Mama Diaries

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Mad Scientist

When I wake up in the morning, I don't think about plutonium or nuclear reactors. I don't think about the inner workings of a battery, either. I wake up and think about making breakfast for my kids, and hope I can do it without spilling an entire jug of milk on the floor. 

My son, Bubba, on the other hand does think about plutonium, and radon, and nuclear fusion. In fact, he draws complicated diagrams of batteries and explains them to me, as I sit there in a complete state of grogginess.

Here was the latest diagram: 


This is a battery. Some kind of special one with a lead case so the radioactive material inside doesn't create a problem for its handler. The diagram on the left is something about how to make two parts come together to begin the reaction once the casing is secure. Do you understand? Me neither.  I thought he was probably coming up with this from the top of his head. Maybe it was some residual delirium from his recent bout with the flu.

But my husband took a look at it.  It is actually a viable concept for a real plutonium battery. (My husband is a mechanical genius, so he would know if Bubba was full of it.)

I don't know if my Mad Scientist son is going to get the parts and assemble this in our basement. But what I can tell you, is that if you see a mushroom cloud over Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter will be at my house!   

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Claw Master

My son, Bubba, is a lucky dude. Every time he goes to a place that has those machines where you operate a claw in hopes of snatching a stuffed animal or some other prize, he wins. I don't know how he does it. Must be a magic touch.

The other day, he went to a place called Dave and Busters. He had to try his luck at another claw machine. This one contained jewelry and watches. (I guess stuffed animals don't hold much appeal to him anymore, now that he's a teenager.)

He brought the claw down and snagged a lovely necklace. First try.


"Nice," I said. "What are you doing to do with it?"

"Keep it in a special place. And maybe eventually give it to somebody. Like maybe a girlfriend for Valentine's Day if I ever get one."

"Good thinking."

 Maybe he can win some stuffed animals, too. I'm sure his date would be thrilled!


Before I go, I want to let you know that I'm doing a Goodreads Giveaway for my book, Don't Feed the Elephant. It's for the Kindle version, and it's a chance to win one of 20 copies. Open to US residents only. If you're interested, you can enter here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Race Day

My son, Bubba and I decided to do the 5K Hot Chocolate Race in Atlanta this past Sunday. It sounded like a good idea. Especially since at the end of the run, they give finishers a big bowl and plate filled with rice crispy treats, marshmallows, a banana, chocolate, and of course, hot chocolate!

We had been training for about a month. We were in good shape (aside from blisters on my toes and a screwed up knee–neither of which I acquired from running).  On the morning of the big race, I woke up at 4:00 AM (we had to be there by 6:30 AM), and discovered it was raining. Hard. I groaned. Running in the rain was not something I wanted to do.

Then I looked at the thermometer. 35 Degrees Fahrenheit. Almost cold enough to snow. This is crazy, I thought.

My boy came downstairs.

"Dude," I said. "Take a look at the weather. Do you seriously want to do this?"

He poked his head outside. "Sure. It's not great, but it's no big deal."

Uh huh.

The weather forecast indicated that the rain was going to continue all day. Atlanta was under a weather advisory. I checked the race site. It was still on.

"Okay," I said. "We'll go see what's up. And maybe we can still get our hot chocolate. That's what we're going for, right?"

Long story short - the corral wait in the rain was an hour. The run was just over 35 minutes. It was the coldest, wettest running experience ever! And the hot chocolate wasn't hot. It was tepid.

"That was great!" Bubba said. "Can we do the 15K next year?"

Yeah, right!




Monday, January 29, 2018

Special Guest: Author, Deanie Humphrys-Dunne


Today I have a very special guest at my pad, children's author, Deanie Humphrys-Dunne. I've known Deanie for many years. She's a sweet, thoughtful person. I love her books because they are uplifting and give encouragement. The world needs more of that! Please welcome Deanie! 


Hi, Deanie!  So glad you could join us!

All of your books offer inspiration and life lessons. Your latest book, My Life at Sweetbriar, is about overcoming obstacles and persevering. Could you share some tips for how to remain positive in the face of adversity? How to keep going when things seem stacked against you?

First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me today, Sherry.  I love spending time with you.
When I get discouraged, things seem to be a bigger challenge than they actually are so I would say your problem could be the size of an anthill but when you’re thinking about it, the image you get is Pike’s Peak. Basically, try examining the issue from all sides. For example, when I was learning to jump horses, I’d often fall off two or three times a day. Some days it felt like I’d never stay on.  How could the problem be solved? I figured if I worked harder than other people, eventually I’d prevail. The other alternative was to quit and that wasn’t an option because then I’d surely fail and not reach my goal. 
Try to focus on the positive. We’ll use the jumping story again. If I normally fell off twice and progressed to only once a day, that was a positive step. My dad was a creative person so he’d find little ways to help. For instance, to help me keep my balance and also prevent pulling back on the reins, which made the horse uncomfortable, he put a strap around the horse’s neck so I could grab that while we were getting ready for the jump. It kept my hands in the right position and helped my balance a bit. We’d try to analyze why I fell off so we could remedy it. Most to the time I fell because my heels went back and I pitched forward. That was something I constantly tried to correct.
You could also divide the project into little parts. What if you were afraid of public speaking? Practice in front of your family or friends because you know they’ll encourage you. When the day comes to make your speech, look at one person in the audience that you know and pretend that’s the only one there.
Remember things are always changing. If you have a bad day, tomorrow is a new start. You have a chance to fix the mistakes you made yesterday.
Finally, imagine yourself having the result you want. The night before a horse show, I’d imagine taking the jumps perfectly. It helped keep me focused on my goals.

Those are great tips! I think it's important to learn from our mistakes and keep going. Keeping a positive outlook certainly helps.

What was one of the biggest challenges you've had to face, and how did you overcome it?
Perhaps the biggest thing was learning to walk after my surgery that re-positioned my femur bone. Metal and screws held the bone in place so I didn’t need to wear a cast for a year. After the surgery, everything felt different and I had to learn to use muscles that had never worked before. Walking felt different. I’m extremely fortunate my parents encouraged me to keep working until I felt more comfortable with walking.  As with other things, it took lots of practice. 😊

I can't even imagine having to go through that. Kudos to you for persevering!

Two of the horses in your story, Little Man and Peach, were very dear to you. Can you share any funny stories about either of them that weren't mentioned in your book?
Little Man was a naughty little pony. He was fuzzy and plump. He looked completely innocent. I thought he understood everything I said to him. In the book, My Life at Sweetbrier, I said I gave him sugar cubes hoping to improve his behavior. He loved getting into trouble. He snuck out gate of the riding ring once while I was on him before I even noticed what he had in mind. Probably the funny thing was I thought he understood everything I said to him.
Peach had another friend besides my sister Holly’s pony, Dark N Fancy. His name was Almost, but we called him Mosty for short. His owner’s name was Betty. If Betty and Mosty were ahead of Peach and me while we were on a trail ride, Peach would gallop until she could see him again. She seemed to miss him right away.  After that, she’d be calm. The two of them liked to look for escape routes to the apple orchard across the street from our farm.
Whenever we prepared Peach for a big show, we did the usual things like bathing her, and braiding her mane and tail. But Holly wanted her to have something unique to make Peach stand out. Holly used a comb to make checkered patterns on Peach’s rump.  
Here’s a funny story not related to Peach or Little Man that I could have put in the book. My mom took me for physical therapy three times a week. When I was about 5 years old, we were on our way to the therapy clinic. We passed an elegant stone church and Mom said, “That’s where Mommy and Daddy got married. I started crying. Of course, my mom asked what was wrong and I said, “Mommy, I’ll never forgive you. You didn’t invite us.” She laughed so hard she almost ran off the road and hit a tree.

It's funny how animals understand what we're talking about. My dog, Schultz is like that. He pretends he clueless, but that's only because he's trying to get away with something!

That's hilarious that you got mad at your mom for not inviting you to her wedding. I'm glad she didn't hit the tree!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Even though I liked writing since childhood, I never had the confidence to try it until 2009. At the time, I had an intuition to try writing about growing up at Sweetbrier. The feeling didn’t lessen, so I finally decided to give it a try. My dad always said when you’re afraid to do something, consider the worst thing that could happen. I figured if I wrote a book that wasn’t published, I’d only need to improve it and try submitting it again.

I'm glad you followed your feeling. Sometimes those feelings are guides to what we should be doing. Now we have some great books from you!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I think it’s important to follow your passion and use your natural skills. If you’d like to become an author, read as much as you can in your genre. Research publishing and decide it you’d like to self-publish or not. If you decide to become an author, let people know your book is coming out through social media. Finally, be sure to edit and revise your work until you feel it reflects your best effort. Don’t be discouraged by those who have negative comments. If becoming an author is your goal, go for it.

Revision is very important! Most of us don't write a perfect book on the first try. I think patience and persistence are key. 

Silly question:  If you could be one animal, what would it be and why?
Maybe I’d like to be a mixed-breed Pitbull who talks. I’d explain not to be afraid of my big head, because I have a good heart. We had a mixed breed Pitbull, Elliott, for 13.5 years. We rescued him and he was the best ever. Our sons chose him because they thought “He had character.” Elliott was at the pound for six months before we chose him. The people there said no one would even consider him once they saw the big head. We made him happy by putting him in some of my books. Someday I might write a picture book about Elliott.

Elliot is a cool character. I remember reading about him in one of your other books. I think it would be great to have a book about him. Maybe the theme could be not to judge someone by their appearance.

Thanks for joining us, Deanie. It's always great to chat with you!



My review of My Life at Sweetbriar:  5 Star  My Life at Sweetbrier, is author, Deanie Dunne's recounting of life at her childhood home–a horse farm in Connecticut. Deanie was born with cerebral palsy. For most people, that would be enough to deter them from ever riding a horse. But not for Deanie. Thanks to her father's "can do" philosophy, Deanie became a skilled rider, winning many riding competitions. It wasn't without challenges, though. Deanie shares the adversities she had to overcome and offers encouragement for others to do the same.

Written in a conversational style, readers can feel that Deanie is talking directly to them. Sprinkled throughout the book are photographs of Deanie as a young child and as a teenager with her horses. Young readers, ages 8-12, especially those who love horses, will enjoy this book. The message of perseverance even in the face of obstacles is an important one for everyone to learn. An inspiring book, highly recommended.

You can find the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.






              photo by Bob Moseder
Bio for Deanie Humphrys-Dunne
Deanie Humphrys-Dunne is an award-winning children’s book author with six books published at this time: My Life at Sweetbrier, Charlie the Horse, Charlene the Star, Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes, Charlene the Star and Bentley Bulldog and Tails of Sweetbrier.  All of her books offer positive messages for children. Her sister, Holly Humphrys-Bajaj, beautifully illustrates all of her fictional books and designs the covers. All books are available on Kindle and paperback.
 My Life at Sweetbrier is an inspirational award-winning autobiography about a little girl whose one desire was to become a champion equestrian, in spite of her handicap. This book is a revised, expanded version of her first book, Tails of Sweetbrier.
Deanie is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.  Her books have won a number of awards and recognition including her latest awards for My Life at Sweetbrier; The gold medal in the New Apple Book Awards, and the gold medal in the Mom’s Choice awards. Other awards are listed on Deanie’s website: www.childrensbookswithlifelessons.com/

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Grand Arrival

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for all of your support on the birthday of my latest picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant! Your well-wishes, purchases, shares, and reviews mean so much to me! (And also thanks to those who have followed my Amazon author page! You guys rock!)

Second, I'm very excited to announce that my first middle-grade book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China, will be released on September 4, 2018! Here's the cover:
 


Now for the story:

Sometimes I feel like a taxi driver. I drive my kids everywhere. When I have to pick them up, the deal is that I text them. It's just not cool for a mom to come to the door, ring the doorbell, and stand there waiting for a kid to get his/her stuff together. I've been banned from doing such a thing.

The other day, I drove my teenage son to one of his friend's house. When it was time to pick him up, I pulled in the driveway and turned my phone on to give him the text that I was there. As I was fiddling around with my phone, some neighborhood kids who were playing basketball on the street, did something to activate a car alarm.

BEEP...BEEP....BEEP!

I glanced in my rear view mirror. The kids kept playing while the horn kept honking.

I shrugged and continued to wait for my phone to get a connection. It took forever! Finally, when I was about to text my boy, I saw him come out the door.

He had a big grin on his face. "My friend thought it was you beeping, telling me to come out," he said when he got in the car. "We were watching football when we heard it . My friend said I needed to go because he figured you were pretty mad."

We both laughed.

But maybe instead of texting my arrival, I should just beep like a car alarm. That apparently gets kids' attention!
     

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Birthday and Off-roading Part 2

We have a birthday to celebrate at my pad! It's the birth of my new picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant!


Blurb:  People say you're not supposed to play with your food. But the adventurous little elephant in Don't Feed the Elephant never got the message! This charming children's story won't just entertain kids with its hilarious descriptions and zany main character. It will also educate them about the alphabet and help them learn the order of letters. As the elephant works his way through food stuffs, each new dish features a new letter of the alphabet. From animal crackers to zebra cakes, the elephant is enthusiastic to gobble everything up, even when it lands him in hot water.

Here are some sample illustrations:





It's available on Amazon as a Paperback book.

Also, my publisher for Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China (release date September 2018) asked that I promote my Amazon Author page. If you would please visit and "Follow," it would be much appreciated. Thanks!


Now for the story:

Some of you had asked that I share more about the return trip from my last hiking adventure. If you recall, my son, Bubba, and I hiked to see the Papermill Ruins.


It was a precarious journey, because a tree had fallen and blocked our path. We had to off-road it, wandering through the woods along the steep bank of a river. We weren't exactly sure how we'd make it back to the parking lot. Do you know why? Because I didn't know where the parking lot was. It was a wild guess. By the time we left the ruins, the sun was getting low in the sky. It would set in about an hour.

I looked around and listened. I heard cars. Civilization! We followed the river toward the sounds and arrived at a bridge.

"That's the bridge we drove over to get to the parking lot," I said. "We could probably follow this road. It's about a mile or two, I think. But'd we'd get there."

Bubba shrugged. "Sure, Mom. Whatever you think."

Then I thought some more. The road had no sidewalks. It was hilly. And there were lots of twists and turns. Probably not a great road to walk along, especially since it was getting dark.

I scanned the area. "There has to be a path along here somewhere."

Sure enough, there was. And it followed the direction of the road. "Let's take this. It'll be safer."

For a while, all was well. We were going in the direction we needed to go and made good progress. But then we saw the sign: "Closed for Re-vegetation."

Our trail was closed. I frowned. It was the middle of winter. What kind of re-vegetation could possibly be going on?  "This is brilliant," I said. "Now what?"

We spotted another trail to our left. It went further into the woods, away from the road. "I don't think we have many options here," I said. "Let's see where this goes."

It twisted and turned and finally came to a fork. I'm really bad at forks. Inevitably, I take the wrong one. There were no trail markers to point the direction, so I had to make a wild guess.  "I think we should go that way." I pointed to the right, because that made sense. We wandered that way for a while, but then it curved. It was heading in the wrong direction.

"Ugh!" I said. "This is ridiculous!"

Meanwhile, it was getting darker. I was worried. Would we ever make it back to the car? We could retrace our steps can find the road. But then it would be black outside.

To make a long story short we kept going on the path. Then  we came across some other hikers.

"Excuse me," I said. "Could you tell me how to get to the parking lot?" (Being a woman, I wasn't afraid to ask for directions!)

"Yes," they said. "We're going that way, too. Follow us."

They seemed harmless enough–two kids, a mom, and dad, and two dogs–so I figured it would be okay.

It was. We had to go on yet another trail, and another, but we finally made it back. And we did it before the sun completely set! 


 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Off-Roading

I like to hike. So does my son, Bubba. We often find ourselves in some rather interesting situations when we take a wrong turn, or the path abruptly ends. The last adventure involved a hike to see the Papermill ruins of Marietta, Georgia. I saw the hike listed in the local newspaper under fun outdoor things to do. It sounded interesting. So, I told Bubba, and he agreed to come. This was about 3:30 in the afternoon. Usually we don't go out that late, but I thought we'd be able to complete it in plenty of time before the sun went down.

When we got to the trail head, I looked at the map. The thing had numbers of points of interest. It also had some paths marked with solid lines and others marked with dotted lines. There was no legend to say what all these things represented.

I looked at the map and shook my head. "Dude, I have no idea which path to take. My guess is that we have to go to number 26 or 27. But I'm not sure."

Bubba shrugged. "Let's just follow everybody else. They're probably going to the ruins."

We did. But they weren't going to the ruins. About a mile in, I looked at another map. "Okay," I said. "We were here," I pointed to a number. "Now we're here." I pointed to another number. "We want to go here." Where we wanted to go was definitely not the direction we we headed.

"What does that mean?" Bubba asked.

"It means that if we keep going on this path, we're going to end up in Timbuktu. We'll be at least five miles away from the ruins."

We turned around.

When we came to another map, I looked at it. We had been on a solid-line path. This path was for bikers and hikers. (That's a whole story to itself.) The dotted lines, I ascertained, were for hikers only. I discovered that there was a footpath that led up to where we wanted to go. A shortcut.

"We're taking this path," I announced. I looked at the sky. The sun was getting lower. I only hoped we'd make it to our destination.

We climbed up steep hills and trekked along deep ravines. Coming across other maps, I knew we were going in the right direction.

Then we had a problem.  This was the problem:


A giant tree had fallen across our path. It had even crashed into the map sign, destroying it.

"Now what?" Bubba asked.

"I'm not going back," I said. "We've come too far." I pointed past the tree. "We have to go in that direction."

That's when the off-roading started. We found the river and climbed along its banks. It was precarious, but I figured the mill should be situated next to the river. We'd find it eventually. Sure enough, we did.

At first we saw this:


And the we saw this:


We had reached our destination!

(Going back was another story. It included paths closed for "revegetation." Somehow we managed to get back to our car before it was completely dark!) 

And one more thing:  Here is the cover reveal for my picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant!

Release date:  January 16, 2018.