Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Bucket Listing

Like most people, I have a “bucket list” of places I’d like to visit. On that list are all the places we learned about in American History. (I like History? Who knew? Probably not my teachers. LOL.)

Many of the places I’d love to see are east of Okie World. I’ve driven past many of those places, but didn’t actually stop. Why???

Well . . . (Clears throat.)

Once upon a time, back in the dark ages when G-Man and I only had one child, we flew to Rhode Island, because we were going to “bobtail” a truck back to Oklahoma.

Do you know how long it takes to get to Rhode Island from Okie Land?





Just the flight to New York City seemed like a thousand years, but then to get to RI, we had to take a “puddle jumper.” Ever been in a puddle jumper? Well, there’s room for about 16 people, including the pilot. Okay, maybe 30, but not many more. It’s one seat on one side of the aisle and two on the other. Or maybe it was just one on each side of the aisle. But the plane was so small, they couldn’t close the door to the pilots’ seats.

To be very honest, I don’t remember, exactly. (I’ve tried to delete the memory from my mind.)

After we leapt over a couple of puddles, we made it to Rhode Island and the place where we were to pick up the truck we were buying. I wrestled our single suitcase into the cab, scaled the monster (I was afraid I’d need a ladder to get in) and planted myself in the bench seat to wait for G-Man while he finished up inside.


This map is kind of small, but it shows where we went. Rhode Island is A. It’s one of those little states up there by America’s nose. 😉 C-Town is B.

According to Google Maps, it’s 1556 miles from RI to OK, and should take 23 hours to drive. Took us three days.

Why did it take so long, you ask?

It started with us going right through NYC, through the tunnels and over the bridges you see on TV in the cop shows instead of trucking it through White Plains. After that we were on the New Jersey Turnpike. Wall-to-wall vehicles, five o’clock in the afternoon (or there about) and it gridlocked. Shutdown. Nobody moved faster than about one mile an hour.

And I needed to potty. (Yeah, TMI. I know. But I still remember the pain after all these years!)

I know at least one person reading this has at some time ridden in the cab of a big rig and not had a trailer on behind. That’s bobtailing. And it’s ROUGH. Too rough to read, to rough to knit, and too loud to talk. Much. LOL.

Turned out, I was pregnant at the time, but didn’t know it yet. (Surprise!)

We spent the first night in New Jersey. If you look on the map, it’s practically next door to Rhode Island, but the universe had time to expand in that long day!

Did I mention it was winter? Snow covered the ground, and we saw several wrecks. When one of the wrecks included a big rig, it was usually on its side, the trailer broken open long ways and whatever it hauled was spilled out all over the road.

We made it all the way through Pennsylvania, where a lot of those places on my bucket list are.  That’s where America’s first capital was. Our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence there. Betsy Ross lived in that neighborhood. Valley Forge is somewhere around there. (Isn’t it?) And I think Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware was around there.

Old Bedford Village is there. (I wanted to stop at Old Bedford so badly on that trip. And not just for the bathroom!)

American Bandstand and Dick Clark were there!!! Philadelphia is where so many of the great singing groups from the ’50’s got their start.

I think I’m moving Pennsylvania to the top of my Bucket List. 🙂

BTW: We finally did make it home, but I’ve never again volunteered to go with G-Man to bobtail a truck anywhere. And I doubt I ever would . . . unless he asked me. 🙂


Vampires Are . . .

Vampires are Real! (You thought I was going to say US, didn’t you?)

*Cue spooky mood music.*

Have you been told there’s no such as vampires, my friends? Then you’ve been lied to.

Insert evil *bwa-ha-ha-ha* here.

They do exist. Oh, but not the vampires of TV and movies, my children.

The real vampires are much sneakier than that. These monsters creep up when you’re hard at work. They tiptoe their eight little legs along your body until they find a nice, tight spot where they wedge in.

Don’t think they’ll just dip a pair of fangs for an occasional sip now and then like our friend, Bela did. No, these devils bury their entire heads and drink for all they’re worth.

And a wooden stake won’t kill them. No. There are only two ways to be sure these little vamps are dead–flush them or soak them in gasoline and burn them.

Today, I’m ticked.

At least, I was yesterday.

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Another of Our Wedding Trads

A day or two ago, I told you about the Wedding Bible Tradition our mama started back in 1949.

The other important (in my mind, at least) tradition is one that started after Mama died.

I don’t remember who started it. I just know it wasn’t me. One of my brilliant sisters (I’m thinking Sister Debbie or Sister Cindy or maybe both) wore a piece of Mama’s jewelry to one of our Important Events. (Either a graduation or a wedding or something REALLY important, at least in our lives.)

Anyway, they pointed it out to me and said, “I wanted Mama to be represented.” I loved that idea! So after that, I wore something of Mom’s to every Important Event.

When #1 Son had his surprise wedding (have I told you about that?) I wore one of Mama’s rings. When I told him why I was wearing it, he got tears in his eyes for just a moment. Good tears, but still, tears.

At another Important Event, I told the honoree I’d brought Mama and showed my piece of jewelry. Honoree popped back at me and we went away smiling.

Then my niece who lived next door to me for a while got married. Gorgeous girl. Beautiful wedding. Fabulous time. After her makeup was on, while she was dressing, I dropped into the dressing room to say hi.

While I was there, I did my, “I brought Grandmommy,” thing, expecting a sweet smile.

Instead, I got tears. Not just filled eyes. I got TEARS! streaming down her face. “Why’d you do this to me?”

I scrammed out of there, fast! I could just see me walking into the wedding with a black eye or maybe an Indian sunburn from my sister as punishment for my evilness. (Sorry about that, Kendal.)

Fast forward to Brad’s Big Day. No matter how many tears my niece had shed, I still wanted my sibs to represent Mama by wearing her jewelry. So I texted each of them and asked them to wear at least one piece.

 That’s my hand on the far left. I inherited a ring Mama got once when we were in New York City, and while it’s not one I wear very often, it brings back wonderful memories. (I was seven months pregnant with my first son.)

Amy’s is next. She wears Mom’s spinner ring all the time. Deb has on Mom’s ring, and Cindy (far right) who I’m guessing has forgiven me for making her daughter cry at her wedding has on Mama’s ring, bracelet and a necklace.

Even #4, who wasn’t able to make it to the wedding (although she wanted to be there with all her heart) kept Mama with her that day.

Brother Jeffrey forgot.

When I told Brad about it the night of his wedding, there were no tears. No popping back.

He just gave me a sincere smile and said, “Wow, Mom. That’s really nice.”

Maybe I should have called this blog A Show of Hands. 🙂

Anyone want to share a tradition your family enjoys? Wedding? Christmas? Births of babies? Anything?

I’d love to find a new one to rip off. 🙂


Cherokee Strip Fever

Oklahoma's heritage as a pioneer state is depi...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m really enjoying Zola’s book. It’s easy to tell she was a teacher. She does a great job of teaching me. 🙂

I really didn’t know how Tulsa got its name until this book. 

Once Charity got all wound up on how Tulsa Town was named. Bill had heard it called many names. Some spoke of it as ‘cow town’ by the river. But she had gone back to De Soto’s 1540 age quoting the Spanish explorer as saying the settlement was named ‘Talisa’, a fair city located in the northern Creek country, east of the Mississippi River, with buildings and cultiated fields. The Tul or Tal syllable means town and “ahassee”, meant old, thus Old Home Town. Other Creeks spelled the word Tallasi, Tulsa or Tulsii.

Who knew Tulsa what a Creek word? (Hands?)

And she tells several reasons men wore bandannas.

“He said a blue or red bandanna was as essential to the cowboy, miner, frontiersman or homesteader as his large sombrero.

“The bandanna is used to protect the back of his neck from the sun. Tied across the face below the nose it becomes a dust mask, or an oujtlaw’s protection from identity. It becomes a bandage in case of accident, a sling for broken arm; a blind for skittery horses, a strainer for drinking muddy water, and a towel. It can be used for signaling, a dish drier, for tying calf legs while branding; even for hanging horse thieves. He spoke jovial-like.”

 I love the way Zola writes. She talks about the evening after Thanksgiving and is so descriptive, it’s almost like being there. And since my dad lives close to where the Bellis’s homestead was, it’s easy for me to imagine.

Twilight came to the dense wooded area. Evening shadows spread over the bottoms. The velvet canopy of sky was studded with stars. The couple distinguished the bold evening star, the Seven Little Sisters, the Dipper, the North Star and the heavy sprinkled Milky Way extending from horizon to horizon.

Eventually, the harvest moon shed its golden glow for the happy family’s return.

The figures, sitting in the spring seat, formed a silhouette in loving embrace. God knew what He was about when He made a woman to walk beside her husband and be a helpmate. The two Bellis brothers could honestly vouch for this!

The Cherokee Strip and other areas of Oklahoma owe much to the Pioneer Woman. Rightfully, a statue has been erected in behalf of their enduring hardships.

Note: The Ponca City Pioneer Woman statue was donated by EW Marland, Ponca City oilman who later became governor. He commissioned the statue at an estimated cost of $250,000.00.

The cost included $10,000.00 paid to each of 12 sculptors, who submitted models in competition for the final selection. The winning entry by Bryant Baker of New York was dedicated on April 22, 1930, the 41st anniversary of the opening of Oklahoma settlement.

A crowd of 40,000 came to Ponca City for the dedication broadcast nationwide on radio. President Herbert Hoover opened the ceremony with a speech from Washington, DC. Will Rogers, Oklahoma native son, spoke at the dedication site.

My man and I lived in Punkin Center during the first years we were married. We bought our first home there. One of the first things I did when we got there was visit the Pioneer Woman museum. (Not to be confused with The Pioneer Woman blogger. LOL) 

The statue is in a beautiful park, but I can’t imagine 40,000 people crowding into it. Of course, back in 1930 they might not have had the streets, highways and businesses that arae there now.

I can’t ask my dad about it. He wasn’t born until September of that year.  


A New York WGT

From Susan: This is an email forward given to me by a life-long friend. Being Terminally Curious, I have to wonder who these people are. 🙂

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square . Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it’s enough to send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.

For a musician, it’s the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I’m told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right. Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing.

It was a fun, low-pressure gig – I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the ’40s to the ’90s with a few original tunes thrown in. During our emotional rendition of the classic, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached me. “I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?” she asked. “No,” I replied.. “We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?”

To my delight, she accepted my invitation.. “You choose,” I said. “What are you in the mood to sing?”

“Well. …. do you know any hymns?”

Hymns? This woman didn’t know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. “Name one.”

“Oh, I don’t know. There are so many good ones. You pick one.”

“Okay,” I replied. “How about ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’?”

My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, “Yeah. Let’s do that one.” She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.

Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?

The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion.

I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me.

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, “Oh, y’all go back to your coffee! I didn’t come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin’ to drink, just like you!” But the ovation continued..

I embraced my new friend. “You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!”

“Well, it’s funny that you picked that particular hymn,” she said.

“Why is that?”

“Well . ..” she hesitated again, “that was my daughter’s favorite song.”

“Really!” I exclaimed.

“Yes,” she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual.. “She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week.”

I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence. “Are you going to be okay?”

She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. “I’m gonna be okay. I’ve just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything’s gonna be just fine.” She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it.

God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it’s no stretch for me to imagine that God could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting God and singing the songs, everything’s gonna be okay.

The next time you feel like GOD can’t use YOU, just remember…
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer…
AND Lazarus was dead!

No more excuses now!! God can use you to your full potential. Besides you aren’t the message, you are just the messenger.