Writing, Interruptions, & Home Business Workshops

I'd love to meet you there!

One of the things I love about speaking is the opportunity to meet my readers. I hope you can join us for one of these events!

September 24, 2015

Writing Workshop Celebrating F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 119th Birthday

9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, 919 Felder Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36106

Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Montgomery, Alabama

Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Montgomery, Alabama

Workshop 1: The Composition of a Masterpiece: How F. Scott Fitzgerald Wrote and Revised The Great Gatsby (9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.)
Studying F. Scott Fitzgerald’s composition and revision of The Great Gatsby reveals his careful craftsmanship as well as his genius. Learn how Fitzgerald polished his prose and how the novel achieved its structural greatness as he revised and rewrote major sections in the galley proofs.

Workshop 2: The 5 Ps of Publishing: How to Plan, Pen, Polish, Publish, and Promote Your Book (11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.)
Have you always dreamed of being a writer? Do you have information and expertise you want to share with the world? Do you aspire to see your very own book in print? Learn how to plan, pen, polish, publish, and promote your book.

Lunch at the Museum (12:00 p.m.–1:30 p.m.)

Workshop 3: Getting it Right: How to Polish Your Writing (1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m.)
Like it or not, people judge you by your writing. Moreover, today’s publishers and literary agents expect writers to submit clean, polished manuscripts. Learn how to avoid the most common writing mistakes that could hold you back.

Pre-registration required. For more information, visit thefitzgeraldmuseum.org/events.html


September 24, 2015

Workshop for Busy Moms

6:00–8:00 p.m.
3007 Jasmine Rd, Montgomery, AL 36111
Hostesses: Misty Vermillion & Beth Johnson
Light refreshments will be served.

Just Say No! Overcoming Interruptions & Distractions
You’re deep in conversation with your teenager when the phone rings. You’re doing some work for a business client when your fifth-grader suddenly has an urgent math question. How do you decide what gets your attention at any one time? Mary Jo Tate, an international book editor and homeschooling mom of four boys, will share her strategies for saving your sanity and overcoming interruptions and distractions.

RSVP: Misty 334-414-3622 (text)


October 16–17, 2015

2:1 Conference

Ramada Plaza, Kill Devil Hills, NC

Just Say No To Interruptions And Distractions
You’re deep in conversation with your teenager when the phone rings. You’re working for a business client when your fifth-grader suddenly has an urgent math question. How do you decide what gets your attention at any one time? Interruptions hinder our productivity, make us frustrated and irritable, and confuse us about what’s really important. In this session, you’ll learn how to handle the most common types of interruptions, how to find balance between being accessible and setting boundaries, how to train your children to be responsible and independent, and how to determine whether to ignore an interruption and focus on the task at hand or to recognize an interruption as a God-given opportunity to serve someone who needs you.

Pre-registration required. For more information, visit 2to1conference.com/2015-event/


November 11, 2015

Teleclass, 3:00 p.m. Eastern

National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE)

How Do You Do It All? Balancing Family Life and Home Business in the Real World

Details coming soon. For more information, visit naiwe.com

Farewell to a Faithful Friend

Jodie Howell Tate, a beautiful golden retriever, joined our family on July 6, 2006, when she was 4 years old. Her first family could not take her with them when they moved, so they graciously gave her to us. We were blessed to adopt her.

Our 6 cats hissed and hid at first (visualize tails fluffed like bottle brushes) but settled down pretty quickly, and they all got along well after a few days. Jodie mostly ignored them until they got into cat fights, and then she became Cat Cop and broke things up. Dixie adored Jodie and often talked to her, showed off by rolling back and forth, and begged her to play; eventually Jodie would just walk away. Tolerating cats (even sharing the sofa with them) was one thing, but playing with them was beneath her canine dignity.

Jodie Bullseye Bilbo

Our family pet mythology identified Jodie as the founder of Snoutbook, an online network for pets. She was also known as the Puppy Sailor—which derived from her nickname Snouta, which rhymes with the Latin “nauta,” meaning sailor. (We’re a weird family that loves wordplay.) She was a passionate fan of bread; no bagel was safe with her around. She was terrified of thunderstorms but fierce about UPS trucks. She had an infallible radar for knowing exactly where to lie in the house to block the maximum amount of foot traffic at any time. In her final year, she lost much of her hearing and had trouble getting onto and off the sofa . . . but she could still run like a rocket in the back yard.

Jodie in the snow

Jodie was a wonderful friend to my 4 sons and was a great companion to me when they were away from home. She lived 13 good years before her death on May 15, 2015. We will miss her greatly.

Jodie Christmas 2013

Homeschool Teacher Appreciation Day & Flourish discount

Did you know that today is Homeschool Teacher Appreciation Day? It’s a day to celebrate the hard work and dedication of homeschool teachers everywhere!
Special giveaways will be happening all day, along with Google hangouts starting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern and webinars tonight. You can find out all the details here: Homeschool Teacher Appreciation Day.
I hope you can join me at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for a Google hangout where I’ll be talking about homeschooling, home business, single parenting, and more!
AND, if you’ve been wanting to buy my book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, the e-book is available for only $3.99 TODAY ONLY.
We could all use a little encouragement as we approach the end of the school year, so I hope you can join us for the celebration!

How My Love of Books Developed

In honor of World Book Day, I’m sharing the story of how I became such an ardent book lover. I hope it will inspire you to nurture your children’s love of reading and to build a home library for your family.

Autobiography of a Bibliophile

It’s my grandmother’s fault.

Every time I visited her during my childhood, she’d give me books. Not just two or three books, but a boxful of books. She was a fourth-grade schoolteacher, and when she ordered from the book club for her class, she stocked up for me as well.

Actually, my love of reading goes back even further than that, to the hours upon hours my patient parents spent reading aloud to me. Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann books stand out in my memory—and they’re still on my bookshelf.

But my passion for collecting books is my grandmother’s fault.

It started innocently enough with the paperback editions of children’s classics that she provided: Charlotte’s Web, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, my well-worn copy of Little Women.

Pretty soon, random paperbacks weren’t enough . . .

You can read the rest of the story on my blog for book lovers, Eclectic Bibliophile.


Making Christmas Memories without Sacrificing Your Sanity!

Do you ever feel pressured to create a Pinterest-perfect Christmas? Trying to live up to impossible standards, others’ expectations, or even your own unrealistic standards for yourself can drain all the joy from the holidays.

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve learned to let go of burdensome expectations and focus instead on creating meaningful traditions that my family can enjoy year after year . . . without losing my sanity!

In episode 10 of my Flourish At Home Radio show, I share some of my own favorite Christmas traditions: keeping Christ in Christmas, decorating the tree and the house, collecting special ornaments, giving gifts, sending Christmas cards, and enjoying delicious food. I also share my family’s favorite Christmas books, movies, and music, as well as funny stories, like the time our tree fell and why we outsource our turkey to Texaco. Finally, I offer encouragement to those who are alone at Christmas, as well as ways others can help bless them.

Christmas Memories 2

Here are the books, movies, and music I mention in the podcast, as well as my two favorite holiday recipes. (Note: Most of these are affiliate links. If you purchase through my link, I make a small commissionwhich I will almost certainly spend on more books! )


The Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader

 Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper (free e-book)

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shephard

 The 12 Days of Christmas Cats by Don Daily

The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffman, adapted by Janet Schulman

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

 The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes, illustrated by Tasha Tudor

’Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Moore, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith


It’s a Wonderful Life

A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge)

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Polar Express

The Nutcracker

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Frosty the Snowman


One Wintry Night  by Jerry Read Smith and Lisa Maria Smith

The First Christmas Morning by Dan Fogelberg

A Christmas Album by James Taylor

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi

Handel’s Messiah


I am not a noted cook (Yeah, I fried the oven’s motherboard along with the turkey), and I outsource most of our Christmas dinner. However, these are two recipes I actually make myself . . . and my family loves them. Both of them are from my mom, Rosemary Alinder.

Bean and Corn Casserole

For the Casserole:

1 can French-cut green beans (drained)

1 can Green Giant Niblets corn (drained)

1 can cream of celery soup

8 oz. sour cream

1/2 cup grated cheese

1 medium onion, chopped

For the Topping:

1 roll Ritz crackers, crushed

1 stick butter, melted


Mix casserole ingredients together. Bake 30-45 minutes at 350 until casserole has heated all the way through and is bubbling. After baking, sprinkle crushed crackers over the top and pour the melted butter over the crackers. Cook for about 10 more minutes, until topping is browned. Devour.

This doubles well. If you have more than 2 people at the meal, there’s no point in not doubling it! I usually triple the beans and corn, double the other casserole ingredients and crackers, but still use only 1 stick of butter.

If we had to give up all but one item in our Christmas and Thanksgiving menu, this would be the unanimous keepereven over turkey and dressing.

Frozen Strawberry Salad

1 can strawberry pie filling

1 large can crushed pineapple and juice (20 oz.)

1 cup chopped pecans

1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk

12 oz. Cool Whip

Mix in order listed in long covered cake pan. Freeze overnight covered.

OR Mix in large bowl and pour into muffin tins with paper liners. Cover loosely with foil and freeze overnight. Transfer frozen “muffins” into freezer bags. Great for ready-made individual servings!

This is called a salad, but it’s really more of a dessert.

Mom used to take this to friends who were sick or were recovering from surgery. It’s a delicious treat!

It’s Your Turn!

I want to hear from YOU! What are some of your family’s favorite Christmas traditions?



Keeping Your Balance on the Homeschool Tightrope

Did you watch Nik Wallenda set two new world records last weekend while walking an inclined tightrope between Chicago skyscrapers, and then walking another tightrope blindfolded?

It was amazing, and it reminded me of the time I breathlessly watched Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon on a two-inch wire, 1,500 feet above the ground.

I’m not normally a fan of daredevil acts, but I was mesmerized by Wallenda’s skill and utter focus as he followed his dream. He trained thoroughly, made frequent adjustments to keep his balance, listened to his father through a live feed in his ear, and prayed all the way across the wire. It was terrifying, but inspiring.

Homeschooling is a lot like tightrope walking. It takes fearlessness, faith, focus, fellowship, and flexibility.

Read the rest of this story on the Apologia blog.

Amazing Deal on the Homeschool Omnibus!

Could you use a boost to get your homeschool year off to a great start?

Whether you’re a veteran or a first-time homeschooler, everyone can use ideas, resources, and support. The Homeschool Omnibus is a digital stockpile of practical tips and encouragement.

Here’s what it includes:

  • 83 e-books (What a treasure for book-lovers!)
  • 24 audio MP3s
  • Bonus discounts and freebies from 25 fabulous companies like Your Story Hour, Media Angels, and Jim Hodges Audio Books

You get all of this to download immediately for only $25 OR if you’d like to get all the files on DVD as well as to download, that’s available for $33. 


Displaying Omnibus-4.jpg

Here are just a few of the goodies I can’t wait to check out for myself:

  • Debra Bell: Hard-Wired to Learn: Your Child’s Brain and God’s Design
  • Jeannie Fulbright: If I Could Do it Over
  • Kendra Fletcher: Organization for a Peaceful Home
  • Kim Kautzer: The Lazy Student: What’s a Mom to Do
  • Terri Johnson: Facing the Giant – Homeschooling Through High School
  • Tyler Hogan: Loving Geography—Even If You Can’t Fold a Map [Isn’t that a fabulous title?]
  • Vicki Dincher: Science and Math: End the Struggle

Click here to view more details

My own e-book, From Frazzled to Focused: 7 Planning Tools for Busy Moms, is included. In it I share some of my best tips for balancing all your responsibilities so that you and your family can enjoy peace and can flourish!

The sale ends SUNDAY, AUGUST 24, at 11:59 p.m. ET, so don’t delay. Grab your Omnibus deal now and you’ll have an audio or e-book for almost every day of the rest of 2014! 

Here’s what you need to know once you make your purchase:

  • September 5 is the deadline for refunds. Absolutely no refunds will be given if the file host shows that you have downloaded any files. 
  • September 25 is the deadline for downloading your e-books. They will not be available after that. See the FAQ or contact iHomeschool Network for more information.
  • September 20 is the deadline for purchasing DVDs.

Remember, the Omnibus includes 107 resources for $25–that’s just 23 cents apiece! But the sale ends tomorrow, so head on over now to claim your bundle. 




Launching “Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms”!

I’m excited to announce that my new book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, launches today!

FLOURISH_final cover


Please join us tonight for the Google hangout and launch party! You can join us on Google+ here or via Facebook here.

Flourish hangout

If you’re exhausted, overloaded, or teetering on the brink of burnout, Flourish is for you! You’ll learn how to:

• Stop the juggling act and find a balance you can live with
• Minimize interruptions while being sensitive to real needs
• Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family
• Value and protect your time to do what matters most
• Establish a pace you can maintain for the marathon of life

You don’t have to be a homeschool mom to join us for the hangout or to benefit from the book. At least 85% of the content applies to ALL moms!

Limited-time offer: Get 18 FREE bonuses (valued at over $250) when you buy Flourish. Offer expires May 30. Details here.

What People Are Saying about Flourish

“Mary Jo Tate’s Flourish is a comprehensive and creative corrective to a homeschool community that has lost sight of one our basic values—quality of life. It is an intensely practical and wise book. If you are homeschooling or intend to, read it.”

Michael Card
Award-winning author and singer-songwriter


“I have to confess that some days we’re just surviving at our house. It’s tough to juggle homeschooling, family life, and a home business. And I know I’m not the only homeschool mom out there struggling. We all could use some encouragement every now and then. Filled with practical ideas, Flourish will help you to finally put down the burdens God never intended you to carry. Mary Jo will help you move beyond survival and actually flourish in the roles God has given you. A must-have for every homeschool mama’s nightstand!”

Gena Suarez
Publisher, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine


Flourish is filled to the brim with inspirational stories of a seasoned mother who has lived a life of faith and integrity and who shares from wisdom invested in the trenches of homeschooling. My friend Mary Jo clearly defines exceedingly practical ideas for goal setting, life management, and making the homeschooling life work for you.”

Sally Clarkson
Author of Seasons of the Heart and coauthor of Educating the WholeHearted Child


“This book is a mentor’s manual for navigating the homeschool years. You can go to it over and over again for wisdom and answers to what you’re facing. Invaluable.”

Elizabeth Smith
Former Director of Development, Home School Foundation
Wife of Mike Smith, president of HSLDA

Read more endorsements here.

50 Things I’ve Learned in 50 Years



For my 50th birthday, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in (ahem) half a century.

  1. Life is an adventure.
  2. Find peace in the space between the ideal and reality.
  3. Always say yes to chocolate.
  4. Your past shapes you, but it doesn’t define you.
  5. Give generously; receive graciously.
  6. Your heart and your head are meant to cooperate, not to compete.
  7. Sometimes it’s OK just to be . . . not to do.
  8. Live boldly.
  9. Count your blessings.
  10. Always leave some margin in your schedule.
  11. Don’t worry about what other people think.
  12. Naps are for grown-ups too.
  13. Cook once; eat twice.
  14. Don’t try to be a lone ranger.
  15. You’ll never have more than 24 hours in a day.
  16. Rest in God’s faithfulness.
  17. Get out of your comfort zone.
  18. Eliminate, delegate, outsource.
  19. This too shall pass.
  20. Be kind.
  21. Opportunity does not equal obligation.
  22. Taking time to relax increases your productivity.
  23. Be yourself.
  24. Never stop learning and growing.
  25. Pick your battles.
  26. Solitude isn’t scary.
  27. Think big.
  28. Be flexible.
  29. Don’t always be in a hurry.
  30. A joyful heart is good medicine.
  31. Meet challenges with action, not avoidance.
  32. Write it down.
  33. Self-discipline and focus are essential ingredients of success.
  34. Treasure your friends.
  35. Don’t let fear hold you back.
  36. Read widely.
  37. Enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
  38. God’s grace is sufficient.
  39. Cultivate your creativity.
  40. Don’t wait for someday to do what matters most.
  41. Silence is golden.
  42. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  43. People are more important than things.
  44. Explore new places.
  45. The days are long, but the years are short.
  46. Say no to the good to say yes to the best.
  47. Stop and smell the roses.
  48. Sometimes less is more.
  49. Savor the beauty of God’s creation.
  50. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Which of these truths have been most important in your life? I’d love for you to add your own lessons in the comments!


Bible Reading Plans

Do you want to read through the Bible in a year? Or maybe you want to read the Bible daily, but you want to move through it more slowly.

Justin Taylor points out that it takes the average person less than 10 minutes a day to read the entire Bible in one year. He also reminds us that Bible reading is not merely one more thing to check off our to-do list. His article includes analyses of several Bible reading plans and is a good place to start: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/12/26/how-to-read-the-whole-bible-in-2014/

This post from Ligonier Ministries has a good round-up of 14 different Bible-reading plans: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

In this must-read article, Stephen Witmer discusses the pros and cons of Bible reading plans. One aspect he considers is the fragmented nature of reading 3-4 books of the Bible at the same time; I’ve always found that a bit frustrating. I’m considering following the plan he designed for his church, in which you read through the entire Bible one book at a time (plus Psalms or Proverbs each day) in two years rather than a single year: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/12/29/two-year-bible-reading-plan/

I have sometimes used Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s plan, in which you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice per year (about 4 chapters a day from different parts of the Bible). This site provides printables for M’Cheyne’s plan and Don Carson’s variation, which spreads out the same readings over two years: http://www.edginet.org/mcheyne/printables.html

If you prefer to use a Bible that’s already divided into daily readings rather than keeping track with a bookmark or other printable, here are two I’ve enjoyed using:

The One-Year Bible

The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order

Ultimately, the plan we choose for reading through the Bible—at any pace—is not as important as simply doing the reading. Some years I’ve been very consistent; other years I’ve gotten woefully behind. Will you join me in making daily Bible reading a priority for 2014?

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” ~ Psalm 119:105