Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Blasting the Past

This blog is a rerun from five years ago, and still as true today as it was then. I hope you enjoy! I have a wedding anniversary coming up in a couple of days so it’s a good time for it. 🙂

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As a writer, I’ve had to become an observer of life. You know, watch people, ask questions, peek into windows when no one’s looking. It’s all part of my job.

Okay, that’s a lie. I became a writer so I’d have an excuse because I’m incurably curious. (I never bought the cat story. I think someone ran over it and they blamed it on curiousity.)

BUT (and this is the truth) as a romance writer, I’ve had to observe relationships between couples. I need to know what it is that makes them good and what makes them not so good.

It hasn’t been as hard as you might think to find a perfect marriage to observe. I had a front row seat. No, I’m not talking about my marriage, although it’s pretty darn good. I’m talking about my parents’ marriage.

At 18, my mom married my 19 year old father, who was a college student at the time. Two years later, I was born. And their marriage was the closest to perfect I’ve ever seen. My dad gives my mom all the credit.

That’s when I get curious. Where’d my mom learn to be a nearly perfect wife? As the middle of 7 children, her mom didn’t take extra time out to teach her, although she set a great example. (There’s a family legend about Grandma scarring Granddad for life by whacking him across the knuckles with a butcher knife for bugging her one night when she was trying to cook. I don’t know if that’s truth or not.)

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Granddad Ray & a Vaca

There’s a blog about vacations called Bucket List Publications. The author is an adorable young woman who travels all over, photographing the world and having grand adventures.

I’m willing to bet she didn’t have a granddad like mine.

The sibs and I grew up living next door to our paternal grandparents. If you ever wondered what it would be like to have two sets of parents, ask me sometime.

Granddad Ray taught his children and grandchildren a great work ethic, and he did that by LOVING his work. He had many jobs in his life (butcher, PA, grocery store merchant, rancher, farmer and You-Name-It-He-Done-It-In-The-Patch) and from what I’ve been able to tell, he loved the guts out of every one of them.

What he didn’t love–honestly didn’t understand–were vacations. It wasn’t that he thought something bad might happen when he was gone. He didn’t even worry that someone would steal what he thought was his.

Granddad just loved working so much, he wanted to be there. He thought everyone should. He didn’t understand why anyone ever wanted a break from it. Of course, that didn’t stop his sons from taking vacations. 🙂

Because my fam lived next door, if we took a vacation, we usually invited G & G to go with us. Often, Grandmother would go. Usually, Granddad did not, but once in a while . . .

One year, Granddad went to Branson with us. I’m not sure why, because we hadn’t been there long when he threatened to take his car (the one I was driving to college, and had driven directly there to meet them) and go home.

Another time, just after we got to Colorado, he wanted to head home.

Grandmother, on the other hand, loved going and happily stayed without complaint. She was a real trooper. Of course, she might have taken after her father.

Granddad Mitchell operated a filling station when my dad was a kid. Dad’s the youngest in his fam, and Uncle Frank is #1. When UF graduated high school, WWII was just underway, and his girlfriend had moved to California. (I’m guessing it had to do with her father and war work, but I don’t know for sure.)

UF missed her and wanted drive out to visit, so Granddad suggested Grandmother, Aunt Phyllis and Dad should go along, too.  As they were on their way out of town, they stopped to fill up at Granddad Mitchell’s gas station.

“Come and go with us,” Grandmother quipped as her dad filled up their car.

“I’ll be right back,” he answered.

Ten minutes later, they headed west. Grandmother, Frank, Phyllis, Dad and Granddad Mitchell.

First time I heard that story, I was more than a little surprised. Who can decide and get ready to go on a vaca in just ten minutes? What about having enough clothes? Planning which way and where to stay?

And what about money? Even though someone had already planned and was carrying enough money to pay for gas, etc. on the trip, Granddad would be an extra mouth to feed, and an extra bed to rent. They didn’t have credit cards back then. What did they do?

Dad said Granddad took a ten dollar bill along. I know things cost much less right after the depression, but three meals a day, all they way to California and back for $10? That’s some budgeting.

And what about the station? Who took care of it?

Grandma Mitchell, of course.

I asked Dad if Grandma M got upset with Granddad for taking off like that.

He said Grandma was never upset with Granddad.

“I never saw her mad at him. She was a hard worker, always busy with one thing or another, and she never complained. Anything Granddad wanted to do was ‘jake’ with her.”

On the way out there, they had breakfast in a small town in New Mexico. Aunt Phyllis ordered a hamburger for breakfast, surprising Dad and the rest of the vacationers.

When they were in the car later, Phyllis swore the burger tasted so bad, it had to have been horse meat.

He never did figure out how she knew what horse meat tasted like.

Our family vacas aren’t even close to the ones Lesley has on her Bucket List, but with relatives like mine, we go at them from a whole different angle. 😉



I love writing. It’s one of my favorite things to do. 🙂

I figure it stems from all those years of pretend when I was a kid. I never was a big one for games. Although I played, and enjoyed, a lot of them, I could live without them.

But not without “play like”. It just wasn’t in me. If I climbed a tree with a bunch of kids, I was ready to turn that tree into apartments and make up a story about living there. If we played in a car, we were taking a road trip to California. (I still have never been there, although I’d love to go sometime.)

As an adult during lulls in life, I often find myself making up stories–either about the people around me or my destination.

Once when my man and I lived in Punkin Center, we went to eat at a restaurant several miles out of town, nearly to the Kansas border. While we were eating, I noticed a table of three people, a man and two women.

Maybe it was the location of the restaurant (there was nothing else around for miles but farm land) or the different ethnicity of those three, but I had quite a story made up in my head about them. Talk about exciting! (Drug trafficking? International spy ring?)

When we got up to leave one of the women, who was very pretty and slender with her hair cut in the latest style, started shout-whispering my husband’s name. “Gary! Gary!”

Poor guy didn’t hear a thing, but I did. “I think someone is talking to you.”

Turns out, sadly, she was a girl he went to high school with, who’d moved to PC to work at a large oil company. My story for her life was a lot more fun. LOL.

As much as I like to write, I like reading even better!

I love books–the ones made of paper AND the digital ones. I get so excited when a new book by an author I enjoy comes out.

And one of those authors is Marilyn Pappano, who writes for Harlequin. Her most recent book was called, “Copper Lake Secrets” and with me it’s a big hit!

   From Amazon

Marilyn has a writing style that’s unique. Her words flow as smooth as honey, and while she’s pouring visions into your head, she smacks you with emotions that will make you laugh out loud, cry real tears or want to punch the guy in the book. Hard!

Unlike some authors, Marilyn doesn’t start this hero and heroine out disliking each other. The conflict in the story comes from within the character (like real life!) and, for most of the book, seems insurmountable.

There is a ghost in the book, but I view it as a tool Marilyn uses to give her book an interesting twist.

If you haven’t read “Secrets” order it now. It’s a fantastic read from a wonderful author and a darn nice lady.


Sunday Morning–Earthquake!

Wednesday, when I set up this post to run this morning, I had no idea that Oklahoma would have two (2!) earthquakes in the previous twenty-four hours. For an Okie, that’s a bunch!

I blamed the first quake on the dog, who normally sleeps under our bed. I’d forgotten that she’d been too lazy to get up the stairs when I’d gone to bed the night before. But the second one happened as G-Man and I were getting ready for bed.

It sounded like thunder and our house rocked for a long, LONG time. (Maybe twenty seconds.) When it started, I scurried to a doorway. I think I read somewhere doorways are the safest place to stand during a quake. But then I realized that, since we were upstairs, the doorway’s floor would probably drop out from under me, leaving a gap where I’d been, if it was really a baddie.

*Sigh* So much for fast thinking. 🙂

I’ve never lived in California or anyplace that regularly has earthquakes, but I saw the movie EARTHQUAKE! when it came out. There were big gaps in the ground in that movie. So I have to wonder if this might be a small Weird God Thing. Or maybe God just wanted to wow me.

When I saw how it came together, I really did say, “WOW!” and, “Thank you, Jesus.”

If you were in the quake zone, what did you do/think/feel when it happened?


FRANKly Speaking

When G-Man and I got married, we each had an Uncle Frank. Happily, I still have mine, and yesterday he came to the office.

We all had lunch together, then I pulled out a picture album to remind him how Grandad (his father) looked when he was a young man. That started everything down the road.

UF (so named by my bro who he calls Buck) started telling stories. We talked about Old Mannford. Who lived where. Who married whom and when.

Because we’ve been looking for some family members (or their descendants) I’ve been searching online. I’d found where Grandad’s oldest sister (Laura, but until   recently I’d only known her as Aunt Sis) married the first and second times. Laura’s middle name was Rosetta. In 1915, Laura Rosetta Spess married Bert A. Stone and became (wait for it) Laura Rosetta Stone. Ü Don’t you love it?

UF pointed out how families use the same names over and over whether they knew

the names had been used before or not. (I have a niece named Laura.) But I’ve never heard of anyone with the middle name of Rosetta before or since!

Laura and Bert had one child, Jewel. Laura Rosetta Stone had a daughter named Jewel Stone. Aunt Sis must have had a great sense of humor. LOL.

Uncle Frank reminisced about the time he, Grandmother and Dad went to California. (They were going to see his girlfriend who’d moved out there, but he didn’t mention

that yesterday.) They left their house, drove to the filling station owned by Grandmother’s dad and, while they filled up, told him where they were going.

Grandad Mitchell said, “Hey, just wait a minute. I’ll go with you!”

Five minutes later, Grandad Mitchell was packed and they were heading west. What beautiful memories they must have of those days as they drove to California. Time with an old man I remember as being very old and breakable. I

Screenshot of Tyrone Power from the trailer fo...

Image via Wikipedia

don’t remember him ever saying anything to me, but he was on the school board for years and years, so I know he liked kids. And I’m sure he loved all us lil’uns! 🙂

Frank told how Grandad got the house I remember him and Grandma living in. Frank even lived with those grandparents when his parents moved to Tonkawa to work for a few years.

Frank’s senior picture is in that album, and he looks amazing like a movie star–Tyrone Power. And while it’s been a few (!) days since he was in high school, he still a fine figure of a man.

Uncle Frank is on the right, Paul’s in the middle and my dad is on the left.  Good looking crew, aren’t they? BTW: Their hair wasn’t always white.