Thank goodness something has come along in social media to replace “Eat This…Not That.” Now the internet and good people everywhere are obsessed with SIMPLIFYING. And, yes, it must be printed in large block letters. Upper and lowercase combined are apparently not simple enough. Blogs, social media posts, “happy news” spots, and office conversations are all about how we are simplifying our lives.

So, instead of following my instinct to ignore or delete references to SIMPLIFY, I decided to read a blog post or two, just to see what I am missing. Blog post #1 offered twenty-five ways to simplify your life. Twenty-five, and every single one of them was something to do, including three different kinds of “To Do Lists,” creating a “capsule wardrobe,” and quite a bit of cooking. Every single idea sounded like a good way to live an organized life, but there was nothing simple about any of it. Blog post #2 took an even more all-attack approach to simplifying and instructed readers to clean out their closets, get rid of at least half the items in their kitchen, rearrange and landscape their outdoor space, and pack their lunches a week or two at a time.

Honestly, I was stressed and exhausted just reading them. I also couldn’t help but notice that they all involved spending both money and time.

I get it. That bare space in the pictures with the single flower in the vase sitting on soft blue painted side table ($349 plus tax and shipping), next to the white couch with the view of the ocean, is lovely and simple. It also would not last five minutes in my house. In my house, the cat would knock the vase to the floor and carry the flower away as his prize catch of the day, and my husband would stack mail on the table, ignoring the clever box hanging on the wall by the door with MAIL etched in a simple san serif font on its reclaimed wood side.The labrador would take a nap on the white couch after which it would never be white again. And, of course, the only ocean view I have here in Kansas is on TV when I watch Beachfront Bargain Hunt.

So, what is simple living? I think we all agree that life in 21st Century America is complicated. If we are honest, we will admit that in addition to complicated it can be frustrating and even frightening. We all have too much “stuff.” I know that I don’t always use my time in the way I should, or even the way I want. There is no doubt we need to simplify. But do we really need a list of 25 things to do and buy? Do we need simplicity that costs money, uses up time and adds to our stress?

So here’s my list of four things we can do make our lives simpler. It wouldn’t make a very attractive magazine spread, but everything on it is accessible, doesn’t cost money, and hopefully doesn’t add to anyone’s stress level.

  1. Find a filter. This will be a deeply personal thing, not something you read about in a blog. It might be a scripture, a personal mission statement, or something your grandmother once said. Whatever it is, it will be something you can hold up to activities and obligations and use to choose those that actually fit you and your life, not the demands,suggestions and opinions of the rest of the world. This filter will change as you change, but in the cacophony of voices vying for our attention, energy, and focus, a filter can help us find the simply important.
  2. Find a time and place for silence and stillness. Not just once in a while. Every day, even if it is only for a short time, but try to add at least one longer time in your week. If you haven’t experienced silence and stillness for a while, or ever, it will be uncomfortable at first, but give it a chance. The world we live in is so constantly noisy and full of movement. In silence and stillness we can find refreshment, discernment, and hear God speak to our weary and confused souls.
  3. Take advantage of the gift of fresh air and sunshine, even if your idea of outdoor recreation is sitting on the patio at a restaurant. Observe the wonders of creation, especially the small everyday ones.Soak up some sun. Watch water flow. Listen to the birds sing. Ponder your place in it all.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like the beloved child of God that you are. If some of us love our neighbors as we love ourselves, our neighbors are going to be seriously mistreated.

That’s it, my simple and short list. It’s not any special color or shape, but it’s manageable enough to put in your pocket or put on a post-it. And you don’t have to redecorate!


Archeology, Part Two


So….it’s been a little while since I blogged. OK, more than a little while. Three years and 6 days, to be exact. I don’t really know why I quit posting to I would love to say that it’s because life went in another direction and I was too busy changing the world or negotiating the movie deal for my bestseller, but the truth is more like I started listening to the dreaded Inner Critic and forgot how much joy I find in writing.

Recently, with a lot of encouragement from wise and insightful friends, I rediscovered writing in many different ways. And, of course, if I am going to write, I need a place to do it. So, I’m back to trying to excavate the Room Once Known as My Office.

Some things have changed while I’ve been setting records for writing procrastination. Only one of the animal roommates from before is still with me. Grania, the Chocolate Labrador Retriever and I are growing old and arthritic together. Her buddy Casey sadly left us to chase squirrels in heaven, followed by her feline companion Hobbes. A new furry friend was added when Oldest Son found a tiny kitten in a park under a bush and Jake came to live with us. Jake is now a large cat who likes to knock things over and take naps on the computer. He is quite territorial about this space, and feels free to dispose of anything I might leave lying around. I am hoping it makes me a tidier person. Or increases my flexibility as I bend over 100 times in an afternoon to pick up what he has swept to the floor. I am also suspicious that he is using my computer to contact the Mother Ship and report on his takeover of the human household. He’s a starer, and I have a feeling he’s taking notes.

Many of the artifacts discovered in the earlier expedition have been moved on to collections in other parts of the museum. That’s a nice way to say that I filled up boxes and put them in the basement. Bookshelves have been added, because, really, there will never be too many books – just too little shelf space.There have been some new discoveries. I do not need to buy highlight pens at any time in the forseeable future. There are notebooks of every shape and size – pretty cloth covered journals, spirals in various sizes, and one great Big Chief pad. And, even though I hate shopping, I  have accumulated an outstanding collection of cloth shopping bags. Each one seems to have one or two interesting artifacts abandoned at the bottom – miscellaneous papers, a petrified protein bar, a pair of earrings I was excited to find after completely forgetting I owned them, more highlighters.

This dusty, cluttered room seems symbolic of what happens  when I don’t focus on using the gifts God gives me and use them to bring joy and fulfillment. Over the last three years, I’ve spent a lot of time not writing, and a lot of time stacking up little notebooks both physically and in my mind. I’ve collected up a lot of bags to carry around, even though I don’t seem to be able to identify or enjoy their contents.Useless thoughts, anxieties, and outdated topics crowd my mind.

So, it’s time for a bit more archeology – dusting off and identifying the bits and pieces of clutter in my space, reclaiming a peaceful corner to work in, and getting rid of the junk, the old projects, and picking up new ones that give me joy and focus and direction, I’m hoping MamaPrayed will be a part of that!




I picked up a magazine at the grocery store not too long ago called, “Where Women Create.” It is an evil fantasy publication, designed to cause unrest and redecorating. It is totally fascinating.  It contains, between advertisements for cardboard boxes costing $40 and up, photos of incredibly beautiful “creative spaces” that supposedly belong to women to write, make jewelry, design the interiors of zillion-dollar houses and paint masterpieces using laundry soap and sharpie markers. And apparently, they never make a mess while doing it because they have all those $40 cardboard boxes to hide the clutter.

The reason I know the pictures in this magazine are probably photoshopped within an inch of their creative limits, or complete inventions of overly organized minds is that some of these pictures feature pets. On the pristine white counter top next to the carefully stacked papers of the “successful editor and feature writer” sits a cat. And the papers are still in a stack.  Fake picture.  In another, a beautiful golden retriever is taking a nap on a rug that probably cost more than my car in a room full of lovely pillows. None of them have chewed edges or stuffing trailing along the floor. Again, an obvious fake.

I’m supposed to be cleaning up my “office.”  It’s a really nice room, painted a beautiful and soothing shade of blue by Oldest Son with a shelf that surrounds it on 3 sides, which is, of course, covered with books, as is the bookshelf  on the opposite wall, a comfortable chair I found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and waaayyyy to many boxes of junk and they are, sadly, not the color coordinated paisly $40 variety. Most of them used to hold beer. Or toilet paper.

At some point last year, when our large dog and her cohort, Oldest Son’s even larger dog, needed space to call their own, I, in a fit of dementia brought on by tripping over a dog bed in the family room for the 100th time, said something like “I could share the room with the dogs, let’s corral them in the office.”  I didn’t have to say it twice, and just like that, I lost my private space, my writing space, and a little piece of my fragile sanity.  My nice little room became a nice little dog kennel and I began writing in corners and coffee shops. But today it is snowing and it is about 14 degrees. I don’t want to go to a coffee shop, and because of the aforementioned winter weather, there are no quiet corners in this house because everyone who lives in it or once lived in it, or got bored with the snow is hanging out.

So, I’ve decided on this snow day, to TAKE BACK THE OFFICE!”  How hard could that be, just because it hasn’t been dusted in longer than I’m ever going to admit  in writing, the floor is covered in dog beds, dog toys and chewed up remains of what I greatly fear are some of the books that used to be on the bottom shelf?

It’s kind of like an archeological expedition, or one of those treasure hunts in the remains of an ancient civilization.  In the midst of dust and dog hair and cobwebs, I’ve found:

  • At least a half dozen books that I need to read Immediately. I have already started reading two of them – while conducting this expedition.
  • A stack of wonderful and hilarious cards sent to me by friends during my adventure with breast cancer.  Some favorites offered pearls like these:
    • “Well of course they’re fake – the real ones tried to kill me!
    • A panorama of what at first appears to be intricately painted Easter Eggs. On closer examination, however, you realize that what you are actually viewing is a lot of intricately painted bald heads.  I can’t tell you how close I came to going to church that Easter with my head painted.  Should have done it.
    • The world is full of people who will go their Whole lives and not actually LIve one day.  She did not intend on being one of them.”
  • Enough yarn to knit a blanket for every child I will ever know.
  • A carefully hidden collection of dog toys, which I do not believe actual belong to this household. Yes, it is quite possible that my dogs have been out in the neighborhood stealing dog toys. Or extorting them over the fence.  Or maybe strangers bring them toys to keep them quiet when we are not home. I have no idea.
  • SIX computer mice.  It seems that we never throw anything away in this house.  As far as I can tell, none of these function as actual peripheral computer tools. They might work as paperweights. Or maybe we can glue wheels to them and convince the grandkids that they are toy race cars.  Note that throwing them away is not listed as an option.
  • An entire bag of scrunchy hair bands.  I have not had enough hair to scrunch since the breast cancer adventure, I have no idea why they are here.
  • An envelope full of clippings about disappearances and unidentified bodies, collected during a Mystery Writing Workshop.  If anyone nearby comes up missing or unidentified, I’m probably going to the Big House.  I know how this works.  I watch Castle.

Well, obviously, I’m not making extraordinary progress, and now it is time for the Jayhawks to play basketball, and I know they need me.  But I will keep excavating and report any finds that are important to the understanding of civilization as we know it.

Assuming this expedition is successful and all artifacts are labeled and stored away somewhere with the Ark of the Covenant and Indiana Jones’ hat, that will leave the challenge of sharing my most personal space with a Labrador Retriever and a Beagle/Heeler.  And a Maine Coon, who thinks every inch of this house actually belongs to him.  I wonder how it will all look in a magazine spread?

Grandmother Blogs


OK…so I’ve noticed that Mom Blogs are a thing.  There must be millions of them. My daughter has one, and it’s pretty funny.  Check it out:  There is even an official Mom Bloggers group here in Kansas City.

As far as I can tell, Mom Blogs seem to fall into — categories

  • The Tales from the Trenches. This is what Sara’s blog is.  A way to share and keep your sense of humor when your children insist upon acting like children. These are generally delightful and for moms to let each other know they are not alone. And for grandmothers to laugh at.
  • The Frequent Christmas Letter. These are updates for friends and family, usually complete with adorable pictures of adorable chidren doing adorable things. They do resemble those letters that come with Christmas cards, but for people who don’t get to see each other or talk often enough, they seem like a good way to stay caught up, and I’m told they give the family a record of the child’s life as they grow up. I’m not sure I’m in favor of this.  It doesn’t seem to allow for judicious editing.
  • The Soapbox. These are written by Moms who seem posessed by a burning need to see everyone live exactly like they do, eat what they eat, sleep the way they sleep, educate the children the way they educate theirs, and if at all possible, only wear the color yellow.  They spend a lot of time trying to make their fellow mothers feel as terrible as possible about their choices and decisions, but in the kindest way possible of course.
  • The Fantasy Life Blog. On these blogs, moms seem to create elaborate fantasy lives in which they clean their houses from top to bottom using only white vinegar and recycled t-shirts, while baking delicious gluten-free bread, canning their own vegetables, teaching their children to sign and speak French, maintaining a rigorous workout schedule and running their successful jewelry design business.  When I was a Mom we just read Danielle Steele for that kind of fantasy.

So, where are the Grandmother Blogs?  I can’t be the only blogging grandmother. I’m sure all Grandmother Blogs will not be alike, but I think I can promise a few differences from Mom blogs:

  • Grandmother blogs will have a great appreciation for the Universe and the Law of What Goes Around Comes Around.  For instance, when the Mom Blogs write about the woes of Children Who Fight Bed Time, and Children Who Try to Negotiate Everything, the Grandmothers will probably write blog posts with titles like:  Apples Do Not Fall from Oak Trees.  After we quit laughing, of course.
  • In General there will be less angst.  We’ve done angst.  Now we are more likely to put on our party hats and let everyone have cookies for lunch.  We are no longer in charge of the upbringing of the next generation, and overall, we’re pretty proud of the job we did on the Moms, so time to spoil, spoil, spoil!
  • Topics such as housework, yardwork, and making things out of pallets will not be common on Grandmother blogs.  We are done talking about the first two, and the Grandfathers generally won’t let us do the last one, no matter how good it looks on Pinterest.
  • I can just about guarantee there will be fewer recipes using quinoa as an ingredient.

So, Grandmothers Unite.  We can’t let the Moms have all the fun.  Take the Blogosphere!  I see that the Kansas City Blogger Moms have get-togethers.  We could do that – and we wouldn’t even have to get home to the babysitters!!

Baseball and Other Good Things


I almost gave up on baseball.

Baseball was my first exposure to sports.  My great-grandmother, Iva, sat me in her lap when I was probably 3 or 4 and started teaching me about baseball.  We watched the Dodgers and the Cardinals on a black and white TV screen, and I learned some important things: (1) do not, under any circumstances, cheer for the New York Yankees; (2) nothing is more fun to watch than a successfully stolen base; and (3) you should never “boo” the players, but it’s o.k. to “boo” the umpires. By the time I was in grade school, I would walk to her house after school and catch the last few innings of the televised day game with her, while we drank Coke from real glass bottles and looked at the names of the cities embossed on the bottom to see whose bottle came from the farthest away.

Coming from Oklahoma, the Land of Football, you would think I would be a Sooner-born-and-Sooner-bred football fan, and it is true that when I was a child I thought “Boomer Sooner” was a Thanksgiving song, like “We Gather Together.” But football will never hold my heart like baseball.  Baseball is poetry. Bart Giamatti, former Commissioner of Baseball, wrote a beautiful essay once called The Green Fields of the Mind. One of my favorite quotes is part of this essay,

“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

It’s been a sad few years to be a baseball fan in Kansas City. I will spare one and all my favorite rant about how my hometown team was hi-jacked by a bunch of discount store merchants from Arkansas.  Let’s just say, it’s been tough, and I confess I had pretty much given up.  Even went shopping for a new team.  Didn’t find it. So, this year, I decided to give it one more chance.  Word was, the Royals had made a lot of changes, that there might be hope – not Pennant and World Series Hope, but just hope that it wouldn’t be painful and embarrassing to watch.  And lo and behold, an actual baseball team took the field.  Not perfect, but in baseball perfect is rare. .300 is a very good batting average, and there have only been 23 perfect games pitched in the history of major league baseball, since 1880. No real baseball fan is looking for perfect.  We are just looking for baseball, played as well as possible for as long as possible, on sunny afternoons and under lights with the bugs buzzing about. So I welcome the 2013 Kansas City Royals back to the Major Leagues with my whole heart and a blue hat on my head.

I love baseball movies, too.  I will never get tired of watching Field of Dreams, and A League of Their Own.  I love Bull Durham, even thought I don’t love some of the language, and I even love the totally sappy For the Love of the Game. The end of The Natural gives me chills, and I cry watching The Pride of the Yankees.  Last week I saw the best baseball movie ever.  If you have not seen 42, go – now. Right now. And take your children, and your grandchildren, and the neighbor children. It is moving and magical, and a great portrayal of two men of faith, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, who bravely did what they knew was right and changed not only baseball but America.

And, if you want a great baseball book, Joe Posnaski’s The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neill’s America will be one of the best books you’ve read in a long time.  Buck O’Neill was a national treasure, and the fact that he was shut out of the Hall of Fame is one more illustration of the fact that baseball is not perfect.  I’ll save you that rant, too. Joe P’s great stories about Buck’s many years in the Negro Leagues, as the first black coach in the majors, and in an extremely joyfully lived life can’t help but make you smile.

The world, especially lately, is full of hard things.  We have to face them, we have to deal with them, and pray about them, and try to make it better.  I sincerely believe baseball is one of those gifts God gave us human beings, like trees and flowers, and rivers, and the laughter of children, and puppies, and chocolate, and thunderstorms, and great music, to raise our spirits and give us strength and rest to make us ready for the real work of caring for the world.

I guess I’m back to being a baseball fan!



I had my last chemo treatment today!  From this point on, I can concentrate on being well instead of being sick. Well, to be realistic there will be a little period of being sick following today’s infusion of cancer-killing poisons into my system, but this time I won’t be waiting to feel better so I can get knocked down again.  So I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I have been blessed -with wonderful family, good friends, prayers, meals, phone calls, emails and more love and support than I could have imagined.  I was blessed from the beginning with a doctor who nagged me to go and get my mammogram.  We found this thing early and were able to attack it and send Herman on his way! As these things go, this was a good one.  Not exactly a journey I would wish on anyone, and we’ve had some bumps in the road, but this has been much better than it could have been if I had waited even six more months to find out what was lurking in my body.  Please girls, get those mammograms.  And guys, encourage the women in your life to get that done.

When my treatment was over, I got to take part in a tradition at the infusion center at St. Luke’s.  When you finish chemo, the nurses and staff gather around and you get to ring a bell, and everyone claps and celebrates with you.  I’m not really big on public displays like that, but this was special.  I got a little certificate, signed by all the nurses.  They were all so great.  I have had great care from the doctors, nurses, and all the staff at the St. Luke’s Cancer Center.  Those folks are rock stars!

Now, I get to concentrate on getting well.  The doc said today it will take 4-8 weeks for all the chemo drugs to clear my system, and up to a year to get all my energy back, but I will now be getting better every day instead of sicker, and I really like that dynamic.  There are lots of things I can do – healthy eating, adding more activity after the chemo is really out of my system, even if I’m tired, sunshine, getting back into a social life. Cleaning my house.  Cooking again.  Hugging the grandkids whether they have a runny nose or not.  Hopefully being able to read and write for longer than a few minutes.  Getting out of town.  I can’t wait to get started.

God is good.  This hasn’t been easy, and getting well will be a challenge.  But God is good.  Like the song says, “I find you when I fall apart.”  It’s true.  Every time this has seemed undoable, when I’ve been discouraged, or tired, or sick, or all of the above, God has been there, and sent helpers, words of encouragement, hugs, understanding. No one has ever had so many stretcher bearers.  And, always, God’s precious own presence.  I have experienced it in such a very real way. There have been some dark nights, and then God as there, and it wasn’t so dark.

I’ve learned a lot about being open with God and honest about anger, disappointment, and fear. God can take it.

Thank you all for your prayers, and all the encouragement and support.  It’s a good day!

Following Dreams and Other Good Stuff


A young woman who used to work on the staff at Resurrection has taken a big step recently and stepped out as a professional food blogger/freelance writer and food photographer and several other related things.  Anyone who has ever visited her blog,, won’t be surprised.  It’s one of the best food blogs I’ve ever read, and every recipe I’ve tried from her posts has been delicious and easy.

I really admire people who are willing and trusting enough of God’s provision in their lives to step out and follow their dreams, whatever they are.  It seems like I know a lot of young people who are in that category.  My own kids are all following what they feel is God’s call on their lives, both in their personal lives and professionally.  They amaze me every day and make me so proud (even though I’m not sure I actually have much to do with it). I work with a group of young pastors and other people who are doing the same, as are wonderful close friends of our family, who touch my heart by calling me Mama, or MomC.    A young woman named Amanda Dye has started orphanages in Africa.  You can read about her work and amazing stories of the children her organization is saving

I have never been very brave about following dreams, but one of the things that encountering “Herman” does is makes you take some serious looks at your life and think about what you want to do with it.  I am so blessed in that I love my job and feel like God gives me new gifts for it constantly, but I also want to do some other things – write more, spend more time creating on paper and also through artwork.  I want to learn more about new materials and techniques for sculpting, drawing, painting, creating.  I’ve always been too shy about my abilities to want to take classes or join a writer’s group, but between my age and fighting cancer, I’m kind of over that.  If I like it and it feeds my soul, then it’s good.  If someone else like’s it, especially if something I write feeds someone else’s soul too, that’s even better.  It’s not exactly up to par with saving orphans in Africa, but maybe I can find ways to support those kinds of thing through writing or art.  When my health improves, maybe I will step way out of my comfort zone and go help in Zambia!

Today I finished my third round of chemo, so I’m halfway done!  Feels good to be on the downhill run.  It went pretty well, but I’m pretty dopey, so this is probably not my best blog.  But I wanted to get it done because…..

On Gimme Some Oven, Ali is sponsoring a recipe exchange for the next 8 weeks, for recipes using tomatoes, a favorite food I consider to be one of God’s gifts to Summer.  This recipe exchange is actually being held in partnership with the International Justice Mission and their efforts this summer to provide education and resources about how to empower our nation’s tomato farmers. I was not aware until recently that the tomato farms in Florida, where 90% of our country’s offseason tomatoes are grown, used to be labeled as “ground zero” for modern-day slavery in the U.S., but thanks to IJM and some other great organizations, amazing strides have been made in advocating for healthy working conditions and fair wages for our tomato farmers.

You can enter this fun Recipe Exchange, too!  Come share in the tomato love at the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, hosted by Gimme Some Oven & Bake Your Day, and sponsored this week by Kitchen Aid.  Also visit Recipe for Change to learn more about how to support tomato farmers.”

So, as my first offering in the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, my version of one of my Mom’s 1950s party appetizer staples, Tomatoes Rockefeller:

2 10 oz packages frozen chopped spinach, cooked according to directions, drained and water squeezed out.

1 clove garlic, pressed or grated

1/2 sweet onion, chopped fine

2 sticks of butter

1 3/4 cups bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded smoked mozarella or smoked swiss cheese

1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper or cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp thyme

1/ tsp black pepper

3 eggs, beaten

12 fresh tomatoes (small to medium sized), sliced 1/2 inch thick

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

After spinach is drained, add garlic, onion and butter to the hot spinach. Stir in bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and seasonings.  Cool, then add beaten eggs. While spinach mixture is cooling, slice tomatoes and put slices on paper towels to drain for a few minutes.  Grease a cookie sheet.  Arrange drained tomato slices on the cookie sheet.  Using a spoon heap spinach mixture on to of tomato slices and top with shredded smoked cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Let sit for a minute or two before serving as a hot appetizer or dinner plate garnish. Makes 36-48 slices, depending on tomato size.