Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Fried Chicken 4th

It’s nearly Independence Day, already! They’re even doing 4th of July weather reports, so we know it’ll be here in a matter of days. How’d that happen?

That means it’s time to buy a few chickens and haul out the cast iron skillets. Why? you ask. Because, in the Shay household, 4th of July means FRIED CHICKEN!

mom's chicken pan


I put flour, salt, pepper and a little garlic powder in a bag (paper or plastic) and shake my chicken up in it (a few pieces at a time) then fry the pieces in canola oil. With the heat on about medium, I cook the chicken with a lid on for a few minutes on each side, then take the lid off and turn the heat up a little to give the chicken a good color and great crunch. I’m not the best chicken fryer in the world (can’t be, since I only practice my magic one time a year) but nobody complains while they’re chowing down. LOL.

I’m not sure when it started, but sometime in the distant past, I started frying chicken one day a year. Only on the 4th of July. One of the first Fried Chicken Fourths I remember, the kids were all fairly small. (grade school/middle school age.) I fried up a few chickens and we loaded up and went to Oklahoma City. We found Thunderbird Park, which had old military equipment (tanks, jeeps, helicopters, planes) for the kids to play on, and some picnic tables, and had our lunch.

okc imagesO1XZL3TY

There was a military museum nearby, the 45th Infantry Museum, and since our family never saw a museum we didn’t love–at least that’s what our kids thought– we had to check it out!


Since G-Man’s dad was in WWII, our boys had a great time.

okc imagesYW0MT0Z9This is not a picture of Gary’s dad. LOL.

Finally, after our fried chicken and a stroll through history lesson, we all went to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden.


Since we had three little boys in tow, you can probably guess how much time we spent in the Botanical Gardens. LOL. But we had a great time at the zoo. Especially when we found the Tiger Cage. (C-Town and Pryor Creek Tigers! Yay!!!)


I have some great memories tangled up with our fried chicken. Times when Mom and Dad came up for chicken, and afterward we parked on the Salina Bridge to see the fireworks, and times when we took our Party Barge out on the lake for tubing and chicken. I’m SO looking forward to grandchildren and the fun time we’ll have with them eating my fried chicken on the 4th! (And possibly any time they want it.)

Loving the Fried Chicken 4th!

Do you have any traditions you practice on the 4th that you can share? We might want to add them to our chicken. 😀





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Best! One! Ever!

Did you miss me over the weekend? Probably not, unless I work with you (I missed part of Thursday and Friday) or you’re one of my pets. 🙂

I was in OKC at Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc’s annual conference. And I have to tell you, I had a ball!

This was the best conference ever!

Why? Well, to start with, the keynote speaker was Eloisa James.


Professor McGonagall aka Eloisa James

She spoke about writing and success and just how to do it. I wish someone had recorded everything she had to say, because it was good!


This is The Wild Rose Press publisher and my first editor, Rhonda Penders. We celebrated her birthday at the Buzz Session Friday night after the costume contest (I didn’t enter) and Famous Authors’ Dinner.

She’s wearing the book cover necklace I made for her. 🙂

rhonda's-husband,-scott Standing in the door is Rhonda’s husband checking out the session/bd party. Nice guy!


Another buzz session pic.

famous-authorsThey showed a slide of all the attendees’ books published in 2013, whether purchased by a publisher or self-pubbed. I loved seeing my name up there! 🙂


Smart Women Crew with Gloria Teague from The Ford.


Marion, Linda, Gloria, Rhenna, Kathlyn and T. D. Hart.

TD Hart took 1st Place in two categories!

TD Hart took 1st Place in two categories!

First Place Winner, Rhenna Morgan!

First Place Winner, Rhenna Morgan!

And they gave me 1st Place in Romance. (Is that cool or what?)


And they gave me a $50 check! Believe it or not! 🙂






Bechstein Firmenschriftzug

Last night, I was out “with the dry cattle,” as Grandmother used to say. So today, I didn’t have a blog ready to go. But my friend saved me.

I’m sharing an email I received from my forever friend (ie: I don’t remember a time before we were friends) Cathy.

I have to tell you a little about her. Cathy is one of those women who excels in everything she does. We started first grade together. When we graduated from high school, I was in the top 10% of our class, she was our valdictorian.

We both took piano lessons while in school, she still plays for her church.

We both started college at the same time. She continued until she was on the faculty at a college in Colorado. One year, she was named as one of the top women in America.

Even with all her accomplishents, she’s still my friend. Gotta love a woman like that!

Forwarded by Cathy–

At the prodding of my friends I am writing this story. My name is Mildred Honor and I am a former elementary school music teacher from Des Moines , Iowa .

I have always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons – something I have done for over 30 years. During those years I found that children have many levels of musical ability, and even though I have never had the
pleasure of having a prodigy, I have taught some very talented students.

However, I have also had my share of what I call ‘musically challenged’ pupils – one such pupil being Robby.

Robby was 11 years old when his mother (a single mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson. I prefer that students (especially boys) begin at an earlier age, which I explained to Robby. But Robby said that it had always been his mother’s  dream to hear him play the piano, so I took him as a student.

Well, Robby began his piano lessons and from the beginning I thought it was a hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm needed to excel. But he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary piano pieces that I require all my students to learn.  Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and tried to encourage him.

At the end of each weekly lesson he would always say ‘My mom’s going to hear me play someday’.  But to me, it seemed hopeless. He just did not have any inborn  ability.

I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off or waited in her aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled, but never dropped in.

Then one day Robby stopped coming for his lessons. I thought about calling him, but assumed that because of his lack of ability he had decided to pursue something else. I was also glad that he had stopped coming – he was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed a flyer recital to the students’ homes. To my surprise, Robby (who had received a flyer) asked me if he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current pupils and that because he had dropped out, he really did not qualify.

He told me that his mother had been sick and unable to take him to his piano lessons, but that he had been practicing. ‘Please Miss Honor.  I’ve just got to play’ he insisted. I don’t know what led me to allow him to play in the recital – perhaps it was his insistence or maybe something inside of me saying that it would be all right.

The night of the recital came and the high school gymnasium was packed with parents, relatives and friends. I put Robby last in the program, just before I was to come up and thank all the students and play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he might do would come at the end of the program and I could always salvage his poor performance through my ‘curtain closer’.

Well, the recital went off without a hitch, the students had been practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on the stage. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair looked as though he had run an egg beater through it.  ‘Why wasn’t he dressed up like the other students?’  I thought. ‘Why didn’t his mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?’

Robby pulled out the piano bench, and I was surprised when he announced that he had chosen to play Mozart’s Concerto No..21 in C Major. I was not prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to fortissimo, from allegro to virtuoso; his suspended chords that Mozart demands were magnificent!

Never had I heard Mozart played so well by anyone his age.

After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo, and everyone was on their feet in wild applause!  Overcome and in tears, I ran up onstage and put my arms around Robby in joy.  ‘I have never heard you play like that Robby, how did you do it?

Through the microphone Robby explained: ‘Well, Miss Honor, remember I told you that my mom was sick? Well, she actually had cancer and passed away this morning. And well, she was born deaf, so tonight was the first time she had ever heard me play, and I wanted to make it special.’

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from Social Services led Robby from the stage to be placed into foster care, I noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy.

I thought to myself then how much richer my life had been for taking Robby as my pupil.

No, I have never had a prodigy, but that night I became a prodigy . . . of Robby.  He was the teacher and I was the pupil, for he had taught me the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself, and may be even taking a chance on someone and you didn’t know why.

Robby was killed years later in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April, 1995.

This account makes me wonder, what about us? When faced with a choice, do we act with compassion or do we pass up that opportunity and leave the world a bit colder in the process?

May God Bless you today, tomorrow and always.

If God didn’t have a purpose for us, we wouldn’t be here!

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Leave the rest to God.


If Oklahomans are Okies, Earthquakes Must Be . . .

An aerial view of the San Andreas fault in the...

Image via Wikipedia

 . . . Quakies?

I asked yesterday if you noticed the earthquakes we had. I did. The first one woke me, the second one scared me. A lot!

I talked to several people about their experiences. (I wasn’t the only one who got nervous.) Everyone who felt it had a story. Sister Debbie teaches a Sunday School class of grade schoolers. She wisely gave each one a turn so they could tell what happened at their house.

Dad was visiting his father-in-law when the earth moved, and he said they felt the quake. Even when he thought it was over, his wife told him it was still going on.

Even #4, who lives in another state, experienced the quakie.

I heard from several people that if you were riding in a car, you didn’t feel a thing. (Hi, Lori!)  Shocks will do that to you. 😉

No one I talked to had any damage . . . except me. I would be the “lucky” one. If anyone is going to have problems from a earthquake, I’m your boy.

When I went to bed, there were several items on my counter top. Three small crocks full of cooking utensils, a salt shaker, pepper grinder, a flock of metal chickens and a packet of peppers from Papa John’s.

This morning I came down stairs to find–

That’s right. The packet of red peppers had vibrated right off the counter and landed on the floor.

And that’s not all. I also found–

Can you see it? Here, look closer.

There, now you can see it, can’t you? That jar is open! See it? The one with the M&Ms in it. When we went to bed, the lid was closed tight. But after that awful earthquake, it was open.

G-Man promises he didn’t do it. If he’d been swiping candy, it would have been a butterfinger from the CLOSED jar next to it. I don’t think I was walking eating in my sleep, but you never know. I was a little disturbed after the big quake.

So now you have it. Out of the fifty or so earthquakes in Oklahoma in the last year, I’ve felt three of them. 

Dad (a geologist) informed us at lunch that the quake originated on the Nemaha Fault. (Three miles deep.) 

What’s a fault? From the US Geological Survey–

A fault is a break in the rocks that make up the Earth’s crust, along which rocks on either side have moved past each other.

You probably knew that, but they went on.

Not every crack in the ground is a fault. What defines a fault is the movement of the rock on either side. When that movement is sudden, the released energy causes an earthquake. Some faults are tiny, but others are part of great fault systems along which rocks have slid past each other for hundreds of miles.

Last night’s quake is the largest in Oklahoma history, besting a magnitude 5.5 quake on April 9, 1952. That quake originated on the Nemaha fault 

I looked for a map of the fault lines in Oklahoma to show you, and finally found one. If you’re interested, you can check it out here.

So how about it? Anybody got a Quakie story to share?


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?