The Other Side of the Couch – Staying Safe

     

 

This city’s mental health community was rocked to the core by the sexual assault and murder of a counselor last week.  Melissa Hamilton, assistant director of Crossroads Counseling, was stabbed to death in her office minutes after the conclusion of her last group.  For a time it was feared that her murderer was a client of the agency; this proved to be incorrect as within forty-eight hours an arrest was made in the case.  The crime was described as random and opportunistic by the police; no known connection existed between the counselor and the man who is accused of her murder.

Mental health professionals of all types work in situations that by their very nature are unsafe.  Confidentiality requires that the identity of clients be protected.  The work of therapy is done one-on-one in the privacy and seclusion of a private office.  Many therapists work in solo practices and are often at their offices late into evening hours.

This tragic death has brought into focus the struggle that all of us, not only counselors, face in the world in which we live today.  What are the steps that we can take that can at least mitigate the possibility of harm?  (I would add that these concerns are addressed to both men and women – both are at risk in these situations).

First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings.  Take a moment to look at the situation before you leave a safe place to go to your car.  Have keys at the ready if you are going to a car in a parking lot.  Have a loud alarm that you can activate at a moment’s notice.  If possible, do not be alone in walking to a car in a parking lot.  Don’t assume that because it is daylight everything is fine.  Crimes happen in daylight as well as at night.

When you are in your office at night, if alone, even with a client, lock the outside door.  It is worth the trouble of being interrupted to let your next client in, if it prevents unauthorized access by an unknown person.

What if the situation in which you are with a client becomes volatile?  Installing a security system of some kind that includes a panic button option may be a good solution.

Have a plan.  Rehearse the plan.  One of the stories from the 9/11 tragedy focused on a company whose security officer went through drills with the employees.  When a crisis happens, our bodies go on automatic pilot, and if that automatic pilot has been trained to respond in certain ways, there is a much better chance of survival.  The people in his company for the most part survived because of their training.  It is worth having a plan and practicing it.

We don’t like to think of these things.  No one wants to contemplate the possibility of being harmed.  However, not thinking about it results in putting ourselves in harm’s way.

I don’t know whether anything could have prevented the tragic death suffered by Missy Hamilton.  It seems the man had already entered the building before she had a chance to lock the doors.  If her death can help anyone else by heightening their awareness of the need for security, perhaps a tiny bit of good can come from such a tragedy.

I live in that hope.

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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Thanksgiving Reflections

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The house is finally quiet and empty.  Dishes are washed and put away, a load of laundry is in the wash and Bentley the Labradoodle is resting after a whirlwind visit from his humans.  I should be basking in the glow of a fun filled weekend with all of my family under one roof.  And while I am happy overall with the way things went, I admit I’m also a bit exhausted emotionally and physically.

This may be a surprise to those who know me well.  I pretty much wear my motherhood on my sleeve and long for those opportunities to spend time with my children.  But lately, I’ve come to realize that we’re all moving on in very different ways.  I still adore talking to my kids, in fact, they are the most interesting people I know.  I am constantly surprised and delighted to observe the way their lives are unfolding and to listen to their ideas about pretty much everything from politics to religion to sports, books, movies, etc.  We don’t always agree on things, but the exchange is always fun and often enlightening for me.  I learn from them and their experiences.

And yet, as exhilarating as it is to be together, the family dynamic in close quarters can leave me pretty wiped out.  Rather than a family of two parents and three children, we are now a family of five adults.  We have different habits when it comes to personal care, household chores and interpersonal relationships.  When we come together, we now bring baggage from our respective lives and try to blend during short, intense visits.  It’s easy to want to fall back into old roles, but we’ve all grown and changed and the old ways of being together don’t always work.  We have to re-learn how to interact and to be open and flexible with each other.  We also have to know when to give each other space.  It can be confusing and frustrating.

But there is one thing I know for certain, as I sit here unraveling the weekend: my family is worth the work.  And while it can be exhausting to navigate around each other, I am proud of the way my kids are living their dreams and changing the world around them.  I am inspired by their energy, enthusiasm and drive.  And frankly, they are a reminder that inside me is that newly formed adult bursting out into the future, eyes wide open and ready to go.  As I face the end of this year and look forward to the next one, I have only to look to them to feel myself renewed.  And I am so thankful for their presence in my life and for their journey passing through.

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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What Are You Thankful For?


I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for my sweet little dog, Winnie.  I am thankful for the surgeon who is going to take good care of me next week.  I am particularly thankful for what seems to be a new awareness regarding the earth’s plight.  There are more and more organizations trying desperately to clean up our oceans.  There are more and more organizations trying desperately to clean up our lands.  There are more and more organizations trying desperately to make life better for the disadvantaged.  There are more and more organizations helping abused children find a better place in the world.  There are more and more organizations rescuing pets (like my Winnie) and finding good homes for them.   And there are more and more organizations trying to help refugees displaced from their countries of origin to find new places to start over.

It is unfortunate that there are key people in our government and other governments who would like to thwart much of this change, but I believe we will overcome their efforts and we will prevail.  For this, I am truly thankful.

I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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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A Thoroughly American Feast

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an annual food fest for family and friends.  The cuisine reflects our diverse culture. Most of us will eat New World foods like turkey, squash and cranberries.  These foods and the rest of the feast will be prepared from recipes handed down the generations.

The food may vary from kosher to halal; from tacos and burritos to pickled red beets and pumpkin pie; from sweet and sour pork to chutneys and curries. My family traditionally had ham with Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies like mashed potatoes doused in browned butter; shoo fly pie (like a chess pie made with molasses instead of sugar) and deep dish apple pie.

Thanksgiving is also a holiday of giving. Many people deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly or serve meals at homeless shelters.  Each year there seem to be new opportunities to help others who are facing adversity.

All of these activities follow traditions established at the first Thanksgiving. According to tradition, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down to a feast with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. The meal was a celebration of surviving a hard year for the Pilgrims and recognition that they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wampanoag.

Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday we celebrate.  It was multi-cultural from the beginning. It combines old and new foods that are prepared using both traditional and new fusion cuisine methods.   It reminds us that family means more than just our blood relatives.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

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 – When It Is Too Late

I heard the news from my brother.  One of our first cousins passed away.  He was sixty-three.  I had not seen him since he was a child when he and his sister came to our home at Christmas time to visit their mother, who at that time was living with my grandmother.  She had lost custody of the children due to issues with mental illness.

He was ten years my junior, and I lost track of him over the years.  I was closer to his sister and kept track of her.  I knew that he was himself suffering from some form of mental illness and that he had withdrawn from contact with any family, including his father and sister.

After we (the other family members) learned the news of his death, other details followed.  We learned that he had been an accomplished filmmaker, that he was known as a magician with theatrical lighting and design, that he had been a part of two unions, both connected to the theater.  We learned that he had made an award-winning film.  We learned that he had had a life, and people who cared for him.

On learning all of this, my own response is regret.  How very sad that none of us knew him!  How very sad that he had cut himself off from a group of like-minded people – the theater connection runs very strong in my family – and that we will never get to know him, or he, us.

I don’t know his story – I am only left to imagine that the scars of the childhood traumas ran very deep, and that he was not able to overcome the beliefs and perceptions about the family that were based on those experiences.

I regret that I never tried to reach out, and that now it is too late.

Cut-offs in families are painful and sometimes defy reconciliation – but death is the final cut-off.

Don’t wait to try until it is too late.

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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Time Change

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Sometimes I sit down to write and I’ve got nothing.  My mind is constantly spinning, but unless I feel something in my gut, the words just don’t come.  That appears to be the case today.  This past weekend we turned the clocks back and I guess I’m feeling uninspired and sluggish.  The view outside my window is actually lovely; blue sky, leaves finally turning coppery and softly fluttering in the breeze.  But it’s 2:00pm and already it feels like late afternoon rather than a bit after lunchtime.  Even Bentley, the labradoodle, feels it.  He’s dozing on the chair in my office, tail twitching every now and then.

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Every Fall it seems I experience this same sense of sadness when the clock changes.  Farewell to summer, to my vegetable garden, to the abundant daylight hours.  I know the coming weeks and months will be festive and fun, filled with holiday parties and celebrating a new year.  But today I just feel down.  Tonight, I will prepare the last of my beautiful summer eggplants and this weekend I will clean out the beds.  The other day I picked the last of the bell peppers and jalapenos for the season.  This year I planted a couple of beds with cool weather greens and they are doing well, but I already miss my fragrant tomatoes, the unruly squash and cucumbers.

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This year’s time change has brought other changes, too.  My daughter, newly returned from California, will soon be moving into her new condo.  I’m happy for her, glad she’ll have a new place to call her own.  But I’ll miss her comings and goings in my house.  A friend recently joked with me that we just can’t get rid of the adult children, and it’s true.  They cycle in and out as they transition from one thing to another.  But honestly, I’m happy they know our arms and our doors are always open when they need us.  Yes, it’s disrupting, but all things being equal, I’ll take this type of disruption any day of the week.  The fridge is fully stocked, the washing machine runs constantly, but I’m enjoying this short-term visit with my parenting past.

The shadows are growing longer and it’s still just mid-afternoon.  I know this feeling won’t last long.  In a couple of days, I’ll be used to this new season and have more energy to face the darker months.  But right now I’ll just watch the waning light outside my window and say a little farewell to summer.

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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HOPE

My last post was pretty depressing, I know. The issue of plastic overtaking our environment, killing off wildlife, and affecting our health IS depressing. This post comes to you with hope for the future. As an ex-partner of mine would say, “Science created it and science can un-create it.” I’m counting on that.

Well, now, there is a lot out there about a “natural” remedy for the problem. Is it really possible that nature has provided “plastic-eating bacteria?”

“Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles,” a headline from The Guardian touts:

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

From another The Guardian post:

Nature has begun to fight back against the vast piles of filth dumped into its soils, rivers and oceans by evolving a plastic-eating bacteria – the first known to science.

In a report published in the journal Science, a team of Japanese researchers described a species of bacteria that can break the molecular bonds of one of the world’s most-used plastics – polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or polyester.

The Japanese research team sifted through hundreds of samples of PET pollution before finding a colony of organisms using the plastic as a food source. Further tests found the bacteria almost completely degraded low-quality plastic within six weeks. This was voracious when compared to other biological agents; including a related bacteria, leaf compost and a fungus enzyme recently found to have an appetite for PET.

Here in the U.S., Morgan Vague, Clinical Research Coordinator at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon, presents a TED Talk about her research. She talks realistically about the problem we face and how “my bacteria” can help.

How about the solution presented here in an article from Fast Company discussing the enzyme used by bacteria to digest plastic and how it can be developed?

Around the world, several research projects are exploring the potential of enzymes, the part of the microorganisms responsible for digesting the plastic, to help. In the U.K., scientists studying the Japanese bacteria accidentally created a version of the bacteria’s enzyme that worked even better, breaking down plastic bottles in days rather than weeks. At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S., scientists are also working on the enzyme—called PETase, because it can eat PET plastic—to make it work faster. Researchers in Germany studied the structure of PETase to optimize it. And in France, a startup called Carbios has developed its own enzyme, which can fully break down PET plastic so it can be recycled into new, consumer-grade plastic of the same quality as virgin PET. Major corporations including PepsiCo and Nestlé are now partnering with the company, which plans to begin building its first demonstration plant this fall.

Like some other new recycling technology, using enzymes has advantages over traditional methods of shredding up old products. The plastic doesn’t have to be clean, and can be broken down completely. “We take these plastics back down to some of their precursor components, and then they are maybe in a better position then to be reused and reincorporated into new materials,” Hallinan says. Creating precursors for making plastic, rather than recycling whole plastic into a lower-grade material, might incentivize more recycling because there’s a better market for the final product. “There might be more economic appetite, more industrial appetite, for those types of materials.”

Then, there are the two students, Jeanny Yao and Miranda Wang, who have been studying and have invented bacteria that “eat plastic from the ocean and turn it into water.” Seeing a headline with their work is what got me looking deeper in this possible “miracle” cure.

I’m certainly not convinced these bacteria are the silver bullet we need, but, combined with limiting plastic production, returning to the days of re-usable materials like glass, and the biodegradable, sustainable materials paper and cardboard, even recyclable aluminum, we may be able to get some control of the situation. At least, we can hope.

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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Waste

Navigating through Nashville is difficult these days with all the construction projects in various stages of completion. The skyline of downtown Nashville is dotted with more than a dozen giant construction cranes.  New hotels, businesses, apartments and condos are opening on a daily basis.

Growth is good. But there’s one thing the city’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about. Waste disposal.

New construction projects must include some infrastructure, such as waste water lines that tie into the sewerage system.  But the city’s sewerage system is outdated. Ancient water mains collapse with depressing regularity.  More pipes will collapse by next spring as the soil contracts over winter and expands with the spring thaw.

During the Great Flood of 2010, only one water treatment plant remained functional.  Since then, the city’s population has increased by tens of thousands of people.  With all that growth, the city should have built more treatment plants but hasn’t.  Meanwhile, thousands of new residential properties and hotels are tying into our decaying system.  Usage is expanding but the system isn’t.

I was reminded of these depressing facts of life recently when I received a notice from Metro Water Services saying that they would be asking for a rate increase.  As someone who grew up in rural areas where cesspits and outhouses were the only options, I place a high value on flushing toilets and safe drinking water.  This is one time I don’t think I’ll protest paying higher taxes.

 

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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No Going Back

I’m a news junkie and an avid historian so I feel compelled to read the news. I read a variety of sources in print and on-line to get different viewpoints.  Recently, I realized that the headlines are uniformly depressing.

Hate crimes are on the rise.  White supremacists continue their terrorist attacks on women, Jews, immigrants, blacks, school children, and any politician who denounces their racist beliefs.  Democratic governments are under threat around the world as their apathetic voters fail to vote and their elected leaders undermine their own governments for personal gain or to save their political lives.   International alliances are being sabotaged by politicians with dubious agendas, breaking down the support system that has saved us for 70 years from another world war.

But then I saw a news story that broke through the gloom.  Three cities just elected black mayors: Montgomery, Alabama, Danville, Virginia, and Richmond, Virginia.  What’s the significance?

All three cities were capitals of the Confederate States of America.   The CSA was formed to defend “states’ rights”, meaning the right to continue enslaving black people. White supremacists often wave Confederate flags to show their desire to return to a mythical past unsullied by multiculturalism.

White supremacists, corrupt politicians and haters have always been a part of history.  But on some level they know they can’t win.  Corrupt politicians are always replaced by reformers who strengthen democratic institutions.  The CSA lost the war in 1865 and the white supremacists have been losing the battle against equality since the 1950’s.  Violence is all they have left.

Then I thought of the scene in Stars Wars when Peter Cushing’s character refuses to leave the Death Star.  “Evacuate in our moment of triumph”, he asks a few moments before the Death Star explodes.

The headline stories about terrorism, failing democracies, and hate are like the Death Star just before it explodes.  Behind those grim headlines are a fresh batch of Luke Skywalkers, taking aim at government corruption, terrorist massacres, and the haters.  They are the types of people who just elected black mayors in three cities that were a symbol of a dead past.

There’s no going back.

 

About Norma Shirk

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

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – Taking Care

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I have spent the last several days in another world – a world that some enter by choice, some by necessity.  This world has its own rules, its own norms, its own expectations.  The rules of the world that most of us inhabit without thought are suspended here.  In this world others are in charge. In this world those who enter are dependent on the knowledge and kindness of those who are here by choice, rather than by necessity.

Those who enter this world by choice are an unusual species.  They come from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, levels of education, gender.  They work at a tremendous variety of different jobs, from the simplest to the most complex.  They work long hours, and they often provide backup for others even when they are not actually on the job.

Those who are best at this share one unusual quality.  Above and beyond their training, education and experience, these people are givers.  They experience meaning and fulfillment through the process of Taking Care.

When I was a child I was a peripheral member of this world, born into it by virtue of my father’s profession.  I walked the halls of the places where these givers worked.  I often felt an unusual sense of belonging – perhaps because I felt that I was an insider.  As a child I had little understanding of the world I walked, but I knew that at some emotional level I recognized it.

The world I have been inhabiting is the world of the hospital.  The givers are the doctors – chief surgeons, chief residents, residents, interns, nurses, student nurses, LPNs, bringers of food trays, cleaners, transporters – all the amazing parts of a teaching hospital that work together to give care to those who are fighting for life, for health, for a future.

I am grateful for these men and women who make meaning for themselves and support life for their patients.  The ability to take joy in the process of healing, to see the worst and see it improve, or sometimes to see the worst and know that there is nothing to be done, to live with the daily intensity of facing life and death in all its reality – there is nothing else like it.

So today I say thank you to the lovely nurse who worked with my husband, to the LPN who dealt with bodily fluids in an eternally cheerful way, to all the various helpers who came and went and who made a difficult week tolerable.  You are givers – and I am thankful for each of you.

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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