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Hanukah: Lights in the Darkness

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Hanukah begins in a week and this time of year I am always asked the same questions. “Do you also celebrate Christmas?” “Hanukah is the Jewish Christmas, right?” “So what is Hanukah about anyway?” “Do you also have a Christmas tree?” The list goes on. For the most part I’m always happy to share my traditions and practices and to educate folks about my tradition. So for the record, we do not celebrate Christmas, we don’t have a tree and Hanukah is not “Jewish” Christmas. In fact, Hanukah is a relatively minor festival that has little theological, religious significance. Hanukah celebrates both a military and a political victory.

The story takes place during the first century after the second Temple in Jerusalem was seized by the Greeks and desecrated, following which Judaism was outlawed. A small but mighty band of Jews, led by Judah HaMacabee (Judah the Hammer), liberated the Temple and cleansed it for rededication. In order to light the holy Menorah (candelabra) in the Temple, pure olive oil was required. The story goes that there was only enough oil found to last for one day, but it burned for eight while a new supply of fresh oil was prepared. And today, we commemorate what is considered a miracle by lighting our own menorahs one candle at a time for eight nights, each night adding a candle until the final, glorious night when the menorah is fully illuminated.

Because Hanukah is not a biblical holiday, the traditions and observances around it are varied. In Israel, the menorah is lit each night, foods fried in oil are eaten (think potato latkes and jelly donutes) and the traditional gift of money, or gelt in Yiddush, is exchanged. In America, families often add the giving of more secular gifts as the timing coincides of that higher profile, flashier holiday that happens to fall around the same time. You get what I’m talking about. And when my kids were young, we followed that practice. After all, we wanted them to enjoy being Jewish, to fit in with the greater culture and frankly, it was fun. As they grew older, we focused our Hanukah observance on socializing with friends, singing songs, and the gift giving has taken a back seat. To be honest, many American Jewish parents struggle with the annual “Hanukah dilemma.” How to help our kids appreciate and embrace their Jewish identity and not feel left out of the juggernaut that is Christmas. It isn’t easy.

For me the symbolism and imagery around Hanukah is rich and meaningful. I picture Judah and his warrior Macabees finding the Temple in ruins, remnants of their faith strewn about, in tatters. I can imagine the feeling of triumph and elation of victory as they reclaim what is theirs. I see them in the dimming light of the menorah frantically praying the oil lasts long enough for them to complete their work of cleansing and rededicating the Temple. And finally, the miracle occurs as the oil keeps on burning and the Macabees rejoice.

But there’s more. Hanukah usually occurs in December, the darkest of months. And yet, it is also called “The Festival of Lights.” We Jews have faced some very dark times in our history; destructions of our holy ancient Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms in Eastern Europe, the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust. These days increasing anti-Semitism both here in the U.S. and around the world have a lot of us feeling uneasy, wondering if another Holocaust could, in fact, happen. And of course, our people aren’t the only ones targeted by hate and bigotry. But during this darkest, coldest time of year we have only to remember the victory of the Macabees, and their small band of freedom fighters who kept the oil burning, for examples of bravery, perseverance and the will to survive. And there is nothing like the anticipation of watching the lights of the menorah grow, one night at a time, until that eighth beautiful night when all are lit. I think the most moving of all Hanukah traditions is the one that encourages us to display our menorahs in our front windows. It is as if the lights themselves burn defiantly and victoriously against all the generations of oppression and destruction to show the world that, even after the darkest of times, we are still here.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Looking for Some Good News Today

 

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I’d been looking for some good news.  It seems like all the “news” we get is bad news.  I’ve even resorted to avoiding watching or listening to any news broadcasts.  I figure, if something is important enough, I’ll hear about it.  It’s true; we do get to see people helping each other during a weather crisis.  The reporters hail people who are out in their boats after a flood, or helping to rescue someone during a storm.  Why don’t we see and hear more, more “everyday” stories of heroism, of caring individuals, or groups of individuals?  Isn’t that news?  Not a question that hasn’t been asked before, I know.

Well, I happened across part of a story on NPR one morning about a family being swept away by a rip tide in Florida, so I “Googled” the story for more details.

The family was swimming at Panama City Beach. The lifeguards were off-duty when two young boys “disappeared” from their mother’s sight.  She heard them yelling for help so she swam out to help them with her nephew, mother and husband.  They were dragged out to sea, too.  A total of nine people were all caught in a rip current, a specific kind of water current that can occur near beaches with breaking waves and simply carries floating objects, including people, out beyond the zone of the breaking waves.

Then the miracle began:  People on the beach, total strangers, began forming a human chain.  Apparently, it started with a few swimmers and grew into a major effort of about 80 people as more and more beachgoers ran into the water to help.  Jessica and Derek Simmons were there and were able to swim to the end of the human “rope” to drag the helpless group to safety, according to a Today Show report.

“To see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers is absolutely amazing to see!!” Simmons wrote on Facebook. “People who didn’t even know each other went HAND IN HAND IN A LINE, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just IMAGINE that.”

Gotta love happy endings…

My search for the details of this event led me to more and more stories of heroism and kindness, stories of inspiration, more and more good news.  There’s even a website called “The Good News Network” (goodnewsnetwork.org.)  Why aren’t there more of these kinds of stories being reported on the networks?  Why do the “News Feeds” on my phone always have several reports of human MIS-conduct instead of reports of human KIND-conduct?  I suppose that is what draws people in, or so they think.  I’d like to think they’d be surprised at how their ratings would soar by sharing inspiring stories like this one.  For now, I guess I’ll still have to go looking for “good news,” but at least I know it’s out there. Yeah, it’s definitely out there.

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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Starting a Business: The First Year

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As many of you know, this past year I became the co-founder of a new Pilates studio business. It’s been a tremendous learning experience, as I’ve navigated a partnership, construction challenges in our space, working with instructors, clientele, etc. And now, another change is afoot. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Perhaps the most significant part of this process has been sharing this all with a partner who is also a good friend. Many people warned me of the pitfalls of working with a friend, but we plunged in nonetheless. We began with many frank, honest conversations about our goals, fears, strengths and weaknesses. After spending countless hours, gallons of coffee and some legal advice, we hammered out a written partnership agreement. As our lawyer said, hope for the best, but plan for the worst- case scenario. Oh, those lawyers! To date, I’d say our partnership is strong. We listen to each other. We support each other even when we disagree. We consult each other before making large decisions. We continue to share a common vision for our business. For me, the hardest thing has been separating our friendship from our partnership, and knowing when to change hats. My partner is someone I value and treasure and it’s been challenging to introduce the high stakes of owning a business. But, I have confidence that we have a solid foundation and will continue to grow as a team and that I will continue to grow as a business-person.

During the course of this first year, we have faced significant challenges with our physical space. Our historic building is being renovated and our ground floor location has been in the midst of a construction zone. We’ve had to create workarounds for heating and air conditioning, the bathroom is in rough shape and there has been constant noise, dust and other inconveniences. But through it all, we’ve managed to grow, albeit slowly, and we’ve worked hard to maintain our positive outlook and maintain our studio to our high standards. Our clientele has been supportive and appreciative, too.

But finally, and here’s the big news, a space has become available that is everything we have wanted from the beginning. In fact, it is a space that we’d eyed during our first visit to the building, but it was occupied. We have now snagged it for ourselves and at the end of the month, we’ll be movin’ on up! The rent is a bit higher, but within our budget, and we believe this new space will help us grow our business. It is in a completed section of the building and one with significantly more foot traffic. We will be in the midst of a more vibrant, creative tenant group and we are excited! I am also anxious about the increased expense, nervous about making the move work without interrupting business, the list goes on and on. But just as we took the leap last year to start this venture, I’m optimistic this will be just the thing to help us get to our next step.

So what’s the big takeaway here? I’d say to anyone thinking of starting her own small business, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Take your time, write a solid business plan, get your financing in order, and most important, have your support team in place. We could not have made things work without the support of our families and friends. We also have a network of trusted advisors we consult regularly. My partner and I believe in community and in being a part of something bigger than ourselves. And that applies in business and in friendship.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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No Nukes!!!

 

On May 6, 1979, 125,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. to protest the proliferation of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.  I was there.

In the mid-seventies, my partner and I were totally ignorant of the eminent dangers of nuclear power and the unthinkable threat of the devastation of nuclear war.  Living near Gainesville, FL at the time, we were enlightened by a friend of ours when we told him of our plans to buy a farm outside Jamestown, TN.  He asked us why we wanted to live just over the hill from the largest nuclear weapons plant in the world.  We were dumbfounded.  Then he showed us a map depicting all of the nuclear power plants, weapons facilities and dump sites in our country at that time.  We immediately began educating ourselves.  And then we got busy.

We joined The Catfish Alliance, an anti-nuclear activist group in Gainesville.  We rallied supporters.  We spoke on the U of F campus.  We gathered signatures on petitions.  We worked to secure information via the Freedom of Information Act.  Then, on March 28, 1979, there was an accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

“They came from Harrisburg, thirty-three buses full. From Vermont and Alabama.  From Illinois and Florida. From Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. From New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Connecticut. From Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In all, they came from more than thirty states, and they filled Pennsylvania Avenue May 6 to demand an end to nuclear power.

“The unexpectedly large turnout, making it by far the biggest antinuclear protest ever in this country and one of the largest in the world, sharply indicated the spread of opposition to nuclear power since the Three Mile Island disaster.

“Among the last to arrive were 160 people from Gainesville, Florida, who had ridden in buses for nineteen hours.”

That was us.  Our flagship bus was a converted school bus emblazoned with Catfish Alliance and anti-nuclear symbols and we were piled in, filled with the hope and enthusiasm that we were going to make a difference.

My partner and I didn’t move to Tennessee then, but West Virginia instead. There were no reactors and people there had voted down attempts to locate a nuclear waste dump site in their state. We figured that was a good sign.   Active again, we rallied in Charleston, wrote articles for local newspapers and spoke to folks everywhere.

Subsequent reports indicate that things did slow down, but here we are; the year 2017 and we are witnessing/experiencing the devastating effects of nuclear disaster in Japan (Most people are hardly aware of the Chernobyl meltdown, described as “one of the most significant man-made disasters in history,” or other “accidents” here in the U.S.) and looking down the barrel of a real threat of nuclear war. One from which there will be no winners.

Well, I guess I got complacent, or just lazy, doing life.  I haven’t marched in a long, long time.  But I certainly haven’t stopped “speaking.”  I am comfortable on my soap box, ever hopeful that it’s not too late and that I can make that difference.

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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Not Another Shooting…

Abstract model of world on whiteI had planned, for this month’s post, to do an update on where my business is as we head into the final quarter of the year. But after last night’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, I feel the need to share some of my own personal thoughts and perhaps offer this blog as a safe place for you to do the same.

I learned about the shooting very early in the morning when I got up to use the bathroom. As usual, I checked my phone for the time and saw the updates that had poured in. In my groggy state I thought I was perhaps dreaming but as I scrolled through the news, the reality of what happened set in and I felt sick. I kept imagining the horror for those people attending the concert, and couldn’t help thinking, “What if one of my kids had been there?” It turned out, a young cousin of mine, and her husband, were at the concert and thankfully are okay. But the randomness of it, the sense of powerlessness is something I cannot shake.

These days the world seems both small and big at the same time. Small in that it’s easy to be connected to distant family and friends; big in it’s diversity, population, vertical density and complexity. News travels fast and the cycle is relentless, never- ending. We barely can catch our breath from one breaking event to another.

At times, this rock we’re on feels like it’s spinning out of control and that nowhere is safe. I worry for my children, who’s lives are just beginning and who long to explore the world. I’ve always taught them that they are not alone, that the world is an exciting, wondrous place, worthy of their time and resources. Our Jewish tradition teaches that we must do our best to repair the brokenness in the world and to bring light into the dark places. We try to live those values but, I confess, sometimes I wish I could gather my kids back home where I can stand watch over them. Silly, not silly.

The holiday of Yom Kippur is just two days past and already some innocent people’s fates have been sealed. We just finished asking for forgiveness for our mistakes, praying for another sweet year of life, good health, good fortune. But for those victims of last night’s attack, there is no going back. Leonard Cohen famously wrote, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” For the sake of the victims, we all must keep moving on, working to repair the world and being a light in the darkness.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Done Dreaming

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

By Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, c. 1994

I write today in honor of and in solidarity with the 800,000 Dreamers whose dreams have this day been shattered by the decision of President Trump to discontinue the Obama-era program that protected them from deportation.

I am not interested in the legalities of this situation.  I am interested in the humanity.  These are human beings, brought to this country as children – children who had no ability to object or to decide their own fates.  They know no other country.  Most were too young to remember another place or way of life.  They are in school, studying, becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers – and now our government, the government of the United States of America, is telling them that they are unwelcome.

My heart is breaking for these young people.  This action is wrong.  Whether the program expires in 6 months (which will happen unless Congress, which to date has been unable to act in a bipartisan manner for years, is able to act) or is extended or completely dropped, these young people are irreparably harmed.

They are harmed by knowing that some people in this country see them as aliens, as outsiders, even as enemies.  They are harmed by living constantly with fear and stress.  They are harmed most of all by broken trust.  Will they ever trust again?

And – It is not their fault.

I am writing my senators and congressman today about this situation.  I hope that you will, too.  It is about justice, fairness – but most of all it is about being a caring human being.

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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Eclipsed

Last week’s eclipse, experienced by millions in the swathe of totality across the United States, was a unifying moment in time.  I’m still savoring that feeling of looking up at something so miraculous, set against a temporary daytime dark sky, marveling at the spectacle with friends and strangers. Science tells us when and how to expect these special events of nature every year, and way into the future.  I loved the feeling that, as human beings, no matter what our stations in life, we were all equals, viewing something beyond our control, outside of ourselves, yet something that impacted us in a similar way.  I viewed the eclipse with a group of about eighty.  It seemed to touch us on a deeply personal level. I am grateful for something that brought us together as feeling-good-together human beings at a time when our country was deeply divided.

Space and atmosphere are dependable, and yet unpredictable. Scientists can tell us with accuracy when, and where, and to what degree, eclipses will happen all over the Earth. There are those persons who are drawn so much to these consistently true marvels that they focus their travels to seeing the total eclipses around the globe.

Weather, somewhat predictable, yet uncontrollable, has a keen fascination for me.  I like the surprise of a storm. Of course, I don’t like it at its harshest. This week’s event brings another unifying moment for Americans: concern and care for our Texas neighbors experiencing the hurricane, Harvey. This is a historic flood, even worse than what we Nashvillians suffered in 2010. Having been the recipient of volunteer help at that weather event, it does my heart good to see many people reaching out to help their neighbors; local volunteers and others coming from out of state to help rescue people in need. This is yet another opportunity for us to come together in care and concern for our fellows.

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. To see what she’s working on, visit her website: http://www.reneebatesartist.com. 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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Dedicated to Peace

 

In memory of the fallen and with hope for the rest of us, this post is dedicated.

 

 

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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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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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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