Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


What Makes Summer?

The original logo for Six Flags over Texas.

The original logo for Six Flags over Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

YAY! The weekend is here!

Funny how the prospect of “weekend” changes. As a kid looking toward a weekend, I saw two empty days with nothing much to do except play and go to church.

As an adult, it’s a chance to spend time with my honey and catch up on chores we can’t get done during the workweek.

When I was a kid, summers seemed like long, long weekends. Nothing much to do except play and swim and go to church. And church camp. As an adult, it’s a time with more chores to catch up on the weekends.

I was talking to one of my nieces yesterday and she said, “I haven’t had any summer yet. Not really.”

That stopped me. Here it is, the end of June and we’ve had plenty of hot, hot, hot (triple degree heat) weather. Lots of sweat. Tons of sunshine. She couldn’t mean summer temps.

And she’s been on at least two fun trips so far–Six Flags over Texas and canoing down the Illinois River.

She’s been swimming, to basketball camp and cheering. What more could a girl want?

I had to find out. “What makes summer really summer?” I asked.

“Getting to sleep in. It’s not really summer unless you get to sleep in.”


Maybe that’s a good way to look at it. If she can just sleep in, she can have summertime all year round. 😛


A Tail Tale

I saw a movie last night that I just loved called, “Dolphin Tale.” Yeah, I know it’s been out a while. I’m just glad it’s on HBO now. I don’t get to go to many Disney films these days. And it’s a true story!

And there’s a great cast–Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman. Yeah, no kidding. Great hand to draw to, isn’t it? They’re the kind of actors who ACT like they’d be good people to actually know. Small Town World kind of people. 😉

Anyway, Tale is the story of an orphaned dolphin who got her tail caught in a crab trap. A boy helps rescue her and she ends up at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

They have to amputate her tail, and then the amazing true stuff begins. She relearns how to swim, but swims like a shark which will damage her spine and can eventually cause her to be paralyzed.

She needed an artificial tail, but didn’t like the first ones. The people who make artificial limbs had to invent new materials, which are now being used for humans. Humans and dolphins, working together.

Nothing new (our military works with them to find mines and lost objects on the sea floor) but definitely cool!

Of course, the movie brought memories of Flipper.

Remember Flipper? First it was a movie starring Chuck Conners, then it was made into a TV show. Kind of like Lassie in the deep. 🙂

Interestingly, Flipper was played by female dolphins–less agressive and fewer scars. Lassie was played by male dogs. Not exactly cross dressing, but . . .  😉

“Flipper” was really Suzy and Kathy. But to get the part where Flipper walked on his tail, they had to get a male dolphin named Clown. The girls just couldn’t get that trick.

But what’s wonderful is that Dolphin Tale’s dolphin really is Winter, the rescued dolphin.

Of course, I expected a romance between Harry and Ashley that didn’t develop, but maybe that’ll happen on Tale II. 🙂

If you haven’t seen Dolphin Tale, I highly recommend it for everyone. I’d love to pay a visit to Winter’s home. Until then, I’ll watch her on a webcame here.

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Colorado Burning

The fires in Colorado are so horrible, I’m praying for everyone who lives out that way.

When I think about the fear, sadness and loss the people who live in that area must be feeling as well as the worry and the scariness of getting what you can’t bare to lose gathered up and ready to leave, I can’t help but remember our experience.

We had a grass fire flash through the 50+ acres we lived on before we moved to Pryor Creek, many years ago. I was pregnant with either #2 or #3.  I’d just been to town and had lunch with Sister Debbie and I was taking her back to her house.

She lived a couple of miles down Terlton Road, but when we got to the turn we saw C-Town’s chief of police stopping traffic and noticed a nearby field had recently burned.

I stopped and rolled down the window. “Hey, Ted. Is that fire headed for my house?”

“Yeah, Susan. It’s probably there by now.”

Always one to run toward trouble (I know, not a real bright trait) I pulled a u-turn and headed for home just as fast as my little Phoenix would carry us. I thought G-Man was out somewhere on a job, but instead he and all the guys were near our house and my cousin Rick’s house, fighting that fire.

I’m not sure if the fire was tall because the wind blew so hard or if the wind blew so hard because the tall fire whipped it up, but it was big. And hot. And s-c-a-r-y!

We had all our hoses hooked to facets and were spraying down everything we could. G-Man had a hose near Rick’s house and said the fire burned right up and nearly gave him a kiss before he had it doused.

The Brown Brothers’ tank truck pulled in with a load of water. They unloaded it on the fire and headed back for another load.

Still, with all our fighting, the fire swept through, burned off our yards and gardens and moved on past us, onto the old refinery property behind us. Because our houses weren’t very old, we still had some trees we’d knocked down but hadn’t removed from the property. (We both had fireplaces, so why get rid of them?)

Anyplace a tree had caught fire, it smoldered and blazed up again and again.

Rick had an old, dry pond that the bulldozer driver had pushed dead wood into. That pond had glowing embers that stayed hot for days. Rick and Barbara even set their alarm and got up all night long to be sure the fire hadn’t blazed up again.

Like I said, it was a scary time, but nothing like what’s happening in Colorado. We didn’t have a warning or much time to get things out of our house. But there wasn’t much chance of our houses burning, either. (Some, but not much.)

I never did hear how our fire started, but it wasn’t a lightning strike. (I’m guessing that’s how the Colorado fire started.) More likely, ours was a cigarette out someone’s window.

The only good thing? The grass seemed a lot greener that next spring. What is it they say about an ill wind?

Have you ever lived through a fire? I wonder if it scares everyone as much as me?


Happy, Happy Birthday, #4!


It seems like just last year I told you the same thing. 🙂 Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

I have a little test to see if you’re losing your mind from living in that foreign country (Kansas Country.)

  • Who got shut up in the clothes dryer?
  • Who dreamed a witch was cutting off her leg?
  • Who crawled the day she came home from the hospital?
  • Who was the STAR! of her first grade play?
  • Who was number four in a line of girls, so she sparkled plenty to get attention?
  • Who could run faster and jump higher than anyone else, just because Mama wanted her to be a good basketball player?
  • Who took care of her older sister when the mean girls picked on her?
  • Who was Grandmother’s favorite noodle unroller?
  • Who named all her dolls Deara?
  • Who “saved” her oldest sister in life saving?
  • Who is so claustrophobic she nearly couldn’t get baptised?
  • Who was so tender headed, Mama called her Grandma Reeves?
  • Who got lost when she looked in the barrel marked, “For men only”
  • Who loves you the mostest?

Happy birthday, #4. Love you and miss you!!!


Tar On My Tootsies

Sheepo's flip-flops

Know what? The temp is up! I’ll bet you noticed. I probably ask this every year but, Was it this hot when we were kids?

I really don’t remember.

We played in shorts and bare feet or thongs all summer long. (You call them flip-flops, we called them thongs.) Mostly we were barefoot. 🙂 I still take off my shoes as soon as I get home.

One day after lunch I asked, “Mom can we go outside and play?” (Yes, we really asked if we could go out and play. Almost unheard of today.)

“It’s too hot to go outside,” she answered, sounding tired. (She was probably pregnant, too.)

“It’s not that hot,” I answered. “The winds blowing.”

“But it’s a hot wind.”

We played out anyway. No playing nice girly girl games inside for the Spess girls. We didn’t embroider tea towels or crochet doilies. We went out and ran and played.

When we first moved to C-Town, the road in front of our house was gravel, but not long after they put tarmac on it. At least, I think it was tarmac. It was black and runny and HOT!

If we ran across it barefoot, we tracked it right into the yard. And at night, the bottom of our feet was as black as the street. Every summer, they poured tiny chat on top of that hot tarry stuff. The little gravel must have melted, because it wasn’t long before we were back walking on the black goo again.

With five kids in the house (the sixth didn’t come along for a long time) I just imagine we smelled like a tribe of puppies. Maybe that’s why our parents got a season ticket to the pool every year. We’d stay in the water from the time it opened until it closed, and sometimes go back for the night session.

I wished I could sleep in the pool, floating on my back. I loved swimming! We met so many friends there.

Ours is the only round pool I’ve ever seen. The deep end is in the middle–twelve foot deep. The drop off was steep, and if you could blow enough air from your lungs, you could slide right down it.

We took swimming lessons every year. The first year, I was so afraid to float on my back. I might get water up my nose. Soon I learned to not only float on my back, I swam a lot on it, too.

I took junior lifesaving when I was thirteen and lifesaving when I was older with #4 as my partner. When she had to rescue me, we cheated just a little–I kicked instead of playing dead. 🙂

Every once in a while, we had to mow the lawn. “No swimming until the lawn is mowed!”

Funny, how big the yard was on mowing days. Our mower was a push one (riding lawn mower? what’s that?) and on those days, I knew how hot it was. And how hot the wind was. And how much fun it wasn’t, having to work in the yard.

Mom and Dad did the trimming, thank heaven. I’m not sure I’d have survived a whole day working in the heat without time to swim.

When I was three and we lived in Old Ford, we drove into West Tulsa to New Block Park to swim. There was a whole row of shower heads you had to walk through before you could get into the pool. I hated the water in my face!

And anytime someone asked me how old I was, I told them, “Most of the time I’m three, but when we go swimming, I’m five.”

You think maybe there was a rule about swimming age for children? Maybe?

Some of my very happiest memories are summer ones. (#4 was born in summer.) I think I’ll take off my shoes and go outside now. 😉




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One of My Favorites

Ever meet anyone and feel as if you already know them? And you nearly hugged them on sight? It happened to me!

Maggie Osborne, historical romance writer, reminds me of Aunt Virginia.

First I have a question–are you a reader?

Strange question, isn’t it? I can’t imagine anyone NOT being a reader, but that’s not the point of this blog. Today, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite authors. The woman as I know her.

And I want to know how you choose the books you read.

Here’s how I do it–

  1. Author. If I enjoy an author, I don’t want to miss any of her books.
  2. Recommendation. If a person I trust (book-wise) says I’ll enjoy a book, I’ll give it a shot.
  3. Online flap. If everyone is talking about a book, I MIGHT give it a try. (The truth is, I wonder if a lot of the people doing the online flapping even know how to read. But, I digress.)
  4. By the cover.

I know. I subscribe to the old, “You CAN’T tell a book by its cover,” saying, too. But sometimes you can. I have, at least once.

That once was Maggie Osborne’s SILVER LINING.

The cover doesn’t show up here very well, but it was beautiful. Although I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s a very expensive cover, called a stepback.

Slick white with shining silver lettering, the oval in the middle is a picture frame. The front cover “steps back” to the inside cover so you see and learn more about the book. I read the back cover blurb and snatched it before someone could grab it from my hand.

It was one of those books you start and can hardly put down once you start reading. But you try to read it slowly because you don’t want the book to be over. You want to move in and live there.

(Does that happen to anyone else?)

SILVER LINING is the story of a mining camp that has a horrible disease break out. Everyone who isn’t sick gets out as fast as they can except one young man who, it turned out was really a woman, who was so unkempt and ugly, no one looked close enough to notice she wasn’t a man. She stays and nurses the sickies all back to health.

To reward her, they offer her anything she wants. (They think she’ll choose money or a farm or something like that.)

She chooses to have a baby. Of course, the men are shocked and demand she has to marry the baby giver–at least temporarily.

So all the unmarried men draw straws. The hero of the story, who is only there to get enough money to pay for his farm so he can get married to his beautiful fiancée back home, is horrified when he get the short straw.

Great story! (If you like historicals, you can probably still find it on Amazon.)

I liked it so much, I bought another of her books called, Brides of Prairie Gold. Another hit out of the park! It’s the story of 12 women who travel west in a wagon train to be mail order brides at a gold camp. Again, Maggie does a fantastic job.

Twelve women, and she does a fantastic job of telling all their stories without confusing me. And what grabbed me hard was that at the end of the book, kind of like a PS, she told how each bride lived, who they married, how many kids they had, and finally, how and when they died.

That blew me away. I couldn’t stand it, so I emailed Maggie and asked her if it was a true story. After all, most romance end right after the HEA. She’d not only given me a super satisfactory ending, she told me what happened at the true end.

I needed to know!

Surprise, surprise! I heard back from her. (Not all big name authors answer emails or letters. Only the nice ones.) And no, it wasn’t a true story, but Maggie was a truly nice woman.

We emailed back and forth a couple of times. I ordered what tapes I could find from when she’d spoken at RWA’s National Conference and listened to them over and over.

She lived in Colorado, so her accent was like the one Virginia had acquired in her years of living there, and she was a smoker, so even her laugh was like my aunt’s. And when I saw her picture, I knew she was a long-lost family member. Her height, her curves, even her coloring and the shape of her nose looked like the Reeves clan.

Naturally, I invited her to my writers’ group’s first conference and (woohoo!) she came. Turns out, she was just as nice as she seemed in our emails. Her books were wonderful, right down to the last one.

Since that time, she has retired from writing. When she announced her retirement, I emailed again. “Can an author with your talent really stop writing?”

Her answer? “Yes.”

And she did.

I’m telling you, the woman has Reeves genes in her. They might be very diluted (can you dilute a gene?) but they’re there. Somewhere. 🙂

1- How do you choose the books you read?

2- Have you ever written a letter to an author, and did he/she answer?


Happy Birthday, Grandmother!

Happy birthday, Grandmother!

We miss you and love you and can’t wait to see you again–in the sweet bye-and-bye. Thank you for your love, your friendship and companionship.

And the memories–

  • Living in your house (with Mom, Dad and Deb) until I was four.
  • You moving next door to us when I was six.
  • The only swat you ever gave me.
  • The day you were baptised.
  • Your interest in everything in life.
  • Your noodles.
  • Your pineapple chiffon pie.
  • Vacations.
  • Your love of cats.
  • And more than anything, your love for your family.

And the stories you told!

About the sister you never knew, because she caught her dress on fire and died.

Of having to carry Dad all over Tulsa when he was a big old five-year-old.

Milking the cow that time when everyone worked late into the night.

The night Paul turned the tractor over and you stayed home with Phyllis and Dad while Frank and Granddad rescued him. (How you did that, I’ll never know.)

I’m so glad I knew you. I love you!

Happy, happy birthday.