Tag Archives: aging

Finding Hope and Inspiration in a Life Well Lived

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These days it’s hard to feel inspired.  I wake up each morning worried and anxious about what new, manufactured, crisis was created while I slept.  I check the news outlets I believe are reliable so that I can try and anticipate what will come today, and I struggle not to panic and to keep focused on my personal goals.  It’s a challenge I’ve never faced, this difficulty feeling optimistic and inspired.

Last week’s New York Times published an Op-ed by David Leonhardt.  It was a eulogy of sorts for former PepsiCo executive Brenda Barnes.  Barnes made news 20 years ago when she quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom.  She died a couple of weeks ago, at the young age of 63, following a stroke.  After reading her story, I felt a spark of inspiration mixed with some hope.  You see, Barnes started the dialogue about work/life balance.  She was proof that it is possible to craft a meaningful life filled with work, parenting and personal growth.  She paved the way and while there is still much work to be done in the area of equal pay and workplace supported parenting, she elevated the topic.

To be fair, Barnes’ path was incredibly atypical.  After raising her kids, she was able to move back into the workforce as chief executive of Sara Lee.  Her legacy is carried through her middle child, 28-year-old daughter Erin.  She herself left a lucrative job a few years ago, so she could care for her ailing mother and today is pursuing a nursing career, one she finds more meaningful and adaptive to family life.  Erin acknowledges her mother’s unique opportunities, but the message remains the same.  At a family memorial for her mother, she implored everyone to remember her mother’s insistence that we not work too hard.

So why does Brenda Barnes’ life give me some hope and inspiration?  I also made life choices based on spending time with my children.  Sometimes I wonder, “what if,” but most of the time I’m happy with my choices.  Of course I’m just a few years younger than Barnes, so perhaps the path wasn’t as clear for me as it is for my daughter.  But therein lies my hope and inspiration.  I am hopeful that, thanks to women like Brenda Barnes, this next generation will move the needle farther.  Although women continue to pay a higher price for parenthood and making choices, I’m hopeful our voices are stronger and that we will continue to push harder.  I am inspired by Barnes’ story and of her lasting message that work isn’t everything, that life is precious and often too short, so it’s important to find meaning and purpose and, ultimately, love.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is 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.  Check it out at 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 – It Just Happened    

shoulder-photo

Today I am almost one month post rotator cuff surgery.  I would never have realized how very frequent this surgery is until I have had to deal with it.  So many friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances, on learning what I am experiencing, are happy to describe their own journeys with this all too frequent injury.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for people in the many years prior to the availability of this kind of surgical repair.  Living with the pain and with the limitations forced by the inability to raise one’s arm above a certain level was extremely challenging.  Knowing that it could be repaired was hopeful.  Living without that hope could only be described as devastating.

Most people assume that this kind of injury is the result of a fall or of some kind of accident.  In fact I learned from my surgeon that the great majority of rotator cuff injuries “just happen.”  Perhaps it is because we are living longer or perhaps because we are compromising the shoulder joint by repetitive motion that wears out the muscle, or perhaps it is because we are neglecting to strengthen the small muscles that surround the shoulder and keep it functioning as it should.  Many of these injuries simply occur with no outside compromise.

My own case could be a combination of all of these factors.  I know that I tended to put my heavy purse, my satchel of papers, and anything else that I happened to need to use in a day in the passenger car seat; I would then drag these objects across the seat as I exited the car, using my arm and shoulder in a repetitive motion process many times daily.  These experiences add up!

So – I will say it “just happened” when asked – but what I really should be saying is that some degree of lack of self-care contributed to a difficult surgery.  I am on the other side of it now, and I am improving every day.  I hope to learn from the experience, and to protect my OTHER shoulder from something that “just happens.”

Is there anything in your life that is “just happening?”  Take a look – maybe you could influence it for good by making small changes.

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 Other Side of the Couch – Are You Sleeping?

I slept.

For the past five nights I have slept through the night (with minor interruptions which did not lead to staying awake, tossing and turning, or a complete inability to go back to sleep at all).  I wake up refreshed.  I have energy during the day and don’t find myself wanting to nod off around 2 in the afternoon.  The need for a nap is gone.

This experience – the experience of normal sleep – is elusive for millions of people in this country, and indeed around the world.  Somehow the idea that sleep is a luxury has taken hold, and some people even pride themselves on how little sleep they “need”.  Many young people routinely pull “all-nighters” to study for exams, and social engagements for many millennials often don’t even begin until 10.  Many people believe that they can “catch up” on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekend.

However, the real impact of lost sleep is a cumulative disaster.  Shift workers who are required to work at night, or worse, to change their shifts routinely, experience health-related illnesses at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the population.  Sleep experts recognize the essential process that sleep provides, which is a kind of sweeping of the brain, for lack of a better explanation.  When we sleep, our brains automatically use that time to clear the brain at a cellular level of elements that are unhealthy at a cellular level.  This has implications for many brain-related issues, and in fact may be significant in the problems with aging populations with dementia.  If sleep mechanisms stop working, it may be that toxins build up, causing damage that is unseen and invisible until a harmful process is far along.

Some of the basics of taking care of sleep involve steps that many people in our wired world may find challenging.  They include:

  1. Regular time to go to bed and wake up, even on the weekends
  2. Low or no light in the bedroom, and twilight light leading up to bedtime (an hour before)
  3. NO SCREENS an hour before bed, and no screens in the bedroom (sorry, TV addicts) – electronic devices emit a kind of light-wave that interferes with sleep processing
  4. No strenuous exercise at least two hours before bed

These basic steps make taking care of this basic need much more manageable.

Why am I excited about sleeping?  Because I haven’t!  It’s been a couple of months since I had surgery that made it difficult to breathe – the surgery was actually meant to help me breathe, but the recovery complicated that process.  These last few nights have shown me that the surgery did help, that I am close to fully recovered, and that sleep is going to be a lot easier!

Take it from me – sleep is a wonderful process that needs to be respected and preserved.  Do your level best to make it work as naturally as possible – your health depends on it.

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 Other Side of the Couch – What To Do When It’s Too Late

Too Late

The woman sitting across from me is a mess.  She is in my office because her husband of thirty years has out of the blue announced that he wants a divorce.  The entire narrative of her life has been turned upside down in the space of a few hours.  The reality that she has lived with – that she is loved, that she is part of a partnership that is ongoing, that she and her husband have had their issues, but will always work them out and will grow old together – is torn apart.  She is facing a broken home, a home that she has poured everything she has into creating and maintaining.  She chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and their financial circumstances allowed this to happen.  She was so certain of the relationship that the idea of its being gone is literally nauseating.

I know the long road ahead of this woman as she enters the netherworld of interrogatories, property settlements, splitting of assets.  Who keeps the house, does anyone keep the house, does anyone WANT to keep the house?  How will the children manage?  Even as adults, divorce breaks families apart.  Custody may not be an issue, but adult emotional loyalties are as delicate and easily damaged as a child’s psyche.

The experience of breaking apart a marriage is wrenching for all concerned.  Whether married for months or years or decades, couples carry into a divorce the reality of heartbreak and broken dreams.  More often than not one of the spouses is anxious to end things, and the other spouse wants only to hold on in the hope that something, anything, will stop the inevitable demise of the marriage.

The end of a marriage is a crazy time for both partners.  Whether both want the marriage to end or one does and the other doesn’t, the effect of breaking the bonds of attachment and commitment is profound, if sometimes unconscious for a time.  The leaver often becomes callous to the pain of the “leavee,” or the leaver may become so guilty about wanting to leave that he/she makes financial decisions that are not reasonable.  If the decision is mutual, there is nonetheless a need for dealing with the psychic fallout from what amounts to a nuclear bomb going off in people’s lives.

One way to mitigate some of this distress is by using some of the attorneys, therapists and mediators who are committed to using the collaborative divorce model.  Even if two people are not in agreement about ending the marriage, the use of collaborative divorce can dial down the adversarial struggle that mirrors the internal pain of the dying marriage.  Another helpful process is that of using Divorce Care (which has a religious component and is often found in churches) or Divorce Recovery, a more secular support process.

Have you gone through a break-up or a divorce?  What was helpful to you?  Please leave ideas and comments below, and thank you.

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 Other Side of the Couch – Memorial Day

Memorial Day
This past Memorial Day weekend was perfect in its blue-sky, cotton-cloud beauty, in its breezes that tamed the almost 90-degree heat in Nashville, and in its opportunities to gather with friends and family.  This ushering-in-of-summer weekend, this celebration of all the things like watermelon and burgers and kids running around and fireflies and even fireworks, seemed light-hearted in its easy and breezy fun.

And yet – and yet – this day also carries undertones and overtones of other days, days that were darker, full of other kinds of feelings and memories.  This is a day the origins of which are disputed, but no matter where it began, it in some way began as a remembrance of those who died when this country was rent by civil war.  Whether begun by Southern women, freedmen, or Northern generals, the day evolved over the years into what it is today:  a memorial to those in this country who lost their lives in defending the lives of others.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s.  As a child I read the Cherry Ames: Student Nurse Series enthralled by the tales of bravery involving WWII.  As a young teen I read Janet Lambert’s series focusing on the Parrish family, whose parents were military and whose young men aspired to join the service and attend West Point.  As I entered college, our country was beginning to face the struggle of Vietnam, and my patriotic ideals began to become mixed up with the war protests that were common in my northeastern college.  I was uncertain about what to think about the whole idea of the military.  For a time I turned to pacifism, but then I realized that if attacked I could not condone doing nothing.

These confusions continue, but what I know today is that I hold in high esteem those men and women who choose to serve their country by joining one of the services.  I am thankful for these men and women, and I hold the memory of those who died in the service of others with gratitude and thanks.

At the same time, I continue to struggle with the need for war, the reality of war.  Although I was never a great fan of Dwight David Eisenhower, I have recently come across some things that he said, and they make really good sense.

Eisenhower said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.  War settles nothing.”

He also said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

I hope that the words of this old soldier will be heard.  At a time when war seems endless, let’s remember that, as Ike said, war settles nothing.  In the meantime, we remember, and we are grateful.

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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A Ring Blessing

Tiffany Band

For our 20th Wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a Tiffany, platinum diamond wedding band.  I remember how thrilled and thankful I was to receive such a nice gift.  For our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a 2nd Tiffany, platinum diamond wedding band, the same as the 1st.  I was again super thrilled to have all this sparkle on my finger.

Since the rings moved around on my finger, I decided to have them put together as one double diamond band.  Tiffany didn’t understand it at first, but accommodated my wishes.

I like to lotion my hands after I wash them.  I typically remove my rings to put the lotion on, so that they lotion won’t get on the diamonds.  Well, I learned a valuable lesson.  Sometimes, I forget to put them back on and I leave them on my nightstand table, on the bathroom sink, in the kitchen or in my lap if I’m driving in the car.

Yesterday, I was rushing and extremely tired from traveling three weekends in a row.  I was in my car, on my way to an evening meeting and I did what I always do… I removed my rings, laid them in my lap and put lotion on my hands.  I went to the meeting thinking I left my rings on the bathroom sink.  My hands felt naked during the entire meeting and I kept thinking, I’m going to get my rings as soon as I get home.

Upon arriving home, after my three hour-long meeting, my husband had prepared a wonderful dinner.  I was so excited that I immediately sat down to eat and forgot about putting my rings on.  I went to bed and woke up at 3am (you know – the over 50 bathroom rule during the middle of the night).  I looked on the sink and didn’t see my rings.  I was looking for two rings, my wedding band and my 10 year anniversary ring that I wear on my right hand.  I decided to go back to bed and look for them the next morning, thinking they were probably in my home office or on the kitchen counter.

I got back up at 5am and decided to look for my rings.  They were not in my home office, they were not on the kitchen counter and they were not in the bathroom. They were NO WHERE to be found! I started to panic.  As a matter of fact, I was hyperventilating because I couldn’t remember the last time I had them.  After searching for 20 minutes, I threw on my clothes, jumped in my car and drove to the site where I parked my car, at the meeting the night before.  My rationale: I left the meeting late, it’s early and if I laid the rings in my lap for my lotion routine, they could have possibly fallen on the ground and could still be there.

On my way to the meeting site, I said a prayer and promised God that I would be more responsible and appreciative of my rings, if I found them.  I drove to the site and the rings were laying in the spot where I got out of my car, just as if I had laid them there.

I was so thankful that I found my rings and I will be more responsible.  I call this my “ring blessing.”  God always has a way of letting me know that he’s looking out for me, even when I’m careless.  My advice to everyone – if you remove your rings to lotion your hands – DON’T.  You can always clean the lotion off your rings and get the shine back.

About Pat Brewer Hairston

Pat is a Global Supply Chain Executive and currently President of Global Supply Chain Solutions, LLC (GSCS) based in Nashville, Tennessee. GSCS provides Global Supply Chain consulting services to clients across all industries. They help companies identify problem areas and improve the end-to-end efficiency in an organization’s supply chain. GSCS also provides Negotiation and Supplier Diversity Training.

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The Other Side of the Couch –Alone?

AloneSo many people are afraid of being alone.  Over and over I hear in my office from clients – I can’t  leave; I would be alone,  or I can’t leave him or her, they would be alone – as though being alone is the worst thing that could ever happen to a human being, as though being alone is a penance, a punishment, a horror.

I know that aloneness is used as punishment.  Maximum security, solitary for years on end, drives humans crazy, literally.  Some cultures use shunning to punish, and people actually die from it.  And yet I have always wondered about that experience – a belief leading to that ending.

Being alone is one of the joys of my life.  Perhaps because I choose it, decide it when I want to do so – perhaps because I spend the majority of my days in deep places with others.  Being alone with no other human energy pulling on me is like a drink of clear, pure water, a resting place, a respite.  I return to relationship refreshed.

And yet, when I am alone, am I alone?  I am with me, and I am in relationship with all that is, and in those moments of “alone” I am yet more aware and connected to all – to the singing teakettle, the doors that call and close, the aliveness of memory, the presence of loved ones called to mind and into communion.

Perhaps “alone” is nothing more than a belief.  I am alone means I am here, in this amazing and infinite world of all possibilities.  I am always home.

What is your experience of being alone?  Do you dread it, seek it out, run from it?  How is alone different from lonely?  I invite you to spend a little time with experiencing your own relationship to the idea of being alone – you might find there is more to it than you have given yourself time to know.

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 Other Side of the Couch – What’s with the Weather?

Weather

No, I am not going to rail about El Nino or debate climate change; neither am I going to use such weather clichés as, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes” – attributed to Mark Twain.  (In considering this topic I did a search on weather quotes and found that the attribution to Twain was unsourced; however, he did give a talk to the New England Society’s Seventy-First Annual Dinner, New York City, Dec. 22, 1876, in which he reported counting 137 different kinds of weather in New England within 24 hours! He might have been exaggerating for effect, being Mark Twain.)

Today I am more interested in the topic of inner weather.  We human beings like to think of ourselves as higher than or perhaps exempt from the effects of environment on our experiences.  We live our lives in this country, often, in urban centers filled with noise and traffic.  We spend our days in office cubicles surrounded by the twitters and whirring of computers, ringing phones, printers and all the other technological advances of the 21st century.  We go home to televisions, streaming video, video games.  Many of us don’t get outside more than the ten minutes it takes us to move from home to car, car to office.  Perhaps we live in cities with public transportation, and we ride subways or ells or buses.  If we are fit and lucky and it is safe, we might get to ride bicycles.  We spend more and more time removed from the weather.

We are told that we need to spend at least 15 minutes daily getting outside sunshine in order to have appropriate levels of Vitamin D, a vitamin that has in recent years been determined to be both very important to human health and very likely to be deficient in many people in the United States.  We don’t get out very much these days.

I am not (yet) an outdoor person.   I don’t like to sweat, and I don’t like being cold.   A perfect day would be sunny with a slight breeze, about 72, with a lovely, relatively easy trail that goes through a beautiful forest filled with deer and other wildlife, but NOT filled with insects.  As it happens, such a beautiful place exists about a mile from my home; however, the 72 degree days happen rarely, and the insects disappear only with the appearance of much colder weather.  What to do.

My goal for myself is to become more of an outdoor person so that my inner weather will be fortified by all the good things the outdoors can offer – increased Vitamin D, but more than that, the experience of beauty, the joy of movement, the removal from the pace of life that we experience these days.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Want to change your own inner weather?

  1. Take a walk at lunchtime – any movement helps, even through a steel canyon.
  2. Get up 15 minutes earlier and GO OUTSIDE – rain or shine. Even a balcony on a high-rise will do.
  3. Get a dog. Dogs are great about making us outdoor people.
  4. If you have a pet, pet your pet. Even if you are not outside, the act of interacting with a pet has beneficial effects on anxiety, blood pressure, even digestion.
  5. Create something beautiful. Just for the joy of it.
  6. Really look at a leaf, or a stick, or a stone. Think about its life journey.

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 Other Side of the Couch – Lessons From My Mother

Mother2

I woke up several days ago with an unexplained and surprising feeling of sadness.  I was down, and blue.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  As far as I knew, everything was all right in my life at the moment.  I was coming to the tail-end of a nasty virus, but I was feeling better every day.  I had taken an allergy medicine the night before, but it was one that was familiar and had never caused any odd reactions.  And yet – I was quite sad.  I had some cancellations that morning, and I decided to check in with my husband and daughter, who were meeting for lunch, to see if I could join them.

Sitting at the table, waiting for food service, I began to muse again on what was going on.  I talked to them about it – said I was feeling sad, and I couldn’t quite figure out why.  I was lonely, and I felt a bit tearful.  Talking about it brought a few more tears.  We talked of other things and then, all of a sudden, I knew.

It was my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 95 this year.  She died twenty-four years ago, six months before her 71st birthday.  Every year this time sneaks up on me. One would think I would remember, but there is something about these anniversaries that keeps us a bit unconscious.  The amazing thing is that the BODY KNOWS.  Even though I was not consciously aware, my body and emotions were telling me to pay attention.

As soon as I recognized what was happening inside, I felt a deep sense of relief and understanding, and an equally deep joy in remembering all the special things about my mother.  Tonight, as I write about those sweet memories, I came across a little scribble I wrote a while ago.

My mother taught me many things.  Some of the most precious are these:

 

Create beauty in unexpected places, for no reason at all.

Cherish your women friends.

Go to lunch!

Be sweet.

Believe in yourself.

You are beautiful; believe it.

Church matters.

 

I am so grateful for the love we shared, and for having her in my life for seventy years.  I hope that my daughter will have as many sweet memories of me when that day comes.

I love you, Mother.

 

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 Other Side of the Couch – New Traditions?!

Traditions 2

I don’t really remember a time when the Christmas season was not filled with activity.  I grew up in a home with four other siblings and Christmas was a great event in our house.  My earliest memories involve sneaking down the stairs with my sister to see if Santa had come, and being absolutely convinced that Santa Claus was real, because ALL the presents were there, and Daddy and Mommy were asleep!  As I grew to adulthood Christmas continued to be the central holiday when the family gathered.  It was also true that as an adult I became much more involved in the preparing of these seemingly effortless rituals that culminated in the perfect Christmas morning, the presents wrapped and prepared for all, the Christmas breakfast and the Christmas dinner prepared and ready to serve.  I have loved Christmas and enjoyed the traditions of having my own home and making these traditions ours.

Now with my own home and my own adult, married daughter and my own Christmas to prepare, I am facing a first.  My daughter is spending Christmas with her husband’s family in another state.

No matter what I tell myself – that this is normal, that this is right, that this is her life, that we will be fine– I am overcome with sadness.  All of the wisdom I have so readily shared with others – make your own plans, create your own traditions, make this a day that is right for you, do a service project for others – pales in the face of this new reality.

As I face this, I think of my mother, whose five children grew up and scattered far across this country, rarely being all in the same place at the same time as adults.  I wonder how this felt for her.  I wonder how she bore it when I swanned off to South America for six years.   I wonder if she felt the same kind of emptiness in the face of this absence of what is, in the end, a part of one’s self.

So a part of my heart is going to be in North Carolina this Christmas.  I will bear up and be brave and have a good day.  And I will do my best to support my daughter in her choices, perhaps on the inside having a little childish tantrum that says “What about ME!” but hopefully not letting that part of me get in the way of giving her what she needs as an adult.  I will take my own advice, and my husband and I will do something different on Christmas.  It will be different, and it will be ok, and we will all grow a little bit in new ways.

I will hope for some new traditions that will translate into new ways of being for all of us.

So – Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays – Whatever you celebrate, make it a tradition that works for you.

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

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

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