Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Omega and the Pig

amy and noelOmega had a birthday last week. (She’s the movie star on the left.)

amy's-sombreroLike my kiddos, every time Omega has a birthday, I get older. (How does that work, anyway?)

amy-and-dad-2This year, she made it even worse. Just before her b-day, she made a comment. “It’s awful being the designated card maker for the office. I have to make my own card,” or something really whiny like that.

amy-and-jonnaAgain, Omega is the movie star on the left.

Of course, she has no idea what a comment like that does to me.

amy and mattIt’s like–

  • Hitting the gas on a race car.
  • Lighting the fuse on a firecracker.
  • Waving a red flag at a bull.

Naturally, I shot into action. Here’s what she got.


Can you read it? It says,

Love you little.

Love you big!

Notice, I even pinked the bottom edge of that front page.

AMY-D'S-BDLove you like a little pig.

The (free on the internet) pig was centered and I put him on a little cardboard spring I made so he’d stand up and wave at her. 🙂

The saying is one that has come down through our family. When I was thinking about this card, I wondered which side of the family it came from. Did Great-Great-Granddad make it up? Great-Uncle August?

I googled it so see if anyone else had heard of our secret Love You poem.

In less than a second, I got 28 million hits. I didn’t go to all of them, most of the ones I did go to thought that saying (poem?) was original to their family. Either their father or grandfather or great uncle on Aunt Hattie’s side made it up.

One had it as the beginning of a long poem that went on with stuff like love you in, love you out, love you like a little sprout. His readers thought he’d made it up.

So, anybody know?

Maybe my brilliant Son #1 will find out for me, she said hopefully. And no, it wasn’t G-Man. LOL.

Happy B-day, Omega. You’re a hoot and a half.

amyThis is the age I like to remember her. (Makes me younger, too.)


Marching Orders

I might have mentioned that I’m one of six kiddos. We grew up next door to Dad’s parents, and because Grandmother didn’t drive whenever we went anywhere, she usually went with us, as well as our friends and any cousins who were staying with the grandparents at that time.

And yes, we all fit in one car. (It was before the day of seatbelts and airbags.) Getting everyone out the door and into the car to get anywhere on time (including church) was quite a feat.

When Dad got ready to leave, he’d come into the kitchen or livingroom where we usually waited and give us our marching orders. (Start shooing us toward the car.)

Sometimes, while we grabbed Bibles and purses and diaper bags and bottles, he’d try to rush us. But rather than yelling, “Let’s go. LET’S GO!” he started quoting a poem.

After a while, he just had to say the first line, and we scooted.

“Let’s be up and doing!”

Sometimes he’d quote more of the poem.

“Let’s be up and doing
with a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
learn to labor and to wait.”

There was one more verse he’d toss out at the end from time to time. I didn’t learn until I had Internet that I’d heard it wrong and it was out of order. Here’s what I heard–

“It’s not joy and not sorrow
that’s our destiny our way,
but to know that each tomorrow
finds us further than today.”

“Burma Shave.” 🙂

It’s from a Longfellow poem Dad  had to learn in high school called, “Psalm of Life.” He quoted the last (9th) stanza first and the 3rd stanza, which I learned wrong, last. Here’s the real 3rd stanza–

“Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.”

Burma Shave isn’t part of the poem. 😛

I won’t put the entire poem here. (Booooring.) But if you’d like to read it, here’s the link. 

He learned other poems that are lots more exciting, but what’s interesting is that he remembers it sixty odd years later.

Here’s my favorite of Dad’s poems.

“Comanches over the hill top! Six trappers on the plain.”

Anyone (who isn’t part of my flock of siblings) know that one?

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Discovered Treasure

Sister #3 sent several boxes of Dad’s books to the office the other day. (Book hoarding runs in my family.) He has some wonderful books–professional, religious and even a few fiction–and the first one I grabbed was called, “The Flying Jenny and Other Voices.”

It’s amazing to learn what talented people live in our Small Town Worlds, isn’t it?

I dove in as soon as I got home and was surprised to find it was a book of poems. Interestingly enough, they’re written about the world near The Ford. On page two and three are two poems about the Flying Jenny.

I heard about the Jenny when I was a kid from Grandmother Ruby. She said they used it to cross the river when she was a girl. I imagined it as something like a fair ride. A crank was used by the passenger(s) to move them across the river to the other side.

I’m not sure why it’s called a Jenny, except you could “really get to ginning” when you were in it.

There’s a picture of the Jenny in this book. You climbed aboard from a platform, high in a tree and from the pic, it looks like a chair on a ski lift.

Jenny poem #1 was written  by Sandra S. Austin. Here’s how it begins–

The Flying Jenny

She danced on a chain, across
the river bed,
swaying to winds
running through her steel,
iron threads.

The other poem is by Norma Ross and has a light-hearted feel to it.

We’ve Got a Flying Jenny

We’ve got a jenny that flies–
Betcha it’ll knock out your eyes.

and ends–

But in the wind the jenny bucks and pitches
If you do’t hold on tight
You’ll lose your britches.

One poem is called “Jesse Smelser,” about an eighteen year old boy who got “typhoid and pneumonia fever.”

Home doctoring failed.
His parents pinned one last hope
On sending for a Jennings doctor.
A neighbor’s son, Fred Spess,
Volunteered for the desperate ride.

That caught my interest because Fred Spess was my Granddad Ray’s older brother, and my great-uncle. Nice to read something good about Uncle Fred. 🙂 Even though Uncle Fred went for a doc, by the time they got back, Jesse had died. The poem even tells the name of the man who built the casket for him.

I’ve saved the best poem for last, and I’m sharing it with permission from its author. She said she had written it about her childhood, when she’d gone out in the evening to bring in the cows.

What a tender spirit that young girl must have had. And for the adult to remember it with such clarity so many years later speaks to the strength of those emotions.

My Heart Stood Still  

Across the moon-drenched valley
lengthening shadows dipped
in and out, among the branches of
the silent, sturdy trees.
A chance breeze sent a million ripples
across the lake.
And fanned the brow of one who had
sought the quiet solitude
To meditate in peace, in close comunion
with God and nature.

I gazed in silent reverence on the
simple works of God.
Forgetting for a while, the clamoring
reality of the human touch
Which had held me closely bound within its grasp
Until that moment, with the gripping
fear expelled.
I breathed the clean and Holy atmosphere
into my quivering being.

It was then my heart stood still.

                                                                                    –Wilma Marvella Spess

I love reading new books, “hot off the presses,” but finding old books like this excites me as if I’ve happened on a treasure, hidden away for safe keeping.

Have you ever found an old book you loved reading? Want to share?


Rhyme a Crime?

Have you had much poetry in your life? I’m not sure every rhyme that has been part of my world should be designated “poetry” but I think of it that way. Ü

Nearly every morning when I was growing up, Grandmother and Granddad would come next door and chat with us while we had breakfast. I don’t remember how the habit got started, but we loved it.

Dad and Granddad would talk about work that needed to be done in the family business, Grandmother would catch up on what all the kids were doing and the kids would enjoy some grandparent time.

If it was summertime and one of us kids stumbled to the table a little late, Grandmother would quote,

“Good morning, Mary Sunshine! What made you wake so soon? You scared away the little stars And shined away the moon.”

A few years later when my #1 son was born, Mom used to quote a poem to him.

“Little Danny Donkey didn’t like to wash his ears. At breakfast every morning Danny’s mother sent him back to do his washing over ’cause his ears were simply black!

“They say he’s doing better now, and oh! I hope it’s true.”

Mom had trouble remembering one word in the last sentence–

“I’d hate to be so **** and so naughty, wouldn’t you?”

(If you know what that miss word is, please let me know.)

Dad had a couple of poems he’d quote to us. I planned to look up one but I can’t find it.

It started out, “Comanches on the hilltop, six trappers on the plain. A cut and a slash with our skinning knives and our saddle mules lie slain.”

That’s not perfect or I should be able to find it on Google. 😦 It’s by a man whose last name started with V. Vestre, I’m thinking. *sigh*

Dad used to “quote” (paraphrase would be a better term) another poem. When we were trying to get out the door to go some place (with six kids, it’s never easy to get everyone ready and out the door on time) he’d say,

“So lets be up and doing with a heart for any fate! Still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait!”

If we were in a real hurry, he’d shout,

Let’s be up and doing!”

I never really thought about where the quote (paraphrase) came from until a minister quoted from it at my mother’s funeral. (Actually, it was my mother’s, grandmother’s, aunt’s and two nieces’ funeral.)

Because this preacher wasn’t part of our household, I seriously doubt he knew Dad quoted the poem to us. I think it was one of those times when God was speaking to us. Reminding us that He was there when we were kids at home, He was there when the tragedy happened, and He is here, now.

It’s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Long Fellow

What Dad “quoted”  was from poems he had to memorize as a kid. If I remember right, kids had to memorize so many lines before they could go from one grade to the next.

That isn’t part of the curriculum anymore. I have to wonder why, though. The memory is strengthened like a muscle. The more you do, the more you can do.

Sometimes we find the old ways are best. This might be one of those times. After all, Alzheimer’s Disease didn’t seem as rampant back then!