Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Talking Heart - Chapter Seven: THE FACES IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS

Marlin Landon "Bob" Gaffin circa 1941






When I think back on the houses that have contained my life, including farmhouses, a log cabin, single-family homes, duplexes, condos, and apartments, located in diverse areas across Southern Ohio, Central Ohio, Queens and Long Island, New York, and the Atlantic Coast of Florida, one of the things all of them had in common was framed photographs of family members hanging on walls and ranging the tops of furniture—copious photographs that were, and are, storyboards of the lives of my ancestors and of me.
                My attachment to family photographs began when I was a toddler. The Second World War was raging, and Bob, my mother’s oldest brother, was in the very throat of it, serving as a half-track driver and sharpshooter in Patton’s Army in Europe. Bussy, my mother’s seventeen-year-old brother, had died seven months before I was born. My grandmother’s worries about Bob, and her grief over the loss of Bussy and of her own mother just weeks after Bussy’s passing were a serious threat to her emotional well-being. On the advice of our old country doctor, my parents agreed to let me stay with my grandparents, in the hope that my presence would be the balm my grandmother needed to regain her health.
The following is a scene evocative of the root of my love of family photographs. It is a dialogue between my grandmother and me when I was about two years of age. It is a fictionalized account of much less structured discussions we often shared about the family photographs that are the subject of the piece. I wrote it for GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS (http://goo.gl/imUwKO), my novel that is a blend of fact and fiction, a book populated primarily by my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and the people of their circles, as well as one main fictional character. Mommaw and Poppaw in the passage are my maternal grandparents; Uncle Dickie is their teenage son.

Excerpt of GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS

“…As, like Mommaw and Poppaw, the sun gave up working for the day in our corner of the world, and retired behind the lazy hills reclining all across the broad horizon, it was then that the gloom of death-revisited settled in upon the household once more. Our nightly ritual never varied. Riding Mommaw’s hip, she carried me to the room where I slept. While the bedtime stories of other children were of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” mine were of Uncle Bussy and Uncle Bob. 
Bussy Gaffin 11 years old circa 1936
On the wall, within eyeshot of my bed, was a photograph of Uncle Bussy, a grainy black and white enlargement of his face and upper torso picked out of a family photograph taken when he was about eleven. Riding my grandmother’s hip, always she carried me to the photograph where it hung on the wall. He had been a good-looking, fair-haired, pale-skinned boy, and like my mother, his nose and cheeks were dusted with freckles, his station in life clearly evident in his bib overalls. It was like one of those portraits where the eyes follow you all around the room, and although some children might have been frightened by it, it called to me, instead. 
“Mommy says dat Uncle Bussy called me ‘Tadpole’ ‘cause I was in Mommy’s tummy when he knew me,” I reminded my grandmother, my pudgy index finger tracing the cheek of the young boy in the photograph. The man he would never become was unmistakable in the outline of the jaw, although not quite angular, was on the verge of being, like a flower halfway between budding and full bloom.
“My land, yes, Honey. He tried so hard ta hold on so he could see you. Poor Little Bussy,” my grandmother replied, her voice breaking, her great intake of breath tamping down the nagging voice of her great loss. 
“I wish Uncle Bussy could know me, Mommaw. He wooks so sad in da pichure. I could pway wiff him and make him feel bettuh.”
“He was just so sick, Honey.”
“Is Uncle Bussy in Heaven, Mommaw, wike Mommy says?”
“He surely is, Honey.”
“Can people come back home fwom Heaven, evew, Mommaw?”
“He surely would want to, if he could, ‘specially ta see you.”
“And, dis is Uncle Bobby,” I pointed to a photograph on another wall in my bedroom, a photograph of a young man in a military uniform, sporting a handsomeness so blond and well put together as to be the envy of any movie idol. Mommaw carried me over to the photograph, my brow wrinkling seriously. “Uncle Bobby is fighting dat bad man in…I can’t ‘member dat pwace, Mommaw.”
“Uncle Bobby is fightin’ a bad man named Hitler in a place called Germany. Hitler is the leader o’ them German people, an’ we ‘er fightin’ them ‘cause they do bad things,” Mommaw explained patiently, speaking to me as if I were an adult, as she always did.
“Uncle Dickie spanked Wex dis morning. Wex got in da henhouse. He ate some eggs after dat fox weave.”
“I know, Honey. Uncle Dickie had ta learn the dog that it’s bad ta eat them eggs. That’s kind o’ like what Uncle Bobby is doin’ over there in Germany, but not exactly.”
“Is Gewmany weawy, weawy fawr away, Mommaw, wike Heaven?”
“Germany is away over on the other side of the world, but not as far as Heaven.”
“Why did Uncle Bussy go to Heaven, Mommaw?”
“Because he sneaked out ta play when he was down with the measles.”
“You wet me go out to pway, and I don’t go to Heaven.”
“Uncle Bussy got real sick outside. When people git real sick sometimes they go ta Heaven.”
“You made bad wike Wex, Mommaw. You forgot to tell Uncle Bussy no when he went outside, wight?”
“No, not exactly, but I shoulda stayed right there in the room with him.”
“Did Uncle Dickie spank you for being bad wike he did Wex?”
“God spanked me, Honey.”
“Did it weawy weawy hurt when God spanked you, Mommaw?”
“Yes, Honey.  It really really hurt, an’ it still hurts mighty powerful.”
“But when I go out to pway, I won’t get sick ‘cause Uncle Dickie says I’m weawy weawy stwong. Uncle Dickie says dat Uncle Bobby is vewy big and stwong. And he wuns weal fast wike Old Smoky.”
“He runs pert near as fast as that old horse.”
“He can wun home to us, den, if dat bad man twies to hurt him.”
“The Good Lord awillin’, he will, Honey.”

 The nightly “visit” to the photographs of Uncle Bussy and Uncle Bob completed, Mommaw carried me to the living room, where the old rocking chair sat in wait. And Mommaw’s rocking and crying commenced anew. After I had fallen to sleep, she carried me to my bed in the downstairs room nearest to the bedroom she shared with Poppaw….”

Award-winning author and artist, blogger, and interior designer Linda Lee Greene is on social media at the following:
Twitter: @LLGreeneAuthor
Also look for her at LinkedIn and Google+
Twitter: @LLGreeneAuthor

Also look for her at LinkedIn and Google+

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Talking Heart - Chapter Six: I KNOW SOMETHING OF WAR


I know something of war. I’m convinced my awareness of it began in utero—in November, 1942 when my parents conceived me and America had been fighting in World War II for nearly one year. Bob, my mother’s beloved older brother was already in it—he was one of Patton’s warriors in Operation Torch, the November, 1942 British-United States invasion against Germany’s stronghold in French North Africa, my country’s first official military action in the European Theater of the war. By then, Bob had been in the Army for a year, stationed at various training facilities on the east coast of the United States. My father’s dear older brother Bill had enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. Although at the time I was conceived Bill was still stateside, in California, actually, among my parent’s other male friends and relations of draft age, most were in military training camps or fighting overseas, or expected to be at any moment. “War” was at the front of everyone’s mind then, in their conversations, their dreams; it defined every facet of their lives. It was as much a part of my mother as her blood type, and through our interdependence was transferred to me. I’m sure of it.  
November, 1942 was momentous for my parents in another way since it was the month Dad turned eighteen, and therefore, became eligible for the draft. My parents had been married for two months almost to the day. And if my calculations are correct, considering the 280-day gestation period for humans, Mom’s egg and Dad’s sperm that united and made me blossomed a mere six days before Dad’s eighteenth birthday and 57 days after they had tied the knot. Needless to say, Mom’s anxiety went through the roof, and to elevate her disquiet still further, her seventeen-year-old brother Bussy, seriously ill since the age of ten with a respiratory ailment, took a turn for the worse and died on January 5, 1943. A sad sidebar to his death is that more than likely, penicillin would have saved him, but it occurred before the drug was available to the general public. My grandmother, my mother, and Bob never got over losing Bussy.
For an achingly long period of time after Bob’s deployment to Africa, letters between American servicemen abroad and their families back home were few and far between. This was a family of prolific letter writers. (I know without question the source of my writing gene.) Having grown accustomed to receiving a letter, and sometimes two letters per day from Bob, my grandparents and all who knew and also corresponded with him grew frantic with fear for him during the lengthy communication blackout. The worst of it for my grandparents was that they had no reliable means of informing Bob either of his brother’s failing health, or of his passing. Following my grandmother’s death in 2001, among hundreds of old letters, cards, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other print material spanning the years of the Great Depression and World War II, found in an old chest tucked at the back of a closet of her house, was the following letter. At the time of her passing, Dean, her youngest, was her only living offspring. She was eight months shy of her 100th birthday and had outlived her husband and seven of her children, including Bob and my mother:

                                                                                                                          Peebles, Ohio   Jan. 10, 1943
Dear Son:
                It is with a sad and aching heart [but] I am going to write to you. I have studied and thought what is best to do. But this is the only way I can see. Son poor little Bussy left us on Jan. 5 at Cora’s house. [Cora was my grandmother’s sister who lived in town close to the doctor and hospital] I am so lonesome & nervous. I was constantly by his side for 3 weeks. He passed away just 3 weeks from the day he took bad. He & I was sitting at the table eating our dinner on Dec. 15, when I just happened to look at him & seen something was wrong with him. His face & head was jerking awful. I ran around to him & asked what was wrong. He coulden’t talk. It only lasted a short time. When he got over it he said, “Oh Mom. It is just this old disease getting the best of me.” We had the Dr. He [the doctor] said he could do nothing. He [Bussy] had 5 of those spells then took an awful headache. We took him to the hospital. They said there was a clot on his brain. It was on the right side but made his left arm & leg useless. He woulden’t stay in the hospital. I took him to Cora’s as they told me it would be allright since they could do nothing. Said all I could do was keep his head packed in Ice, rest & quiet. We were at Cora’s a week, and the last few days he seemed so much better. I thought he was going to get well, and could soon take him home [to their farm], as I wrote and told you. Don’t know if you ever got the letter or not. But the suffering I guess was to much for his heart & then you know what a condition he was in any way. Son he took it all so patient. Just prayed all the time almost. He wanted Herman [Tolle, the preacher]. He told him he was ready to go. Oh son how he prayed for all you boys. It would wring your heart. The last words I heard him say was,“Tell them all to meet me.” His mind was so on Sim [Workman, their friend who was also in the Army fighting in North Africa] somehow. Said “Mommy, I feel sorry for Sim. He diden’t have a Mother to tell him about Jesus like I have.” Although you know Sim has a good mother. He [Bussy] would put his arms around me and say “I love you Mommy.” I don’t know whether I can ever stand this or not, but Son put your trust in Jesus. Ask him every day to take care of you. Bussy would say “Mommy, don’t worry about Bob. He is coming back.” But the Lord can cut us all off any time. So don’t forget to pray if it is only to yourself. Poor little Bussy is in a better home but I miss him so. He was always here with me. I can never stay here alone anymore. Well Son I can’t write more but can only say put your trust in God and we will all be living on for happier days some where. Answer if you can. With so much love, Mother.
 
P.S.  This is Mon. morning. I forgot to say the rest of us is well. Son I hope you are well. Try and not to grieve to much only live to meet Bussy. I feel a little better this morn(ing). Some think I shoulden’t of let you know. But I coulden’t of lived a lie & write to you like everything was allright, and then probably some one else would of said something about it when they would write to you. All we can say is Gods will must be done. By by.  XOXOXO

Bussy’s heroic seventeen years of life is a centerpiece of GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS (http://goo.gl/imUwKO), my novel that is a blend of fact and fiction, populated by my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and the people of their circles, as well as one main fictional character. It is set primarily during the years of the First World War, the Great Depression, and the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II. An additional key feature of the novel is the transcription of dozens of my family’s old letters, of the tenor of the one above. The letters chronicle, in exceedingly intense intimacy, the hearts and minds of a community of deep country people far removed from mainstream life at the time. While they were poor and unsophisticated, eking out a living from the soil, they fell in love, got married, and raised children; they endured illness, death, and every conceivable loss, and yet they celebrated life so profoundly as to warm your heart or break it. It was these people and their counterparts across the nation first called upon to put the lives of their boys on the line and to save the world during World War II. I gave Bussy life once again in my novella for young readers titled ROOSTER TALE (http://goo.gl/vNq32g).
                My father was drafted into the Navy in mid-1943. He was given a medical discharge while still in boot camp, however, a consequence of a severe problem with his stomach. It was a condition that plagued him all the 89 years of his life. He didn’t make it home in time to witness my birth, but arrived soon thereafter. Following my mother’s death on June 29, 1992, Dad was the one remaining constant of love and strength for my sisters and me until his death on March 29, 2014. Had she lived, the day my father died would have been my mother’s 91st birthday.     
                From the instant of my conception to the present day, “War” has been my consistent reality, as it has been for everyone else, to one degree or another—far too many of us in the thick of it, and others like me, witnessing it via the media. Today it is quite possible we are in peril of yet another war—and if it comes to pass this time and under the present circumstances, it might be the final one for reasons too frightening to contemplate. If that is the case, where will future generations find reserves of old letters, CDs, computer hard drives, and flash drives among the carnage and charred remains of our planet to tell them about us? The elephant in the room is whether or not there would be future generations. GOD HELP US!

Best-selling author, blogger, award-winning artist and interior designer Linda Lee Greene is on social media at the following:
Twitter: @LLGreeneAuthor

Also look for her at LinkedIn and Google+

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Talking Heart - Chapter 5: MOMMAW'S OUTHOUSE GARDEN


Hollyhocks camouflaging outhouses is an old tradition that has evolved into a cliché in our culture, so much so that the botanical name (alcea rosea) is often advertised by seed companies and nurseries as “Outhouse Hollyhock.” This is the case with the Seed Savers Exchange (http://www.seedsavers.org/outhouse-hollyhock-organic-flower). This online retailer currently is SOLD OUT of its organic, self-seeding biennial that grows 6 to 9 feet tall, and shows in blossoms of white, pink, magenta, and burgundy. One of my favorite varieties blooms in flowers of purple, as well. The Seed Savers Exchange entices the consumer with a bit of charming history: (Alcea rosea) This classic variety has graced outbuildings on Iowa farmsteads for over a century. Years ago, refined ladies just looked for the hollyhocks and didn’t have to ask where the outhouse was….”

             Ohio farm wives, like my grandmother, as well as their counterparts far and wide, also planted hollyhocks and sunflowers, and other tall flowers around their “paths,” as the outhouse and its territory was called by my farmer ancestors. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood the multifaceted purpose of my grandmother’s magnificent back garden, that of blocking the view and smell of the outside toilet, as well as providing beauty to the space. Until then, I thought of it merely as a glorious plot of colors and textures and sweet scents replete with the “screening” flowers, but also with four o’clocks, foxgloves, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and more, a patch noisy with the buzzing of hardworking bees, and quivering in its reciprocal relationship with butterflies and hummingbirds, an idyllic respite that was an endless feast for the eye.

Many are the stories in my family linked to the outhouse, and one of them is a particular favorite of mine because it is about my mother. Roma was my mother’s name, and among the offspring of my grandparents (“Mommaw” and “Poppaw” to me and their other grandchildren) who survived birth, she was the second-born, and the eldest girl. Her place in the hierarchy of her family meant that she went toe-to-toe with her parents in terms of daily duties to her seven siblings, the farmhouse, and the farm in all its myriad aspects. The following excerpt of GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS (http://goo.gl/imUwKO), my novel that is a blend of fact and fiction and populated by my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and the people of their circles, as well as one main fictional character, highlights one of their humorous “outhouse” stories. The book is set in Southern Ohio, USA during the years of the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression, world events that set the timber of their lives.
    
Excerpt of GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS

“One of the most enchanting features of the farm was its peach and apple orchard. Roma, who at the time was a teenager, completely disregarding the fact that green apples gave her the “runs,” and convincing herself that she would get away with it that time, I suppose, in a fit of gluttony, set about one hot summer morning to stuff her belly full of the sweet green teasers. Predictably, later in the day, she found herself in dire need of visiting the “path” as this family called their outhouse, whereupon she sat, for long intervals of time, for several visits in a row. This was back in the time before fluffy white “Charmin” or any other machine-perforated, roll-perfectly-into-your-hand toilet paper; these were the days of pages from magazines, newspapers; the Sears & Roebuck catalog was an especial favorite. And when paper products ran out, corncobs would do. This particular day, Sears & Roebuck were on duty, and Roma, having gone through a good portion of the catalog, pulled up her underwear, and confident her ordeal was finally behind her, pun intended, proceeded to walk to the back door of the house, the door opening onto the kitchen. She lighted into her piled-up kitchen chores, working away uninterrupted for an hour or more, enjoying that peculiar euphoria that comes to one with the release of all of the toxins in ones body, when she realized that the house was unusually quiet, a phenomenon never occurring in that filled-to-human-capacity household. Taking a mere glancing note of it, she continued to sweep away, when out of the distance she thought she heard what sounded like a snicker. She hesitated for a moment, listened, but when all was quiet again, she fell back into the rhythm of her swishing broom. But suddenly, there it was again – a snicker, then two, then three. She realized she had company in the room. She turned to look, and there they all were, all nine members of her family, snickering and pointing at her backside. Horrified, she realized what was the matter, and twisting her head to get a gander at her backside, like a dog chasing its own tail, Roma took off spinning around and around in the middle of the kitchen, howling like a dog, and flapping her hand at the offending article protruding from her underwear. In her haste to vacate the outhouse, the tail of her dress had caught in the waistband of her bloomers, and with it, the Sears & Roebuck page also had fastened itself there, the page waving like a flag flapping in the breeze, and ironically, hailing its colorful advertisement of a supply of women’s under panties.”
                
            Upsidedown hollyhock flowers with unopened buds and attached long stems punched through their bases made hollyhock dolls for my little brother, our young cousins, and me. And sunflowers became faces of imaginary friends. We played with them for hours in Mommaw’s Outhouse Garden when we were kids. If I close my eyes and recall that time, I see the fluttering of those butterfly wings, tuned, it seems to me, to the beat of my heart. And in that fabled distance, nearly imperceptible to my ear, I hear the whistle of a train—the lonely call to faraway places my mother disliked, but I adore.

Author and artist Linda Lee Greene is on social media at the following:
Twitter: @LLGreeneAuthor

Also look for her at LinkedIn and Google+

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

“THIS OUTSTANDING BOOK: A MUST-READ,” a review by Fran Lewis for JustReviews/MJ Magazine




CRADLE OF THE SERPENT by Linda Lee Greene


A therapist caught in a web of deceit and lies when working with an archaeologist named Lily Light. Psychotherapist Michael Neeson has listened while she relates her dreams going back to another time period and the Indian White Flower. Feeling confident in confiding in him Lily tells him of being at odds with her husband Jacob and that he decided to not return home during his two-week break. But, for some reason this psychotherapist is drawn to her and travels to her dig thinking he would ignite his own passion for archaeology. Her reaction at first is one of anger and invasion of her privacy but as they begin to bond and talk she becomes Lily and he becomes Michael until Lily has a bad feeling, gets all upset and thinks something has happened to Jacob. Lily takes on the persona of this Indian woman and experiences different emotions when she learns about what happened to him and the fact that a woman was found dead but is this woman he was cheating with? Jacob is shot and paralyzed and the fact that he had a mistress more than upsets Lily. As you get to know Michael learning about Jacob and on their brief time at the dig you get a feeling that he is drawn to Lily as more than just a client. Miriam his wife is reliable, warm and caring but for some reason he needs some adventure in his life.
There are two voices that are heard throughout this novel: Michael the therapist and Lily talking about her relationship with Jacob and how she feels about taking care of him. Looking at him in the hospital and hoping that he gets well yet when it’s her turn to care for him she passes it off twice to his parents. Work is her salvation and talking to her therapist the second as he becomes more involved in her life trying to guide her to make the right decision that will either take her closer to Jacob or away from him completely. She still does not know the name of the mistress and the author has yet to reveal whom the woman is that was shot too.
Reverting back to White Flower it is almost as if Lily is living in a world that she would like to be in instead of the present. But, Lily seems unnerved at times and has trouble making choices yet she reveals her tattoo of a serpent as a male dragon and her husband’s as female dragon. Added in we learn about Serpent Mound where she is working.
Lily appears to be living in two different worlds trying to escape the realities of life even by sorting out photographs and deciding which ones to keep and if at all which ones to toss hoping to almost delete Jacob from her life. As she appears to be in the doctor’s site when he and his wife visit Serpent Mound he’s not sure if she’s there or in Phoenix. Flashing to two time periods we see Lily/White Flower going about life in different ways, each one trying to create their own perfect life. Meeting Jacob and feeling betrayed when she learns the truth behind a plaque signed We Love You Daddy. Joining her on her trip into another world where we are present on the Navajo reservation and learn more about what Jacob’s role is in dealing with them in the present might account for her thoughts about the past. What about his two children from this other woman; how will that play out?
The psychotherapist seems fixated on her at times and although he tries to keep his thoughts and advice objective at times you feel that he is pulling himself back in order to stay impartial and not give Lily a real way out but allowing her to sort things out on her own.
Her Indian background comes into play as she sits in court trying to get her husband custody of his two children born to a Navajo Indian.
Jacob is now paralyzed and might get back the use of his arms to a limited extent while Lily speaks at times with Michael as we hear his rendition of their talks or visits and we get the feeling she is restless, conflicted as author Linda Lee Greene shares the history of the Navajo Indians, the correlation of this story of Jacob to that of FDR and Christopher Reeve who played Superman and was truly an inspiration for Linda writing this story as you will read in the author’s notes at the end of the book. As Jacob progresses a little Lily decides to find a way to meet his children leaving her remembering what her father did to her and the child she lost. Added in we learn that White Flower was having a child and Running Deer was with her trying to save her but her fate was not what Lily would have hoped for her alter personality. At times it seems that she reverts to this other time period and place just to release her tension and find a way to deal with the present but Lily seems bent on divorcing Jacob yet hoping he gets custody of his daughters. Lily listens closely to the judge both times during the two hearings as he explains Navajo Law and the reasons why he is going to postpone his decision for another 6 months until she decides on whether she wants to remain with Jacob. The judge is sure that the children will have a nurturing home with two foster parents on the scene. Whereas she and Jacob plus his parents are beyond the age to adopt children the judge reserves judgment at this time.
The author shares the history of many of the places Lily and Jacob visited when dating and when married and it brings to light their relationship before things went south and this woman, his mistress was killed.
I loved the history of the Navajo Indians and the chapters on the research done to help quadriplegics move again and the surgery that Jacob wanted to undergo hoping he would be able to move his hands and arms again. The tension runs high and Lily is torn between leaving Jacob or supporting him in his efforts to get his two daughters to live with him, being a parent of some type to the girls and yet deciding where her career was going. Would she remain on digs or would she decide on something else? The ending will shock readers and take you along with Lily on a journey that is so compelling, so heartwarming, tormenting and will let you the reader learn that sometimes mistakes lead to something better if you can forgive. With the help of her sister Hannah to listen to her complaints, hear her scream and wipe away her tears, Lily just might decide what is right for her but will it be with Jacob and his parents living under one roof with his children, or will it be to find her own way?
A story of a love gone wrong, forgiveness, understanding her heritage and the heritage of the woman who was part of Jacob’s life, respecting who you are and understanding that not everything is cut and dry or black and white. Davina Yashi was the victim who was shot with two gun shots in her back and if she had survived she would have been worse off than Jacob as the author describes using medical terms his injuries and what they mean and where they are. She compares it to the injuries sustained by Christopher Reeve which becomes a stronghold for Jacob to want to emulate him and hope to have more mobility. When Lily decides to face the man who shot her husband something within her snaps, the reality of the situation takes hold and she begins to feel like she is about to fade and decides to get a bottle of vodka to drown her sorrows. Her anger soars when she tells Jacob about her past and her father and at this point she comes to a crossroads as to what she wants to do about her life, her marriage and why doesn’t he understand her pain?
Miracles happen, perspectives change and it’s up to Lily if she can withstand what Jacob will endure in the future with the healthcare he needs and will she assist his parents as another caregiver? Read what the therapist says as he analyzes their marriage and tries to make sense of Lily Moore Light and Jacob Clay Light and their future. Whether he agrees or disagrees does not matter; what does matter is whether each one can forgive, forget, understand and join as one once again.
A story that will give readers much pause for thought and one that hits home, as my cousin is a paraplegic losing his legs the week before his wedding and with hope, family support, the support of the woman who married him anyway, two children and tons of grandchildren he is now one of the most renowned Oral Surgeons in the world. Jacob refused to give up but what about Lily? For anyone in the same situation this book is a definite must read and will give you and your families hope. Jacob was the light and a paralyzed person and the research sites listed at the end of the book will provide resources.  Posted in the footnotes are also resources that will help readers understand the struggles of others that the author sited within this outstanding book. Cradle of the Serpent - goo.gl/i3UkAV

Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Talking Heart - Chapter Four: ANNIE OAKLEY IN MY SOUL by Linda Lee Greene

When the venue is appropriate to do so, I often open my author and artist biographies with the following: “As a child on the farm of my maternal grandparents in Southern Ohio, and while carted around on the shoulders of my teenage uncles, or on the broad tall backs of our horses, my view of life began atop those high places. From those lofty vantage points, the fairytale landscape and the storybook yarns spun by the hill people there impressed my mind's eye and ear so indelibly that they emerged over the years as images in my artwork, and as the bedrocks of my last three books.”
            Looking up to it from the main highway far below, the farmhouse, shielded in white clapboards and silver metal roof, seems to float high on dewy air, harbored in make-believe. Arrive down its long and winding lane, and sit on its creaky front porch swing, only then do you see the source of its magic, for it hovers on the southern rim of the star-wound crater in which the world-famous Great Serpent Mound lies, a mythical place, whose stories reach back millennia, and can never be known by mortal beings. A place like that weaves into a person’s soul and doesn’t let go. It becomes its very fabric, textured by its plantlife, its animals, and its people. Near and not quite so near, fabled persons populated comparable, as well as varied, Ohio backdrops, individuals such as inventors Thomas Edison and Orville and Wilbur Wright; astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn; actors Roy Rogers, Clark Gable, Doris Day, Dean Martin, Paul Newman; singers Nancy Wilson and John Legend to name a few—and oh yes, more presidents of the United States than from any other state in the union. And lest I forget, sharp- and exhibition-shooter Annie Oakley.
            In addition to our both being Ohio-girls, Annie and I were born on the same day of the same month, today’s date, as a matter of fact, although she preceded me by well over three quarters of a century. Farm life shaped both of us, me to a far less degree than it did Annie, because my everyday tenure on the farm was interrupted in my toddlerhood when my parents and I moved to Columbus. Thereafter, weekends and summer vacations found me back on the farm, decidedly citified and a bit awkward in my former sanctuary.
            Annie’s was a back-and-forth girlhood, too, but as dissimilar to mine as it could be. The sixth-born of her parent’s nine children, she and her family were thrust into deep poverty upon her father’s death when she was six years old. By the age of seven, Annie was trapping, and by eight, shooting and hunting, and bringing food to the table of her siblings and widowed mother. She was a budding entrepreneur even at that young age, for she sold her excess kills to nearby locals and shopkeepers, one of whom shipped it to hotels in Cincinnati and other cities. Not to be outdone, she undertook to sell her game personally to regional restaurants and hotels. Her “sharp-shooter” days had begun.
Having been too impoverished even to attend school, three years after the death of her father, Annie was admitted to the care of the superintendent and his wife of the Darke County Infirmary, where she learned to sew and decorate. At a later date, she was “bound out” to a local family to care for their infant son, a position whose promise of fifty cents per week in wages and an education never materialized. Her two-years of near slavery to them comprised cruel physical and mental abuse. At age 12, she ran away, found herself a much more benevolent situation, and by age 15 was back living with her mother again. Despite having married for a third time, apparently her mother was never able to outgrow her dependency on Annie, an obligation Annie shouldered willingly. By the age of 15, Annie was able to pay off the mortgage on her mother’s house with the money she earned by way of her unparalleled skill at shooting guns. By then she had won shooting contests and met traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler, the man who became her husband, partner, manager, and mentor for the rest of her life.
Remaining childless, together Annie and Frank, accompanied by their adopted dog, became headliners, five-foot-tall and comely Annie as America’s first female star, appearing in such venues as “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” and in Europe at the “Paris Exposition of 1889,” and in the United Kingdom before Queen Victoria, as well as crowned heads of state in Italy and France. Supposedly, upon his request, she shot the ash off a cigarette held in the mouth of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, a feat she regularly performed with her husband in their shows.
Ill health as a result of a train accident, and then again a car accident in later years, Annie slowed the pace and the face of her career, appearing on stage in shows written for her. Legal battles against libelous lies about her took up much of her time and energy as time passed, but she continued to perform and to set shooting records well into her sixties, nearly to the very date of her death on November 3, 1926. By then Frank and Annie had been together for just over 50 years. So grieved by her death was he that Frank stopped eating and died 18 days later. It was discovered that throughout her life, Annie had donated all her fortune to her family and various charities.  
“Aim at the high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.” Annie Oakley, scribed at the exhibit at the “National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.”
From the porch swing of our family’s farmhouse, I often saluted Annie Oakley. It was as if her spirit hung high in the air above our Appalachian hills that formed the backdrop of our enormous Serpent Mound Crater, a spirit urging me on, willing me, a fellow Ohioan, to never give up.

Author and artist Linda Lee Greene is on social media
at the following:
Twitter: @LLGreeneAuthor

Also look for her at LinkedIn and Google+

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Talking Heart - Chapter Three: Perils of the Pug Nose by Linda Lee Greene




Pug nose - a short nose; flattened and turned up at the end—or in other words, “short and sweet and cute.” Way way back in my early days of dating, one of my boyfriends dubbed me “No nose.” That is as good a description of my nose as any, I suppose. I also found this nice little ditty about pug noses somewhere online: “Short-nosed people are sensitive and loyal. They’re kind and sympathetic. They tend to be reserved and shy. They’re also hard-working.” Absent from these descriptions is the fact that pug nosed people, like pug nosed dogs, and other pug nosed animals have a devil of a time breathing easily.

A quick look at the genealogy of types of noses reveals that the DNA behind pug noses hails from European influences. This makes sense in my case, because according to Ancestry.com, the largest percentage of my forebears hailed from Ireland, Wales, England and other Western European areas. That explains the preponderance of pug noses in my family, as well as why I am such an ardent Anglophile, I suppose. Inspector Morse and Doc Martin are my kinds of guy, and I would kill to be Vanessa Redgrave. Among several advantages Vanessa has over me that I could list here, but won’t, is that she managed to escape the “Perils of the Pug Nose,” as I call them. Her nose is of the “classic” type. There must be some Greek coursing her British blue-blood veins.

If you are blessed with a nose whose anatomy allows you to breathe effortlessly, you probably aren’t familiar with those breathing strips people stick across the width of their noses at night to aid in breathing. But, to you pug nosed people out there, I ask, “Have you ever tried to remove one of those breathing strips without ripping off at least two layers of skin in the process?” Those dang things hurt like holy hxxx. There are two ways of doing it: pry up one end and then rip the rest of it off in one fell swoop, or work it loose slowly one screaming skin cell by screaming skin cell. The first action results in a quick shriek of agony, the second in a long stream of scorching tears of pain. In either case, you’re left with a nose as red as Rudolph’s.

Years ago, a doctor told me that the turbinates inside my nose are much too large for its external structure. In other words, the casing of my nose is too tight for its contents. A turbinate or turbinal is a long, narrow, and curled shelf of bone that protrudes into the breathing passage of the nose in humans and various animals. I also have a deviated septum, acquired during the birthing process, we presume. The upshot is that these two anatomical anomalies inside my nose narrow the breathing passages to such an extent that I just cannot breathe without resorting to sprays or breathing strips, or whatever other therapies I can find. The problem is really bad at night when the mucous membranes of my nose swell and quite literally cut off my breathing. The result is a kind of sleep apnea that is worsening night by night. That ENT wanted to fix my nose surgically, but I chickened out, and have lived to regret it.

My sister Sherri thinks she has a remedy for me in an essential oil she swears by. She has a whole slew of them she uses for various therapies. The buzz is that they cure everything from toenail fungus to hair loss and beyond. Sherri says they are even helping her to lose weight. She is dropping off a supply for me this evening. I guess I am to rub the oil across the bridge of my nose, forehead, and sides of my neck, and to breathe it in as it forms a mist by way of a defuser. Of course, we are skeptical that an essential oil can straighten a deviated septum or pare down the curly bones inside a nose, but our hope is that it will keep the mucous membranes from swelling, and help in that way. I’m willing to give it a try. Anything is better than going under the knife or having to sleep with one of those breathing masks strapped to my face. Added to that the splint I am forced to wear on my left leg at night sometimes to stretch my injured Achilles tendon, as well as the sleeping mask I don to keep out the glow of a streetlight outside my bedroom window, and you have one hxxx of an alien creature in my bed. Then again, it might be a good deterrent to a night prowler, or an ardent suitor. Oh, the price we pay for a “cute” pug nose!  

 
Author and artist Linda Lee Greene is active on social media. You can find her at the following:
Twitter: @LLGreeneAuthor

Also look for her at LinkedIn and Google+