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Ann Garvin Shines with On Maggie’s Watch

On Maggie’s Watch reviewed by Mary E. Latela, September 22, 2016

On Maggie’s Watch, Ann Garvin’s new novel, explores how a young woman who has lost her first baby tries to move on. She moves back to her home town, re-connects with her best friend, quits her  stressful work to stay at home and slow down

At first I wondered how Maggie could run along  so many detours, dangerous  encounters, and not realize or want to admit that she has developed full-blown anxiety as a way of coping.  Then I saw that she is a contemporary young woman, who doesn’t want to appear needy, even to her mother.

Maggie becomes immersed in the newly resurrected Neighborhood Watch, and becomes obsessed with safety and security, which translates into ever more dangerous risk-taking.  I understand a little about uncertainty, and I wanted to  tell Maggie to STOP, but she must find her own way. Ann Garvin weaves a masterfully crafted journey in which we hope Maggie will be transformed.

This is a must read for all women and it is warm, genuine,  and a little dangerous. Perfect!

Immigrants, Refugees, History

History , Refugees, History

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By Mary E. Latela, September 19, 2016

Nicholas Kristoff, Pulitzer prize- winning journalist wrote “Would You Hide a Jew from the Nazis?” [Published the New York Times (Nicholas Kristof SEPT. 17, 2016] Ken Burns, who has created and produced quite a few miniseries about social issues – from World War II  to The History of Baseball, was guided by Artemis Joukowsky, grandson of Martha Sharp. This woman from Massachusetts, with her husband, helped Jews to escape the Nazis, by hiding them, providing shelter, by keeping them safe. This was their life-long call – helping  those who needed it most.

You don’t have to be a hero to reflect on Kristoff’s  essay. As I was thinking about the courage to hide someone who is in danger, I realized that the most important result of living in a democracy is the willingness to welcome the stranger, to honor those who through some terrible, senseless war, were living in an earthly hell. Their leaders were tyrants, despicable followers, murderers, people who had chosen evil and domination as their weapons.

My grandparents all came here in the early 20th century, which was recently described (by a member of Congress) as the worst thing this country has done, namely “letting foreigners in”. Except for the Native peoples who were here for a very long time, we are a nation of immigrants, of refugees, and a few heroic people and groups who take in the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

When I was transitioning between working in churches back to education, I taught at a great community college in Hartford. Students were usually self-paying so they attended every class and handed in every assignment. Some were kids, who a year of high school graduation with no job, had decided to get into one of the technical schools and needed English comp skills. Others had learned through their life experiences, many through hardship.

One day after class, one of the gentlemen came and asked to talk. He was dressed in a long black coat; his hair was dark as were his eyes. He looked very sad. He said, “I am a refugee. I do not have the money for the textbook. Is there a way I could borrow the book?”

“Of course,” I replied. “I can get a book for you. Will you come with me? “I knew exactly what to do. My friend, the Dean of Students, took care of emergency needs. We went to her office, I introduced her to my student, and explained. The Dean placed some cash into an envelope, handed it to a very grateful man, and invited him to return if he needed anything else, and she would try to help.

I asked my student, a very serious, sad man, a little about where he was from. He told me he was from one of those places no one liked to talk about. He had escaped from Croatia with his wife, their two children, and her mother, during the devastating war and bloodshed there.

They came with nothing. He knew he had to go to school to perfect his English, which was already very good. He had a job driving a delivery truck, and he had been a professional in his homeland. A refugee.. an immigrant…

Emma Lazarus was that American poet, born in New York City, who wrote “The New Colossus”, a sonnet written in 1883; its lines appear inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty installed in 1903, a decade and a half after Lazarus’s death. Think about her words, if you like, and make a comment.

The New Colossus

                Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

                 (Emma Lazarus)

 

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WELCOME TO HOMEPLATE

I’ll Tell You When I’m Ready

Mary Ellen Latela, @LatelaMary, mlatela@outlook.com, blog mlatelablog.wordpress.com

I write because I can’t turn off the thinking, dreaming, writing button. Success with small press non-fiction starting in the 1980s. Formerly called “inspirational” my work is focused on reflection and self-empowerment.

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Life improved dramatically when I stopped waiting for rescue,

and started speaking and writing the truth,

practicing self-care, teaching, and sharing.

I can show you how! Some little steps, some huge, but you can do it!

 Mary Ellen

 

The Brightness Index

A Glowing Collection in The Brightness Index, September 5, 2016

reviewed by Mary E. Latela
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Brightness Index (Kindle Edition)
Grace Mattioli’s stories gently move about highlighting the lives of ordinary, yet special folks. This collection of short stories is a gem. Stacie, the down-and-out waitress, chases down a robber, becomes a friend, and they connect over lunch each day. An elderly woman moves to the SW, and rediscovers plue, a color of the sunset which binds her to her dear mother, who died when Eloise was a child. Each story is simply wonderful as Ms. Mattioli shows us the importance of paying attention to details, of allowing the characters to come alive each in her own way. I highly recommend The Brightness Index; once you acknowledge the magic in ordinary people, your life may brighten as well!

Reacting to Feedback

Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinron)  opened up an important topic, highlighted in Harvard Business Review,  about the difference between men and women responding to feedback about themselves. So many factors come into play, that I thought I’d follow the trail for a while.For example, the study was completed in Madrid, a very different culture from  U.S..

“The study led by Margarita Mayo involved 221 MBA students—169 men and 52 women—who were assigned to “learning teams” of five or six members. At the end of each trimester, the members of each team rated each other on leadership skills. Looking at the feedback over time, Mayo found that while all the students started off by rating themselves higher than they were rated by their peers, women adapted to their team members’ perceptions of them much more quickly than men did.”

So a confident woman who rated herself a 5 in leadership, but whose team rated her at three would change her self-assessment to 3.A guy with the same self-perception might lower his assessment to 4.5.

There are other variables not included. The study sample is too small. Are teams one gender or mixed? The culture in Madrid may not be helpful on this side of the pond.

As a professional woman I am aware that negative feedback in my work can have several effects: I can say, Who cares. I know myself. Or if were more needy and less secure about my abilities, I might engage in self-doubt. For me, this would entail not taking everything so personally. Some negative feedback is accurate. Other feedback is given because of bias, opposition to women running large firms positions, even fear of having  a woman boss.

I would say, that employers would do well to give balanced feedback, that being critiqued by one’s peers is not always comfortable. On the other hand, a truly autonomous individual listens to criticism, uses what is helpful, and file the rest away..

Writing – the Price I Paid

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Mary E. Latela, December 19, 2014

I dove into writing because I had a wonderful English teacher in the eighth grade, the late Elizabeth Connellan. Besides all the readings and memorizing vocabulary, our teacher emphasizes good writing, including creative writing.  In the fall New Haven, (CT) used to have a Harvest Festival, which centered on the big football game between the rival teams of Hillhouse and Wilbur L. Cross HS. Along with the game were poster contests, poetry contests, and the Thanksgiving Prayer contest, which was especially for junior high students. One day in class, we were given our assignment, to write a Thanksgiving Prayer, which would be sent in to the citywide contest. I WON! I WON! I WON!

I was flabbergasted! A reporter from the New Haven Register, who asked about my family, my interests, etc, interviewed me. Dad accompanied me. I was featured in the official program book for the weeklong celebration. Then we went on with life as usual. However, I started writing for contests, civics, speeches, debate club.

I started writing creatively after my cousin Andy died. I know that I idealized him after he was gone, and that it took a long, long time to accept that he was a very good kid, almost another brother, who was stricken with cancer before there were effective cures. I wrote a 12-15 page set of essays and some poems.  I kept them with my diary, which was another type of writing altogether.

My voice was silent at home or silenced. I was not thought to have anything worth saying. In my religious community, reading novels or writing poetry was considered frivolous and worldly. After stifling my inner creativity, after five more years, I was bursting from my shell. It wasn’t delicate like a chick hatching from its egg. It was like an oozing, dripping wound, which never closed.

I wrote a great deal,  and I even mentioned something of my feelings. Skip ahead. After the children came, I decided to take up my writing again and see where it led me. I wrote poem after poem, about serious subjects. My interior life, which had been full to overflowing thrived on the writing.

My ex- hated and resented my writing. He thought reading was a waste, forbade it (but we all know how to secretly read what we want to read.) He thought writing wouldn’t bring in any money.  Then I shifted into longer manuscripts, the “inspirational booklets.” Hubby would not let me buy typing paper (even though, who do you think typed his thesis on unnameable chemical?) He wouldn’t let me buy stamps. My friends gave me paper which they bought for me; I “stole” stamps from the big tolls we kept. I sent out manuscripts with SASA (self-addressed stamped envelopes), mailed them at the mailbox down our driveway, and hoped against hope that the returns/rejections would arrive on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, so that he wouldn’t see them. By some good alignment of the stars, Hubby was on a business trip when I received the letter of acceptance about publication of my first book.  The kids, Mom, Dad, and I went out to lunch.

The bottom line is that I write what I write, because I just do. After the divorce, I wrote a little booklet in a month and it was grabbed up quickly – one of my best. These days I have quite a number of projects in mind, and feel a need to prioritize. It is hard work; I love it; sometimes it makes me VERY happy; other times it exercises my critical thinking; other times, it is like a “feather on the breath of God.” And I have to write. It is my gift. I do not compare with others, or judge others, and I try to be patient with myself.

It would be really nice my dear ones cared more about my writing, but I can’t help that …. I do not do magic.    @@@@@@@

Tea on the Terrace

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Reflection by Mary E. Latela

This page is dedicated to @berylkingston on the occasion of the publication of a new blog “Walk & Talk”

I love birthdays, including my own. I am happy to be here at age seventy. I suppose that, corresponding with added years, I’ve become more aware of putting things in their place, prioritizing projects which I plan to complete – God willing – and selecting ways to say “No!” to matters unconcerned with loving one another and working for justice for all people.

When @berylkingston shared her new blog “Walk and Talk,” I was delighted to connect with my Twitter friend, author of twenty-something substantial novels, a teacher, another fan of William Blake, and a resident of Great Britain. She is in her 80s.

@berylkingston, I love your Walk and Talk blog. That expanse of pathway atop a river(?) is lovely – something solid to take you out to Blake’s house. I tend to think that the contractors may be trying to make lots of money, without preparing a proper, formal yet cozy backdrop for followers of Blake to open their books, take out their notebooks, and write…. Free write…. Perhaps collect the essays and share them …. Reaching into the deeper level we might come to some new understanding about this gifted creative artist, with his spiritual blanket, special parchment paper, and his blessed etchings to keep food on the table.

I have a favorite setting for a photo, a copy attached here. It contains two New England chairs. When it snows here, the caption is “No Tea on the Terrace” and when it’s mild and green, “Come for Tea and sweets.”

I love the walk and talk title. Because of severe back problems, walking is sometimes very painful, even with the yoga stretching and range of motion. And my mind does not turn off at night… I think I do a pretty good job of keeping my mind active and involved as well. Plus, I read!!!

So here in the U.S. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the Democratic nominee for President! I am so elated, but also concerned as this appears to be a time of fragile peace, and many are skeptical. One older woman said to me, “Oh, no! I’m not ready for a women president!” I said nothing, but I wanted to ask if she planned to be open to that some time soon. Traditions can block our way at times.

It’s late here, so I’ll finish up and have a cup of herbal orange tea which my daughter Caroline brings over. Sweet dreams! @LatelaMary

I invite you to check out my blog at mlatela.wordpress.com, entitled, “I’ll Tell You When I’m Ready.” Mary Ellen

A couple of weeks ago, you might have heard the sound of glass, shattering

loudly, like fireworks or a very noise rain, on and on!

breaking-glass-ceiling-woman-fighting-fairness-equality-workplace-39250577 Reflection by Mary E. Latela

 August 31,2016

Hillary Rodham Clinton has become the first woman to be her party’s candidate in the presidential election of 2016. With hundrous applause, no one said anything. We watched the TV screen, smiling, hugging, feeling utter joy!

After drowning in these moments of triumph, after the wonderful victory speech, I realized that whatever happens from here on, I am satisfied. Oh, I surely hope that she will win the election, become Commander-in-Chief. On the way, the long winding road of our lives , there are times to pause and be grateful for the moment. This was such a time. I could feel my breathing settling down, I felt a smile inside me.

This woman has done something wonderful, and she has not been uniquely privileged. She worked, worked with people who are hungry, helped to get breakfast to all our children, helped with healthcare ….. a litany of great, generous actions, tempered by a profound sense of justice.

As Nick Kristoff of the NYTimes noted, every time someone – man or woman – breaks the glass ceiling, we are ALL better off.  May the joy of what we have and who we are mesh with what we know we have left to do, and may our children see us and do likewise.

When You Allow Others to Comment

Reflection by Mary E. Latela     August 27, 2016.

The following blurb was posted on Twitter: (8/27/16, n.a.): “You must be open to criticism. You must be open to revising more times than you think you can stomach[] if you refuse to listen to advice and constructive feedback, you will never get better. Allison Wynn Scotch.”

Initially I thought the advice was a little tough, that opening up your essay to others might cause pain. Then I read Elizabeth Kostova’s article in P&W (9/16) about her experience in a demanding writing course taught by Peter Matthiessen at Yale…..

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Student were expected to read two essays written by other students, then write their  comments on the copies. Class  time included mild sharing individual responses “nice job,” “maybe another edit.”  Then the prof encouraged them to speak up, to dig deep, but to remain respectful. He said “I gave this speech to the other section of  the class  and they lit into the next story like a pack of wolves, so the writer had to be led out crying. Don’t do that.”

Writing is such a solitary activity that the bond between writer and story is very intimate. Inviting someone else to critique can be scary. The point is to listen carefully to what is said, to ask questions, then to consider the reaction afterward, with a clear mind. What was appropriate? Was there some very harsh remarks? Would the writer let anxiety define her writing, not taking chances lest the others are quite limited.

I have known writers who share their every page with a spouse. Sometimes this works, but the emotional connection can shake an already tentative relationship into chaos. The author is, after all, totally responsible for his writing, not for pleasing a good friend or winning favors from others. If everyone in your circle of colleagues is mystified by a sample of writing, this may mean: they don’t “get it” or they are confused, or they don’t care for the author very much. It’s more like seasoning a stew. Only those who will be eating need to be given the salt shaker, even for a moment.

 

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