Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Family That Skis Together

I’m not sure where in Colorado this was taken, but we were having fun!

When G-Man and I were first married, my folks took us skiing. They’d been the year before with the church and loved it, so they wanted to take their off-spring.

Since Dad had been once, he taught us so we could save what it would cost to take lessons.

After teaching us to bubble-hiney in order to make a turn, and cut a piece of pizza (“sit down on it, Susan!”) Dad thought we were ready to go for it. He pointed us toward the rope tow or easy-peasy lift. Our choice.

G-Man ignored the rope tow AND the easy-peasy lift and practiced on a small hill. He went up and down it until he could control his skis fairly well.

Determined I could do it, I wobble-kneed my way through the E-P lift line. When I saw that lift chair swinging toward me, I nearly panicked. I could just see the open chair taking off with me dangling from it by one arm, far above the snow-covered earth like a cartoon character.

So as it came toward us, I turned my back and closed my eyes. The chair hit me in the back of my knees and scooped me up as easy as Superman lifts Lois Lane. I even got off without falling in the middle of anyone.

That was the easy part. Getting to the bottom of the hill took a little more work. And a lot more time. But I made it without falling. 🙂 (My man, who fell several times that morning, tells me women have a lower center of gravity so they naturally fall less. I lovingly answer him, “Sour grapes.”)

After lunch (There might have been a quick nap with my head on the table during that lunch. Skiing is hard work!) we hit the slopes again, and I coerced G-Man into going on the E-P lift. We got pretty good at going up and down that baby hill.

The next day, we went to the top of the mountain. And like the wise adults we were, stayed on the easiest paths.

Brother Jeffrey and his buddy didn’t ski like G-Man and me. They took a three-step approach from the get-go.

  1. Go to the top of the highest mountain available.
  2. Point your ski tips toward the bottom.
  3. Go. For. It.

Zero to ninety in nothing flat. No fear. In fact, they rarely slowed down long enough to wave at friends or family unless we were at the bottom.

The last day of the ski vaca, Dad took us to the back side of the mountain. “Come on, you’ll love it. You’re good enough to do that.”

So, like lambs to the slaughter, we went.

To. The. Back. Side. Of. The. Mountain. (Duh-duh-dum!)

We took a lift, another lift, and then a long, scary, really high lift. And the we were in black, double diamond land. The steepest, deepest, hardest slopes in that part of the state were where we were.

Think of a tall waterfall, made of snow and we had to ski down it.

Gary’s early training on the baby hill stood him in good stead. I, on the other hand, prayed for a helicopter. When none came, I took off my skis and slid down on my hiney.


Ended up with a deep chill but no broken bones. 🙂

And our teachers?

When Mom skied, she was a little bit knock-kneed. Last year I saw a video of me skiing, and guess who I thought it was.

Mom. Knees and all.

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Dad’s Par-ty!

A hamburger with a rim of lettuce sitting on a...

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At last! I got the pictures from Carollea of Dad’s party.

Remember the Big Day? It was so much fun!

These two are deep in discussion. Never fails when they get together.

Of course, fun times were had at the party. Naturally, Dad shared in several hugs and handshakes.

Sparky was the name of Dad’s horse. (There should have been a comma after the you, but hey. Perfection is boring. LOL)

The cake was delicious! Half chocolate, half white and a cherry filling. Oh, baby! The girls at Homeland bake a mean cake.

Jeffrey and I grilled hamburgers, I caught my grill on fire. (Not my fault! There was too much fat in the meat. That’s my story and I’m sticking!)

Everyone in the office brought dishes to share. I’m telling you, these women can cook!

And this crew can eat! They didn’t even back off when they found out I was helping with the hamburgers. 🙂

But before a bite was eaten, before one person filled his (or her) plate, we thanked God– for health, and friends and, most importantly (in my book, anyway) for family, near and far, and those who’ve gone on before us, but shaped our lives and helped us become who we are.

The best gift of all.


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O-T-H GANG Rides Again

We love our brother. We really do!!!

Omega loves him so much, she had this made for him.

Isn’t that sweet? (I’d have smacked her, but Jeffrey is a great sport!) It’s hanging on the front of the office. On C-Town’s main street. For the entire world to see.

Of course, Omega hasn’t hit that magic number yet. There’s no telling how her big brother will spell payback.

Dad came out to see the banner. “Did Omega do that?”

Me: “Yeah. If I’d done it, it would say, ‘Welcome to the Over-The-Hill Gang. 

Dad: “Do you remember when he was born?

Answer: “Mumble. Mumble.”

Dad: “Remember we went to the football game.”

Me: “Uh, no. We went to the fair. Did you go to the football game?”

Dad: “I remember that day well. Dr. Dillman came out and said, ‘You finally got that boy, Carol.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe it.’ Doc looked through the glass and yelled, ‘Take that baby’s diaper off and prove he’s a boy.’ He did, and I went to the game.”

Me: “You didn’t even get to hold him.”

Dad: “Naw. In those days, dads didn’t get to do any of that stuff. Your mom was sleeping, so I went home to the game. C-Town was playing Hominy.”

Me: “Who won?”

Dad: “Hm. I don’t remember.”

It was probably Hominy. 🙂 At least we had one winner for C-Town that day.

One last HBD, Jeffrey! (Aka: Jeffy, Boy, Fella, JP and Buck.)



On this day when I was ten years old, Aunt Phyllis and Grandmother took me, Sister Deb, Tinny-Woo-Woo and #4 to the fair. Joanie, Phyllis’s daughter, went with us, too.

We had a great time, riding rides and seeing the animals and exhibits. Once in a while Grandmother had to sit down and rest, but most of the day was spent rushing from one ride to another. I don’t remember if we bought lunch or took sandwiches. (If the parents had been along, we definitely would have taken sandwiches. Mom was convinced Fair Food would poison us.)

Mom and Dad didn’t go to the fair, because Mom was having a baby. Our youngest sister was barely fifteen months old. So after a long day at the fair, Aunt Phyllis decided to go past the hospital and see if the baby had been born.

Back in those days, parents didn’t know what sex their babies were going to be, so they had to have two names picked out. Up until that baby–before I was born, Sister Debbie, Tinny and #4–the chosen boy name had always been Christopher Darwin.

I didn’t mind Christopher so much, but the Darwin didn’t float my childish boat. The good thing is, before kid number five was born, they changed the boy to be name to Jeffrey. Much better!

So back to that fair day so very long ago–

After the day at the fair, Aunt Phyllis decided to drive to the hospital and see if the baby had been born. The rest of us had to sit in the dark car, parked on the street in front of the hospital. (That’ll tell you how long ago this happened. You haven’t been able to park on the street in front of the hospital in a long, LONG time.)

So we waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like another entire day passed before that front door opened again. When it did, Aunt Phyllis came running out of the hospital, her hair flying behind her, a big grin on her face.

She flew up to the car and, yanking open the door, jumped inside. “It’s a boy! It’s a boy, if it’s not a mistake!!!”

I still laugh about that last line.

There were times when he was a kid that I thought it might have been, well, not a mistake but maybe a misstep. But when he stopped crying all the time, I was thrilled to have that brother.

Maybe it’s because he’s a male, but the guy has always seen things a little bit different than the Spess Girls. When we saw a rabbit, we wondered if it had babies. When he saw one, he saw an opportunity to hunt.

A pond or lake was a great place to swim or tan for the sisters, a place for him to fish. Summers were for playing ball and spending time at the pool for the girls, a time for our bro to go to work with Granddad and Dad.

I liked to knit. He liked to use my yarn to tie me up when I fell asleep over my needles.

Later, he taught me to play tennis and loaned me his six gun for a Halloween costume. (After checking twice to make sure it wasn’t loaded.)

And when we got a call one night at the folks house that my house was on fire (G-Man was working) he was the one who went with me. (He made the mistake of thinking I couldn’t drive in an emergency such as that. Snort!)

He finally grew up, went to college, married and had kids of his own. Great kids, who I enjoy practically as much as I enjoy him.

He’s the kind of guy I enjoy talking to, who has a one-on-one relationship with the Lord and isn’t embarrassed to tell you about it.

The day we lost so many family members to a drunk driver, when nearly every person I knew was at the hospital with Omega, Brother Jeffrey saw our car arrive at the hospital and was the one who met us at our car door. He was there, ready to comfort and be comforted.

Loving us.

Remembering with us that, while Mama was no longer with us, she wasn’t lost. We knew exactly where she landed–in the arms of our Lord, telling Him how thrilled she was to see Him face to face.

Some people tolerate their siblings. I’m one of those people who knows how incredibly lucky she is to have the brother and sisters God gave her. Every one is so very special!

Happy birthday, Jeffrey! I’m so glad it wasn’t a mistake!!!

Read more about the World’s Best Brother here.


Truly, Truly Fair

Brother Jeffrey called the office today and asked for Trudy Fair. The secretary who answered the phone said, “I think you have the wrong number, sir.”

He was talking about me.

Of coure, I had to fill in the rest of the story. 😉

I was a cranky baby. I know you can’t believe it, but here’s proof.

Don’t you just love my “get outta my face” look? LOL.

For some reason, when I was a baby my parents had to put drops in my eyes. Apparently, I didn’t like having drops put in my eyes, and don’t forget, I was naturally cranky, so I’d keep them squenched closed as tight as I could.

You can’t sit on an infant and hold her head between your knees so you can have two hands free to pry open eyes and administer drops (that’s how I got pink-eye drops in my boys’ eyes when they fought the med–but they weren’t infants!)

Anyway, my dad came up with a solution. He sang to me–but only one song would get me to open my eyes.

Truly, Truly Fair. Ever heard that song? Me, either, except from Mom and Dad. (Dad must have liked it a lot!)

So Dad started calling me Truly Fair, then it changed to Trudy Fair and sometimes Trudy.

The really funny thing is, I had a good friend in college who called me Trudy, too. And she’d never heard the story. She just shortened Susan to Susie (ugh!) and Susie to Trudy.

That cranky baby got happier. I promise.