Road Rage in the Age of Victimhood

Recently I was involved in a road rage incident while on my way home. It all began, as so often happens, with a passive aggressive driver who would speed up every time someone tried to pass him. Eventually he was stuck behind a plumber’s truck and a line of vehicles blew by him of which I was driving the last.

Apparently the driver was so enraged that he followed me into a nearby grocery store. If I had known a nut was chasing me I would have swung by the local police precinct instead. I became aware of him when he tried to block me against a deli case so that he could spew a stream of profanity-laced filth, wrapping up by calling me a fat c—t and a lesbian. (Why is it that inadequate frustrated men always call women lesbians?)

I have lots of friends in the gay community so being called a lesbian isn’t particularly insulting. I’ve also been called many vulgar names while doing collections work and I worked a factory job long ago where I learned to out-cuss a drunken sailor. This guy was a comparative amateur. I couldn’t help myself. I smiled; almost laughed.

That set him off again and he followed me for several minutes through the store spewing comments about my putative lesbian love life.  He didn’t scare me at the time. There were plenty of people around and it was obvious that the tubby little man wasn’t going to get physically violent. When I left the store, he didn’t follow me.

Later I couldn’t help thinking about the guy. In my experience, that kind of rage boils up from months, even years of frustrated ambitions and blighted expectations. In other words, the guy felt like a victim and he needed a target for his victimhood.

We live in an era of victimhood.  There are economic victims of globalization, job automation, and the financial industry meltdown caused by blatant greed of the global elite. There are racial victims, ethnic victims, sexual harassment victims, and religious intolerance victims.  All victims have suffered a grievance based on a valid and real injustice.

But populist politicians who lack any sense of morality and decency are cynically exploiting the sense of victimhood by promising that the perpetrators will pay.  The perpetrators are some hazy “other” group that is racially, ethnically, and religiously different from the victim.  For an alarmingly large number of men, who feel their status has comparatively dropped, the perpetrators are females.

Populist politicians use inflammatory language that encourages their audience to take action against the alleged perpetrators.  We’ve seen it in the rise of hate crimes.  It also might explain why an angry, chubby, balding man followed a woman into a grocery store to spew hate.  That’s when I started feeling scared. Thank God he didn’t have a gun.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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The Other Side of the Couch – The Gift of Waiting

Another month has passed – and we are still not back in our home after the twin disasters of mold in a wall (due to failure of roof flashings) and damaged hardwood floors (due to a water heater failure). Living in a hotel and eating most meals out is not glamorous in any way – and it is just not home.

What is taking so long? I wish I knew. In part it is due to timing (over the holidays), the weather (Arctic air mass that stopped work of any kind), Nashville’s booming construction industry (which makes finding contractors for relatively small jobs a challenge). However, in large part it is due to several entities having to sign off on what needs to be done and how much it will cost. These include the homeowner’s insurance agent and the adjuster, the moisture mitigation company, the contractors and their schedules, and the HOA (Homeowners Association). Throw into that mix the need for movers and packers (all the furniture has to come off of the damaged floors) – a lot of cooks are stirring this broth!

We wait with what patience we can muster. I am very clear that fretting and worrying will do nothing other than make my life harder and will do nothing to change the outcome of this process. I am trying to cultivate the practice of living in the present.

As I experience this time of waiting, I am aware of other times of waiting. I remember my father saying things like, “I can’t wait until she is old enough to…” – whatever the next milestone might have been. He had a hard time enjoying what was due to his anticipation of what would be. I remember waiting to graduate from high school, waiting to start a career, waiting to find a romantic partner, waiting for a child to be born. I am not sure that I waited with patience, nor am I sure that I ever had the wisdom to cultivate the practice of living in the present.

My guess is that I have missed a lot. This time of waiting has lessons that I need to learn. So I look around and am grateful for time spent with my daughter, who is awaiting her first child. I am grateful for the warmth of a space heater next to my feet as another round of Arctic air descends on Nashville. I am grateful for a new down coat that arrived just in time for the coldest days of winter. I am grateful that I am alive, here in this world, with eyes to see and ears to hear and a mind that works.

In the grand scheme of things problems with water heaters and walls are small compared to the grace of being alive in a world full of beauty and brokenness.
Perhaps you have worries that are fretting you. Perhaps you are spending too much time in the land of the future (the land of What If) or the past (the land of If Only) and not enough time in the land of Right Now. Let yourself enjoy it if possible or mourn it if necessary – but above all, be in it. It is all we really have.

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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The Big 6-0 And Other Surprises  

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No, it’s not me turning 60 (though that will come soon enough), it was my husband who just hit this milestone birthday. And as is his way, he had no idea how to celebrate or commemorate the occasion. After some thought he finally decided he’d like to just go out with me to a fabulous steak dinner. Nothing else. No parties, no fancy gifts, no trips, nothing. I think this had more to do with his ambivalence toward the birthday than anything else. And I see his point. Sixty sounds considerably older than 59 or anything that came before. It sounds, dare I say it, like middle age is finally in the past. But I am a big believer that age is a state of mind, and that aging is a subtle process that transcends the calendar. And I really wanted my love to be able to celebrate the man he has become and to look forward rather than backward. And so began the plans for…THE BIRTHDAY SURPRISE.

I have known my husband through 42 birthdays. You read that right. The first birthday we celebrated was his 18th, during our freshman year of college. I have attempted to surprise him many times and always, always, he has figured it out. This time, I concocted what I believed to be the perfect birthday surprise. I worked with our three adult children to bring them all home for a weekend to celebrate him. Three cross country flights, three different cities, three jobs. It seems straightforward and yet there were challenges.

I managed to coordinate the flights so two arrived around the same time, one a bit earlier. I signed us up for dinner and a speaker at our synagogue in order to get us out of the house on the appointed night of arrival. I told very, very, very few people about my plan. I lied my way through questions about the weekend, including coming up with fake plans. And, last week my brother decided to come for an overlapping visit, which turned out to be a great red herring. At the last minute my son set off our home security alarm resulting in a panicked phone call and more lies from me about the porch door blowing open and our neighbor coming to the rescue. Finally we were on our way home. After we parked the car in the garage, I blew past my husband up the stairs. The house was dark. The kids were sitting silently on the sofa. My husband followed me into the house, let the dog out, and when he turned around on went the lights. The look on his face was priceless! He was truly stunned. The kids gathered him into a group hug singing Happy Birthday. We did it!

The rest of the weekend passed with lots of catching up, laughter and of course, food. It was magical and I believe my husband was actually surprised. It was a quick trip, but one I know we’ll all remember. Monday morning the first thing my husband did was thank me. He said that even though he’s used to the kids not being here, he realized how much he misses them and how happy he is when he’s with them. He felt grateful they would drop their lives to come for his birthday. This man has made endless sacrifices of time and energy; he is the rock of our family. Our children know they are the lucky ones. They know they are loved unconditionally and valued beyond measure by their father. To them, it was an honor and a privilege to be able to come celebrate. Every single one thanked me for bringing them home. And I can add my gratitude to theirs. I am grateful for the 42 birthdays we’ve spent together; I look forward to many more. And I still can’t believe we pulled off the surprise of a lifetime.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Parenting Our Parents

When did it happen? At exactly what point did the tables turn? Did I see it coming? Yes, I know my mother ended up with a horrible outcome from what was supposed to be a relatively “simple” surgery, and that has resulted in her dependence on my sister and me, but I don’t think this is exclusively the reason. I know many of my friends are in the same situation. Even if their parent(s) are not disabled in any specific way, they share their concerns with me about their parent(s)’s behaviors, decisions, etc. I hear them express their disapproval of a particular decision or attitude. They express these to the parent(s) only to be rebuked. Then there is angst between them. Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t get resolved before it is too late…

As children, we looked to our parents for everything; clothing and housing, food and education, more. We depended on them to make “the rules” and lay a foundation to lead us into responsible and respectable adulthood. They made, or at least helped us make, important decisions. Most of us were fortunate enough to receive all of these gifts from our parents. So what happens when we begin to see and feel the need to take care of them and make those same kinds of decisions for them?

From an article at elderoptionsoftexas.com, Roll Reversal: Should You ‘Parent’ Your Parent?:

Because of advances in medicine, more and more people are living well into their 90’s. But quality of life isn’t always keeping up—and many older adults have mobility issues, chronic conditions, dementia, and other health problems that mean they need live-in care.

Many adult children make the decision to take care of their elderly parents—either part-time or full-time. But caring for a parent comes with some pitfalls. Often, it comes in the form of ‘roll reversal’. When your parent needs significant help to do basic things—even things involve very intimate hygiene-related tasks—it can be tempting to start seeing this as a reversal in roles. 

If you haven’t had to face this, let me tell ya, it ain’t easy. My dear sister, Joan, now lives with my mother. Granted, the loss of Mom’s leg is truly tragic and she often expresses feelings of uselessness. While she still balances her own check book, lays out her vitamins for the week every Saturday, folds laundry, and writes out checks for her bills in her same beautiful, perfect handwriting, “I’m a cripple,” she cries. “I hate my life. I just want to die.” Yet, whenever faced with some kind of challenge, like coughing to the point of choking, she clings to life in a panic. I don’t think she really wants to leave us. She just gets frustrated and depressed. Understandable for sure. She led such an active life before and still takes care of herself pretty well, with some limitations, of course. She has a caregiver most days while Joan is at work and I take over care duties full-time whenever Joan goes out of town.

For the most part, it’s routine. For instance, breakfast in the morning consists of cereal or eggs and toast, occasionally with a little bacon because she loves it, but has to avoid too much salt. BUT, if I ask her if she’d like some sliced tomato with it, I am met with gritted teeth and fists banging the table. “Noooooo,” she roars, “I just want eggs!” I want to ask, “Who are you and what have you done with my mother?” Joan gets this same type of reaction when Mom can’t find some piece of paper she feels is important and Joan doesn’t quite grasp the significance.

I found an article at agingcare.com entitled Switching Roles: Coping with Your Rebellious Aging Parent by Carolyn Rosenblatt.  She says,

“Some people call this “switching roles”. What it means is that your job, one you’ve never done before, is to be sure your parent is safe and cared for, just as your parent once did for you. The problem is, your parent is not going to grow up, become more mature and eventually appreciate your efforts. So where does that leave you?

For most adult children who must learn this new job of safety monitor, taking on the new responsibility of “parenting your parent” leaves you with a fair amount of stress and anxiety. Some adult children still feel intimidated by an imperious aging parent, even one who is infirm, demented or unable to care for themselves independently. It takes some doing to face this and cope, but it can be done.”

Rosenblatt offers five “strategies” for coping with the new role of parenting our parent(s). She also refers to several other articles the agingcare.com website offers on the subject.

Mom is still mighty sharp in most aspects, but sometimes she can get downright belligerent. That is probably our greatest challenge. We’ve decided she is bored, since she stays at home with rare exception, and could use some stimulation, input from outside her little world. It’s hard to get her out, though, because she claims getting in and out of the car is “exhausting.” No doubt. It would probably be so at 92 even if she had both legs. At this point, however, we have introduced her to the idea of a senior residence that seems absolutely fabulous. She now goes to a class there every Wednesday and admits (albeit reluctantly) that she enjoys it. Moving there is under consideration, but she’s “not ready for that yet.”

For now, like everything in life, we’re taking it one day – one minute at a time. And loving her all we can for as long as we can. Perhaps you are facing similar challenges with your parent or parents. Do you have any suggestions?                Any and all are welcome.

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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Kitchen Kitsch

I love to cook so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My cooking is pretty basic; I don’t use exotic ingredients and I have a battered set of pots and pans.  I grew up poor and learned to use what was available and in my price range.

These days I have more income but I stick by my old habits.  I buy in bulk and I look for what is on sale and then build recipes around those items.  Recently I realized that I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables. I actually enjoy the process because it allows me to think about the various combinations of food, spices, oils, or whatever I need for the finished dish.

Kitchen time fills more than just the need to prepare my next meal. Kitchen time also allows me to reflect on ideas or issues that are important to me. I could get the same benefit from a long walk but at this time of year I’m doing my exercising indoors on a treadmill facing the TV.

Because I spend so much time in my kitchen, I began posting important messages for myself.  I always find it ironic when gifted, educated and powerful women say they struggle or have struggled with their sense of self. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to think of myself in those terms, despite every accomplishment and achievement in my life.  So my refrigerator and kitchen walls are covered with inspirational notes to remind me of what I am; not what I used to think I was.

When I was a child, I was taught to cook because it was considered a “womanly” skill. Despite that handicap, I still enjoy cooking. Only now my kitchen time is usually spent thinking about reinforcing my self-image and building a stronger, successful business.

As a small business owner, I’m constantly thinking about where that next client will come from or the best (meaning most effective) method for prospecting for new clients or what tasks I should delegate to others.  Sure, I could sit down at a desk and cogitate on all these points. But it seems to flow more naturally when I’m doing other things, like chopping vegetables to make a stew.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. My company works primarily with employers that have up to 50 employees.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Waiting

 

The house seems so strange now.  Furniture is shunted into other areas – the rugs folded or removed.  A sheen of dust covers the shining surface of the dining room table, and the living room couch stands in solitary splendor against the wall where the sunrise picture used to be.  The floor, from which the buckled hardwood has been pried, is a minefield of unexpected nails waiting to slice unwary toes, even toes protected by shoes.

In the kitchen a section of hardwood remains isolated in the corner close to the adjoining wall of the condo next door.  Black discoloration stains it at the corner closest to the outside wall.  We think it is mold.  The adjuster found that the flashings on the roof were not properly attached, and water has been splashing into the wall for some time.  We are not sure for how long, but it is long enough for whiffs of mold to be apparent at times in the house.

This is going to be a long process.

We have been out of the house for twenty-two days.  We expect to be out for another month.  All this happened over the Christmas/New Year holiday season – so while adjusters have adjusted, and driers have kept the water damage from the water heater failure from extending to other areas of the house, no decisions have been made about what to do and when to do it.  We don’t expect that decision to be made until after the New Year holiday is over.

The familiar processes of living are truncated now.  Cooking?  Meal planning?  With one skillet and a hot plate, there is not much possibility.  Entertaining?  Tiny hotel suites don’t give much space for traditional New Year’s parties.  We had a little Christmas tree, because I couldn’t bear to have NOTHING that denoted the Christmas season – so our little artificial kitchen tree, decorated with angels and a tiny knitted creche, took the place of the tree that we had decorated so hopefully just after Thanksgiving.  That tree, deprived of all its familiar decorations, stood in the midst of the drying fans for days and turned into a brown shell much more rapidly than it should have.

We are waiting.

Waiting is not an easy process.  This kind of waiting increases feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.  Those experiences are not pleasant, and they can lead to ill-considered actions.  Impatient people sometimes don’t treat others well.  However, so far we have managed to remain civilized.  Rather than screaming at adjusters we have remained calm and collected. We laugh at the inconveniences and focus on gratitude rather than resentment.  Sometimes things happen that are just outside our control, and railing at the situation does no good.  We wait for good things to happen; we wait for news; we anticipate future events – the ability to wait and to reach into a possible future is both a blessing and a burden for human beings.  Seeing all those cats in the picture, who are indeed waiting for a possible future that includes eating fish, made me laugh about our long-term anticipations.  Living in the moment really is the best we can do.

I think of others who have lost more than a momentary loss of convenience. The situations of refugees, whose whole lives have been destroyed with no hope of return reminds me today of the grace that we are given.  We have a home to which we will return.  Surely we can endure a season of waiting.

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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Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions image

I admit I felt pressure to make this first post of the year profound, deep and inspirational. Isn’t that what we savvy women do? Set the bar high, then lose sleep trying to get there and finally, beating ourselves up for not meeting our own high standards. At least that’s what I do. But this morning I found some inspiration of my own in the morning paper. Yep, leave it to the New York Times to be there for me just when I need a little jump-start.

Help came in the form of an opinion piece by David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northwestern University. His column was titled “The Only Way To Keep Your Resolutions.” The gist of it is that standard resolutions are hard to keep because they require so much mental energy that we eventually burn out. But what is sustainable are efforts that are born from gratitude, pride and compassion. DeSteno calls these traits, “social emotions.” These are the qualities that make us human and help us form positive relationships. It is these relationships, and the feelings that come with them that help us to feel grateful, which in turn leads us to step outside ourselves and learn new skills, try new experiences and ultimately, to have real, sustainable personal growth.

I love this theory! For me, feeling connected to others and to something bigger than myself is what I thrive on and what I seek out. I enjoy being in community with people. I am most myself when I am with others, connecting and sharing thoughts, feelings, time and emotions. In short, I am in my element. And I can report that for me, these experiences do indeed make me feel grateful and happy to help when called upon. These past couple of years, I have been called to serve in a leadership role in my faith community. It’s been a challenge and has stretched me in ways I never imagined. But if I had made resolutions on some arbitrary date on the calendar to learn the very same things, I probably wouldn’t have had the same level of success in learning and making changes.

The work I’ve done has also helped me to feel pride in myself. Pride at learning new things and accomplishing goals I’d set. And again, that feeling of satisfaction has led me to want to share my lessons with others. I have helped to mentor the next leaders of my community and look forward to continuing to offer advice and counsel when called upon.

Finally, these last couple of years has taught me humility and forgiveness. By that I mean forgiveness to myself when I fail, and humility for being human. I like to think I’ve always been a compassionate person, but in retrospect, I’ve learned that real compassion comes when we can recognize our own shortcomings, forgive ourselves and then share awareness that with others. When someone in my world falls short or disappoints me, I am better at empathizing and understanding that we are all just trying to do our best in spite of our human flaws.

So if I have anything to share about New Year’s resolutions it’s this: cultivate gratitude for what you have, feel real pride in your accomplishments big and small, and find compassion for the broken parts in all of us and in our world. And this time next year, look back on the changes that have occurred. You will be amazed. Happy New Year everyone!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Out With the Old, In With the New, Or…

… Another one bites the dust. Just my thoughts.

And here we are, looking toward a new year, a new beginning. For many, it really is like starting all over. It’s a time of “New Year’s resolutions.” We make promises to ourselves that we will make changes. We’ll do things differently.

I was in Trader Joe’s the other day and, of course, it was quite busy. Trader Joe’s is ALWAYS quite busy. Everyone loves Trader Joe’s. In conversation with my cashier, however, he remarked, “Not as busy as it’s going to be.” “Because of getting ready for New Year’s parties?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “Next Tuesday, the second.” “Huh?” I responded intelligently. He explained that it would be especially busy due to all the people’s resolutions to take better care of themselves, to eat better. “They’ll all be in here,” he said, and, “Of course it won’t last. They never do.”

Ah. This is a realization I came to a long time ago. I look forward to each New Year. Like most, I never can quite believe it has arrived once it does. (“Can you believe it’s almost —-?” “Where did the year go?” “I swear they just go by faster and faster.”) And I wonder, truly do wonder how I’ve made it through yet another year, but I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I make resolutions every day. Much more practical, don’t you think?

So, here it is. It’s going to be the year 2018 and I find this amazing. The sheer magnitude of the number leaves me in awe. Heck, I was totally fascinated when I received a new credit card a few years ago that would expire in 2016. Y2K – eons ago. 1984 – Ancient history. 1968 – Earth Day. For some reason, when I was younger, I didn’t think I would make it nearly this far. I can’t say why. It was just a feeling. Yet, here I am. I must celebrate for my friends who didn’t make it.

I can see already that this year is going to be a transitional one for me. The prospect of two new jobs on my horizon is exciting. I’ve done so many different things in my life. I think my resume looks like a diner’s menu, a very ambitious menu. I like it that way. I love trying and learning new things, and, hey, I got both jobs I applied for. Musically, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ll be auditioning for America’s Got Talent. Let you know how it goes.

Happy New Year everybody. Rock on!

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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Enjoy Your Holiday!

 

 

 

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The Other Side of the Couch – Unexpected  

I was looking forward to a quiet evening of self-care – after a weekend of lots of fun but tiring activities, I was home alone; the animals were taken care of; the house was warm and cozy, and I was ready to relax.  We had finished decorating for Christmas; most of my shopping was done.  My brother called, and I was peacefully talking to him when I heard a sudden roaring sound from somewhere in the house.

Racing toward the sound, I discovered that the water heater, located in the pantry area between the kitchen and the living/dining room, had malfunctioned. Water was pouring from the top of it, near the wall.  It was RAINING, scalding hot water raining into the house.

What did I do?  I panicked.  I had no idea where the cutoff valve for the water heater was; I could not get to the master cutoff for the house and couldn’t have turned it off if I had gotten to it.  I ran for all the towels and blankets in the house in an effort to block the water now running everywhere.  I called my husband (whose phone was not on), texted him, called my brother-in-law but was apparently so upset that he thought it was an accidental call for my husband, not for him.  I called the plumbing company.  I called the company that deals with fire and water disasters.  And through all of this, it was raining in the house.

My husband got home an hour or more later, having fortuitously read my text.  The plumber arrived after that, and told us that this NEW water heater, installed less than six months ago, had failed at the joint where it is attached to the water system.  It is under warranty.

However, the damage was done.  All that water went through the hardwood floors onto the slab – we live in a condominium – only here since March – and the floors began to buckle.  The disaster remediation company came, set up fans and dryers.  The process of remediation has begun – this entails coordinating the insurance company, the remediation company, the moving company that will have to come in and pack up all our things for storage while the hardwood floors are demolished and reinstalled, and ultimately the plumbing company which will probably end up footing the bill in the end.

We began undecorating yesterday when it was determined that the best option is for us to leave the house while all this is going on.  Due to the kindness of friends we have found a hotel suite for the next 12 days – we can perhaps extend that time if needed.  At the Christmas season in Nashville this kind of accommodation is hard to find, so we are grateful.

I am struggling to find some grace in all this.  We have been living since Sunday night in what feels to me like a roaring jetplane engine.  The fans are so loud, and we are not allowed to turn them off.  My husband says it is like being on a helicopter.  We are both sleep-deprived.  The cats were so traumatized that we decided to board them, but they are miserable there as well.

Christmas as it was planned won’t happen.  No Christmas Brunch in our new home.  All the sweet memories and decorations from years past put away.  I am glad we had them for a little while, and that we took a few pictures.

As I write about this event, I am so very aware of the fact that we are blessed.  We have a home; we have a place to go; we have friends; we have resources.  This problem can be fixed, but there are millions across the world whose homes are gone, or who have no home at all.

Friends, cherish the time you have and the home you have.  Life truly is unexpected, and we do not know what is coming next.  I would never have thought I would be spending this Christmas in a hotel.

And it will be all right, and we will celebrate Christmas no matter what, because it is about a new Light coming into the world, about love for humanity, and that can be celebrated in all circumstances.

I hope for myself that this experience will be a gentle reminder of the many blessings that I have and of the burdens others carry.

Merry Christmas, for those who celebrate it, and happy holidays for all.

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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The Other Side of the Couch – “What Thoughts and Prayers Look Like”

 

On Monday, October 2, 2017, I woke to the news of yet another mass shooting, the worst in our nation’s history.  My reaction to this news was disturbing, because at first I felt nothing other than a weary sadness and a sense of “another one”.  Where was the horror, the anger, the disbelief, the sorrow?  Have I become so desensitized to violence that I cannot react to such carnage?

I know that one of the first reactions to extraordinarily painful events is often shock.  We go on automatic pilot for a while, just to survive.  Trauma does that, both physically and emotionally.  As the week wore on, and the details of this event permeated the nation’s consciousness, as the stories of the victims and the lack of a known motive for the shooter became available, the protective walls came down.  The tears and sadness followed, along with the need/hope/wish to do something.

So many times when friends or acquaintances or strangers are in need, when a death has occurred, I hear people say – I say myself – my thoughts and prayers are with you.

My friend, Beth Pattillo, writes award-winning romance and women’s fiction. She is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a group spiritual director. She can be found online at www.bethpattillo.com.  Beth wrote a poem in response to the all the recent tragedies our world has experienced that spoke to me.  She has given me permission to share it with Her Savvy readers.

What Thoughts and Prayers Look Like

People lined up at blood banks
Texted donations
Cases of bottled water and container ships with MREs
Mosquito spray and goggles and strangers taking in strangers
More than words on a social media account
A kindness done every day
Not for the feel-good but for the other
Quiet, when we examine our hearts and listen for God
Who will tell us whether we are the problem or the solution
Refraining from violent thoughts, words, and actions
A displaced shelter dog adopted to a new home
A cake for a neighbor who is a first responder or medical provider
A refusal to engage in hatred
Hands and feet that do the work of goodness and walk the path with
Those who are in pain, in need, in turmoil
Love in action, in practice, in point of fact—
A giving of self, a giving up of self
Unsecured existence made secure
Not in ourselves but in something greater than ourselves

— Beth Pattillo

May we all find the way to love in action in these perilous times.

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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The Other Side of the Couch – A Storm Passes  

 

A friend and I were recently eating lunch at a popular Nashville restaurant.

We often sit toward the back of the restaurant, and this is also the area that many of the families with young children choose.  As we sat down and were served our meal, a little girl, perhaps four or five, dissolved into loud sobs.  Her distress intensified, as did the sound of her crying.

What happened next was amazing.

The child’s father, seated to her right, calmly pulled her chair closer to his, reached out, and gathered her into his arms, holding her close against his shoulder – and he just held her and let her cry.  He didn’t talk; he didn’t explain or tell her what to do; he didn’t tell her to pull herself together – he just held her and let her cry.

Within a couple of minutes the sobs began to diminish.  The child sat up, took some breaths, and soon got back to her own chair and her own meal.

The storm had passed.

We never really knew what precipitated her distress.  It could have been anything – hurt feelings, not liking her lunch, competing with her sister, wanting attention – we didn’t know.  What we did know, however, was that this father knew that if he let his daughter feel what she was feeling, without interfering or explaining or trying to change things, she would work it through.  And she did.

Children are so in touch with their feelings and their bodies – they know that they need to express the emotions that arise in them.   Our job is often to stay out of their way as they do so.  A child who has experienced a challenging moment has feelings arise and allows those feelings to move.  Loving presence is often the best thing we can offer.

What if the child were acting out – throwing things or harming self or others?  In that case, clear boundaries must be set, but loving presence as the child works through the experience is still needed.

I appreciated this father’s skill.  His daughter is being given a gift that will last a lifetime.  Would that all children could have that opportunity.

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 .

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

 

 

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The Other Side of the Couch – In Search of the Goldilocks Moment

Remember the childhood story of the Three Bears?  Goldilocks was in search of the Just-right bowl of porridge, the just-right chair, the just-right bed.  She tested each bowl, each chair, each bed, until she found the one that for her was Just Right.

Goldilocks was persistent.  She kept on trying until she found something that for her was just right.  She didn’t give up, even in the face of repeated disappointment.  Something in her experience kept on telling her to keep looking.  When she found what was just right for her, she knew.

However, Goldilocks was also selfish.  She walked into someone else’s home without knocking. She helped herself to food without being invited.  She broke furniture by sitting on a chair that SHE thought was just right, but which clearly was too small for her, and in the end she was scared to pieces when the bears came home and found her asleep in Baby Bear’s bed.

Goldilock’s ability to recognize what she wanted and to be willing to keep looking for it is admirable.  However, sometimes that intense focus becomes a problem in relationships.

I often see couples searching for those Goldilocks moments without awareness of the price that they may pay in looking for them.  Finding a Just Right moment without paying attention to the process of getting there can easily backfire.  Goldilocks knew what she wanted and went after it, but in the process she lost sight of the perspective of others.  Couples do this all too often by focusing on what one or the other wants without awareness of the wants of the other person.

I am so often surprised and saddened by the struggle that even the most articulate individuals have to use words in their relationships.  Partners expect each other to know their wants and needs without ever having articulated them.   Partners tell themselves:  “If I have to tell you about it, it isn’t valid.”   The result is that you don’t get what you want, you are guilty of the expectation of mind-reading, and you are often disappointed, because contrary to popular opinion, human beings in relationships have not mastered the “skill” of mind-reading.

Are you like Goldilocks in your coupleship – so determined to find what you want that you forget to check in with your partner?  Your story might have a different ending if you remember to ask your partner about what he/she wants, and if you create that story together.  Just Right moments in a coupleship are best created by partners who are willing to speak up, use words, and be direct about they want and need.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

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The Other Side of the Couch – Why We Write   

 

What is it about writing?

Writing is not innate.  While speaking as a form of communication is part of the developmental trajectory of the human being, writing (and its companion, reading) must be learned.  That learning process takes years and requires practice.  How many high school students have labored over the five-paragraph essay or complained about learning expository writing?

The physical process of writing is becoming a lost art as more and more people who write depend on the keyboard and computer.  Experts debate both sides of this issue.  Some say cursive should continue to be taught; others say opting for print is the best.  A third group says the focus needs to be on keyboarding.  As a left-handed writer whose handwriting was already shaky, the final blow was taking speedwriting after college – the result is that anyone who attempts to read my handwriting often needs translation.

And yet – the process of using language to write may have therapeutic results. As a professional counselor I often recommend exercises that involve writing.  If you are a worrier, keep a pad and pen beside your bed, and if you wake up and are worrying, get those worries out of you and onto paper.  This process sometimes will help you calm down and return to sleep.  If you have unfinished business with someone that cannot be safely or reasonably addressed with the person, write a letter to that person – a letter that you may never choose to send –  to reach some degree of closure.  If you are engaged in a process of self-exploration, the experience of keeping a journal may help you deepen your journey.

For me the essence of writing is connection.  I write because I have a thought, an experience, or a way of seeing that I want to share with others.  Bringing whatever this is out of myself and into a form in which I share it with others who may be interested, may respond, may be touched or moved or shaken, is for me part of the larger journey of being in community with other human beings.

I write because I have something to say. Writing feels like the creation of something bigger than myself.  I don’t know where my words go, where they land, what impact they have, but in bringing them out of myself and offering them to a larger world, I am engaged in the process of creation.  I don’t assume that my words are great literature or that they are life-changing.  They may just be my words – and that is ok, too.   I offer them as they are – and for my reader, they can be taken in whatever way the reader chooses.

Solace, comfort, joy – struggle, pain, despair – writing can be all those things to the writer and to the reader.

Is writing a part of your life?  Does it play a role?  Has it helped you?  Harmed you?  Open the door to this process and see where it might take you.  You could be surprised!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – Does Marching Matter? 


Following hard on the surprising election of Donald Trump, marches and protests have taken place across the United States and, indeed, across the world.  Beginning with the Women’s March, which took place the day after the inauguration, and which saw record crowds in almost all the areas in which it took place, most of these marches have been buoyed by a spirit of hope and connection.  The march in Nashville, Tennessee was described by the Tennessean as follows:

“About 15,000 people marched in downtown Nashville Saturday in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.  Middle Tennesseans marched for one mile from Cumberland Park to Public Square in support of a myriad of social justice issues, including women’s rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, environmental justice and access to health care.”  The Tennessean, Jan. 21, 2017

Since that march, other events have taken place, including town hall meetings with legislators, such as the one held on February 21, 2017 with Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R).

The question for me is this:  Does any of this matter?

Andreas Madestam, Daniel Shoag, Stan Veuger, and David Yanagizawa-Drott say that it does.  In a paper quoted below, “Do Political Protests Matter, Evidence from the Tea Party Movement,” the authors suggest the following:

Abstract

Can protests cause political change, or are they merely symptoms of underlying shifts in policy preferences?  We address this question by studying the Tea Party movement in the United States, which rose to prominence through coordinated rallies across the country on Tax Day, April 15, 2009.  We exploit variation in rainfall on the day of these rallies as an exogenous source of variation in attendance.  We show that good weather at this initial, coordinating event had significant consequences for the subsequent local strength of the movement, increased public support for Tea Party positions, and led to more Republican votes in the 2010 midterm elections. Policymaking was also affected, as incumbents responded to large protests in their district by voting more conservatively in Congress.  Our estimates suggest significant multiplier effects: an additional protester increased the number of Republican votes by a factor well above one. Together our results show that protests can build political movements that ultimately affect policymaking, and that they do so by influencing political views rather than solely through the revelation of existing political preferences.

  1. Madestam, et. al. The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2013) 128 (4): 1633-1685

The authors’ analysis shows that protests increased the turnout in the following congressional elections.  Thus, protests and marches DO affect legislators and affect turnout.  Keep on marching – but don’t forget to do the work of organizing and getting out the vote!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – Starting a Business

business-plan

When I first began to contemplate the idea of becoming a therapist I was not even aware of the differentiations among the mental health professions; nor was I aware of what creating a private practice in that field would require.  One of the mentors I consulted told me that It would take ten years before I really felt seasoned enough to open a private practice.  I told myself that she was mistaken, didn’t really know me and my intellect and determination – but as it turned out she was right on the money.  I began my first degree in the field of professional counseling in 1980, and I started a private practice in 1990 – with lots of school, two degrees, work in social services in Massachusetts, and in community mental health in Nashville, in between.

As a seasoned professional counselor, well-grounded in my ability to serve clients, to diagnose and treat, to create treatment plans, to help clients navigate the changes that they desired, I was in a good position.  However, clinical expertise is not all that running a private practice requires.

Nowhere in the experience that I had accrued did any course address the issues of starting a business.  In fact, the idea that private practice was a business was actively discouraged.  We were taught to see ourselves as professionals with a calling, and to hold the idea of “business” with some degree of disdain.  To acknowledge that we were in business and that we hoped to make money to sustain ourselves and our families was regarded with condescension.

I noticed that the few men with whom I trained had less difficulty with this issue.   The women, however, struggled.  What to charge?  How much was fair?  How can I help those who are struggling financially and who yet need my services?  The idea of a business plan didn’t even exist in my consciousness.

What I have learned over these years in practice is that the positives of private practice – no boss, flexible hours, working as much or as little as one desires – do not make the other side of running a business go away.  As a solo practitioner, I am responsible for EVERY ASPECT of my business. My first duty is to my clients, with FIRST DO NO HARM as the central ethical mandate.  I run my own schedule.  I return all phone calls.  I keep up with best practices in my field.  I attend conferences and make sure that I use continuing education to stay current.  However, I also market.   I recruit business.  I manage online and social media.  I create websites (or hire having them created).  I am responsible for keeping up with paperwork, for interacting with insurance companies.  I clean the office.  I vacuum.  I take out the trash.  I buy supplies – all the way from insurance forms to paper towels.  I also manage the bookkeeping and everything related to paying taxes, from quarterly assessments required for solo practitioners to Schedule C profit and Loss statements for income tax purposes.  This means keeping excellent records of everything related to the business.

If you want to start your own business as a private practitioner, I recommend the following:

  1. Talk to someone who has been in successful practice for a while.
  2. List the pros and cons.
  3. Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Consider hiring others to do things that are not your strengths.
  4. Have a business plan, an attorney and a bookkeeper, at minimum.

Good luck!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – What’s in a Name?

my-name-is

A question on Facebook recently sparked my curiosity regarding names.  The question was:  Were you named after someone?  I answered that question easily because I have always known that my name reflected a generational struggle perpetuated in my family from the early days of my parents’ marriage.

I was named “Susan” after my maternal great-grandmother, Susan Crawford White, and “Elisabeth” after by paternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Wilson Mosier.  Please note the “s” in my name and the “z” in my great-grandmother’s name.  Because of that difference in spelling, my paternal grandmother rejected the idea that I was named after her mother.  The way she saw it was that my mother’s family had “won” some unnamed contest.

This “contest” reflected the merger of two different cultures – that of my mother’s family and my father’s family.  Mimi, my maternal grandmother, came from a Nashville family that had acquired some success.  Mimi’s younger brother, Weldon White, was an attorney who later became a Supreme Court justice in Tennessee.  Her family highly valued education; she graduated from Hume Fogg High School, and after her husband suffered financial reverses after WWI, she became the stable family breadwinner, teaching first grade in the Nashville public schools for forty years. A pioneer in her own way, she pursued her own college degree and graduated from Peabody College for Teachers at the advanced age of 47.  She was a life-long Democrat and supported the Equal rights Amendment when she was in her seventies.

Mam-ma, my dad’s mother, came from a different situation.  Her father moved his family repeatedly, always in search of a better situation.  Mam-ma left school after 8th grade, in part due to this constant moving.  She married at 20 to a young man who had ambition to get off the farm, and my grandfather won a position as a railroad mail clerk, moving the family to Nashville in 1924.   Mam-ma was very proud of her home and her homemaking skills; her home was her pride and joy.  A product of extreme poverty (her family never owned land and farmed for others), she believed in very traditional family values.  My grandfather was a staunch Republican, and she never questioned his positions.  However, they supported and were completely proud of my father’s college and medical school successes, and they made sure that their daughter also went to college.

So, what was the struggle?  These two strong women were jockeying for what they perceived as inclusion in the household that I entered as an infant.   Mimi was often present, always a helper, always looking for something to do that would be useful.  Mam-ma and Poppy visited often, but were the “fun” grandparents who brought us treats, took us to do fun things, but were not helpers in the way that Mimi was.  Mimi saw Mam-ma as overly frank, too direct, and a bit uncouth.  Mam-ma saw Mimi as a snob who was hypocritical.  My parents, and to some extent the children as well, were aware of navigating challenging waters between Mimi and Mam-ma.   Never overtly antagonistic, they nevertheless were cut from very different cloths and called each by their last names for all the years of my growing up.

One letter of the alphabet became emblematic of a much larger issue.  Who is included?  Who is on the outside?  How does a family navigate the choppy waters of extended family life?  How do mothers and mothers-in-law manage the tasks of allowing room for the new family to emerge?  It took these two women many years; I was an adult with a child of my own before they called each other by their first names.

The stories of my grandmothers seem to me to be emblematic of the divide that is roiling our country today.  One strand focuses on equal rights and embraces change; the other strand highly values continuity and traditional values.  I loved both of them dearly, and I celebrated the day they finally reconciled themselves to each other and to the family that my mother and father created.  Both were born at the tail-end of the 19th century; both lived to see changes that were unimaginable at their births.

The important part of this story is that they found a way to respect each other.  It was a process that was grounded in love.

What is the story of naming in your family?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – What Do You Do When Your Heart Is Broken?

broken-heart

November 8, 2016 started out as a day of hope for millions of United States citizens.  By November 9 that hope had been transformed into what felt and has continued to feel like a surreal nightmare.  As one young friend said to me that day, “This is not the country that I thought I lived in.”  Reminding one’s self that this election did not reflect the majority vote is helpful, but it does not change the fact that the person who triumphed in this race did so by unleashing the forces of bigotry and hate.

What can a person do who is struggling with what happened?  What do we tell our children, who in many cases have awoken to a totally unexpected world – a world in which bullies triumph and hate speech is condoned.  What do we tell our friends from other countries, whose skin color, accent, race or religion have been targeted?  What do we tell each other as women, whose ability to have control over our own bodies is in jeopardy?

I don’t have good answers to these questions.  I know that in this democracy power is passed peaceably.  I try not to believe that all the people who voted for him support these kinds of attitudes.  I have heard people say that they voted for him in spite of these attitudes because they are so desperate for change and felt so unheard.  Well, good luck with that.  You have unleased the genie, and putting all of this anger and hatred back in the bottle is going to be a hard job.

I know that he will be the 45th president.  I also know that I can’t give up and stop trying to effect change, be it at the most micro level by the way I talk to someone, listen to someone, write to someone, challenge someone.  I will hold my broken heart and sew it back together with words and actions that continue to support the values of caring and inclusion on which I have based my life.

What will you do?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – It Just Happened    

shoulder-photo

Today I am almost one month post rotator cuff surgery.  I would never have realized how very frequent this surgery is until I have had to deal with it.  So many friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances, on learning what I am experiencing, are happy to describe their own journeys with this all too frequent injury.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for people in the many years prior to the availability of this kind of surgical repair.  Living with the pain and with the limitations forced by the inability to raise one’s arm above a certain level was extremely challenging.  Knowing that it could be repaired was hopeful.  Living without that hope could only be described as devastating.

Most people assume that this kind of injury is the result of a fall or of some kind of accident.  In fact I learned from my surgeon that the great majority of rotator cuff injuries “just happen.”  Perhaps it is because we are living longer or perhaps because we are compromising the shoulder joint by repetitive motion that wears out the muscle, or perhaps it is because we are neglecting to strengthen the small muscles that surround the shoulder and keep it functioning as it should.  Many of these injuries simply occur with no outside compromise.

My own case could be a combination of all of these factors.  I know that I tended to put my heavy purse, my satchel of papers, and anything else that I happened to need to use in a day in the passenger car seat; I would then drag these objects across the seat as I exited the car, using my arm and shoulder in a repetitive motion process many times daily.  These experiences add up!

So – I will say it “just happened” when asked – but what I really should be saying is that some degree of lack of self-care contributed to a difficult surgery.  I am on the other side of it now, and I am improving every day.  I hope to learn from the experience, and to protect my OTHER shoulder from something that “just happens.”

Is there anything in your life that is “just happening?”  Take a look – maybe you could influence it for good by making small changes.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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

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