Tag Archives: COVID19

Joy and Pain

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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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Support the Gig Economy

We’re in a time warp on employment law.  The economy has shifted toward a gig economy model, but the Biden administration seems to be stuck in the 1930’s factory model. 

Start with the gig economy.  The shift began in the 1980’s when business schools preached the benefits of “shareholder” value to the exclusion of all other considerations.  The bean counters scrutinized each company’s expenses in slash and burn operations. First to go was in-house training of workers.

Second to go was entire swathes of workers.  The downsized workers were often hired back as independent contractors to do their old jobs.  The “savings” on not paying employee benefits to them created “shareholder” value.  Senior management promptly rewarded themselves with bigger pay packets and stock options while shoveling a few dollars more to their shareholders as dividends.

(Business leaders now moan about their inability to find workers with the appropriate skills but are still unwilling to invest in their workers.  In an article a few years ago in The Wall Street Journal business leaders admitted they would not invest in training their workers because they didn’t want to lose their investment when the employees left. The irony of demanding loyalty from workers while offering nothing in return is apparently lost of these overpaid masters of the universe.)

By the 2000’s, the internet had lowered the cost of starting a business.  The switch to a gig economy accelerated during last year’s covid.  Many workers pushed into unemployment during the past year have decided to bet on themselves by starting their own businesses.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration seems to be stuck in the past. Don’t get me wrong. Biden’s boffos are a distinct relief after Trump’s minions tried to resurrect the 1980’s by dismembering every law that might protect workers.

But the Biden administration’s approach will undermine the gig economy, the most dynamic part of our economy now that most big businesses are monopolies dominating their industries.  Recent Department of Labor guidance makes it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors.  The rationale is that too many companies deliberately misclassify workers as independent contractors in order to save on payroll taxes and employee benefits.  That is true.

However, that’s no reason to rip the heart out of the gig economy.   Instead of rolling back the economic clock, it’s time to change how employee benefits are offered.  Employee benefits like health care, fair wages and overtime pay were forced on employers in the 1930’s in a clever maneuver to bust the unions; and indirectly to fight communism since most Americans believed that all union organizers were commies.

That was then. Now we need to free up workers to use their skills and interests to the best of their abilities. Instead of looking backward, the Biden administration should imagine how the future of work could look.

It’s time to create individual health accounts, just as there are individual retirement accounts.  Allow gig workers to top up their IRA’s with amounts equivalent to an employer’s 401(k) match.  Give gig workers a tax credit to cover a set number of vacation and sick days each year.

Some people prefer traditional employment. Some people are suited to be gig workers.  The benefit of encouraging a hybrid economic model, part traditional and part gig, will unleash the creative abilities of our country. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. We also integrate HR compliance into the company-wide compliance program through internal controls and advising on how to mitigate risks with insurance. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com). For my musings on history, visit History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts here on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Vaccinated!

Today I received my covid-19 vaccination as part of the mass vaccination event at the Titans Stadium.   During an approximately 12-hour period on March 20th, Metro Nashville scheduled 10,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine.  I was thrilled to be one of the lucky 10,000 with an appointment.

I was more nervous about a potential traffic jam getting into the site than getting the vaccine. But when I arrived around 1:00 pm, there were no delays. Only one point of entry was open into the vaccination site.  Cars wended their way between traffic cones back and forth across the parking lot on their way to the tents where the vaccinations were administered. It was like playing bumper cars without the bumping.

National Guardsmen and volunteers directed cars around the corners and through the traffic cones. A live band entertained us as we crept along.  A short 10 – 15 minute slalom through the traffic cones brought me to a point where I was directed into a line to approach one of the tents. 

After completing a consent form, it was my turn.  I handed over the clipboard with the consent form, got a quick jab and a postcard-sized certificate saying I’d been vaccinated.  From there I drove to the recovery area.  After a 15-minute wait for adverse side effects, I was able to leave.

The exit point was the only poorly designed part of the entire process. Cars from all the recovery areas tried to simultaneously enter Interstate Drive heading for the Shelby Avenue traffic light.  Most of the cars tried to squeeze into the lane accessing the I-24 entrance ramp.  But even with these delays, the whole process took about 45 minutes from the time I arrived.  

Kudos to the engineer who designed the traffic cone system for moving so many cars through the site. Kudos also to the volunteers, Guardsmen, and police officers who made the whole process work.  This mass vaccination event moves us closer to the tipping point of immunization when Nashville can return to normal (whatever the new normal looks like).

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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It’s Been a Year…

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February, 2021!  It’s so hard to believe almost a year has passed since the pandemic changed the world forever.  A year of worry.  A year of frustration.  A year of separation from my son and other cherished friends and family.  A year watching out my window.  A year adapting.  A year waiting.  A year hoping.  A year learning. 

I still wait for my turn to be vaccinated. I still worry about getting sick. I’m still frustrated about so much lost time. I still wait for the next visit with my son. I still look out my window at the changing seasons. I’m still adapting, learning, hoping, trying to look forward.

To say I am not a patient person is REALLY an understatement. From my earliest memories I recall barreling into life at full speed, always in a hurry to get to the next thing. This past year has felt like I ran smack into a wall. I know I’m not alone in this, so I’m not complaining, per se.  I’m just reflecting. Is there a deeper lesson to be learned?  The obvious is what I hear most folks are trying to do: live in the moment, be grateful, savor a slower pace.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…whatever.

Here’s what I’m learning: I am not a slowdown type of person. Yes, I am savoring the time I get to spend with my husband who is working from home and my son who is attending graduate school from home.  But most days I just want to get back out there, in it. While I have managed to continue my work and to stay in touch with many of my friends, I can’t help but grieve for all the lost time.  The days, weeks, months and now, a year, just marking time. I can’t shake the feeling that, at my age, there’s no time to waste. I still have plans, goals and things to get on with. Grateful?  Of course I am!  I’m also very aware of how fortunate I am to have a job, a comfortable home in which to stay safe with people I love and who love me.  Yes, life is good.

Now there seems to be, maybe, a speck of daylight at the end of this very long tunnel. And…I’m off!  Planning a fall vacation with friends. Thinking about dinners out, live music, sporting events and having people over. Every day is a roller coaster as I swing from despair to hope and back again. Read the news. Don’t read the news. By bedtime I am exhausted, that is until my head hits the pillow. Then as my body relaxes my mind revs up and I lay awake, sometimes for hours, until I can calm it down.

This year has shined a light on the differences between me and my husband. Where I am an extrovert, he is content to be alone. Where I experience life at full speed, he is happy with the slow and steady approach. While I rage against the frustration, his patience is both infuriating and a gift. And while I toss and turn all night, he sleeps soundly. All these differences, which used to drive me crazy, have now become my salvation. To know that in spite of it all, or maybe because of it, we continue on. I can depend on his patience, his ability to compartmentalize the pain and focus on what is in front of him. I am comforted by his strength and by his steady breathing at night. 

Lessons learned? My basic nature is what it always has been, and so it is for those around me. But in times of great challenge, we can lean into and on each other, for real.

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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If it’s Tuesday, it Must be…

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When I was a kid, my dad used to love to take us all to the drive-in movies. There was one that stands out called, “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium.” I don’t remember the details, but it had something to do with tourists running all over Europe, different cities, different days, until they lost track of time. The film title became our family’s code for describing that feeling of being disoriented or off kilter. That’s exactly how I feel! This week, I’ve been at least one, if not two, days off, and I missed my deadline for this blog post. If it’s COVID, this must be…who even knows what day it is anymore?

Okay, so here it is, Thursday…again. I think this weekend is the Labor Day holiday? Yes, I’m sure it is. I’m just not sure where summer went. I’ve experienced most of it from inside my house, which means it feels the same as Spring and most likely Fall will feel the same. I guess I’ll need to change my wardrobe just to keep track of the passing of time. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

Last month I shared my Whole30 journey. I’m happy to report I’m still on the journey. I’ve learned more about how my body experiences different foods. So far, I do well with most food groups. I have noticed that alcohol consumption affects my sleep, so I can decide if that glass of wine at dinner is worth losing some sleep over. My cravings for sweets and snacks have mostly disappeared, although some days I just need a little something in between meals, especially if I haven’t eaten enough protein. Overall, some good lessons and some new, healthier, habits are being formed.

In a little over a week, my middle son will come for a visit. We haven’t seen him since mid-February and while I’m very excited, I’m also a bit nervous and apprehensive about the health risk – for all of us. Crazy times. What used to be a routine trip now feels like a treacherous journey. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

And to add to the fun the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is just around the corner. This year our congregation will hold services virtually with a combination of pre-recorded segments and live streaming from the synagogue where the Rabbi and Cantor will be present in the sanctuary. Disorienting? You bet! Bittersweet? Yep! There is so much to miss this year, most important for me is the feeling of being in my community, physically present together to usher in a new year (yes, we Jews get to celebrate the New Year twice). Yes, I’m grateful to be healthy and to be with my family. But this thing, this plague, started just before the Spring holiday of Passover and here we still are. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

So, I’ll just close with a traditional Jewish New Year’s blessing and wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, Sweet New Year (whether you observe or not, what the heck!). Here’s hoping next month I’ll know what day it is…

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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Why is This Year Different?

traditional jewish matzo

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This Wednesday evening marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.  It is a well-known fact that it is also the most celebrated of all the holidays.  The observance lasts eight days during which we focus on the theme of our people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea in a hurry with little time to prepare.  The first night consists of a festive meal, or Seder, when we retell the story through questions and answers, singing, eating and drinking four cups of wine.  The point of this exercise is to both remind us that freedom is precious, and to teach the younger generations about our story.

One of the highlights of every Seder is the asking of The Four Questions.  These questions are designed to provoke discussion and thought around the significance of the holiday.  Usually asked by the youngest person at the table, the refrain is always, “Why is this night different from all other nights.”  The answers to the four questions are the heart of the rest of the Seder.  But the overarching theme is always: freedom.

 

Over the last couple of weeks, I admit I’ve engaged in bouts of self-pity.  I have felt afraid for myself and my family.  I have been depressed about the changes in my life.  I have been angry, too, that those in leadership who could have mitigated some of the damage, did nothing.  And I have felt sad and helpless.  These negative thoughts and feelings are foreign to me.  I am usually an optimistic person who can find fun and joy in most places.  But our current state of affairs has been really tough for me to accept.

A therapist would probably say I’m moving through the stages of grief, and that’s likely the case.  I know from grief.  My people know from grief.  Generation after generation of Jewish people have been chased around the globe, experiencing plagues, famine, Holocaust and antisemitism.  And we are not alone in this.  Other cultures and peoples have faced similar obstacles and discrimination.  I can’t speak for the others, but I can speak for myself and my people.  The one thing we do to defend ourselves against the darkness is to survive.  We survive by carrying on our traditions.  We survive by being joyful.  We survive by telling the stories.  We survive by holding tight to each other, even if it is only in memory.

Most years we host a large group of friends and family to join our Seder.  I spend weeks planning and preparing the ritual foods and the traditional festive delicacies.  This year, obviously, the usual crowd will not be joining us live in our home.  It was with a heavy heart that a couple of weeks ago I emailed everyone to cancel.  And it was at that point that I really felt the enormity of what we are dealing with today.  I was also able to relate to the story of my ancestors and the challenges they faced.  Personally, my world has become pretty small and my life has slowed to a pace way out of my comfort zone.  But we will have our Seder.  We will include my son in California via Zoom.  I will make my chicken soup the way my mother taught me.  My husband, who will now be home, will make the brisket.  We will drink four cups of wine (really, the best part).  And, we will retell the story of our exodus and our journey to freedom.

The final prayer of the Seder meal is one in which we express our hope that next year we will celebrate in Jerusalem.  For me, the meaning is not to literally be in Jerusalem, although that would be amazing.  I think of Jerusalem as my spiritual home, the place where I can feel free to express my faith and tradition.  But my actual home, here in Nashville, is also a place where I can feel free to be myself and to enjoy life with my family and friends.  So, this year when we say the prayer, I will be thinking ahead to next Passover, when I can once again open my home and share the story of our survival and freedom with 30 of our nearest and dearest.  In the meantime, stay healthy, stay home and wash your hands.  xo

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current 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 .

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

 

 

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