Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts



Trees in My Life – memoir

Irene Waters asked writers to share memoir about trees. Following is the link if you want to join the fun. She asks for our generation and location so we can compare differences.

Trees: Times Past

Baby Boomer from rural western New York State.
Currently I look out our family room window and delight at the action of many different kinds of birds that visit the feeders. The Niger seeds and suet hang from a crabapple tree. There is a “fake tree” everyone perches on made from large branches stuck into the hole in a patio table (where the umbrella would go) and a large cedar that wiggles constantly because there are so many sparrows and other birds perched in/on it. Keeping the feeders full is a daily job, but the entertainment is worth every penny the seed costs.
In the 1950’s and 60’s my parents owned an acre of pine trees that my grandfather had planted to sell for Christmas trees. As the youngest of four girls I can remember going “out to the woods” to cut our Christmas tree. They were not trimmed like today so looked a bit scraggly and were soon to big to be used. Then the trees became the play area for the town children. Both boys and girls had separate forts. Our mother’s would scold us for getting pine pitch on our clothes.
From my sister Paula… “I think Tilley (our cat) would spy on me when I climbed trees and checked on bird nests. Then they would get robbed!!
Joanne and I played, for hours, out in the back left corner. There was a pussy willow tree there we cut branches from each year.
I knew the whole area very well and ventured farther out back, across fields (don’t know who owned them) and on into Uncle Louie’s woods where he had an old sugar shack. On one of my walks I saw a beautiful Snowy Owl. Dee (Our dachshund) would go with me and dig up baby mice and voles, and eat them!
One warm afternoon, Joanne came looking for me and asked, ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE?’ I was lying on the ground, watching the clouds float by and listening to birds and bugs singing…… near a pile of fence row trees that had been bulldozed up to make more space for growing crops. Dee loved snooping all through the brush and would chase rabbits, howling as they scooted away, because she couldn’t keep up.”
Trees have always been an important part of my life, like good friends.
Thank you Irene for the walk down memory lane.

Protect Your Ears

After a day of ice skating in the cold, 15-year-old Chester Greenwood came up with an idea to keep his big ears warm. Partnering with his grandmother who sewed tufts of fur between loops of wire, Chester soon had a working model of earmuffs. On March 13, 1877, he was awarded a patent. He was a prolific inventor, but this is the invention he is most known for. For almost 60 years, Greenwood manufactured these ear protectors, which provided jobs for the people in the Farmington, Maine area which is now known as the “Earmuff Capital of the World.” [courtesy National Day of Calendar] Continue reading “Protect Your Ears”

Be a Tree Hugger

Today is National Love a Tree day. Trees provide more than just beautiful landscapes and a shady canopy on a sunny day.  They play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate as well as give us oxygen. Large quantities of carbon are stored in their tissues as trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

That’s the adult version of why we should love trees. I think my grandson’s idea is better. He has a maple tree in his back yard that is the perfect climbing tree. The large branches are close enough to the ground that he and his friends can ascend easily. There are enough large branches that three or four boys can be in the tree at the same time and they each have their own spot to sit. When it gets quiet in the yard, I have learned to look up. They haven’t run off to one of the other boys yards, they are usually up in the tree. It always makes me smile.

I lived in Washington state when the tree huggers and ornithologists shut down logging for a time in order to save the habitat of the spotted owl. I’m a big animal lover but they almost killed the economy of the town and livelihood of the people where the logging companies had their headquarters. Personally I think people and jobs are more important than animals, but we don’t want to start an argument.

Think a second about the Christmas tree. Our winter would sure be drab without the holiday lights adorning pine trees; and in the south and west, palm trees.

It is the week of the Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY, and the Dogwood Festival in Dansville, NY. I know, lilacs are bushes, but I can drive down almost any street in my area right now and see the flowering trees and bushes in bloom. It is a beautiful energizing sight and smells good too. We also have to thank trees for their yummy fruit, tasty nuts, and how they are the homes to so many animals.

When you get around to thinking about all the reasons trees are important, it really is fitting they have a special day for some extra love.


Bucket List Vacation

It’s National Read a Road Map Day. I love how these days occur where I can fit in a subject I want to talk about. A few of you noticed my blog was missing last week. That was a big compliment. I wasn’t in front of my computer because I was using a city map to walk the streets of New Orleans; mainly, the French Quarter, a bucket list vacation.

My husband and I like music. I prefer country and we have had the privilege of walking Broadway in Nashville a couple of times. Loved it. My husband prefers jazz so last week we walked the French Quarter and are ready to go back as we didn’t get our fill of Dixieland Jazz with brass instruments in the bands.  When we checked into the Royal Sonesta hotel on Bourbon Street they gave us a city map. We didn’t go anywhere without it. By the third day we pretty well had the streets in the Quarter learned, but then we walked to the World War II museum that was in the Arts district. I will admit, we liked our vacation so well, we have been talking about retiring there and dreaming about real estate.

Last night on NCIS, the team’s phones were hacked so they couldn’t use the GPS on them. Gibbs asked them if they knew how to read a map. We had to chuckle as we had just relied on a map for a week.

We also used to ride a Harley and one of the fun things we did is go on road rallies. The map we got was more like a written list of landmarks we had to follow to get to check points. We usually did it in the locale I was raised in and often arrived at our final destination in the top 10% of the group. A feather in our cap (helmet).

Reading a road map, whether landmarks one is familiar with, city street names one can’t pronounce, or following interstates seems to be a lost art among the young. I’m glad I know how to do it. And, if you like music and people watching, New Orleans French Quarter is a great place to do both. Take lots of single dollar bills as everyone expects a tip, even the guys that drape beads around your neck.

Let’s Go “Mudding”

Note: This is not a paid advertisement for Jeep. 

Have you ever been “mudding”? If you like communing with nature, driving (or riding) over rough trails, don’t  mind getting dirty, and have a sense of adventure, I recommend “mudding” in a 4 X 4. Yes, you need that four-wheel drive to get over or through some of the terrain in the mountains. Hills work if you don’t have mountains near by.

In my younger days, I lived in Tacoma, Washington. I worked mornings, so had the afternoons to drive up into the mountains, to downtown Seattle or to the coast.  All were just an hour away, in different directions. I had a Chevy-Luv pick-up myself and loved to drive the relatively flat, but steep, logging roads near Mt. Rainier. I would find a place to get my baby truck off the road, so a logging truck could get by if necessary, then just sit on my tailgate and let the wilderness view calm my inner self. Nothing like it.

Sometimes I went with a friend that had a larger pick-up. He knew where the trails were and he would drive carefully over tree roots, across small streams, and even over boulders. It was a very bumpy, but breathtakingly beautiful ride. I didn’t treat my truck like he did his, but then, he could fix his if something happened.

A new guy started working where I did that had a Jeep 4 X 4 . I wasn’t shy then, or afraid of much. I asked him if he went “mudding” and could I go too. He gave me an odd look, as he was quite a bit younger, but said, “Yeah. When do you want to go?” I don’t remember the timing, but I sure remember the experience. We went the day after a good rain, and instead of avoiding the water filled ruts on the logging roads, he drove straight into them, as fast as he dared. Then he looked for some rougher terrain to prove his jeep could make it through the mud without getting stuck. The thought process was like a child stomping in mud puddles to see how high the water will fly. And of course, the jeep was left dirty as a sign of a successful “mud run”. I must say, it was exhilarating. I didn’t pay as much attention to the scenery, but I could describe the moment of fear when the windshield was blackened by dirty water and you couldn’t see where you were going for a second.

Currently my old back wouldn’t be able to handle the bumpiness of a good “mudding” day, but I sure have a wonderful memory of the time I got to do it. I highly recommend doing it at least once, in a Jeep 4 X 4 if possible.

It’s National Umbrella Day. When I first see the name of a day, sometimes immediate thoughts come to mind. Other times, I get a cup of coffee and think about things, then I read what the National Day of Calendar web-site tells me and I start seeing images to write about. It’s a process.

The calendar reminded me of wonderful movies in which an umbrella played a major part; “Singing in the Rain” and “Mary Poppins”. If you start picturing the use of a parasol for sunny days, I know the list would grow quickly. “Gone With the Wind” and “Downton Abbey” were the first two I thought of.

I lived in the Seattle-Tacoma area for fourteen years. And no, it doesn’t rain all the time. Often times, it’s just a light mist. We always used to say you could tell a local, because they wouldn’t carry or use an umbrella. I now live in Rochester, NY and we have more cloudy days than Seattle does. I’m not sure about the actual rainfall; if it compares or not. I have an umbrella in my car, but it rarely gets unfurled.

Let’s not leave out how film makers and photographers use umbrellas. I just learned they have a reflective under coating that diffuses the light in order to get a better picture. Interesting. I thought the curve of the umbrella did the job.

Whether you use an umbrella to ward off rain or shine, today is the day to thank the middle-eastern countries for inventing them over 4000 years ago and China for waterproofing them.

Now let’s bring it back home, what would we do without the umbrella on our patio table?


Splashing is Fun

The National Day of Calendar doesn’t explain when Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day was started, by whom, or what for, but admit it, if you see a child splashing in a puddle it makes you smile. There is  something fun and freeing when you see or do it.

Way back when, my best girl chum was a classmate named Barb. We must have been seven or eight. She would come home on the school bus with me on occasion. Our favorite pastime was making “secret” mud holes in the defunct garden, so it must have been late October when we did it. Our goal was to have one of my older sisters step in it. I don’t remember that ever happening. One time we didn’t mark the booby trap and Barb stepped in it with her school sneakers on. My mother was not very happy with us and did her best to clean the sneaks. I am still laughing that it was one of us that stepped in the mud.

I picked my grandson up from school yesterday. There was sloppy snow near the exit door of the school. I can’t tell you how many fifth grade boys had to stomp in that slop. They looked at the student next to them to see if they had splashed them, then laughed if they were successful. I smiled inwardly.

When I first started dating my husband we were at a summer picnic. The weather was as warm as could be but it was pouring. We decided we might as well dance in the rain. Our friends thought we were acting like children. Oh well. It’s a great memory and we had fun doing it.

I’m sure most of you have seen the video of the toddler “walking” the dog. The one where the dog is standing there, the leash lies on the ground, and the child is stomping in puddles. It’s a good thing some parts of us never grow old no matter how many birthdays we celebrate.

It’s supposed to rain today in my neck of the woods in New York state. I’m glad there will be some puddles to splash in.


Go Take a Hike

The National Day of calendar explains this day is set aside to get outside and take a walk in the natural beauty that surrounds us. I like to do that, especially to relieve stress and get away from it all for a while.

I looked up the meaning of hike and had to chuckle at its diverse definitions. One can hike themselves up onto a ledge, hike up their pants or hike the cost of something they want to sell. I like the thought the above picture imparts the best; taking a walk.

My sisters and I like to go for a hike along old railroad beds in the springtime in order to see the new wild flowers welcoming us into another growing season. One sister knows most of their scientific names and the other two know their common names. I just know they are pretty and marvel that they have names.

When I was young, my aunt and I liked to take a walk in the new snow, you know, when the first inch just covered the roadways. It was so peaceful and quiet in our little one-block town. We would talk quietly about the people that we could see in each house that had lights on; not in a negative way, but the current family news. We knew everyone’s name, and usually the dog and cat’s too.

I have also on occasion used the phrase when I was disgusted with someone, “Go take a hike!” Now the young people say, “I kicked that person to the curb.” I think our line sounded less drastic, because their wasn’t an actual act involved, just a command.

Times change, slang meanings change, the world changes, but taking a hike will always be a good way to enjoy the great outdoors. I use the time to reflect on life, think of what to say in my next blog, and drink in the colors of the landscape.

National Ride With Wind Day

This day was set aside to recognize the first human powered flight, a cyclist in the basket of a glider.

The town of Dansville in western New York state is located in the basin of a large natural valley.  It’s location makes it an ideal spot for gliders, which to the locals, are so common we barely notice.  Labor Day weekend is another story.  That’s when the New York State Festival of  Balloons takes place.  It is a sight to behold; one of those things you could read about all day, but when you see it, it’s awesome.  Check out their web site for details.

balloon festival

When my husband and I were first married, we got up at 4 am to drive the hour south so we could watch the daybreak balloon launch.  Unfortunately when we got there, it was too windy to fly.  We had breakfast at a local restaurant, drove  home and went back to bed!  Years since we have purposely  driven down Rt. 390  so we could see the colorful balloons in the sky in the early evening.  There are many balloon festivals all over the country if you haven’t seen one, I recommend it as an event for the family.

The page describing this day suggested if all else fails, flying a kite would be a good way to commemorate the date.  The best success I ever had with a kite was on the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Another good spot was in Rantoul, Illinois,  in a big flat field.  Oh how many years ago those experiences were.


National S’mores Day

The origin of this tasty snack is credited to the entrepreneur Alec Barnum. However, the first recorded version of the recipe can be found in the 1927 publication of Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.   Even though the Girl Scouts were not the first ones to make s’mores, Girl Scout groups describe them in their reports as early as 1925.  Earlier recipes used the name “Some Mores”.  It is unclear when the name was shortened to “S’mores”.

What ever the name, I hope everyone on earth has had a form of this treat at least once.  Maybe even once a summer.

I know the most common place to have s’mores is around a campfire.  That’s great if you like mosquitos and camp fires.  When my kids were in their early teens we got all the ingredients and cooked the marshmallows over candles in the living room.  I thought too late about what the black smoke would do to the ceiling.  Not a good idea in a hotel either.  It sets off the smoke alarm!  Not telling where I tried that one.

A couple years ago we were visiting my husband’s niece in Cleveland.  Her husband made her a s’more by cooking one of those new huge marshmallows over the flame on their gas stove; after their boys had been pronounced fully asleep.  She proved to us, no matter how old you are, dessert is a good thing, and there is no lady like way to eat s’mores.  She ended up with marshmallow on her nose and fingers.  If it hadn’t been bedtime we would have joined her.

I never went to Girl Scout camp, but we had s’mores at 4-H camp and at church camp.  In those days there were only three true ingredients: graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows.  Today substitutions are encouraged, most of which have to do with peanuts.  Use a peanut butter cup, or add peanut butter or Nutella.

Which ever way you choose to enjoy this delicious, messy treat, make sure summer doesn’t get by you without having one.




National Root Beer Float Day

This is another one of those days that there were too many subjects I could write about.   So we’ll start with a couple of sentences enveloping the topics.

After playing disc golf, wiggle your toes through a lunch of a Jamaican Patty with mustard on it while drinking a root beer float.  Then, freshen your breath so you can enjoy a glass of mead later.

It’s interesting when I look at the National Day of ………calendar.  Many of these days have been designated for less than twenty years.  They were created to bring awareness to a specific thing by a specific group; often times for advertising purposes.  Fresh breath is about keeping your teeth/mouth clean.  Mustard Day is an annual festival in Middleton, Wisconsin, where the mustard museum is.  The profits from the festival help organizations in that town.  And just so you know, a Jamaican would probably never put mustard on a meat pastry, but it sounded good in the sentence.  We have a Jamaican friend that owns a roofing business near us.  When he stops into the office my husband works at, he often brings patties.  We enjoy them as a treat for supper.

Disc golf is new on the scene.  One of our cousin’s adult sons is very into this type of fun exercise.  During the seven feet of snow in Boston a couple of years ago, he posted pictures on Facebook of himself and friends throwing Frisbees into garbage cans, from a good distance of course.  They could see no reason to stay indoors when there was a game to be played outdoors.  I hope they had a warm fireplace to wiggle their toes in front of afterwards.  And knowing them there was a little alcohol to celebrate with.  That’s where the mead fits in.  “Mead has been known to be called the “ancestor of all fermented drinks.”

So what happened to the root beer float?  If you are as old as I am, you remember the car hop days when servers on roller skates brought your burger (with mustard), fries, and root beer float to you on a tray that hooked onto your car when the window was rolled down.  Yes, we rolled the window down with a crank handle.  I’m not sure why the root beer float is more common, than say, a coke float, but it is in my neck of the woods.  I find it refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.

National Hammock Day

I wonder if everyone has had the pleasure of laying in a hammock.  On TV they make it look so inviting in the advertisements, especially with a cold drink in hand, under a shady palm tree without an apparent care in the world.  Maybe it’s the cold drink that takes the cares away!

We had a hammock on our side porch when I was in grade school.  It didn’t look like the flat ones of today.  It looked like an accordian and was made of very heavy canvas.  You pulled apart the folds and sat in the middle.  Sometimes your butt hit the floor is you flopped into with too much force.  Then you held the far side out and lay down.  It wasn’t really comfortable for a little kid, because it tended to fold back around you.  It was more fun if there were at least two of us in it, and another to push it with all their might.  When it stopped moving we would thrust our arms into the air, pretending we were butterflies emerging from a cacoon.  We didn’t have a lot of cares or responsibilities at that age.

This summer I am keeping  my grandson company on Thursdays, I look out the window and see a hammock.  I never have been much of a sun person, and it doesn’t even tempt me considering the hot temperature.  Besides, I sure wold hate to try to sit on it and end up flipped over onto the ground.


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