Gracie’s Special Reading List…“Pond People” by Cathy Cade

“Gracie’s Special Reading List” shares self-published or independently published books, often by authors who have sites here at WordPress. This is to promote other indie writers who have something valuable to contribute even though not traditionally published.

“Pond People” is exactly the kind of book I would have wanted to read as a fourth grade student. And look at that! There is my fourth grade dictionary, a Thorndike-Barnhart Junior Dictionary!

And if I had been reading this book when I was in the fourth grade, I would have pulled out my dictionary, and turned to this page to find out what the word “mirling” means and maybe even find a picture of one. And you know what? It wouldn’t have been in there. No definition. No picture. See? Nothing there! “Mirling” belongs between “mire” and “mirror,” but it’s not there.

But even though I would not have been able to find “mirling” in my elementary school dictionary, you would never have been able to convince me that there is no such thing as a mirling. Reading this book would have let me know without any doubt that mirlings exist, and I would certainly find one, maybe more than one, the next time I visited Brittles Mill Pond, the only pond close to our house.

One of the things that I like most about this book is that it does not feel a need to take readers to a far-off distant place or another world “somewhere out there.” It encourages readers to use their imaginations right here and now, right where they are, and whether they are exploring around a pond or collecting bits of nature right in their own backyard.

This book is so well-written that it is easy to get lost in its watery and mysterious world with Molly and Flash. (My chickens love Molly and Flash. They have definitely divided themselves into two groups. Some are “Molly Fans.” Others are “Flash Fans.”) The books author, Cathy Cade, has done a beautiful job of filling its pages with all of the imaginative wonderment that makes childhood special. Cathy posts here on WordPress, and if you’d like to preview some of her writing and excerpts from this book, please visit her site. 

I do have a special affection for this book because Cathy gave me the opportunity to do the artwork for her cover as a gift of appreciation for her writing. She also helps other writers within the Whittlesey Wordsmiths group and provides numerous posts to guide other indie writers and self-publishing authors around the world.

Hopefully the cover illustration for “Pond People” gives a feeling of mystery and beauty that matches the truly excellent story found inside. A cover can draw a reader in, but it’s the written words inside that will keep the reader turning the pages. Cathy does that exceedingly well. Seriously, how suspenseful is this?!?

As Molly launched, a paw descended, dark as death. She found herself hurtling into a swipe that would scoop both fish and mirling out of the water.

“A paw” refers to a cat’s paw, and all my chickens were on the edge of their perch when I read this part to them. They couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next! (Cats and chickens are rarely best friends.)

Why not visit Cathy’s website titled Writing Wrinkles? I’m sure she would appreciate it if you said “Hi!” And don’t forget to consider purchasing her book on Amazon! My chickens and I would really appreciate your support of Cathy and her work.

And I’ll bet you too will be likely to try and spy a mirling or two the next time you pass by a pond!

One more thing…I’m still looking for at least one more indie author to help with a free book cover. Maybe that’s you?  

Happy 100th Anniversary, Little House!

Today is the day I’ve been waiting to celebrate for almost 14 years. December 15, 2020 is my house’s 100th anniversary, the day it turns 100 years old! The year 1920 comes from the city records, and the month and day December 15 come from the foundry date stamped into the bottom of the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Happy Anniversary, Little House!

I bought my house in 2007, the year that marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. (Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World.) It is interesting to note my house’s neighborhood, Westhaven, was opened up for development in 1907 as part of Jamestown’s 200th anniversary celebrations. At the time this was “the distant suburbs” from the main downtown area of Portsmouth and there were still large family farms here along the Elizabeth River.

If you drive down High Street from the Olde Towne riverfront to the city’s border with Chesapeake, the neighborhood architecture tells the story of how our little city developed through the centuries and decades. Our neighborhood is at about the halfway mark and right across High Street from Maryview Hospital. (When I started doing some major renovation work on my house, it was nice knowing there was an emergency room right around the corner just in case I ever electrocuted myself or fell off of the roof!)

Rodman Avenue runs through our neighborhood all of the way from the original Rodman’s Barbecue Restaurant on High Street to Moseberth’s Chicken on Airline Boulevard. (Moseberth’s was renamed “The Chicken Place” in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.”) Airline Boulevard is also where you’ll find Norfolk County Feed and Seed. We get all of our garden plants, chicken feed, and chicken scratch from those good folks.

This is our neighborhood, and we love how it is tucked away from the main roads and has kept its distinctive “small town” feeling from decades ago. Even though we are right in the middle of a small city surrounded by even larger cities, you’d never know it. There are no stockade fences. Kids ride bicycles and play outside. I have chickens. My next door neighbor has a pig and a goat. Veterans have vintage cars in their garage and take them out for a drive on Sundays.

The main part of my house was originally just 28 feet wide and 30 feet deep. (Later a den and laundry room were added to the back.) My house was built on six city-sized lots, three along our street where the house faces, and three along the next street behind us where the railroad tracks to the port were. That was a lot of land for not a lot of house. But back then, that was how they started building homes here. At the time, I imagine the larger yards were good for gardens…and chickens! Over the years, portions of these generous yards were sold off and homes from later decades were built between the original homes. That is what happened with my house.

I’m really only pointing all of these things out for one reason: this is all real. From my little house to my chickens right in the middle of the backyard garden, it is all real. (But there are times when my imagination might get the best of me. The Bottle Cap Lady is actually a compilation of several different real people, not a single actual person.)
Often I wish I could be like writers who “create worlds” and “create characters” to fill those beautifully and elaborately created worlds, but I can’t. I just don’t have those skills, and it’s possible I never will.

But if your own imagination can fill in the colors and details that are missing here, if you feel like you know my chickens personally, and if you feel like you are sitting with us under the camellias surrounded by our backyard garden, then perhaps my limitations are not so bad. Thank you for sharing this Happy Anniversary with us!

The Promise Of Christmas

The Promise Of Christmas

The more I think about it, the extra time and work that went into rewriting “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” was an absolute gift to me. It allowed me to hop, skip, and stumble into a realization that I call “The Promise Of Christmas.”

Events and people come together in the most amazing patterns to influence us in unexpected ways. Almost two decades ago (after teaching for two decades before), I was working for a mobile phone company in technical support for a year and then in customer service for another year. There was a group that was formed called “customer retention,” and their task was to hold onto customers who wanted to drop their contracted service.

One of their retention specialists was an elderly woman named Miss Geraldine. She loved God and she loved her church and she prayed. It was an everyday occurrence to look across our big office suite and see her standing in her cubicle with her hands in the air. Often you could hear her saying, “Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!” Even if you couldn’t hear her out loud, you knew exactly what she was saying.

Now this was not my tradition, but it was hers and no one ever complained about it because she was the best the company had for customer retention. You could just tell she loved everybody.

Miss Geraldine had lived her whole life in our little city of Portsmouth surrounded by other bigger and more prosperous cities. She had lived through Jim Crow laws and segregation, and then she had lived through desegregation and the strife of the 1960’s. Through it all, she kept smiling and loving everybody no matter what.

I asked her about all of this once, and she told me, “God gave me his best in Jesus, so I’ve got to give everybody my best too.”

And that was the start of how The Promise Of Christmas began to come together in my heart and eventually into my writing. God is Love. Love gives. For God so loved, He gave. We are most like God when we give from our hearts.

As Miss Geraldine would say to you if she were alive today, “One Christmas, God gave us His best gift ever. All He had. All He treasured most. The least I can do is to give my best too.”

I have to agree with Miss Geraldine. I’d almost bet she had chickens in her backyard.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will have a good holiday season no matter what your tradition and even if you don’t have any tradition at all. Giving does not require a tradition, just a heart filled with love.