Monthly Archives: December 2014

Am I Beautiful?


Perhaps the better question to ask is, “How do we each reach our definition of beauty?” Standards of beauty have varied radically over the centuries and are more a statement about our cultural values than our actual physical beauty.

Beauty is a visible symbol of socio-economic status. In ancient Egypt, wealthy men and women shaved their heads and wore wigs. At parties, they removed their wigs and set scented wax cones atop their heads so that they dined with a beautiful scent wafting around them. (There are no tomb paintings showing wax falling in the diner’s eyes, unfortunately.)

During the Renaissance, a bit of plumpness meant your family was wealthy enough to eat on a regular basis, unlike poorer people who often starved. That’s why Titian’s female models are, how to say it politely, fat, by modern standards.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, higher income people tended to be pale.  Pallor separated them from the ruddy-cheeked farmers and other hoi polloi who did manual labor. After the Industrial Revolution, the beauty standards reversed. Poorer people were pale from long hours on the factory floor, while higher income people discovered the joys of nature and got a tan.

Today, our standard of beauty dictates that we must be wrinkle-free, slender and physically fit.  Higher income people can afford the Botox and cosmetic surgery to look young. They also have the disposable income to pay for a healthier diet and for the exercise programs to maintain a “healthy” weight. Meanwhile, poorer people have wrinkles, eat a less healthy diet and probably lack the time, mental energy and money needed for a regular exercise regimen.

Our modern standard of beauty also addresses our fear of dying. If we work out constantly, we will look and feel young and hopefully avoid chronic diseases that lead to “premature death” as the TV ads euphemistically put it. This is not a new obsession. Fear of growing old and dying was chronicled 4000 years ago in the “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

So what can we do if our personal beauty doesn’t match (or even come close) to society’s standard? Find an historical era where the standard of beauty matches your body type. Then buy some chocolate and a bottle of wine and salute your beauty. Am I beautiful? You bet!

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.

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Biting the Elephant

I love project management: Planning towards a defined goal using the budget, schedule and resources available.  And I’m good at it.  People have always complimented me on my ability to get things done.  For me, it’s not rocket science.  In fact, it’s not that difficult.  I call it “Biting the Elephant.”


When faced with a large project or personal mountain ahead of me, from winning a large geoprofessional job to planning a conference, I break it down into manageable tasks.  Simply, I make a plan.

The more I plan, I find, the easier it is to “git ‘er done.”  Frankly, the plan may change (and usually does) but that’s not important.  Wrapping my brain around what steps it takes to succeed gets me halfway there.  Then, I just have to do it or pull in the resources needed for what I can’t accomplish.  That’s called follow-through and it’s critical to Biting the Elephant.  Great plans are wonderful but they mean nothing without action.  Like Nike:  Just Do It.

So, when faced with what seems like an insurmountable task, take a breath, make a plan, see it through and enjoy seeing your hard work realized.

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways can help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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Homage to the Big Rigs (and their Drivers)

Big Rig 5

I love the big rigs. The more chrome and clearance lights the better. At night, rolling down the highway or tooling around a truck stop, they are more brilliant than a Christmas tree.  I love to listen to the raw power of a 500 or 600 horsepower motor.  I even like the noisy engine brakes because they are one of the greatest safety inventions ever on big rigs.

Big rigs provide instant metrics on the health of the economy.  The higher the number of big rigs on the road, the healthier the economy is because they deliver goods, including food, the “last mile” from the port, warehouse or railroad siding to the store.  Without them store shelves would be empty.  So when I inhale a lungful of diesel exhaust fumes from a big rig, I smile because I know the economy is humming along.

Despite their importance, I often hear people denigrating big rigs and their drivers. Trucks are deemed to be a dangerous nuisance on the highways and their drivers are stigmatized as uneducated bumpkins too stupid to get a “real” job.  But most drivers are hard-working men (and a few women) who are supporting their families. I know because I’m the daughter, sister, niece, and cousin of truck drivers.

Becoming a big rig driver requires studying federal safety regulations, passing the commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam, and undergoing two years over-the-road supervised training.  After that they endure a solitary life riding the nation’s highways and missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and their children’s school activities. Not surprisingly, is there is a growing driver shortage as fewer people enter this profession.

As to the charge that big rigs are dangerous, according to the American Trucking Associations, only 30% of highway accidents involving big rigs are caused by the truck drivers. That means 70% of the accidents are caused by the rest of us.  So here are a few basic safety tips.

  1. If you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Slow down, go around, or move in your lane until you can see your vehicle in the truck’s mirror.
  2. Signal your intentions early and avoid sudden movements. Basic physics informs us that 80,000 pounds needs more distance to slow to a stop than a 3000 pound car or SUV.  (Avoid flitting into the car-length’s space in front of the tractor.) The driver needs time to see you and prepare for what you plan to do.
  3. Never sit in the truck’s blind spots which include: immediately in front of the tractor (you can’t be seen over the hood); beside the fifth wheel where a trailer attaches to the tractor; beside the trailer’s rear axle; and immediately behind the trailer.

So the next time you pass a big rig on the road, join with me in paying homage to the big rigs. They keep the economy moving and their drivers are some of the hardest working people you’ll probably never meet.

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.

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Going Natural

Kate Stephenson and Mark BatesIt is being discussed more and more.  Women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s are deciding to cut the hair color and return to their ever lightening roots.  I’m curious, so I’ve asked some friends who have stopped coloring to share their experience with me.

Linda had been coloring her hair from her 20’s.  Because it grew so fast, she would have a color line within a week or so, and needed to color every 2 weeks.  About 6 years ago she decided to stop and go back to her own hair color, which she calls silver, or platinum.  When I asked her why, she said it was because of the pain it was causing…the physical pain from the chemicals, and the emotional pain, being so tired of feeling self-conscious when the gray would start growing out.  “At the time I was dating someone who was not in favor of the silver.  Soon after the relationship ended, I chopped off all of the color damaged, dead hair and took it as short as I could,” adding that it was a bit of a shock, even to her.  When I asked her if she saw any downside to going natural she offered, “After I started growing the silver out I’ve had nothing but compliments. The only reason that someone would not get compliments is if they didn’t style their hair.“

When I asked her what advice she would give to anyone thinking about taking the plunge she said, “If they had darker hair, I would encourage them to start by going with some highlights, blonde goes to silver easier– because when you go from dark to silver, it is too difficult, and with highlights you won’t have that nasty skunk line.  Get as close to platinum as possible.  Otherwise, chop it all off.  It felt amazing.”

Because Linda has beautiful olive skin, hazel eyes and looks much younger than her years, when she was coloring her hair blonde she got hit on often by younger men, fifteen to twenty years younger.  Now that she has gone silver, that doesn’t happen anymore.  She is grateful.  The younger men were not always the most tactful and it would often be hurtful when they found out her age.

“I didn’t feel natural, or pretty, coloring my hair.  I am so grateful that I listened to my intuition, and not my ex-boyfriend.”  Linda adds that just a little bit of platinum highlight keeps it light around her face.  She shares that her hair is much healthier and thicker, another reason to be very happy about the decision to go natural.

When I asked Linda how her business life has been affected she dropped her voice to that solid, personal truth telling tone, “I feel embracing my natural hair color and doing what I wanted to do has brought me in line with being authentically who I am.  This has made me feel more comfortable and has led me to coming into my own.  People see my natural hair and expect me to be a more real person, or maybe I am a more real person.“  Linda Sack is a licensed message therapist and came to that profession after she made the decision to stop coloring her hair, leaving a corporate career behind, and feels that massage therapy is perfect for her.

My lovely friend Marilyn Shriver, who colored for over 25 years, and has the most beautiful white hair now, says, “What kept me coloring was that someone told me that if I let my hair go natural, because I was fair, I would disappear from the neck up.”   This turned out to be mis-information.  She says, “I get more compliments on my hair since I stopped coloring it.  My obsession with hair has diminished.  The hair is much better hair and I have accepted that I am the age that I am.  Everybody’s aging at the same rate.”

So, I am thinking about it more.  The first reason is because my hair is thinning from the chemicals.  Another, besides embracing the real, I’d like to simplify my life and spend time doing the things I enjoy most.

This is part one of a two-part article.  Come back next month as I continue the exploration of going natural with a native Nashvillian who was selected from a group of 7,000 women to represent a world wide cosmetic company, not entirely because of her beautiful platinum locks, but she wouldn’t have gotten the job without them.

About Renee Bates

Renee is the executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville, a member based organization. In addition to growing private support for the trails and green spaces, she enjoys oil painting, hiking, nature and working in the garden. Renee is married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, a 3rd generation business begun in 1932 by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.

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Photo Credit: Nfocus Magazine; Kate Stephenson & Mark Bates attend Authors in the Round Dinner, Humanities Tennessee

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Are You A Leader Or A Boss?

Leader or Boss

It’s an important distinction. Just because you’re a boss doesn’t mean you’re an effective leader. And, just because you’re not a boss does not mean you’re not a leader.  Bosses get things done, but they sometimes focus too much on the tactical. Effective leaders get important things done and done well. Their accomplishments continue to reap benefits in the long term and for a greater number of people.

Here are 5 questions you can use to gauge where you fall in the leader vs. boss balance:

  • Do you focus more on whether individuals are hitting performance goals or on what big adjustment you can make next to unleash their full potential?
  • Do you spend more time thinking about how to turn around employee-related problems, or on creating ways for your employees to take pride of ownership in what they produce?
  • Do you spend more time critiquing what your employees are doing, or critiquing how you’re helping them?
  • Do you pay attention to your employees’ aspirations only during their annual reviews, or do you attend to them throughout the year?
  • Do you tell your employees what initiatives they should undertake or do you enlist their help in fleshing out what their roles should be considering your department’s strategic objectives?

Obviously, if you’re in a leadership position, you probably do a little of all of the above.  But if most of your time and energy are spent on activities in the first half of each of those questions, then you are missing tremendous opportunities to make a difference with effective leadership. By seeing broad possibilities and appreciating the talent around you, you can help your organization

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Happy Holidays?


I am sitting here this morning, Thanksgiving morning, and musing on the holiday expectations that we all bring to these times.  The picture of the Norman Rockwell family, gathered around the laden table, faces smiling in anticipation of the feast to come, is engrained in our collective psyche.  Magazines over the last month have been filled with recipes for “The Most Sumptuous, Easiest Thanksgiving Feast Ever.”  Methods for creating the perfect table setting, the perfect appetizer, the perfect pumpkin pie, abound.

I am one of the fortunate ones in that I do have a loving family and a family table to prepare.  Although I am not hosting the feast this year, I will be part of one.  And yet, I know all too well that these holidays often bring not joy, but turmoil and sadness to many.

So today, I am writing for those whose holidays are not filled with joy, whose family tables are filled with strife or silence or fear, who wait for the explosion, or the blows, or the criticism.  And for those who have no table, and who will go hungry, not only on this day, but on many others.  And for those who have no home, no place of warmth, no place to lay a weary head.  I am writing for the children who will be passed back and forth by acrimonious and angry parents, divorced, unconsciously still taking out their wars on their hapless children.  I am writing for the lonely ones, who will spend this day taking care of themselves the only way they know how…maybe by drinking too much, or eating too much.

I don’t have good answers for you.  These holidays are hard, and that is the truth.  In a culture filled with so much abundance, to be both physically and emotionally without resources is a hard blow to take.

So, rather than give you advice, I will tell you a story.

I was at my church’s regular Wednesday night dinner, and it happened to be the Thanksgiving celebration.  This was one of the coldest nights of the year in Nashville so far, going down into the teens, and because of this, our church had added extra nights of Room in the Inn.  The Room in the Inn guests came to the church dinner that night.  As it happened, part of the program was a presentation of a recent mission trip taken by adults from the church to a program in Guatemala that serves children and their families.

After the program, one of the Room in the Inn guests approached our senior minister, and handed him six dollars, requesting that this money go to help the children in the program he had just seen.  This man, homeless and down on his luck, gave the little he had to help a child who had less.

I happened to be standing next to them when this exchange happened, and I saw his face.  He was filled with emotion, and he was proud to be able to do something.  He regained some sense of himself as a man, a giver rather than a taker, in that exchange.

When we are in circumstances that we cannot control, when we are stuck in some situation that seems beyond help, sometimes we have to go outside a logical response.  That man knew that, for tonight, he had food, and a warm place to sleep, and would have breakfast in the morning.  He gave out of his abundance to someone who had less.  I am guessing that gesture changed his sense of himself.  Maybe there is a way we can think outside our boxes, too.

May your holidays be filled with compassion and awareness.

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.”

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The Road Ahead:  How I Stopped Making Excuses and Learned To Love, er, Like Running


I have a confession to make: I like running.

Not the most earth shattering admission, to be sure, but for me this is mind blowing.  You see, for most of my adult life I have had a love/hate relationship with this type of exercise and by that I mean mostly a hate relationship.  I have started running many times over the years, only to stop over and over for reasons ranging from tendonitis to a lack of time.  I have also invested in countless pairs of specialized shoes, fancy leggings, supportive bras and sweat-wicking socks.  Each of these also was a “culprit” for quitting.  The shoes just didn’t work with my plantar fasciitis, the leggings were too hot, the socks bunched up and the bras weren’t supportive enough.  You get the idea.

So what’s different this time, you ask?  I’ve been trying to figure that one out.  For starters, this past year I’ve packed on some unwanted pounds without changing much about my diet or lifestyle.  I’ve also been feeling sluggish and irritable and definitely not my usual perky self.  Added to all this is a general malaise and a desire for more challenge in my life.  I definitely want to recapture my energy and enthusiasm.  And while there is so much we can’t control, we can definitely control our exercise.  So off I went in search of some new physical challenge.

First in my quest was a personal trainer at the YMCA and a program of weight lifting and cardio, along with my regular Pilates regimen.  All went well for a couple of months and I really loved how my body was changing and becoming more toned and defined.  But one morning I awoke with neck pain so severe I could not move my head.  This continued for a couple of months and even with a lighter weight load, the pain and stiffness persisted.  So I stopped the weight training.

I have several friends who are runners and I began quizzing them on why they like it and how they train.  One friend calls running an “efficient” form of exercise.  She can accomplish some high level problem solving and planning while she runs.  Another runs so she can enjoy a foodie lifestyle with her husband.  Another just likes to sweat.  My weight trainer is also a runner and she didn’t start until after she turned 40.  She was my best cheerleader and encouraged me to just get out there and set small goals.

Once again, I invested in some great shoes, fancy leggings and a supportive bra and, joined by my new puppy Bentley, off I started.  The area around my house is very hilly and not much fun so after several weeks of hell, I headed to the local greenway, a flat nature trail that goes for miles.  The first day I decided to just run without tracking my speed or distance.  And I’m not going to lie, for the first 20 minutes or so I kept thinking of excuses to stop.  But I focused my gaze on the road ahead and kept going, Bentley at my side.  I’m not sure how far I ran that day before turning around and walking the last bit, but when I finished I felt great!  It was still hot and humid, but the feeling of accomplishment, of pushing myself to my limit, was exhilarating!

I’m now a couple of months into this running experiment and I have been tracking my speed and distance.  I’ve worked up to running 5 miles at a fairly good clip.  I’ve participated in two races, a 5K where I had my personal best time and a 5-mile where I ran and walked with my daughter.  I’ve lost weight, I sleep more soundly, I have found my energy and I feel like myself again.  I still spend the first mile or so thinking up reasons to stop, but so far I have been successful in keeping my gaze fixed on the road ahead, setting small goals to stay motivated and finishing what I started.  Efficient, challenging, good cardio; Sounds like life.

I really like running!

About Barbara Dab:

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She currently hosts two radio shows locally in Nashville, TN. Check out her website at

Barbara is also creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. Check it out at If you, or someone you know, is the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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