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.

“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


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+

Monday, August 7, 2017

My Talking Heart - Chapter Two: IN DAD'S SHOES by Linda Lee Greene


Dad was in the garage,
Working on a car.
One of his,
Or one of his brothers’,
Or one of my mother’s brothers’.
It didn’t matter
‘Cause Dad liked working on cars.
Dad removed his greasy shoes and grimy socks before coming in the kitchen,
And as always before and again that time,
I noticed his feet –
So much like mine,
And I took the photo of his shoes to remind me,
And hoped I would be more like him in other ways with time.

 Linda Lee Greene
December 9, 2007

My father’s given name was Leland Edward Greene, but he preferred the shorter Lee Edward Greene. The brief version won out and was his name for the entirety of his 89 years of life. I am named for Dad. The distinction is mine among the four offspring of my parents due to the order of my birth: I am the firstborn, and because of that accident of chronology, by tradition the name was given to me. As time passed, however, it seemed meant to be, because among my three siblings and me, I resemble my father in appearance most closely. The jury is still out on whether or not I take after him in other, more crucial ways. But I try! I try!
            For the past three years, I have been honored with the enormous responsibility of writing eulogies of members of my family whom have died during that time. The assignment began with the passing of my father on March 29, 2014. I haven’t the foggiest recollection of the writer of my mother’s eulogy upon the occasion of her death on June 29, 1992. At the time, nobody, including me, knew me to be a writer…that is a story better left for a future chapter of “My Talking Heart.” Recently, I came across the little funeral flyer produced for my mother, and it presents a woefully inadequate tribute to her. Oh, how I wish I had had the presence of mind then to write a eulogy for her that did her life justice. I intend to make up for that deficit in her legacy in these writings.
            To know my parents is to know me. I introduced an aspect of my mother to you in Chapter One of “My Talking Heart.” Chapter Two introduces my father by way of the opening paragraph of the eulogy I wrote for him, as well as an excerpt about him featured in my novel GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS. The quality that comes across most prominently about him in these passages is his grit. I think I might resemble him a little bit in that regard, too. I try! I try!

(Excerpt of eulogy)

“Lee Edward Greene, 89, beloved son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and cherished friend was one of the last of the Greatest Generation, a loving and dedicated family man who was a joyful and steadfast breadwinner. He was a man good with his hands whether the task was to fix a leaky faucet, to make a car purr, or to build a house. But essentially he was a simple man – he held no public office, never attained fame nor amassed a fortune, but within the small circle that comprised his life, he was the center that always held, the rock upon whom everyone depended, the flint against which everyone struck on his/her passage to adulthood. We aren’t likely to see his kind again any time soon…”

(Excerpt of GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS - Lee going to school)

“The one-room, Cedar Fork schoolhouse across the holler from the little log cabin on the near side of Peach Mountain was a tolerable two-mile walk in mild weather. It was an enjoyable walk actually, if one had time to swing from a grapevine on top of a high cliff and drop into Cedar Fork Creek for a lazy dip, or to stop by the Workman’s place for a quick smoke of their cornsilk tobacco. But in snowdrifts as tall as thirteen-year-old Lee Greene, in threadbare clothes, thin hand-me-down coat, and barely covered feet in holey socks flopping in an old pair of secondhand shoes that were several sizes too big for him, the walk that frigid morning was worse than pure misery.
Lee’s chronically aching stomach was hollow and rumbling. His meager breakfast of cornmeal mush and sugar water was quickly wearing thin, but he had more important things than his stomach to worry about that morning. He was stewing about the paucity of milk he had drawn from their cow tethered in the yard just beyond the lean-to kitchen at the back of his family’s tiny log cabin. The two-story structure, built by his father A. E., Lee, and his brother Bill only five months before, comprised a common, or front room on the main level, a primitive lean-to kitchen at the back, and a bedroom where his mother Eva Love and A. E. slept, housing the only closet in the place. A rough-hewn timber ladder gained access to the upper deck, where, in an open-to-the-front loft, all of the many children slept on crude cots, or thin pads on the floor. A large ceiling-to-floor fireplace of indigenous stones in the common room on the first floor was the only source of heat in the place. Felled tree trunks supporting its roof, a porch spanned the width of the front of the log cabin.  
The soil where they lived on Cedar Fork, thin, hard, and dry, a crusty layer of sediment topping a bedrock of limestone, dolomite and shale, made for poor farming and gardening, posing a formidable challenge for the growing of adequate food. Squirrels, rabbits, opossums and birds, hunted and brought in by Lee, the insufficient supply of milk from the cow, and scant eggs supplied by their paltry flock of scrawny chickens in the yard, were the only sources of protein for the family. In season, a large vegetable garden and a stand of corn were coddled into fruition in the poor soil, but only if they were favored with enough rain.    
His nose and eyes crusty from yet another head cold, gloveless hands thrust into the pockets of his thin coat, and his feet turning to blocks of ice, Lee trudged on to school, his white-blond head under his hat hunkered into his shoulders. Despite the fact that he might not make it through the perpetual hardships of his life, much less that cold, windy, and snowbound morning, his soul was full of dreams, his mind of intention, his body of vigor and endurance, and on the strength of pure power of will alone, and maybe some help from the man upstairs, Lee was determined that if he ever got out of his childhood alive, nothing would ever encumber him again.
The one-room schoolhouse was dark and frigid, Lee, by design, having been the first to arrive. The door was unlocked, as it always was, and Lee, halting for a few minutes to give his blood a chance to circulate again in his frozen limbs and digits, sat down on one of the benches. He would have wept if he had allowed himself to seriously consider his unfortunate circumstances – but not Lee! No, not Lee! Not the boy/man who would one day be my father. He had a chance to earn fifty cents that week, and every week for weeks to come, fifty cents for building a fire in the “Warm Morning” coal-burning, heating-stove each morning before school, and that was exactly what the sam hill he was going to do…”


GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS, (http://goo.gl/imUwKO) is my novel of historical fiction blended with the true story of my maternal and paternal ancestors, including my mother and father’s childhoods, a story that takes place during the early to middle Twentieth Century. It has been compared to Pulitzer Prize winners, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and “Angela’s Ashes,” as well as to Jeannette Walls’ “Half Broke Horses.” 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My Talking Heart: Chapter One - MY MOTHER'S MILK by Linda Lee Greene

I came out of my mother’s womb kicking and screaming, and I didn’t stop carrying on until after I was weaned from my mother’s breast. The opinion of our country doctor, and of my grandmother, was that I had colic, which is defined as “a severe, often fluctuating pain in the abdomen caused by intestinal gas or obstruction in the intestines and suffered especially by babies.” I think I was merely hungry. I think my mother’s milk was insufficient to nourish me, because as soon as I was weaned from her milk and put on solid food, I settled down. Another possibility is that my mother’s diet tainted her breast milk. A modern-day treatment of colic includes eliminating caffeine, cow’s milk, and gas-producing vegetables from a breastfeeding mother’s diet. From the time of her teen years, my mother was a caffeine-fiend, and a main staple of her diet was vegetables grown in my grandmother’s enormous farm-garden. One of my indelible memories of my mother is watching her at mealtimes, her fork in her right hand and a freshly-pulled, cleaned, and trimmed scallion in her left hand, a bite from the fork followed by a bite of a scallion. I wasn’t yet a year old when my mother weaned me, and I was by then a precocious, curious, fidgety child, talking like a magpie, and wound up like the Eveready Bunny.

Another widely-held belief is that a colicky baby’s nervous system is immature at the time of birth, a phenomenon that renders the infant unable to handle stimuli outside the womb: sights and sounds, for instance.  At the time of my birth, my Dad was away at Navy Boot Camp. Mom had moved back to her parent’s farm for the duration, and it was there, in a bedroom of the farmhouse, that I was born. The household was a raucous one, as six of the eight young offspring of Mom’s birth family was still under roof, plus my grandmother and grandfather, and then me. Mom’s youngest sibling Dean was only eight days shy of seven when I was born. Other than during my young girlhood when I was still a chatterbox and a jumping bean, throughout the rest of my history, I have tended toward widely-spaced bursts of energetic chatter and activity, for during my adolescence, I discovered quiet, my quiet bedroom, and quiet people to whom I was drawn. I fell in love with quiet. And I just wonder if at the moment I first emerged into the world, if my soul was jarred by all the activity, as it still is. I can handle noise only for short spans of time. Recently my son Frank drove me from my home in Columbus, Ohio to Palm Harbor, Florida, and back, for a short visit with my sister Susan. Throughout the entire 36 or more hours of the roundtrip, my son entertained himself with blasting music on the car’s radio. This is his habit. It energizes him. It depletes me. And by the time the trip was done, the inside of my head was ringing, painfully, and my soul just wanted to hunker down in the luxurious, the deliberate serenity, the utter freedom of my home.

While I was my mother’s first child, she was not a novice in the care of infants, for she was the eldest female among her parent’s eight children. As such, Mom acted as backup mother to her younger siblings for most of her girlhood. In the attached photograph of Mom and her seven siblings, she is the teenager in the back row, the one holding her youngest sibling, the infant Dean.

As you might have guessed by now, the title of this chapter “MY MOTHER’S MILK,” is a metaphor for my relationship with my mother. That I am introspective is a given, as most highly creative types are. My reflections often center on my bond with my mother. Mom and I were devoted to each other, without question, and while outwardly it was unhampered by dysfunction and inadequacy, a Sherlock Holmes-type of investigation of it unearths a mother/daughter connection not quite so blemish-free. Strangely, the glitch in our relationship can be boiled down to one factor, one giveaway clue: my colicky infancy. The unfortunate truth is that like my mother’s milk that left me under- and ill-nourished, she was not enough for me in other ways, as well. This was the case during my formative years, at least.

I suspect that by the time I came into being, my mother was burned out on babies, on the work tied to babies and young children. She’d had years of it by then with her younger brothers and sisters. Then I came along, and rather than being the designer baby she had dreamed of, I bawled night and day, I bit her nipples with my sharp baby teeth in utter frustration toward those only instruments available to feed me, and getting little of what I needed from them. I’ve concluded that the breastfeeding interaction between us set up a psychological pattern that dogged us forevermore, one in which my natural need to be nourished by my mother was thwarted at so many turns, the consequences of which played havoc with her confidence that she was equipped to respond to my needs, sufficiently. I think she gave away her power to me out of guilt. Throughout the years Mom and I had together, her reliable response to me when I solicited her guidance on almost any situation was, “Why are you asking me? You’re smarter than I am.”

An adjunct to this whole thing is that I think the basic need of my mother’s soul was quiet. I think she craved serenity and freedom, and other than for a little while in the last years of her life, she was allowed very little of it. I inherited my need of those things from her. She has been gone now for 25 years, and still my need to feed off her is as strong as the day I was born. My only comfort is my belief that our story isn’t finished—and someday, somewhere we will be together again, and then we will get it right in every possible way.


“Guardians and Other Angels,” (http://goo.gl/imUwKO) is my novel of historical fiction blended with the true story of my maternal ancestors, including my mother’s girlhood, a story that takes place during the early to middle Twentieth Century. It has been compared to Pulitzer Prize winners, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and “Angela’s Ashes,” as well as to Jeannette Walls’ “Half Broke Horses.” 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Talking Heart: An Introduction by Linda Lee Greene

Once upon a time a very long time ago, I had a dream—not the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s overcoming injustice kind of dream, but the kind of dream we have while we are sleeping, when our conscious mind turns off for the day, and the fairies and devils of our unconscious mind come out to play, or to make mayhem, or to implant a message that might be crucial to our lives. Upon awakening, the dream to which I refer latched on to me and wouldn’t let go—not that it hounded me, but it did show up unsolicited from time to time, as it still does. I have the very real sense that it contains a lesson I need to learn, and over the years I’ve entertained various ideas of what that might be, but none that seemed plausible. The dream went like this:
I was at an art show, or an art gallery, or perhaps an art museum. The backdrop isn’t unusual in my case since in my waking life, I am an artist and have occasion to frequent places where artwork is displayed. Although other people were in attendance, I felt completely alone in the room, alone and lost in the paintings on exhibit, as is also normal for me. My spirit took flight from my body and walked barefoot and bare-headed among the grasses and trees of landscapes, dipped naked toes in the cool clear flow of streams and rivers in waterscapes, and sucked sweet juices of peaches and pears arranged in crystal bowls in still lifes. A painting of a man across the span of the room caught my eye—no, it was more than that. I don’t suggest that it called to me, or beckoned me. But I somehow knew I was supposed to go to it and stand before it at full attention.
It was a painting of a holy man, a bronzed face, dark dips and depressions beneath pronounced cheekbones and ancient eyes, near-black beard and hair touching his white tunic. The garment fell from his shoulders and ballooned open at his chest, and caught again in closure at his waist. In the center of his chest sat his exposed heart. I remember thinking in my dream that it was a duplicate of photos I had seen of the Catholic Jesus assuming the same pose—the same face, the same exposed heart.
I am not a Jesus person, or a Buddha or a Mohammad person, nor any other holy-man or holy-woman person. I adhere to no specific genre of religion, therefore I wondered why this particular image caught me so—when suddenly, the heart moved and expanded as if to sigh, and then a pair of lips parted in its center, a mouth that opened and spoke to me. I couldn’t make out the words. I just couldn’t hear them or even to intuit the message that heart had for me. But today, I have an idea of the lesson the talking heart conveyed to me, one I was unable to absorb then, because I wasn’t ready yet. I think the heart said to me, “Talk, Linda. Open up and communicate. Be vulnerable. Tell your story. Let people know you. They are waiting out there, waiting for you to connect with them sincerely.”

This is a tough mandate the talking heart laid upon me. I don’t talk about myself easily, at least not the unmasked me. I’m going to give it my best shot, though, in a series of writings I am calling “My Talking Heart.” Today is the introduction; the next one will be chapter one, and then chapter two, and on and on. I hope you hear me in my musings. And if you do, won’t you let me know, please?