gravel road girl

Noteven the Mouse: A Christmas Tale

What follows is a fun, little rendition of Clement Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It’s also my latest writing challenge for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Holiday Helper story contest. If you have any interest in writing for children (or just want to read a fun blog), hop on over to Susanna’s blog. Many thanks also go to the judges and wonderful prize contributors in this contest. And to any co-contestants: best of luck! I’ve already read so many good entries! Aren’t these contests great? Now on to the story!

Photo credit: Annie Platt on Unsplash

Noteven the Mouse (216 words)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,

the humans were sleeping, but Noteven, the mouse,

was just winding up for a night on the town.

The cookies were out!

There were crumbs all around!

When what to his wondering ears should he hear?

A clumping!

         A thumping!

                  A ker-flumping–

                           “Oh dear!”

Away to the chimney, he dashed to the flue.

Noteven, the mouse, was wondering, “Who–

is there in the chimney and blocking the way

of Santa’s arrival with gifts the next day!”

To the top of the hearth–

         to the top of the log–

Noteven the mouse skipped a jiggety-jog.

He peered up the chimney and to his surprise–

peering back down were two dark, twinkling eyes!

“I’m stuck!” whispered Santa. “My jacket is caught!

I’m hooked on a nail, and I’m in a tight spot!”

Noteven the mouse, well, he went straight to work.

He nibbled. . .

         He gnawed. . .

                  And then with a JERK–

                           “Oh! Ho, ho, ho–hoooo!”

Santa bellowed with glee

and tumbled right out to land under the tree.

Noteven the mouse scampered straight to his side,

but the jolly, old elf grinned a smile big and wide.

“I thank you, Noteven, for helping me out.

That small act of kindness is what it’s about.”

Poetry and other thoughts~

photo credit: Unsplash

Driving across the bridge,

tail lights ahead like knots on a rope

pulling me across.

A flock of gulls–

sunset light reflecting their whiteness–

appeared like a confetti parade

raining around us–

cheering the weary commuters home.

* * * * *

November light,

always mellow in its late-afternoon way,

electrified the neon orange snow fence.

A blaze orange slash sedately staked along a driveway

to stand guard against the snowy onslaught

* * * * *

Warm reflections of summer pool comfortably near the ceiling,

while the promise of winter heat stoically waits.

And I–

wishing for both–

wait in that moment of dusk,

too reluctant to choose

and thankful it is not mine to do so.

* * * * *

Sometimes the desire to make a big impact creates visions of networks and a social media power. Of loud voices and strong stands. Of isolating others while striving for inclusiveness. Of days and months and years to see the difference. And, this all may be true to some extent. But being the best red leaf in a sea of green and brown–thriving in who you were called to be–can make a big difference right now.

Writing Isn’t Scary. . . or is it?

O.k., some people might disagree with me. But, personally, I think MATH is scary–all those unknowns that need solving and equations that need balancing. It just sounds unsafe if you ask me.

But I’ve been having some scary fun entering Halloween writing contests lately. This one is called Halloweensie! It’s organized by the gifted picture book author, Susanna Leonard Hill. If you’d like the details or to check out her blog, click here. Also, huzzah to all the awesome authors who are donating their time and talents as prizes, which, of course, is why yours truly enters.

Here’s the scoop on this contest: write a poem or story 100 words or less, and you must incorporate the words creep, mask, and skeleton. This is much harder than you think, but I hope you enjoy my attempts. Read on!

photo credit: Unsplash

PUNNY BONE (98 words)

Sometimes a skeleton just knows. He feels it in his bones. Napoleon Bone-a-part knew that this Halloween was going to be a disaster, and a shiver ran down his spine.
“C’mon, lazy bones!” his mother called. “No guts; no glory!”
Sigh. So lame, but she always found it humerus. Why did he always wait until All-Hallow’s Eve to pick out his mask? His little brother, Baggo, and sister, Ferny, had probably snatched the good ones. As he clattered into the kitchen, he had a creeping feeling of doom. One mask left–Bona Lisa. He hated being a girl!

{wah-wahhh-wuhhhh. . .}

Maybe you’ll like this one better.

photo credit: Unsplash


Down in the hollow
on a wispy-crispy night,
I heard the mob a comin’,
and it gave me quite a fright.

They shuffled and they scuffled.
They came creeping like the fog.
There came a mournful howl,
and I’m sure it weren’t my dog

A stumblin’ and a mumblin’
with the rattlin’ of their bones–
the skeletons came swarming
from their dark and dusty homes.

I stood in fear upon my steps
the basket at my feet.
Then all at once the masks came off–
“SURPRISE! It’s trick or treat!”

Cute, right? Ya gotta say that’s cute.

Well, I hope you all get some little skeletons and witches and other adorable gobblins trying to scare you this weekend. I’ll keep you posted on my contests! Happy Halloween!

Halloween’s for Scaring


Well, isn’t this fun? I’m trying something new! Not the writing part but a cool fall writing contest. First day of October, so this is perfect! If you’re so inclined to join me, click here. Really, check out the fun photo writing prompts and crank out a maximum of 200 words–easy peasy. And did I mention it’s FREE? But wait, there’s more! There are prizes! BUT don’t be knuckle-dragger. This contest is only open Oct.1-3. My entry is posted below. Don’t let the poetry scare you; many entries are short (200 words!) stories.

Thanks to Kaitlyn Sanchez, the creator of this contest, and her co-host, Lydia Lukidis. Check out their blogs (good stuff) and follow them on Twitter @kaitlynleann17 and @LydiaLukidis

photo courtesy Unsplash


I hear my momma calling from the steps across the yard.
I’m trying to be quiet but it’s really, really hard.

The leaves are scritchy-scratchy, and they’re poking at my face.
There’s a creepy-leapy spider, and it’s resting on my lace.

I think that there might be a thing that’s crawling up my shirt,
and I spy a broken pencil that’s just sticking in the dirt.

My nose is kind of itchy, and I think I’m gonna sneeze.
I’ll hold my breath and scrunch my eyes and listen to the trees.

‘Cuz Halloween’s for scaring, and my momma knows it, too.
That sneaky mom–she hid from me–then jumped and shouted, “Boo!”

Just one more step.
She’s almost here!
My heart is pounding fast–


“I scared ya, Mom!
Oh, that was fun!
Halloween’s a blast!”

A Million Little Things

A million little things.

That’s what I did today. Because I couldn’t decide on one big thing–a thing that would really matter–I did a million little things.

Little things, that in the scope of my life, probably won’t matter or even be remembered. But for today, little things were all I could tackle.

I picked tomatoes and pawed through the pole beans that weren’t supposed to be pole beans. I know how to garden. I planted bush beans, but alas, I have pole beans. Pole beans planted in rows don’t work very well.

I picked some beans.

I stopped to pet, hold, and talk to all three of my ‘barn cats’–Marty, Libby, and Theo. I don’t have a barn, but ‘garage cats’ just doesn’t sound as quaint.

Libby, the ‘barn cat’

I sprayed my black Aussie/border collie dog, Bonnie, with the hose because she likes it, and it’s Iowa-August hot outside. I was supposed to be putting the sprinkler on the garden.

I put the sprinkler on the garden.

Did I mention I’m doing all of this in my pajamas? It’s o.k. I live on 3.5 acres surrounded by derecho-flattened cornfields. It is sad, and I will miss the dry rustle of harvest-ready corn across the Iowa countryside this fall.

I gave my potted fern a trim. She had a lot of brown, poor thing, and reminded me of me when I need a root touch up. It was tedious, but I felt sorry for her.

That’s the thing about a million little things: they’re often tedious. That’s why we don’t do them.

They don’t really matter, and they’re tedious. But after I trimmed Fern, I felt just a little better. She sits on my front porch. Who wants a scraggly fern as their first hello?

I washed my soap dish.

I know, you’re thinking that’s a bit extreme, maybe OCD. Who knew a soap dish needed washing, right? They do. They get soap-grunge. Trust me.

As I washed my grungy soap dish, I pondered the practicality of said soap dish. Everybody uses liquid soap and hand sanitizer now, right?

Do I really NEED a soap dish?

I do. Because this soap dish was given to me by a friend who I don’t see nearly enough these days. And it’s special because she knew me well enough to know that I  would like it. Not every simple gift is so well thought over.

I put my clean soap dish back on my freshly cleaned sink.

I put my flower frogs back in their scattered places.

Yes, these are flower frogs. All 15 were borrowed by my niece to display table numbers at her wedding. . . on Aug. 1. I’m not sure why it’s been such a chore to disperse them back onto shelves and window ledges and coffee tables where they hold postcards and shells and feathers. It just was.

I wandered about and placed them. And I felt better for doing another little thing.

I hung white laundry on the line.

Even as I hung it, I looked at some grey clouds that tempted rain–maybe. “Are you lying?” I thought thoughts at the clouds. Clouds often lie in August. Oh well, I guess if it rains my whites will smell like sun and wind AND rain. There are much worse things.

I took my clothespin bag inside, hung it up, and petted Marmalade, the ‘house’ cat.

Marmalade is old and fat and sleeps wherever the fancy strikes her. Again, there are much worse things.

I took luggage to the attic.

We had only just used it this past weekend, so there was a sense of victory at the minimal-procrastination factor. It was tempered, though, by the fact that I quickly stuffed it into the dark, oven-like attic and raised the steps–no “putting things in their proper places” today.

Today was a day of little things, not attic cleaning.

I wrote a birthday card to friend who is miles and states and hills and valleys of memories away. Writing a card is a BIG little thing. We are all out of the practice of writing. . . with a pen. . . legibly. We are out of the practice of thinking purposeful, gracious thoughts and pondering sweet memories worth telling.

This was my biggest “little” thing today. I’m pretty sure it was worth more than my other little things.

I sipped A&W Diet root beer while I cut some fresh zinnias. The zinnias were much needed to replace the dead ones gracing my kitchen windowsill. A small ‘little thing’ that makes such a happy difference when at the sink.

The A&W root beer was a nostalgic choice. My grandparents took me to the A&W drive-in in Buffalo Center, Iowa, when I was old enough to go for a visit but still young enough to be home sick. The root beer float was a diversion tactic. I don’t recall if it worked, but I do remember the frosty mug of vanilla ice cream and icy root beer.

I enjoyed the memories and the cicadas and the root beer while I cut zinnias.   

Sometimes, on days–in seasons–like these when all you can tackle is a million little things one day, one moment, at a time you find that ‘little things’ are what keep life real and precious and particularly simple.

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” –Vernon Howard

Poetry Monday: Cavalier


I feel this poem warrants some context. The story, the words, are true. As I drove on a warm day last fall, I listened to a news update. It was brief. It was basic. In a few heartbeats, in as many breaths this information came to me, swirled through my thoughts like leaves in a dust devil, and settled just as silently.

In these days of covid-19 and quarantine statistics, we are overwhelmed by numbers and news. Tragedy and heartbreak, loneliness and loss become second-hand stories. It has become too easy to drop this data into yesterday’s memories like pennies in a bank. Do they add up in our hearts and minds? Do we feel the weight? Do we see the people and all the lives, like dominoes, effected with each death? Or maybe we’ve all become a bit cavalier.


The news relates the death
Of two lives taken
When a car
Crossed the center line.
The collision was
Head on.
Dead at the scene.

It will rain tomorrow
With winds from the north-northwest.

In other news—
Gas prices are up

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12



Poetry Monday (kid’s version): Bare Feet & Puddles


Photo credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash


It is that time of year,
you know,
when feet begin to sprout.

A little sunshine,
melting snow,
and toes start sticking out.

We see the first
cute blossoms
of little piggy toes.

And then
before you know it,
they’re popping out in rows!

They’ve silently
been growing
inside those dark, dark shoes.

Hurray for warmer weather!
We have the barefoot blues!



Photo credit: Markus Spiske, Unsplash

I think that I have never seen
a puddle of that size.
My momma said,
“Don’t jump in that!”
And she is very wise.

But something in my head
was fightin’ with my heart,
I looked at it with longing eyes
and knew I shouldn’t start.

But don’t you know that God above
made puddles for a reason?
For little boys
and little girls
and puddle-jumpin’ season!


“We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.”

Monday Poetry: Contrails & Headwind

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash



Stripe the sky like pink clotheslines

Pulled taut to the setting sun.

Like tattered lavender shirts,

Clouds are tethered to dry

In the cool, night



Photo credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash


I opened the door to
this new year
and stepped into the brightness
of January.
It took my breath away–
So still, hopeful,
Crisp and untrodden.
I stood,
sheltered and expectant,
weighing the options
of my journey.

Four months now,
walking into a headwind,
eyes down, jaw set,
I only allow momentary
toward a distant horizon.
Biting questions
whip at my mind
and make my eyes
Press into it.
To stop would be
to go backwards.


“The years teach much which the days never new.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

An Exercise in Observation

leni-thalin-2vdbZ3mv39U-unsplashphoto credit: Leni Thalin

In my New Year efforts to allow stillness and encourage observation, I stood at the kitchen sink staring out the window. Snow had blanketed everything, but January snow has no magic in it. And now fog wrapped me up and kept me at arm’s length from the rest of the world. This was my observation:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

This fog is so dense I feel as If someone has dropped a white blanket over the whole place. The black pencil lines of trees stick upright in the snow looking almost as if they’re suspended in gauzy nothingness. Shriveled, black rose hips on the rugosa bush all wear frosty, white caps. They remind me of an elderly gathering. . .

Wrinkled, old women with salon-set curls and their crusty counterparts, whose hair stands ruffled after they’ve removed their seed corn caps, settle into cold folding chairs. The coffee is a new moon ringed by white styrofoam–black and strong. Crumbly sugar cookies are offered up from yellowed Tupperware. Heads nod and fingers tap in agreement over the local farm news and neighborhood updates. Not gossip, mind you, just a sharing of births and deaths and all the minutia in between. When talk thins, they drain the last cold, dark drops from their cups, sweep up sugary crumbs with a leathery palm, and push in the chairs. The women wrap their meringue curls in nylon scarves, and the men stomp out to warm the cars. Someone remembers to unplug the coffeepot.

To look at the mundane and see the beautiful, to find art in the scope of my every day, and then to choose from the vast palette of words and write a painting–that is my most desperate goal.

“You can make anything by writing.”            ~C.S. Lewis


Soul Cleansing


I just got home from a weekend away, and it was lovely–mostly. We were in Branson, Missouri. We got one of those “deals.” Never do that. Just don’t.

But we did go on a gorgeous hike after eating donuts for lunch. We found a great bbq place and enjoyed The Baldknobbers–a famous Branson show. Buuuut, yeah, Branson is not my spirit animal home.

Anyway, I’m not here to reminisce about the Las Vegas of the Midwest–and I mean that in the nicest Midwest way. But I realized that as refreshing as it may be for my body to get away and step out of life’s routine, it’s often hard on the soul.

I LOVE routine. I set my coffee maker before bed so I can come down, fill my cup, and settle into ‘my chair’ without having to hardly open my eyes in the morning. My Bible and journal are there along with my foot-warmer, Marmalade-the-giant-cat. My cup is half-empty before I pick up my journal and pencil in the date. And I usually need a refill by the time I open my Bible. I’m very slow at waking up.

So when I’m out of my routine, I struggle to be in the Word, to find time to pray, to meditate. I usually manage some shortened version of my normal routine often read on my Bible app. If I failed to grab my journal, then I’m lost for writing down my thoughts. And, if sleep was evasive (read: not in my own bed with my own pillow), then time in the Word may not happen at all. Just being honest here. But I also know that by the time Monday rolls around, I’m going to need a good soul-cleaning.

This morning as I sat down to write and read, I thought, “I needed a good brushing and flossing of my soul.”  That was my brain picture.

           Brain picture: my need to create a mental picture of what God is teaching me.

My daily cleansing had been interrupted, and I was feeling the distracted effects. My morning moments of gratitude and reminders of God’s faithfulness had given way to irritation, discontentment, and envy. And there were the nitty-gritty pieces of accusation and self-condemnation that quickly became imbedded in my spirit. My soul ached and my mind grumbled.

But the Word always refreshes, always cleanses. My heart and mind settled into the promises of Lamentations 3:21-25

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Simply to meditate on God’s lovingkindess–a term that encompasses His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, and faithfulness–is overwhelming and humbling and most certainly soul-cleansing. Contemplating the depth of His love for me turns my mind from thinking about myself and toward praise and gratitude for who He is and His complete faithfulness in all things.

It’s so important to speak the truth about WHO God is and HOW that impacts who we are as believers.

  • His forgiveness is complete; I am not condemned.
  • His love is boundless; I can not earn it.
  • His mercy is new every morning; I am filled with gratitude.
  • His grace is bountiful; I am humbled by His goodness.
  • His compassion is without boundaries; I am compelled to love recklessly.
  • His faithfulness is enough; I am able to rest in Him.

This was the brushing, the cleansing, that I needed.  A refocusing and refreshing of my heart. A flossing out of the untruths that wedged into my thoughts.

What cleansing does your soul need? What refreshing words of truth has He spoken to you lately?


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