Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Balloon Dancer ;)

Isn’t it funny how the smallest thing can bring back full blown memories? Last night I was watching TV and saw a young woman in a dress a particular shade of dusty pink that reminded me of our first grade play.

I don’t have a picture from that play. This is a couple of years before.

When I was little, there were two lower grade schools in C-Town. Every year, we took turns having the Christmas and Spring Plays. The year I was in first grade, we got to do the Spring Play.

Of course, there weren’t enough parts in the play for everyone to get to be in it, so those of us who were left out got to be Balloon Girls.

Yes, I was disappointed, but since some of my friends were Balloon Girls, too, I didn’t mind too much. Another of my friends (who was in a higher grade) had a mother who volunteered to teach us our balloon dance.

We’d line up on the stage, and Jane would show us the steps, over and over. There must have been eight or ten of us little girls up there, bumping into each other and twirling around. And when it was almost time for the Spring Play, she brought real balloons for us to practice with. (Wow!)

Now I imagined in the real play, we’d each have a helium balloon that would magically float along with us as we danced. Naturally, I was way wrong. They were just round balloons that we held by the tail, and must have looked like a ball in all our little hands.

I don’t remember much about that dance, but I remember practicing the end. We stepped forward, dropped our arms down to our sides, then swung them forward toward the empty gymnasium. (They brought in chairs for the play.)

I’m not sure how oblivious I was when I was six, but I was really surprised when I  saw the costume I had to wear. I don’t remember Mama sewing it and I don’t remember trying it on or being measured for it.

The day of the performance, someone helped me put on a short pink dress with a very gathered skirt that was made out of crepe paper.

Yep, crepe paper. And we had a headband with pink crepe paper frills on it, too. I’m surprised they called us the Balloon Girls in the program. I’d have called us Paper Dolls. 😛

We wore lipstick (!) on our lips and our cheeks. I’m telling you, we were real dolls!

We took off our shoes so we could dance in our socks rather than clump around the stage in penny loafers. Just before we went on stage, Jane handed us each a balloon and said, “Now at the very end, when you swing your arms toward the audience, throw them your balloons.”

Bummer X 2.

Bummer 1: The one thing I thought would pay me for missing out on being in the play was that I would get to take my balloon home.

Bummer 2: The balloons were just balloons, not helium. And they weren’t magical. 😦

I don’t remember being nervous at all, but with the bright stage lights on and the gym lights off, I couldn’t see anything but the curtains the edged the side and back of the stage. Nothing to be nervous about.

I’m sure we did a perfect job. (Snort.) Afterward, one of my friends and I went with our moms to get our picture taken by another friend.

Somewhere there’s a picture of Marsha and me in our crepe paper costumes, if one of my sibs didn’t eat it at some point. (That happened a lot at our house.) Our cheeks are so red, we look as if we’d just finished running a marathon.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that picture, I don’t really remember it very well, but most likely my hair is a mess (it usually was if I had any time to play) and my headband, if I hadn’t lost it, is probably slipping over one eye.

Boy, was it fun. 🙂


Christmas Card Shoot

It’s been a long time since my family has taken a family photo. I’m not talking snapshots. I take tons of those.

This pic is BN (Before Nikki.)

 I’m talking the thing where you dress up with a goal in mind. Where there are no dishes on the table.

Something like this–

or maybe this–

You know what I mean. Truly,

A Family Photograph

Did you hear the Angel Choir sing when you read those three words? I’m sure they did, because God loves family and He loves it when we take a beautiful picture of the whole crew.

I might be able to find a scripture to back that up if you give me time. Maybe.

It’s also been a long time since I’ve sent out Christmas cards, letters or greetings of any sort. So I thought, why not do a family picture since all my boys are married now and send them for Christmas?

After all, my favorite Christmas greetings are ones with family pictures like my sister-in-law, Julie, usually sends out, and I could include it in a letter like the Cathys send out. (Forever Friend, Cathy, and #1 son’s mother-in-law, Cathy=the Cathys. Get it?) Christmas letters catch everyone up on family happenings for the past year.

Don’t you just love those?

I look forward to them all year long. Maybe someone would enjoy a letter like that from us! (And the ones who don’t could just toss them and I wouldn’t be the wiser.)

AND I’d get a FAMILY PHOTOGRAPH to frame.

I don’t know if you can see this, but it’s the boys when they were just little. That’s probably the only family picture Christmas card I’ve ever sent out.

Don’t ask why. I. Don’t. Know.

So, back to my plan. I decided I want a family photo. I set the date. I set the place–a beautiful town with wonderful historic sights. I even set the time–a weekend when there’d be tons of gorgeous autumn leaves for background.

I let everyone know a few weeks ahead of time. (Me, making plans that far ahead is a miracle in itself.)

I was pumped. This could work!

Right away, I ordered a new lens for my camera, found the tripod and bought a remote control thingy that actually shoots the picture while the whole family smiles.


Almost immediately, my bright dreams crashed like a china shop with a three-year-old running it. One of the kids had a conflict. It was a really excellent family reason he couldn’t be there for the picture. As a woman who believes in family, I couldn’t find fault with what he needed to do. In fact, I WANT him to do it. But that didn’t stop my disappointment. *sniff*

#1 DIL had a great idea, though. “We’ll just photoshop them in. We can do this!”

Ooooh-kay. That might just work. Then a few other conflicts started popping up. Work commitments and school things that, while they don’t completely stop the photo shoot, will change the perimeters. But it’s still doable.

I hope. If the day I have planned doesn’t get rained out. And if I can get everyone to behave just for a little while.

If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just schedule another shoot, maybe at a park in T-Town with beautiful leaves and fountains and bridges and scenery, and I’ll tell them all they have to be there for the Christmas Card Shoot.

If that one doesn’t work out, I’ll schedule another. And another. Finally, they’ll have to give in. Right?

No Christmas Card Shoot, no Christmas.



Keep Me in Stitches

One of my absolute favorite things in the world is quilts. Don’t you love them?

When my father-in-law remarried after G-Man’s mother died, his wife and her sister were into making quilts. It didn’t take her long to figure out how much I liked them, so she made one for Baby Boy.

 Isn’t this adorable? I love it. It was kind of big to wrap Buggy in, so I hung it on the wall.

I love that they took the time to finish it with Prairie Points.

I like old quilts even more than new ones. This one belonged to my Grandmother. She gave it to me when I lived in Pryor Creek.

One of my boys got a virus not long after I got it, and nothing made him feel better except wrapping up in this quilt. It really is kind of like a hug from home. You know?

Grandmother told me her mother (Grandma Mitchell) made it for her when she was first married in about 1922. How cool is that?

 This is a crazy quilt my mom used to pad some furniture because nobody wanted the quilt. My Grandma Reeves’s mother-in-law made it and gave it to her  when she was a newly wed.

Same quilt, just turned to another part. It’s not a cozy comfortable quilt. Not like a hug from home, but I love it.

To be VERY honest, I don’t remember where I got this one. I believe one of my sisters who loves me a ton gave it to me. Lots of people would rather not have a quilt that’s tied instead of quilted, but I love them.


I’ve even made a few small pieces. A pink baby quilt I made for my baby girl, who turned out not to be a girl, so it became a wall hanging. I’m not sure where it is right now, but it had heart squares–all different kinds of heart squares. (I’ve never made an appliqued quilt. I like piecing them.)

I made this star square. It started out to be a toilet seat cover, but I couldn’t quite figure that out, so I changed it to a wall hanging.

This is a sailboat. Can you tell? I made it, too. 🙂

And I saw a picture of this one in a book, and I wanted it. So I figured out how and made it, too.

Yes, they’re all wall hangings. A baby quilt is the biggest thing I’ve ever made. But the ones I made are hand quilted by moi. Impressed? LOL.

One of my two absolute all time favorites is this one. Grandma Reeves’s sister and mother made for her when she married Granddad. It’s a double wedding ring quilt.

Grandma and Granddad were married about 64 years. The quilt is old and stained and faded and has a hole worn in it because she said with all her kids (seven of them) she had to use everything in the house to keep them warm.

This beautiful quilt hangs above my bed.

For inspiration.

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Good morning! I wrote the following for the Smart Women blog I’m part of and thought I’d share it with you, here.

Hope you have a great weekend!

I’m stuck for something to write about today, which is a surprise for me since it doesn’t happen often. I blogged only once this week at  Small Town World , where I normally blog three times without fail. 😦

Why the problem? I’m consumed with a new project. I’m not sure if anyone else’s brain works like mine, but when I have a new exciting-for-me project, it’s all I think about. Where my characters are going next. How I’m going to take it there. How the writer I-wanna-be-when-I-grow-up would structure the project, and can I make that work for me?

I forget to go to the grocery store. I don’t notice when it’s time to go to work. I can’t get to my Small World to say hi. (Hi!!!)

It causes a little snarl in relationships, too. Someone talks to me, but I’m rereading the last few lines I’ve written, and I don’t hear what was said until the last words. For some reason, that someone gets a little irritated the third time I ask him to repeat. (Go figure.)

I’m watching TV with my man, he comments on what’s just been said and I have to find the rewind button because somehow my laptop is in front of me and I’m seeing Colorado, not the news. Or the weather. Or the movie I wanted to see.

Or I’m at work with something vital on my desk, and instead of hammering the thing out, I’m plotting in my mind.

Cousin: “Do you have a total on the open invoices you’re sending out today?”

Me: Gasp. “Am I paying bills today?”

In order to continue to live a semi-normal life while I’m in this mode, I have to resort to things like making lists. Getting people to call me when it’s time to get ready for work. And making lists.

I even use the list AP on my phone. Added a couple, too. 🙂 Now I’m either going to have to put an alarm clock where I write or learn to use the alarm on my phone with a really discordant tone.

So . . . can anyone help me? When you get over-powered by a project, and you’re loving it, how do you make things work in your real life?

If you’ll share with me, I’ll make a list. And I’ll try to remember where it is. 🙂

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Car Entertainment

I get a thrill every time I get in my car.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but when I listen to the radio, my favorite stations to listen to don’t play music. (Yes. I’m weird.)

I like to hear people talk. Talk radio–Christian talk radio–is what I’ve tuned to for years.

Okay, yes. I listen to the great old songs sometimes, but that’s not what I like best.

Recently, I was turning the dial, looking for G-Man’s fave (R & B) when I noticed something intriguing. A station called, “Radio Classics.”

Now, I’m not old enough to remember the time before TV. (Really, I’m not!) But I remember my parents and grandparents talking about old radio shows. Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour have all entertained me while I drive.

Road to Bali

Bob, Bing and Dorothy told the story about the Road to Hollywood. (At the end they were waiting tables and working in gas stations.)

They’re funny!

I’ve heard Fibber McGee (He opened his closet door and had an avalanche) Dragnet, Johnny Dollar and Charlie McCarthy. Oh, and The Shadow!

And I heard GUNSMOKE! Great story. (Matt told the bad guys at the end that if he wasn’t the marshal, he’d beat them with his gun.) You know who played Matt on the radio? William Conrad! Remember him? He played Cannon on CBS in the ’70’s.

Radio’s Gunsmoke

Not my idea of Matt Dillon, visually. But when it’s on the radio, YOU get to decide how the characters look. 🙂 I like that!

I almost got to hear HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL. Did you ever see that TV show? (It’s on Encore Westerns sometimes.) The TV show starred Richard Boone and was about a hired gun who, in his non-professional life, was a highly educated gentleman. The show was on CBS from 1957 until 1963.


BUT it was also a radio show that ran from 1958 until 1960. HGWT was one of the few shows that was on TV first, then was adapted to radio.

If you have pay=to-play radio, check it out. Very entertaining!

BTW: The pictures used here are all from Wikipedia. Click on the title underneath the photo for copyright and fairuse information.