Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts



Taking Stock

This past Saturday I went to an all day writing conference hosted by a local organization called Writers and Books, a non-profit that promotes literary art. I got to chat with some former teachers, spent time with a past fellow student and learned a few things. There were four different sessions going at the same time so you could pick the discussion that  would be of most use to your own situation. I sat in with the agents and learned they get between 25 and 30 query letters a day. That means yours has to be not only good but exceptional to be noticed. In the publishers forum I heard that the first paragraph of the manuscript has to be a truly awesome hook to get the person wanting more. I came away from the day with the conclusion that there are a lot of writers out there; some are pretty good, fewer are really good and even fewer get noticed. (Sort of like in the music business.) I didn’t hang around to pitch my manuscript to an agent because I have now accepted it needs more work than I am willing to put into it. I can still brag I wrote a good novel that my friends like, but it will probably never get published unless I do it myself.  Continue reading “Taking Stock”

Staying in Touch

Are you old enough to remember a time with no computers? When I was a kid we talked with our friends on the telephone, but only if it was a local call. Now I have friends I communicate with more than once a week: in South Africa, Australia, Michigan, Bulgaria, North Dakota, and right here at home in western New York. We all pay a fee to use the internet which connects us as if we were right next door. Learning about how normal every day things are done differently because of global location is fascinating to me. Last week I had a glitch in my computer and I was having a fit about not being able to “talk” to my international friends. I guess I wouldn’t be a good candidate for one of those ‘month in a wilderness cabin for a lot of money promotions.’ Maybe if I could pre-plan it I could make it work, the money sounds good. I digress. Continue reading “Staying in Touch”

A Personal Greeting

I recently took a class on Blogging, because let’s face it, I am still pretty new at this and can always learn something to improve the experience. We were told one of the “rules” is to be consistent so your followers know they can count on you. I also learned there is a difference between a blog someone is hoping to make money with and a personal reflection blog. I think you know mine is the latter.

My goal was to be consistent, but life happens. I have been very busy helping family members this past few weeks, and it isn’t over yet. My sister had a knee replacement, then her husband ended up in the hospital. A tough situation when she can’t drive at the moment. We are all pitching in to help, because we want to. I don’t have a big family, but I do have a close one.

So, I have decided to take a break from my blog until after the first of the year. I want to wish my friends a happy holiday season. I did not say Merry Christmas season because I have a multitude of friends that are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and even Hindu. I love them all. We all celebrate something this time of year so out of respect for all religions I purposely choose to say Happy Holidays.

The picture shows my husband, sitting in my chair, with my blanket over his lap, holding my cat, Useless, while I am away. It was a big deal for all of us. Hubby is helping where he can.

Enjoy the season folks! And may we all have a healthy, prosperous, love filled 2017.


Stuffing, Home-made or Not

Growing up I liked to help my mother make the home-made stuffing for our Thanksgiving turkey. We would save the bread heals for a couple of months letting them dry in a pan in a dark cupboard. (As I think back, I wonder why they didn’t bring us visits from a mouse or two.) The day before Thanksgiving we ground the bread in a hand-crank grinder that we screwed on to the edge of the kitchen table. Cranking it was my job. Mom would cut up celery and onions until they were very fine, then saute them with butter. We also cooked the giblets and the neck meat went into the stuffing. I don’t know what spices she used, but we all had our fill of stuffing for the meal and leftovers too. We never added apples, cranberries, or chestnuts. My father liked his food plain and plentiful.

As an adult I discovered Stove-Top Stuffing. I rarely use a prepared food but I have never come close to the flavor of Stove-Top when trying to make my own. Plus, we can have it any time of year with no fuss or muss. I still don’t add any extra ingredients. This year might be more interesting as I am now following a gluten-free diet. Gluten free bread is readily available in my city, and it always crumbles, so it might be just the thing to make a good stuffing with. I will check with my blogging firends to find a good recipe for a home-made stuffing for our turkey dinner.

May you enjoy Thanksgiving with family and/or friends. Safe travels to you all.



Mickey Mouse’s Birthday

On November 18, we commemorate the birth of that ever lovable mouse that was once a rabbit called Oswald. It was back in 1927 while under contract to Universal Studios that Walt Disney first sketched a floppy eared bunny that later became Mickey Mouse.

From a rabbit named Oswald to a mouse named Mortimer, eventually the squeaky voiced rodent was dubbed Mickey. He flopped in two animated short films, then on November 18, 1928, Mickey’s star was born. The first animation synchronized to music and sound effects, Steamboat Willie premiered in New York.

Within a year, a Mickey Mouse Club popped up in Salem, Oregon. This particular club offered admission as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army with a donation of either a potato or a small toy and a penny. According to a December 22, 1929, Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon) article, $12 and three truckloads of potatoes and toys collected by eager new members.

Remember, the stock market crashed just 20 days before Mickey Mouse was born. That a cute little mouse could bring smiles to the faces of children at an uncertain time really isn’t such a surprise.

Generally, new members joined the club by completing an admission form obtained from a local merchant and attending meetings held during matinees at local movie houses. The price of admission often was reduced for good deeds and report cards. By the end of 1930, the Mickey Mouse Clubs had spread across the country.

A makeover in 1935 by animator Fred Moore gave Mickey the look we are familiar with today. The big eyes, white gloves and the pert little nose. More lovable than ever before, he propelled himself even further into the hearts of children everywhere.

His companions Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto joined him along the way, bringing vaudeville comedy with them.

I took the above history from the National Day of Calendar and shared it because I had never heard any of it. Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse. A trip to Disney World is still on my bucket list.

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.

Buttons, Buttons

Do you remember your grandmother or your mother snipping the buttons off shirts that were headed for the rag basket and then collecting them in jars? Maybe you even played games or strung them for ornaments and crafts.  The buttons were fun to stack into piles, sort by color or size, or scatter/slide across the floor or table making up different games each time.

My mother had a tin of buttons; we called it the button box. And yes, my friends and I got it out every so often and sorted through it just like the above paragraph says. I remember a set of four little blue bows made out of plastic that were buttons. They were so pretty, but I never found a use for them. There were also coat buttons, a couple of buckles that had been saved from  belts, and lots of little white buttons off men’s shirts. To this day I still cut the buttons off of shirts I am discarding, or off clothing I am making a memory quilt out of.  I can’t help myself, they may come in handy some day. Most of the clothing I buy has an extra button attached in case I lose one. I keep each one of those buttons in a specific drawer in a jewelry box my grandson gave me. I have even used one of them once. They are pretty to look at all jumbled up together in a pile and I can picture each piece of clothing they belong to.

When my husband gets dressed in the morning he often grumbles about the size of the buttons on his shirt collar and cuffs. I often remark I don’t know why, with men as top fashion designers, they don’t effect a change in the size of those little tiny buttons. Sometimes I button them for him and I have trouble with them; I’m sure the public would accept the change graciously.

My mother died forty-six years ago today. At the time I didn’t know it was National Button Day. I still think almost daily of the part she played in my life. Now I’ll think of her every time I see a fascinating button or any kind of button for that matter. She would love the fact buttons are now used on purses and as quilt decorations, not just on clothing.




Clean the Fridge

The National Day of calendar says this day is set aside to actually empty your refrigerator in order to wash the walls and shelves. Who does that? Well, I do once in a while, usually before out of town company comes for a visit, kids and family don’t count!

Eleven years ago my step-son was working for the Cal-Berkeley Girls basketball team as their videographer. He became friends with a student named Jon Doss who did the play-by-play on the campus radio station. We met Jon the first time when we visited California. A few years later Jon came to New York to attend the Newhouse School of Broadcasting at Syracuse University. We got to know him a bit better. Then Jon got a job at WHAM, in Rochester, NY, as a sports broadcaster. I got in touch with him and informed him he would not stay in a hotel when he arrived, but would stay with us until he found a suitable apartment. We gladly became his “Rochester parents”; loaning him a car at times, rescuing him when he locked himself out, feeding him dinner on his day off and holidays, making middle-of-the-night trips to the airport and welcoming his wife whenever she was able to be in town.

I’ll get to the refrigerator….one evening while he was visiting, he asked if I had any lime juice. I told him to look in the fridge door. He found a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice but  refused to use it because it was about six years passed the expiration date. With good humor and dismay he asked if I was trying to kill him. Then he proceeded to check most of the bottles in the fridge, throwing out half of them. With a twinkle in his eye, he said something to the effect of, “God, I eat here all the time!” Now generally I serve fresh vegetables, salad and meat. I make my own dressings, and rarely use a box mix or prepared food. He felt better when I pointed that out, then went to the pantry and continued the purge. By this time we were howling with laughter; well I was anyway. I had a lot more shelf space when he got done. The next Saturday at the public market I got him some fresh limes. He did continue to come for meals.

Jon moved back to California this past March to keep Bakersfield up to date on sports news and to live full time with his lovely wife. We miss his company, his humor, his wife, and that occasion when he thinks my fridge needs a clean out.

Pickles: Sweet or Dill

It’s National Pickle Day. Which are your favorite? Sweet or Dill?

I grew up in a big two-story house in the southern tier of New York state. You could walk a large circle downstairs from room to room. In the hall between the kitchen and bathroom there were “things” lined up against the wall; the dog’s water and food bowl, the Charlie Chip can, an extra kitchen table chair, and, a crock of icicle pickles. If I had friends over, it wasn’t unusual to stop at the crock and help ourselves to a snack. Those were the good old days.

My husband’s family has a recipe for dill midgets. They put small cucumbers in jars with a saltwater brine, stuff in some dill and garlic and leave the jars on the counter for ten days before eating. The first time I saw them made I insisted the jars wouldn’t seal unless they were put in a hot water bath, but I was wrong. My sisters make bread-and-butter pickles and they always put them in a hot water bath after filling the jars. I don’t understand why the dills don’t need it.

We buy almost all of our fresh vegetables at a public market. Every year when the cucumbers are in season we walk slowly past looking at them with longing and share our memories of home-made pickles. We rarely make them, and why I don’t think to eat them at home I can’t explain. My sisters still do.

In our city we have a couple of burger joints that still have a condiment bar with things like onions, relish, and pickles for the taking. If we go to the one that has sweet pickle slices we eat them as an appetizer. The dill slices we put right on the burger. Funny how people choose to join flavors to get an enhanced one. Oh, and we always add the onions.

I have a friend that is a health nut and she eats sour things on purpose to make her body more alkaline. Says it helps to stave off disease. She’ll eat a half a lemon if it’s on her plate, but refuses the dill pickle. We tease her and takes turns eating it.

In honor of the day…….Go eat a Pickle!

Thank a Veteran

Today is Veterans Day. I will be spending the evening with a special group of Veterans who are my personal friends. We belong to the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. Following is part of my portfolio that is on our web-sight page:

When we gather, we catch up on each other’s news and then write for about twenty minutes from a prompt sheet that gets our ideas forming. There are usually four prompts provided by one of our facilitators. After writing, each person reads aloud what he or she has written. Members of the group then offer constructive criticism on how to improve semantics. Suggestions are made for extending the piece into an essay, short story, or whatever. That’s the plan.

This is what really happens; most of us have chosen a prompt that requires a walk down memory lane: it can be a poignant memory with a good, or not so good, outcome while in the military; a humorous escapade from childhood or adult life; something a loved one did or experienced; a subject we feel strongly about and why; or sharing what losing a loved one feels like. After each person reads, the others acknowledge that the emotions shared are legitimate, worthy, and acceptable. The military brotherhood understands the range of feelings and the impact of PTSD. It’s a safe place to share. Personally, I always need my box of tissues; that’s just how I’m wired. Funny, I can talk about a situation, but when I read my own writing, I cry. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

The number that attends the group ebbs and flows. There can be as many as twelve people and sometimes only five. Most attendees have served in a branch (or two) of the U.S. military and others have close affiliations to a current or past military member. There are no rules other than to have a desire to write, share, and learn. And, it’s free.

Attending this group for over a year now has given me some remarkable gains — friends, understanding, and knowledge. I am part of the tribe and I belong.

My husband is a veteran, as is the father of my children. I pay close attention to the Veterans who are my Facebook friends and vote the way they do because I trust their judgement. They have paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. May I suggest, today and every day; Thank a Veteran.

Teach Your Child

National Parents as Teachers Day caught my attention because I didn’t know if they meant to recognize those parents who teach in the public/private school system so have lots of “children”, or if it was a plug for every parent to work with their own child, like no one else can. I found it to be the later. I’m glad about that because I believe a parent should ultimately be responsible for guiding, helping, and praising their own child so they can do a better job while in the school system.

When I went to school we had a class for the girls called home economics in which we learned the basics of cooking, sewing, and ironing. The old attitude that those chores were ladies work was still strong. Funny thing is, most of the young people I know now, under the age of 35ish, the guy does the cooking, and hardly anyone sews. We have become a throw away society. I think that’s sad. It’s also a big waste!

Back to the subject. It is proven, the more time a parent spends nurturing a little one, the better they do in school, barring learning disabilities. The more books that are read to them at home, the easier time they have learning to read in school. It’s a healthy cycle, and the bond between parent and child is strengthened.

I’d like to take it another step. I don’t think teens learn in school what they need to get along in this world. Simple things like balancing a check book, how to comparison shop, how to save money and not rely on credit, how to fill out a simple tax return with no special deductions, and even how to budget their time. My suggestion to you parents is the next time you do one of these chores, to include your teenager so they will at least have been shown how. Note: I get they probably won’t be interested….bribe them if necessary! Teach them any chance you get. I applaud you for trying-in advance!

Housewife Equals Stay-at-home-Mom

If you are one of the lucky moms that gets to stay home with your kids…..Please….never say you are just a housewife. You may often feel like the maid, but years from now your children will brag about the fact you were home when they got on the school bus and when they got off. And today in school, their class mates will be jealous that their friend’s mom is home and theirs is not.

I understand the economics of the 21st century. It takes two incomes to even think of making ends meet. And, this category is based on a two parent household; which is less and less common. Another thought, sometimes the second income isn’t enough to make it worthwhile for one parent to work, so they stay home with the little ones. You need to do what is best for your house, then hold your head up high and own it.

In my day as a child, very few mom’s worked. One income used to be enough to get by on, and daycare wasn’t heard of in my little home town. If there was a latch-key kid, the neighbors looked out for them, no money changed hands. Remember, I am talking little hick town, not city. I didn’t grow up in a city.

When I got home from school my mother and her best friend were often doing some elaborate craft project; leather tooling, copper tooling, caning chairs, making Christmas wreaths with real pine boughs. These things took training and practice. I think scrapbooking is an art, but it doesn’t take much training. I digress. Today, if Mom is home she is expected to be  chauffeur, chef, friend and maid. Life was easier in my day, each kid didn’t belong to six groups, and didn’t have an expensive cell-phone in their pocket.

I think I like the old days better, but I’m old. So there you go. My first thought stands, if you are a stay-at-home mom, you are so much more than a housewife. I applaud you.

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