A Pearl More Precious

A Pearl More  Precious.  Reflection by Mary E. Latela. December, 2016


Seventy-five years ago, on December 7th, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces.

Tonight, I watched “Tora!Tora!Tora!” again. I know the history and the shock of being attacked with malice, without warning, and I felt cold, wrapped in a quilt, sipping hot tea.  After a while I felt that I could not move – each blast, the fire balls, the looks of perfect shock on the faces of the American troops as they realized what was happening. The problem for the brass was that the Japanese had discussed this invasion, but they came too early. They started the desecration forty five minutes before notice went through to Washington.

With the heavy blow to American troops, and the over-enthusiastic glee of some of the Japanese pilots, the Commander in Chief, said, “Enough.”  They went home.   That might have looked like retreat to any of us, but that Commander had broken the trust that comes with great power. He failed to warn. And world treaties do not easily forgive.

I know this is film, but I’ve read enough and lived enough to know that real life can teach you this lesson on being unprepared to have your world tossed upside down, and your life upended.  On September 11th, I felt alone, though we were all there, together, hanging on to the knowledge of being part of a community of human persons. That felt so good and right, that the suggestion of  prompt closure was a slap, sudden, bracing, almost casual.

They say that war is hell. I say, if there is a hell, it must be loss, loss of feeling, loss of connection, loss of hope.  All those months when Europe was in the dark, and so Americans had no idea what was going on there, were torture for those who had come here so recently, who had found refuge here, and then realized that their fears came with them.

Every piece of the jigsaw puzzle of world peace needs a fresh shining, a reexamination. We want our kids to feel safe and we surely want to keep safe in this troubling world. The pearl is replaced with hope.


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A Good Man ~ John Herschel Glenn


A Good Man. Reflection by Mary E. Latela, December 9, 2016

Poets, politicians, scientists, adventurers, cobblers, tinkers – are the stronghold upon which we build our hopes and dreams. Ralph Waldo Emerson would have recognized him,  would have been proud to know him. He wrote:

“To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children,
to leave the world a better place,
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday John Glenn died – the facts?

In memoriam: John Glenn.
The first American to orbit Earth died on Thursday at 95.
Mr. Glenn also had a decades-long career as a U.S. senator from Ohio. At 77, he got his wish to return to orbit and became the oldest person to go into space.
Despite his incredible achievements, he often played down his heroic status. “I don’t think of myself that way,” he said in an interview a few years ago. “I get up each day and have the same problems others have at my age.”

This simple description covers a life of service, of commitment to God and family and country. A man grows not only in major events, but in the everyday promise to care for wife and family, to work honestly, to give the other guy credit, to be on the team, to go into space and return richer by far. A good man. We are blessed to have know him, even from afar. We are called to be friends, brothers and sisters, working out our destiny on this earth not by acquiring riches, but by bringing a bit of greatness into each day.

 God go with you.




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Trump & his ‘extra-constitutional’ view of the Presidency

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, December 3, 2016.

Some days ago, I wrote about democracy and in particular about the need for honesty and integrity as signposts to keep us on the straight and narrow path of justice. I thought I’d said enough, until the royal blue and white sash sailed across my computer screen and slapped me on the face.

GOP rep: Trump has ‘extra-constitutional’ view of presidency

Now I realize that this does not mean that our President-elect has a special dose of understanding the Constitution and the way our government works. No, it’s not about an extra scoop of mocha chip or vanilla. It is, seriously, about answering the question, “Art you in or out?

Plainly, Mr. Trump does not always use the Constitution as a guide, but as a sort of far away wispy idea which dares him to knock it down. He thinks and he acts as if the constitution is “irrelevant” “unnecessary” or “only as valuable as the land it’s sitting on.”

Isn’t this a little frightening? Spare us another pathetic “Let’s give him more time.” There is a kernel of truth: in business, you’re not always checking whether your decisions make money or policy, whether you are storing up more prestige in high circles or more clout to speak out for the marginalized. Michigan  Rep Justin Amash, founder of the House Liberty Caucus, says it isn’t worrisome. Given time, all will be well. 

As a creative worrier, I know that it is very easy to slide down the ego ladder when you are not grounded in principles which guide your thinking and acting. And for the man or woman who will take the Oath of Office of President of the United States, it is Necessary, not optional, to consider seriously the history of this nation, the great minds which wrote down the rules and values, and the many dedicated persons who remind us why we are here, and what we call ourselves a great Nation.  


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Intermission ~ Holy Week

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, November 30, 2016


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What If Time Stops?

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, 11.22.16

Of course, I remember. I remember every detail.

I was a college freshman, down in the commuter lounge waiting for friends and lunch.

I remembered to call Aunt Rose to say “Happy Birthday!” She responded quietly, “You haven’t heard, then. The president has been shot.”

“What? How is he?”

“Walter Cronkite came on and said it happened in Dallas. We’re waiting…….. oh no!. The President is dead.”

As the others filed into the lounge, the word spread. Some were weeping. Others hugged, because, suddenly, the world seemed too cold. A strange hush and a noisy frenzy mixed together. Someone suggested going to the chapel to pray. I joined them, but I couldn’t see what good prayer would do. President Kennedy, our bright hope, was gone. I was young enough to believe in a hero – such an intelligent, handsome, family man, who spoke with clarity and that Boston accent he’d never worked to erase.

I was nineteen, and college was my new safe place, my home away from home. I studied day and night, spent weekends with the books, stopped by to see Grandma every Sunday. I was majoring in Chemistry, because they said it was easy to get scholarships. This was during that initial excitement following this President’s promise to reach the moon by the end of the decade.

Stephen King wrote a chilling time-twister called 11/22/63. If someone could break through time, perhaps history could be altered to keep our President alive, to keep us from feeling lonely. I think it’s a fantastic work, injecting the promise of time travel into what turned out to be a national tragedy.

I remember Jackie Kennedy in her pink Chanel suit, blood spattered everywhere. She was silent as the oath of office was taken by Mr. Lyndon B. Johnson, whom we did not know at all. Then we gathered at home, sat in the living room viewing the proceedings. We knew Catholic funerals, but this was more pomp and extravagance than we had ever seen. It was like a very strange wedding, all white and gold, all serious and solemn.

Time passed slowly as we tried to eat, sleep, talk, do the wash, iron clothes, and talk on the phone. Sleep was elusive, but there was no need to rest, since we played – over and over – the scenes which had turned our day, turned our lives, upside down.  In the following days and weeks, I was so sad, and yet, I could not change the truth. We would not see John Kennedy again.

When I returned to the Northern Plains some decades later, I still had a heaviness around my heart. I still wished I could rewrite history. I still wished that my brush with hope – so rare for such a sad young woman – would take me over and allow me to really say farewell to people who had passed away, to childhood, to hope, to the sweetness that comes from knowing that tomorrow will be a better day.


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The Fear of Being Unneeded

Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded

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A Mother’s Voice

A Mother’s Voice

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, 11/20/2016


Many of us who have given birth have a feeling that baby knows us, knows the sound of our voice, before birth. As a corollary, we find that we can discern the difference in our baby’s cry from a crowd of babies.  If we are paying attention – and what solicitous mother is not? – we can tell whether baby is crying for food, for comfort, for discomfort from a wet diaper.

Now that science has taken an enthusiastic jump into neurons and how the brain works,  we look for experts to add to our intuition with hard results.

According to Kate Fehlhaber, editor-in- chief of Knowing Neurons, a mother’s voice is recognized by infants even in a sea of mothering people.   She claims as well that a mother’s voice shapes her baby’s developing brain (aeon.com).  What is surprising is that the impact is shown, not in the “thinking/analytical” part of the brain, but in the emotional centers.  Neurobiologist David Abrams claims this emotional connection may be seen as a neural “fingerprint”, where a mother’s voice triggers specific activity in her child’s brain.

This ability to recognize one’s mother is there in middle school years, and we will see I’m sure whether that voice remains into adulthood. It’s fascinating stuff. I am always happy when science catches up to intuition, showing the science and the “spiritual” aspects are not in conflict. https://aeon.co/ideas/how-a-mother-s-voice-shapes-her-baby-s-developing-brain

This leads me to wonder how my communication with my kids, grandkids and with others in my “corner of the world” impacts the state of the world.  This is my responsibility, because I have a choice about whether to be a voice for compassion and hospitality, or judgment and anger. Good vibrations, positive energy, or whatever you call the atmosphere of the time are dependent on that ability which can be recognized by babes in the womb.

There’s also the opposite end of the situation. When mothers and other caregivers are angry, sad, detached from the daily ups and downs of life, does the babe insider feel that? After birth, it’s also pretty clear – assuming that we pay more attention to the baby’s needs than our own frustrations – that our sons and daughters absorb our moods. Without making the mistake of blaming every problem on the mother, it needs to be said that those who give care to babies, children, and others cannot hide their inner reactions. So as the larger world is arguing about politics, religion, education, and other concerns, we might remember that our “neural fingerprint” is powerful enough to manifest peace or war, compassion or neglect.

One kind act today has the potential to change everything. We are that powerful!



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Democracy, Starting with the Truth

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, November 18, 2016


We are a people of stories. We learn about our families, our nation, about the world, from the stories transmitted to us. This has been a stressful time, this election season, so I wanted to lift up some of the history which defines our strength in the most difficult times of all.  To not repeat the horrific actions of the past, we first need to know our history.

How can we help to be a stronger democracy, more noble citizens, people of integrity who embrace the stranger, and make room for one more at our table? First, we can learn. Then we can choose an action which is meaningful to each of us to mark our memories, to keep our stories, to cling to integrity and the common good rather than individual powers.

The U.S. government kept documents “classified “about the atomic bomb, about casualties after Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Our high school history class always blamed “foreigners” for war. Somehow we never reached World War II.

No one taught us about the concentration camps. Thanks to Schindler’s List, we viewed the atrocities. Humble thanks to Elie Wiesel and other courageous people who vowed  to remember and transmit the stories of the victims. Wiesel is known for his statement: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”  We have their true memories.

Yes, there were  experiments  on human beings. Yes, there were gas ovens to kill without too much noise.  Yes, the clothing of the dead was often sorted by children to look for valuables – a pearl button, a broach, a gold tooth.  Roberto Benigni shocked us and taught us about human compassion in  his film Life is Beautiful, about a father who helps his little boy to survive in the camps, and gave his life for his son.  Some critics say Benigni made light of the Holocaust.  Nicoletta Braschi, who played his wife in the film says: “The movie is not so much about the Holocaust, the movie is a love story, and its special character, Guido, is a father who is able to translate into the language of his child the world around that is a nightmare.” The film is dominated by Guido’s effort to persuade his son Giosu that the execution-camp experience is an elaborate game

Holocaust denial is an attempt to negate the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. Holocaust denial and distortion are forms of antisemitism. They are generally motivated by hatred of Jews and build on the claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests. Tell this to the vets who were there to liberate the camps, who knew nothing about this horrible secret until they came into the camps and viewed the wasted bodies of men and women and children who clung to the hope in a tiny spark of light. Our elderly friend still remembers.

The question keeps returning…. Did the US protect Nazi persecutors who made it to the states?  According to an internal history kept at NYTimes offices, the government’s Nazi-hunting operation may have involved protecting persecutors here in the states. The Justice Department kept the 600-page report secret for the last four years, releasing a heavily redacted version last year to a private research group that sued to force its release. A complete version was obtained by The New York Times. http://documents.nytimes.com/confidential-report-provides-new-evidence-of-notorious-nazi-cases?ref=us#p=1

As we draw near to religious holydays, we can acknowledge the festival of lights – namely Chanakah  – which is celebrated from December 24th – January 1st.  We can live as good citizens of a precious democracy. We can make a practice of doing a good act which is meaningful. After all, if we say we live in a democracy, we do take on special responsibilities.  Think about this, if it moves you.


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The Day I Lost You is Magical

Fionnuala Kearney Reaches Brilliance in The Day I Lost You Reviewed by  Mary E. Latela on November 17, 2016

When I learned that Fionnuala Kearney had a new novel, I rushed to purchase it and read it. What a ride! What a whirlwind of emotions, thoughts, memories, floated about! There are so many books about loss these days – loss of a marriage, loss of a home, loss of personal identity, and perhaps worst, the loss of a child, that I realized by opening this book I might find a treasure – and I did.

When Jess learns that her daughter, Anna, has died in an avalanche, she takes on one of the most difficult tasks a parent may be called to – to deal with her own loss at the same time she must care for her beloved granddaughter, Rose. Even sisters and moms do not know how to deal with Jess and her deep and almost etched-on grief. She cannot move, and when some news comes in, she enters new territory. The twists and turns of this elegant novel are expertly woven together. There is always one more surprise.

Characters are so real that you want to offer them a tissue or make them a cup of tea. So many points in my reading brought back my own life experiences, though we are very, very different women. You must read this poignant, realistic story which will refuse to be put aside until you know everything!


review at: https://www.amazon.com/Day-I-Lost-You/dp/0007593996


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National Women’s History Museum

Mary E. Latela, M.Div., (copy) Joan Wages, WHM President

Dear Ms Wages:

I read with enthusiasm your latest NWHM newsletter on the place of women in the computer field. As a women’s issue specialist, I have been involved with issues as far-flung as domestic violence and whether women who are scientists ought to have children. I was acquainted with Elsa Wasserman, whose husband was a Chemistry Professor at Yale when my spouse was finishing his degrees. Her incredible set of interviews with some of the spotlighted women in science produced a variety of proofs that women can make everything work together.

This morning we awoke to news of the death of Janet Reno, who took her place in history through her work before, after, and during her tenure as the first female Attorney General in the United States. Despite the intrusion of Parkinson’s Disease, she worked with vigor, daring, and confidence.

Following is a brief of today’s announcement. Based on NPR Newshour::Janet Reno, first woman U.S. attorney general, dies at 78 BY Curt Anderson, Associated Press  November 7, 2016 at 7:17 AM EST  | Updated: Nov 7, 2016 at 10:07 AM] MIAMI —

Shy and admittedly awkward, Janet Reno became a blunt spoken prosecutor and the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and was also the epicenter of a relentless series of political storms, from the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, to the seizure of 5-year-old Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzalez.

“One of the administration’s most recognizable and polarizing figures, Reno faced criticism early in her tenure for the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, where sect leader David Koresh and some 80 followers perished.

“She was known for deliberating slowly, publicly and in a typically blunt manner. Reno frequently told the public “the buck stops with me,” borrowing the mantra from President Harry S. Truman. After Waco, Reno figured into some of the controversies and scandals that marked the Clinton administration.

“During her tenure, the Justice Department prosecuted the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case, captured the “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski that same year and investigated the 1993 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center. The department also filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. and Reno was a strong advocate for protecting abortion clinics from violence.

Dedicated to the principle that education empowers women to do what they can to better the world, she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in chemistry, Reno became one of 16 women in Harvard Law School’s Class of 1963.

“In 1993, Clinton tapped her to become the first woman to lead the Justice Department. Reno was 54. “It’s an extraordinary experience, and I hope I do the women of America proud,” Reno said after she won confirmation.

Asked to describe her legacy after ending her gubernatorial campaign, Reno quoted George Washington: “If I were to write all that down I might be reduced to tears. I would prefer to drift on down the stream of life and let history make the judgment.” (Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.)


Dear Twitter Friends:

I was not aware that the NWHM campaign was still in its early stages. The widely spread centers for celebration and fund-raising may be premature. Get-togethers are rare. In other words, here is a project with plenty of interest, a serious topic, in which we can  feature women who are examples to others, dedicated to progress, and mentally sound.

HEADLINES like the above spot will  keep us up-to-date on who is doing what. Human interest includes describing the struggles of those who are driven to achievement, while conflicted about caring for the children. Best wishes to all who support this worthwhile project. Sincerely, Mary E. Latela

P.S. Are you interested in the complete of the  National Women’s History Museum? What particular  fields excite your enthusiasm? What’s your position on using You Tube or other multimedia formats? Any creative ideas? NWHM.org for a newsletter.

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