Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


The Dogwood

One of the reasons I chose this theme for my blog is the picture at the top. The header is a picture of dogwood blossoms. (I liked the pink for spring, too.)

I could have chosen this one

with Forget-Me-Nots in the picture.

Or this one

with Tiger Lilies.

But I wanted the Dogwood, and I knew I’d keep it until Easter. Here’s why.

In Jesus’ time, the dogwood grew

To a stately size and a lovely hue.

‘Twas strong & firm it’s branches interwoven

For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.

Seeing the distress at this use of their wood

Christ made a promise which still holds good:

“Never again shall the dogwood grow

Large enough to be used

so Slender & twisted, it shall be

With blossoms like the cross for all to see.

As blood stains the petals marked in brown

The blossom’s center wears a thorny crown.

All who see it will remember me

Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.

Cherished and protected this tree shall be

A reminder to all of my agony.”



This is from

It is said at the time of the Crucifixion, the dogwood was comparable in size to the oak tree and other monarchs of the forest. Because of its firmness and strength it was selected as the timber for the Cross, but to be put to such a cruel use greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Jesus in His gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all said to it: “Because of your sorrow and pity for My sufferings, never again will the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a gibbet. Henceforth it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will be in the form of a cross — two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints — brown with rust and stained with red — and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see this will remember.”

You’ll see beautiful dogwoods blooming all over the place in Okie World right now–both pink and white. When you notice one, I hope you’re remember the legend. 

I doubt Christ truly died on a dogwood tree. I don’t know what kind of trees they had in Israel two thousand years ago, but I doubt they have (or had) dogwoods. But it’s a nice story. 

But the real point is, Jesus died, tortured on a cross, bearing the weight of OUR sins, not His. And after three days in the tomb, He rose again. Even death couldn’t contain him, because He is God. 

There’s a song we used to sing every year at Easter. Now you never hear it, but I loved singing it. See if you remember it.

Refrain: Up from the grave He arose; with a mighty triumph o’er His foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

What’s your favorite Resurrection Sunday song? Want to share some of the words?


Christmas Leftovers

A Christmas tree at Santa Claus' Park. In 2005...

I hope your Christmas was everything you dreamed it would be. Mine absolutely was. All my children were home, together, at the same time. All their spouses and spouses-to-be were here. No one cried except me, and it was the good kind of crying.

And I got to see my Dad and all my sibs except #4. I heard from her, though, so the day was p-e-r-f-e-c-t!!!

I had a couple of Christmas memories I didn’t get a chance to share with you before the big day, so I thought I’d shake them out now.

Christmas trees growing up were always cedar trees. The kind that grow like weeds in this part of the world and the government will pay you to get rid of. But as kids, we didn’t know that. We thought they were beautiful.

Besides the fact they poked you if you got too close, lost their needles (I’m not sure what a cedar has in place of leaves, but I’m calling it needles) if you looked at it too hard, and couldn’t hold up an ornament that weighed more than about three ounces (spun glass and tinsel, anyone?) what’s not to love?

After all, they were green and smelled kind of wintery-outdoorsy for about a minute and a half.

So every year, Dad and Granddad would cut several cedar trees for our houses and a few of the neighbors. I always thought they were so kind to share the trees off our land with other people, and at no charge!

When I was about ten or twelve, I found out the really good part was going out to cut the trees. We’d bundle up, pile into a pickup or station wagon, drive out to the farm and walk through the woods until we came to the “perfect” tree.

The first time Dad handed me the axe, I was so surprised, I nearly dropped it. But I stepped right up and chopped that tree right down. I haven’t cut one in years, but it seems like they were very easy to cut down. I think he let #2 cut down the next tree that day.

We never did cut the bottom off and stick it in water so it wouldn’t dry out, like they say you should do if you want your tree to stay “fresh”. We put them in water, and if they wouldn’t drink we figured they weren’t thirsty.

The worst part was undecorating the tree and getting it out of the house when the holiday was over. Not only was the tree scratchy, it kind of exploded when you moved it. Remember in Christmas Story when they go to buy their tree and one leaves a perfect ring of needles?

That’s the way our cedar trees defoliated themselves after weeks in a house with dry air. Rub past it. Thrum! Bump the wall with it. Bam! Shove it through the door. Kaboom!

Clouds of dry cedar needles. They burn well, too.

Other happy (now, anyway) and favorite Christmas memories:

  • The year #4 put “makeup” on Sister Debbie’s brand new doll with an indelible ink pen.
  • Finding gifts months after Christmas that were hidden in Grandmother’s closet and forgotten by Santa.
  • The year Mom’s beautiful bracelet (from a jewelry store!) disappeared from under the tree. When we couldn’t find it, Mama asked #4 if she knew where it was. Oh, yeah! She’d hidden it in the ice cream freezer. Upside down, smashing the bow.
  • Every Christmas, dressing like Mom and my sisters in velvet dresses that Mama made. Sometimes Brother Jeffrey got a matching vest or jacket. For some reason, Dad never sported velvet. 😉 (Not that we minded.)
  • When my kids were one, three and almost eight and they took turns opening presents so they could fight over every gift. (Mostly the one and three-year-old really picked on the eight-year-old.)
  • Hanging of the Greens.
  • All the Family Christmas Eves at Grandmother’s house.
  • Knowing the real Santa Claus (because he knew my boys by sight.)
  • My parents living out the true meaning of Christmas.
  • Knowing the One whose birthday we’ve celebrated for over two thousand years. (No, I don’t remember quite all those years.)


The Reason

I finally got one of our Christmas trees decorated. It’s the tree I put the kitchen sink on.

You know what I mean. This is the one with ornaments friends have given me, kids made me, ones that weren’t really ornaments but I hang them on the tree anyway.

Oh, wait. I have those on both my trees. 😉

Anyway, when I’m decorating this tree (it takes over one end of the family room) I do a lot of praying. I pray for my kids and their spouses as I hang the ornaments that have pictures of them as kids and the ones they made me when they were little.

I have a bell that one of my friends gave everyone at her wedding several years ago that hangs there, so I pray for her, her husband and her two kids.

Gorgeous ornaments I’ve scored playing Dirty Santa at the RWI party each year give me several spunky ladies to pray for. (And sometimes I pray for the ones I stole them from. 🙂 )

I have one from a very special secret sister who passed away the week before my youngest son was born, so I pray for her family when I put it on the tree.

I pray for G-Man when I hang something from a package he gave me, and I pray for my walking buddy when I hang Santa’s underwear. (She swiped them from him.)

I have a sparkly N’awlins mask my friend Marilyn made me one year, so she gets prayed over.

And I have a gorgeous hand made ornament my friend who went through hip replacement before I did. She was so encouraging to me, she gets a pile of “bless hers”.

I have a beautiful dove Sweet Shirley made everyone in the office. Blessings on her, too.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t stop, get on my knees and spend hours praying for each of these people. I just ask the Lord to bless them as I work. And I think about the joy they’ve given me over the years. (And years and, in come cases, YEARS!)

And since no one volunteers to help me put the ornaments on the tree (or take them off) I have lots of quiet time to pray.

He’s the one I should be talking to when I decorate my tree, anyway, right?

After all, He’s the Reason for the Season.


Branching Out

Ever notice that when you have something, that something ends up having you?

Get a car, and you’ll end up spending your time, taking care of upkeep and your dollars filling the tank. Or a dog–she’ll end up ruling the roost. (Happens that way at our house, anyway.)

What about your home? Whether you own your own house, rent one, live in an apartment, mobile home, cabin or a tent, you have to take care of it. (Unless you live under a bridge–in which case you probably won’t be reading this. LOL) Well, our yard decided to crack the whip recently.

 Not the best picture in the world, but that’s our front porch during a snow storm a couple of years ago.

 And this is the fall out from the trees in our yard. We’ve been collecting them for nearly a year, and our pile was looking really good. Seemed as if it grew even when we didn’t add to it. It was well on its way to taking over the neighborhood when it was decided that it couldn’t stay. Since it wouldn’t take off on its own (although the wind tried to blow it to the next yard . . . or county) we lended a hand. Well, G-Man did. 🙂 

He worked hard, loading branches and dead trees. I worked hard preserving the job for posterity.

This kid wandered past on his way home from work, so we talked him into helping. Not really! This is MS, who volunteered to help. Aren’t grown sons wonderful?

Of course, I saved everything for posterity. 🙂

Here’s the monster tree that laid down in a blustery storm last winter. He weighed about two tons, so G-Man dragged him off the trailer using a chain. Hey, my hands were full of camera! LOL.

After the branches were gone, we worked the rest of the day loading up and hauling away leaves. I’m not sure what was going on in that pile, but they multiplied faster than the trees could drop them. 

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Oh, and I won the prize that day. I got a beautiful little seed tick on the back of my knee. And while I didn’t actually get to keep him, I did get a unending itch to scratch for what seemed like forever. 😉

Honestly, I’m so excited about getting to work in my gardens. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen out there in the next few weeks.

I’m hoping for a whole lot of this!


Snow World

Taken in Megeve, France

Image via Wikipedia

You’ll never guess what happened at my house!

It snowed! To be very honest, I kind of like the snow. (Don’t start throwing thing. Please!)

Being a skier since my oldest was a baby, I really don’t mind the snow. (I haven’t skied since I got my new hip, but I’m planning to go back before too long. Maybe.)

This morning, though, the snow-world was extra special. Out my back door is a lot filled with trees. All those trees’ branches and stems were encased in ice. When I opened the door to let Queen Molly out just as the sun was beginning to come up, the world *sparkled!* (It was -2 degrees outside, so she’s lobbying for an indoor potty. I don’t blame her.)

I took these pics with my iPhone. Sorry, I couldn’t get the bling on the trees to show up for you, but just try to imagine it. The sun shining through the clear ice, highlighting each and every twig.  

Cookout, anyone?

Yes, it’s very cold out–below freezing. (In the Pioneer Woman’s hometown, it was nearly 30 below this morning. THIRTY BELOW!)

But this happens so seldom, why not just enjoy it? Take a picture so you won’t forget the beauty, write down the scary low temperature so you won’t forget what year it was that we had that low down temp and celebrate?

You might want to stop and thank God–For that spouse you can snuggle with and stay warm. For that house that needs painting and fixing, but keeps you out of the elements. For friends who care about you and check in on you and pray for you.

Oh! G-Man just looked out. The sun is shining and it’s snowing again. Tiny, tiny flakes, sparkling like glitter as it swirls down.

What a fantastic, gorgeous and amazing world you’ve given us, Lord. I’m just wild about You!


The Grandmother Tree

See anything weird about my tree? (Besides the fact that there are no ornaments on the top where I can’t reach.)

No, it’s not a squirrel. Look again.

You can tell now. Right?

Now you can’t mistake what’s weird. Those are gloves, and I hang them on my tree every year.

All right, maybe it’s not weird weird, but it’s kind of different. Here’s why I do it. My family of five used to live in Grandmother’s house, with all of Grandmother’s stuff and most of our stuff. It was just a little(!) crowded, but we were looking for a house of our own. We didn’t expect to stay long.

While we lived there, I found a box full of Grandmother’s gloves from the ’50s and ’60s, which she’d saved, along with just about everything else she ever owned. (If you look up the definition of my maiden name, I think you’ll find it means never-throws-anything-away.)

When we moved to our own house, I took Grandmother’s gloves with me along with her old ornaments. (Yeah, I got the keep-it gene, too.) A year or two later, G-Man and I spent the weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and we found an antique store that had a lot of old ornaments. We bought them, then had to buy a new tree to put them on. (I didn’t want to mix them with my other ornaments.)

I have a tall ceiling in my living room, so we bought a big, fat tree. When I put on the old ornaments, it was a little sparse. I didn’t want to add new ornaments, didn’t want to add bows, so I decided to add the gloves. (I tacked them together at the wrist so I could hang them from branches.)

I also put hankies on the tree, but they don’t drape as well.

   This is one of Grandmother’s old ornaments. I’m not sure what year she bought them, but they’re plastic so they can’t be too old.

So’s this one–

Looks like Sputnik, doesn’t it? 😉

This isn’t one of Grandmother’s. I bought Merry Christmas because Mom had one like it when I was small. It was my favorite and I always wanted to be the one to put it on the tree.

Now I get to be the one to do it every year. *sniff*

Until Grandmother passed away, she had a huge family party on Christmas Eve for all her kids, grand- and great-grandkids (and anyone else we dragged along.) 

We’d all dress up in our crisp new Christmas clothes and go to their house (next door to my parents) to spend non-working time together and gain weight (she and her offsprings and their wives were all great bakers and candy makers.)

Each family took the Grandmother and Grandad a gift, and for years, Grandmother bought and wrapped a gift for each person in her big family. Later, she gave the adults and any kids she knew wouldn’t keep what she picked for them anyway money, and asked the other kids’ parents to help her shop for their own children.

At the party, she stayed busy the whole night in the kitchen while Grandad swore to any kid who’d listen that he had Santa tied up in the powerhouse. We had so much fun!

Those were beautiful, easy days with very few worries. Thinking about them never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

I have a lot of great Christmas memories, so I can’t say this is my absolute  favorite, but putting up my Grandmother Tree each year helps me keep it fresh.

How about you? Do you like shiny and new and latest or do you keep it and use it forever? In other words, patina or shine?


Christmas Bell

Eleven years ago I went with my sister to the wedding of a friend.

Actually, this girl was more than just a friend. She was one of those people who has been a part of my life all of hers. I’ve known her since she came home from the hospital the first time. She was a funny, rambunctious, outgoing little girl with glorious curly hair that her daddy wanted to keep long.

Trouble was, the little girl was very tender-headed. She’d come over every morning to let my mother  comb out the snarls because she thought her own mama hurt too much. (One of my sisters was very tender-headed and verbal, too, so Mom got to be a real pro at not pulling!)

This girl’s family lived across the street from us. Her older sister was my sister’s best friend and her older brother was my brother’s best friend.

I’ve always been surprised the kids didn’t dig a tunnel under the street from one house to the other so they could get back and forth between the houses without running outside.

Several years ago when my family’s van was hit by a drunk driver and we lost several family members, this girl and her family was there for us. Supporting us, loving us and grieving with us. The company she worked for even made a video about drinking and driving, dedicated to my sister’s daughters who died in the wreck.

 So when she married, I knew I had to go to the wedding. My sister was asked to help out with some things for the reception, and was invited to the rehearsal dinner. I crashed. 8) 

After the wedding, instead of rice or bird seed to toss at the couple, we were given little white bells to ring as the couple left.

When I came home from the wedding, I hung the bell on my tree. Every year since,  that bell has been on our tree.

Anytime I hang an ornament that someone has given over the years on our tree, I say a little prayer for that person and her family. For the past ten years I’ve prayed for this woman and her beautiful family.

Now if I can only get my tree out of the attic, I can make it eleven!

When we get our tree out of the attic, I’ll find the bell, hang it on the tree and once more pray for this beautiful family.