MichMash Podcast

Share laughs and stories with my friend Mich Hancock and I on her wonderful podcast, MichMash! We talk writing, parenting, creativity, and life. Listen in!

Maria’s Musings and Advice: Volume I

Candle treeDear Readers,

In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective, or to just catch your breath? Check this out: The first edition of my new advice column! I’ll answer questions every week,* so if you’d like to send me one, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend”! 


Dear Maria,

In a couple of months my beloved youngest daughter will be graduating from college. Her major was fine arts so it may take her some time to get established and earn an income that will allow her to support herself.  She will most likely be moving back home with her father and I, at least for a while. As that day gets closer I find that I am feeling uneasy about integrating her back into the household.  The idea of nagging my now adult daughter to do the dishes and pick up after herself is not pleasant but I am afraid that we will quickly fall back into our old roles as parent and child. I don’t want to be a nag or a martyr.  What can I do to keep this homecoming a happy one?


Mom, not a Maid

Dear Mom,

Ah, the joys of a clean, empty nest! It’s hard to see the offspring fly away, but the calm that follows is delightful. How wise you are to avoid slipping back into old family patterns when she comes home to roost. Congratulations on raising a bright and creative daughter, who has chosen a challenging and rewarding career. So treat her as such. After the homecoming festivities, have a conversation about your expectations for her stay. She is an adult, and will have to negotiate living with others throughout her life—roommates, spouses, travel companions—and will be expected to hold up her end of the deal. Be clear with her about the deal now. Your conversation will model a good way to approach these situations. Start by telling her you’re proud of her, and that you expect her to behave as the accomplished person she is. Holding the highest good for others generally brings out the best in them, and is far more effective than nagging. Let your actions and words communicate how you see her: as an accomplished, capable adult. And, resist the temptation to pick up after her. (As a mother, I tend to do too much for my kids—I think I’m loving them by relieving them of chores. But, as a wise parent once told me: We do our children no favors when we do for them what they can do for themselves.) If her mess gets in your way, call her on it. Refer back to what she agreed to during your talk. Remember: we want our chickadees out of the nest, and a too-comfortable one is hard to leave!


Dear Maria,

My challenge is that my husband of 50+ years is showing signs of confusion while driving.  He used to be the expert on directions, but now it seems we are making a lot of U-turns! On our last driving excursion he ran over a curb, changed lanes without a blinker (or left the blinker on for miles), and ran a stop sign.  How the other driver was able to stop in time was a true miracle.

How can I approach him about his driving being questionable? I am quite sure my observations will be a shock to him.  Thank you for your wisdom.


SOS from Shotgun

Dear Shotgun,

Hide the keys! Hide your eyes! I understand your reluctance to talk with your husband. He values his independence, and any threat to it will be greeted with resistance and maybe even denial. Find a time to talk frankly with your husband about your concerns, and soon. Your letter is a great place to start the conversation, as you’ve listed several examples of his erratic driving. Is there anyone else in your family, or among your trusted friends, who has witnessed his driving? Perhaps they would be willing to talk with him, too. No matter how he responds, remain calm. Assure him that this conversation needs to take place before the police get involved, or anyone gets hurt. I also recommend sharing your concerns with his doctor. If there are changes in his driving ability, he’s likely affected in other ways, so some testing may be in order. When my own mother faced this situation, part of the process of giving up her keys was consulting her doctor. The doctor wisely replied: “If you’re asking me this question, then it probably is time.”  Your husband might hear the advice of a third, professional party better than from family or friends. In the meantime, try taking the wheel, or riding with friends.


Dear Maria,

How do you convince your parents to sell their home and move into a retirement community?


SMH at M&D

Dear SMH,

Tough sell. For aging parents, this is a huge change. Not only is it downsizing; it’s admitting a shift toward greater dependence on others. They don’t like to be told what to do, especially by their offspring! Acceptance will come not by trying to convince them, but by leading with your heart. Listen to your parents’ concerns. Behind the arguments you may hear emotions like fear, or sadness. Acknowledge how hard this is for them. Leaving their beloved, comfortable home is a big loss, and they need time to accept and grieve it. Through the process, you’ll feel your own shift towards parenting your parents. This role brings with it difficult conversations and decisions. Be gentle and firm with your parents: gentle in understanding and accepting their feelings, and firm in your guidance as to what’s best. Try not to sell them on the idea, but love them into it. Given time and compassion, they’ll hopefully come to see this as a good change, and welcome the new friends and activities the retirement community will bring.


Dear Maria,

I have found myself in a situation in which someone says something either rude or insulting to me. The problem is when I defend my feelings and they respond by saying they were just kidding, now I look like the jerk.  What’s the best way to handle this?


I Don’t Get It

Dear Don’t,

Passive aggressive, no? I hate when people do this, though I’ve been guilty of it, too. Humor becomes a weapon when used to mask true feelings or grievances. Rarely does it communicate these issues effectively, and often leaves the target confused and hurt, as you are. It’s a childish way of handling things. You, however, have responded like a grown-up, rather than starting an “I know you are, but what am I?” PeeWee Herman-esque exchange.

It’s not clear to me what role this person holds in your life. If it’s someone you see on occasion, ignore them and their hurtful remarks. “Consider the source” a wise teacher once counseled me. If you’re in an important relationship with them, such as a spouse or close friend, try a one-on-one approach. Instead of confronting them in the moment, ask them to meet for coffee, or write them a letter, and explain your perspective. If they minimize your feelings, what does that say about their relationship with you? Finally, if it’s a boss or coworker who is treating you this way, write down three examples of this behavior and request a meeting. Bring your notes to the meeting, and ask your colleague for a change in behavior in the future. It’s important you have a record of having addressed this issue directly with him or her. If your boss or colleague does not comply, take your concerns to HR if you wish. In all situations, keep your emotions out of it as best you can and critique the behavior, not the person. When you know you’re going to see this person, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself, and remember: what they say or do is really a reflection on how they see themselves. You’re taking good care of yourself. Keep going, even if it means removing this Don Rickles from your life.


Dear Maria,

I am a teacher by trade, but presently live in a state where I’m not rewarded for my experience and education. I am mother of a five and six year old, and have been writing for quite a while. I have been published online and have a blog. I need to contribute an income to my family, but when I get stressed, I can’t focus on writing. Advice? How to balance reality of paying bills while pursuing my real interest?


Fit to Print

Dear Fit,

All writers share your dilemma!

The most important thing about writing is to keep writing. It’s easy to set it aside to focus on “more important” things, like taking care of a young family. We think we’ll write better if we’re not so stressed. The truth is, writing is part of the process of life. It needs to be a priority and to be attended to on a regular basis. Find a slot of time every day to write, and then fiercely protect that time. You may need to get up a little earlier or stay up later, but the personal gratification will more than compensate.

Next, keep submitting material anywhere you can get published. Being a writer in the internet era is very tough because so much content is free. We end up giving away way more stuff than we would have in the old days of publications with paid advertising. That model has been smashed by the internet…note the decline in newspapers. The good news is that you can communicate directly with your readers. You might try this site: http://www.freedomwithwriting.com/  for paid writing opportunities.

Building your writing gig takes time, and you need some income in the near term. Perhaps part-time opportunities, like substitute teaching, a librarian, or in the field of an avocation, like at a craft store or book store or restaurant could provide some income? Many a writer has worked other jobs while pursuing their craft. I know it’s hard with little children, so your goals don’t have to be too ambitious. The key is to keep at it. My best successes have come through steady attention to my work. When I get discouraged and hide from the world, I lose what momentum I had. Hang in there, and good luck!


Thanks for your questions, dear hearts. Send me yours!

*Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. 

Alive to Thrive, especially during the holidays!

Please listen to the podcast of my conversation with Brenda Fraser on her Alive to Thrive radio show. We had a terrific chat about the creative life, managing stress and grief during the holidays, and more! You can listen here, or download the podcast.

Help me meet my muse in Montana and be a part of my next book!


Thanks to my husband Steve, 2015 began with my quest to write a novel. He gave me a copy of the fantastic No Plot? No Problem! by “National Novel Writing Month” founder Chris Baty for Christmas. In January, I was off to a great start, when some personal and professional setbacks sent my story to the back burner. Now I’m back at it. I have a wonderful opportunity to fast-track it, and I’d love your help to bring this baby into the world.

Laura Munson, the best-selling author and founder of the Haven Writing Retreats, has created Haven II, an intensive 5-day experience for writerswho have a book project underway. Many of you know that I’ve attended Laura’s Haven I retreat, and my writing voice blossomed beautifully.  My piece describing my experience was the winner of the Haven 2014 blog contest (click here to read).  This piece is in the memoir style I’ve written up till now. With this new project, I’m trying my hand at a different genre: fiction.

In my writing and speaking, the best way I know to share my hard-won lessons and wisdom is through stories. (Check out the video posted above to see.) When someone tells me that my words resonated with their own story, I am so grateful. Stories create deep connections with us, and help to make sense of life’s mysteries. My new novel will merge story and insight, and be told in the voice I’ve nurtured as a speaker and author.

Now my muse is calling me to Montana to continue the Haven journey at the end of October, 2015. I have been accepted to the Haven II Writing Retreatprogram along with a small group of fellow authors. During this intensive workshop, I’ll make huge progress in writing the novel under Laura’s direction. My goal is to publish the novel in 2016. I’ve put a down payment on the retreat, which will cost about $4,200 total for the program, overnight accommodations, meals, and travel. Will you please make a contribution to my project, and help me bring this new novel into the world?

There are a few different ways you can help: For a $25 donation, you’ll get a signed copy of the novel; with a $75 gift, you’ll get a signed copy and will name some of the items in the story ; and for a gift of $200 you’ll get to name a character in the book and choose the items this character will use, in addition to two signed copies of the book. You may choose any amount you’d like to give.

You’re probably wondering what the novel is about. Well, I’m not telling! 😉 I’m keeping the idea under wraps to give it time to grow and develop. I will tell you that it’s clever, close to home, and, like my previous work, tells the story in a voice that resonates, inspires, and entertains. You’ll see yourself and those you love in the story, and be delighted to hear the setting and scene for the items.The characters will be shaped, in part, by those who participate in this project. It will be such fun to work on it together!

To make a gift to the Haven II project, please click here, or comment on this post if you’d like more information or to make a gift offline.

Your gift will affirm and inspire me, and give me a powerful incentive to remain true to this project and to see it through. I’ll send progress updates to all who donate, including reports from Haven II and the milestones I pass on the way to publication in 2016.

Thank you, from my heart of hearts, for your consideration and support of this project. May this novel bring inspiration to all who read it! 

Midterm break

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life,” said the great screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.

Lady Liberty


At this just-past-the-midpoint in writing my Everyday Inspired collection of reflections, I’m taking some time to clear my head and open my heart to new inspiration. I need to live without homework for a while, so I think of this as my midterm break!

To everyone who follows this blog and Everyday Inspired, thank you for making these words a part of your life. I’ll be back, and I want to hear how things are in your world.

And I’m grateful for all the days Lawrence Kasdan showed up for class, did his homework, and wrote a few of the Star Wars movies, The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, and more.

Let’s Get Ready! Act now through July 25

“This year, it will be different.”


I make this promise to myself every year: Christmas will be different. No stress, plan ahead, take my time, enjoy my family, pray every day. Though it’s tough to think about when the world is green and the air is humid, June 25 signals 6 months to prep!

Get a head start on the season with Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas. I call it my “Christmas Book,” but it’s really a pre-Christmas, Advent prayer book to help us stay sane during the holiday season. Experience what Prepare Your Heart can do for you, like these readers:

It saved my Christmas! – Connie

I liked the fact that the daily reflections were short and not overwhelming as it would be so easy to say “I don’t have time.” – Marilyn

Your wisdom is so positive – I love the scripture quotes for each day and your insights and wholeness in living well and happily. We need it so badly! – Barbara

This book’s not for those who aspire to be Martha Stewart or Mother Teresa, but for all us who fall somewhere in between!


JULY 25 ONLY: Christmas in July Special!

Buy one book, get one free for a friend. Click here!




Amazon’s Matchbook Program gets you an electronic copy of the book for .99 cents when you purchase a hard back edition. Keep one on your nightstand, and take one with you.

Other ideas to prepare your heart for a great Christmas:

Speaker’s Deal! Buy a quantity of Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas and I’ll come speak to your group for free! Discounts available. Dates are booking now.

How about a fundraiser for your church, school, or organization? Quantity discounts available.

Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas makes a wonderful hostess gift or thank-you gift for volunteers. Have a dedicated board or committee who’s helping your cause? Give them the gift of a calm Christmas!

Click through to the links above or contact me to find out more about these special offers!

This year WILL be different. Let’s make it so, together!

P.S. Check out my friend Moreen, the De-Clutter Coach, and her great ideas for getting organized and ready for the holidays!

The Heart of the Game: August 12 Event

How do you make it to the big leagues? Talent, hard work, and heart. Join Rob Rains, veteran sports writer, as we explore the heart of the game called baseball.  Rob’s stories from Intentional Walk are amazing, and along with music, quotes, great replays and movie clips, we’ll take a look at the spirit and heart that baseball inspires in players and fans.

Rob's head shot- a great picture.Rob Rains has been writing about sports in St. Louis and nationally for more than 30 years. He is now running a website covering all St. Louis sports, STLSportsPage.com. He is the author of 31 books, including his latest, Intentional Walk, an inside look at the faith that drives the St. Louis Cardinals, published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Rains is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He also is an adjunct professor in the school of communications at Webster University in St. Louis.
mro full sizeThe Heart of the Game will be facilitated by Maria Rodgers O’Rourke. Maria is a mom, wife, author, and speaker who cries at movies, including Field of Dreams and Moneyball. She’s loved the Cardinals ever since her dad taught her to keep score at old Busch Stadium. A longtime King’s House presenter, her podcast and book are called Everyday Inspired and you can find her work in Chicken Soup for the Soul and on the Huffington Post blog.




August 12, 2014
6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Registration and ballpark-style refreshments at 6:30 p.m. Program begins at 7:00 p.m. Rob’s books will be available for purchase. Tickets are $25. Advance registration is requested.
King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center
700 N 66th Street
Belleville, IL, 62223-3949
Phone: 618-397-0584 or
E-mail: Info@KingsRetreatCenter.org

Our Lady of the Change of Life: September 16 Event

A Day just for Women!
King’s Retreat and Renewal Center
September 16, 2014
9:00 a.m.—3:00 p.m.

Our Lady of the Change of Life

Holy Mother of Menopause, is it hot in here, or is it just me? Let’s ponder the mental, physical, and spiritual opportunities of midlife, and sprinkle in some soothing prayer, great conversation, delicious food, relaxing walks, and a dance party! The fee is $30; thermostat adjustments—no charge! To register, email info@kingsretreatcenter.org, or call 800-779-7909 or 618-397-0584.

Our Presenters

Gloria NewmanGloria Newman is a registered nurse with over 25 years of experience in women’s health and is manager of Women’s and Children’s Education at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. In 2012, the Missouri Chapter of the March of Dimes named her Nurse of the Year in Education. Gloria loves music, and has to move when she hears it, even hand dancing in the car. Her motto: A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.


mro full sizeMaria Rodgers O’Rourke is a nonprofit and ministry professional in communications and adult spirituality. She is a blogger for the Huffington Post, a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the voice of Everyday Inspired. Her favorite things include music, scarves, baseball, autumn, thrift stores and her family’s laughter. A long time King’s House co-presenter, her motto is: Pay attention to life.




IMG_1500LI3Jane Unger is a marketing and communications professional in health care and non-profit companies. Surviving corporate ladders, single parenting, chronic illness and menopause has taught her to practice good “mental hygiene” which keeps her sanity as snug as Spanx. She is passionate about women’s wellness and enjoys cycling, yoga, sewing, solitude, and time with friends. Her motto: Thrive in spite of anything or anyone.

Why do I write? And other questions in a Blog Hop

My author cohort Becky Blades invited me to join her Blog Hop, which she describes as, “like passing the microphone around the room at a song write, with aspects of a chain letter.” Love it!

This Blog Hop features some meaty questions about the writing process, and gives me the chance pass the mic to two of my favorite bloggers. Here goes:

What am I working on?

Everyday Inspired is the title and theme of my blogcast and next book. When complete, Everyday Inspired will be a collection of short, timely, daily reflections to help people slow down and pay attention to life. Plus, I am a regular contributor to the Huffington Post blog.

Why do I write what I do?

Our lives are rich in meaning, but we’re often too distracted to notice. I love finding inspiration in the ordinary.  I hope my work will help people make similar connections in their own lives.

Writing helps me stay sane. It helps me sort out my life, and reminds me of who I am and what’s important. Yet, as Dorothy Parker said, some days “I hate writing, I love having written.” Launching a finished piece is one of the best feelings in the world.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

My writing is a mix of insight and humor, all discovered in stories from life, movies, scripture, music—wherever the inspiration pops up. My writing addresses issues of faith and spirituality in ways that are accessible and relatable to people’s experience, and is never “churchy.”

How does my writing process work?

Morning Pages are essential to my creative process. I discovered the value of Morning Pages in the multiple times I’ve worked the exercises in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The pages clear the clutter in my brain and help focus my ideas into what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft.” That draft is written longhand, blue ink pen on a composition notebook page or legal pad. Then I transfer the draft to Word on my computer. I find it very difficult to write my first draft at the keyboard, and prefer the freedom paper and pen give me to sit with ideas and allow the language and imagery to emerge. My daily goal is to write 500 – 1,000 words, and I’ve blocked out two-hour sessions at least three days a week to write this way. I also carry a notebook with me to jot down the spontaneous moment of inspiration. I turn to these gems when my ideas run dry!

Please visit these great, creative writers who have inspired me! They’ll post their answers to these questions next week.

Bob Arches Square 3Bob Baker helps musicians, authors and creative entrepreneurs use their talents and know-how to make a living and make a difference in the world. He is the author of the highly acclaimed “Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook” (which appeared in the movie “The School of Rock”). CD Baby called him “The Godfather of Independent Music Marketing.” Bob’s other books include The DIY Career Manifesto, The Guerrilla Guide to Book Marketing, Guerrilla Music Marketing Online, Unleash the Artist Within, and more. Learn more at www.Bob-Baker.com.


beth turq scarf high resElizabeth Irvine is an educator, award-winning author and jewelry creator. Elizabeth’s philosophy and teachings are based on twenty-five years’ experience as a health care professional and through her yogic style of living. During this time she gained a reflective insight into what truewellbeing really means.

Based on principles she has learned and developed as an ICU nurse, health writer, yoga instructor, and as a mother of three, Elizabeth teaches from experience. Taken holistically, this path provided a foundation for her work today.

Irvine’s books, Healthy Mother Healthy Child and A Moment’s Peace provide women and families with a calming and healing influence and a simple guide for bringing peace and serenity into the home. www.elizabethirvine.com

Click here to read Becky’s delightful answers to these writing questions on her blog.

bbheadshot (2)Becky Blades is a writer, artist, business strategist and philosopher of creative, adventurous living. Her first book, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, was released on April 1, 2014. It has received a Kirkus Starred Review and the critical acclaim of discriminating bloggers.

Since selling her award-winning public relations firm in 2003, Becky has served on corporate boards, as a civic advocate for the arts and entrepreneurship, and as a consultant and mentor to businesses.

Her blog, stARTistry.com explores the art of beginning, from entrepreneurship to works of art. And she blogs about her book at www.LaundryorDie.com.


Everyday Inspired for April is Here!

Please visit Amazon.com to get your e-edition of the Everyday Inspired April collection!EI April 14 cover