Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Never Retreat!

I’m away at a writers’ retreat this weekend. And, just as I suspected, we’re having crazy fun.

This is a fantastic group of women.

We’re not all the same age. (We range from 18 to MYOB.)

We’re not all the same religion.

We’re don’t all have the same hair color. (Some of us don’t even remember the original color. Others don’t want to.)

What we have in common is that we’re all writers. Romance writers. (The best kind is the HEA–happily ever after–kind.) We love a great story. And very few of us can tell you our names in less than a page-and-a-half.

Last night, we had a delicious meal, then came back to the suite to just chat, and ended up talking about our writing histories. (Go figure.) Roughly half of us are published. Some of us have even confessed for money.

The unpubbed women were so much fun to listen to as they talked about their WIPs. (Works In Progress.)

The one thing these women have in common, besides being writers?

They’re all so very passionate–

  • about telling a great story.
  • about learning whenever and whatever they can.
  • about supporting each other.

From the woman just beginning to our master, Rita winner (80 books and counting) we’re a lift each other up, cheer each other on, lend a hand when we can and cry with you if we can’t crew.

And just to be very honest, we never retreat.


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Alley Cattin’

I lost Omega yesterday.

It wasn’t a permanent loss. Just one of those things she does.

The office kiddo was cranking loud (wish I was better at ignoring his crying, but it grabs me by the heart!) so I volunteered to take him for a walk with him in the stroller.

Omega decided to come along. We stopped to say hello to people along the way. (Hey, we’re in C-Town. Gotta say hi to your neighbors.) Then we strolled into Miss Patti’s to see if she had anything new we could ooh and aah over.

Instead, we saw our cousin’s beautiful daughter, Erica, and a friend from Omega’s high school days. We stopped to talk for just a moment. (I thought, anyway.) I’m always amazed at what kids I knew when they were too small to speak plainly are doing.

And while we talked, the other woman put a cigarette in her mouth and took a puff. Since smoking in public is illegal in most places in Oklahoma, I was shocked too see her blowing smoke.

I looked closer and saw the “cigarette” was really a plastic thing like kids played with when I was small. (I know. That’s a weird “toy”, but they really had them back in the day as well as candy ones with red tips that came in a little pack, too.)

So the woman took a puff and blew out what looked like smoke.

“How does it make smoke?” I asked, amazed.

“It’s water vapor,” Omega answered for her.

Now I’m more than amazed. I’m downright shocked. How does my non-smoking sister (none of the sibs or our parents ever had that unfortunate habit) know so much about cigarettes, fake or otherwise?

“I saw a commercial.”

The friend explained she was trying to stop smoking and using the plastic cigarette as a crutch to get where she’s going. (Good for her!) I asked how long she’d been smoking and she answered she started after high school.

That’s what triggered Amy’s loss. She launched into a meandering story about when she and her best bud had talked the friend’s mom into going with them to drag main before they could drive without a licensed person. To make the other kids think they were cool and driving alone, they got the mom to lie down in the backseat and even covered her with a blanket.

Knowing the story would last a while, I left. (Sorry. I’ve heard it and I know all the side tales that happen along the way.) I decided to take Little Bit and do a little Alley Catting. We have some great alleys in C-Town. And some not so great ones. 🙂

This is the back of the building I’d just left.

Don’t you love seeing the backs of the old buildings? The fronts get updated fairly often, but a lot of the time, the backs stay the same. So we get to see what it really look like in the beginning.

 This isn’t very clear, but see the brick arch over the door and beautiful rock work? Doesn’t it make you want to know what the buildings looked like when they were new?

It’s one of those buildings in the middle of the block on the right side of the picture. (Were the awnings really necessary?)

 Here’s the back of the 2nd building in that pic above. The stairs on the left lead to an apartment space. There’s no inside entrance to that apartment, apparently because the main floor was always a retail outlet. And if that looks like a coke case on the landing on the right, it is. Chained down and not for sale. I checked.

I think I’m going to have to go back and take a closeup. They don’t charge for pictures. 🙂

BTW: Omega finally showed up back at work. It took an hour or two, but she had a great time, chatting with friends.



Forever Friend

Do you have a forever friend? One of those people who has known you forever (from preschool through junior high and beyond) who knows your secrets, where all the bodies are buried and loves you anyway?

One of mine was in C-Town over the weekend and I got to spend some time with her on Friday. Instead of going to lunch together, we walked. And talked. LOL.

My Friend is retired (because of health reasons) but still walks nine to ten miles every day. We talked about old times, caught up on what everyone’s family is doing and the trips she’s taken.

I told her about the horrors of my recent “unmentionables” buying trip and she told me about doing all her shopping with her husband driving her. (ie–You need to shop for another pair of shoes???)

Know the best thing about My Friend? She inspires me. Even though her life is a bit of a struggle, she hasn’t slowed down much at all. And when she decides to do something, she goes after it all the way.

And she succeeds!

My Friend has accomplished several things in her life, and right now she’s doing those dog trial things where you train your hound to run up and over teeter-totters, on balance beams, through tunnels and that kind of thing. And, no surprise, her little dog is a regular winner.

While we were together, she received a call from a man she’d worked with over the years who needed to talk to her. His company had downsized him out of a job and he was searching for another. As I listened, she made small comments and suggestions about how he should go about it. She gave him ideas about things she’d learned so he could use them when applying.

My Friend gave away the knowledge she’d accumulated from her years in the business and at the end of the conversation told the man to be sure to use her as a reference, and gave him an open invitation to stay with her and her husband anytime he was in her area.

Remember the phrase, better to give than receive? She’s living it.

And I am inspired.

Friends are so important in our lives. Someone loves me, no matter how upset another person is with me. My friend is praying for me, and I’m praying for her. She’s a kindred soul I can depend on, no matter what.

While telling you about her, I kept thinking– 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. I Cor 13:4-8

Read it again, and when you read the word love, think  a friend. After all, what is friendship except love between friends? My Friend not only understands that scripture, she epitomizes it.

Do you have someone in your life who’s a Forever Friend? Doesn’t the time you get to spend with them (and remembering them) seem to be extra sweet?


Doing Lunch

This is a 1907 postcard I bought online. It’s early day C-Town–the community well. The buildings you see are still standing and are diagonal from our office.

The well, sadly, is gone. (So is the horse and buggy.) The descendants of the people in the picture are probably still here. (I hope!) 

I want to tell you a little more about our Small Town World. C-Town is a friendly place, and small enough that even if you don’t know someone else who lives here, you most likely do know someone they know or are kin to.

“Oh, you know Jane Doe. She’s that woman from Timbuktu who married Joe Blow’s cousin.”

I almost never go anywhere with SA that she isn’t spoken to over and over again. “Hi Amy! How you doing, Amy?”

(BTW-In this week’s newspaper, they asked several people what we could do to improve C-Town. SA was one of those people. She answered, “Convince people to be more friendly.” I told her I’m not sure that’s possible. She said the interviewer caught her unaware, and friendliness was the only thing she could think of.)

As I’ve said until you’re probably sick of hearing it, I work in the family business, and normally have lunch in the kitchen at the office. Sometimes, though, we go out. (Sister Amy loves it when we go out.)

There aren’t a lot of places to eat in our small town, but there are a few really good ones. One of those has pretty darn tasty Tex-Mex fare.  We went there yesterday. We were quickly seated, our waitress of choice brought our drinks nearly as soon as our seats hit the seat (the sign of a GREAT waitress!) and a friend came in the door.

Now this woman is more than just a friend (although friends are VIPs in my book) she has a beautiful voice, has a heart for God and she’s my hairdresser. When I say to know her is to love her, I’m not exaggerating. Everyone adores this red-headed woman.

We invited her to sit with us, and she slid in the round booth next to Dad. She had her Bible with her and explained that she usually read the day’s segment during lunch. (She’s reading through the Bible in a year, too.)

That’s when she remembered a question she had about something she’d read and marked a few days earlier. She opened her Bible and we had a wonderful discussion about Moses and Exodus there, in the middle of the restaurant.

After we discussed that question, she moved on to another one. I loved it, eating lunch with some of my favorite people in the world and discussing my favorite subject! (I could talk about God’s love all day long.)

Not one person in our Small Town restaurant batted an eye. We weren’t whispering. We didn’t get loud or try to get everyone’s attention, but we didn’t hide what we were doing, either.

There were people in the adjacent booths and nearby tables, but I didn’t see anyone roll their eyes or so much as shrug at our discussion.

One of the things I love most about living in a place like C-Town is that they know us there, and expect to hear that kind of thing from our table. If we’d ordered alcohol or told loud, dirty stories, we would have raised a few eyebrows.

A few years ago, someone had a saying after their signature in their emails (Holly Jacobs, who says she lives in Hollyworld, maybe?) that said something like, “I love living in my own world. They know and accept me there.”

Maybe that’s the thing about the small towns that make up the world. You never have to be anything except who you are.

And they love us anyway.


This Aging Biz

I got this in an email from Cathy, one of my “forever friends”. (A forever friend is a friend I’ve known since before my memory began and loved forever!) BTW: This kind of friendship as it is much too rare!
Please send back. ( I did ) It’s neat.  Don’t delete this one, you’ll laugh when you see the return message.  In case you’re wondering, there is no return message. There’s never a return message, so I knew there wouldn’t be one this time. But I like what it says. This isn’t the original Maxine cartoon that came in the email. I couldn’t get that one to transfer, so I thought I’d send an early V Day greeting instead. 
 I would never trade my amazing friends, my  wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.  As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of  myself. I’ve become my own friend.. I don’t chide myself for eating  that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but  looks so avanté garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be  messy, to be extravagant. 

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before  they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70’s, and if I, at the same time, wish  to weep over a lost love … I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with  abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful.  But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I  eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not  break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken  hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will  never know the joy of being imperfect.


I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have  my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever  etched into deep grooves on my face.
 So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. 

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about  what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore.

I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I  like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it). 

From Susan: If I hadn’t lived this long, I wouldn’t have seen so many of God’s miracles that have happened right before my eyes such as the life of my sister Amy and the birth of her two precious daughters. And I would have missed having God’s voice become a familiar echo in my heart.


Forward this to at least 7 people and see what happens on your screen . You will laugh your head off!!!!!!!!!! Like I said at the beginning, nothing ever happens when you forward one of these things. So make a comment instead. You might not see what happens on this side of the screen, but you’ll most likely win a grin!