And The Word of the Day Is…

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

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

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

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

About Jan Schim

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

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Voting Early

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Norma Shirk

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – Making an Ofrenda

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

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


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Be the Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Barbara Dab

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

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Off Balance but Still Standing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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The Despair of Poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Norma Shirk

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

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

 

 

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The Other Side of the Couch – The Land of Present Time

What a time we are in, my friends – what a time!  Surely this moment in history is one that will be dissected and studied and torn apart and rehashed again and again in years to come – and yet here we are, living it day to day.  Who could have known that we would still be separated when the pandemic began to affect all of our lives in March – now it is six months later, and we do not know how long we will need to continue with the new behaviors that are required to maintain our own health and the health of others  – masks, social distancing, hand washing being the activities that are proven to result in protection.

I know this has been tremendously hard for many of us – I would venture to say for all of us – for different reasons.  For some it is the pain of living alone, for some it is the terror of getting this virus, for some it is the loss of face-to-face church, for some it is the loss of being with children and grandchildren.  For some it has been the loss of the ability to earn a living, for some it has been the loss of the joyful experience of making music together.  I am sure that each one of you can identify a personal impact that COVID-19 has had on your day-to-day life.

The response many of us have to all this is to worry.  We worry about what may happen tomorrow; we fret over what could happen, might happen, won’t happen, will happen – we spend so much time and energy on events THAT MAY NEVER HAPPEN.

We have three possible ways to address time.  Some of us spend way too much time in the land of If Only – – if only I had done that, or not done this – maybe things would be different now.  Some of us spend way too much time in the land of What If – this or that might happen or not happen.  We fret about the future – a future that does not exist!

The place that we are in now – the Land of Now, of Present Time – is the only time that we have.  Surely we know that we are not guaranteed another day of life – and that we can never reclaim time that is past.

I invite you to take a breath, right now – to look around.  Celebrate this moment.  We are here.  We are connecting in spite of the distance imposed by the circumstances of the pandemic.  Notice what your eyes can see, what your ears can hear.  We are here together, now, with the amazing opportunity through technology of being present together in spite of the physical distance many of us are living.  I, for one, am more than grateful.

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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If it’s Tuesday, it Must be…

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

When I was a kid, my dad used to love to take us all to the drive-in movies. There was one that stands out called, “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium.” I don’t remember the details, but it had something to do with tourists running all over Europe, different cities, different days, until they lost track of time. The film title became our family’s code for describing that feeling of being disoriented or off kilter. That’s exactly how I feel! This week, I’ve been at least one, if not two, days off, and I missed my deadline for this blog post. If it’s COVID, this must be…who even knows what day it is anymore?

Okay, so here it is, Thursday…again. I think this weekend is the Labor Day holiday? Yes, I’m sure it is. I’m just not sure where summer went. I’ve experienced most of it from inside my house, which means it feels the same as Spring and most likely Fall will feel the same. I guess I’ll need to change my wardrobe just to keep track of the passing of time. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

Last month I shared my Whole30 journey. I’m happy to report I’m still on the journey. I’ve learned more about how my body experiences different foods. So far, I do well with most food groups. I have noticed that alcohol consumption affects my sleep, so I can decide if that glass of wine at dinner is worth losing some sleep over. My cravings for sweets and snacks have mostly disappeared, although some days I just need a little something in between meals, especially if I haven’t eaten enough protein. Overall, some good lessons and some new, healthier, habits are being formed.

In a little over a week, my middle son will come for a visit. We haven’t seen him since mid-February and while I’m very excited, I’m also a bit nervous and apprehensive about the health risk – for all of us. Crazy times. What used to be a routine trip now feels like a treacherous journey. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

And to add to the fun the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is just around the corner. This year our congregation will hold services virtually with a combination of pre-recorded segments and live streaming from the synagogue where the Rabbi and Cantor will be present in the sanctuary. Disorienting? You bet! Bittersweet? Yep! There is so much to miss this year, most important for me is the feeling of being in my community, physically present together to usher in a new year (yes, we Jews get to celebrate the New Year twice). Yes, I’m grateful to be healthy and to be with my family. But this thing, this plague, started just before the Spring holiday of Passover and here we still are. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

So, I’ll just close with a traditional Jewish New Year’s blessing and wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, Sweet New Year (whether you observe or not, what the heck!). Here’s hoping next month I’ll know what day it is…

About Barbara Dab

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

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I See Miracles

That was the title of a presentation I shared several years ago with the incredible women of the Breakfast Club of Nashville.  I am not a prolific writer and am often stymied to find inspiration as to what to write for my HerSavvy post.  I certainly wanted to stay away from politics…  That’s why I am often late posting my submission and I’m late again.  Yesterday, however, I was blessed with great inspiration.

My presentation to the club was about my practice of CranioSacral Therapy.  As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I have been practicing this very special form of healing bodywork for almost 20 years.  A very light touch form of work, CST, addressing the cerebrospinal fluid, reaches into the body and can help release deep seated discomfort (aka “pain”) resulting from physical injury, emotional injury or a combination of the two.

We don’t always realize that an accident causing physical injury can, and I believe, usually does result in an emotional component as well.  CST can restore balance to the body and two of my clients yesterday experienced radical changes in their bodies as the result of this kind of release.  Each described what was, in their words, a life changing breakthrough.  What a wonder!!!  This didn’t happen over night, of course.  But in a remarkably short period of time, we, I say WE, made an amazing difference in each of their lives.

Over the years, I have witnessed so many of these miracles, more than I can count.  I am just the messenger and I am blessed.

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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Blurred Vision

Today we’re in the middle of the biggest culture war since the 1960’s. As with every culture war in American history, it’s a fight to shape the future.  Will everyone have a seat at the table regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and gender? Or will some people be more equal than others, to paraphrase George Orwell?

Since no one can see the future, most of us look to the past.  The past is usually interpreted nostalgically as we think about the good things that have happened.  But nostalgia is also a trap.  The past was never as idyllic as our rose colored glasses make it seem.

People of color, whether black, Hispanic, or American Indian, were enslaved by Europeans from the conquistadors to the old South. Then they were airbrushed out of the history books. Women were also airbrushed out of history.  They existed only as a wife, a mother, or a daughter; never as an adult person with an individual identity.

The blurred vision of nostalgia is easy to demonstrate.  Lots of people like to dress up in antebellum clothes and Confederate uniforms and imagine living at Tara.  Not one of them wants to put on rags and live in a cabin on slave row.   Lots of people have a dream-catcher dangling from the rear view mirror of their vehicle. Not one of them wants to be a child torn from their family and sent to an Indian school to be starved and beaten into forced assimilation.

Rather than distorting our vision with nostalgia, we should recognize that times change.  We’ve all learned to use computers and video conferencing.  Our parents and grandparents have too. The current pandemic is made bearable for many of us because we can buy everything we need over the internet and have it delivered to our doorstep.  Yet each new technological change caused fear until we learned to adapt to the change.

Rather than fighting the changes and trying to recreate a false past, we should embrace the fact that our culture has already changed. The proof of our new culture is in our food choices.  From soul food to sushi, tacos to corned beef, fry bread to matzos, and tapas to injera, Americans of all races, religions, ethnicities and gender are already seated at the table. That’s a brilliant future.

 

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

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

Ms. Shirk frequently speaks to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from human resources issues to historical events and persons.

She may be contacted at norma.shirk@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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