The GraciePress Newsletter

By J.R. Spiers (with help from Gracie)

The GraciePress Newsletter - Our 4-Year Anniversary Month!



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The GraciePress Newsletter - Our 4-Year Anniversary Month!
August 2022 is our 4-Year Anniversary Month! We started drawing pictures and writing stories to go with them as My Life With Gracie, a blog on WordPress, four years ago. Amazing! Even though we have moved from a blog to a newsletter, we are still very appreciative of you, our fans!
This month in the newsletter, we will look back at our original illustrations and stories from four years ago. We will also tell you more about a special gift for our fans!

#001 My Life With Gracie…An Introduction
People say to be a good writer you should write about what you know and love. For me, that has to be my chickens, and most particularly my Gracie.
She and my other chickens have taught me more about life and about myself than I will ever have time to write. Still I want to put some of it down and share what I can while I still remember most of it.
No story is complete without pictures, and so I will draw those as well. The style is rather simple with a childlike innocence, but hopefully the message will not be.
My Life With Gracie taught me how life itself is filled with grace if you only look for it.
#002 My Life With Gracie…About What We Love
I get lost in great drawings and paintings. Each artist has their own special attraction. There is the expressive line of a Degas or Lautrec drawing. There is the color and bold sureness of a Van Gogh painting. There is the sense of human frailty in a Käthe Kollwitz etching. There is the “I’ve been there” feeling I get from anything by Edward Hopper.
I wanted to draw great drawings. I wanted to paint great paintings. I wanted to see my work displayed in galleries and museums. I wanted people to hang onto my every word about art and the creative life.
None of those things ever happened.
I just do the regular workday and weekend routines and take care of my chickens. Sometimes I draw simple cartoon illustrations, usually of my chickens. Gracie. Bessie. Pearl. Blanche. Amelia. Emily. And I wonder if my drawings will ever be able to do what great art does…touch the heart.
My Life With Gracie taught me what we love isn’t always what we are meant to do.
#003 My Life With Gracie…Something Much Better
There is pure magic in the moment when a baby chick first stands on your foot. It is an indescribable joy.
You barely feel any weight at all, only perhaps the “hop up” landing. It is a moment you never want to end because it is filled with such innocence and trust.
You may think, “This is how life is intended to be,” and you would be right.
Even when grown, my chickens will still stand on my feet from time to time, and they are still amazingly light. They perform amazing arabesques and breathtaking leaps from a foot, from a lap, from a perch.
It did take some time before I realized Gracie’s secret love and desire was to be a ballerina. It’s that way with aspirations. Somehow acknowledging them takes away from the dream, and opens one up to embarrassment if the dream only ever remains a dream.
All of my girls enjoy the art of the dance, but Gracie sees it as her gift, the thing that she loves the most. I simply do not have the heart to tell her, or any of them really, it’s simply not possible. Chickens can’t be ballet dancers.
So they dance, and particularly Gracie. She dances so beautifully in her mind that I’ve started seeing her dream in my mind too.
One day I will draw her with pale pink ballet slippers dancing through the streets of Paris. We, Gracie and I, love our dreams, and I love my Gracie.
My Life With Gracie taught me sometimes the things you want in life don’t ever happen, but if you really look, often there is something much better for you.
#004 My Life With Gracie…About Dreams
It is difficult to imagine life without dreams. What kind of life would we have where the thought “One day I will…” simply does not exist?
To take away someone’s ability to hope seems like a terrible thing to do. To tell someone, “You will never…” seems like one of the worst kinds of hurts.
My chickens came into my life when I was unemployed. As an older guy, there didn’t seem to be too many job possibilities for me. Looking back, taking on “six more beaks to feed” seemed like a very poor decision financially.
Paying my bills and feeding myself took all off my resources, and I still fell short. The baby chicks were time consuming, and they needed a coop and a run which I would have to design and build. How would it be to spend money I needed to pay for my own house just to buy materials to build a home for six feathery little chicks…six balls of fluff I could almost hold in both hands…if they’d only be still long enough?
Yet my old dream of having backyard chickens became a reality at perhaps one of the lowest parts of my grownup life. Although it may not have been the most “grownup” decision at the time, those little baby chicks gave me hope and dreams. They kept me going.
So I can’t tell Gracie or any of the others, “You will never be a ballerina. Chickens cannot dance on their toes.” And I can’t tell Amelia, “You will never be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back.”
I simply tell them, “One day you will…or perhaps something even better.” That’s because each of them is “My Something Better.”
My Life With Gracie helped me see a dream can live as long as you have someone to share it.
#005 My Life With Gracie…About Friendship
I made two trips to the feed and seed store that day. On the first trip I got three chicks, one of them was Lefty, a Buff Orpington who was full of energy and quite handsome.
I enjoyed those first three so much, I just had to get more, at least up to the legal limit for my city. So on the second trip I got three more chicks, two of them were Gracie and Bessie, also Buff Orpingtons.
Lefty is one I picked out myself on that first trip because he seemed so strong and spirited. (I didn’t know at the time he would be a rooster. I just knew he seemed very healthy.) But Gracie and Bessie were just two scooped up at random by the sales associate on that second trip.
So there were fourteen chicks to raise in a makeshift brooder in my sunroom. Eight were for friends. Six were for me. A red heat lamp was their “Chicken Mama,” and I was their “Chicken Daddy.”
Almost right away I noticed that Gracie was a little different. For all of the other chicks, the feathers above their beaks were arranged symmetrically. Gracie’s weren’t. Her face seemed slightly “lopsided.” She was very timid with the other chicks and much less inquisitive. She stayed close to Bessie whenever she could. They always slept beside each other, more by Gracie’s choice, but Bessie didn’t mind.
Within about the first two weeks, I started to notice a bulge on Gracie’s side near her thigh. I became worried that she had some kind of “hatch defect.” As the weeks went by, it grew with her. She didn’t seem to move quite like the others, but she did her best to act like them so that she wouldn’t get picked on.
When other chicks were gobbling down the earthworms and bugs I gathered for them in the morning, Gracie mostly stayed back away from the excitement until it was over and then would go to her best friend Bessie. Sometimes she got lucky and found a bug that the others missed, but not often.
Once I felt so badly about Gracie missing out on worms and bugs, I picked her up and tried to hand feed her, but she wouldn’t eat. Being with Bessie was more important to Gracie than even a tasty fresh meal of worms and bugs.
Gracie was slow to develop, and I wasn’t sure she would ever lay any eggs. Bessie started laying almost two months before her. During the long waiting period, I would tell Gracie every day, “It’s okay. You don’t have to lay eggs for me to love you. I’ll never get rid of you. You will always be my girl, just like Bessie.”
If these two had been part of a huge egg factory somewhere…well, I just don’t want to think about what would have happened to Gracie and how Bessie would have handled it.
Gracie and Bessie have always been quite inseparable.
There is so much more I could tell, and will tell one day, just not today. I don’t want to take away from this message about the beauty of their friendship.
My life with Gracie showed me having a friend is like finding the best shady spot on a hot summer’s day.
Something You Might Not Notice
When we originally began My Life With Gracie, the concept was to have one or two illustrations with a plain kraft paper background followed by one illustration with a highly colorful background. They would be connected thematically in some way with the final post bringing everything together at week’s end.
So #001 and #002 above made a week’s set, and #003, #004, and #005 made another set.
Our “Thank You” Fourth Anniversary Gifts
Illustration for our “Fourth Anniversary” Card
Illustration for our “Fourth Anniversary” Card
This month, we will be sending out “Thank You!” Fourth Anniversary gifts to all of our current subscribers who would like them. 
If you received this edition of “The Gracie Press Newsletter,” then that means you! (If someone forwarded this to you or you subscribed after this issue was published, it’s too late. But we may have extras for a future giveaway gift for new subscribers!)
Just like last year, we will be sending out notecards with one of our very first ever “My Life With Grace” drawings. The back of the card identifies it as “official” and the interior is blank so we can write a personalized “Thank You” message. These will also be signed and numbered based on order of response.
Inside the notecard, we will be inserting a sheet of 2” round stickers with some of our favorite “Gracie Press” drawings. These are already die-cut, so just peel and stick!
Stickers for our “Fourth Anniversary”
Stickers for our “Fourth Anniversary”
Each of these stickers is quite different. My favorite is “Be Iridescent!” which features Emily as an “all grown up” hen. She has had a particularly long molting season this summer, but her iridescent neck feathers are now almost completely regrown.
So What Do You Need To Do?
Just respond to this newsletter with your name and preferred mailing address. That’s it! And then the chickens and I will get busy!
Since many of you may have shared our books with others, you can also have this gift sent to someone else instead if you prefer.
We will let you know when your gift is mailed so you can watch for it or so you can let the person you selected know to watch for it.
We will not assume that everyone who wanted one last year will also want one this year. We will not assume that everyone’s address is the same. So we will need to hear from you so we know how many to order.
Notecards and stickers are professionally printed items and have always looked great! But we need to know how many to order, so please respond as soon as possible. Thank you!
Until Next Time…
We sure hope you will enjoy receiving your gift as much as we will enjoy putting it all together for you.
Finally, we do hope you understand why we aren’t mailing out eggs to everyone…as nice as those would be!
Thanks so much for reading!
John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia
Did you enjoy this issue?
J.R. Spiers (with help from Gracie)

The GraciePress Newsletter brings you the latest news, stories, illustrations, special offers, and free gifts from Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia. They are the inspiration behind all of the books published under The GraciePress imprint.

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From A Small Backyard Garden and A Most Wondrous Place in Portsmouth, Virginia