Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Family Tree and History

Ever hear the saying, “What goes around comes around?” Usually when I hear it, someone is threatening someone else. (The threatenee is often me.) “It’ll come back and bite you on the hinny.”

But not always. Sometimes, it’s family history.

I think I’ve mentioned I’m climbing the Family Tree. Wow. Want to get confused, just start that little project! But it’s interesting. I’ve “met” a bunch of shirttail relatives through it. And most of them know way more about my family than I do! 🙂

SPESS FAMILY MINUS CAROLMeet Ray and Ruby Spess, my dad’s parents. They’re standing in front of their first home with their two oldest children, Frank and Paul.

What I love best about this picture is probably what Grandmother hated. See? On the left hand side of the photo? Her laundry is hanging on the line. 🙂

Seeing Uncle Frank look like a shy little boy is pretty cool, too. 😉

Their house was built on land in the Basin, which Granddad’s father got in the land run of 1893, the opening of the Cherokee Strip.

family-spessThe mustached man with the hat is my great-granddad, who made the run. On his right (with one hand on her hip) is his wife, Louisa. One of the two little girls in front of him is my granddad (the one on the left) and the other is his twin sister.

Message to my kiddos–I love family pictures for a reason! It’s genetic!!!

Anyway, the picture is almost the entire family of ten kids–only one person missing.

I believe the reason one person is missing from this pic is that Granddad had a brother named Theodore who died the year Granddad was born (at least that’s what I found on another tree) so it’s likely Theo that’s missing.

The house was probably built out of lumber milled at Grandmother’s grandfather’s lumber mill, there in the Basin.

One more picture–dad and sparkyThat’s Dad riding Sparky. Now look behind him. See that barn? Even after my grandparents moved into Old ‘Ford, they farmed in the Basin. They had a sow and her piglets living in that barn. This particular year, they raised a bumper crop of corn and stored that corn in the loft of the barn.

As I said, the corn was a bumper crop. And one morning they got to the farm and found  . . . you’re ahead of me, aren’t you?

Yep. You guessed it. That barn loft cratered under the weight of the corn and buried the sow and her babies.

Did it kill the pigs?

Nope.

Did they let the sow eat her way out?

Nope, again.

They rescued the pigs, and stored the corn someplace else.

Now back to going and coming around.

Fast forward to 2014–just about 110 years after that family picture was taken. My dad (the kid on the horse) lives very near where that family picture was taken, and not far from where Grandmother and Granddad had their first house, where the sow was buried in the corn.

Today, Dad raises a huge garden that gets bigger every year. He has chickens, raises his own beef (Brother Jeffrey’s bailiwick) and now he’s planning to get a sow and start raising his own pork.

Sounds a whole lot like what his grandfather must have done to get his family raised, even though Dad never knew that grandfather.

I love it that he’s repeating history that way.

Have you studied your family tree? Any surprises pop up for you?

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Love! To! Read!

I LOVE to read. The fact that I’m a writer might have tipped you off to that little tidbit. I’ve never met a successful writer who didn’t like to read.

I saw on Facebook that a Broken Arrow teacher was honored on an afternoon talk show (I think they said Ellen) and one of my FBF said she wished she’d had a librarian like her. The woman made her want to read.

Aw, man. Don’t you like reading??? My heart hurt for her. (Yeah, I’m weird.)

But that made me wonder . . . why do I love reading?

Was there a teacher who put the reading itch in me? Not one specific one, but in grade school, we had to read 25 books a year.

In second grade, I remember making 25 verbal book reports to the teach. I loved it!

Anyone remember Flicka, Dicka, Ricka books?

1 book

How about Snip, Snap, Snur?

3 book

Not surprisingly, both series were written by the same woman–Maj Lindman. I only recall one book’s story (2nd grade was a long time ago!) but I remember I liked the boy books better than the girl ones. (Hey, riding a sled is a lot more fun than baking a cake, even today!)

While I read those twenty-five books a year, I realized I could become anyone. And I could go anywhere.

I spent an entire Christmas vacation one year reading a chapter book about a girl who owned a horse and the adventures they had. I don’t remember the title, but I remember that book!

In seventh grade, Mrs. Ault read a book to our class (right after lunch) called Rifles for Waite by Harold Keith. I loved listening to her read. The kids in our class disappeared as the story took over.

This is from Wikipedia:

Jeff marches off to Leavenworth from Linn County, Kansas in 1861, on his way to join the Union volunteers. He’s off to fight for the North; his zeal having been fueled by reaction to the guerilla war of “bushwhackers” that was taking place in eastern Kansas.

However, Stand Watie is on the side of the South. We meet many soldiers and civilians on both sides of the war, including Watie’s raiding parties, itinerant printer Noah Babbitt and, in Tahlequah, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) the beautiful Cherokee girl, Lucy Washbourne.

Jeff’s story is notable as he eventually winds up fighting for both the North and the South (while on a special undercover mission) at different times during the conflict while making new friends on each side.

It is also notable for the detailed depiction of contemporary Cherokee life in Indian Territory, including various tribal political factions. During an undercover mission Jeff finds that Captain Asa Clardy of the Union Cavalry is smuggling new Spencer rifles to the Indian forces of Stand Watie.

Keith portrays how Jeff Bussey, in the midst of huge conflicts, had to choose one side or another at various times and how this was not always as simple as it may seem in historical hindsight.

I loved that book. 🙂 Maybe because they visited places in Oklahoma (hey, Grandma lived at Tahlequah!) and not many books at that time did. Or maybe because it was about a kid not too much older than I was who put his life on the line for what he believed. Cool!

Another book memory–The Pink Dress. I LOVED The Pink Dress.

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This 1959 book by Anne Alexander is hard to find today. This one is for sale on Amazon for $850! YIKES!!! I won’t be buying it, but it really was a great read for a seventh grader.

The main character was a little older than me and had a boyfriend. One of the first books I read with tons of tension. Will-she-get-the-blame-even-though-she-didn’t-do-it type stuff kept me glued to that book!

I had to see what was going to happen.

Pink Dress was a little dated by the time I read it. In my mind, the boyfriend was a greaser with a ducktail who wore a leather jacket and rode a motorcycle. Even high school bad boys didn’t dress like that anymore. But I felt a little guilty reading it because I knew my mama would never approve of a boy like that! 🙂

Are you a reader?

What books do you remember from your childhood?

 


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Adding a New Season of the Year

Oklahoma has announced it’s going to a five season year. The Legislature has decided that from now on we won’t only have Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We’ll be the first state to go to a five season year.

Fire Season.

1JOKE

But it seems that every year we start the almost springtime with wild fires. Those fires burn our woods, and our homes and sometime (sadly) people.

This year, it has started already.

firestarter

Tuesday night I was driving home from work behind a slow poke. I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a white pickup with a red and blue light bar tailgating me.

The first time we had a tiny gap in traffic and that pickup passed me like I was parked with a fence around me. I did catch a glimpse of the sign on the door.

“RESCUE.”

When the rescue truck got off the expressway at my exit and made that light bar go hot, I got a little nervous. And when I noticed the sky choked with smoke, I was plain old scared.

fire

The truck wasn’t headed to my house to rescue Miss Molly. (Thank you, Jesus!) They were out to rescue someone else’s family on the other side of the  expressway.

Question: Why do we have wild fires?

Answer: We need rain.

Question: How do they start?

Answer: Many ways.

firewell

I heard one day a couple of years ago fires were springing up in several areas along the highway, someone was driving down the road throwing out something flaming to start them intentionally. It turned out a truck had a chain dragging behind it, which sparked and caught the dry grass. (I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s possible.)

Years ago, my BIL threw a lighted cigarette out the window of a truck. The next day he drove past the same pasture and it had burned from that cigarette.

Sometimes, lightning starts them, but normally it’s humans who do the job. (Fireworks, anyone? Campfires. Outdoor grilling.)

Question: Have you ever been in a wild fire?

Answer: Yes. Before we moved to Pryor Creek, one started and swept across the property we lived on. We had a two story house with a high peaked roof, and those flames were burning higher than the top of that roof.

And for some reason, fire creates wind. At least it seemed that way to me. My cousin lived next door. (We built our houses at the same time.) While G-Man and I’d had trees pushed back from our house (makes yard work easier), my cousin kept as many trees as he could around his. It really is better for your power bills to do that, but when the fires came, his house was in more danger than ours.

firegrassagain

Everyone helped. We grabbed all the hoses we could find, ran hoses from our house to his and sprayed things down. (Yes, we wet our house down, too.)

The fire department was there, fighting. People with tank trucks hauled in water and wet things for us. Everyone pitched in to help.

Luckily, we didn’t lose anything vital. Our homes made it through, but it was scary.

I wasn’t like the people you see on TV who load up everything important and leave. I stayed right where I was. Siblings, cousins, friends were there with us.

firemen

Ever notice when someone you might not know pitches in to help you, they’re suddenly a friend? And how a friend/relative who’s there shoulder to shoulder with you are forever after more than what they were? They’re a hero.

Ooh, another gift for my list!

In the battle (of a fire) we learn who the true heroes are.

Have you ever been through an Oklahoma Wild Fire?

 


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Happy birthday, Little Lulu

Do you remember the cartoon, Little Lulu? I’m not talking about her today.

Today is my sister Cindy’s birthday. Her nickname is Lulu.

cindySome of my favorite Lulu memories–

  • I made her a (paper) birthday cake on the day she was born with one candle on it. I even put the sticker I earned that day on the back, and sent it to her while she was still at the hospital. (She must not have liked it much because she didn’t bring it home.)
  • bow-tie-cindy
  • She told one of the teachers most of us had for second grade that an upcoming sibling was “different.” (She was right, too! We’re all different!) 😉
  • Cindy and Deegan

Baby Deegan and his Grandmommy

  • When she was nine years old, Omega was born. Mom said she rarely had to get up for middle-of-the-night feedings, because Cindy got there with a warmed bottle first. (Cindy is a great mom! We learned from the best.)

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Not quite all of Lulu’s Crew. (Two babies missing.)

  • People get Cindy and Debbie mixed up a lot. Debbie always wanted to be twins.

cindy-sis

  • People get Debbie and me mixed up once in a while. Triplets? (Dreaming here. Sigh.)
  • hope, kyla, faith, eric and deb
  • Cindy has five (count ’em. F-I-V-E!!!) children.  Only two of these are them. 🙂

lulu-kids

Here’s a couple more and one from above. (Clean up well, don’t they?)

  • Another favorite memory . . . when I was pregnant with #1 Son, G-Man was on 24 hour call so Lulu attended Lamaze classes with me. Not exactly fun, but sweet.

lulu

Saturdays when we were kids was when Mama rolled our hair for Sunday.

  • When I had #1 and no one could (or would) figure out how to help me breast feed him, I told Lulu that when she became a nurse to never let a mama go home without helping her figure it out. Today she’s a certified Lactation Consultant–or something like that. Anyway, her job is to help mamas figure out how to breast feed their babies before they go home. She minds well, doesn’t she? 🙂

bride's-mama

Lulu at her oldest daughter’s wedding. Beautiful, isn’t she?

So . . . why do we call her Lulu? I’ll let you guess. (If you know the answer, make up a better one and post it here.) 😛

 

 


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Kathy

While shortening Luke’s piece about his mother yesterday, I inadvertently left out an important portion. I’m so sorry for the omission, Luke!

Here it is–

From Luke: Around the time I was finishing my Master’s at OSU, Mom got double pneumonia. I knew in my heart I had to help her and take care of her, so I would go with her to school. As she put it, she was the brains and I was the brawn. And together, we got her work done.

She got over the pneumonia, but her rheumatoid arthritis flared up and started ravaging her body. But Mom was strong and she was stubborn and she would not let the arthritis rob her of her life.

She continued to work through much pain and difficulty because she loved the kids. I would go up to Frontier and volunteer in the library so I could help her. We kept that routine up, until about five years ago.

kathy3

I just want God to show me one  (a wife) with a heart for others as big as Mom’s. In spite of all the difficulty and suffering we went through, I would gladly give up everything for another ten years to be able to honor her and take care of her.

I am so thankful to God for providing me a mom who modeled love, goodness, dedication, selflessness, and compassion.

I have to tell you, Luke Bell is an awesome young man. I’ve heard from his Uncle Rick that he’s not only thoughtful and considerate, but extremely smart, too.

Thank you, Luke, for sharing your heart with us. I know how proud your parents are of you. I truly appreciate your sharing a bit of Kathy’s life.


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It’s a Beautiful Life–Kathy Spess Bell!

One of my cousins went Home last week–Kathy Spess Bell (my mama loved her name and called her Kathy Nell) daughter of Paul and Wilma Spess, and sister to Rick, Lindy and Kim. She’ll be oh, so very missed by her family!

She had such a full life! I wanted to hear all about her, so her son, Luke, offered to fill us in.

I’m thrilled to be able to share his words and pictures with you.

kathy-1

Thank you, Susan, for allowing me space to honor my mom, Kathy. She was so special to my dad and me. I just wanted an opportunity to share that with others she touched and lost contact with.

My name is Luke and I am the only child of Alan and Kathy.

Luke, Kathy & Alan

Luke, Kathy & Alan

I don’t know where to start, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning of when I met my mom. It was the dead of winter; Mom and Dad had just moved to Mt. Home, Idaho, and they didn’t know anyone. Thousands of miles away from her family, Mom was pregnant with me.

I guess I couldn’t wait, because I popped out over a month early and surprised everybody. And that’s when I met my mom, my best friend, and the two of us depended on each other ever since.

Dad was in the Air Force and was often expected to be on call all the time. Mam’ma (that’s what I call my grandma, Wilma) and Geneva Delancey came out to visit as soon as they could and my grandparents on my dad’s side came out later. But for the most part, it was just mom and I.

A couple years later, Dad had to do a remote assignment in Greenland for a year. So it really was just mom and I, but she was strong and I was always by her side.

When I was old enough to go to school, we lived in Sumter, South Carolina. Because of districting, the school that I should have gone to was in a bad part of town. Instead Mom and Dad enrolled me in a private school and Mom would drive me across town to school every day. She tried subbing there, but local politics discouraged that. However, they did allow her to volunteer all she wanted.

And volunteer she did. She was one of the main room mothers and in charge of organizing events and bringing cookies and treats for holidays, parties, birthdays, and more. Of course, Mom wasn’t content with just raising me, so she decided to continue her education.

kathy5

So where does a shy, wallflower like Mom go to school – Clown College. Yes, she was a professional clown. She took classes on how to perform, put on makeup, and make balloon animals. She had a fancy clown outfit made and even registered her clown name, Belly Bean. She taught me how to make the balloon animals and made a costume for me. Then, together, we would perform skits and entertain at the hospital and nursing homes with her as Belly Bean and me, of course, as Belly Button.

We continued to perform even after Dad got orders to move half way around the world to the lovely, tropical island of Guam. It was here where God showed Mom her true calling.

The elementary school I went to needed a librarian and they hired Mom full time. She was finally able to combine her passion for kids with entertaining and performing skits, all while teaching and fostering a love of reading in students. She was the librarian for only a year and then we had to move again – this time to Altus, Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, you have to have a master’s degree in library science to be a school librarian. So in addition to taking me to school, substitute teaching, being a room mother, going to Dad’s Air Force functions, driving six hours to Mannford to help her mom often, preparing meals for my dad’s grandparents in Rush Springs, shuttling my friends and I to band concerts, soccer games, and other activities; my Super Mom went back to school.

Lindy, Kim & Kathy

Lindy, Kim & Kathy

She would pick me up after school, whip up supper for Dad and I, and then drive an hour and a half from Altus to Weatherford for evening classes. Often with Dad and I were already in bed before she got home, but I would wake up the next morning and she would have breakfast ready.

She finished her degree in 2 1/2 years and, once again, it was time to move. But this time it was different, because Dad was retiring from the Air Force after 20 years of service. This time we had a choice of where to move. So after much prayer, my parents decided that we would move somewhere where I could finish my high school all in one place. Walking in faith, we moved to Stillwater with neither of them having jobs.

August 1973

August 1973

They had met, fallen in love, and gotten married while at OSU and felt this was the right place to be and we’ve been here ever since. But I can’t say it was easy. Dad was also called to teach, so he took jobs and drove daily to Tulsa and, later, Enid.

Since there were no library jobs open in the area, Mom took a job as a teacher’s aide for Kindergarten and first grade. But Mom was soon hired at Mulhall-Orlando and was the librarian there for two years.

That is until the May 5th tornado wiped out the town of Mulhall and the elementary school, including Mom’s library. But God is faithful. Her prayers were answered yet again and she didn’t have to rebuild her library.

She was able to take the librarian job at Frontier in Red Rock which is about 40 miles north of Stillwater and where Dad had gotten a job the year before.

kathy2

But, the thing that brought her the most joy, was having a student come back to the library excited about reading and wanting to tell her about how great the book was that she had recommended and ask her if there were any more like it. She accomplished so much while she was there, but it came at the cost of her health. If you haven’t figured it out yet, she was a workaholic.

She was the most dedicated and humble person I know. All Mom cared about was doing the best job she could for God and the students she loved so much. I’m reminded how in Matthew 5:16, it says to “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

God finally said enough and kept her from going back to Frontier in August by preventing her knees from bending enough to get in the car. And she was never able to leave our house again. Mom never wanted anyone to worry about her, especially her mom, or to be a burden on her family.

Sadly, I will never know if she approves of my future wife and I’ll never be able to go to her for advice on how to raise my kids. Though, as awkward as it was talking to her about girls, she did give me good advice for finding a wife.

She always told me to find a girl with a rich daddy. So if anyone knows a girl with a rich…Just kidding!

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I just want God to show me one with a heart for others as big as Mom’s. And in closing I would like to focus on two passages from the Bible that I thought were comforting.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though we are outwardly wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving us an external glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Bye-Bye Shirley

Can you believe Shirley Temple died? 😦

baby shirleyHow sad is that.

Of course, she didn’t look like a two year old anymore.4637690_l2But Baby Shirley was adorable. Wasn’t she?

Shirley Temple 18 months

I don’t know much about Shirley, so this isn’t the story of her life. I just liked her movies.

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She was usually an orphan and had a heart rending life, but she had such a great attitude, everyone loved her, except the bad guy. And who wants to be loved by the bad guy?

This is from IMDB:

Shirley Temple was easily the most popular and famous child star of all time. She got her start in the movies at the age of three and soon progressed to super stardom. Shirley could do it all: act, sing and dance and all at the age of five! Fans loved her as she was bright, bouncy and cheerful in her films and they ultimately bought millions of dollars worth of products that had her likeness on them. Dolls, phonograph records, mugs, hats, dresses, whatever it was, if it had her picture on there they bought it. Shirley was box-office champion for the consecutive years 1935-36-37-38, beating out such great grown-up stars as Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford. By 1939, her popularity declined. Although she starred in some very good movies like Since You Went Away (1944) and the The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), her career was nearing its end. Later, she served as an ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. It was once guessed that she had more than 50 golden curls on her head.

– IMDb Mini Biography By:  Ken Severson

My favorite of Shirley’s grownup movies was Fort Apache with John Wayne and Shirley’s first husband, John Agar.

As for her best movies, I can’t think of my favorite. I loved the one where she sang On the Good Ship Lollipop.

I loved Heidi!

http://youtu.be/dPaNtPbeuWQ

I loved The Littlest Rebel and Curly Top and all her movies.

I was so disappointed when I found out she wasn’t a little girl like me. Instead, she was a grown up lady, older than my dad!

Did you like Shirley when you were a kid?

Do you still watch her movies?

What’s your favorite Shirley Temple movie?