Mama Diaries

Monday, May 14, 2018

Scaring Away the Ghosts

My kids are convinced our house is haunted. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder. We've had shutters open by themselves, loud knocking on doors when nobody is around, and a sense of seeing something out of the corner of our eyes when nothing is there.

My daughter decided to do something about it. The other day she came home with this:



"What the heck is that?" I asked. I was concerned it might be some kind of drug.

"Sage," she answered.

"And what exactly are you going to do with it?"

"Burn it. Sage gets rid of ghosts."

Okay.

So, the girl lit an end of it on fire and walked around the house, letting the smoke fill the air.

Let me tell you, that thing stunk!

I couldn't believe how bad it smelled after her little ritual.

"Well," I said. "I don't think anything is going to live here now. Including us!"



(I'm happy to report that we haven't had any more strange occurrences. So maybe it worked.)

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think sage gets rid of them?   

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Spoonful of Sugar

Before I begin this post, I want to take the time to thank all of you for being here and being so supportive. I'm always amazed by how many of you visit the blogs where I am a guest and leave such thoughtful comments. You're awesome and I appreciate every one of you!

Now for the story:

The other day, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. The recipe I have makes four dozen. I didn't want four dozen. So I split the recipe. Everything went fine until I came to the sugar part. For some reason, my brain turned off and I dumped in the amount of brown sugar and white sugar the recipe called for, which ended up being about two cups: twice the amount I should've put in.

Fortunately, I realized my mistake before it was completely mixed into the batter. I tried to scoop out half of the sugar, but inevitably, there was more sugar than there should've been.

I baked the cookies anyway.

When they were done, they looked slightly different. The extra sugar gave them a shiny glaze. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder if they're edible.

I tried one. It was actually good.

My kids smelled the cookies and ran into the kitchen to get some.

They thought they were good, too.

"Mom these are the best cookies you've ever made!" my daughter said. 

Isn't it funny how sometimes a mistake ends up improving something? Have you ever unintentionally messed something up to discover that your mistake improved it?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Speedy Gonzales

In our neighborhood, there is a policeman who sits in his parked car for hours, waiting to catch speeders or people who roll through stop signs. (I was once a victim when I failed to make a complete stop at the sign. Now I'm very careful, because I know he's watching.)

Anyway, it seems that it's not only motorists that he watches, but cyclists. I don't know if this story is true, because I wasn't there to see it, but my son claims it is. He told me that his buddy got stopped by this policeman for riding too fast on his bicycle. The speed limit is 25 miles an hour. This kid was going almost 35 miles an hour. The policeman turned on his lights and followed the boy until he stopped.

I can imagine the conversation:

Policeman:  "Do you know you're riding too fast, son?"

Boy:  "No, sir. How fast was I going?"

Policeman:  "35 in a 25."

Boy:  "Cool!"

Policeman:  "Not cool. I'm giving you a $50 speeding ticket."

Boy:  "Dude..."

Policeman:  "That's 'sir' to you."

Boy:  "But, I don't even have a driver's license."

Policeman:  "If you keep driving like that, you'll never get one."  *hands ticket to the boy* "Pay it, or I'll see you in court."


Have you ever heard of a cyclist getting a ticket (adult or child) for going faster than the speed limit?


Before I go, I want to let you know that I'm a guest on Kitty Cat at the Library Blog talking about my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. Please stop by to learn about it and my writing process. 

 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Creative Vaping

For those of you who have no idea what vaping is, let me educate you. It's "smoking" electronic, or e-cigarettes. It's a big thing for teens and young people. In Georgia, where I live, there are Vape Shops everywhere. You can get these e-cigarettes in all kinds of flavors. That's part of what makes it attractive to these people. Unfortunately, it's not safe. There are cancer-causing chemicals in these things.

My teenage son came home from school the other day and told me about a kid who got in trouble because he was vaping. "He put the liquid in a flash-drive and smoked it," he said.

I've heard of using pipes, but not flash-drives. I looked this up online. I wanted to see if this kid was being creative, or if others were doing it, too.

What my son was talking about is called, juuling. People vape through a device that looks like a flash-drive, but it's not. It's very small. They can conceal it in their pockets, take a hit, and blow the "smoke" into their arm. Kids are doing this in the classroom.

Something else parents need to worry about!

Have you ever heard of vaping? If you are a teacher, have you had problems with this in your classrooms?

If you'd like to watch a video on it, click here.    

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Guest Author: Corrina Austin







Today, I have a very special guest on my blog:  author, Corrina Austin. Her book, Corners, was recently released. When I read it, I thought it was such an excellent book. I asked if she would be willing to come on and answer some questions about it, and she obliged. 
   

Blurb:

Everyone needs their own special corner...


It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.


The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners”–forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others. 


Available in eBook format or print




My review:

The summer of '69 was a memorable one for Davy. He was ten years old. That's when he met thirteen-year-old Ellis, the girl who rescued him from the deep end of a pool. The two spent the last weeks of summer vacation together after Ellis offered to babysit Davy while his single mom worked. Their days were spent fixing up neglected corners. Cleaning up and beautifying them did a lot of good not just for Davy and Ellis, but for others in the story.

Corners is told by Davy, alternating as the adult David sharing the story with his ten-year-old son, Will, and the fourth-grade Davy. It has a nostalgic feel, as it paints the picture of a more laid-back time–old diners, grandmothers baking in the kitchen, and kids playing outside. Those who grew up in the time will recognize the songs mentioned and the movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet. The author does a great job of giving readers a sense of what it was like to live in the summer of '69.

The beauty of the story is not in the action, but in the depth of the characters. The relationships between the characters are well-fleshed out and heartwarming. Corners is considered a middle grade book, and certainly it would appeal to kids that age who are interested in coming-of-age stories that are relationship-driven, but it is also a story that adults would enjoy–especially those who grew up during the '60s and '70s. Highly recommended.  - 5 Star Review


Now, without further ado, here is the interview:



1.     What inspired you to write Corners?

My Dutch heritage means that corners are in my blood. The Dutch love their beautified corners in their homes and gardens. My parents’ house and yard are filled with them and that has definitely influenced me. I have been a “corner” designer myself since I was child. I always had to share a room with my sister as I was growing up and I was desperate for a space of my own. I would pester my mom to give up a little corner of the house somewhere for my writing and drawing. There were four kids, so privacy was hard to come by. A writer needs a special spot to call her own. I did then and I do now. 

I did not know that about Dutch people. If I ever visit their part of the world, I'll have to pay attention to the corners they create! And yes, I agree, writers need a special spot to call their own.


2.     How did you come up with your characters?

I had 31 years of elementary school teaching experience as well as 4 children of my own, so there was much to draw from. I don’t claim to “know it all,” but I have learned a few things about kids and how they feel, think, and interpret the world. More than this, I am lucky enough to remember clearly how it feels to be a kid. Aside from this general kind of knowledge about childhood, my characters really just unfolded on their own as I wrote.

Your characters have a very natural feel. Everything about their relationships flows. Your experience with children and people must've really helped a lot.


3.     What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The whole appeal of writing (for me) is to make connections with others on a level that can’t happen in “regular” conversations. Inspiring people to make contact with memories they otherwise would have forgotten, opening doors to new perspectives, engaging emotions…all of those things bring great satisfaction to me. The most enjoyable thing for me personally was the time travel. A lot of the details of daily life in the 1960’s resurfaced for me when I was writing, and I loved seeing them all again.

You did a great job bringing that time period to life. It certainly brought back a lot of memories for me!


4.     What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading this book?

I have always believed that positive changes do not have to be big in order to have influence. When individual people focus on creating beauty and kindness in their own little corners, there is a chain effect that can have a huge impact on the larger world. I wanted to write something that would reflect this belief.

That's a beautiful message, and it's very clear in your book. 


5.     What were your favorite song(s) and movie(s) from this time period (60's and 70's)?

I loved singing along to Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” in the car--and the Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe.” I preferred the poetic and the melancholy even back then.

My favourite movie of the time was “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” starring Don Knotts. It was the story of a nerdy man who wanted more than anything to be a fish—and not only did he get his wish, but he became a war hero! I watched it every time it came on TV. I loved writing about that movie in Corners. I wish I could’ve used some of the lines from that movie as well as some of the song lyrics of the day…but copyright prevented it.

It's been ages since I've seen "The Incredible Mr. Limpet." It was such a fun movie! I thought it was great that you chose that one to be part of your story.



6.     Have you ever made your own corner?

Many times! My first corner was a little plot of earth Mom gave me at the edge of the yard when I was nine. I planted hills of watermelons and kept minnows in the pond feature, which was a tin can buried up to the top in dirt. I also planted a couple seedling trees in there. One of them is a giant tree now. My parents still live there and it shades the back part of the yard. It also became the cemetery plot for a baby robin I nursed for a week…I still get teary thinking of that bird.

I chuckled reading about your "pond feature." Sounds like something I would've done when I was a kid. Sorry about the robin. I'm sure it would thank you for the lovely resting place you gave it.


7.     What would your perfect corner be like?

It would be a little shed or cabin near my house with hydro and heat. It would need to be big enough for a comfy chair or loveseat, have big windows and lots of light, and counter space for my painting (which is another interest of mine). Of course, there would be endless tea supplies. It would have window boxes overflowing with summer blooms…and it would be very quiet and tidy.

That sounds fabulous! You paint, too? You're so talented!


8.     What do you do when you're not writing or promoting your books?

I retired in 2015 from teaching, although I will be going back to do a bit of supply work. I  sing alto in a fantastic Community Choir called “Choral Connection.” I paint landscapes (mostly in oils), play my piano (not very well) and hike three seasons of the year (winter isn’t one of them). I love to travel. Last September, I went to Ireland! I enjoy hanging out with my family and my most beautiful in all the world Golden Retriever. Her name is Cobi.

Your interests are very similar to mine! I'm a musician, and I love travelling and hiking. A kindred spirit! Your trip to Ireland sounds wonderful! I bet you have some great photos and memories from it!

9.     Are you working on a new book?

Yes! It also has a child protagonist, but it’s much darker than Corners. He is the survivor of a terrible trauma and the book is the story of how he tries to make his way back from it. It’s been difficult to write, but I think it’s framing in well. I have about 250 pages so far.

I'd love to read it when it gets published. Best of luck writing it!


10.  Where is one place you'd like to visit that you haven't been before?


I am longing to visit Paris…and that might happen this summer! I would also love to go to New York City. I am not much of a city person, but I think a few days in the Big Apple would be an amazing adventure.

Paris is nice. I've  been there several times. Each time I find something new. I haven't stayed in New York City -driven through it on my way to the airport, but that's it. That would be an adventure!

Thanks for stopping by and chatting. It was great having you as a guest!




Corrina Austin is a retired elementary school teacher, living in beautiful South-Western Ontario, Canada. She has Bachelor’s degrees in both English and Education. Corrina has published several short stories and essays and was twice the recipient of grants for a novel in progress from the Ontario Arts Council. “Corners” was inspired by her experiences as a child growing up in the 1960’s and contains many artifacts from her memories of those times. To get to know her better, check out her blog at https://trustcake.wordpress.com/. You can also visit her on Twitter (@corrinaaustin), Instagram (readingcorners) and via her author page on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Something Different

The other day, as I was roaming around the blogosphere, I landed at Susan-Swiderski's blog. She was answering a bunch of different questions that had to to with writing. I thought I'd take the time to answer them on my blog, so y'all might know a little more about me as a writer.

So here we go:

1. What are you working on right now? I'm revising book two of my Bubba and Squirt Series. (Book 1:  Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China is being published by Dancing Lemur Press and will be released September 4, 2018.) There's no guarantee that I'll get a book 2 deal. It all depends on how book 1 does. But I want to be ready, just in case. (Book 2 is Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Treasure.)

2. How is it different from others in the genre? I think the closest comparison is the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne. That's for a slightly younger crowd. This one is a step up, and it takes place in the present - not the past as many of the Magic Tree House books do. My emphasis is on learning the language, history, and culture of the country Bubba and Squirt visits.

3. What experiences have influenced you? I've done a lot of travelling. One of the things I most enjoy is learning about the country I've visited. Writing these Bubba and Squirt books is a way to bring that experience to kids and teach them about other people and cultures.

4. Why do I write what I do? It's fun.

5. How does your writing process work? I'm a plotter. I write outlines and figure out the general path of the story. Sometimes I'll come up with subplots as I go, and then I weave them into the story. And sometimes things end up going a little differently than planned. But I still know what the problem is, and how it's going to be solved. If I don't create an outline, I get hopelessly lost and don't finish the project.

6. What is the hardest part about writing? Revising. It takes forever! I can stare at a sentence twenty minutes and rewrite it fifty times and still not be happy with it. Getting the right words with the right flow can be challenging.

7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't tried yet? Maybe writing horror stories. That's way outside of what I write. But I did an anthology contest that explored a darker side of writing, and I actually enjoyed it.

8. Who are the authors I admire? Rick Riordan, Kate DiCamillo, John Green

9. What scares you? As an author, I'd say putting my work out there, and having the majority of  people not like it. It hasn't happened yet, and I hope it never does. But when you put something out for the public to scrutinize, you're opening yourself up to criticism. That's scary.


Schultz says falling satellite debris  is scary. He wore this tin foil hat for protection when the Chinese satellite fell down on Sunday. Fortunately, it didn't land anywhere near us. Schultz was relieved!

If you're a writer, what's the scariest thing for you?

In case you haven't had enough interview-reading material, you can go here  and read my interview with The Children's Book Reviewer. I'm talking about my newest book, Don't Feed the Elephant. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Shakespeare According to Mama

The other day, my daughter had to take some lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth and translate them into English that people these days would understand.

"Mom," she said staring at the words, "I have no idea what this is about."

I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. Here's what it said:

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well 
It were done quickly. If th’assassination 
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch 
With his surcease success: that but this blow 
Might be the be-all and the end-all, here, 
But here upon this bank and shoal of time, 
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases 
We still have judgement here, that we but teach 
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return 
To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice 
Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice 
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust: 
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, 
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, 
Who should against his murderer shut the door, 
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan 
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been 
So clear in his great office, that his virtues 
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against 
The deep damnation of his taking-off, 
And pity, like a naked new-born babe, 
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed 
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, 
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye 
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur 
To prick the sides of my intent, but only 
Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself 
And falls on th’other.

"Whoa," I said. "'Tis mighty long-winded!"

"What's he saying?" my daughter asked.

"I think some dude is thinking about killing someone. But he's thinking there might be consequences. And maybe he's thinking it would be a bad example to others. And maybe he thinks it would come back and bite him in the butt."

"That makes sense. Why couldn't Shakespeare say it the way you did?"

"Because people back then wouldn't have understood a word I just said."



What about you? Do you remember reading Shakespeare in school? Could you understand what he was talking about?