What Makes a Hero?

What makes a hero? I cogitate on this question every year as July 20th approaches.  On July 20, 1944, a group of German Army officers came darned close to killing Adolf Hitler with a bomb.  Today those officers are considered heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance. It wasn’t always that way, though.


In 1944, the officers were considered traitors by their fellow Germans and by the people on the Allied side of the war.  In 1944, only anarchists, traitors and Communists were so morally challenged as to commit political murder.  No one wanted to believe that respectable, educated, upper-class men would commit pre-meditated murder.


So who were the German officers who tried to kill Hitler? They were primarily Junkers or German aristocrats and most of them were related to each other. They tended to be devout Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant. They thought, incorrectly, that if they killed Hitler, the western Allies (U.S., Britain, and France) would sign a ceasefire and agree to join them in fighting the Russian Communists.


Alas, their bomb failed to kill Hitler and the Nazis took revenge.  Henning von Tresckow, the mastermind, died on the eastern front hours before Gestapo agents stepped off a plane to arrest him. Graf von Stauffenberg, who planted the bomb, was shot by firing squad on the evening of July 20th. They were the lucky ones.  Most of the other plotters, and quite a few innocents, were taken to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin where they were tortured before being tried in kangaroo courts and hanged.


Their wives and children ended the war in prison or in concentration camps. The youngest children were sent to orphanages. Stauffenberg’s widow gave birth to her daughter in prison and spent about 10 years searching orphanages trying to find her sons.  The widows were ostracized after the war until the 1960’s when their dead husbands were proclaimed as heroes.


The plotters became heroes because West Germany needed heroes. In 1945, Germany was split in two. East Germany was occupied by the Russians. West Germany was created from the American, French and British occupation zones. By the 1960’s, West Germany needed heroes to give the country a sense of continuity with the past but without the taint of the Nazis.  The German officers who plotted to kill Hitler fit the requirements and became heroes.


So what makes a person a hero?  In the case of the July 20th conspirators, it was political necessity. But I like to think that the July 20th conspirators would have been recognized as heroes even without political necessity. They were truly brave men who knew they were risking the lives of their families in their quest to build a better future for all.

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. Contact me at norma.shirk@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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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

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Independence Day!


Independent:   a (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2) :  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit an independent bookstore b (1) :  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent an independent conclusion (2) :  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) :  not bound by or committed to a political party. Merriam-webster.com

Hmmm…so, based on that, are we ever really completely independent? I suppose when it comes to the notion of being self-governing, then I would say as a nation, we are independent. And while some may argue that, given recent election events, we have been the victims of outside influences, we are theoretically still an independent democracy.

But what about the concept of not looking for outside opinions or guidance? I’m not sure I agree that independence means not being open to ideas or opinions different from my own. In fact, I would argue that true independence requires research, information gathering and an exchange of ideas. In the absence of such, aren’t we just living in a vacuum? In order to make informed decisions, to exercise my independence, I must understand the context of the world around me. And, I must filter the information in light of my own values and experiences. Indeed, my natural curiosity drives me to seek input from a variety of sources.

When it comes to my business, I am constantly seeking advice, gathering input from experts, researching new concepts and ideas, conferring with my partner. Am I independent? Well, in the Merriam-Webster sense I guess I am. I’m not subject to the control of other, larger entities. And yet, decisions are made based on all of the above. And the demands and responsibilities of business ownership often leave me feeling less independent than I’d like. But in the end, this form of servitude and endless engagement are of my choosing. I can stay and fight the good fight, or I can walk away.

So I suppose that is my true independence. The opportunity to chose my path, using the knowledge gained through hard work and research, integrated with my personal values and instincts and viewed through the lens of my life experiences. And while I may agree with certain elements of the dictionary’s definition, I believe independence comes from within.   Our nation’s history is filled with those with the drive to discover and innovate, and with the confidence to raise their voice against all odds to speak truth to power. Today, on this Independence Day, let us all remember those Americans, and pledge to do our part to exercise our own independence to further both our individual goals and the to fulfill the promise of our country. Happy Fourth, everyone!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a 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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To Love and Protect?

It mortifies me that some humans can be so cruel. They take on a dog or cat, and at least cats retain much of their natural hunting/survival instincts, and then, when they decide they’re tired of it, or they can’t have a pet in their new apartment, or it’s just too much trouble, or (this is one of my favorites) they have a new baby, they put it out on the street. Maybe they drop it off in a neighborhood they’re convinced is the kind where “someone will take her in and give her a good home” or maybe they just drop her on the side of the highway – near the woods, perhaps, just sure “she’ll find food, and she’ll survive.” Unfortunately, most of these stories end very badly.

According to an article from The Animal Rescue Site, “Around 7 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, about half of which are believed to be abandoned, and according to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners after arriving in shelters. These poor animals are at a higher risk of euthanasia, and often suffer from separation anxiety and other, similar issues. It’s hard to imagine what type of monsters would simply cast aside their animals, but sadly, it happens.”

This video from the site may shock you, but it certainly drives the point home: https://youtu.be/JMs7dkdO4YY

The article goes on to say, “While the majority of abandonment stories end badly (a sad but true reality), the capacity for love that many animal lovers show can also save the day. Sometimes a kind heart can overcome the most disgusting abuse.”

This came to be the story for a loving little Chihuahua/Rat Terrier mix now known as Winnie. Her owners decided to toss her out into a Brentwood, TN neighborhood. After a few weeks of wandering and nearly starving to death, her owners were found. Their response: “We don’t want her anymore.” This landed her in the Williamson County Animal Center and she was one of the lucky ones. Noah’s Ark Society pulled her from the center and put her in foster care.

Winnie’s mug shot

Now I am the lucky one. After 16 years together, I lost my Gracie almost two years ago. I was finally thinking it might be time for me to open my heart (and home) to a new “furever” friend, but I had no definite plan yet. While helping to foster this poor baby temporarily for her foster mother, well, you can guess the rest.

Please make this an opportunity to help spread the word about this abhorrent human behavior. PETS’ LIVES MATTER.

About Jan Schim

Jan Schim 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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Living with Fear

Fear is a universal emotion.  Every person alive is afraid of something. It’s what we do next that matters most.

Fear can be a motivator. It drives us to meet our goals. But too much fear can overwhelm us, paralyzing our emotional and physical responses.  As a person who has experienced both these effects of fear, I wanted to know how other people managed their responses to fear.

I’m a history buff so I looked for historical examples. An excellent study in fear is provided by the men and women who were in the French Resistance in World War II.  Every Nazi-occupied country had resistance movements, of course. But the French are notable for their tradition of writing books about their political activities. As a result, the survivors of the French Resistance were more likely to write about their experiences than resisters in other European countries.

What a life they lived! Living in occupied France meant living with fear. The Gestapo could stop any person at any time and demand to see their identity papers. Resistance workers knew if they were detained in one of these street sweeps, their forged identity papers would probably not withstand scrutiny. Or their forged identity might already have been revealed by a tortured colleague or a collaborator. In either case, it meant their worst fear would come true; they would be arrested.

Another quick path to arrest was violating the nightly curfew.  Resistance workers constantly broke curfew to travel to rendezvous sites to retrieve supplies flown in on moonless nights. They also conducted most radio communications with their leaders in London at night. Resistance workers caught at rendezvous sites or with a radio could be shot “resisting arrest” or arrested and taken in for interrogation.

Interrogation meant torture and probable death. Resistance workers were tortured in an effort to make them name names since the Gestapo was attempting to wipe out all resistance efforts.  The standard rule for Resistance workers was that they should hold out for at least 48 hours under torture to allow other Resistance workers to move to new, unknown locations.

Many Resistance members died due to the torture. If they didn’t die while being tortured, they were sent to prison in France to await deportation to a concentration camp.  Resistance workers were not covered by The Hague or Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war. They were not legally soldiers. They were legally defined as spies, criminals, or “enemy combatants”.  That meant they could be tortured, starved, murdered, or used as slave laborers.

Resistance activities could be deadly for a worker’s family. If the Gestapo knew or suspected the true identity of a Resistance worker, they would arrest family members of the Resistance worker.  Family members could be tortured, imprisoned, murdered, or deported to a death camp in retaliation for the Resistance worker’s activities.  Resistance workers knew they were jeopardizing the lives of their loved ones and this knowledge caused their greatest fear.

French Resistance workers lived with overwhelming fear that left psychological scars for the rest of their lives.  So why would anyone choose to join the Resistance when they could have kept their heads down and sat out the war?  Sitting out the war could have meant staying neutral, not collaborating, and waiting for it all to end.

French Resistance workers spanned the political spectrum from communist to fascist; but they had one thing in common. They were all French patriots. They wanted to end the occupation and free France.  That goal kept them going through deprivation, torture and fear.

Fear is often synonymous with weakness which is synonymous with cowardice in books and movies. That is wrong. Only an idiot or a liar claims to be constantly brave, never knowing fear. The bravest people are those who acknowledge their fear and still do their job.

That is the lesson about living with fear that I learned from the French Resistance. We are all afraid of something. But if we don’t allow fear to stop us, we can do anything that we want and reach any goal.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help 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. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com.

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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

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Did You Miss Us???

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Yes, we are back, and we want to tell you again how much we appreciate you. We’re cranking HerSavvy up as promised and we look forward to offering you insights and information from our group of savvy women to all you                 savvy women!!!

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Thank You So Much for Your Readership

We women of HerSavvy truly appreciate you…

We are taking a little break for some spring housekeeping, but HerSavvy will resume this summer.


Until then, be well and enjoy lots of sunshine!!!

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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:


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

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The Secret, a Perspective on a Book


Currently, I am reading a book titled “The Secret,” written by Rhonda Byrne. Released in 2006, I remembered hearing about it at the time. I’m listening to the author narration, and she sounds like she grew up in the same neighborhood as Nicole Kidman, with a pleasant Australian accent. At the time of release, the book was championed twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and it spent 146 weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list. The message is about the law of attraction and subscribes to gratitude and visualization as keys. Intriguing and controversial in its message, it has been widely questioned and parodied.

In my life, I feel much more connected and in a positive flow when I am grateful and determined to have a joy-filled day. It is especially helpful to remind myself to treat everyone I come into contact with in kindness. Everything is better when I do this.

The book claims that if you act-as-if and feel-as-if you already have what you are seeking, you put yourself on the same frequency as the thing you seek and doing so attracts it to you. The book references other books written over time and claims that Plato, Leonardo, Galileo, Napoleon, Hugo, Beethoven, Lincoln, Edison, Einstein, and Carnegie all knew of “The Secret” and used its power. The book includes quotes about using faith, including “‘And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive’ (King James Bible, Matt. 21:22)” and, “‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (New International Version Bible, Mark 11:24)”
I don’t know that I can believe everything I have read regarding visioning my way into wealth, health, and relationship success, but it certainly is a good reminder to practice the golden rule and to continue to have faith.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.

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