Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts



Thank an Author

This day was originally designated to thank the many authors that you lean on for entertainment, a bit of learning and for filling many hours with new friends and characters you can’t forget.

I have a new reason to thank an Author. In my quest to become a published author myself, I have joined a local writing group whose members are already published. Each month they have a speaker that teaches a fundamental of the writing process. One such talk was about “building the world” or location of the story and the characters will come automatically. I tried it, it works! Another talk was about build your hero and heroine so you know how they will act in a situation. How do you do that? Say you name your hero Jim Bob because the story is set years ago in the Tennessee hills. If you plan ahead on paper his looks, personality, religion, birth position, education, whether he likes animals, etc., as you write about the situations Jim Bob finds himself in, you will know how he would act. It really is that easy. I learn something useful at every meeting.

On a personal level, one of the authors has helped me learn some key ways to shorten my sentences while at the same time making them more active. It was a “trick” I knew nothing about, yet is so simple once someone shows you how to do it. I am indebted to B.L. She has quickly become a friend and mentor.

The fact authors want to help other authors be successful by helping them learn how to write better has made me thankful in a whole new way. I am now reading their books with a new appreciation. It is a big rush to be able to tell my family and friends, “The lady that wrote this book is a friend of mine.”

The next time you read a book by your favorite author take a minute to think about who helped him/her become a better writer and maybe even send them a thank you note for a story that touches your soul.


Day of the Deployed and the Family too

National Day of the Deployed honors all of the brave men and woman who have been deployed, are sacrificing, or have sacrificed their lives to defend our country. The day also acknowledges their families who are separated from them during deployment and the sacrifices they make in order for their family members to serve our country.

WOW! A military recognition day that also honors the family left at home.  I’ve been in that position and it isn’t easy!  You function as a single parent the best you can (and get used to being in charge) then your spouse returns home, and thinks he is in charge.  It’s always an adjustment to relearn how to share the responsibilities of the family and household.  Today, it’s almost as common to have the Mom gone instead of the Dad.  I would guess that’s even more difficult if the separation is for a long time.

When my nephew was deployed during Dessert Storm, I sent him the Sunday comics each week.  I got more than one letter of thanks, and it is still mentioned at the holiday dinner table.  He laughs, “If I had been a drinking man, I would have charged rent on them.  As it was, there became a pecking order of who got to read them when I was finished.  They got passed along until they were tattered.”  Those funny papers were a touch of American life and home for the guys deployed.

I recently attended a church service where a young man was recognized before being deployed to Iraq the following week.  He told us he would be back in a year, if all went well.  I hate to admit, when we said good-bye to Dillon, we were all thinking, I hope you do come back.  It made sending him off a little harder to do.

These days the deployed can communicate much easier with home via cell phones and Skype.  I thought it would make deployment easier on both sides, but a good friend, a Captain in the Army, told me it makes it more difficult for some, because the parent at home shares all the troubles (car won’t start, mother-in-law didn’t send a birthday card, child is acting out because they don’t understand where Dad/Mom is) and the person deployed can’t do anything from so far away except feel guilty for not being there. As I said, it isn’t easy.

If you know someone who is deployed, may I suggest you take the time to send them a card or stop by their house and ask the family if they need something done.  I promise, they will appreciate knowing someone recognizes the sacrifice they are making for the U.S.A.

Mother-in-law Day

It’s National Mother-in-law Day.  Some people have the good fortune to get one they like and some don’t.  It’s a lot of work to make a marriage last, then you add trying to get along with the spouse’s family and anything can happen.  Sometimes a bond can take a while to develop, other times it’s obvious from the start there will never be one.  I say, keep trying if there is some hope.  It can add to the happiness of your marriage.

I consider myself to be a good mother-in-law for one main reason.  My kitchen is usually quiet, clean and not overheated by the stove being in use all day on almost every holiday and family birthday.  How can that be?  Because I don’t care what day we eat turkey, or open presents; it could be two weeks early or a few days late, just as long as it happens.  My adult kids spend all the holidays and sometimes their birthdays with their significant other’s family because there are some mothers-in-law that have rigid rules of attendance.  I’m proud to not be one of them.

I know a family that is having a major discussion because the family reunion date picked for 2017 falls on the birthday of a two-year old.  I say the parents and grandparents come to the reunion so everyone can finally meet the baby, then have a second birthday party with the other side of the family a week later. The baby won’t know what is happening and won’t remember it anyway. But, I am not in charge, so shall keep my opinion to myself, unless you count my talking about it here.  Setting the date for any large group of people is a thankless job.  It always falls on a date that upsets someone.  I mention this tidbit because it’s an example of a stringent date keeper.

We could get carried away and mention shopping on Thanksgiving in the U.S.  Personally I like that the stores are open because every time I hear an advertisement about being home with the family I know I’m not going to be. I would rather have my family home on a different day when I don’t have to share them with two other houses they must appear at so they don’t upset someone or hear about it later.

I’ll toot my own horn about this particular aspect of being a good mother-in-law and hope even if you don’t agree with my view point, you’ll understand it works well for me.


Recognition Goes a Long Way

I’m not quite sure why they chose the above picture for Get to Know Your Customers Day.  I would have taken a picture of someone paying for something in a small retail store. Hopefully you have a good memory of a local Mom and Pop store where your parents shopped and the owners called them by name, or you now have a friendly coffee shop where you don’t have to tell the Barista how you want your drink prepared or a bartender that sets up your beer as you walk in the door.

I’m a name nut.  I can’t remember who sings what song, but I can probably tell you all the names of my high school class mates.  Mind you, there were only 72 in my graduating class.  I can even tell you which teachers were my older sister’s favorites.  When my children were dating, they didn’t tell me about a new interest without being able to tell me who she/he was related to in our area because they knew I would ask.  My sisters call to ask about family connections from our original hometown when they can’t remember.

I worked in a quilting fabric store for thirteen years.  I could greet about half of the people that shopped there by first name.  It’s easy for me and I believe it made each customer feel welcome and special.  My boss might tell you I did too much personal talking with them.  I might agree with her, but I bet most of them aren’t greeted that way now that I no longer work there.  In fact, I had another of the employees tell me one day I made the rest of them look bad because I did use first names.  When I think of that comment it makes me sad.

My memory is not just about names.  I hear from friends and family that they enjoy what I share here; I write about people, passions and experiences that have become part of my life, some are pretty old.

The big box stores and on-line shopping have taken personal customer service out of our shopping experiences.  And we all know, getting decent customer service via telephone is often unsatisfactory.  There is an answer.  Shop local, in privately owned stores.  Introduce yourself to the owner and let them know they are meeting your needs.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get to know each other’s names.  I promise they will appreciate getting to know their customer.

Grief Can Do That To You

Today is National Grouch Day. Sesame Street has Oscar the Grouch and he is constantly complaining, about something; anything. He’s a glass-half-empty kind of fellow. The picture above shows a definitely unhappy child: maybe he’s hungry; he didn’t get to have a new toy; he doesn’t know when he’ll see his Mom again because she left in her military uniform; or his father is crying and he’s never seen him do that after talking on his cell.  The reason for the tears: he just found out his favorite uncle died.

My husband and I spent the last couple of days at the funeral of his cousin Jerry. The first of fifteen cousins in his generation we had to say good-by to. It can be frightening to think our age naturally puts us in line for it to happen more often and closer to home. The fear of the unknown date can cause you to get grouchy; the riled emotions and sadness can cause you to get grouchy; trying to find a funeral home in a big, unfamiliar city can cause you to get grouchy; and so can the noise being made by other guests in the hotel you are trying to sleep in.  It’s an emotional time for everyone involved, especially for the spouse left behind that has to figure out what the “new normal” is going to be.

Jerry had been sick for a long time. Sometimes you couldn’t even tell there was cancer in his system; other times, you didn’t think he would last another week. So when the end finally came, it was not a surprise. How much it hurts was a surprise. We all said it was a blessing he was no longer in pain. We added, he wasn’t here long enough to suit us.

I’ve been to far too many funerals already. I’ll share with you that both of my parents funerals were like a party week. The relatives came, the neighbors, the friends. People we hadn’t seen in a long time made contact with calls, cards, and flowers. It was festive. The pain set in afterwards when the house was quiet, and the company disappeared. Then the mind asks, “What just happened?”

Jerry’s funeral was like that. Cousins converged on Baltimore from Chicago, Boston, Knoxville, TN, Rochester, NY, and Miami. Friends came from next door, Washington, DC and Maine. We laughed about some memories and cried over others. We hugged each other; we said I love you. One of the family members didn’t speak to me and it really hurt my feelings. I thought he was mad at me, but then I found out he didn’t talk to hardly anyone. Grief can do that to you when you aren’t ready to face it yet.

I know this isn’t my usual type post, and there are lots of other reasons to be a grouch, but this reason is on my mind. The National Day of calendar suggests spending time with a grouch on this day and give them a reason to smile or pass them one of your own. It may help them be less of a grouch, and just maybe help them to heal from the pain of loss.



Visit your Child’s School?

The titles on the National Day of Calendar can evoke much different thoughts than what the day was actually set up to recognize.  When I saw the title, Take Your Parents to Lunch, I had visions of my adult children calling to invite me to meet them for lunch, during their work day.  That would be possible for me because I’m retired, and I could meet them at their place and time of choice; in my son’s case, an hour from my house.

Alas, when I read the description, it is meant for younger parents to visit their child’s school and go to lunch with them in the cafeteria.  Mostly to learn about the process and see what a good job the school does feeding their child.  I’m a dinosaur, parents didn’t visit us in school when I went to grade school.  [And we didn’t text all day either.]  I do know a lady who had lunch with her daughter every day in school through fifth grade.  That girl just graduated from high school and choose to go to  Arizona for college.  That’s a mighty long way from New York state. None of us wonder why except her Mom.  I guess you can be too involved.  I think the term for that now is a “helicopter mom”.  It’s not always easy to find a good balance that fits the mother’s and child’s emotional needs.

Sitting here, I can’t remember ever eating out with my father.  Stopping for ice cream, yes.  The only time I can remember doing it with my mother was at a church dinner.  But, we lived in rural New York state.  At that time, fast food places were only in the cities, and we didn’t go to restaurants unless it was a very special occasion.  Now, they are both gone, so I can’t take them to lunch.  I’m jealous of people my age that still have their folks to talk to and spend time with.

I’ll suggest you make this day work for you the way that is best for your circumstances.  Or maybe, borrow someone else’s parents to take out, just because you can.  Or call your own kids, and invite them out, without a reason.  Often times we don’t realize how fast time goes.  Take advantage while you can to take every opportunity to go to lunch with your children, or parents, or cousins, or neighbors, or special friends.



Not an Ordained Rabbi

Temple Beth-El in Hornell, NY, had a celebration to recognize its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places on Sunday, October 9, 2016.  The building itself  is not impressive to look at.  It is “Minimal Tradition” in style, and small compared to what the mind thinks of when it hears the word temple, or synagogue.  As we learned in the dedication yesterday, it’s not what the building looks like, it’s the people who make its heart beat that are important.

There were thirteen of my husband’s family there  because their grandfather was instrumental in making the congregation a thriving entity back in the ’40s when there was a large contingency of Jewish people living in Hornell.  Today, that is not the case.  The Temple is only open for the fall High Days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Since the year 2000, the services have been led by a teacher from a Jewish school in Washington, D.C.  We call him our visiting Rabbi, but he will tell you, “I’m not ordained.”  We still call him Rabbi out of respect and love.  My husband and I had the privilege of having him stay in our home Saturday night and taking him to the event on Sunday.  We do not keep a kosher home and I was concerned about what to feed him.  Somewhere in the conversation we remembered from sharing other meals with him, that he doesn’t eat meat, and he loves fruit.  I relaxed a little.

The  question in our modern world of travel is always, will the plane be on time.  He was supposed to arrive at 11:30pm Saturday evening.  Well, that turned into 3:00am Sunday morning.  When we got back to the house, Paul had a meal of fresh fruit, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts and three peanut butter cookies.  He did join us for a cheese omelet late Sunday morning.

The celebration was a HUGE success.  The Temple was full to almost overflowing.  A sight to behold when you know what it looks like on a high day.  A few people did a lot of work to make the registration happen.  We are proud to be a part of the heart beat.  So what’s the point of all this?  Our cousin took our “Rabbi” back to D.C after the service. Before they left, he whispered to me, “What do I feed him?  Can I stop at a restaurant?”  I laughed, relieved to know I wasn’t the only one with that question.  I had packed them a bag with fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and cookies, but I meant it as a snack.  I’ll have to find out if they stopped someplace.

We appreciate that Paul leads our services every fall.  You ought to hear how fast he can speak Hebrew!  [Note; he looks nothing like the above picture and doesn’t wear a collar.]


We Eat That on Purpose

Do you like moldy cheese?  Not the kind that isn’t supposed to be discolored, but that beautiful blue color we look for on purpose to add to the Italian dressing on a tossed salad; you know, that costs anywhere from seventy-five cents to almost two dollars extra in a restaurant.  My husband and I do.  We also go to the public market to get a good deal on five-year old extra sharp cheddar cheese.  Yum.  My kids call it “stinky feet” cheese!

One advantage when you like moldy blue cheese comes when you are at a large party at a convention center or other large party place. It’s usually the cheese on the big cheese and cracker tray that is chosen least, so you can get your fill without a fight.  The only problem is it sometimes leaves a sour lingering aftertaste in your mouth.  The solution to that is another glass of good wine.  After all, it is a party.

I’m an old-fashioned wife, I still get up every work day morning with my husband and make his lunch while he showers.  It is always a salad; we buy those ingredients at the public market too.  The topping changes each day.  It could be tuna, beef, salami, left over Chinese, herring, salmon, chicken, whatever protein I can come up with.  The dressing is most often a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  The cheese is alternated, Blue one day, and sharp cheddar the next.  He’s not a fussy man, and will eat most anything, that’s a blessing.  The only time I hear a complaint is when I forget the moldy cheese, or the onions!

Chasing a Little White Ball

If my father were still alive and I showed him the above picture, he would say it looked like a cow pasture.  It does, sort of, compared to Augusta National in Georgia.  I’ll add a picture to show you. Now that’s a golf course!


Do I play?  No, but watching is something I used to do with my Dad, and I now do with my husband.  When visiting my son and his family, he puts golf on the TV so we stay longer.  What is the obsession with chasing a little white ball?  I don’t have a real answer, but for me it would have to do with being outside, admiring the beauty of the course, the serenity of the location and the wildlife that would live there.  I think it also has something to do with camaraderie, a few cold ones, and trying to beat your all time lowest score or that of your buddies.  You know, like trying to beat yourself on a video game or at solitaire.

We just lost Arnold Palmer.  His followers were called Arnie’s Army.  His biography is one of my all time favorite reads.  He and his wife owned a golf course and had 30 year plus employees.  That’s a sign of a good boss.  His competition with Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Gary Player were as much fun to watch as Tiger, Phil, Rory and Bubba are.  I age myself.  Tiger is already out of the picture and four years from now, Phil will be able to go to the senior tour.

The Ryder Cup finished on Sunday with a win for the U. S. for the first time in eight years. That is a team competition between U. S. players and European players.  Every two years it is played here and then two years later someplace in Europe.  It is meant to enhance patriotism, be fun but still respectful, and make the guys work as a team instead of individuals.  [When it’s on, we don’t do anything else.  Well, we did go to my granddaughter’s birthday party yesterday, but we watched it there while watching the presents being opened.]  The costumes in the crowd are noteworthy, and the rowdiness is a little out of control.  I would love to see it in person just once, but you get the whole picture if you watch it at home.

In our area, during the golf season there is a fund-raising tournament on almost every course on every Monday.  It doesn’t matter how well you play as long you can donate money to the cause.  I volunteer at a couple of tournaments and enjoy the day among the people and the lush green lawns and beautiful flowers and trees.  The little white ball I leave to the others.


Do Only Girls Name Their Cars?

It’s National Name your Car Day.  After seeing the picture supplied, I asked my husband if guys name their vehicles like females do.  He said, “Yes, usually a girl’s name.”  Funny, I call my vehicle a girls name, even if it’s a small pick-up (in my past) or an SUV.  The name?  Becky.  I had wanted to name my daughter that after her late grandmother.

Way back when, the early ’60’s, my mother had a hand choke, stick shift Ford Falcon.  She never did get the hang of how far out to pull the hand choke or when to push it in.  She often flooded the engine and we would go back in the house and wait till she could try again, about twenty minutes.  Once she got it going, shifting was another headache.  That clutch was her nemesis for as long as we had the car.  She never became proficient in letting the clutch out and giving it enough gas at the right time.   She called the car Buckin’ Jenny.  The seats of that car were the normal upholstery fabric.  I don’t know whether it was Mom’s, Dad’s, or the salesman’s suggestion to have heavy clear plastic covers added.  I hated those covers.  In hot weather my skin stuck to them and in cold weather they never warmed up no matter how long you sat in the same spot.  I don’t miss that car, but I sure remember it.  Mom’s next car was a Candy Apple Red Ford LTD.  We called that one Candy.  It was big, plush, and an automatic.

When my older sisters started driving Dad came home with a huge, yellow and black Lincoln with tail fins.  I think it was a 1959 model.  His thought process was if they got in an accident, they wouldn’t get hurt.  Mom called the car, “Goldy”, but my sisters friends called it “Bumblebee”.  It was recognized throughout the area so my sisters didn’t get away with sneaking anywhere.

My husband and I gave up the Harley when his back and knees gave out.  We now have a six speed, Mini Cooper Convertible.  When we picked it out, there was a blue, white and red one lined up in a row.  We pointed at the red one at the same time saying we wanted something fun.  I’ve never had a car that handles corners like this one does, and it really scoots along with little effort.  I enjoy driving a stick; I’m proud that I can.  We call it, “The Toy”.  Maybe in honor of National Name Your Car Day, I’ll go give it a bath.

Double Bubble and Baseball

Today is National Mulled Cider Day.  I had intended to write about that yummy, refreshing cider that you simmer on the stove with orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other spice of your choice to fill the house with scents of fall and then enjoy the hot spicy flavor as it trickles down your throat, maybe accompanied by a fried cake doughnut, but Chewing Gum has much more interesting facts.

When I was a kid we had to choose between Double Bubble or Bazooka if we wanted a chewing gum to make big bubbles with.  I have a lot of hot air,  I was good at big bubbles.  Used to drive my mother nuts.  “If you are going to chew gum, KEEP YOUR MOUTH CLOSED!” I’ve become her, there is nothing more irritating to me than someone chewing gum with their mouth open and cracking it with every chew.  If I owned a retail store or a sports team, my employees would not be allowed to chew gum while on camera or while taking care of a customer.  In the dugout, or on the bench would be allowable.  According to the following facts, chewing gum is a stress reliever.  I’ll accept that, my rules would stay the same.

Various forms of chewing gum have existed since the Neolithic period. In 2007, a British archeology student discovered a 5,000-year-old piece of chewing gum which was made from bark tar with tooth imprints in it. Presumed to be the oldest piece of chewing gum, it was found in Kierikki, Yli-li, Finland.  Made from bark tar, the gum was believed to have antiseptic properties and other medicinal advantages.

  • Many other cultures chewed gum made from the resin of the mastic tree, from plants, grasses, and other resins.
  • In 1848, John B. Curtis developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum which was called “The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”.
  • Around 1850, a gum made from paraffin wax was developed and surpassed the spruce gum in popularity.
  • December 28, 1869, William Semple filed an early patent on chewing gum, patent number 98,304.
  • Studies show chewing gum helps improve memory, reduce stress and increase alertness.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum improves overall oral hygiene while also helping to curb cravings and improving digestion.

Do you know if you ever get lost in the woods and are thirsty or need to freshen your mouth you can take a wad of pine pitch off a pine tree and chew it.  If you happen to swallow it, it will pass through like other things do.  The myth that gum stays in your intestines is not true.  Have a colonoscopy and you can verify that.

Back to baseball.  There are less than five games left of the regular season, then the playoffs, and finally the World Series.  If you notice when they show the dugouts, where the teams sit for you non sports people, there are plastic buckets of  Bubble Yum.  The players seem to always be chewing on something.  I have even seen them popping a big bubble all over their face and trying to get the gum off before their next at-bat.  Keep in mind, they are mostly between the age of 20 and 40. (How they chew those sunflower seeds and spit the shells, I haven’t mastered.)

I should also mention Black Jack, Juicy Fruit, Spearmint, Dentyne, Big Red and Teaberry gum.  You have to be my age to remember some of those.  They weren’t good for blowing bubbles, and they lost their “flavor on the bedpost overnight”.

Afterthought….my husband’s favorite baseball team clinched their division.  He’s now rooting for best record.  Then we’ll move on to football coaches chewing their cud!



VFW or Coffee? Why Not Both?

September 29, is National VFW Day and National Coffee Day.  It was hard to choose which to write about, so I decided to do a little of both.

The VFW was established on September 29, 1899, by a group of veterans from the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. It has since grown to be the nation’s largest group of combat veterans. They continue “to honor the dead by helping the living.” The VFW promote patriotism, good will and youth scholarships. They also provide military assistance and community service programs, promote youth activities and volunteer many hours in their local communities.

VFW membership since its inception has been instrumental in the establishment of the Veterans Administration, the creation of the national cemetery system and passage of the GI Bill. Through the VFW, veterans honor veterans and serve their communities.  On National VFW Day, take a moment to recognize all the VFW does in your community.

I borrowed those two paragraphs from the National Day of calendar because I wanted to share the background of the organization and what it does.  The one common statement I keep hearing in the Veteran’s Writing group I attend is that the military is a brotherhood, in combat you take care of the guy next to you because you have to and he does the same for you.  People that have never served will never understand that brotherhood and when a military person leaves service that is often what they miss most, someone they can talk to that “gets it.”  The VFW provides that unified group working together for the good of others.  The American Legion is another brotherhood of veterans.  They have my utmost respect and you can bet they all stand at attention when the National Anthem is played!

On to coffee…before someone doth protest….American’s are obsessed with coffee, why do you think we have a Starbuck’s, Dunkin Donut’s, and Tim Horton’s on  every other corner. And we all know about McDonald’s extra hot coffee.  Personally, I make mine at home and take it with me.  I’d rather spend five dollars on a single serving of ice cream.  We all have our priorities.

May I suggest, to celebrate VFW Day and Coffee Day, you share a cuppa with a vet and say, thank you.


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