Kim Greene: Chasing Dreams

Aug 11, 2021 | Spotlight

By Casey McCarthy

In the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, near Cherokee Park, down a tree-lined hilly lane, sits a beautiful two-story home where dreams are tended.  Up the steps, the client walks into a sea-foam green nook, the word DREAM in gold letters behind the tender.

The client sits opposite the tender in white horseshoe chairs facing the room’s center, leaving the circle opening in between for the dream to take shape. Two-minute guided meditation begins. The patient closes their eyes, imagining the dream taking shape before them.

Kim Greene, dream tender, begins to interpret the dream playing out on the gray carpet before her as the client describes it. Greene asks the client: Notice the figures, what are they doing? What do they look like? Notice the details, are any particularly peculiar?

“I think dreams, they have repeating messages,” Greene explains. “If you look back at your dreams over a period of time, you are likely to see images that recur.”

Greene, a well-known first amendment attorney and nonprofit leader in Kentucky, left her job at Dinsmore and Shohl in 2004, after almost 24 years.  She left to pursue dream tending, a method of dealing with dreams that considers them as “living images,” focusing on the psyche rather than the person.

Greene studied at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in California under Stephen Aizenstat, the institute’s founder. Aizenstat, a professor of depth psychology, has studied dreams for over 35 years. Greene began her own dream tending business in 2008 in her home in Louisville.

“I can remember when I was growing up, in junior high school, the very first time we were assigned a paper, I was so interested in dreams I chose to research them,” Greene said.  “The interest had just faded into the background over the years.”

Her clients vary in number, but she said they are typically middle-class women of all ages. Greene charges $75 for a 60-90 minute session, but said she’s never turned anyone away if they couldn’t afford it. She also holds group workshops on dreams, helping people better understand their own dreams.

The majority of dreams she’s asked to interpret deal with large emotional impact, but said dreams come in levels, depending a lot on the person.  Some people are just better in tune with their consciousness, Greene said.

“At a shallower level, you may have a dream because the Mexican food you ate for dinner last night was too spicy,” Greene said. “Then there’s the very, very personal level of meaning in my life in some dreams.”

Leaving her law practice for dream tending was just the latest in a series of transitions throughout her life, a series of dreams pursued. Those dreams have carried her to the helm of the regional Planned Parenthood and led her to co-found a first amendment program at WKU.

Her dreams began in a small town in Kentucky.

Greene was born in Ashland, Kentucky in 1949. She has one sibling, a younger brother, Tom. Her father worked as a supervisor for Armco Steele, a practical man in his approach to life, Greene said.  Her mother was a high school art teacher, a free spirit.

“She would find the beauty in things,” Greene said. “So she had the free spirit for the two of them. And I think if you would consider some of the things I’ve done in my life as an adventure, then that’s where that came from every day.”

Greene’s parents had lived their entire lives in small, rural towns, both growing up in central Kentucky, around Mount Sterling, before moving to Ashland to begin their family. Greene would venture out quickly in life.

Greene departed Ashland when she left for college, attending Duke University in North Carolina.  In addition to pursuing her degree, she involved herself in demonstrations and rallies for civil and women’s rights, a passion she would pursue more in her work with Planned Parenthood later in life.

After graduating college, she got married and followed her new husband to New York City, where he went to work in retail. She was an elementary school teacher.Greene taught at PS 28 Manhattan, in Spanish Harlem, something she called quite an adventure for someone who’d lived most of their life to that point in Kentucky and North Carolina.

The majority of Greene’s students were Hispanic, around 65 percent, with many of them Dominican. Many of her students came from Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where public education laws did not exist yet.

“Kids were coming to New York with their family who had never been to school at all,” Greene said. “My third-grade class, many of the Hispanic kids there were almost teenagers.”

Greene said teaching in New York was truly a life education for her. She also called it a fun chapter of her life.  Greene said she always knew she wouldn’t live in New York City forever, so she acted like a tourist while she was there.

Around 1974, New York City experienced a massive financial crisis, leaving the city almost bankrupt.  Over 30,000 teachers were laid off, including many, like Greene, who had tenure.  Greene divorced from her husband the same year. She hung around for a short time, expecting a call back, wondering how the city’s school system could still operate without 30,000 of their teachers.

“Living on unemployment insurance, you know, that money doesn’t go so far, anywhere, but certainly not in a big city like New York,” Greene said.

Greene moved back to Kentucky around 1975 or 1976. Living in Lexington, Greene had an equally difficult time finding a teaching position among what she referred to as a glut of teachers in the region.  A series of miscellaneous jobs led her to work as a volunteer on a political campaign, where she was introduced to a group of young lawyers.

Working alongside these young lawyers, Greene said she noticed that she was just as smart as any of them. She decided to give law school a try.

Attending the University of Kentucky, Greene said she fell in love with the First Amendment. She moved to Louisville in 1980 where she started with the law firm, Wyatt, Tarrant, and Combs, practicing First Amendment law and labor law, representing numerous media outlets around the state in her career.

“Taking your client’s situation, and explaining it in those sort of little bites like I did with the elementary school kids, so the mind follows the logic of why B flows from A and why C flows from B,” Greene said.

In 1983, Greene first joined the board at Planned Parenthood in Louisville, something she called a ruling passion in her life. She has been on the board ever since.

“Women’s rights weren’t going to do any woman any good if she couldn’t control her own fertility,” Greene said. “So I volunteered for Planned Parenthood.”

Tamara Wielder, director of external affairs for PPINK, and Taylor Ewing Johnstone, a senior educator for PPINK for about nine years, laugh with Greene one afternoon inside the Planned Parenthood building in Louisville as they recall a Dixie Chicks concert they attended together.

A former development officer, searching for someone for a booth promoting Planned Parenthood, an event at every stop on the band’s tour, remembered coming to Greene’s house one afternoon and opening the door to the sound of the Dixie Chicks blasting away.

Johnstone said they called Greene to ask her about the event on speakerphone.

“She was very hyped,” Johnstone said.

“That was exciting,” Greene says, cracking a smile as the three laughed.

Johnstone and Wielder said Greene is very invested in her community. She comes in and listens, supports, keeps everyone filled in without taking over the room, Wielder said. Johnstone said Greene handles the big important matters while still feeling accessible to them.

Both said they would not hesitate to text Greene with a question or concern.

“I don’t think that’s true of a lot of board members,” Johnstone said, laughing. “Anytime someone asks about a former client or person I don’t know, I just tell them, ‘Ask Kim.’ If Kim doesn’t know, I assume it’s lost, nobody knows.”

Greene worked at the law firm Wyatt, Tarrant, and Combs for 17 years before leaving to start Louisville and Lexington branches of a Cincinnati-based firm, Dinsmore and Shohl, where she worked the remainder of her career practicing law.

During her time practicing law, she met Jon Fleischaker, a fellow lawyer at her firm. Fleischaker and Greene shared interests beyond their career, both politically and socially.

“She’s got a lot of different interests that she’s willing to pursue,” Fleischaker said. “She doesn’t feel like she has to stay in one place all the time. I find that very admirable.”

Fleischaker, a renowned First Amendment lawyer himself, helped draft Kentucky’s Open Meeting Law in 1974 and wrote a large part of the state’s Open Records Law that passed two years later. He now serves as general counsel for the Kentucky Press Association.

He said if someone wants to be a good First Amendment lawyer, they have to truly believe in it and have a passion for it, and he said Greene does. He said he and Greene worked well together over the years, her attention to detail complementing his “broad picture” approach, Fleischaker said.

They were married in 1988 and raised Fleischaker’s two sons from a previous marriage, Dan and Jeff,  about 16 and 14, respectively, at the time. Fleischaker said his wife worked very hard over time to establish a good relationship with his sons. Greene said she now claims her stepsons as her own.

They now have seven grandchildren. Fleischaker said Greene is not just a great grandmother, but a terrific one.

Throughout her career, Greene, along with her husband, helped increase transparency and access for records and government meetings in Kentucky. Greene has also represented numerous media and newspaper outlets across the state.

But Fleischaker admits he’s stumped when it comes to how a detail-oriented person would become involved in the abstraction of dream tending.

“I don’t know,” Fleischaker said. “It doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not sure I have the patience for it. But, she’s really good with people, and has a real knack to get people to talk to her, talk with her. And I expect that helps a lot with what she’s doing in dream tending.”

Greene decided to retire from the law firm Dinsmore & Shohl, in 2004, at 55.

A career as a lawyer had begun to weigh on Greene, giving way to dreams previously set aside. Certain dynamics of the job had become difficult over the years, Greene said.

“The profession became a little more hard-edged through the years, and my interest in dreams kind of percolated back up to the surface,” she said.

Deciding the road ahead of her was “a damn sight shorter” than the one behind, Greene said if she wanted to do something that really felt soul nourishing, she ought to do it then.

Kim described a series of dreams that motivated her to make the change.

“I’m having these dreams of going to the bathroom in various situations, and they were really puzzling,” Greene said. “First, I’m walking into the conference room with witnesses for deposition, and I go to sit down in my chair, and it becomes a commode. Second, I go into the bathroom in my house, in private, but as soon as I sit down, I realize the room has a totally glass dome over it, so there I’m extremely exposed. And the third one, I wanted my boots, and I opened my closet door and bent over to reach down to pull my boots out of the closet, and in that squatting position, I begin to urinate, with the size and force of an elephant. And it filled the room with several inches of, you know, water.”

A moment of clarity hit Greene, an “aha moment” she called it, where she determined through conversations with her dream tending partners she’d met in an introductory course at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2002.  Greene said her dreams were dealing with eliminating waste. She’d been playing around with the idea of working with dreams for years and said she finally felt ready to say, OK, and let go of her practice. At the introductory weekend, Greene said she’d fallen in love, leaving her law practice two years later.

“It was lively and interactive and profoundly deep and emotional,” Greene said. “The eye-popping awareness that people had about their dream, I just fell in love.”

Greene said she believes there’s been an increased interest in dream tending recently and that she feels it’s linked to the idea that consciousness is evolving as our minds expand to accept the existence of things we were previously unable to acknowledge.

Greene has made continued trips to California to study with her instructor, Aizenstat, while working closely with dream tenders in Oregon and Texas.

Katherine Warren was in the same first introductory course at Pacifica with Greene. Warren, who lives in Oregon, has developed a close relationship with Greene over the years studying and working in dream tending. Warren and Greene tend each other’s dreams and Warren said it’s more about curiosity, in dream tending than knowing. Dream images come from another place, Warren said, and they have autonomy of their own.

“When she’s tending my dream, I’m totally in her hands and letting her guide me,” Warren said. “I think she feels the same when I tend to hers.”

Warren described Greene as unique among their dream tending group, coming from a business background.  She explained their instructor pushes Greene to use her more detail-oriented, business side, switching back and forth between both parts of her mind.

“By training and personality, she can do both,” Warren said. “She can tap into either side whenever needed, which is pretty unique.”

While Greene is a very powerful person, Warren said, she doesn’t flaunt that. She said Greene greets everyone the same, and she doesn’t come with assumptions.

“She’s among four or five people in my life I totally, completely trust,” Warren said. “I would tell her anything about myself and know that it’s safe.”

While tending to dreams, Greene still manages to fuel her other passions, the First Amendment and advocacy.

In 2008, Greene and her husband established the Fleischaker/Greene Fund for Excellence in First Amendment Issues at WKU, donating $250,000 to the university.  The Fleischaker/Greene Scholars Program in the School of Journalism & Broadcasting offers upper-level students the opportunity for an advanced special topics course, with emphasis on the First Amendment. The Fleischaker/Greene Award for Courageous International Reporting was started at WKU in 2016.

She works as a contributing columnist for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, with many of her pieces dealing with women’s rights. She has written about the current legal battle between PPINK and the state through a series of pieces directed toward Governor GOV. Matt Bevin.

Greene said she believes dreams come to us for our own well-being, and that there’s something to be gained from paying attention to them.

“I’m just trying to help people better understand,” Greene said.

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