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Joy and Pain

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

These last few weeks have left me a bit empty emotionally and creatively, which is why this post is late. The excitement of being able to think about a future after COVID has given way to anxiety about when to wear a mask, how to travel safely, whether to travel at all, how to begin to re-enter the world. It’s all pretty exhausting and overwhelming. Added to the mix is the excitement and joy that my daughter has finally landed her dream job and will be moving back across the country to Los Angeles. It’s a complicated endeavor that needs to be completed in a scant few weeks and involves a cross country driving trip (my husband will be doing that), finding a place to live and getting her stuff moved. And professionally, let’s just say it’s been complicated. As a newspaper editor and reporter for a Jewish publication, the escalation of violence in Israel and the current ceasefire have meant difficult information to sift through and report while I watch unfolding misery on both sides. And finally, this last weekend saw an ugly and painful display of antisemitism in my city brought on by one woman who used a yellow star as a symbol of being unvaccinated.

To unpack some of this, I’ll first focus on my daughter because her situation is one that brings me joy and relief. Last summer during the height of the pandemic, she lost her job. Since then she has pieced together a living, often working two and three jobs, while applying for and interviewing for something in her field. I watched her bravely persevere and overcome worry while dealing with grief and anger, most of the time with a smile on her face. She is one of the strongest people I know and I am so proud of her resilience and courage.

As for the COVID pandemic, I guess I’m doing what most people are doing and trying to take baby steps to rejoin the living. As an extrovert in normal times, I’m surprised by how exhausted I feel at the effort it takes to make and execute simple plans. I feel overwhelmed at choosing a restaurant, preferring to either cook at home or order in. There are a few local places that have wrapped us in comfort the last year and a half (thanks to the crew at answer.) and it feels so much easier to just do that. But we are venturing out a bit and when we do, I feel almost normal. I’ve said, “hello,” to some clothes I haven’t worn in a long time, praying everything still fits (thankfully, so far, it all does). I have two short trips planned this summer and a big trip in the Fall. I’m anxious about traveling, but also looking forward to the change of scenery.

My professional challenges are more difficult to explore. As a journalist I’ve been trained to look at as many sides of an issue as possible, to be fair in analyzing and presenting the facts and to be balanced in my coverage. Lately though, the rising antisemitism in this country and around the world has shaken me. I am, after all, a Jew in America, raised to love Israel by parents who watched and prayed as the tiny country was born over 70 years ago out of the ashes of the Holocaust. My father-in-law was a survivor of German ghettos, concentration camps and death marches. The last trip he took before his early death at age 52 was to visit Israel, to experience the joy and relief at a Jewish homeland.

I traveled to Israel for the first time as a 15-year-old teen and have visited a few times since, watching the country grow from a developing land into a high tech, modern day marvel. Is it perfect? No. Did growth come at a high price? Most definitely. Does it deserve both criticism and admiration for the choices made in the face of daily existential threat? Absolutely. But since when does criticizing your country render you unpatriotic or worse, guilty of some sort of treason? I was raised to question, to voice my opinion, to push back against injustice, to challenge the status quo, and that includes my views about Israel. But make no mistake, I am a Zionist, I am fully committed to its existence as the only Democratic country in the Middle East. And that democracy demands that I speak up and speak out. I do not pretend to understand what it is like to live with constant threat, rockets and bombs. And there is certainly plenty of misery to go around on both sides.

And now I turn to the antisemitism infecting my own city. The pain I felt when I saw a local shopkeeper peddling the yellow star of David, emblazoned with, “not vaccinated,” to an often uninformed public, was immediate and deep. My stomach turned over as I read with horror the words in the social media comments. My community’s response was fast and direct, spreading to the greater Nashville area and reaching the pages and airways of national news outlets. Most of the woman’s vendors have stopped their supply of merchandise to her store and have made their outrage known. It has been both gratifying and comforting to know there are many people who were also reviled by the post. But the pain lingers like a handprint slapped on my heart. Sadness weighs on me and the creeping fear that history may repeat itself keeps me awake.

I pray my family’s suffering at the hands of those who sought to destroy us was not in vain. Never again.

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 . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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The Story of Easter, And the Girl Who Loved Her

I love horses.  No, I mean, I REALLY, REALLY LOVE horses.  So, when I came upon the Canadian television series, Heartland, which actually began in 2007, I was instantly hooked.  I found it on Netflix, and, at this writing, I just finished the 6th of the total 13 seasons.  Tears here.

Based on Lauren Brooke’s +/- 26-novel series begun in 2000 (20 series and 5 extra special editions, according to equipepper.com), the story of Amy Fleming and an assortment of characters, especially family members, is based in Virginia, where she, her family, and friends, heal and help abused, mistreated, or “difficult” horses.  At Heartland, “They attempt to help the abused horses by using psychologically based therapies instead of more traditional training methods.”  Perhaps you’ve seen or read the series, as I’m a bit late in catching on.

I allow myself to watch one or two episodes in a sitting.  Sometime I can’t help getting carried away and watching more because the focus on the horses brings me close to my dear, sweet pony (just barely big enough to be a horse), Easter.

Our meeting and ensuing relationship was quite magical, so much like some of those in the series.  If you’ve never had the extraordinary experience of mutual love with a horse, let me assure you, there is no experience in the world like it.  You see, meeting my Easter came from a situation much like many of the equine characters in the series.  She was quite misunderstood and so was shuffled from rider to rider, getting them off her back in one way or another, until she was just locked away in a stall and ignored.  One day, we met.  We connected.  I asked about her and was told “the story.”  It was about to change.

It was at a summer camp in the mountains of Georgia where I had been a camper for a couple of years and then became a counselor.  We were able to spend the rest of the summer together on trail rides.  Of course, no one could believe I was riding Easter, as her reputation was far from stellar.  But there we were, a team.  Unfortunately, summers come to an end.  I had to leave my beloved pony and return home.  It was off to college and over two years before Easter was back in my life.  One birthday morning, after a pretty wild night of partying with friends, I woke to a commotion outside the mobile home on the little farm my partner and I lived on.  I staggered, literally, to the back door and a startled pony with a wide-eyed, shocked look on her face, which I know mirrored mine, was standing in front of me.  No lie.  Neither of us was believing it, but there we were.  My partner had convinced the unfeeling woman who owned the camp, and refused to sell her to me two years earlier, to sell her, and had her shipped down for my birthday.  Talk about magical.  I won’t talk about the end.  Just know we were together for many, many good years.

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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Sourdough, Gardening, Life

One of my early loaves made for Valentine’s Day

This year we are planning a landscaping project and deck remodel, so I have decided not to plant my spring/summer garden. I really wrestled with what to do because I just love getting out into the dirt, tending to the vegetables and watching them grow. I also love preparing and eating the fresh zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other assorted crops throughout the Summer and into the Fall. I’m still considering a small container garden.

I have decided to continue my Winter project: sourdough baking. During the cold, dark months my son and I began cultivating a couple of starters. If you’ve been following me on Instagram @barbdab58 you’ve seen some of my efforts. It has been a lot of fun watching this little science experiment literally come alive in front of our eyes! Mix water and flour, let it sit on the counter and lo and behold, it bubbles, ferments and develops a pungent, delicious fragrance! Then we combine it with more flour, water and salt and it bakes into a bubbly, poofy, crusty loaf.

Over the last few months, we’ve experimented with different types of flour starters. We have one made from regular all-purpose flour and one from whole wheat flour. Each has its own unique fragrance, taste and personality. In fact, tradition dictates that we might name our starters and so we have introduced Rob and Laura Petrie, named after the main characters on my favorite TV show, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Rob is the lively, bubbly all-purpose starter and Laura is the more exotic, complicated, delicate whole wheat. We’ve also tried a few different flavors in our bread. We’ve used oats and maple syrup, garlic, onions and one that substitutes beer for the water. We’ve had successes and failures. This past weekend, we had a huge success with our original, classic sourdough. Previously we failed with an oatmeal loaf that was too wet, a whole wheat/regular blend that did not rise enough and a garlic loaf that was too garlicky. Early on, we had some failed starters, as well.

In sourdough, as in life, success depends on planning, patience, experience and that extra something intangible. Maybe it’s luck. But I also think it’s the love and attention paid and the focus and will to succeed. Last week I made my oatmeal/maple syrup loaf by myself. My son was busy and unable to participate. The loaf was tasty, with nice crumb and a toasty crust. But it was somewhat lackluster and rather flat. So this week I decided to go back to the basics, together with my son, and make the classic version. We took the starter out of the fridge, fed it, waited for the perfect timing when it was active and bubbly, and then began our process of mixing the dough, letting it rest, stretching and folding before letting it ferment overnight. In the morning, the dough was fluffy and shiny, with little bubbles just beneath the surface, and it smelled fantastic! After shaping and proofing, my son worked his magic scoring the loaf and into the oven it went. The result was a nearly perfect, golden loaf with a slightly charred crust and inside it was moist and tangy. As we reflected on how this loaf was different, better, my son declared that it was because we made it together, with love, as we’d planned, each contributing to the end result in our own way.

Last year’s garden

My sourdough journey has mirrored my gardening process, too. Nurturing something from the beginning stages, developing patience through trial and error and adding in lots and lots of love. This year has presented all of us with unforeseen challenges and the need to pivot and adapt to an ever changing set of circumstances. We’ve had to take the long view as we navigate our way out of this pandemic. There have been failures and successes and as we begin to emerge from our isolation, it is clear life is different, most likely permanently changed. But hopefully what appears is beautiful, the result of hard work, planning, patience and love. A beautiful juicy red tomato, a fragrant crusty sourdough, a meaningful vibrant life.

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 . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!!

Indeed, it has!  And, thanks to the weather and the way I have been scheduled at work, I’ve had lots of time to work my “gardens.”  In fact, I’ve been so immersed, yesterday’s scheduled HerSavvy post slid right on by me. 

So…

My hummingbird feeders have been out since early this month and, while I haven’t seen any of my hummers yet, the sweet liquid goes down steadily, so they must be sneaking about when I’m not home.  I do believe I was “buzzed” by one this past weekend. I’m anxious to see my little friends again. 

I just LOVE tomatoes and it is very special to me to be able to share them around with my neighbors.  I have a “pot” garden on my patio for the smaller varieties and several of a full-sized variety planted in front of my condo.  The Super Sweet 100 is a cherry variety that does well in a large pot with a tomato stake to support it.  I’m trying out a new variety as well.  Its name is Chocolate Sprinkles.  Gotta love that!  I bought them as starts, so I’ll pinch their tops once they get a bit taller.  Doing this will help them fill out and not get spindly.  The four starts in the front, Bonnie Originals, are in the ground.  They’re of the large slicing type, so, while they are staked too, I like to let them “crawl’ once they’re really going.  At this point, everyone is doing great and looking fabulous.  I planted in a mixture of top soil and compost with manure.  Been quite a while since I’ve had the time and been able, physically, to dig in the dirt.  I’m excited.

I’m about to expand this year with a small bed off the patio for some Bush variety Blue Lake beans and Early Golden Acre cabbage.  We’ll see how THAT goes…

The front garden has some herbs and flower bulbs amidst the shrubs that were there when I moved in.  There are some very vibrant Comfrey plants I transplanted when I moved here, some yarrow, and some flower bulbs I got from my dear friend and fellow gardener, Kate Stephenson.  I can’t remember what they are (I got them from her early last fall and I’ve slept a bunch since then.) and I expect they won’t bloom until next year, but they’re doing great.

This is all probably a lot more than you want to know, but maybe you found a couple of nuggets in my ramblings.  Maybe you’re already a gardener, certainly more of one than I am, or maybe this is some inspiration for you.  Either way, dig it!

*Edit today:

Chocolate Sprinkles are early bloomers… REALLY early!!! 🙂

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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The Return of the Hug

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until, after a full year, I was able to give one to someone other than my immediate family members. It began in the entry to my house after a couple of friends came to celebrate the first night of Passover with us. They walked in, we all made eye contact, then grabbed each other one by one in a lovely, warm, full body hug. Happy tears were shed as we stood for just a few minutes longer, smiling, looking into each other’s maskless faces, savoring the simplest of human experiences. At the end of the evening, I was exhausted by the sheer intensity of emotion and the close proximity of our friends.

Last year’s Passover holiday came on the heels of the local safer-at-home order. Plans were scrapped, we learned about Zoom and the tears that fell were tears of grief, fear and horror at what was then unfolding. Our little local family sat around the table and at one end sat my computer, with my son 2,000 miles away on the screen. I kept reminding everyone it was just one year, and we needed to endure so we could all be together again soon. 

The pandemic evokes many biblical images and analogies. During the Passover seder meal, we are tasked with retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom, and the beginning of the Israelites’ wandering in the desert. This past year has felt as if all of humanity has relived a truncated version of the story. We began with a plague. Mysterious, frightening and deadly. The promise of a vaccine brought a feeling of hope that we might leave the oppression of the disease behind us. For months we suffered the plague while researchers and scientists did the difficult work and regular people took a personal risk by participating in clinical trials. After many months, receiving the vaccine itself felt like an exodus. The weight of fear and anxiety slipped away. We wandered through the desert of disease around us, and emerged, blinking into the sun, taking tentative steps toward a new life. The hug that just weeks ago might prove deadly, now feeling like freedom itself.

Sunday evening marked the end of this year’s holiday. My kitchen has returned to its normal, everyday condition, leftovers fill the fridge and outside my garden is blooming. There is reason to celebrate. But just as in the annual telling of the exodus, let us remember the year without a hug and in the midst of the loss and our grief, savor what has returned and what will (hopefully) remain.

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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AUDREY!

I watched “Audrey,” on Netflix last night and was so impressed and inspired, I decided to skip my original topic and share this one with you all.  Perhaps you’ve seen it, a biography of Audrey Hepburn.  Perhaps you already know her story.  I’ve always loved her and her characters.  Who doesn’t?  I just never knew HER story; Where she came from and how she became the powerful force she was; dancer, actor, philanthropist, and that she really became an actress by accident.   

Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born on Мау 4, 1929 in Ixelles, Belgium. She adорtеd thе pseudonym Edda van Heemstra іn 1940 tо evade capture bу thе Germans because аn “English sounding” nаmе wаs considered dangerous durіng thе German occupation. 

During World War II, when she was just a little girl, the Nazi’s over took Audrey’s town in Holland and thousands died, including some of Audrey’s relatives. Food was very scarce, and, in fact, just to survive, Audrey and her family would grind tulip bulbs to eat and attempt to bake grass into bread. This led to her being extremely malnourished and left her with complications later in her life; Undernourishment, acute anemia, and respiratory problems during the war, contributed to her lifelong waif-like figure.

Audrey wanted to be a prima ballerina. She began training at the early age of 5 for many years to fulfill this desire. Unfortunately, at 5 feet 7 inches, she was too tall, and after being so malnourished when her town was occupied during the war, she often fell ill and could not continue training. She is quoted saying, “…there is probably nothing in the world as determined as a child with a dream and I wanted to dance more than I feared the Germans.” 

Audrey worked for the Dutch Resistance and would carry secret messages in her ballet slippers. Anyone suspected of being a part of the resistance, was rounded up and killed. Once, she was suspect and rounded up by truck. She barely escaped when the Nazis pulled over to the side of the road and she crawled under the truck and out the other side.  As an agent for the Dutch Resistance, she performed in a series of secret ballets to help raise money for the rebels – after the shows, no one would applaud so as not to alert the German Soldiers. These performances would be called “black performances” to raise money for the rebels and their underground war against Hitler. 

At 16, Audrey was a volunteer nurse in a Dutch hospital. During the battle of Arnhem, Hepburn’s hospital received many wounded Allied soldiers. One of the wounded soldiers Audrey helped nurse back to health was a young British paratrooper. Little did she know, the young man would be a future director named Terence Young and within 20 years would later direct her in Wait Until Dark.

Having suffered several miscarriages during her various marriages, but always wanting a family, Audrey was blessed with two sons.  She took a hiatus from her career to spend time with them and was away from acting for many years.  Her childhood traumas and malnourishment, not to mention her three-pack-a-day smoking habit, contributed to her death at just 64 years old in 1993.

From “Our Fair Lady” at People.com,

OUR MOST RECENT IMAGES OF HER CAME OUT OF AFRICA where, as a shirtsleeved ambassador for UNICEF, she walked in a ravaged Somalia, giving solace with that radiant smile—and focusing the world’s attention on a starving land. Last September she asked to be taken to the famine’s epicenter, a feeding camp in the town of Baidoa. As she arrived, she saw hundreds of small lifeless bodies being loaded onto trucks. The worst of it, she would later say, eyes welling with tears, was “the terrible silence.”

Audrey donated аll thе salaries shе earned fоr hеr final movies tо UNICEF. She hаd contributed tо UNICEF sіnсе 1954 and wаs appointed Goodwill Ambassador оf UNICEF іn 1988. UNICEF was the foundation that actually helped thousands like Audrey during WWII and she is quoted saying, “I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II.  I have a long-lasting gratitude and trust for what UNICEF does.”

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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About Jan Schim

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The Other Side of the Couch – Unexpected Gifts

By Susan E. Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP



March 18, 2020 – almost a year ago – was the last time I saw clients in my office. We were all in the early days of the pandemic – uncertain, rattled, no idea of what to expect or what was to come. The news became more and more dire with each day. The country shut down. I remember driving through deserted streets – my husband and I drove one day into downtown Nashville, all the way down Broadway, just to see it. Empty. No people. No church. No Symphony. No plays. Worst of all, no contact with my daughter and my granddaughter as we all tried to make sense of what was dangerous and what we could risk.

It all seems like a blur to me now. I have heard the days of the week during COVID called Blursdays – because there is no sense of time, no markers that indicate the familiar rhythms of life. We humans live lives based on expectations and routine. Our bodies require food at regular intervals; we require sleep at certain times. We unconsciously count on these routines and structures. While we certainly continued to eat and sleep, the pandemic stripped away our sense of expectation. Suddenly we could count on nothing. Going to the grocery became an exercise in avoiding mortal peril. Hugging a grandchild could result in becoming infected with a mortal disease. We could enter a hospital and never come out, dying alone with no loved ones near us. Or worse – we could infect the ones we love and watch them die while blaming ourselves.

Today – almost one year later – we are entering an era that MAY BE hopeful. The amazing speed with which effective vaccines have been developed and made available is changing the risk analysis each person has had to make each day. More and more people that I know personally are getting the vaccine, and with each shot in the arm hope increases that we will be able to regain those moments of just being with each other without fear.

At the same time, this year has also brought me face to face with the reality that time does not wait for anyone. Three beloved family members are facing cancer. My beloved feline companion of 18 years left us after a hard-fought battle with kidney failure. My clients continue to struggle with all the things that bring people to therapy – because COVID is not the only thing that is going on in their lives.

How to make sense of all this? I have found two things that make a difference.

The first is gratitude. The second is structure.

This year I have returned to playing the piano because I am home to do it. I am no longer “too busy” to take the time to practice. I have continued to do the work I love online, but I am choosing to work fewer hours and to spend more time with my family and with myself. I have become an amateur bird watcher. My far-flung family has become much more connected through the magic of Zoom. I am cooking much more regularly rather than going out for meals. These are small things – none of them is monumental or earth-shattering – yet taken together, they have made a difference in my life for good.

We know that the practice of gratitude creates better mental health. Structure helps those Blursdays become manageable and even enjoyable. Having a routine and expectations of the self help contain anxiety and mitigate depression. As the days of the pandemic begin to wind down, I hope to take with me these unexpected gifts.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

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

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The Leader of the Pack

How does our birth order influence our lives, our relationships, our personality, our parenting, our future?  I am the first born child, with two younger siblings.  My mother was an only child, and my father was the youngest of five.  I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking about birth order mainly because my parents made a point of impressing upon me the responsibility to take care of my sister and brother.  “Friends will come and go,” my mom would tell me, “but your siblings are forever.”  “Make sure you take your sister with you.”  “Hold your brother’s hand when you cross the street.”  “Always look out for your sister and brother.”  You get the picture. 

I have no recollection of the 18 months of my life before my sister was born, but I’m told my parents had a pretty good time with me.  So good, in fact, that they couldn’t wait to have another baby.  That was always their story and they stuck to it.  The new baby girl arrived, followed two years later by, “the boy.”  I do remember my parents bringing him home from the hospital all swaddled up.  “Watch the soft spot,” was the refrain for months as I awkwardly tried to sit with him on my tiny lap. 

I guess you could say I am a classic big sister.  Caregiving, bossy, driven, organized, high achieving.  I organized parades where I would sit in my brother’s red wagon, draped in a boa, tiara on my head, my brother gamely pulling me as I waved to the neighborhood.  I choreographed ballets for my sister and I to entertain our parents, clad in my mom’s old nightgowns.  And when my brother would get sick, I was obsessed with taking his temperature, bringing him toast and reading to him in bed. 

As the oldest, my developmental milestones and achievements were always the first for my parents.  And attention-loving drama queen that I am, I generally liked it.  I loved feeling grown up and couldn’t wait to, “get there.”  By the time I was 17, I’d graduated from high school, left for college and rarely looked back.  My summers were spent involved in theater companies, part time jobs, hanging at the beach with friends.  I got married right after college and never lived with my family again.  I guess you could say my early years were pretty standard for an L.A. girl growing up in the 1970s. 

This all sounds charming, right?  But underneath all that grooviness lurks a dark secret.  You see, I did enjoy being the oldest for all of the above reasons.  But I also hated it.  I hated the burden dumped on a little girl to always look out for the younger ones.  I hated not having any cover for my mistakes, so I just worked to avoid them.  I hated the assumption that my hard fought victories were preordained because I was the golden one.  I hated there not being much room for me, so growing up fast and leaving was the best option.  Most of all I hated not being allowed to rebel and act out like a normal kid.  “You’re older, you should know better.”  It’s all so exhausting. 

One time I asked my mom if my dad was happy his first born was a girl rather than a boy.  Her answer, “He was thrilled!  Big sisters are better at keeping the family together,” meant to be reassuring sounded to me like another assignment.  I spent years studying my mother’s techniques for entertaining and preparing holiday dinners.  I listened in on her conversations with my dad’s three older sisters for clues on how, exactly, I was supposed to keep us all together.  And when I became a mom to three children, I vowed not to put the same burden on my first born, also a girl.  Karma, right?

So here we are, all three of us in late middle age, our parents alive only in our memories.  I guess you could say I have lived up to my birthright.  I continue to try and keep the family together, to look out for my sister and brother.  We have aged, live in different parts of the country and each of us has been knocked around by life.  For one of us, life in general is a battle and the other two of us do our best to keep moving forward.  A very good therapist once told me it was time to fire myself from the job of being the Big Sister.  It’s hard to break the old patterns and often when I try, one of the two resists my effort to change, but I continue to work on that.  And while I now have a loving husband, amazing grown children and a circle of close friends, sometimes that little girl inside me just wants someone to take care of her. 

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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So, What’s The Deal?

Gas is going up, up, and up, so what’s the deal???

From the Associated Press’ Darcie Loreno:

The price at the pump has climbed 46 cents since Nov. 20. The highest average price in the nation is $3.57 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area. The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline jumped 14 cents a gallon over the past two weeks to $2.64.

According to AAA, the country is seeing some of the most expensive prices in over a year. AAA says with the forced shutdown of the Gulf Coast and some Mid-West refineries due to last week’s winter weather, gas stocks and prices have skyrocketed…66 percent of state averages spiked by double digits.

“When close to 40% of U.S. crude production is offline because refineries are closed, there is going to be pain at the pump until operations resume,’ Jeanette Casselano McGee, AAA spokesperson, said in a release. “The good news is the nearly two dozen impacted refiners are expected to restart operations this week, if they haven’t already. That means regular gasoline deliveries will resume and impacted stations will be re-fueled.”

But some suggest the quick and extreme rise in fuel prices is because President Biden put the brakes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. I followed that line of reasoning and it led me to an article from Jacksonville, Florida’s First Coast News:

Experts said the move did little to harm the number of permanent jobs coming from the pipeline.

Tom Tunstall, research director for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development, has conducted extensive research on oil and gas in his nearly 10 years with the university. He said while prices at the gas pump are climbing, it’s independent of Biden’s decision.

“If oil prices go to $4 a gallon, it will be for other reasons than the fact that the keystone isn’t under construction,” Tunstall explained. 

He said the reason is due to other nations curtailing their own production, along with other market forces causing U.S. producers to cut back on the country’s own production of oil.

As far as jobs go, Tunstall said the move did little to harm permanent jobs.

“It’s important to note that the jobs associated with pipeline construction are exactly that—they’re construction jobs,” he said. “And so, by definition, they’re temporary. Once the construction is complete, then the jobs basically go away … There may be several thousand jobs associated with the construction, (but) I think it may only take 35 people to operate the pipeline once it’s done.”

So what exactly is causing the spike in fuel prices at the pump? Experts say it boils down to two things: winter weather, and supply and demand.

According to GasBuddy, the price of gas has already been impacted as millions of barrels of refining capacity have gone offline due to the extreme cold in the South.

First Coast News (Video)

So, it seems it’s all about that “supply and demand” thing again. Folks are beginning to get out and about in spite of the pandemic because they’re going a little stir crazy, and because the vaccine’s instilling some confidence. Between these factors and the extreme weather that shut down oil production out west for a bit, the demand is higher and production is slightly off. What do the oil companies do? Raise their prices, of course. Capitalize. It seems it’s, as always, about money and maximum profit for the oil companies rather than looking out for us Americans, many, MANY of whom are struggling just to survive.

I fear it is also ‘fueled’ by the new president’s push for electric vehicles and the many new electric vehicle options available and coming available. Big Oil wants to get it’s licks in and profits up while they can. I’m sorry, but this mentality really and radically gets under my skin.

My next car WILL be electric!!!

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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The Other Side of the Couch – Lessons from a Pandemic

The landscape outside my window is bound by the rectangles of the windowpanes on either side and the windowsill below and blinds above.  Just below the sill are holly bushes, still with bright red berries, a little further on is a brick border, then a grassy verge, then a sidewalk that passes in front of an old oak tree.  A large shrub whose name I do not know creates a boundary on the other side.  Farther away steps lead to another level of the condominiums.

Centered in the midst of this view is an iron post with an arm that swings out over the grass; hanging from that arm is a cylindrical bird feeder with four perches.  This object is fought over, jumped on, blown about, surrounded by so many birds – and by the occasional squirrel.

Today, a gray and frosty day, the feeder is surrounded by many house finches, red-headed and breasted or dove-colored depending on their sex.  A Carolina wren approaches, yellow breasted, then a black-capped chickadee.  Suddenly a flash of blue – an Eastern bluebird appears momentarily, then leaves, disappointed with the seeds available.  A mockingbird approaches – too large for this feeder.  I watch a squirrel make a determined assault on the feeder, climbing the pole, reaching out onto the swinging arm, then actually grasping the cylinder with all four feet – but this feeder closes with the weight of this determined rodent – no luck.  He retreats to the scattered seeds and shells beneath the feeder.

As all this unfolds outside, my Maine Coon cat sits inside the window, watching every move of every creature on the outside, tail switching and ears perked.  This is her daily entertainment – a bench is placed at the window level so she can enjoy the vista, even though she cannot reach the creatures she would like to hunt.  Sometimes a squirrel decides to climb onto the outside ledge – to his dismay as the cat strikes, the squirrel jumps, and is suddenly displaced from what appeared safe.

I too spend lots of time at this window.  My own life is also bounded by the rectangle of this window and the computer that sits to the right of it.  The computer allows me the opportunity to connect with family and with friends; it also allows me to continue my life’s work of serving those who are struggling with varieties of life crises and emotional distress.  COVID-19 has led to the compression of life into a computer screen in so many ways.

What is amazing to me is the persistence of life in the face of these limitations.  The birds keep on searching for food, the squirrels keep on trying for more, the cat keeps on doing what cats do, and so do we humans.  In the face of this life-changing year, we keep on.  We continue to live, in spite of the limitations.  For me the year of COVID-19 has been a distillation, a clearing, an intensification of all that matters most.  With so much gone, I have had time to learn what matters.  Not surprisingly, it turns out to be connection with family and friends.  While I miss the busy life of pre-COVID, full of many subscription series, I believe I will not return to that busy life.  COVID has taught me once again that it is necessary to choose between good and good.  I hope that as the year goes on and more safety returns I will remember that important lesson.

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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