Thursday, May 24, 2012

A World War II Soldier's Story

My novel, Guardians and Other Angels chronicles the lives of my maternal and paternal families of origin during the Great Depression and America’s early engagement in World War II. At its core, this is a true story, one evocative of porch swings and farm houses and barnyards and rural roads and people attuned to raw pure soul. However, I wrote it as fiction to accommodate interesting and historical events of the first half of the Twentieth Century, tandem events of the hard economic times and the war, events that in all likelihood did impact my ancestors directly, but have not been substantiated in family lore. In this way, I also filled in gaps and/or variances in family legends. In addition, writing it as fiction gave me license to illustrate the total complexities of the characters as I remember them to have been. Included in the book are transcriptions of authentic letters written by the principles of the story.            
          The launching of the book was to have occurred many months ago, but unavoidable glitches pushed back the date. I believe that all things unfold in their perfect time, often despite us, and now I see that nothing could be more appropriate than to have it make its initial public appearance in tandem with our country’s Memorial Day observance.
          The following is an excerpt from the novel centered on the Christmas holiday of 1941. Bob, the eldest sibling of my mother, wrote the letter in the piece while in military training camp in preparation for his several years in Patton’s Army during the war:

Ft. Knox, Kentucky
Dec, 24, 1941

Dear Mother: Will write to let you know I am well and hope you are all the same. I received your package and was glad to get it. I guess Santa Claus has come to me after all. Ha Ha. I got a package from Roma [the author’s mother], Mom. She sent a stationary pack and a towel set. I got a package from Dot [Bob’s girlfriend] too. She sent me a box of handkerchief’s and a nice pocketbook. All of the presents I’ve got are sure nice Mom, and that (B)ugler [a brand of loose cigarette tobacco] will come in handy. I can’t get it here at the canteen. I have been smoking (N)orth (S)tate [a brand of loose cigarette tobacco], since I came here. It rained all day yeasterday and most of the night last night. This place look’s like a young river. I’m not on duty today. I don’t guess we will have much to do till after Christmas. I may get to take three or four days off in January Mom. I hope I do any how. For when we get our basic training in here (3 mo.) we may be sent anywhere in the states, or to any of their possessions. We may eaven be sent to the Hawaiian Islands or the Phillipine’s. The German’s are kind of getting the worst end of it now Mom. They are being driven back on the 1000 mi. front [of the USSR].  And the U. S. A. F. brought down 30 planes the other day. Jap’s if I’m not mistaken. And they destroyed several sub’s. Winston Churchill has came to the U. S. to discuss a plan of Hitler’s early defeat the world over. I hope they get something definite worked out pretty soon. Hitler has taken supreme command of the German Army. I don’t think this thing can go on over a year or 2. Well to get back to more civilized things. Ha. You said something about what we would have for Xmas dinner. We decorated the mess hall all up yeasterday, and put up a tree and trimmed it. We are going to have turkey, pie, cake, and all the trimmings at dinner Xmas. So I guess we’ll have enough to eat. Well I was issued more clothes Mom. I’ve now got a locker, bed clothes, overcoat, raincoat, two wool uniforms, 2 suntan shirts & tie, 3 wool suits, underwear, 3 of cotton, 2 pr shoes, 1 pr overshoes, 6 pr socks, 1 combat suit, 1 pr gloves, 1 tent, 1 haversack, 1 first aid kit, 1 shell belt, 1 canteen, a mess kit, and toilet articles. Whew. Well I guess I’ll have enough to run me and there’s more to come. Tell the kid’s, dad and all “A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year”! So be good. Till we meet again. XOXO Your loving son, Bob P. S. Did Tom and Archie [neighborhood friends] get mail from me? Tell Bus [his sickly, younger brother] to take care of himself. ByBy

Although he told his family that he had borrowed the money, in truth Bob sold the stationery, the towel set, and other Christmas gifts he had received. In that way he raised the $20.00 required of him by the Army to get a four-day pass, and he went home for Christmas – surprising his family.
           As his younger brother, Bussy’s new fighting rooster, Ranger, named after the Lone Ranger, Bussy’s favorite radio character, coaxed the sun to rising with his ringing five-note greeting, and the cows bawled in the field as if in welcome to him, the gravel on the road leading to the farm of his parents crunched beneath Bob’s boots. At that hour, only his mother would be up; his father and his many brothers and sisters would still be sleeping. He adjusted the small duffel bag slung over the shoulder of his new Army-issued wool overcoat, and bent down to straighten the creases in the immaculate wool trousers of his spiffy new uniform.
          His mother had been right, it was bleak in Southern Ohio. There was an eerie mist hovering over the land, a fuzzy band of fog like a shimmering boa hugging the neck of the earth. As far as the eye could reach, dense bare trees, their feet cloaked in the mist, seemed lonely and unsupported, their jagged and raw heads, unprotected, piercing the top of the mist. The silver conditions of the morning seemed to mirror a shift that was occurring in Bob’s soul: an aloneness he was coming to know all too well; clear colors and details formerly sharp and contrasting, fading to gray and merging, transforming everything, often to unrecognizable states, a wary feeling of exposure to an ineradicably new life, where, not only his surroundings, but he was becoming unfamiliar to himself.           It had been difficult for him to articulate the specifics of the issues that were needling him, and part of the problem was directly tied to the impossibility of finding that voice in the environment where he was being trained to be a killing machine. Although in the beginning he had spoken with such bravado about being ready to go to any lengths to protect his country and family, as well as Dot, the girl he loved, as the reality of his being involved in the actual fighting approached, methods of killing and maiming and destroying that nobody on the outside of it could possibly anticipate or comprehend, his sense of purpose was becoming blurred, like that foggy landscape.
         Bob had naively played with the idea that he had a kind of affinity with the ways and means of war, for as a backcountry boy he was familiar with the natural cycles of birth and death of the animals on the farm, surrounding forests, and countryside. He had euthanized sick animals, shot hogs in the head in preparation for slaughter, and he knew guns, the feel of them in his hands, their kick against his shoulder, the real damage they did to animate and inanimate objects alike. Guns had long been a hobby for him, actually. In his creative mind, he had even begun to design guns. As a matter of fact, in his spare time at the training camp in Ft. Knox, Kentucky where he was stationed, he had made some rudimentary sketches of a canny little gun he planned to someday fashion out of a Zippo cigarette lighter.
         Hunting had been nearly a daily activity for him since his adolescence, and he was learning that his experience in that regard gave him a decided advantage over many of the other boys at Ft. Knox, town and city boys whose experience with guns extended no further than toy guns, or perhaps B. B. guns, boys who had never held real guns in their hands, or tracked down living prey in their sights, and once positioned in the crosshairs, squeezing the trigger, and killing that prey. But that nagging voice inside of him was urging him to pay attention to the fact that killing an animal was a whole other matter than bringing a human being to its death. Despite the fact of his believing in the necessity of the war, for after all Japan had attacked the U. S., and Germany had aggressed against his country as well, his being away from Ft. Knox for only a few hours now had helped him to see that he was wrestling with that moral dilemma, the first and most serious moral dilemma of his life.            His was a tender society that believed in goodwill toward all people. He had been taught that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” his fellow man and it constituted a basic tenet of his very soul. How am I going to kill another human being? he worried as he sauntered in his usual loping fashion toward the farmhouse. He decided he would try to find time to talk to his favorite preacher, Harley Ward about it before he returned to camp. Perhaps the man of God could help to lift the mantle of confusion weighing so heavily on Bob’s soul.
          Barely glowing from the moisture-streaked window closest to the cook stove in the kitchen of the farmhouse, was a sole low light. In the thick mist, a plume of white smoke billowed delicately, charging the air with the scent of wood smoke, a scent of home, and sparks in the smoke twinkled like stardust shooting from the chimney at the top of the peaked roof. As he neared the back of the farmhouse, he took note of its slick moisture-sodden clapboards. It was a house weeping from the melting icicles along its eves, weeping like those damp and lonely trees, weeping like the boggy fields, as if in an act of complicity, they collectively wept, as if the whole of nature and his home grieved an inapprehensible and ill-omened fortune laying in wait for him, his family, his girl, his country, laying in wait like the hidden land mines he would encounter on the beaches of Southern, Italy in the not too distant future. Shuddering like a threatened animal in the few minutes that passed, he worked at shaking off his paranoia as he entered the perpetually unlocked back door that opened to the kitchen.
          At the cook stove, her back to him, his mother stood in the arc of light from a kerosene lamp, her body noticeably weary as she bent to her duties of stoking her cook stove with her poker.  At the sound of his footfalls that she knew so well, but dared not believe were real, and visibly shaking with fear that they would prove to be products of her imagination, she turned to him. Her empty hand flew to her mouth to stifle her cry, and tears spilled from her eyes.
          The changes in his mother in just a few weeks took his breath away. It was as if the changes in him were manifestly reflected in her, as if by some means of osmosis beyond the natural connection between parent and child, his experiences and fears and bewilderments also were hers, only exaggerated and accelerated. She seemed already to have endured what he was facing; she seemed to have already passed through, and had been permanently altered by, the ravages of war: the superhuman demands on one’s body and heart and mind and conscience; the depleted stores of psychological reserves; the lifetime of recurring night terrors. In her rote movements as she had bent to stoke her stove, in her turning to him, and in her covering of her quivering mouth, a rigid choking anxiety afflicted her.
          He lowered his duffel bag to the linoleum-clad floor while concurrently she dropped her poker with a crash. That emptying of their hands was the prelude to the opening of their arms. As she swayed weakly in his embrace, Bob’s dilemma was erased from his mind. In that moment, his conscience split into two expedient parts, and in a reversal of roles, he became her personal protector. He knew then that to keep his mother safe, he would kill their enemies, and without hesitation, if not with relish, at least with the automatic precision of the professional soldier he was learning to be, and as grievous as they might be, he would live with whatever consequences his choice quickened in him…

I am very happy to announce that my novel, Guardians and Other Angels is currently available in hard copy and in eBook format at Hard copies are also available at all other booksellers on the web, as well as at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Massachusetts and More on an Ohio Street Corner

There are many ways to travel:  in dreams; in actuality; in books; in songs; in films, but on the breezy and chilly night of Saturday, April 21, 2012, other patrons and I visited many places that were new to us by way of an exhibition of photographs.  Snapshots by the brilliant eye of Rebecca Cummings, behind her Canon 5D Mark II SLR, this photographic tour was on view at Dreaming Tree Galleries (,  located on the corner of Broadway and Columbus Streets in historic Town Center of Grove City, Ohio.
Having operated the gallery since 2006, Rebecca and her partner, Rod McIntyre opened it initially as a venue to show and to sell Rebecca’s photography.  While this remains a vital aspect of the establishment, over the years it has evolved into a contemporary art gallery servicing photographers and artists of the area—exhibiting their work, making art prints, and teaching classes in art and photography.  The space is also available for special events.

Included in the fabulous exhibition of April 21st were many bests of the USA, a dog-leg tour featuring city views of Ohio’s capital, Columbus, to breathtaking vignettes of Ohio’s Hocking Hills nature preserve, to incredible, interior shots of abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, among them an award-winning photo of a rusting and pitted, red-leather barber’s chair beneath a dust-misted shaft of sun from a skylight in the deteriorating ceiling of the space.  On to New England the colorful portals on this world led us, where in Plymouth, Rockport, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, we saw the trappings of this seaboard state:  buoys, nets, and other fishing gear; boats in abundance; “No Fishing” and “No Docking” signs on the sides of sea-worn shacks; seagulls on rocky shores; a lighthouse in Gloucester, and a summer courtyard in Salem, all of them infused with the astonishing light Rebecca manages to capture in her images. 

Next, we traveled to points south where we witnessed from a bird’s eye view, a breast stroke by a lone swimmer in Webb Pierce’s guitar-shaped pool in Nashville, and we climbed a stone staircase in Savannah, Georgia, the palms of our hands nearly tingling with the texture of its black wrought-iron railings.  And my favorite, of which I purchased a print, a red door viewed through four swirls of a black, wrought-iron gate in Charleston, South Carolina.  When later I showed the print to my cousin, Christina, her eyes misted with feeling.  This is a typical reaction to the photographs of Rebecca Cummings, photographs that are just that titillating to one’s senses and imagination.

I suggest that you log onto the gorgeous website indicated above just as quickly as your fingers will get you there.  Set up in eight galleries of photographs:  Architectural; Cars; Cityscapes & scenes; Eastern State Penitentiary; Flora; Gadgets & Gizmos; Landscapes; and Massachusetts, it will take you on your own mini retreat right there in your chair in front of your computer screen, a short break in your day you will savor, and never forget.

An award-winning artist, the online gallery of Linda’s artwork can be viewed at    

A best-selling author, Linda’s next novel, Guardians and Other Angels will soon to be available in book form and digitally at and at www.Barnes& 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cedar Woman by Debra Shiveley Welch

Cedar Woman, the winner of the Book and Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011 by Debra Shiveley Welch, is a beautiful book that combines a novel about a contemporary woman of America’s Lakota Indian Tribe, an addendum of Traditional Indian recipes, and a dictionary of Lakota terms.  Believe it or not, until midnight, Wednesday, April 9, 2012, it is available free of charge if downloaded onto your Kindle.  You will find it at
Why would anyone wish to offer his/her work for free, you are asking?  It is an age-old marketing strategy built on the premise that more is better in terms of getting the word out about certain products, a strategy that has been adopted by booksellers.  Think of the sample cereal and detergent boxes that show up in your mailbox and you will grasp the concept.  Once you have received the products, used them, and liked them, don’t you buy more of them, and also tell other people about them? I feel confident that once you sample this lovely book, you will recommend it to members of your family, and to your friends, especially the young females within your circle.     

Cedar Woman is a story rooted in the heroine’s love of family and dedication to her culture and to her religion.  However, I find its greatest strength to be in the faith that Cedar Woman has in herself.  A strong woman of impeccable character, she cares for her family and loved-ones against all odds, and in spite of many hardships. 
Flawlessly written in an easy and flowing style typical of Debra, I highly recommend this award-winning, Amazon best-seller.

Garnering awards for her literary accomplishments is not new to Debra Shiveley Welch.  Two of her previous works, A Very Special Child and Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher have won numerous awards, the former, the Faithwriters Gold Seal of Approval –  Outstanding Read; best-seller on Amazon and Amazon Japan; the latter, the Faithwriters Gold Seal of Approval –  Outstanding Read; Books and Authors Literary Excellence; Books and Authors Best Non-Fiction Book 2007; Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice 2011; and best-seller on Amazon.

An award-winning artist, the online exhibition of Linda’s artwork can be viewed at

A best-selling author, Linda’s latest novel, Guardians and Other Angels is in the printer’s queue.  Stay tuned for the announcement of its launching.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

For the Sake of the Kids

The arrival of spring not only heralds the rebirthing of plants and animal, it blossoms in a whirl of human activities, among them the restocking of garden centers, the reappearance of farmer’s markets, the return of festivals and fairs, the flourishing of craft shows, of art shows, and to my mind, one of the most delightful of them is the burgeoning of children’s art, an aspect of the rich and complex world of aesthetics often overlooked and marginalized. 

Dunedin, Florida artist, Steven Spathelf ( told me of a young person’s art show in Crystal Beach, Florida that he recently judged.  I would have liked to have attended that one.  Steven and I agree that this type of art is among our favorites.  My most recent experience with the genre came about as a result of my involvement with a fund-raiser in the form of a spaghetti dinner, an auction, and musical entertainment, an event held in mid-April, 2012, and specifically put together to support the art department of Sullivant Gardens Recreation Center.  It is one of several such public institutions under the auspices of the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Columbus, Ohio.  Sullivant Gardens services an area of the city that is primarily low-income, and as such is a field of dreams for the young people who frequent the establishment, and as in every field of dreams, mentors abound.  In the case of this recreation center, there is an entire staff of them.  This particular communiqué, however, will address the art teacher of Sullivant Gardens, Kristen Leigh Brown.     

Armed with inside information regarding the dedication of Ms. Brown to her young students, I was determined to meet her personally, and I chose a Thursday evening prior to the fund-raiser to call on her at the recreation center.  I had begun my day, however, in the office of my Orthopedic Surgeon, there to receive the results of an MRI on my injured left knee.  As I sat in his reception area awaiting my conference with him, I picked up a copy WebMD magazine, a glowing photograph of actress/singer/dancer, Jennifer Lopez gracing its cover, an article within its pages recounting Lopez’s newly appointed position as the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the first female to fill the spot in its 152-year history.  The piece states that, “’Jenny From the Block,’ as [Lopez] once dubbed herself in song, is from a hardscrabble stretch in New York City’s South Bronx.  In the halls of her local Boys & Girls Club, Kips Bay, Lopez found a mentor who recognized and encouraged her love of music and dance.  I didn’t think it coincidental that I found that particular story about Jennifer Lopez on the very day that I was to meet Kristen Leigh Brown, a person on whom I was prepared to lay odds was cut from the same piece of priceless fabric as Lopez’s girlhood advocate.

               Like one of the Three Kings in the Bible story, it was as if I were also following a star, and like the three of them, I arrived unannounced and bearing gifts.  Rather than gold, frankincense, or myrrh, however, my offerings were a signed print of one of my paintings to be auctioned off at the fund-raiser, and plastic flatware, plates, and cups enough to accommodate an army of dinner guests.  The place was a beehive of activity—I had to nearly shoulder my way into the front door that opened onto the reception area, and I’m sure the disoriented look on my face inspired a man in athletic clothing to immediately come to my rescue and inquire of me if he could be of any help.             

               “Is Kristen Brown here, by any chance?” I asked the nice man, a person to whom Ms. Brown later introduced to me as “Mr. T.”, Michael Terlecky, he turned out to be, the person who is the director of the recreation center.

               “Yes—she’s back in the art room.  Do you know where it is?” Mr. T. inquired.

               “No, I’m afraid I don’t.  This is my first time at the center,” I replied, my over-stuffed plastic bag by then dragging on the floor.

               “Follow me,” he said cheerily.

               I fell in behind the man as we wended our way through the crowd and down a couple of short hallways, the walls plastered with posters of various kinds, the unique cacophony of a lively basketball game on the large inner court resounding through the perfect acoustics of the brick building.  “This lady is here to see you, Ms. Brown,” Mr. T. informed her as he led me through the art room door, and then he vacated the place. 

Three or four children ranging in age from six, to perhaps ten years of age, were busy with one art project or another, various art supplies ranging the tops of the five banquet-sized tables that dominate the space.  A typical domain of aspiring young artists, not unlike the art rooms of my elementary school years, it features a large and deep, paint-scarred sink; floor-level, built-in cabinetry, the countertops littered with art supplies, art projects, both completed and still struggling toward completion; and several fantastic pieces of children’s art decorating the walls.  The only atypical aspect of the room was Kristen Leigh Brown, a tiny and bright redhead in her very early twenties, a person not much taller than her young wards.

               Ms. Brown approached me joyfully from the middle of the room as I entered her sanctuary, a sacred place to her and to me, we two who resonate from our artist’s hearts.  I extended my hand and said, “I’m Linda Lee Greene.  Have you had a chance to read my email that I sent you yesterday?  I’m the one who inquired if I might write about you.”

               For a moment Ms. Brown’s soft, kind eyes glazed over in embarrassed ignorance of my identity, and she replied apologetically, “I was only able to skim my emails…but, oh yes, now I remember,” her eyes lighting up in recognition.  “You want to write about Sullivant Gardens in your blog.”

               “Yes, I do, and I also want to write about the people behind the scenes—about you and your efforts for the center.  I hope that we can schedule time to talk, but in the meantime, I’ve brought some things I think you might be able to use for your fund raiser,” I said as I pulled out the art print from my huge plastic bag.  “And see, I’ve brought lots and lots of tableware for the event.”

               “Oh Kids, come look…look!  This is Ms. Greene and she’s a real artist!” Ms. Brown exclaimed as she held up the art print in her hands for her kids to see.  The children all scrambled around us, in unison their voices emitting in “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs,” as, for the first time in their young lives, they scrutinized a real piece of professional artwork.  “See—this is what you can do if you work for it,” Ms. Brown instructed her students.  “Ms. Greene has brought other things to help us raise money for our art supplies.  Say ‘Thank you’ to Ms. Greene.”

               “Thank you, Ms. Greene,” dutifully the children responded in a loud chorus, their beautiful faces alight with bright smiles.

               We discussed the pending fund-raiser, and I commented on the wonderful artwork done by the children that graced the walls of the room, walls painted in bright and cheerful colors by Ms. Brown, one wall in purple, still another in blue, another in green, the fourth in red.  Scanning the room further, my eyes were drawn to the blackboard at the head of the space, on it in huge and fancy block letters in a precise hand, the hand of Ms. Brown, was my guess, was written:  DREAM BIG!  LIVE BIG!  “Yes, this is a born mentor of young people,” I said in my mind, and knew that I had followed the right star.    

An award-winning artist, the online gallery of Linda’s artwork can be viewed at

A best-selling author, Linda’s latest book, Guardians and Other Angels will be available in the near future at www.Barnes & and at