10 good reasons not to call your ex


ImageIt has been two weeks and I haven’t called and I don’t want to call but I really miss (the good parts about) him and therefore found myself googling “why you should not call your ex” and found my way to Roxane Robitaille‘s fabulous column.  She’s a couple therapist and she is wise.  I found the following very helpful.  

Some years ago, I went through a difficult break-up. When my relationship came to an end, one of the most difficult things for me was deciding whether or not to call him back. I have to come clean and admit I did call him, many times (sigh). Unfortunately, these phone calls never went the way I wished they would go. Being a professional on-again off –again couple we went back and forth for months. I knew deep down that the relationship was making me miserable, yet I wanted to “fix” it, cause no one likes to feel miserable right? These phone calls sometimes lead to more sadness; they sometimes lead us to seeing each other again for a short while. As you read the following, ask yourself why you want to be in a relationship. Is it because you want to have children? Is it because you’re afraid of being alone? Well, think about this, the on-again off-again relationship is very likely to be nothing but a waste of your precious time, time you could be spending taking care of you and feeling ready to meet someone who sees just how fabulous you are. If you do want to have children, do you want to be with a partner like this one? A partner who left you for reasons you don’t really understand, a partner who makes you the future-mom-to-be feel less than amazing, a partner who doesn’t accept and love everything about you and wants you to change, a partner whom you want to change? If things do get patched up between the two of you, are you going to be sitting right back here in 6 months? In a year? Don’t call him babe.

1. You should feel desired and confident. I’m guessing that if you’re reading an article about why not to call your ex it’s not because you’re feeling like an energized, gorgeous, popular and desired person. You feel rejected and you want that feeling to go away. So you think about calling him back and smoothing things over. But calling him will inevitably make you feel worse.

2. You might make things worse. Are you feeling angry at him right now? Are you feeling vulnerable and lonely? You might blow up at him like a crazy-lady or you might end up crying and pleading on the phone for him to take you back. In either case, not a good situation (I am speaking from personal experience here, unfortunately). Do you really want to convince him to be with you? Argue him into taking you back? Plead yourself back into this relationship? Why should you convince anyone to be with you? You’re amazing!

3. What if he doesn’t answer? He has caller-ID doesn’t he? He’ll see that you’ve called. Are you going to call back in 5 minutes? In an hour? Tomorrow? Are you going to leave a message? What if he doesn’t call you back? You’ll be sitting there wondering why he’s not calling you back. And you’ll sit there, like I did, doubting yourself because you ex is not calling you back. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be frantically looking at your phone every 10 minutes to see whether you have any missed calls or missed messages. Here’s an idea: turn the phone off. You can do it. When you turn off your phone, you are taking back control and not letting yourself become obsessed with him his call. Free yourself from the phone and decide that for now you have better things to do than sit by the phone and wait for him to call you.

4. And if he answers? He might be busy and hang up in haste. Or he might not be so hot about hearing your voice on the line. But what if the convo goes well? Well honey, even if the conversation goes well, and he’s not likely to cry out: “oh baby, I’m so glad you called, I’m sorry I dumped you, let’s get back together!” And I’m sure anything less than that would be disappointing to you. Right? You’ll be hanging up sad, disappointed or angry.

5. You might end up in bed. If he does want to see you after he’s dumped you, and he’s happy to come over and hang out with you, he might want sex. That may feel nice for you as well, because let’s face it, our exes are our most intimate partners. It’s also the easiest person to sleep with after a breakup. You might feel connected for a short while, but honey this guy dumped you (cheated on you, didn’t want to get married to you, didn’t listen to you, didn’t spend enough time with you, didn’t make you feel like your best self, deceived you…) so why are you having sex with him? Although, you are a hot mamacita, your lover should see way more in you than your hot physical looks.

6. He’s not the one calling you. If your ex wanted to get you back and was madly in love with you, he would let you know. He would cross all bridges and climb all mountains to get to you. So let him call you and let him prove to you that he deserves to be with hotty such as yourself. Be strong. Don’t give-in. Think highly of yourself. Don’t sell yourself cheaply. And don’t call him back. Let him come back to you if that is what’s in the cards for you. Think that you are worthy of a man coming back to you with flowers and sweeping you off your feet.

7. Is he that great anyways? Even though he might have left you, and even though he may very well have been a super-stand-up guy, he wasn’t perfect either right? I mean, he dumped you, so there’s obviously is something wrong with him! He couldn’t appreciate what a prize you truly are.

8. There’s someone better for you out there. You know this is true (I hope). Right now it just feels like you might be alone forever. You might get caught up in the false beliefs that all good guys are taken and that it’s hard to meet someone. Those kinds of thoughts only make you feel more desperate and make you think you’d better hang on to this one. Well, no. I’m not having it. There are plenty of really good guys (good looking ones too!) out there who would feel happy to call you every day and spend time building a relationship with you. Imagine what your perfect relationship would feel like. Now multiply that by 10 and that’s what’s out there waiting for you right now. So turn off the phone, get out there in the world and open yourself up the possibilities that are all around you. Try to going out anywhere, to the supermarket, to a coffee shop, to the pet-store, anywhere, and smile at people. Just smile. Smile at men, smile at women, smile at kids, smile at the elderly. People will smile back at you. Now how good does that feel? There are plenty of people out there you can easily engage with just by smiling. Get out of your sweat-pants and go out and smile at people. Start to feel it IS true: there is someone better for you out there.

9. You’re not taking advantage of your time alone. When relationships end, we are left with a whole lot of extra free time. Time that used to be spend on doing fun activities together, time shared having meals and interesting conversations together. But wait! You are still a fun-loving, interesting person! Take advantage of this time to get to know yourself, to heal your vulnerable heart, and to love yourself. Do some of the things you like, surround yourself with people who care about you, call a friend. Take out your agenda and try to schedule fun things for yourself for the night, for the weekend etc. If you know in advance how you are going to fill your time, you’re not going to feel so obsessed with calling him because you’re going to be busy (and happy hopefully!). I know this is going to sound unoriginal, but look at the breakup as a time to re-evaluate your life. Take it as an experience in personal growth. There is nothing more attractive than a woman who is confident and happy with herself!

10. You are meant to have and enjoy a wonderful life. All aspects of your life are meant to lift you up and make you feel good about yourself. You don’t need to wait around for another person to give you what you need. How can you make yourself feel more wanted and secure? As a friend once told me, bees are naturally attracted to a piece of sugar. Sugar doesn’t have to do anything except being its sweet self, and all the bees want to be around it. So go ahead honey, make yourself feel well, beautiful and happy, that’s really all you have to do to attract to you the perfect partner, and a wonderful happy life.

Turkish women celebrate International Women’s day


Kimberly Latta, Ph.D., R.Y.T.:

I love the purple hats!

Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:

Yesterday, women marched accross Turkey to mark International Women’s day, brandishing banners, and saucepans (not as a sign of their womanhood, but because it was one the instruments or protest last summer – Turks were banging saucepans on their balconies throughout the protests). Here is a slideshow of the marches.

In Istanbul, women demonstrated in Taksim, close to Gezi park, the heart of last year’s protests. The riot police blocked their entry into the park.

Photo: Women's march in Istanbul, Turkey. They chant: We'll retake Taksim tonight. #WomensDay #IWD2014 #Taksim #Istanbul

Women in Taksim, chanting “Run away, Tayyip! The women are coming to get you”. (Images taken from The New Young Turks‘ facebook page.)

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Turkish Politicians wish you a happy international women’s day!


Kimberly Latta, Ph.D., R.Y.T.:

And they still deny the Turkish genocide against the Armenians!  To read about that, read John Kifner in the New York Times here:

Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:

And again, from Melih Gökcek, the Mayor of Ankara, speaking at a Women’s Day even yesterday:

Thanking women because “at home, you pick up after us”.

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My parents’ marriage


Mom and Dad, laughing at Lake Arrowhead, circa 1956


My parents had a really happy marriage.  They met and fell in love in a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) high school in Los Angeles.   Basically good and good-looking, outdoorsy, kids, they rebelled against their church’s strict rules against drinking, smoking, and pre-marital sex.  Before they got hitched, at the frighteningly young ages of 21 and 22, they shared sleeping bags while camping out before the Rose Bowl Parade.  The early years of their marriage were hard.   My father was in medical school and worked 24 hours at a time in the hospital before going on to his part-time jobs at a gas station and a mortuary.  He didn’t have time to think, let alone feel.  My mother, though, grew lonely and depressed at her secretarial position and afterwards, trying to attend to four year-old me and my much cuter and quieter two year-old brother.  Just because we had been running around all day at our grandmother’s house playing with our uncles and cousins didn’t mean we were tired, or that dinner and the dirty house would take care of themselves.

Mom and Dad in matching Norwegian sweaters with my mother's brothers
Mom and Dad, before they got married, with my mother’s brothers and a snowy friend.
My beautiful picture

Mom and Dad, exploring gold mines and camping somewhere in California, circa 1957

The U.S. Army drafted my father right out of medical school and my parents opted to spend three years in Germany in lieu of two years in Texas.  Although it was difficult at first, especially since my father had to train for six months away from the family, the easier work schedule and social life that they found on the base gave my parents the opportunity to turn towards one another again.  Both of them enjoyed skiing and traveling and socializing with people from different cultures, ethnic groups, and religions. They explored Europe together, usually with my brother and me, but also alone or with friends.

My beautiful picture

Mom and Dad clowning around with their friends at a party on the base in Augsburg, Germany, circa 1966

I remember them laughing, but cannot think of a single time I saw them yelling or arguing at one another. Disagreements usually had to do with money—my father thought my mother spent too much on clothing for herself and the kids, while my mother complained that he spent too much on his sailboats.  He generally deferred to her in actually enjoyed spending money on her, because she was beautiful and elegant and looked great in diamonds.  She appreciated how hard he worked to pay for luxuries and went along with his enthusiasms, such as sailing, even though she never got as excited about it as he did.

My beautiful pictureShe enjoyed just being in his company, she said, even if he seemed to be ignoring her behind his computer monitor.  Both came from musical families that valued classical music.  My mother also liked popular songs but deferred to my father’s more intellectual interests in jazz and opera when they sat together in the evenings.  My father admired my mother’s taste in decorating, so if he decided what they did together, then my mother determined how the boat or the home they did it in would look and feel.  My father liked to jokes and my mother liked to laugh. She laughed at everyone’s jokes. Mum Dad & K

One of the most important lessons I learned from my mother is that one’s husband should be interesting.  “Your father never bores me,” she said.  He loved the way she rubbed his neck on long family car journeys.  While my mother probably dedicated more cognitive room to my father than he did to her, and was generally less able to discuss his feelings, she was emotionally intelligent enough not to read any irritation or frustration he expressed as an attack on her person.

Family Latta

Dad, Kari, Kimberly, Chris, and Mom, in front of our home, 1986

My father’s temperament was basically sweet, and both of my parents had strong, emotionally involved mothers, so it was easy  for him to accept her dominance in the household.  She respected his dominance in the business and financial spheres.  He wasn’t too keen on her wish for another child in her late thirties, but he went along with it because he loved her.   He also accepted very little responsibility for the nurturing of my sister.  “Joan, your child is crying,” I can remember him saying.

They accepted stereotypical gendered roles without buying into a philosophy of male dominance.  My father had some old-fashioned attitudes, but he respected intelligence and ability in women.  Both of them were strongly pro-choice.  They pursued different hobbies but generally practiced them together (Mom needle pointed or read while Dad puttered on the boat). Mom never did master the black runs and usually got cold long before Dad, but she was a good sport and headed out with him every day.

Mom and Dad on the slopes,  Sun Valley, circa 1979

Mom and Dad on the slopes, Sun Valley, circa 1979

Because my father’s job was so demanding, they had to learn how to entertain themselves separately, but they shared the same Southern Californian, SDA roots as well as the same dream of a healthy, happy, family in which parents and children spent a lot of time together outside having fun.  They planned a rich, relaxing, athletic retirement together, but that dream never came true.  My mother died of colon cancer after a short illness in 1990.  She was 54.  Dad remarried another woman from the same high school, but she was an altogether different sort of person and did not bring my father much joy.  Truly happy marriages are rare and precious.

Mom, as seen by Dad, on Freya, circa 1981

Mom, as seen by Dad, on Freya, circa 1981

My parents taught me a great deal about what a good relationship looks like.  Partners do well when they admire each other’s  interests and respect their different strengths.  I also think a man who bores a woman will soon lose her, no matter what else may offer, and that mutual admiration and toleration for one another is vital for long-term happiness.  My parents’ good marriage will always inform my interpretations of other relationships.  It will also help me, a committed feminist and apprentice psychotherapist, to see that even couples who adopt relatively rigid gender roles can share power equally and effectively.

Rape song for children


Kimberly Latta, Ph.D., R.Y.T.:

Interesting! And you don’t need to understand French to get it!

Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:

I was watching a DVD of French songs karaoke with my son, and came across a song I’ve known ever since I was a child, which every one in France knows and sings: ‘Jeanneton prend sa faucille’ (Jane takes her sickle). It’s a song for big gatherings, and everyone joins in with the chorus. It tells the story of a young woman who goes to work in the field and on her way meets three young men. The lyrics then say: The first is a bit shy and tickles her chin. The second is less shy and lifts her skirts. The third, even less shy, knocks her down on the grass. And what the fourth does is not told in the song. (The second one is not included in the karaoke version.) The end states either that the moral of the story is that men are bad, that women like…

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Gamble Everything for Love


The Sufi poet rumiRumi (1207-1273) ,who was known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى‎) and Mawlānā/Molānā  (Persian: مولانا‎) wrote:

Gamble everything for love,
if you’re a true human being.

If not, leave
this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach
into majesty.  You set out
to find God, but then you keep
stopping for long periods
at mean-spirited roadhouses.

Peer Gynt (2006-2013) Greatest Cat in the World


Peer Gynt, My amazing cat, Peer Gynt, died last week.  I called him my boyfriend because he was the first being who came here and stayed, and only after much upset and dissatisfaction on both sides.  He was big and orange and stripy, like a mini-tiger, and fat, and lazy, and lazier and fatter every year.   He complained loudly when he wanted attention, or when breakfast wasn’t served promptly enough.  Sometimes he even pawed at my bedroom door.  He convinced people in the neighborhood that he needed food with his piteous meowing.  They call me up and say, “I found your cat.  He seems really hungry…”  even though he was a bruiser and had plenty to eat at home and, to boot, wore a tag that said “In-outdoor cat.  Do not feed.”

He was an alley cat, the mayor of the neighborhood, everybody’s cat, really.  My neighbor, Lisa, called him “Pussy L’Orange” and loved him, I thought, much better than I did.  She let him sit on her lap and get his cat hair all over her clothing.  My dear friend Tim, who lives down the alley, held Peer for hours and hours a day, letting him sleep on his chest.  He was a protector, a guardian, a friend.  I called him the sleep guru because it he lulled everyone he curled up against into dreamland.  And now he is sleeping in my back yard.  He was not afraid of dogs.  When we brought a 5 month-old Siberian Husky, a reputed cat-killer, into his home, he calmly stared her down and made it clear that he was in charge.  He held his ground when we brought in another, goofy, Husky Puppy, who grew to be 70 pounds.  Peer kept them both in line.  Some people called him a dog-cat, or cat-dog, because he often behaved more like a dog than a cat.

Peer Gynt standing watch over Freya and Baldr

Peer Gynt standing watch over Freya and Baldr

My friend Tim helped me lower him into the grave, wrapped in a lovely old cotton blanket my parents brought back from Wyoming.  It seemed fitting, as Peer was a Western Cat, a fighter, a lover.

The funeral was lovely.  Some of the kids from the neighborhood, who knew and loved him, came over.  Each of us said what we loved about him and then cast a flower into his grave.  Then I read from Christopher Smart‘s Jubilate Agno, which one of the kids actually knew about.  Smart wrote what must be the greatest poem on a cat while confined for lunacy in Bedlam Asylum between 1759 and 1763.

1     For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
2     For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

19   For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
20   For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
21   For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
22   For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
23   For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
24   For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
25   For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
26   For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
27   For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

Peer with his friend, Anitra

Peer with his friend, Anitra

I loved my cat, Peer Gynt.

I send him to his grave with lines from Ibsen.  This is the lullaby that Solveig, who has loved him forever, sings to him at the end of the play:

Sleep thou, dearest boy of mine!

I will cradle thee, I will watch thee —

The boy has been sitting on his mother’s lap.

They two have been playing all the life-day long.

The boy has been resting at his mother’s breast

all the life-day long. God’s blessing on my joy!

The boy has been lying close in to my heart

all the life-day long. He is weary now.

Sleep thou, dearest boy of mine!

I will cradle thee, I will watch thee.

Peer on my bed

Peer on my bed

The Beauty of Being Very Quiet


man-writing-with-quill-penWhen I was six or seven, my parents went on vacation and left my brother and me with the German ironing lady and her husband, neither of whom spoke English.   We lived in Augsburg then, on an army base, and employed a local woman to wash, fold, and iron our clothes.  She also served as a babysitter from time to time.

The ironing lady and her husband were elderly and unaccustomed to rambunctious children.  They lived in a small apartment stuffed with large, dark, polished wooden furniture.   One day I was sitting at the dining table with the ironing lady’s husband, who was writing something with a fountain pen.  I am not sure how it happened, but my brother was probably napping and I had decided to be both very quiet and very alert.  I became utterly absorbed in the experience of listening to the sound of the pen scratching on the parchment, gazing at the old man’s mild face, and sensing my slight weight on the chair in the atmosphere of that cozy, small space.  I tasted the flavor of the air, smelled the ink and the old man and the wood and the carpet, and felt a thrilling, exquisite pleasure of curiosity about everything that I was sensing from moment to moment, second to second.

I did not want it ever to end, and sat utterly still, rapt in what I knew to be both profound and ordinary.  It was the first time in my life that I realized that simply sitting and paying attention could be enjoyable.  It was so easy to be patient, so wonderful and beautiful to experience watching and listening.  I felt as though there was a powerful, fragile tension between myself and the old man, and that my very stillness and quietness was part of his writing and thinking and breathing there, across the table from me, the table that I could barely see over, as though in that room at that moment a fantastic energy sprang alive and palpable and real and exciting.

This was a moment of what is called Abhyasa,  in the Sütras of Pantanjali.    Abhyasa might be described as a measured, calm, yet determined intention to pay attention to what is, as opposed to a wild, rushing and blasting and pushing energy, or the reckless passion with which, for example, a warrior flies into battle, or an athlete dedicates all her energy and power to winning a match or scaling a steep hill.  Abhyasa is experience without reaction, awareness without judgment, perception without response.

As I sat with the old man writing, I was stirred, but not stirred into any response other than observing his movements as something to observe.  I liked the activity of observation, and became, later, attached to the pleasure I remembered having during this moment.  This attachment, of course, became a source of suffering because it was something that I could not will into being, and had to wait for.

A Yoga Sequence to Cope with Lower Back Pain


Like many people, I have developed a weakness at the base of my spine precisely where the lowest vertebra of the lumbar spine, L5, meets the first vertebra of the sacrum, S1.  l5:s1

Many people experience pain at this intersection, where the flexible lumbar vertebrae curves up and back, and the inflexible, fused sacral vertebrae curve down and forward. When this structure becomes overstressed, the disc between the vertebrae gets compressed, or squished, and bulges out, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve and causing pain.  When severely stressed, the disc herniates, or protrudes outside of the spine.   Fortunately, my disc has not yet degenerated to that point.  Nevertheless, my disc had degenerated enough to make it hard for me to bend forward, to walk, and to stand.

As luck would have it, this condition flared up during the year in which I trained to become a yoga teacher.  At first I could not figure out why I could not relax comfortably in Shavasana or move into and out of Virabhadrasana without extreme pain.  After ten years of pushing myself in yoga practice, I had to pull way back and accept the limitations of my body.  I consulted a physiatrist, who sent me to a very good physical therapist, and took a break from all forward bending for two months.

All the forward bends that I thought were so good for my spine were actually worsening my condition, because the movement encouraged the disc between L5 and S1 to bulge out further.  In addition, other muscles in my core began tighten up as they overcompensated for the  weakness at the base of my spine. Anterior_Hip_Muscles_2 My psoas muscles, which runs from the middle point of the spine over in front of the sacrum and down to the femurs, the large thigh bone, were overly consctricted and working like a tight rubber band that bent me forward at the base of my spine.  250px-QuadratuslumborumFurthermore, deep in my back musculature, the quadratus lumborum that run from the top of the lumbar spine down to the sacrum, were also overly tight.   In consultation with my physical therapist, I developed a yoga sequence to release these muscles, strengthen my abdominals,  and regain some of the flexibility I had lost.

For the first two weeks I did nothing more than simple press-ups, a variation on Bhujangasana, or cobra, in which you press your arms into the mat until they are straight, raising the chest and hips but leaving the legs on the mat while releasing all muscles in the buttocks.  I still begin every session with ten repetitions of this simple back-opener.

For weeks three and four I tightened my abdominal muscles with uddiyana and mula bhanda locks as often as possible–especially when moving from a seated to a standing position, or while seated and standing.  Basically: all the time.

Here is the sequence I started with.  It helps me a lot.  A word of caution:  if you have severe back pain due to sciatia, a herniated or degenerated disc, please do not practice these exercises without consulting your physician or physical therapist. 

Also, as always in yoga, let pain be your guide.  If you begin to feel an intense, burning or cutting pain, immediately cease what you are doing.  Seek sthira and sukkha, discipline and sweetness, a balance between exertion and ease, in every asana.

Bhujangasana variation.bhujangasana  10x. Lying face down on floor, bring your hands along the body just beneath your shoulders.  Press your palms against the mat to lift your chest and hips up,  keeping your buttock muscles loose.

Benefits of bhujangasana: strengthens and stretches the spine, opens chest and shoulders, relieves pain from sciatica and herniated discs.

salabhasana1Shalabasana (Locust)  4x  Lying face down on the mat with arms along the body. Strongly pulling your shoulder blades together, lift your chest and thighs off the mat, lengthening the crown of the head away from the feet and the feet away from the body.  Hold here for three breaths.

Benefits of Shalabasana: Strenthens the lumbar spine; helps the psoas muscle to release, posterior hip and thigh muscles, opens the shoulders and chest.

Dhanruasana (Bow) 3x  dhanurasanaLie face down on the floor. Bend knees and grasp ankles, one at a time.  Pull your chest  and thighs up while squeezing shoulder blades together.  Hold for three breaths.

Benefits of Dhanurasana: stretches the psoas, flexes the lumbar quadratus, strengthens the spine, opens shoulders, chest and throat.

In between each pose, Rest in a passive neck stretch–bringing your head all the way to the floor, turned, alternately to the left and right, for three full breaths.

Setu Bandhasana (Bridge)images (5)3x  From a supine position on your back, bend your knees and bring your heels towards your hips, keeping the feet hip-width apart.  Lift your hips by pressing your upper back against the floor and lengthening the stomach and spine.  Tuck your shoulders underneath your back and grasp your fingers together. Release your buttocks muscles and hold yourself here by pushing your feet against the floor.   Hold for 3 or 4 breaths.  Exit by unclasping the fingers and slowly lowering the spine to the floor, one vertebrae at a time.

Benefits of Setu Bandhasana: strengthens middle and upper spine, stretches psoas; relieves low back tightness.  It also may alleviate symptoms of depression by increasing circulation to the thyroid gland.

Dhammapada, 1:1-2


All experience is preceded by mind,

Led by mind,

Made by mind.

Speak or act with a corrupted mind,

And suffering follows

As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

All experience is preceded by mind,

Led my mind,

Made by mind

Speak or act with a peaceful mind,

And happiness follows

Like a never-departing shadow.

Buddha, Dhamapada  1:1-2

The first verses of the Dhammapada remind us to guide our thinking, because our thoughts inform our experience.  Everything that we go through, every event, we interpret with our minds.  But experience also has a way of shaping the way we interpret our experiences.  The families into which we were born, the people and cultures that shaped us, inform our minds, the ways we see the world.  So, for example, a child who is mistreated from the moment she is born,who is told that she is worthless and stupid and incompetent, nothing more than a thing to be used by others, is likely to grow up with a false understanding of herself.  She will not know her true nature as a being of light and beauty, deserving of all love.  She will have a corrupted mind, and suffering will follow her.

The wonderful knowledge that the Buddha offers to us here is this: no matter what has happened to us, no matter how corrupted our ways of understanding the world have been, each one of us has the freedom and the power to learn, through practice, to step aside, as it were, from the false, corrupt thoughts that have been imbued in us, and to have a “peaceful mind.” This is the only path to lasting happiness.

 

Getting home after a Holocaust: Dream, August 21, 2013


I was at a picnic, and all my neighbors and friends and family were there, even my son’s father.  The weather was so lovely and we were all having such a lovely time, that it saddened me to know that I my son was at home, probably sitting in the dark, feeling lonely and miserable.  So I left the happy scene and headed for the house, just a few blocks away.

Suddenly I was driving our old 1967 white Mercedes, and people started massing into the streets.  I slammed on the brakes, barely missing an old man.  Up ahead I saw tiny grey clouds wafting up from the ground all around us.  A policeman stopped me at an intersection, and, crouching down, shouted for everyone to take cover.  I didn’t feel very frightened as I hunched behind the steering wheel.

The ground shook violently in a thundering explosion. Something had blasted part of the road away.  The policeman stood up and ordered everyone to stay away from the punctures in the asphalt, but I had already started to drive ahead, through the tunnel where I thought I saw enough good road to get me  home, to Brendan, to see if he was all right.  No policeman would separate me from my child.

nuclear 2

But my car wheels grazed one of the steaming potholes and the whole surface gave way, pulling my car down with it!  I scrambled out the window up onto the side of the sinking car, and, using my mountain-climbing skills (which I seem to need in many of my dreams lately), I pulled myself up the enormous, concrete wall and up onto a ledge.  Unfortunately, the earthquake had pushed the road far, far beneath me, probably ten stories down.  Trapped!

The policeman was rescuing a man stranded int about 5 stories down with a cherry picker.  He was directly below me.  “Help! Help! Help!” I shouted at him.  He seemed to ignore me but soon came zooming up to bring me down.

I got into a bus with a number of other women and men, each of them as dazed as I was.  We talked about our symptoms: racing hearts, shaking hands, difficulty moving, hazy, slow thinking.  “We’ve been traumatized. This is normal,” I said.  Brendan’s father was on the bus, too.  I threw my arms around him and cried, “I am so grateful that you are here.  We must always stay together.”  We would look for Brendan together.

They took us to a police station where officious men and women made us take a test.  Each person had to do a different thing. To me, they said, “look into this light and speak as fast as you can.”  They didn’t tell me what they wanted me to say, but indicated that my fate depended on my words.  I burbled out my accomplishments, my virtues, my job experiences, my talents, anything I could think of.  Someone else had to type as quickly as she could on an old-fashioned keyboard that was difficult to operate.  Some people were not allowed to take the test.  I could not see where Brendan’s father had gone to.

I must not have done well because they sent me to a labor camp processing radioactive pigs, where workers typically lasted for no longer than 5 years.  “It’s better than dying now, isn’t it?,” one of the officious people asked me, not expecting an answer.  Less than a minute after I arrived, I stumbled into one of the boiling vats on the assembly line and began coughing up blood.  A man with hollowed cheeks and sunken eyes in a strangely puffy, yellow face, held me as I retched.

I learned that the earthquake had jolted me far forward in time, and that the entire planet had fallen under the control of giant casinos.  All other businesses had failed, and now the gaming industry ran all public and private institutions.  Even though I had a Ph.D. and many years of teaching experience, I had not attended a casino-run university, and, therefore, my qualifications had no value.

Somehow I got home to the house, after all, years later, and found Brendan.  “You are safe!  You stayed here!” I cried out joyfully.  “No,” he replied.  “I left.  And I traveled for years and learned many things.

some of the reasons we are awesome


Because we talk we talk about philosophy, neuroscience, history, relationships. men and women, life, how hard math is for some brains (like ours), getting through, living respectfully.  He is dignified and he respects himself. And we speak in this funny weird English accent, “Hell-looo?”  And we laugh a lot.  Image I love my son

 

working


ImageI drove home with groceries from Costo, arriving at 1:30 pm, with dread and sorrow in my heart, worrying that he, they, would still be sleeping.  I have this bad habit, or sense that is true, that it is the girlfriend who drags him down, and who keeps him up late into the morning hours, and who prevents him from following his normal diurnal rhythms.  Surely many if not most mothers have had these suspicions about girlfriends who don’t quite measure up.  I am not proud of myself.  But it was with dread that I came up the back steps into the yard, and with surprise that I greeted y son, standing on the ladder, scraping away.

He has taken a job from me to earn money to help pay his way where he lives.  And the job is not as easy or as quick as the thought it would be.  And he took his time getting to work. But he did get to work, today, before I got home, and he worked steadily at it, all day, taking occasional breaks from the sun and the heat.  And when he thought he was done and I pointed out that there was way, way more to do, he didn’t complain, but set about the work, and worked well after dinner time, until just now, 8:20pm.

I told him, “hey, that was good work.  You worked hard, and I’m proud of you.”  He was tired and heading for the shower.  It was the first time in a long time that I have complimented him in a way that he could and would accept.  He took it in and acknowledged the good in him. Because he knew it wasn’t bullshit, knew I wasn’t trying to build up his ego.  He worked hard and got the credit for it, and that was good for him and for me.

It is a platitude but there is nothing like honest work, done well and appreciated.  I felt we both succeeded tonight.  Small steps. Perhaps you would laugh at me–or at him–because you don’t understand how difficult it can be to do anything at all when you are depressed, and how even the smallest movement feels like an achievement.

Nothing is more difficult to treat than depression, because depression is an illness in the brain, a faulty logic, a disaster in the motherboard of the brain, a crossing of circuits that no genius can fix.  We don’t understand it, depression, and therefore we have nearly no sympathy for it.

Telling the Story of My Son


It is difficult to tell a story true or slant.  I have edited this post since I first composed it, because some of the things I wrote were hurtful and not precisely true.  I have a point of view, of course, and was in many cases interpreting or guessing at events that I did not witness.  It also does no good to open up old wounds or to speak about things that took place in the past.  It is not helpful to blame other people for things turning out differently than I hoped they would, and it is also not responsible.  

I will try to tell the story of my son, who is 22.  When he was very little, he had a difficult temperament. He was easily upset by loud noises, including the vacuüm cleaner, and often unable to soothe himself to sleep.  We tried to be good parents, but we were young and far from our families and we made many mistakes.

I suffer from depression and my illness got very bad when my mother died–just months before I gave birth. I cried a lot during my pregnancy and afterwards.   About two years after my mother died, my father married a woman who made everyone, including my father, miserable.

My depression got much worse, but, with the help of friends, medication, and a good therapist, to control it enough to finish my dissertation and find a job.  Unfortunately, I was not able to hold my marriage together.  I made many serious mistakes that I deeply regret.

At any rate, we separated when my son was 6–and I moved to a separate state to take the job I had found–tenure track English professor. Very hard to come by and I had worked hard to get it. The agreement we had, after much battling with lawyers, was 50/50 custody but our son would live with his dad for two years and then come to live with me.

I was able to work but got more and more depressed, being so far away from my son. Some days I would collapse on the kitchen floor and weep. Other days I would just lie down on in the room I had made up for him and cry myself to sleep.

Finally I got a jot a lot closer to my son, in Pittsburgh, and the drive was only 4 hours, so I could visit him more often.  He came to live with me later.

My son is an incredibly intelligent young man but  he has a hard time with maths. He was diagnosed with some learning disabilities, but I think his biggest problem was a lack of  patience and discipline. He never learned to keep track of his assignments or to complete them. I helped him with this as best I could while he was in Pittsburgh, but the schools were sooo terrible–I tried four—and my son was clearly so depressed going to them in Pittsburgh –that I ended up sending him back to his old school, where he had friends and a few teachers who understood him and could help him.

So, he lived with his father and his stepmother from age 6 to age 10, and from age 11 to 17, when he graduated from high school. After years of dismal grades he  applied himself during his senior year and got As and Bs.

When my son was about 12 his father and stepmother adopted a Chinese baby.  They all traveled to China to pick her up. My son liked the journey but for some mysterious reason never got very attached to his sister. His father and stepmother never asked him if he wanted a sister, or included him in the decision. I think he resented this. I don’t know for sure, but it could also be that he feared his father and stepmother loved this child more than they loved him.

He began to withdraw more and more.  He had never been like other children, but he had always had a good set of healthy and happy friends.  As he got older he spent more and more time alone.  He stayed up late playing computer games and was exhausted during the day.  He did not learn how to discipline himself to complete or to take pride in his schoolwork.

He started college in Washington State, but stayed only 6 months and failed all his classes. He got involved in a Strurm-und-Drang relationship a girl he had known in high school, and somehow persuaded the college she was attending to admit him.  After a year, the school suspended him for bad grades.  He was clearly not ready for college.

Then he came home to Pittsburgh, where the tormenting girl continued to torment him, and he to torment her. Finally that relationship fell apart and he began a new one with a girl from a very troubled home (he is drawn to people from troubled home).

For a while, she spent her time living with friends in a kind of flophouse, where everyone smokes cigarettes and watches tv most of the time. The house is filthy and he doesn’t like it but he is not able to leave her and they don’t have the money to live anywhere else.

She attends hair-dressing school on a GI scholarship that he gets through her father.She can only go to school part-time because she doesn’t have a driver’s license or car and relies on her roommate to take her to and from school. Also she will not or cannot get up before 11 o’clock in the morning.

My son also never got his license, even though I taught him to drive and have encouraged him many times to take the test and get it.   His father also helped him to get his learning permit.  I have even offered to give him a car—I have two–if only he got his license and a job to earn enough to pay for his own gas and insurance.

He claimed that he was too afraid of driving–and he really is very anxious about many things that other people are not anxious about. He has always been a fearful kid, because he could envision the negative impacts of things.  At the age when other little kids were flinging themselves down slides, he would climb up to the top, consider the prospect, and climb carefully back down.

But he will also admit that he doesn’t want the responsibility of driving.

I was thrilled when he moved in with me, because I had missed him for so many years during his life and finally had him under my own roof. Now, I thought, I can help him to live a better life! To be more disciplined, to have more faith in himself, to think more positively….

I had connections at the zoo and got him a job there. He had to be there at 7 am , and had been used to staying up all night with his girlfriend, who goes to bed around 3 o 4 in the morning. He used to be an early riser–for most of his life he was up at 5, until he got to school years and started to play video games all night.

So, he had very bad habits when he started the zoo job. I had to wake him up and drive him to work so that he wouldn’t be late. Then, after a few month, he quit the job without even telling the manager. He just decided he didn’t want to get up early any more. He was lonely and depressed and very down on himself.

He was sitting around my house, doing nothing, playing games, watching tv. Not helping with the chores, unless I asked him many times. Not interested in cooking with me, or hanging out with me at dinner. He was very reclusive, as he had been through high school. He was, he told me, very depressed and lonely.  I could not convince him to participate in family dinners or events.  Since he didn’t go out very much, he didn’t make many friends.

He said he was afraid to be around people, afraid of what they were thinking about him, afraid that he would lose his temper and get in trouble, or simply be miserable because people–all people–were mean, deceitful, shallow, stupid, and rude.

I was still so happy just to have him around and thought I’d go easy on him for a while to build up trust. He would occasionally show up to help with the dishes or to do something I’d asked him to do, but then he’d retreat into his room. He was not looking for jobs, he was not doing any art projects, he was not trying to go back to school.  I thought he would grow out of it.

I came to point in my life in which I needed to make a change–call it a mid-life crisis. I wanted to see the world and do some good in it, so I started looking into volunteer opportunities abroad. I thought that if he and I could do this together, we’d reconnect and he could discover the better side of himself. He wanted to go to Nepal, so that is where we went. He said he wanted to live with monks and teach them English. The program had this option, so we made the plans and headed to the airport.

He was 20 at this time. We had made one leg of the journey, to New York, and he had a real anxiety attack. He cried and pleaded and carried on, utterly panicked.  All of a sudden he didn’t want to go to Nepal . But I had already made the arrangements, someone else was living in my house, and he would have no where to go except to the very filthy house where his girlfriend lived. He had no choice, he had to go with me. We landed in Doha, Qatar, and stayed there for a day or so.  He was furious and frightened at the same time, and refused to go outdoors.  But I finally got him up in the evening and we walked around the Souq and he seemed to be having a good time.

Nepal was a shock for both of us (see one of my posts about that here) but he prevailed and was a good sport about it for a long time. we lived with a Nepali family who hosted about five other volunteers, all his age. He was jovial and extremely funny with them–they loved his sense of humor and had them in stitches with his jokes about Americans abroad–he is a wonderful storyteller with an advanced vocabulary and a good mind. But he went into withdrawal in Nepal, as well. He found someone who sold him a huge amount of very low-grade pot there (it grows everywhere, in every yard, along all the streets–it is a weed) and started smoking every night.

I don’t mind pot-smoking in moderation. It can be a good, beneficial drug, but I am against smoking it every day. And I told him that I thought it was bad for him to be smoking it so much. But he went ahead and did it anyway. The worst thing, however, was that he had his computer with him, and there was internet at the house where we stayed, so he spent hours and hours in his room (still quite messy), skypeing with this girlfriend, who is very sweet but not at all ambitious or educated.

He was depressed and inward in Nepal, as well. I had been given a job of helping to get five kids, ages 5 -10, ready for school in the morning. These children were the most delightful, loving, dear people I met in Nepal–and they were especially dear because they had recently been rescued from servitude in the country. Their parents had sold them. THey used to fall all over me in a tumble, kiss my hands, and hug me–they were so full of love and goodwill. My son never wanted to go near them…even though he could have…he said it made him sad to see them, and that he didn’t want to get attached, because it was too hard for him to say goodbye.

Brendan never worked with the monks, because, he said, he didn’t think he could be a teacher. He didn’t think he could teach anyone English.. I encouraged him to simply get in there and start talking to them, and to learn from them as they learned from him…but there was no talking him into it. I think he simply wasn’t ready for the culture shock that it would have involved–living in poverty, sleeping and eating very little, and spending most of his time with people who spoke a different language.

We came home after two months. Brendan really needed to come home. He was getting more and more depressed and withdrawn. I was afraid to have him alone in PIttsburgh, so I came home with him, even though I had planned to stay longer. He was glad I made the journey back with him.

He lived with me for a while, but I lost patience with him when he continued to spend his days watching tv or hanging out with his girlfriend. And yes, smoking a lot of pot, but not drinking or doing other drugs. I layed down the law and he got mad and moved to his girlfriend’s house.

He was mad, furious with me, because he had been seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed Klonapin to him and gave him a big bottle of the stuff. The next day he had it I found him passed out on the couch, the bottle clutched in his hand. I took it away and and said I would monitor his doses from now on. He was furious and accused me of treating him as a child. I also called the psychiatrist and told her that I he also smoked pot and that I was worried about her prescribing such an addictive drug to him. At their next session, she told him I had called her and accused her of selling it to his friends. I should have told him that I had spoken to her before this, and prepared him for the visit, but I didn’t. That was another mistake. He felt so betrayed by me and by her that he walked out and insisted he would never return.

At the time he believed that only Klonapin would help him with his anxiety attacks. Anxiety is also the reason he gives for not being able to look for a job. He stopped speaking to me for two or three weeks–living with his girflfriend all the while–but later apologized and said that he was glad I had taken the drug away, because he understood how addictive is is, and didn’t want to get addicted to anything.

He got a job doing data entry from 4 pm to midnight with his friend who is also his source for pot. The manager on the job as well as B’s friends smoked while they worked, and managed to do okay. B, however, was not able to focus well while high and lost the job. He was devastated, but I was glad because I ddn’t think this was a wholesome job environment and hoped he would finally, now, get a real job.

But he hasn’t. He looked around in the very economically depressed neighborhood where he lives with his girlfriend, and found nothing. THere are plenty of jobs in my neighborhood, I think–at Home Depot or the supermarket or the coffee shops–and I have said he can live with me as long as he is working. But he doesn’t want to live with me and obey my rules.

He recently became very desperate for money –his girlfriend has been supporting him, but her monthly scholarship check did not come this month and they are broke, without enough to eat (but they also budget very badly–when they have money they blow it all at Pizza Hut or KFC) , so I agreed to let him work at my house, scraping and painting my garage.

It took him a long time to come to my house—he has trouble finding rides–and when he got there he dilly-dallied and finally started the job at the end of the day. THen he had a breakdown–in which he was screaming, weeping, really truly falling apart. This is a very depressed, very emotionally volatile young man. He said he hates himself and wants to punish himself because he is worthless and deserves to be punished…and he also complains that I am trying to manipulate him into getting a job…and that I never listen to him, and don’t treat him like an adult…

Many internalized, negative messages that have accumulated over the years torment him.. Depressed people are the hardest to reason with, because they don’t see reason, or feel calm.

I am at a loss. I am not depressed now, because I get my exercise and take my meds and go to a shrink and meditate at lot.  But I feel a great deal of pain, sorrow, agony. It is so hard to watch him making so many bad choices. He has so much at his finger-tips, a parent who would help him if only he would do something for himself.

His father does not see the depression, which is so obvious to me. I see that my son needs medication and therapy, and get I can’t force him to get this help. I have offered, and sometimes he says he will call the therapist…..but then he doesn’t do it .

He seems determined to dwell in pain and darkness and actually seems to believe that he deserves to be there.   He needs help but I don’t know how to get it for him.  He needs to ask for help himself but doesn’t know how to do.

The Tragedy of Lynn and Martha (Kennedy) Latta


Lynn Latta 2My great-grandfather, Lynn Latta, was born 26 June 1867,  the fourth of seven children in a large and settled family near Fulton County, Kentucky.  One day he walked away from his brothers and sisters and parents without telling anyone why or where he was going.  His niece, Mary Emma Pittman, the daughter of his brother, Thomas Benton Latta, suggested that he went away to avoid a fight with one of his brothers over money.  Her mother had once told her that Lynn “got tired of Uncle Guy borrowing his money and never paying back.”

“I never did hear my Father speak of him very often,” Mary wrote,

and I asked my mother one day why.  And she said it hurt him so much as he was so good a person, but he didn’t like his brother treating him the way he did, as he was a good person who liked to save his money.

So, rather than confront his brother about the debt, and, presumably, shame him in front of his family, Lynn decided to take the shame upon himself and leave.  This, at least, is the story given by his niece, Mary, who stayed on the “Old Home Place” that Lynn’s parents, Benjamin Franklin and Mattie (Mitchell Morris) Latta, built.

Years later, Lynn’s daughter Edith noted, “Dad left his childhood home when in his teens, and how he ever went so far north to find a wife, I’ll never guess.”

Lynn was not the only peripatetic member of the family.  All of his brothers and sisters left Kentucky except for Mary’s father, “TB,” Thomas Benton Latta, who stayed on at the Old Home Place and then passed it on to Mary.

Courtship and Marriage

No one knows why, when, how, or where Lynn met Martha Matilda Kennedy,

Martha Matilda Kennedy, circa 1890

Martha Matilda Kennedy, circa 1890

a headstrong, Protestant Canadian of Irish and German heritage.  One of my grand aunts,  it might have been Ruth, told me that her parents met in Detroit or Chicago, where her mother was working as a milliner, but I have not found any census records to prove it.

We know that Martha, at least, was in Arkansas on January 14, 1899, giving birth to Ruth.   Twelve days later–and this seems incredible–Martha and Lynn got married 1,000 miles away, in Huron, Ontario.  A little more than a year after that,  the little family had moved to an apartment building at 507 Ninth Street, in Des Moines Idaho.

At some point during this year Martha traveled back to Canada.  The official documenting her crossing at Rockport, Ontario, wrote that she and her daughter intended to visit her husband, who was in the country for six months.

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Perhaps Lynn had found and especially lucrative job up in Ontario.  Shortly after he returned he purchases six and a half acres on Indiana Road in Des Moines, built a house on top of a hill and opened the  “White House Cafe,” a small restaurant on West Fourth Street that catered to passengers heading to and from the Rock Island Railway.

View of the Country near the Latta house on Indiana Street, Des Moines, circa 1920

View of the Country near the Latta house on Indiana Street, Des Moines, circa 1920

Martha cooked and bore ten more children: Lynn Howard, John, Frederick, Edith May, Elsie, Evelyn, Edward, Albert, and Dorothy. The third child, John, died in infancy.  Lynn and Martha owned two horses, Nellie and her son, Ben, cows, and chickens.  They farmed hay, vegetables, walnuts, plums, cherries, and berries.  They bought an upright piano and hired a teacher to give lessons to the older children.

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Edith May, Elsie, and Evelyn Latta, circa 1920, near their house on Indiana Road, Des Moines, Iowa

Lynn’s second daughter Edith recalled that her father

was a very kind, hard-working man.  He never had enough sleep that I can remember.  He went to his restaurant after doing a lot of jobs around the house in the mornings and early afternoon.  He went to the restaurant in plenty of time to prepare the evening meal, keeping the place open late in the evenings and letting his horse bring him home.  Old Nellie knew the way, so Dad could sleep.  He built our home, little, by little, with the help of a handyman.  He was so good to all us kids.

Ed’s wife Wilma also observed,

the children all remember their father as a kind, loving man.  There is a snapshot of him somewhere with a bunch of kids on a wagonload of hay.  So apparently they played with him while he worked at home.

Martha, on the other hand, was not as much fun.  Edith recalled that her mother

was always busy raising children and working in the fields and gardens.  She was not demonstrative, but she must have had a good business sense, continuing to keep the household going after Dad left, with no monies except what we older ones who were working could give her.  I don’t think she ever had time to do what she might have liked to do; she was just too busy doing what was necessary to keep the family going.

In the margins of this typed letter Edith has written by hand,” she did enjoy her flower gardens.”

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Martha Matilda Kennedy, circa 1885, before she married Lynn Latta, Sr.

On the other hand, he was difficult.  Ed remembered his parents arguing often, which bothered him.  His wife Wilma, who told me this, also recalled that  Martha’s neighbors

tried to help her when she had problems, asking her why she took him back when she knew it meant trouble. She resented their ‘helpful’ interference, and told them so.  So apparently he left more than once, although Ed doesn’t remember.

During the delivery of one child (Elsie, I think), she hemorrhaged so badly that they feared for her life.  (All deliveries were at home, of course.) They sent for the father, but couldn’t find him.  He had left the restaurant to go to a movie.  She never forgave him for that.  She probably was afraid of each of the four pregnancies after that, and felt trapped and resentful.

He must have been charming, to persuade her to bear more children under these circumstances.

My only purpose in telling these details is to help you understand what a hard life she had, and to see why she became a bitter old woman.  It also helped me to understand why Ed refused ever to argue with me; he would walk out instead.

Culture and Traditions

Lynn Latta and Martha Matilda Kennedy  came from completely different cultural backgrounds.  Lynn’s Scotch-Irish folk settled in North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky–Protestant middling people who distinguished themselves for their extraordinary fierceness, stubborn pride, and cheerfulness, which neither poverty nor hardship could suppress.  These out-spoken, hard-scrabbling folk brought their rich and colorful music, dance, and cultural rituals with them, elaborate weddings, wakes, festivals, and celebrations.  The greater freedom they allowed their children fostered independence and self-confidence, but it also caused outsiders to think of them as somewhat wild. The object of their child-rearing practices was not will-breaking, but rather will-enhancing.  Great men and women came from this stock–the brilliant orators and statesmen John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson.

Martha Kennedy had more than a streak of stubbornness in her, having grown up on the western frontier of what was then known as “Upper Canada.” The Six Nations who lived on the land did not surrender it to the crown until 1844, and white people-most of whom were German– did not officially begin to settle in Haldiman County, where Martha was born in 1873,  until 1832.  Her mother’s people were puritanical, staunch, upstanding, orderly, and strict Free Will Baptists, who believed that once a person had renounced his or her faith, that there was no returning to God.

Martha Matilda Kennedy’s grandparents, James Burch Nelles and Martha Matilda Nelles, circa 1870. The children are most likely Alexia Matilda and James Joseph Nelles

Martha Matilda’s maternal grandparents were Nelles family cousins who who traced their lineage back to Andrew Nelles and the United Empire Loyalists, German mercenaries fought against the Americans during the war of Independence.   Passionately devoted to the English Crown, the Nelles family moved north from New York State after the Revolutionary War.  Many German loyalists were given free land, as British crown  wanted to bring in more Protestants, whom they regarded as more tractable than the Catholic French-speaking settlers who had intermixed with the native peoples.

These Germans regarded the women and men who fought for the independence of the United States as radicals and anarchists. In her obituary, Martha’s grandmother’s is remembered for her piety and “splendidly furnished residence,” as well as for her “untiring efforts to make home attractive as well as her skill and good taste.”

Much less is known about Martha’s father, John Kennedy, a Church of England (see the 1881 census) Protestant..  He is listed as a general laborer in Huron in the 1881 census, but Evelyn said that her mother grew up on a farm. Perhaps Delilah Nelles married outside her ethnicity to escape their narrowness when she took up with the first Canadian-born Northern Irishman.  She certainly doesn’t look as dour as her mother:

Delilah Nelles Kennedy, circa 1900

Martha Matilda Kennedy’s mother, Delilah Nelles Kennedy, circa 1900

And what about Martha Mathilda, this half-Irish, half German girl from London?  One of her daughters said she once fell in love with a Catholic but was forbidden to marry him, and that she met Lynn while working in Detroit, Michigan, as a nurse’s aid.  One of her other daughters said she had been a milliner.  I can imagine the first rush of romance, the affable Southern boy sweeping the beautiful, Irish-eyed Northern maid away with dreams of cooking together in their own business. 

 

 In response to my query, “Did [Lynn and Martha] love one another?” Edith responded:

That is a good question.  I never saw any affection between them; I remember one time when Dad put his arm around Mother standing in a doorway, and she shrugged away.” Obviously there was some affection, or at least, a strong physical attraction to one another–they brought ten [sic] children into the world.

The Children

Lattas at the creek near their house in Des Moines, circa 1915

Lattas at the creek near their house in Des Moines, circa 1915

These children had a great deal of merry freedom, much more than they might have enjoyed had they grown up in the stern, well-furnished rooms of Germanic Upper Canada.

Evelyn, Dorothy, and Elsie

Evelyn, Dorothy, and Elsie, circa 1920


a mound of lattaEdith recounted that her brothers Lynn and Fred “were very good to us, …making all kinds of play equipment–a merry-go-round out of an old wagon wheel, a trolley slide across the field that sloped, a greased wood slide from the hay mow to the ground.  That had to be taken down in short order, because we got grease on our clothes.  I remember once daring those who would follow me to jump from the hayloft, turning a somersault before landing on a stack of hay on the ground.  I didn’t do very well, landing mostly on my neck, so no one followed, and I didn’t try again.  How crazy can kids get!! We really had fun, though.…I really don’t believe any child these days can have as much fun as we did, o so many years ago.”

Ed, in front of the barn, House on Indiana St., Des Moines, circa 1920

Ed, in front of the barn, House on Indiana St., Des Moines, circa 1920


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Latta kids having fun, circa 1927

Hard Times

When the train service to Des Moines dropped back, business at the White House Cafe began to fail.  Lynn had to sell his restaurant and began working as a chef under another man.  Edith  wrote,

As I remember, he didn’t like his job at that time, we felt that he had been his own boss for so long that it wasn’t easy for him to work for someone else.  The incident that precipitated the argument with Mother, as told to me, was Dad was coming to Mother, wanting to mortgage the house to get money enough to buy a smaller restaurant in a different location in downtown Des Moines.

Martha Matilda with Dorothy, the youngest, circa 1920, just before Lynn left

Martha Matilda with Dorothy, the youngest, circa 1920

According to Edith, Elsie was there during the argument, and  Martha Matilda threatened Lynn with a butcher knife.  Evelyn discounted this story, but Edith thought it was true.  Edith wrote,

Evelyn told me that Elsie was not there when Mother was confronted with the proposal to mortgage the house.  It was Evelyn and Ruth, and there was no butcher knife.  Mother had something in her hand, probably a spoon, but Evelyn can’t remember what it was.  And all Mother said was, “You old fool.”  Then Dad sat down on a kitchen chair, probably feeling he was at ‘the end of a rope.’  How soon he left home after that, she doesn’t know, but I imagine it might have been the next day.  That’s a relief to me, as he would have had time to get his clothes, and all these years I have believed he left with nothing.”

Edith had more sympathy for her father than Evelyn, who flatly stated, “he deserted us when I was about nine years old.” In a different letter she wrote, “I never could forgive him.  Guess I’m stubborn, but mother had so little.” She remembered her mother rising early every morning to light the fire, and toiling in gardens, raising vegetables and fruit for food.

Lynn Howard Latta with Edith May and Martha Matilda Latta, circa 1920

Lynn Howard Latta with Edith May and Martha Matilda Latta, circa 1920

Lynn’s oldest son, named for his father, also got up before dawn  to milk the cows and take care of other chores around the farm to keep it going while he simultaneously put his younger siblings through school paid for his own law education.  He started working as a lawyer in the 1920s, and gave his brothers and sisters jobs in his offices.

Shortly after the argument in which Martha did or did not wield a butcher knife at him, Lynn left the family and moved north, looking for other work. Edith wrote that “he never intended to leave the family for good.”   Edith wondered if he had “wanderlust in his system.” I remember Ruth telling me once that after that third baby [John, 1902-lived three months and 20 days] was born and died, [Mother] told Dad that she was not going to travel any more.”Lattas, 1920s 9

At any rate, Lynn left his home after 1920, already in his mid-fifties, intending somehow to come back.  Sore feelings, frustration, a short temper, pride, and all the other little factors that lead people who love one another to storm out when they ought to stay, brought him to say goodbye.

Lynn Latta, Sr., circa 1925

The story he tells of the years that followed, of his successive attempts to find work and of repeated disappointments and increasingly degrading jobs, is a familiar one these days, when people who have borrowed tens of thousands of dollars for college degrees, only to find themselves out of work and passed over in favor of cheaper and younger applicants for jobs that are scarcer and scarcer.  In June 1928, on stationary from “Renahan Manor: A High-Class Residential Community” at Round Lake, Illinois, Lynn complained to Edith, who had tracked him town and phoned him:

I have been here two months and it had to be the only time I went to town, 1 1/2 miles, to get my hair cut, that you called…If only you had given…a number, I would have called at once. And now I want to know how you knew I was in Chicago, and how you found out my address. I suppose some one that I have met then must have told you for I have met several that know me in Des Moines…If only you could know how much it hurt me to think what a mess or failure I have been since I sold my restaurant.  But I had been [illeg] with it so long that I had no home, just a place to sleep for a few hours, then go again.  Then when I sold out card [?] to trick to stay home nobody wanted me.  Then that fall and four [?] attempts to work for others, which [ended?] in disaster on account of my foot, which still hurts me in the night, although a little less each year.

It is hard to know what to make of these lines–was he feeling especially sorry for himself or did he really feel unloved and pushed out?  Had he become alienated from his wife because they were both working so hard that they never saw one another?  Was he tricked into selling his restaurant?  How did that happen?  And what about the fall he mentions here, the one from which never obviously never recovered?  In those days working people had little or no health insurance.  There also was absolutely no safety net, no social security, and no disability assistance, which exacerbated the Great Depression that descended on the country after the crash of ’29. These factors certainly contributed to the demise of Lynn Latta, Sr., who was by all accounts an extremely hard worker and devoted father.

It appears Lynn had traveled away from home before to find work, for his letter continues, in a story that many today would find familiar, with the earnings adjusted.

Now when I left the last time I had a chance to get a small room for my old time sandwich business and also a job at Florant City, up near Colfant[?], Minn., at $30 per week on the same day.  Having no money left (just enough to get to [?]); I had to take it.  I did not intend to do as I have done but [meant to] keep silent and save ($300 in 15 weeks and [had] started just trying to find some flour for myself and get in Dubuque 4 weeks in the Spring and find outside work, but my foot hampered me and I came into Chicago, where cooks were in demand.  Went to Flint Mich as 2nd cook in a Hotel at $50 a month, came back, worked in the Mug [?] hospital 3 weeks at $40 a month, three in a steel plant 18 miles south of the Lake…, 5 months at $150 and 7 months at $163; then when good times had passed I lost out for a younger man.

Lynn Latta, working as a chef, probably at Renehan Manor, on Round Lake, IL

Lynn Latta, working as a chef, probably at Renehan Manor, on Round Lake, IL

Then I tried business again, but it takes a lot of money to buck the grade in Chicago.  So five years ago when I was hoping to let you all know where I was I found myself down and out again, but I never gave up, nor asked anything of anyone.  But I found it a lighter burden going until I caught the Light House Lodge the 18th of June with no argument as to wages.  When it was over 2 months and 18 days they gave me $365 and my RR Hay [?] asking me to come the next year, then to get $14 a month and last year a little less, for I had stopped here a week before I went up there, and that 1 week as 2nd cook got me the chef’s job this year, and Mr. Renehan wants me to run a Restaurant (that he owns in Round Lake) next winter after he closes here in Oct.   If I come through successfully here and take it I will let you know about it.  Then you may tell your mother and the other children, for I would sure love to see Ruth’s babies.

Lynn’s agonized concern for his reputation and image in his daughter’s eyes is palpable in the last lines of the letter, where he instructs her to travel to the Light House Lodge, where she should “show them” his picture and

see what they say about me.  You remember I had to get glasses before the War.  Well, my eyes got better and now at 61 last June 26, I can read the Chicago Tribune without them, and then …I finally lost them.  And I weigh 137: one pound more than I weighed before and 10 pounds more than I weighed 2 to 5 years ago. Your old broken-hearted Dad.

Lynn Latta cooking outdoors, perhaps at Renehan Manor on the shore of Round Lake, IL, circa 1929

Lynn Latta cooking outdoors, perhaps at Renehan Manor on the shore of Round Lake, IL, circa 1929

Unfortunately, things did not turn out as hoped for at Renehan Manor.  The Great Depression must have had something to do with that, and his family lost touch with him again.

Lee and Elisabeth Smith Latta, circa 1915

Lee and Elisabeth Smith Latta, circa 1915

In January, 1930, Lynn’s brother Lee, a well-to-do and pious banker living in Minnesota, wrote to one of his daughters, Ruth or Edith:

Just keep on trying, dear, to locate him if possible…make an extra effort to find him, and if he is not well, for brother Tom [Thomas Benton] to take him home with him for a rest, as TB lives on the Old homestead where your Dad was borne.  Then we his brothers and sisters could come, and see him there, if your mother still felt toward him as she now thinks she does.  But I believe for the fact that he has a sense of duty toward her dear children, who love both she and he [sic], may enable her to forgive to a degree the past unfortunate mistakes, which we all are subject to as none of us are perfect, but only human.  One was perfect that that was that we might be saved from sin.

This discovery of your Dad seems like a dream to your Uncle Lee, for had I almost given up hopes of ever finding him and now that I have positive proof of his being alive a year ago, I shall never be satisfied until we locate him, and we can let him learn from us all that we love him as we have always.

Now you do what you can to trace him as you suggest through his lodger affiliation, and we will see what action your Uncle t.B. takes after receipt of my last letter with Lynn’s enclosed.  T.B. is well able to go to Chicago, and put forth this effort and care for him, should he succeed in finding him.  When we get hold of him then we can plan the future, and if it is God’s Will that he should be restored to you children it shall be so.  Because he belongs to your, his blood courses through your body temple, and no matter what his shortcomings may be, you must in no way deny him, for his brother the Christ never will, Your loving uncle, Lee

Thomas Benton Latta and his sons at the "Old Home Place" near, KY, circa 1920?  The area where the farm lay is now called "Latta Bottom"

Thomas Benton Latta and his sons at the “Old Home Place” in Latta Bottom, near Fulton, KY, circa 1940?

At some point in 1930 or shortly afterwards someone contacted Lynn Latta’s oldest son, Lynn Howard Latta (my grandfather), to tell him that his father was in a county hospital in Chicago.  My grandfather then packed his mother, his sister Edith, and himself off to Chicago to see him.  Martha told her husband that he could return, but later instructed her daughter Elsie to write to him not to come home.

“So, he was lost again,” Edith lamented.  “He probably died in or around Chicago, but that is only guessing.”

Martha Matilda Latta, circa 1920

Martha Matilda Latta, circa 1920