And The Word of the Day Is…

These are trying times.  We all know this.  And the fear of the devastating illness the world is dealing with is just part of it, albeit a huge part, of course.  But the isolation so many face daily can be even more overwhelming and I believe COMPASSION needs to be the word of the day – every day. 

I am so fortunate.  I’m not isolated at all, and I am certain that helps me find it easy to be compassionate with the people I meet every day everywhere.  I am an “essential worker.”  While I’m not a doctor or nurse, not a first responder, my colleagues and I are absolutely on the front lines.  We meet the public each day at a very popular national chain of “corner markets” and most, if not all, of us believe that compassion is first on the list of our responsibilities.  This has always been my nature, so what a career for me to have at this point in my life.

When people come to the store, the first thing they see is a line of people outside standing six feet apart.  “Oh, no!” is their first thought.  We know this because they tell us later.  But the line moves quickly and they enter the store.  You can see the stress on their faces as they begin to shop.  We’re all quite busy stocking, straightening, rushing back and forth, moving in and out of the back room, but NEVER too busy to stop and chat.  Then there’s that “I wonder where this is” look.  My favorite approach is, “What can’t you find?”  Ah, a smile.  This leads to a bit of conversation and the rest, well…

Finally, checking out at the register is not just cha-chinging.  We talk about family, what they’ve been doing.  Have they been able to work?  So many work from home now, of course, that this is literally the highlight of their week.  I ask them and they tell me honestly that it actually is!  Just the other day I had a customer who hadn’t been out shopping since March.  March!  You can imagine what her total bill was, and we had a great conversation.  Flowers for a birthday or anniversary.  Candy for travel.  I just love making people’s day a bit brighter.  I carry it with me wherever I go.  You know, people can see you’re smiling – even with your mask on.  It’s in your eyes.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Indeed, it will be a VERY different Thanksgiving this year.  Super storms on our shores and around the world ravage cities, towns, and entire islands.  Fires rage on our West Coast.  Violence is on the rampage in our streets while our “bipartisan” political system may be falling apart.  We have a president who sees himself as an emperor instead of the out-going leader of a free country.  AND our citizens are dying at an unprecedented rate due to a disease we cannot contain.  Does this not all sound more like science fiction than real life as we’ve known it?

So, here we are at “the holidays” which are usually the most festive times of the year, but things will definitely be untraditional this year.  Many of my friends are staying in, most are avoiding travel in attempts to keep loved ones safe from this insane pandemic.  What are you doing? 

Since I work with the public, and in a grocery store where we’re allowed, nay, encouraged to engage in conversation with our patrons, I’ve been able to get a pretty good glimpse of how this Thanksgiving is going to look for many of us.  Lots of good food will be enjoyed, but not in the usual great gatherings of family and friends.  Some folks I’ve chatted with are still planning their big family feasts where their members live close and have been in contact anyway, but more don’t have big plans, if any at all.  “Staying safe” seems to be how this Thanksgiving will be spent. 

This “thanks” holiday will be observed quite differently than tradition calls for, I’m afraid, and the thought of it has been keeping me up at night.  While the strangeness of it all surely wouldn’t be considered a blessing, perhaps it can be an opportunity for each of us to reflect and truly give thanks for what we do have; Thanks for our family and friends who are so far safe and healthy; Thanks for our individual health and well-being; Thanks for the little things (like running, especially hot, running water…)

And GIVE, if you can, to the various organizations that are providing food, and shelter, when needed, to those who don’t have these gifts due to the pandemic and/or just hard times.

Happy Holidays everyone.  Be well.  Be safe.  Send love.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Fixing Our Broken Electoral System

The sun rises in the west!

The sun rises in the west!

Voter fraud cost me the election!

Repeating a lie doesn’t magically transform it into the truth.  The truth is that the Republican Party’s presidential candidates haven’t won the popular vote since Ronald Reagan’s day.  The only thing keeping them competitive in federal (including the Electoral College) and state elections is gerrymandered voting districts. The Democratic Party doesn’t care; they’re busy gerrymandering voter districts in the states where they control the state legislature. Both parties are happy to suppress voting rights to the other side’s supporters.  

It’s the type of greedy, short-sighted and unpatriotic behavior that motivates warring factions in third world countries, most recently in South Sudan where the two guerrilla forces turned political parties have wrecked their country trying to sate their piggish appetites at the trough of public patronage. They couldn’t care less that their citizens are dying from bullets, disease and starvation, not to mention rape, murder and pillage.

The U.S. is the leader of the free world.  We deserve an electoral system that reflects that status instead of one appropriate for deadbeats skulking in the bush.

There is a better way and the prototype is called “Aadhar”.  Aadhar is an electronic database created by the federal government of India in a public-private partnership.  Every person in India is given a retina scan and a thumb scan and issued a 12-digit unique identifier.  This digital ID is linked to a card that looks like a credit card. The card is tied to a personal bank account which allows poor Indians to receive their government aid directly.  Aadhar is already paying for itself due to the amount of government corruption it has eliminated.

Aadhar is also the platform for an ecosystem of digital commerce. With their card and a retina scan, Indians can apply for a bank loan, pay their rent, buy groceries, a new refrigerator or TV and pay their cell phone bill. 

The U.S. could create its own version of Aadhar that would include a voter registration application.  Voters could register electronically and then vote electronically.  

Amazon, Apple, and Google, to name three American tech companies have the expertise to help set up an American version of Aadhar.  We could use the database as a platform for government services and private industry.  Privacy could be protected with beefed up privacy laws which need to be updated anyway.

So what’s really stopping us from instituting an electronic system that could reduce the threat of voter fraud while simultaneously speeding up election results? 

No politician in this country gives enough of a damn about America to put the country’s interest above her/his own interests.  They’d rather be tribal twits screaming about voter fraud and fighting over their turn at the trough of public patronage.  We’re a first world country with third world pols.  And that’s why I pessimistically believe an American Aadhar will never happen and we’ll never fix our broken electoral system.   

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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The Other Side of the Couch – What’s Next

     

 

I was driving on Old Hickory Boulevard on Saturday morning (November 7) on the way to visit my daughter and granddaughter and listening to NPR’s Ask Me Another, when suddenly Scott Simon broke in, and it became clear that the presidential race had been called for Joe Biden.  I had been waiting for this, hoping for this for so long – and as I took in the news, I felt a weight that I hadn’t realized I had been carrying begin to slip away.  Unfortunately, that weight has returned, given what is transpiring in our government in these last few days.

Ever since that awful morning in 2016 when I awakened to learn that a misogynistic reality TV star had defeated the most qualified and prepared candidate for president who had run in the last forty years, I have been to some degree in disbelief.  Secretary Clinton said he was unfit to hold the office of President of the United States.  It turns out this was an understatement.

Now after a hard-fought race that has been clearly won by Vice-President Biden – now President-Elect Biden – Trump is refusing to concede, is directing government offices NOT to cooperate with the transition, and appears to be purging high-level Pentagon officials and installing his own loyalists.

Over and over again well-meaning people have said, “It can’t get worse.”  And over and over again it has gotten worse.

I don’t want to think that Trump is planning to stage a coup or start a war in order to stay in office.  I don’t want to think that he would incite some blindly loyal followers to become violent in order to keep him in office.  But I didn’t want to think that most of the things he has done could happen.

I say, America, wake up!  Something is not right.

My dependence is on our military because I do not think the military will allow itself to be used for political ends. And I never thought that I would be saying these things in the United States of America.  The tradition of a non-political military that is not used to enforce domestic policy is essential to our democracy – and I believe that line will hold.  Today is Veterans Day -and we owe a debt of gratitude to all our service members, past and present, who have been willing to give their all – even their very lives – in service to our country.  I say to them – thank you – and may you soon have a Commander-in-Chief who values you and sees you and supports you.

May we survive these days and make it to January 20, 2021.  Then we can say with hope – what’s next.

 

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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VOTE 2020

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The women of HerSavvy got together recently for an outside, socially distant, in person visit. The idea was to talk about our writing, any ideas for the blog and to just generally catch up. There were, of course, snacks and we sat on my heated porch and for a while, it felt pretty normal. The conversation quickly turned to the election and we were off! The four of us are a pretty diverse bunch, each from a different place, with different backgrounds and professions. And let’s just say, it was lively, respectful and honest. The one thing we all agreed on: we want this all to be over! And while we may not have definitive results tonight, maybe not for many nights to come, it is critical that everyone exercise their right as an American to vote.

This year’s election, for me, is a déjà vu of the 2000 Bush/Gore race. I was the News Director of a local public radio station and had the task of setting the day’s news coverage for the evening newscast. For three weeks, we watched, we waited, and we debated how best to move the story of the hanging chads forward. There was coverage of the balloting process, the possible scenarios if a winner was not declared by inauguration day, the relevance and value of the Electoral College. And then came the legal challenges. Sound familiar?

So today, it’s important to remember that in all likelihood we won’t know the winner for several weeks. We will have a President on inauguration day. We will have a future, however challenging that future may be. And in four more years, we get to do this all again. Fun times.

So, if you have not already voted, for God’s sake, stop reading this and go out at VOTE!!!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Voting Early

Early voting is in full swing. I always try to vote early because I can show up at a time convenient to my schedule and there is usually no waiting.  But this year is different.  For the first time ever, early voting was as busy as a typical Election Day crowd.

When I drove to the public library on the afternoon of the second day of early voting I couldn’t find a parking space. The line wrapped around the building. I gave up and went home.  The next day I showed up at 7:30 am and was happy to find a parking space next door. Then I stood in a line that snaked around the library parking lot waiting for the 8 am opening. 

Voters ranged in age from 18 to 80.  Several neighbors in the line told me that they were willing to wait all day for their chance to vote.  When word spread of a first time voter, everyone in line cheered them on.   I finally voted around 9:10 am.    It was absolutely amazing.   

This year we will probably see record-breaking voter turnouts in every state. The good news is that people are motivated to have a say in the outcome of the election.  The bad news is that they are motived because our society is so polarized that many people see this election as an existential threat to their existence. (If my candidate doesn’t win, the world will end!) 

I suspect that is how voters felt in the past when there was a major political realignment of voters.  Major political realignments happen when demographic changes or political grievances motivate normally uninterested voters. 

The 1876 presidential election was so contentious, it still reverberates.  Samuel J. Tilden received 185 electoral votes, Rutherford B. Hayes received 165 votes, and 20 electoral votes from Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina were disputed.  In a thoroughly disreputable political deal, Hayes was declared the winner in exchange for an end to Reconstruction in the south. 

The south repudiated the Republican Party which had imposed Reconstruction and created the Jim Crow laws that suppressed black voters until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included the Voting Rights Act.  The 1964 law moved the entire south back to the Republican Party until this year.

This year demographic changes are reshaping the electoral landscape.  A tenth of the eligible voters are from Generation Z (18 – 23 years old) and a third of all voters are non-white, mostly Hispanic. The Baby Boomers are a shrinking voter bloc.   Although it is too soon to call, the early voting turnout may be a harbinger of a major political realignment.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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The Other Side of the Couch – Making an Ofrenda

Autumn has arrived. As I look out the window I see leaves scattered across the yard, berries turned bright red on the shrubs just below the sill, and squirrels busily chasing whatever they can store up for the cold to come. The angle of the sun is different now, and brilliant as it is, still plays hide and seek with wind and clouds. The humidity of summer is over, and a little crisp bite of a breeze sends the leaves scurrying.
Autumn has always been to me a bittersweet time – a time of laying to rest, of putting by, of acknowledging endings. The time of harvest has arrived, and the time to sweep the fields of plantings, prepare them for the rest of winter, has arrived. No wonder then that in this time of planetary transition, I am drawn into remembering.
The Disney movie “Coco”, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this small gem of an animated film, focuses on the story of a young boy who finds himself catapulted into the land of the dead. Based on the Mexican tradition of the “El Dia de los Muertos” – the Day of the Dead (celebrated in Mexican culture on November 1) – he finds himself as a living boy searching for someone he remembers. This causes consternation in the Land of the Dead, as a living boy is NOT supposed to be there! After a number of snafus all works out, and he finds the family he was meant to find. A message of the film is the importance of remembering and honoring those who have gone before us.
I was touched by my daughter’s request for family pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents so that she could make an “ofrenda”, as is done in the movie, to remember those dear people and to teach her young daughter about them. What a lovely idea! And so I began to search and to remember.
In the process of finding and sharing these pictures I was drawn into the joy of thinking about and remembering these loved family members – remembering not only their faces, but also their beings – the things they enjoyed, the times we spent together. Little moments returned – shopping with my mother; making boiled custard with my grandmother – so many precious moments.
In our Western culture this concept of celebrating the dead may seem morbid to some – but I am seeing it as a lovely and gentle way to both grieve and honor those who live on in our hearts. So thank you to my daughter for this opportunity – and welcome to Autumn, that time of bittersweet Remembering.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.


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Be the Change

Okay, I did the one thing that, as a professional journalist, I swear never to do: I missed my deadline.  Yep, my day to post on this blog is the first Tuesday of each month.  I have almost never missed, but this week, I just can’t remember what day it is.  And while for the average reader it is surely not a major issue, for me it represents just how disoriented I am these days.  I’ve written about it before, but as the season is changing again, I am reminded of just how long we have all been dealing with the current pandemic.  The light through my window is different, the air feels crisper and when I run the few errands I must these days, the décor is focused on Thanksgiving and even Christmas!  How is that even happening again? 

There are other events that have served to keep me off kilter, as well.  The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, has triggered so many memories of my own mother.  The two women were born just a year apart.  Like RBG, my mother wanted to become a lawyer.  But while Ruth was cheered on by her parents and later, her husband, breaking down the barriers in her path, my mom was discouraged from following that path.  My grandfather, himself a judge and state legislator, felt the law would be a difficult profession for a woman of that time.  He wanted to protect my mother from the mistreatment he knew would come her way.  “Be a teacher,” he told her, “That’s a good profession for a nice Jewish girl.”  And so it was. 

My mother was a brilliant person and a gifted teacher.  She was a devoted wife and as a mother, well, there are no words to describe the depth and breadth of her love for her children.  And yet, I have always wondered if she didn’t harbor some regret about the path not taken.  In fact, one of her favorite poems was Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.”  She used to recite it to me, write it in birthday cards and reference it often.  When I would ask if she wished for some other life, some other story, her answer was always the same.  She was happy in her choice and dedicated to using her abilities to better her family and our community.  And she did amazing, wonderful things. She inspired not only her children at home, but countless children in her third grade classroom. 

Perhaps the question I should be considering is not whether she had regret, but rather whether she was fulfilled.  And whether fulfillment is not tied to any one thing but is a feeling that comes from satisfying one’s inner sense of purpose.  I believe my mother was wholly herself regardless of the task at hand or the job title.  She never wavered from living her values and sharing them with the world around her.  And while she didn’t change the world in big, revolutionary ways, she changed those in her sphere by being herself.

There is a famous quote, often attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  That was my mother. 

Oh, and make sure to wash your hands, wear a mask and VOTE!!!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Off Balance but Still Standing

This is the weirdest autumn ever.  Everything feels off balance.

The covid-19 pandemic continues to kill people with no relief in sight.  Our economy is teetering on the edge of recession due to the knock-on effects of the pandemic, like job losses and slowing demand.  The economic blows are made worse by protectionist politicians who ignore what is good for the average consumer in order to protect monopolistic industries run by big campaign donors.

We have a new class war brewing as our society splits between those who can work from home and those who can’t.  The ones who can’t are mostly blue collar workers who are paid less and have fewer employee benefits.   Blue collar workers are also less likely to have options for ensuring their children will keep up with their schooling. Parents who are struggling with fears of layoffs don’t have energy to try to help their kids solve math problems.

As if a pandemic isn’t bad enough, our political lives have fractured due to the ugliest electoral season since 1968 and 1860.  In 1968, race riots caused by racial injustices and protests against the Vietnam War turned most major cities into mini-war zones.  In 1860, half the country was ready to secede and fight a civil war to keep the institution of slavery.  Then as now, self-serving political and religious demagogues got their 15 minutes of fame by exploiting the situation.

But this is the point when I realize that not everything is doom and gloom.  The political violence of 1968 and 1860 can’t happen again in our country.  Today, hardly anyone supports the notion of seceding or going to war to protect racial purity and racial inequities.  Unlike 1968, today people of all races, ethnicities and ages are marching demanding a fairer social bargain for everyone.

Eventually, there will be a vaccine to beat back the threat of covid-19.  That vaccine will be created faster than any other vaccine has ever been thanks to advances in bio-medical research in recent years.

There are also signs that the economy is adjusting to the new ways of doing business. Some old business models will fail and be replaced by new models.  That’s what capitalism calls creative destruction.

We’ll adapt even as we carry the psychological scars of the pandemic and its economic destruction.  Everything feels off balance but we’re still standing.

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Norma Shirk is an author, speaker, business owner and an attorney. In 2011, she founded Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, LLC (www.complianceriskadvisor.com), a human resources consulting firm for small employers.

She writes a weekly blog that alternates between human resources issues (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) and history (History by Norma, www.normashirk.com).  She is also a founder and monthly contributor to the Her Savvy blog, www.hersavvy.com.   In 2018, she published, Psycho Bosses and Obnoxious Co-Workers, an amusing look at workplace behavior.

Ms. Shirk frequently speaks to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from human resources issues to historical events and persons.  She may be contacted at norma.shirk@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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The Despair of Poverty

Imagine climbing a mountain with no helmet, no harness and no pitons or belaying ropes to keep you safe.  You constantly slide back because there’s no support to help you succeed.  You keep trying, one attempt after another, until you are physically and emotionally exhausted.  Then despair overwhelms you and you give up.

That’s what it’s like to be poor in America.  Poor people don’t choose to be poor. They are born into poverty and our social welfare programs are designed to ensure they never have the tools to climb the mountain and escape poverty.

Public assistance (“welfare”) programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps and public housing are based on household income.  The income assessment is done monthly and there’s no leeway.  Either you’re below the dollar limit for eligibility or you’re not. You’re not allowed to build up a nest egg, the pitons that could save you from falling.  Getting a job means losing all support and you’ll plummet down the mountain.

Of course, most poor people are too wealthy to qualify for public assistance even though their low paying jobs don’t cover the rent and the light bill, let alone food and school fees. Every day they must decide whether to buy gas for the car to get to their job or buy food.  They can’t do both.

Their kids go to school in clothes bought at a thrift shop or donated by a charity. Other kids mercilessly “tease” them for their shabby clothes and cheap sneakers. Poor kids live every day with emotional stress that would flatten an able-bodied adult.  They are beaten down by the despair of knowing they have no climbing gear to take them up the mountain.

Every time a poor family gets two nickels, a dollar’s worth of bills pop up.  The car breaks down.  The landlord raises the rent.  The unpaid balance on the electric bill plus the “restoration” fee wipes out a month’s pay.  You’re banging your head on rocks as you fall down the mountain.

Then a family member gets sick.  Poor people either can’t afford to buy health insurance or the co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance guarantee there’s no way to pay the hospital and doctor bills.  A collection agency relentlessly pursues payment before a person is healthy.  The now utterly exhausted poor person gives up.

When poverty intersects with American culture, the results are rotten for the poor.  We’re taught that people can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps if they’d only try harder.  Our Protestant tradition encourages us to blame poor people for being poor as if poverty is a punishment from God.

Yes, poor people often make bad decisions. But so do better-off people. The difference is that better off people have helmets, harnesses, pitons and belaying ropes from birth in the form of family and friends who save them from falling down the mountain.  When we blame the poor for their poverty, we ignore the barriers blocking their climb and we accept the despair of poverty.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

 

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