t angry or disappointed.

“And when I’m not here…Have I made things safe for you even when I’m not here? You girls are more important to me than anything. I would never leave you without making sure you are protected. You do believe that, don’t you?”

Gracie took a while to think that over. She looked at the strong fencing I had used to build their home. She looked at how everything they needed was safe and secure, just like they were. She nodded.

“And what do I tell you every morning before I go away to work?”

“You say to be good to each other and take care of each other. Then you say to never forget you love us more than anything here.”

I smiled my biggest smile and said, “Exactly right, Gracie! Take care of each other. You don’t have to do it all. Just be someone the others look up to because you put them first.”

She looked at the others and then back at me.

“Most important of all, remember how much I love you. I would give up anything you see here to keep you with me. Are you afraid when you think about how much I love you?”

“No!” she said with so much amazement she actually surprised herself. “No! I’m not afraid then!” She fluffed out all of her feathers like she was a whole new girl ready for a fresh start. “I’m not afraid then!”

“Sweetheart, you just taught me a very valuable lesson. Thank you!”

Gracie looked stunned. “Me? What could I ever teach you?”

“Oh, you know what I mean, Gracie! You are so modest, and you teach me things all the time. But look. Let’s turn the opossum into part of our ballet about The Rose Garden Princess. We need an evil character to make the story more interesting. We can call him The Evil King Of Darkest Night. What do you say? Can you only pretend to be afraid? For the ballet? For your ballet!”

“Yes!” she clucked again and again, overflowing with more joy than I’ve seen in the longest time.

Gracie hurried back to the others to get a few sunflower kernels before they were all gone. She even did a few ballet leaps along the way, or certainly what might pass for ballet leaps…at least in my eyes if no one else’s.

She is so beautiful, my beloved little Gracie, and one day we will dance together, just as our hearts already do. It will just take a leap of faith.

My Life With Gracie gave me a chance to see fear only has power when we forget how much we are loved.

You can read more about our production of “The Rose Garden Princess” if you’d like. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Family Photo Friday

Family Photo Friday

I thought it might be good to share this photo of Amelia today since yesterday’s post was all about her. Of course, this only shows one side of her very dynamic and adorable personality!

This is a photo of Amelia on New Year’s Day. You can see a little of Bessie there too. While Bessie has her head buried in the breakfast salad, Amelia is giving me “the eye” and trying to figure out just what is going on. Amelia keeps me on my toes, and she doesn’t miss a thing.

When I’m filling their dry feed holder in the morning, she is the only one who will fly up to the shelf I use and inspect everything. She will even help herself to her favorite items in the mixing bucket before it’s all poured into the holder. Her most favorite? Sunflower kernels.

Sometimes I move my chair into their run area so we can all sit and enjoy time together. Amelia is the first (and often only) one to claim the chair when I go back into the house to find a treat for everyone.

Yes, she is bold and adventurous! I’ve been told when she was just a little chick, she was the first to make it to the top of the water container, the first to make it to the top of the brooder box, the first to reach anything! This is why her original Chicken Mom and Dad named her after Amelia Earhart.

Yet with such an independent spirit, she still has a very sweet side which she shows only to those she knows and loves.

You can read more about all of my chickens on this page.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Hold onto your heart! This week’s photo shows four of my first little chicks in their brooder. In the back is Gracie. You can see how very timid she was then and how she seems to be hiding her side with the strange lump.

When I took this photo, I wasn’t sure if Gracie was going to survive. At the time, I thought it might be the last one I ever took of her. Yet amazingly she grew to become the leader of my little flock. She has been an inspiration to me in so many ways. She is, after all, “My Best Girl Ever.”

Close by Gracie is Rudy, my little Rhode Island Red. (Soon I will share a photo of her and her own first hatchling.) Towards the front are The Emperor and The Empress, not quite the regal looking pair of Brahmas they would grow up to be, but they were definitely happy chicks eager to do all of the things chicks do.

Thanks for joining me in this little look back. Who would have ever imagined my shy little Gracie would be practically famous all over the world? Not me!

You can read more about all of my chickens on this page.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…An Unseen Boundary

An Unseen Boundary

Sometimes maybe we forget how the boundaries and fences we see really can be for our own protection, for our own good. But there are unseen boundaries found in the heart of a different nature.

After Lefty and Rudy left for a farm in Southampton County and The Emperor and The Empress left for a farm in Smithfield, Gracie and Bessie were the only ones outside. But Blanche and Pearl soon outgrew their indoor brooder box and joined them.

Without Lefty or The Emperor to lead the flock, Bessie found her spot. But really there wasn’t much leading to do at first when the only other chicken there was her best friend Gracie. I think Bessie was glad when Blanche and Pearl joined them. She had younger chickens to keep in line, particularly during those awkward, rebellious teenage weeks!

After a little over five months of unemployment, I was hired into a temporary position, and Bessie had a chance to show her leadership skills while I was away. She was so proud when I would tell her, “Okay, Miss Bessie, you’re in charge until I get back.” She took her duties very seriously.

One day when I got home, I knew something was different by the way the chickens were behaving. When I looked closer at Bessie, I could see she had two gash marks on the top of her head, one on each side of her comb.

I asked her what had happened, and she told me the best she could. She even went up into their coop to show me more. She would talk and point with her beak and talk some more and point to a different spot. Then she pointed to the blood spatters on the inside walls of their coop, and I knew how deep her trauma must have been.

She went on and on for the longest time. All I could say was, “I know, Honey, I know.” But I didn’t know what had happened. Only she knew, and I think that unseen boundary hurt me the most…not that I wasn’t there to be the protector, but that she didn’t know how I shared her feelings even though I hadn’t shared her experience. Somehow knowing someone else shares your feelings makes difficult times less difficult.

Having Bessie recount the story of whatever happened the way she did convinced me never to think of any chickens as “just chickens.”

Finally she settled down, and we went on with our evening routine. My best guess is a stray cat found a gap in the fencing between their coop and run, not big enough for either animal to get their bodies through, just a paw or a beak.

Since then the cats started taking different routes, and now all of the chickens go into “high alert” whenever one is in sight. But whatever happened that day changed Bessie. She continued to be the leader for a while, but began holding back more and more until Gracie took over.

My timid little Gracie, with the lump on her side and who I thought would be at the bottom of the pecking order for her entire life, my timid little Gracie became the new leader.

While Gracie will always be “My Best Girl Ever,” Bessie will always be “My Bravest Girl Ever.” I tell her that often because I think she needs to hear it. She is now more retiring and reserved than the others. She fought a brave battle, lived to tell about it, and is glad to now rest and let her best friend be the flock champion.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Bessie) showed me what it means to be a leader.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

An Unseen Boundary