Writing Life

I am Jan Krause Greene. I explore the vast capacity of the human heart as a novelist, poet and storyteller. My first novel was released in August of 2013. I currently have three other works in progress.

Just a little poem

Hi Dear Readers, I have not posted a blog in awhile because this month I have been really busy going to book events. It has been a great month of meeting people, reading from my book, participating on panels, and increasing my sales. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. But now I  need to rest a tiny bit and then turn my focus back to writing.. In the meantime, here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. Shortly after writing this, I signed a contract with a publisher.

In My Dreams

flying person


In my dreams I fly – in and out of windows, above mountains, between trees.

I don’t need wings to carry me.

I fly because I am light and free.

In my dreams.

In my dreams, I swim in deep, blue waters.

I jump off cliffs into the waiting ocean.

I rise to the surface and keep on going, up, up!

Right up to the sky.

I fly at night, the stars and moon lighting my way.

In my dreams, I am the leader of important causes.

I speak truth to power.

I bring healing to the hurt.

Food to the hungry.

Justice to the oppressed.

In my dreams, I make a difference.

What I do matters.

I am making the world a better place.

I will be remembered for what I have done.

In my dreams.


In my waking life, I do laundry.

I sweep, dust and vacuum.

I shop. I cook. I eat. I sleep.

I drink lots of coffee and not enough wine.

I take care of my mother.

I babysit for my grandchildren.

I go for walks with my husband.

I watch TV. I read.

Sometimes I even write.

In my waking life.

I tend my garden.

I watch the sunset.

I think great thoughts.

And I long to be the person in my dreams.

I long to do the things that matter;

To make a difference -

To know that in some way the world is better because I was here.

In my dreams, there is no question about this.

I am a person who can fly.

That is proof enough.

But in my waking life,

I measure my importance in small things -

A word of gratitude from my mother.

A smile when my grandson sees me at the door.

My husband’s warm embrace.

This is my real life - the life that says

“You are no different from anyone else.

You can not fly. You are earthbound;

tied to the earth by those you love.”

And sometimes, not very often, but oh so gloriously,

I feel myself rising to the sky on wings of joy

and, oh yes, I am awake!

This is my real life too.




I Knew the Boston Marathon

The standard advice to writers is to write about what you know. I know the Boston Marathon.

Maybe I should say I knew it. Although, my memories from 46 years of the Marathon remain the same, the emotional impact of these memories is forever changed.

The marathon has been something amazing and special to me since the first time I saw it in 1967. I was a freshman at Boston College, up from my home state of Maryland. I had never even heard of it. But I loved watching it and I loved its history, going all the way back to 1897.

For so many New Englanders, the Boston Marathon was more than sport. It was a rite of spring; a cherished family day; a chance to stand with people you did not know and cheer on other people you did not know; to offer paper cups of water and sliced oranges as the runners passed by. It was a feel-good day.

Rain or shine, too cold or too hot, the runners came and so did the spectators. Every year I watched with tears as front runners sprinted by and those at the back of the pack struggled by. The crowds always cheered for both - awe in their voices for those in the lead and sincere words of encouragement for those in the back.

I always felt like the Boston Marathon was an example of people at their best. Their real best - not just their peak of physical performance - their best because it was, in many ways, about collaboration as much as competition; about striving as much as succeeding; about cheering on with appreciation as much as being cheered for; about celebrating the last as well as the first.

It was about the spectators as much as the runners.  Running Boston just wouldn't be the same without the crowds and traditions. It was truly the most interactive of sporting events and many families built traditions around this special iconic Boston event.

It was about people coming together from all over the world to participate, and in a funny way, it was about people from the suburbs coming together with Bostonians to celebrate our "Bostonness."

Bostonians, for the most part, love Boston - its history, its crazy traffic patterns, its accent, its sports teams and its marathon.  To us, "the Marathon."  When we heard someone talk about "running Boston" it held a special meaning for us.

So how has it changed? What does it mean now?

It means even more than it did before.  Until 2:51 on Monday afternoon, it represented a happy celebration of spring and sport, a chance for people to be at their best. Now it will always represent people at their worst, as well.

But here is what we can't forget. Whether there was one bomber or a dozen or even a hundred, there were more heroes than bombers. People rushed in to help. Others showed up at area hospitals to donate blood. Others opened their homes to those who couldn't get back into their hotels. People across the country are collecting money to help victims in whatever way possible.

None of this diminishes the horror of what happened. None of it makes up for the senseless loss of lives and limbs. None of it can restore the innocence so many children lost on this day.

No, the harm -and it is immense - can not be extinguished.

But the spirit of the Boston Marathon can not be extinguished either.

If the bombers thought that fear would prevail,  they were wrong.

If they thought that hatred will overtake us, they were wrong.

If they thought that we will be convinced that the evil in the world is stronger than the good, they were wrong.

We can show them that they are wrong, and we must.

So from now on, be a little more loving to everyone, a little less fearful about everything, and embrace all that is good in the world. Hold tight to the good.  Never let it go.

Finally, come to Boston for next year's Marathon.                                                                   Run it.                                                                                                                                                Walk it.                                                                                                                                               Watch it.                                                                                                                                         Just come.

We need you here.



Monster Control - past and present....

From the mid-80s to the mid-90s,  I had a weekly newspaper column entitled HOMEFRONT. It was mostly about family life with five sons and a little about being a high school teacher. Once in a while I tackled the big issues of the day. Recently, a friend and former reader asked me to find a particular column that she had saved all these years and recently lost. The hunt for this column led me down a nostalgic path. As I skimmed through my enormous pile of columns, I remembered so many of the feelings that I had when I was raising my sons  who are now ages 29 to 37.

Now I am a grandmother of four boys - ages 1 to 5 and one girl who is 6 months. My heart is filled with love for them, just as it was (and always will be!) for my sons. I find that my desire to protect my grandchildren is almost exactly the same as it was for my children. So I am going to share a column that I wrote in 1986:

The other night my youngest son told me he couldn't go to sleep because, "when I close my eyes they have monsters in them." I told him he was just imagining the monsters, but he would not be convinced. As I sat on his bed, keeping him company so that the monsters "will go away" I thought of all the things my children have taught me about monsters. A lot of is sounds vaguely familiar, like something I knew about a long time ago, but have since forgotten.

  • Monsters are hard to see with open eyes; appearing only as shadowy figures and bulges behind curtains, but they can be seen in great horrific detail with closed eyes.
  • Monsters are afraid of light and they sneak up on you at night, unless you sleep with a light on.
  • Monsters don't care if you believe in them or not.
  • Monsters are crafty and hide behind furniture, in closets, and most often, under beds. They have long arms and ugly hands and can reach out and grab an unsuspecting victim from the other side of a room.
  • Monsters also like to hide in basements, lurking under the steps while eagerly waiting for anyone to be dumb enough to go downstairs alone.
  • Monsters DO make noises. Kids hear them frequently, but the monsters slyly stop making the noises when a grown-up enters the room.
  • The best protection against monsters is having another person in bed with you. If that isn't possible, stuffed animals are a good defense. Even blankets and pillows can be arranged as protection.
  • Monsters like to hang around after you watch a scary movie or even talk about scary things.
  • Monsters are not afraid of children - no matter how tough the children act. But they are afraid of grown-ups.
  • You can't fool monsters. They know when you are asleep and they wait until then to get to you.(No one has been able to tell me what happens when they get you)
  • Monsters can go through closed windows and doors, but they can not follow you into your parents room.
  • You can trick monsters into thinking your brother is the only one in the bed. This is why it is important not to sleep alone.
  • Monsters hide in bathrooms, especially behind shower curtains.
  • Monsters have been known to do terrible things to poor little children whose parents didn't believe them when they said there were monsters in their room at night.
  • The only way to be 100 percent safe from monsters is to sleep in your parents' bed, snuggled in, safe and sound, between them.
  • All of the things grown-ups tell you about monsters being make-believe and just-pretend don't do any good when you are alone in the dark with one.

As I pick up the little boy with monsters in his eyes and carry him to our room, I feel a little sad, knowing that in a few years I won't be able to save him from his monsters anymore.

That was written more than 25 years ago. I knew then that eventually my boys would grow up and I would not be able to protect them from the real "monsters" they would encounter - the various really difficult and heart-breaking things that we all encounter as we go through life. I know this is true for my grandchildren too. There will come a time when the loving arms of their parents won't be able to take away their problems. This is the way life is meant  to unfold. When we are young, our parents fortify us and we gather strength for the hard times that may come as we get older. All people experience struggles and challenges, and most of us manage to survive them and live fulfilling lives. This is as it should be.

But, now, 25 years later, I am forced to admit that there are very real monsters in my grandchildren's future. Monsters that they will not be able to protect themselves from unless we, their parents and grandparents, do something now.

Mother Earth is in serious trouble. She needs us to take care of her. The ecosystems that have sustained us are in jeopardy. Our oceans and waterways are seriously threatened from pollution. Air quality is getting worse and worse. Much of the planet is already experiencing a severe water crisis in the form of  scarcity of usable water. Farmlands are less and less fertile. I could go on and on. The problems are many and complex.

But, here's the thing. There are solutions. Here's the other thing. Nothing is going to get better if we don't decide to do something. Now.

Most of the western world lives with such a high degree of ease and comfort that we don't even bother to learn about what is happening all around us. We don't understand the impact of our reliance on fossil fuels or the dominance of agribusiness. We don't think about the enormous islands of plastic - including one that is bigger than the state of Texas - floating in our oceans. We have all but forgotten about the hole in the ozone layer and we continue to argue about the reality of the greenhouse effect.

As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. But do we really want our bliss to be responsible for a life of extreme hardship for our grandchildren and future generations? I realize that when you understand the enormity of the environmental crisis there is a tendency to ignore it because it seems to big and complicated. But if each of us learned about one aspect and educated others about it, well, that could help.

If each one of us chose one or two ways to lessen our own personal negative impact on the environment, well, hey, that could help to.

If each one of us decided to become informed and then to inform decision-makers at the local, state and federal level, well, heck yeah, that could make a difference too.

If nothing else, start with a simple search of the internet. You will be amazed at what you find. I have included a few links for you. Not because they are the best, or the ones I trust the most, but because they were so easy to find. Check them out.

I know once you start you won't stop looking, because this earth is your home, your only home and when you really think about it, it matters more to you than almost anything.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” ― Dr. SeussThe Lorax




 and if you are looking for some solutions, check out the books at Chelsea Green Publishing.

Betty's Brain

Hi all, I recently wrote a short, short story and I decided to share it with my blog readers. Please let me know what you think of it, especially if you have a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Betty's Brain

In the last moment before she lost consciousness, Betty wondered who she would be when she awoke. She and her husband Mark had discussed this many times before agreeing to the experimental procedure that, if all went well, would save her from the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. They had carefully assessed their options, examining each projection of their future life together in minute detail, as if they could take their love, their desires, their children’s reactions and examine each under the lens of a microscope -    reducing the incredible complexity of human life to a collection of cells pulsing and vibrating against each other. They had convinced themselves because they felt, in the end, they had no other choice.  They believed they could bring order and predictability to the rest of their life together, if only they could save Betty’s brain from the rapid and inevitable deterioration of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Betty agreed to be the first person to have neural stem cells of another human transplanted into her own brain only after her daughter and son-in-law agreed to donate stem cells from their newborn son. Knowing that she would be transplanted with cells that would bear some of her own genetic material was comforting to her. Knowing that the cells were from a newborn was encouraging to her. But not knowing if these cells would change her from who she had been to some new version of herself was frightening. Yet, in the final analysis, both Betty and Mark had concluded that it was not as frightening as the new version of herself that Alzheimer’s promised.

As the surgical nurse inserted Betty’s IV line, Mark gently kissed her forehead. He said, “I love you, Betty … I will always love you … no matter what,” and he meant what he said. But they both knew she would be easier to love if she was still Betty, the Betty he had lived with and loved for 26 years. This had been the deciding factor for them - betting on the fact that Alzheimer’s would take away more of the Betty he loved than having another person’s stem cells in her brain would. It was a risk and they both knew it. The night before, while making love, Mark had vowed to stick by her no matter what the outcome.

Three months earlier, sitting in the researcher’s office, Betty and Mark and their daughter, Karen, listened to two scientists and one surgeon explain the procedure. Betty sat in a straight-backed armless chair. She clutched the worn leather strap of her pocket book and unconsciously tapped her right foot against the leg of the chair while the surgeon gently touched her head, outlining the incision he would make. He pointed to an area behind her ear, calling it “the point of entry” as he detailed the process of inserting healthy newborn stem cells into her ravaged brain.

Karen sat on a small faded blue couch looking nervous and instinctively rubbing her large belly as if to protect the growing life inside her. She looked from her parents to the doctor to the door. When the surgeon asked if she had any concerns, all she could say was, “If you can promise me it won’t hurt my baby, I will do anything to save my mother.”

Mark, sitting beside Karen, also asked for reassurance that his unborn grandchild would not be hurt in any way. Both researchers and the surgeon assured him that there was no risk to the baby. Feeling only slightly relieved, he asked the question that had been plaguing him. He wanted to know if infant stem cells had personality traits. Was there a chance that implanting neural stem cells from another person would drastically change his wife’s personality? The question scared him so much that he had refrained from asking it until now.

Karen looked at Betty to see her reaction, but Betty’s face was passive. She was, as her family described it, “in a state.” Although she had been fully engaged in the conversation just a few moments before, Betty’s mind had now drifted to a place known only to herself. She stared blankly ahead, slack-jawed and unaware of her surroundings. Her hands, no longer tightly gripping her handbag, rested on her knees. She didn’t look worried, nor happy, nor sad. She appeared emotionless. Karen averted her gaze. It broke her heart to see her mother this way.

At the hospital on the day of her surgery, Betty didn’t remember this visit to the doctor. She didn’t really remember the many long conversations during which she and Mark agonized over whether or not to volunteer for this experimental cure. But she remembered Mark and Karen and her two sons. She still loved each of them fiercely even though sometimes when they were all together she felt bewildered by the talking and laughing, and the crying too.

Betty’s loss of memory had been getting worse each day. As her neurologist had predicted, early-onset Alzheimer’s progressed rapidly. Yet there were days when her mind seemed clear and sharp - days when her sense of humor was quick and her comments witty. These good days made the bad days harder for her family. They wanted to understand what was really happening inside her brain. Why could she think clearly one day and forget how to put her shoes on the next day?

Mark had once heard Alzheimer’s described as a “long goodbye.” It seemed so terribly accurate to him as he witnessed his wife losing pieces of herself, bit by bit, day by day. He was shocked to realize that with every bit of her that disappeared, she took a little piece of him too. The shared memories, the knowing looks that once conveyed meaning without the need of words, the simple understanding of who he was because of who they were together - he was losing all of this, just as Betty was losing herself. Because of this the choice was easier. They would take this chance because they had each already lost so much of themselves to the war in Betty’s brain.

Mark pictured Betty’s brain as a battlefield where healthy neurons were waging a valiant battle against the foot soldiers of Alzheimer’s - amyloid plaque and tangles of tau protein gone cruelly awry. He saw healthy neurons stretching and straining to connect with each other, fighting their way through the jungle of tangles and plaques that prevented their synapses from making contact.

He imagined the healthy neurons loaded down with heavy knapsacks carrying the precious information needed to survive. In his mind, the healthy neurons looked like starving children he saw on TV commercials - emaciated, hands outstretched in supplication, begging for information that would nourish them. He wanted these healthy neurons to win more than he had ever wanted anyone to win anything. He believed his survival depended on it.

Those neurons made it possible for the rest of Betty’s brain to love him. He hoped that their grandson’s stem cells could save those neurons; that they could supply ammunition needed to win the war that was being waged against Betty’s will inside her brain. A war that had started without provocation; without a declaration of war, with just the slightest hint that something was amiss when Betty couldn’t remember how to bid her hand in bridge. They had both laughed it off - calling it a senior moment, even though Betty was only 49.

Betty lay on the operating table, surrounded by nurses, neurosurgeons, and anesthesiologists. An audience watched from the viewing chamber above the operating room. Although they could see inside her brain, none of them could see her mind. What was it experiencing as thousands of healthy stem cells were implanted in her brain? Would Betty ever be able to recount it to them? When she came to, would it be obvious that the experiment had worked? Would lost memories be restored? Could she begin to accumulate new ones?


Betty felt as if she was emerging from a warm liquid. She longed to be held. She wanted to suckle at her mother’s breast. She wanted to be enveloped in loving arms. But first she had to keep going into this scary place. She crawled slowly through a thorny path, struggling to get through the tangle of briars and clumps of rust-colored mud. The further she went, the easier it got. She felt stronger as she made her way to a distant clearing. She felt alive in a way she could not describe. There was something waiting in the sunlight. As she got closer, she recognized it. It was her past. She embraced it lovingly and then continued on to the glowing, pulsing path waiting just beyond. When she reached the path, she stood up and took her first step. She knew just where she was going. The path led to the rest of her life and she couldn’t wait to get there.

Exploring the Capacity of the Human Heart

Welcome to the first edition of my blog. I will be exploring with all of you the incredible capacity of the human heart to hold within it love and hate, hope and fear, pain and joy, forgiveness and revenge....and much more. I hope that I will hear from all of you with your insights about what the heart can hold.

This blog will feature a variety of posts, including poetry, video, art and a readers' forum.

To get us started, here is a poem I wrote:

What I Would Have Said 

What would I have said to my children when they were born if I knew then what I know now?

When my first son was born, I sat awake in my hospital bed and wrote a long letter about all my hopes and dreams for him. 

 I wrote about how much we anticipated his arrival, about how much we loved him before he was even born.

And how we would always love him, no matter what. 

I wrote essentially the same letter to each of my new born sons. 

Many years have come and gone. 

My sons are men now and I have grandchildren.

My life is full. My heart is full. The words of love I wrote are still completely true. 

But if I knew then, what I know now, the letter would be different. 

Not knowing then, that my marriage would end in divorce, I neglected to tell them that all love is good...no matter what....having loved someone matters.

No matter how it ends, or changes, love is never wasted. 

Never fear a broken heart because the only way you can get one is by having loved deeply, and deep love enriches the soul.

Never think that once your heart is broken, you can’t ever love again.

Each time we love, we increase our capacity to love.  

The human heart is designed to love and it has the capacity to grow and expand until it is so big that it loves the whole world. 

Most of us run out of time before our hearts get big enough to hold love for the whole entire world, but many of us come pretty close.

Yes, there was a lot I did not know when I wrote those love letters to my children.

Not just about love, but about the incredible mystery of life. 

So many things I didn’t tell them, because I didn’t know then what I know now.

I would tell them that they are the stuff of stars....

That the very atoms that pulse and vibrate inside us come from the stars! 

We are in the universe and the universe is in us; in all of us, no matter when or where we lived.

I would tell them that they are connected to every being who has ever lived or ever will live.

That long after they have died, the atoms that were part of them will be somewhere in the universe, part of some other life...recycled in the air, the soil, a beautiful flower, a tree, or even another person. 

And because of this, we will never be separate from the rest of the world; from the earth that we live on, from the people we call enemies and those we call friends. 

I would tell them, because I do know it now... 

that everything they do really does make a difference.



Our actions have an impact far beyond our ability to know.

The choices we make about what we eat and how we live affect people everywhere....not just metaphorically or spiritually, but really. 

We share the earth with billions of people and there will be billions more after we die. 

What we use and what we conserve affect them all.

Wars we wage and wars we avert affect them all.

Discoveries we make and how we use them affect them all. 

They are us and we are them, only luckier.

I would tell them that we were chosen to be that accumulation of atoms that won the birth lottery; that we were born to a life of relative plenty.

That we have responsibility because of this.

And I would tell them this too.

None of us will ever make the whole difference; none of us can truly change the world,

Because each and every one of us is needed.

I would tell them “the power of one” really means the power of EACH one combined with the power of many other ones. 

And, although, they share the atoms from the same stars as the rest of us,

Each of us is a totally unique, unduplicatable individual person.

Within each unique individual lies the future of the world.

We are all chosen to use what is in us-

 that stuff that makes me, me and you, you -

 No one else has that to offer to the world.

 So, shine like the stars that are within you! 

Love so much that your heart expands until it can hold the whole world in its care. 

And know that as my heart grows, my love for you grows, every day.

Looking forward to our exploration of the varieties of human experience and how the heart grows to hold and honor all that we experience. I plan to write once a week, but in the beginning, I may write a little more often. So please check in now and then!

In the meantime, what do you think about the heart's ability to grow big enough to hold love for the whole world? Do you have any examples to share? Please leave a comment if you do!