Oops, I did it Again!

My new raised bed garden

So, I did it again. I missed my deadline for this blog post! My apologies to my fellow HerSavvy blogmates. I’m not sure why the last couple of months have been so hard. Actually, that’s not true. I do know what has kept me distracted. Between family coming for the Passover holiday, stress over my husband returning to his office on a regular basis, and challenges at work, I just haven’t felt as centered as I like. Oh, and I planted my garden for the first time in two years, and I increased my fitness work. Phew!

Those last two things should really count as remedies rather than distractions. Working in the garden each Spring, watching it grow, enjoying the harvest as it comes, has always been so rewarding and fun. And this year, I have brand new beds that are pretty and practical (photos to follow). The added exercise comes in the form of more cardio and an extra strength training day. I’m starting to enjoy the increased strength and endorphins that come with the added sweat sessions.

Most significant, I think, is the challenge on the professional front. At this point in my working life, I don’t feel I should have to fight as hard as I have been, just to feel respected by my superior. Thanks to my network of fellow women professionals, I have learned to recognize my own worth and to advocate for myself. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. Disheartening, frustrating, disappointing, and sad. The past several years of negative rhetoric and disrespect for real journalists have left me exhausted, too. I also believe the culture of misinformation and talk about “fake news,” has contributed to a society that is genuinely ignorant about the value of a free press, and what life would look like if it disappeared. So, I push on, striving to do my best work, telling everyone who will listen why I believe in my work and the power of the press to unite communities and to shine a light on all that is both good and bad in our world.

And as a woman of a certain age, it also feels bad to have to fight for professional recognition. I have decades of experience in my field, not to mention life experience. Backed up by results, that should all be enough. And yet I must constantly remind my superior of my value, hammer home the feedback I get from our community, and restate my goals and plans for expanding my role to serve the greater good. It is wearing me out.

So, I head to the garden or to the gym, sometimes even turn on some guilty pleasure TV. I call a friend, cry, or vent to a trusted co-worker. And sometimes, I miss a deadline. Even superheroes get tired, and I’m no superhero.

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 . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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Being a Passionate Entrepreneur

Photo by Randalyn Hill on Unsplash

Last year, I decided to freshen up my company’s social media marketing.  Actually, my wonderful social media team at Epiphany Creative Services convinced me that I needed to up my game.  Upping my game meant adding a YouTube channel where I can post recordings of presentations and podcasts.

The YouTube channel now has a playlist of almost 50 recordings.  Most are about one minute long and primarily discuss human resources issues since that’s what my business handles.  But I also talk about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  In one popular recording, I talk about the need for entrepreneurs to be passionate about their business.

I own a human resources consulting business. Am I passionate about HR? No.   

HR is about managing human interactions in the workplace.  People don’t outgrow their childhood social training and personality traits; they just get older.  The schoolyard bully grows up to be a bullying coworker or boss.  The conscientious kid who helped others becomes the indispensable worker bee needed on every committee or project but who rarely receives credit for what she or he does.  The slightly narcissistic kids in the popular clique self-promote themselves into promotions and awards where they can continue being condescending to the not-so-popular kids who are now coworkers.

A psychologist probably finds it fascinating because companies are lab experiments reflecting the prevailing social standards and group dynamics. But for the rest of us, HR veers from hilarious to maddening to tedious. 

What I’m passionate about is helping others and leveling up the playing field for equality of opportunity.  HR consulting is the means to that end.  My legal training and the years I spent working as an in-house lawyer gave me the expertise that I now use to help small companies.   

Frankly, none of my company’s clients could afford to have someone like me (or one of my team) on their payroll full-time.  That’s where leveling up comes in.  My consulting business allows small business owners to tap into that expertise without the overhead. It’s immensely satisfying when I can offer small businesses the same expertise that their larger competitors take for granted. 

Being an entrepreneur requires being passionate about your business.  For me, the passion is about the mission of my business, helping others and leveling the playing field.   If you’d like to check out the mini-podcast on this topic or one of the other recordings, follow this link to my YouTube channel:  https://bit.ly/3Eo14Xc.

 

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 – Remembering Tallu

Pink Clouds

 

 Tallu Schuyler Quinn, minister, mother, wife, CEO, writer, poet, fighter for justice, maker of bread, raiser of chickens, lover of life, died two months ago of glioblastoma.  Today the book that gathers the many strands of her life into haunting and beautiful essays is being published.

The Parnassus bookstore website says about Tallu:

“Nonprofit leader and minister Tallu Schuyler Quinn spent her adult life working to alleviate hunger, systemic inequality, and food waste, first as a volunteer throughout the United States and abroad, and then as the founder of the Nashville Food Project, where she supported the vibrant community work of local food justice in Middle Tennessee. That all changed just after her fortieth birthday, when she was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer.

In What We Wish Were True, Quinn achingly grapples with the possibility of leaving behind the husband and children she adores, and what it means to live with a terminal diagnosis and still find meaning. “I think about how my purpose may be the same in death as it continues to be in life–surrendering to the hope that our weaknesses can be made strong, that what is broken can be made whole,” she writes.

Through gorgeous prose, Quinn masterfully weaves together the themes of life and death by integrating spiritually nourishing stories about family, identity, vocational call, beloved community, God’s wide welcome, and living with brain cancer. Taken together, these stunning essays are a piercing reminder to cherish each moment, whether heartbreaking or hilarious, and cast loose other concerns.

As a mother, a kindred spirit, and a dear friend, Tallu Schuyler Quinn looks into our eyes with well-earned tears in her own and tells us the bittersweet truth: We are all searching for what has already found us–present and boundless love. This love will deliver us and never let us go.”

Tallu’s love continues through this beautiful book.  I hope that you will buy it and read it and tell others about it – it is a book meant for giving.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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The Other side of the Couch – Ukraine

 

sunflower

I sit here today, safe, in my own warm house with my own possessions around me.  I can use my cell phone to call anyone I want to call.  I can walk outside without worrying.  I can speak my mind to my neighbors, and while we may disagree, I am not afraid that I will be turned in to the police for something I have said or done. I have money to buy food, and if I need cash I can go to the bank and access my checking account to get more cash.  My family is safe, and I know that I can see them whenever I want to do so.

And as I sit here, safe, warm, with choices and a future, I am thinking of the people of Ukraine, who have none of these certainties.  I am thinking of the women and children who are saying goodbye to their husbands and fathers; I am thinking of the young men and women who are choosing to fight for their country at the risk of losing everything, because if they do not they have already lost everything worth living for.  I am thinking of the maternity hospital, bombed by the Russians.  I am thinking of the waves of refugees pouring across the borders into the West.

And I am thinking of the soldiers from both countries, soldiers who are fighting in a war that they neither chose nor believed would happen.  These young men – and women – will die because of the twisted mind of a man whose greed and vanity and ego have released the scourge of war once again on an innocent people.

The Russian people are suffering as well – pulled into a war they, too, did not choose and blinded by the limited access to other perspectives than that which is fed to them by the state-run media.

Here in Fortress America, far away from the realities of war on the European continent, it may be too easy to say to ourselves that this war has nothing to do with us – it is over there, far away.  I know that there are some who are saying exactly that, although their voices have been muted by the extraordinary courage and resilience of the Ukranian people’s fight against Putin.  This is exactly what was said in the 30s and 40s in the runup to WWII by many – until we were attacked at Pearl Harbor.  Let it not come to that – let it not be that our political will to fight Putin and his war machine has to depend on our own country being attacked in order to muster the will to crush him.

I am grateful that the leaders of the European Union have stepped up and that the careful diplomacy of the Biden administration has created a unified response to an unprovoked attack on all democracies.  May it hold firm in the difficult days ahead.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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A Digital Library of All Knowledge

In 2012, Islamist militants attacked Timbuktu, Mali and destroyed 14 of the 16 mausoleums that are part of the World Heritage site.  Timbuktu was a center of Islamic learning from 1100 – 1600 AD, rivalling the universities in Cairo and Baghdad.  Militants didn’t just rip down buildings, they burned books. Books that contained historical accounts and Islamic teachings to which the militants objected.  Because they didn’t like what the books said, they decided that no one should be able to read them.

But before the Islamist militants drove into Timbuktu to destroy it, residents rescued some of the books.  Priceless manuscripts were crated up, loaded on rickety boats and sailed down the Niger River to safety.  In the Malian capital of Bamako, an international team immediately began photographing and scanning the books to save digital versions.

Saving the books of Timbuktu is just one example of what some are calling the second Renaissance.  Every major library in the world, from universities to the Library of Congress to the British Museum are creating digital copies of their collections and making them available to anyone with an internet connection. Many of these efforts are done in partnership with Google, IBM and Microsoft who have the money and technical expertise in digitizing collections.

Digitizing books and priceless manuscripts is often done using multispectral imaging which uses different wavelengths of light to see details invisible to the naked eye. It was developed by NASA to take satellite images through cloud cover but is excellent at capturing high resolution images of manuscripts.  It can detect layers of images.

In medieval times, it was common to reuse parchment.  A scribe or monk would scrape off the old ink, the medieval equivalent of erasing, and write a new text. The original images can now be seen with multispectral imaging, which is how the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore discovered two treatises by Archimedes underneath the prayers in a 13th century prayerbook.

X-rays and CAT scans are also being used to digitally unroll scrolls that were turned into charcoal at Pompeii in 79 AD.  Scholars are beginning to read the same texts once read by the rich and famous Romans who owned vacation homes by the bay.  What once seemed lost, isn’t.

Which brings us back to the Islamist militants who tried to destroy Timbuktu’s books because the texts contradicted their narrow, bigoted view of the world.  Someday soon, an archaeologist will recover the burned manuscripts of Timbuktu and technology will help us read the texts.  Ideas can’t be killed.

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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Censorship, Integrity, and Standing up for Myself

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

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 . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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The Other Side of the Couch – A Balanced Life

Bird Feeder

Today is the last day of the Great Back Yard Bird Count for 2022.  Sitting today at the computer I have a view of our bird feeders less than six feet away, and I have loved counting the familiar birds that appear.  Today house finches and mockingbirds have been the most frequent visitors, although an occasional pair of mourning doves have also consistently searched for spilled seed on the ground.  The mockingbird puffs up and acts like the king of the feeder, but the smaller house finches are fierce in their determination to reach the seeds despite his aggressive posturing.  Just now a Carolina wren has appeared – lovely rich brown with a yellow belly – so cheeky, and in love with the dried mealy worms.  The squirrels are in the mix as well, for though we have squirrel-proof feeders, those amazing acrobats have found several ways to defeat the trapping mechanism.  Oh well.  Squirrels must live, too.

The birds of the air live their lives according to the urges and instincts of their species, knowing when to eat, drink, find a mate, build a nest, raise a family, migrate or not.  I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a creature driven by instinct rather than by plan or intention.  I do not think birds plan, exactly, where to find seed or find a mate.  For them it is not “tomorrow morning I will check out the feeders at the Whites – if they are empty, I will go across the green space to the people on the other side.”  They just go.

I do not know a great deal about bird physiology, but I do not imagine that they experience stress in the way that humans do.

What do I know about managing stress?  I know that rest is essential.  I know that being present in the moment is helpful.  Any kind of creativity – drawing, painting, writing, playing the piano – all of these are calming.  Meditating, quiet music, warm baths, cuddly blankets – all help.  Anything that helps the body move out of fight or flight (the activation of the autonomic nervous system) and into calm (the activation of the para-sympathetic nervous system) helps the body calm down.  An essential tool in this process is breathing.  A breath in – a longer breath out – repeated at least three times – signals that vagal nerve system to move into PSN – and the body responds with letting go and calming down.

What I am recognizing about myself, however, is that I am not always aware of stress.  I live my life, I think, in such a way as to be always ready for and thinking ahead into the next thing.  For example, cleaning up the breakfast dishes – group tasks so that all is done most efficiently with least effort. Going to the bedroom?  Find objects that are out of place and need to be picked up on that trip. Errands to run? List the stops and plan the most productive route.  I accomplish a great deal by living this way.  My question to myself, however, is whether leaning into the future is creating a problem with balance in my life.

I do not plan time to stop.  I do not plan time to rest.  I seem to be almost driven to do.  And so, I ask myself, what am I driving toward or pushing away from?  If I stop and rest, if I let myself meander a bit, if I take the longer way to go just because I want to see what is there – if I stay in the present moment and take those breaths – what could happen?

As I pause here to feel into those questions, the answer that surfaces is not a surprise.  I will grieve.  I will experience the losses of these past years yet again.

So, to find my balance I need to re-balance – a time of experiencing being in the moment that will include more tears, and more journaling, and more just being quiet with the memories.  No “to-do” list on grief.  It takes the time it takes and follows its own song.

If you find yourself caught in the cycle of never-ending doing, perhaps watching birds as they live in the moment could be a reminder of the power of now.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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Keep Banning Those Books!

Politicians in search of a chance to appear relevant so that they can justify their grift for PAC campaign donations are busy banning books.  Texas and Florida kicked off the latest round of book banning.  They’re going after books written by women, Jews, and African-Americans; covering themes like violence, racism, slavery, the Holocaust, and LGBTQ issues. 

Other states quickly jumped on the bandwagon.  A group of moms in Williamson County, Tennessee have been fighting to ban books on the grounds that their children might read something that makes them “feel uncomfortable”.  Can’t wait for their kids to grow up and get a gander at their first employee performance review.  Many bosses think making subordinates uncomfortable is the way to motivate them to work harder. 

The latest book banning in Tennessee comes from the McMinn County School Board which just banned a young adult book called Maus, by Art Spiegelman.  Apparently, in McMinn County, middle school kids need to be protected from reading a Pulitzer Prize winning story about how Mr. Spiegelman’s father survived the Holocaust.  I had never heard of Mr. Spiegelman’s book but now I can’t wait to get hold of a copy to find out what all the fuss is about. 

Years ago, I eagerly read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain after I heard it was periodically banned from school reading lists.  It turned out to be a story about a raft, a boy and his friend interspersed with uncomfortable satirical vignettes on American society’s racism and intolerance. Hmm….

Being banned is the greatest thing that can happen to a book.  It attracts attention.  Kids might actually set aside their sex and violence fueled video games to test their literacy skills.  Here kid, the electronic version of the book has the same forbidden stuff as the hardback!

The publishers of the banned books will thank the pols for the free marketing.  More profits!

The authors will thank the pols. More royalty checks!

Your local public library will thank the pols for driving people into their hallowed precincts in search of the banned books.  Look we have lots of other books you might enjoy!  See your tax dollars really working for you!

Amazon will thank the pols for helping them make another billion-dollar profit from shipping the banned books to individuals who can’t find copies at their local bookstore or who don’t want to wait their turn on the library’s waiting list for the banned book.  Maus is currently an Amazon best-seller. Don’t miss out, renew your Amazon Prime account now!

Everyone, google “lists of banned books”!  Time to get your hands on books that will outrage your sensibilities and make you uncomfortable!    

As for the pols and their enablers, why bless their little hearts!

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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Groundhog Day

Tomorrow is the day a rodent named Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania peeks his head up from the snowy ground to find his shadow. If he sees his shadow, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter. Paradoxically (at least to me), if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

Groundhog Day is also the setting for the famous film featuring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman who visits Punxsutawney, only to get stuck in a time loop, reliving the day over and over until he figures out how to break the cycle. Sounds a little too real, right?

For the last couple of years, I, like many people, have felt stuck in a similar loop. Wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…and so on…and so on…Sprinkled in between, there are occasional errands to shop for groceries, doctor appointments, and other of life’s necessities. There have been brief periods where we’ve gone to restaurants and traveled, had glimpses of life beyond. But it seems even that is part of the Groundhog Day loop.

So here I am, on the brink of another year cycling round and round the pandemic. In the film, Bill Murray’s character decides that since he’s stuck, he might as well pass the time acquiring new skills. He takes piano lessons, he learns ice carving, among others. And in the end, he changes from an arrogant, cynical curmudgeon into a softer, more sensitive version of himself. With the realization that his actions have no long-term consequences, and the notion that this may be his fate forever, he is able to let go of the life he had and learn to live in the moment.

That lesson has been the hardest for me to learn. As a chronic planner I am most comfortable when I have things to look forward to and anticipate. I don’t think I’m a control freak, but I do like to have a goal. I can live in the moment only after I’ve planned for an executed the plan for the moment. So, it’s been a challenge to let go of plans, to reframe my goals, and to find pleasure in what is right outside my window. As for learning new skills, well, I started a new job in early 2020, doing something a bit different from what I’d done previously, so I’ve been learning as I go for the past two years. My husband and I have had to learn to navigate around each other as our house also became our shared “corporate headquarters.” We’ve had to set new types of boundaries, communicate differently, and manage new expectations.

Bill Murray’s weatherman finally breaks the cycle when the fates determine he’s learned enough, become a better version of himself, and can be open to the possibilities that are all around him. Obviously, a global pandemic is not a lighthearted romantic comedy, far from it. Hundreds of thousands have died, countless other lives have been irrevocably damaged, and our world will never be the same, regardless of the lessons learned. But perhaps there is a kernel of hope to be found in letting go of rigid expectations, learning things, living in the moment, embracing new ways of thinking, and being open to possibilities. I don’t know what Punxsutawney Phil will see, or not see, tomorrow. I always pray for a shorter winter. But either way, I’m good.

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 . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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Nobody Wants to Work

We’re closed today because nobody wants to work, said the sign on the restaurant’s door.

This lament will be familiar to any restaurant or business owner in an industry that survives on a business model of low paying jobs.  Simply raising wages may not be sufficient to attract workers, even if it were financially feasible, which it usually isn’t.  Working conditions are also important.

So take another look at that statement from the perspective of the workers.  As someone whose been as a short-order cook, a gas station attendant (the only one not robbed in broad daylight by an armed nutjob) and a motel maid, that message is insulting. 

It says I showed up for every assigned shift, pulled double shifts when asked, dealt with horrible and rude customers, put up with unreasonable and demanding bosses, and all for a company that doesn’t value me as a person or an employee. 

Blue collar workers face job insecurity.  Millions lost their jobs during the pandemic and many of those jobs aren’t coming back.  Those still employed worry about losing their jobs even as they work extra hours due to a shortage of workers.   

Blue collar workers face housing insecurity.  Whether paying a mortgage or renting their homes, costs are going up.  Many blue collar workers never earn enough money to build a nest egg to protect them financially if they lose their jobs.  They are always a paycheck away from default and a possible eviction.    

Blue collar workers face food insecurity.  Inflation hits the poorest first and the hardest.  As more of a family’s earnings must go to pay for housing and utilities, there is less to pay for food.  Food pantries say they’ve been overwhelmed with the numbers needing food assistance.

Blue collar workers face a health crisis.  They often lack employer-sponsored health coverage, and even if it’s offered, they probably can’t afford the payroll deductions for their portion of the premium.  But they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, particularly in the states which refused for political reasons to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor.  As a result, treatable health conditions become life threatening.

All these insecurities pile up to emotional and physical burnout. Blue collar workers are exhausted.  They have spent decades working jobs that paid little and offered stingy benefits, while facing condescension and amused contempt from people who either never worked these types of jobs or have forgotten what it was like.

Blue collar workers are reacting to burnout exactly like their white collar counterparts. The Baby Boomers are retiring and those who can are switching to jobs with better pay, working conditions and employee benefits. That leaves some employers in a bind.  That bind won’t be fixed by accusing the potential workforce of not wanting to work.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation 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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