The Letter

by J. Speer

It was Mother’s Day. Layla sat down at the table to work on a letter to her daughter. She knew that usually mothers were the ones to receive gifts on this special day. However, this time was different. In 16 years of motherhood, Layla had received all kinds of gifts from flower bouquets to hugs and kisses to little hand imprints in clay. She had experienced the morning breakfasts and the nice time spent sleeping in. But this year, she was a bit melancholy. In a few weeks, her daughter would be going to live with relatives on the coast. It was what Layla wanted for her children but she was sad inside from time to time.

She wanted to write something fantastic and amazing. She searched her memories of family vacations or school activities or sports events….but 16 years had come and gone so fast that it all blended together and she really had to focus on specific moments. She remembered the first time she felt her daughter. She was maybe 23 at the time. Layla had been resting. She had started to get the morning sickness and that was the first clue. The pregnancy test came back positive. In the first trimester, she almost miscarried. The first time she felt her daughter was in that bed resting. Her hand was across her flat bare abdomen and she felt a tiny movement. She touched the spot gently. It was a hard bump near her right inner hip the size of a quarter. She touched it with the tips of her fingers and it moved slightly. That’s when she first felt what it was to be a mother.

The sonograms were inconclusive about the sex of the child. The black and white screen showed the baby bouncing playfully around in the womb. Three sonograms were performed and the doctor said he was 90% certain it would be a boy because the legs were crossed each time. Layla decorated the nursery with yellows and greens, neutral tones just in case. It surprised her husband when their beautiful baby girl arrived.

The delivery took almost all day. The labor was intense.

Her daughter grew and grew and grew through the years, through good days and sometimes bad days. No matter what happened, Layla and her children rarely parted. They stood together side by side and there was nothing Layla loved more than holding their little hands in hers. When the children got to be teenagers, that was what she missed the most of all.

As her daughter grew, Layla also learned to love all the exact same things her child loved. When her daughter liked art, Layla bought her all the drawing books and art supplies she could find. When her daughter liked soccer, Layla sat in the stands cheering and clapping. When her daughter moved on to books and anime and movies, Layla moved on too. To Layla, nothing her daughter chose was ever wrong. Her daughter could have liked rock throwing and Layla would be out there with her searching for the perfect rock to throw. As her daughter’s interests grew, so did Layla’s.

Her daughter started high school eventually. Layla helped her to the school entrance with all her school supplies and wished her well. Her daughter learned to drive a car. Layla tried to take her out test driving and prayed when her daughter finally headed off to school in her new vehicle paid for with small savings. It wasn’t a beauty of a car but it ran and Layla hoped it wouldn’t be too embarrassing to drive.

When her daughter said she wanted to visit family on the coast, Layla encouraged her. She wanted her child to explore and see the world. It was what Layla wanted for her child but the thought of separation made her blue sometimes.

16 years had come and gone. 16 wonderful years that didn’t seem enough to Layla. Not enough time to teach her daughter. There was so much Layla wanted to say but couldn’t say. She didn’t want to jade her daughter or trample her hope or her optimism for the future.

For 16 years, her children were her reason….

the reason she worked…..

the reason she saved any money…..

the reason she made choices like she did…..

Layla packed the bags for the coast. She bought new swimsuits and beach wear clothes. She gave her daughter her best stuff for the trip, put together a Spotify playlist, and bought Google photo albums of their past memories for a going away gift.

And now Layla was writing a letter. She wanted to say something profound but she had nothing really. To tell the truth, she was a bit afraid. If her daughter left, what would she do with herself? Who would be there at night after work? Who could she talk to? Who would she protect or feel a purpose providing for?

It was a new journey for her daughter but also for her……a transformation of sorts.

She wished her daughter the best and so she wrote it in the letter. She asked her daughter to be safe and wise. She hoped her daughter would find someone to love and be loved in return. And she told her daughter, she would always be in her heart even as they were apart.

She signed the little letter, put it in the envelope, and hid it in her top drawer of her dresser. She decided to give it to her daughter the day of the flight at the airport…..too much to say and yet, not enough to say.

Baby Chicks

My daughter brought home some baby chicks from science class. We went to Tractor Supply Store and put together a makeshift brooder.

Cheep cheep

To take care of baby chicks, you need to keep them inside until their feathers get fluffier. You need a plastic tub filled with pinewood shavings at the bottom. You will need to replace the shavings every 4 days to keep them from getting damp. Use a waterer that is shallow so the baby chicks do not drown. Put little pebbles at the bottom if you have to. Use a feeder and fill it with medicated starter feed. Also, buy a heat lamp and bulb. Make sure the heat lamp is not too close to burn the chicks but also not too far away that they freeze. Then, just wait for them to grow. Check them throughout the days. Make sure they are okay.

We have 2 black chicks and 2 yellow chicks. They are adorable and soft. We named them Ace, Sabo, Lucy, and Luffy from an Anime show. We will transfer them to a chicken coop in the yard when they are ready this summer!

The Chamber Magazine

It feels great to be published at the Chamber Magazine online! I love the artwork they attached to the story! The Chamber Magazine publishes dark fiction genre in the form of poetry, short stories, etc. I submitted a story named Stull based off the real abandoned church site near Lawrence, Kansas. According to urban legend, this place is considered to be a secret gateway to the underworld. The story was published on April 2nd. Another story related to this one will subsequently follow on April 9th and it is called The Cold Spot and features a haunting at the Strawberry Hill Mansion in Kansas City. Both places are believed to be hot spots for paranormal activity. The woman in the stories is a sensitive, or a person that has the ability to sense paranormal activity around her not through sight but through intuition. These two stories are works of fiction.

Check out the stories at their online site at https://thechambermagazine.com/. Disclaimer: The stories and poetry are for an adult audience. Also, if you love to write as well, consider submitting your own work to the magazine. They are seeking works from authors all over the world and have a global audience.

Thank you for reading and have a good night!

Janea

The Chamber Magazine

I am super excited today! I submitted 2 ghost stories about a young woman who is a sensitive, or someone capable of feeling the presence of paranormals. The first story called The Cold Spot will be published on April 2nd at 10:00 am. The second story will appear on April 9th in that next edition online. It is simply called Stull. Stull is the name of a paranormal mecca, a gateway to the underworld located outside Lawrence, Kansas. Both ghost stories are works of fiction but inspired by true locations in the Kansas City area.

Here is the link to The Chamber Magazine. They are seeking submissions like poetry or short stories that involve horror, dark subjects, gore, ghosts, monsters, etc. To learn more, check out their site:

Current Issue

Cars

We visited Galena, Kansas yesterday. It is along old Route 66. Galena was the town that inspired the Pixar Cars animated movie with Lightning McQueen. When you visit the town, you can see Luigi, Towmater, and all the gang from the beloved movie. This is a great place to see with family and also is just a short distance from the Joplin waterfalls. Remember the waterfalls scene in Cars? Here are some pictures from our trip:

It Has Been 10 Years Since the Joplin Tornado

The Joplin tornado hit in Southwest Missouri on May 22, 2011. I can still remember it like yesterday. We were living 20 minutes drive from Joplin. Everyone was in shock at the devastation. The walls of the Home Depot collapsed inward. The Walmart was just a torn up mess of debris and dangerous wires everywhere. A huge swath of the Rangeline shopping district had been ripped apart. The St. John’s Hospital was completely destroyed. Cars were crushed and tossed here and there. People were stuck in their basements trying to get out. Homes were wiped out. Bodies were here and there. It was bad. Unlike anything I’d ever seen since 9-11.

My friend Jordan and her husband Dr. Fox headed down there immediately to help triage patients. My husband Dennis drove as fast as he could to Joplin to help Kelly, his brother-in-law. Their house was obliterated, all but the bath tub pretty much. They survived. Alot of people did not.

There were stories told. Awful stories like a mother that heard about the tornado too late and went to get her daughter who was playing outside only to find the girl had been swept away by the winds. Then there was the story of the boy that was sucked through the sunroof of his car while his Dad tried desperately to cling to him to no avail.

Yes, I have lived in tornado alley most all my life. We sorta scoff at them naders as we call em. Ain’t scared a no nader. But the truth is we all remember Joplin. It will be something we will never forget. Some of us still can’t even communicate our feelings fully about that day.

Tornado season is approaching. This weekend, we’ll clean up the basement a little and put pallets down in case of too much rain. We’ll put the usual chairs and table in the storm shelter and leave the back door open for any neighbors that need to seek shelter underground quickly with us. The storms have grown more frequent and harsher than I remember as a kid. Perhaps it has to do with climate change.

I, myself, have only encountered a severe wind storm tottering near level 1 tornado. But it was enough to scare the heck outta me. There was no time. It came up very fast. The lights went out. I ran from my bedroom to my children’s room. Things were hitting the house. Lots of things. Very loud. I pulled my sleeping children off their beds. I put them underneath me in a pile. We were all suddenly scared. I remember the sound of the wind in the dark as I looked up at the popcorn ceiling. There was no time to pray or for sirens. There was just a tremendous sucking noise as if something was gonna lift the roof clean off. My only thought was, “This roof is gonna come off us.”

It lasted maybe thirty seconds. I heard the timbers busting in the roof. I heard stuff hitting the house. Big stuff now.

And then it was gone. Just like that. We sat in the dark huddled together and in the distance a lone tornado siren began to sound a few minutes later. It was eerie.

The power came back up the next day. My Dad came to our house about 2 am with a lantern. He said, “Don’t go outside until the morning. You’ll step on something.” I don’t know how he managed to get through all the debris to us. The first thing he asked is if we were okay. I nodded. The kids had gone back to sleep.

The next day I saw the neighborhood. Whole trees were uprooted and tossed into homes or sheds. Trampolines were all bent and twisted up and thrown around. Alot of roofs were busted up, including ours. We had several broken timbers in the roof and there was a dent in the ceiling above my bed. The mall was a mess. Signs were thrown everywhere or toppled over. Even stuff was busted up in the cemetery. I had never experienced a night like that before and I hope to not again in the future. They say when you might die, your memories flash through your mind but all I could think in that moment was “dang, this roof is about to come off.” Anyway, we moved from that place. Found a place with a basement shelter and we love living here. If we can just only get through that dang tornado season….

I have one more tornado story to share. A few years later, we were heading to Colorado in an old RV bumper pull. We had two flat tires back to back. It was getting dark in the sky and the winds were picking up. We were on our way to Dodge City. We had to limp the RV slowly into a little town called Kinsley, a place I’d never heard of. There were tumbleweeds blowing strongly across the road as we made our way there. We stayed in the only spot we could, a little park on the outskirts of town where the Farmers’ market would be held the following day. That night the winds really picked up strong and rocked the RV back and forth. We eventually fell asleep.

The next morning we opened the door of the RV and the people from the Farmers’ Market were set up with tents and wares all around. They helped us get the tires repaired and gave us breakfast. They were very kind to us, especially my children. They told us we were lucky to find Kinsley. Some semi trucks further on down the road to Dodge City had been picked up and thrown off to the sides of the highway overturned. We asked why Kinsley was important. They said it was an old Indian settlement surrounded on three sides by a ridge. It was near Greensburg. They said tornadoes hit all around Kinsley but never hit the town. It was protected. It was a special place. I guess those flat tires were a good thing after all.

Here’s some old footage of the Joplin tornado. It will be 10 years this May 22nd.

Virtually Kiss the Blarney Stone

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching! This is a wonderful holiday full of cheer and good tidings. I love the Irish blessings I see passed around every year on Facebook. Here is mine for you:

Since you are a writer, a poet, a blogger, an artist, a musician, or a dreamer perhaps….here are some pictures of the Blarney Castle for you. It is said that if you kiss a certain rock while hanging upside down at the top of the castle…you will be gifted with the finest eloquence the world has ever seen! Here’s to you and yours this wondrous St. Paddy’s Day. May you have love and laughter all the days of your lucky life.

I know I include music quite often in my blog…perhaps too much but I play this song often for my children in the car. It reminds me of an old Irish blessing. It was played for me on the day I graduated high school. This song has a special place in my heart from that day. I intend to play it for my son and daughter the day they graduate from high school too some day. Listen to it and have a wonderful St. Paddy’s Day!

The Grateful List

On Monday, I went to a virtual conference on personal development and motivation. It was called Unstoppable and you can probably find portions of it on YouTube. It was fantastic! There were so many great speakers like Jamie Kern Lima, Victoria Osteen, Robin Roberts, Tony Robbins, Mel Robbins, Ed Mylett, Jay Shetty, Brendan Burchard, Sara Blakely, Lia Valencia-Key, etc. etc. The conference was great and I really felt energized afterwards by all the new ideas and perspectives. I’ve been trying to build on that momentum from the conference the past few days. My husband is away on a business trip, so I’ve had some time for introspection as well as some time to just focus on the kids and doing a few fun things with them. Last night, we rented the new FNAF Willy Wonderland movie together and they liked it.

A portion of the conference was about gratitude. There was a motivational speaker named Trent Shelton who is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Rehab Time. He is also a former football wide receiver. Trent said something that kinda stuck in my head and I wrote it down. He said, “Don’t let the 1% bad ruin the 99% good.” He was talking about attitude determines altitude and not letting one thing negative in your day ruin all the good stuff that happened to you along the way.

So I spent some time tonight writing out a short list of the things I’m grateful for. I thought this was something I could keep by my bed and kinda scan over in the morning. That’s another thing they really advocated. Several speakers suggested establishing a good morning routine that gives you some time for meditation or reflection or just prayer and such.

Anyways, here’s my list. I didn’t edit it much. It’s just directly what came first to mind. This could help you, if you don’t have a gratitude list already and need some ideas to get started with it.

Things I’m Grateful For:

  • My kids who inspire me and listen to me and encourage me.
  • My husband who makes me smile, laugh, and love.
  • My pets who offer continuous amusement and friendship.
  • My home that protects me.
  • The weather that makes me happy. Heat in the Summer.  Cool breeze in the Fall.  Snow in the Winter and perfection in Spring. 
  • The big blue sky filled with so many white clouds.
  • The warmth of the sunlight on my face.
  • My big oak trees that are beautiful and tall.
  • My birds outside my house that sing.
  • My squirrels that nibble on acorns and bounce around with big fluffy tails.
  • My gardens that bring me peace.
  • My lawn that is green and lush most of the year.
  • My outdoor patios that are inviting for BBQs.
  • The way my house is decorated cozy, eccentric, and just for me.
  • The utilities in my home: the clean water, the electricity, the gas, the flushable toilets, the hot showers, the trash collection.
  • My big fluffy couches that make me fall asleep every time.
  • My closet of quirky clothes I picked out.
  • My bedroom that is my place of rest and safety.
  • My kitchen that is a gathering place for friends and a place to explore cooking/baking.
  • My health that is good.  I am still alive and not suffering daily.
  • My vision so I can see.
  • My heart so I can feel.
  • My head so I can think.
  • My hands so I can build.
  • The tips of my fingers so I can touch softly. 
  • My legs so I can walk.
  • My arms so I can hug.
  • My ears so I can listen to all genres of music.
  • My nose so I can’t smell my dogs’ farts.  I’ve gone noseblind.  It is a blessing.  Trust me.
  • My cars that can drive me around town.
  • My community that is safe, secure, and non-threatening.
  • The people who work for the community:  the firefighters, the policemen, the utility workers, the librarians, the parks and rec, etc. 
  • My neighbors who bless me daily with their waves and smiles.
  • The crosswalk lady at the elementary school who always is kind to me. 
  • My church that is welcoming and so calming to my soul. 
  • My parents who guided me as a child and continue to help me and my children today. 
  • My religion that taught me to sustain and thrive.
  • My job that brings me small daily goals, hard work that makes me feel proud, and a paycheck at the end of the week that helps feed my family.
  • My doctors who take care of me. 
  • My grocery store and other stores around the town that give me daily adventures to find new things. 
  • My television/radio/computer/game consoles that connect me to the world and to new ideas or new people.

My life is little, but it is a good one. I didn’t realize how many great things I took for granted until I wrote this down.

Oops, My Grammer

I’m always goofing up my spelling and grammar online. I make mistakes especially with blog posts. A friend from my Writers’ Guild shared with me this video this morning and it made me laugh. Weird Al Yankovic is so funny! I truly love his videos.