Tag Archives: health

The Other Side of the Couch – Taking Care

Image result for nursing caring

I have spent the last several days in another world – a world that some enter by choice, some by necessity.  This world has its own rules, its own norms, its own expectations.  The rules of the world that most of us inhabit without thought are suspended here.  In this world others are in charge. In this world those who enter are dependent on the knowledge and kindness of those who are here by choice, rather than by necessity.

Those who enter this world by choice are an unusual species.  They come from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, levels of education, gender.  They work at a tremendous variety of different jobs, from the simplest to the most complex.  They work long hours, and they often provide backup for others even when they are not actually on the job.

Those who are best at this share one unusual quality.  Above and beyond their training, education and experience, these people are givers.  They experience meaning and fulfillment through the process of Taking Care.

When I was a child I was a peripheral member of this world, born into it by virtue of my father’s profession.  I walked the halls of the places where these givers worked.  I often felt an unusual sense of belonging – perhaps because I felt that I was an insider.  As a child I had little understanding of the world I walked, but I knew that at some emotional level I recognized it.

The world I have been inhabiting is the world of the hospital.  The givers are the doctors – chief surgeons, chief residents, residents, interns, nurses, student nurses, LPNs, bringers of food trays, cleaners, transporters – all the amazing parts of a teaching hospital that work together to give care to those who are fighting for life, for health, for a future.

I am grateful for these men and women who make meaning for themselves and support life for their patients.  The ability to take joy in the process of healing, to see the worst and see it improve, or sometimes to see the worst and know that there is nothing to be done, to live with the daily intensity of facing life and death in all its reality – there is nothing else like it.

So today I say thank you to the lovely nurse who worked with my husband, to the LPN who dealt with bodily fluids in an eternally cheerful way, to all the various helpers who came and went and who made a difficult week tolerable.  You are givers – and I am thankful for each of you.

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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Kitchen Kitsch

This is a reposting of a blog from about a year ago.

 

 

I love to cook so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My cooking is pretty basic; I don’t use exotic ingredients and I have a battered set of pots and pans.  I grew up poor and learned to use what was available and in my price range.

These days I have more income but I stick by my old habits.  I buy in bulk and I look for what is on sale and then build recipes around those items.  Recently I realized that I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables. I actually enjoy the process because it allows me to think about the various combinations of food, spices, oils, or whatever I need for the finished dish.

Kitchen time fills more than just the need to prepare my next meal. Kitchen time also allows me to reflect on ideas or issues that are important to me. I could get the same benefit from a long walk but at this time of year I’m doing my exercising indoors on a treadmill facing the TV.

Because I spend so much time in my kitchen, I began posting important messages for myself.  I always find it ironic when gifted, educated and powerful women say they struggle or have struggled with their sense of self. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to think of myself in those terms, despite every accomplishment and achievement in my life.  So my refrigerator and kitchen walls are covered with inspirational notes to remind me of what I am; not what I used to think I was.

When I was a child, I was taught to cook because it was considered a “womanly” skill. Despite that handicap, I still enjoy cooking. Only now my kitchen time is usually spent thinking about reinforcing my self-image and building a stronger, successful business.

As a small business owner, I’m constantly thinking about where that next client will come from or the best (meaning most effective) method for prospecting for new clients or what tasks I should delegate to others.  Sure, I could sit down at a desk and cogitate on all these points. But it seems to flow more naturally when I’m doing other things, like chopping vegetables to make a stew.

 

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 HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new 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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The Other Side of the Couch – When Life Happens

 

Image result for storms

I missed my last post!  The date just slipped right by me – it came and went without awareness.  When I realized that I had missed my deadline, I was chagrined, upset, started to beat up on myself – then took a step back to see what was going on.

A reality check helped me recognize what I had not really wanted to see.  I am overwhelmed.  I have three family members who are all dealing with significant illnesses that are life-threatening.  I am working and managing a home.  I am an active member in several organizations.  I have a wonderful daughter, a wonderful son, and a fabulous grandson and granddaughter, and I want to make room in my life for them.

On top of this personal turmoil, there is also the state of the world, and the way in which every day seems to bring another moment of “How could this possibly be happening?”  Although I have cut down on social media and news-watching, it is not possible to completely avoid the chaos, and in truth I do not think it should be completely avoided if there is to be any chance of change.

What does one do when life happens, and one misses out on some responsibilities?

There is an old song that comes to mind – “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!”

Sometimes things get hard, though no fault of our own.  Beating up on ourselves doesn’t help.  Compassion and understanding do.  This is a rough patch that will probably get rougher in the near future – but it will pass.  The sun will shine again.  Life will keep on happening in all its glorious messiness.

I am thankful that I am here in this world to live this life.

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 Other Side of the Couch – Hope for the Future

 

The identification of the double-helix model of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in the 1950’s laid the groundwork for an amazing evolution in the understanding of genetics. The Human Genome Project concluded in 2003 with the sequencing of all 3.2 billion base pairs in the human genome (and completed the process two years before their set deadline).  This Human Genome Project ushered in a new era in medicine and advanced many new technologies related to gene sequencing.

The information related to these two seminal discoveries is only accelerating.  The field of proteomics  (the large-scale study of the structure and function of proteins) and the field of epigenetics (the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself) are combining to provide fascinating insights into the ways that our bodies function.

An offshoot of this information is beginning to impact our understanding of many mental health issues.  Researchers in the field of epigenetics are now suggesting that our cells may transmit the impact of traumas experienced by relatives and ancestors down through the generations.  In other words, if your grandparent experienced a significant trauma, that trauma, due to epigenetic changes in gene expression, could influence the instructions that cells receive to turn certain genes on and off.  This could result in the development of disease, either physical or mental.

For example, research by Dr. Rachel Yehuda showed an epigenetic tag that led her to conclude that the propensity for PTSD could be biologically inherited  (see citation –  Yehuda, R; Bierer, LM Prog Brain Res. 2008;167:121-35.

Why is this important?  Doesn’t the idea that we can biologically inherit a propensity toward a trauma response make mental health even more difficult to manage?

Therapists are finding that this is not the case.  Investigating one’s own heritage is becoming more and more available due to websites like www.Ancestry.com. DNA testing that connects an individual to literally thousands of other distant relatives is enlarging the understanding that many have of the breadth and depth of our connections to others, living and dead.  While therapists have always had a certain understanding of the effects that growing up in adverse circumstances have on a person’s life, the information that a parent’s or grandparent’s circumstances also have a biological impact that CAN BE HEALED by providing enriched environments in the present is incredibly hopeful.   After all, if epigenetics tells us that environment altered biology in the past, doesn’t that also mean that present biology can be altered by present experience, both for ourselves and for future generations?

This information gives me hope for individuals who have been impacted by the traumas of our present day – whether it is living through 9/11 or living in a war zone or being trapped at the southern border in horrible conditions.  These experiences can be overcome if the right environments are made available.  My hope is that those conditions will be identified and provided for all who need them.  It is within our power to shape both the present and the future – let’s do it.

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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Going Home

Today has been a remarkable confluence of a variety of events – the 30th birthday of a dear son-in-law, the celebration of life of a beloved church member, the good-byes to neighbors who are moving on, my husband’s return to work after the first round of chemotherapy (three more to go). I spent the afternoon yesterday with the youngest member of our family – our 14-month-old granddaughter, walking, talking, playing – making her wishes clearly known.

When I opened the New York Times newsletter that I receive daily, I turned to the op-ed features, as I so often do.  Margaret Renkl, a fellow Nashvillian, wrote a beautiful piece about time and loss and mortality.  The link to this piece is here.  It is so worth reading, and so I offer it to you today.  Enjoy.

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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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She Died of a Lot of Things

She died of a lot of things, but she lived a lot, too.  She had an accident in her early life – nine months old, hit by a car.  I couldn’t protect her.  We weren’t sure she would be able to walk or to have bladder and bowel control.  All summer I stayed with her, washed her, kept her clean.  They were surprised that she was so clean.  Why, not, I thought, she’s my baby like any other baby.  The day she stood up was a miracle.  She had lost half her weight, but she began to eat again.  Then she walked.  She played.  She gained weight. She returned to her playful self.

Her tail never learned to wag, but it bounced all her life.  When she died, it was of old injuries and of old age.  In human years she was eighty.  She lived a lot of life.

She died of a lot of things.  Maybe chief among them, other than the ocular melanoma listed as cause of death, was heart’s longing, longing for time with him she never had.  He worked so hard, so long.  He was good.  He was loved, but she missed him.

She poured herself into children and church, gardening, reading, the Herb Society of Nashville, dear women friends.  She created spots of beauty wherever she looked. She loved beautiful things.

When it became clear that dying was soon, she told me what to do.  Even then she thought of others.  “Tell him not to be alone,” she said.  “Give the necklace to them – you know how.”

She died of a lot of things – longing, wishing in the mix.  She died of more than illness, and she lived a lot of life.

When the time comes to “shuffle off this mortal coil”, may we all be able to know that we have lived a lot of life.

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 Other Side of the Couch – How to Change the World An Hour at a Time

Image result for reading to children

 

I have a new granddaughter.  She is nine months old now, and I am delighting in watching her become the person she is meant to be in this world.  Even at this young age she has decided preferences, and she has two devoted parents, not to mention grandparents on both sides who are wild about her.  This little girl is surrounded by so much love and care.

Human babies come into this world as the most fragile and helpless of creatures.  They are totally dependent for food, shelter and protection on their parents.  For their brains to develop properly they must receive these things, AS WELL AS the intangibles of loving and responsive interaction with caring adults.  We learned years ago that children who are physically cared for but emotionally ignored grow up with impaired ability to attach.  This distortion of attachment impairs adult relationships in major ways.

Dan Siegel, author of The Developing Mind, describes a baby’s brain as a first draft – the child has some hard-wired processes (handedness, various kinds of talents like perfect pitch), but the expression of many of the genes a child carries is also determined by environmental experiences. Nature vs. Nurture? No, Nature AND Nurture.  Both are significant in the development of a cohesive self.  Human beings are meant to develop in the context of relationship.  The human brain is a relational organism that does not develop well in isolation from others.

Does this mean that the many children across the world who are born into war, into poverty, into natural disasters are doomed?  It does not – because human beings also have a remarkable ability to persist in the face of very challenging circumstances.  Sometimes the existence of even one adult in a child’s life who responds to them with care and concern is enough to give that child the hope for tomorrow that is needed to surmount the troubles of today.  Teachers, aunts, uncles, caring neighbors – all have a role to play in helping kids in difficult circumstances.

My granddaughter is lucky – she will likely never have to lack for love or response.  Millions of other children are not so situated.  Perhaps you have an hour a week to do something as simple as read a book at an elementary school in your city.  Being read to is one of the most important ways that children learn to love and appreciate books; this leads to better reading skills, better success in school, and better ability to connect to others.

How to change the world – one hour at a time.  Think about it!

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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Recovering from the flu: Lessons Learned

flu

As I sit here writing this post, I am finally feeling more like myself than I have in a couple of weeks.  Two weeks ago, after a lovely weekend getaway with my husband, I got hit with a terrible bout of the flu.  I am not someone who picks up all sorts of little viruses from everyone I meet.  When I get sick, I REALLY get sick.  And this time was no different.  I had the fever, body aches, upper respiratory congestion, all of it.  And while my sweet husband tried valiantly to help with hot tea, soup and sympathy, there was pretty much nothing he could do to make me feel better.  My daughter, god love her, even sent an order of chicken soup from Whole Foods, along with a massive box of saltines.  And honestly, that was about the most helpful thing someone could do.  Mostly I just lay in bed trying to get comfortable.

So why am I engaging in this self-pity?  Well, this is the first time I’ve been sick while owning my business.  And that changed everything for me.  Much like a mom being sick while trying to care for small children, I had all the guilt and shame of not being able to care for my business “baby.”  Thank goodness I have a partner who could shoulder some of my tasks and was patient while I convalesced.  But honestly, no one could have been harder on me, than me.  And while I tried, I really did, to carry out at least some of my duties, I could barely lift my head off the pillow.  And as the week trudged on, I just kept beating myself up for not being able to do much of anything.

The second week of this flu, my fever broke and I felt less achy.  But the weakness and exhaustion continued for several more days.  I tried to do one big thing each day, and then spent the afternoon in bed.  I even tried to work out a bit, take a Pilates lesson, anything to get my body moving.  I haven’t felt that fatigued since I had mono as a teenager.  One day, I met with my partner, then had coffee with another business contact, and proceeded to go home and fall asleep on the couch.

Okay, I’m whining, I know it.  And while I’m also aware that my business can certainly survive a week or two of my absence, it was the unplanned nature of the absence.  Both my partner and I take vacations from time to time. But those are planned for and expected.  And of course, the randomness of getting sick also makes me feel out of control, and who likes that feeling?

So here I sit, feeling pretty normal except for a lingering cough, trying to figure out what I can learn from this situation.  Of course with any luck, I won’t be sick again for awhile, but there are other unpredictable situations that come up in life.   I guess for me, the biggest lesson is that it’s okay to be…human!  Getting sick is part of being human.  So is a family or pet emergency, a household repair or car breakdown.  In short, living life brings unexpected situations, both good and difficult.  Being a business owner surely complicates things, but if I’ve built a solid infrastructure, it can withstand these bumps in the road.  And I’m pretty confident that if I’d been a bit kinder to myself, I may have recovered a little quicker, or at least I wouldn’t have felt quite as fraught with worry.

So, here’s to a healthier body and a calmer, more forgiving (of myself) spirit.

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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Forget New Year’s Resolutions

 

This year I decided to not make any New Year’s resolutions. In the past, I’d wake up on January 1st, regretting the indulgences of the festive season. I’d earnestly pledge to lose the extra weight plus a few pounds, get more exercise, and never spend that much money on Amazon Prime again.

It should be easier these days to stay on track. There are dozens of different weight loss plans from which to choose and all plans come with live or internet-based options. Free apps make it easy to track calories and pretty much any other information that you are willing to share on an app with unknown security protocols.

It should also be easier to exercise.  Gone are the days of the lowly treadmill. Home exercise equipment is now monstrously huge with expensive bells and whistles. For example, Peloton advertises a new exercise machine with internet capabilities that allow you to be harangued by a virtual coach or to participate in group exercise classes.  You never need to pay a gym membership again.

All these modern conveniences mean that you need never fear the humiliation of being the dud in the weight loss class or the klutz in the exercise class.  Of course, if you can do everything at home, why count calories or exercise?  You could find a job that lets you work from home and have all the necessities from chocolate to food to books and clothing delivered to your doorstep. It would no longer matter if you looked like a fat, happy Buddha because no one would ever see you.

Consider also that we exercise so that we are healthier and we’ll live longer.  But few of us save enough money to live comfortably in our retirement.  Even without a catastrophic illness or disease, everyone fears outliving their resources.  So there could be a downside to a long, healthy life if it means ultimately living in penury.

All these jumbled thoughts ran through my head when I awoke on January 1st. I realized that my annual resolutions usually fell by the wayside in February, the dreariest month of the year with little sunlight and no hint of spring.  So this year I earnestly pledged to not make any New Year’s resolutions.

 

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 new 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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The Other Side of the Couch – How to Stop Ignoring What Matters

Oh no – not this!  Three days before the holiday, and I know these symptoms.  I can’t get sick now!

Famous last words – not only was I getting sick, but I was to remain sick for the next two weeks with symptoms lingering even after the worst of the illness was over.

These episodes always spur me into questions about health.  Being relatively healthy most of the time, I realize when I am not that health, for most of us, is only important when we don’t have it.

Health is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not only the absence of disease and infirmity”.  This sounds to me like an aspirational definition.  We all aspire to this state of well-being – however, states change.  Health is not a static experience.

We are surrounded in this culture with messages about being healthy, staying healthy, pursuing health.  Billion-dollar businesses focus on health supplements, health strategies, health improvement.  However, many people in Western societies live in ways that are antithetical to maintaining health.  For example, businesses tend to create work days that involve sitting for most of the day, or doing repetitive assembly work, or working under fluorescent lights.  We eat the typical Western diet that is high in saturated fats and processed foods.

A confusing reality about how the human brain works is that knowledge does not necessarily lead to behavior change.  I “know” that thirty minutes a day of exercise is recommended for good health, but I don’t walk every day.  I “know” that too many desserts cause all kinds of metabolic havoc, but I often have a hard time foregoing that piece of chocolate.  What makes humans struggle with acting on knowledge that could be life-enhancing?

Dealing with health means that we must recognize the potential that health can be lost.  Our basic human need to believe that we are safe, that our lives are ok, is challenged by taking actions to protect our health.  The loss of health caused by continued inattention to daily self-care encounters the powerful force of denial – an unconscious belief system that keeps blinders on our ability to see the results of our actions – or inactions.

Inattention to self-care is an ongoing issue in our society.  What is missing is a sense that our lack of self-care impacts others.  Lack of care can easily result in diminished health, in an inability to participate in enjoyable activities with family or with others.

What are the answers?  I wish I knew!  If I were simple it would have been discovered by now.  The answer to sustaining motivation is that there is no one answer.  People change, and what motivates us change, and there is no “one size fits all” solution.  The one thing that seems to be consistent is that trying to make sustained changes alone is very difficult.  We humans are wired for connection – and it is essential for sustained change to use that ability for our own good.

So – want to make significant changes in your life?  Find a pal; hire a trainer; find a walking buddy; take a class – do something with someone else that creates some degree of support and accountability.  Change will follow.

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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VOTE

Your vote your vioce

These past couple of weeks have been hard.  Attending the local vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass murder, watching others on TV, reading the many stories of the victims and their families and talking about this horror with my friends have left me drained.  I am aware that my people has lived through this time before.  In fact, it seems to be our recurring theme.  But rather than relive the past right now in this column, I’d like to offer something else that has been repeated these last several days.  That is the notion that we, meaning the American people, have an opportunity right now, to make our voices heard.  We have the power of the vote to express our dissatisfaction and unhappiness, or for some, our satisfaction with the status quo.  The thing that gives me hope is that in our country, regardless of any administration, we have a peaceful outlet for expressing ourselves.  I, for one, have already exercised my right and voted early.  If you have as well, great.  If you have not, this is what I now implore you: VOTE dammit!  Today is Election Day!  Now is your chance.  Vote as if your life depends on it because it just might.  See y’all on the other side.

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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It Happened Again…

stronger than hate

It happened, again, and this time it’s even closer to home.  This past Saturday morning, as my extended Jewish community in Pittsburgh was praying during the Sabbath, an anti-Semitic madman murdered 11 congregants and injured six more.  As everyone should know by now, the killings occurred as this animal yelled, “All Jews must die.”  Among the murdered was a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor.  The global response was immediate.  Leaders and people of all faiths condemned what is the single largest mass killing of Jews in the United States.  Except for our own President who, although he condemned the murders, also suggested an armed guard at the synagogue might have prevented this tragedy.  Additionally, he spent much of the weekend tweeting about the World Series, mocking elected leaders, tooting his own horn and calling the news media the “true Enemy of the People.”  And this is a man who has a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren.  I am heartbroken, devastated and hardly know where to begin to express my outrage and sadness.

As many people here know, I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  Until 2007, when I relocated with my family to Nashville, I had been a member of two very large synagogues and was very involved in the Jewish community in L.A.  The threats to the community there were all too real and following a 1999 shooting at a local Jewish Community Center, my synagogue Board decided to install bullet proof glass doors, a wall around the perimeter of the property, and hire an armed guard to be stationed at the entrance to the parking lot.  Entry to the parking lot was by permit, issued to synagogue members, and visitors had to be placed on an approved list.  For the High Holidays, no one can enter the premises without a valid ticket.  There are security buzzers at the entrance to the administrative and rabbinic offices, which are entered through heavy bullet proof doors.  This was our family’s reality for many years.  We adjusted and carried on.  My sense of safety and welcome in this country began to crumble then, but nevertheless, we continued to show up, to participate, to celebrate and to live our most basic value of “repairing the world.”

When we moved to Nashville I was surprised to learn our synagogue, which faces one of the busiest and most visible streets in town, had no walls, no tickets are required and only a door buzzer with a camera signals to the office who is interested in entering the building.  We do employ a security consultant who is on duty during school hours, services and other special events.  During High Holidays, there are more officers, but the doors remain open.  And then, a few years ago, in the early morning hours, someone drove by the synagogue and fired a gun at the building.  Thankfully no one was there yet, but we began to take a more serious look at our own security.

But here’s the thing: no amount of “security measures,” can stop the hate that filled that maniac’s head and heart.  It’s like trying to stop an old leaky ship.  You can plug each hole as it springs open but sooner or later, the ship will need to be completely repaired or rebuilt, or it will surely sink.  And today I feel we have reached that point.  This country is broken at its core.  The leadership spends more time bashing each other, name calling and avoiding responsibility.  No one is even home when it comes to making hard decisions about gun control, mental health and basic human rights.  As I write this, the administration is sending over 5,000 troops to the Mexican border to stop a caravan of people looking for salvation here.

And, let me address the media bashing.  As a former news reporter, I can attest to the honesty and integrity of those who cover the stories we read, watch and listen to.  Yes, there are always going to be those who go after the sensational, those who embellish the facts.  Just like with anything, a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch.  But make no mistake, the vast majority of the news media takes their job as a sacred obligation.  Trust me, there’s not much money or glamor in chasing down leads, digging up information and waiting patiently for a source to call back.  But there is holiness in sitting and bearing witness to someone’s pain as they describe a tragedy.  It is an honor to tell the stories of those who have no other voice.  And it is a privilege to be the Fourth Estate.  Without a free press, we would indeed not be the nation that we envision ourselves to be.

So, where do we go from here?  I’m not sure.  A couple of years ago I was at our synagogue’s monthly Board meeting.  During a discussion about attendance in services our rabbi charged each of us with the responsibility to lead by example.  He encouraged us to take our leadership roles seriously and to live the values we want to see in our congregants.  It’s something I’d heard before.  My late father, Judge Fred Rimerman, used to tell us to always be good citizens.  He taught my siblings and I to live by the laws and values of our community, our city, state and country.  If we aren’t happy with things, there are lawful, moral avenues for change, beginning with our right to vote.  I have tried to live my life by those lessons.  My dad’s voice rings in my ears when I face a moral dilemma.

Today I’m struggling with how to process these latest events and what to do about my own feelings of anger, despair, sadness and horror.  I’m relying on my childhood lessons to be a good citizen, my rabbi’s admonishment to lead by example.  Yesterday I was at a meeting at the synagogue and the rabbi stopped in to say a few words.  What stands out for me was his encouragement that we all keep showing up, we continue to be proud of our Jewish and American identities.  And he reminded us that there is always new life and new hope emerging.  Just before he came to speak to us, he’d officiated at a baby naming and circumcision ceremony for two new babies, and following his talk he would officiating at one more.  Three precious new lives entered the community of the Jewish people and there are more coming.

So, I pledge to carry the memories of those who perished Saturday at the hands of evil, just as I carry the memories of the six million who were murdered by the Nazis, those murdered in the pogroms of Russia and the many others in our history.  I will remind myself that the perpetrators are gone, but we are still here.  Those that sought to wipe us off the face of the earth were foiled in their attempts and we endure and thrive.

Today I will mourn and cry.  Tomorrow I will pick myself up and go on with joy and gratitude.

 

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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Why the Time Change?

Every spring and every fall, as we “spring ahead” or “fall back,” people all around the country ask, “So am I gaining an hour or losing one?” It seems there is always confusion. And then there’s the question of why we do this at all. Why don’t we just leave the clocks alone and keep to “standard” time? Wouldn’t it just be easier? Well, get ready because it’s changing this November 4th.

I’ve always had some vague notion of the how and why we change our clocks, but I thought it had a much more recent history. I also thought it had to do with kids getting out of school and helping with farm work or something. I can’t tell you where I got that. You may already know it, but Daylight Saving Time (DST) is used to save energy and make better use of daylight. It was first used in 1908 in Thunder Bay, Canada. Many say the idea was actually conceived by Benjamin Franklin. Yep, our Ben, considered the “Father of Electricity.” According to timeanddate.com, however,

“Many sources also credit Benjamin Franklin with being the first to suggest seasonal time change. However, the idea voiced by the American inventor and politician in 1784 can hardly be described as fundamental for the development of modern DST. After all, it did not even involve turning the clocks. In a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, which was entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light”, Franklin simply suggested that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning. What’s more: Franklin meant it as a joke.”

The U.S. is one of about seventy countries around the world that use Daylight Saving (not SavingS) Time. Not every state in the country subscribes to it though. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gives every state or territory the right to opt out of using DST. For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Timeis NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states. Florida wants to have Daylight Saving Time year-round and Governor Rick Scott has signed off on a bill, the “Sunshine Protection Act,” asking congress to make it happen.

So, remember noticing a time change in the time change? I do. All of a sudden, the spring change came earlier and the fall change came later. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed into law on August 8, 2005 and it changed DST dates.

The Energy Policy Act extended the yearly Daylight Saving Time (DST) period in the United States by several weeks.

  • The beginning of DST was moved from the first Sunday of April to the second Sunday of March.
  • The end of DST was moved from the last Sunday of October to the first Sunday in November.

The law came into effect on March 1, 2007, and the new DST schedule was first applied on March 11 of the same year.

Some pros and cons of DST (Again, from timeanddate.com,):

Pro: Longer Evenings

Changing the clocks does not create extra daylight, but it causes the Sun to rise and set at a later time by the clock. So, when we spring forward an hour in spring, we add 1 hour of natural daylight to our afternoon schedule.

  • Proponents of DST argue that longer evenings motivate people to get out of the house. The extra hour of daylight can be used for outdoor recreation like golf, soccer, baseball, running, etc. That way, DST may counteract the sedentary lifestyle of modern living.
  • The tourism industry profits from brighter evenings. Longer nights give people more time to go shopping, to restaurants, or other events, boosting the local economy.

Con: Doesn’t Save Energy

A century ago, when DST was introduced, more daylight was a good thing because it meant less use of artificial light, helping to save energy. Modern society, with its computers, TV-screens, and air conditioning units uses more energy, no matter if the Sun is up or not. Today, the amount of energy saved from DST is negligible.

Pro: Less Artificial Light

One of the aims of DST is to make sure that people’s active hours coincide with daylight hours so that less artificial light is needed. This makes less sense close to the equator where the amount of daylight does not vary much in a year or near the poles where the difference between winter and summer daylight hours is very large.

However, at latitudes between these extremes, adjusting daily routines to the shifting day length during summer may indeed help to save energy. A German analysis of 44 studies on energy use and DST found a positive relationship between latitude and energy savings.

Con: Can Make People Sick

Changing the time, even if it is only by 1 hour, disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. For most people, the resulting tiredness is simply an inconvenience. For some, however, the time change can have more serious consequences.

Pro: Lighter = Safer

Safety is a good argument for keeping the lighter evenings of DST.

Con: Costs Money

It is hard to determine the economic cost of the collective tiredness caused by DST, but studies have found that there is a decrease in productivity after the spring transition.

  • The City of New York invested 1.5 million US dollars in a dusk and darkness safety campaign for the DST change for the fall of 2016.
  • There is an extra cost in building DST support into computer systems and keeping them maintained, as well as manually changing clocks.

The debate over DST is ongoing. I figure, we made up “time” anyway, so, if we want to change it to suit us, why not? The sun will rise when she’s ready and set the same way.

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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Big Mike

        

He stood 6’3” with the build of a football defensive lineman.  When his blond hair thinned, he shaved his head but kept his untrimmed beard. He looked scary as heck.

When he worked as a bouncer and the college boys were rowdy, his boss would say, “Hey, Big Mike, go stand over there and just stare at them”.   Mike would walk over to the table without a smile, cross his arms and stare. Within minutes the college boys were running for the door to get away from him.

But Big Mike wasn’t scary to little kids. Every child, and most adults, stood in line for his bear hugs and to hear his deep laugh. He taught his nieces to roar like a dinosaur. They put bows in his beard and pasted one on top of his bald head.

Nothing was too wacky or weird to try at least once. At the Honda dealership where he worked, he flew toy helicopters around the shop often trailing a small banner with an obscene message.

At his friend’s wedding, he told the bride’s family that he and the groom were drug dealers. When his friend’s son was born with blond hair and blue eyes, Mike responded, “Hey, I was just there to fix the dryer”.  (The baby’s parents have dark hair and eyes. )

His voicemail greeting growled “Hi, this is Big Mike. I like girls, so if you’re a guy make it quick”.  His Facebook page said “Hi, I’m Big Mike. If you want to know more, get to know me in person”.  So many people got to know him.

The children at summer camp will never forget the big guy who was always willing to listen to their troubles and dreams.  The Special Olympics athletes he cheered to victory presented his family with a medal engraved with their names to honor Big Mike.   He was a PUNK (Professional Uncle No Kids).

Big Mike was a talented artist. He sketched with pencil and pen. He built rocking chairs shaped like animals for children.  He customized his shoes with glittery designs, like the pair he wore at the bowling alley with a battery-powered blinking blue light. He also played several musical instruments and happily taught others to play.

It’s impossible to explain who he was or how much he influenced others in a few words. He certainly wasn’t perfect because no human is. But I have never laughed so much at a funeral as when I listened to his friends and family tell stories about him.  He was taken from us too soon. But his legacy will live on through the stories.

In loving memory of my nephew, Michael Alan “Big Mike” Shirk (1984 – 2018), gone but never forgotten.

 

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 new 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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Reflections on the Family Dinner

family-dinner-1

This last few weeks has been hard for me for many reasons. My business has shifted gears, in a positive way, but has resulted in long hours and many decisions.  My husband has been working on a big project at work, so we haven’t had as much time together as usual, leaving us both irritable and feeling disconnected.  The Jewish holidays have come and gone and, while spiritually uplifting, the attendant socializing and entertaining have me feeling somewhat depleted physically.  And then there’s the big elephant in the room, the circus freak-show going on in Washington, which makes me sad, depressed, angry and frightened.  I am not really a negative person, in fact most people would say I’m unnaturally optimistic, but this month has been a struggle, even for me.

But, dear reader, do not despair. I was hit with inspiration the other day during a random, casual conversation with some of my colleagues.  I had brought my lunch to a meeting and the discussion turned to cooking in general, cooking for families in particular.  I was the only person with children of my own, the others being considerably younger than myself, but each of us had something to say about our experiences with family meals.  I mentioned that, while my children were growing up, I made family dinners an every-night thing. As the children got older, had more activities and eventually were able to drive themselves around, attendance was not always one hundred percent.  But, at the proscribed time, dinner was on the table for whomever was home.

One of my colleagues mentioned that her mom didn’t know how to cook, so they ate out every dinner, or brought in food from somewhere else.  This led us to discuss what, exactly, constitutes a “family dinner.”  Did it have to be homemade?  Did it have to be at home?  Did it have to be dinner?  I was struck by the guilt the other felt that they didn’t engage in this daily ritual with their families.  They judged their parents for not making it a priority.  I, in turn, began to feel self-conscious.  I am not one to hold everyone to some random standard that fits me and in fact, I try to look deeper in these types of discussions.  Did each of their families make some sort of regular interaction happen?  Could they look differently at their family’s process and see what they did to maintain connection?  For my family, dinner was the available time, but for other families it may have been something else.

The discussion revealed to me the complex and intense relationship between families and food.  Not a groundbreaking thing, for sure.  But scratch the surface and you’ll find that even in today’s modern world where things move at lightning speed and dinner can be obtained with the click of a mouse, by opening an app or by a meal delivery program, there remains a longing for people in the same household to spend time together.  For most of us food is comfort and the comfort of eating with those we love, in our familiar surroundings, makes us feel safer and less alone in the world.

In these turbulent times, we all long for a way to make sense of things.  At the end of the day I still feel comforted by going to the fridge, taking out the fixings for a home cooked meal and beginning the preparations while my husband pours a glass of wine and we share our day.  When my children come home for visits, they ask for their favorite meals and we cook together, catching up and remembering what always brings us back together.

If you have a memory or story to share about your “family dinner,” please share.  I’m working on a collection of stories on this subject and would love to connect with you.  Leave a comment here, or email me at barbaradabpr@gmail.com  Bon apetit!

Bonus points if you can identify the family in the featured photo!

P.S.  Here’s one last picture from my Summer Garden.  Sweet Potatoes!  Just dug from the ground, ready to dry and store for Sweet Potato pie for Thanksgiving!

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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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An Immigrant Story

 

Once upon a time, two men named Christian and Jacob lived in a country devastated by war. The war had been going on for decades and the economy was wrecked, destroying their livelihoods as farmers and tradesmen.  Military press gangs roamed the countryside and towns looking for young men who could be forcibly recruited into military service.

The government of the day legitimated its rule by collaborating with the majority religion to stamp out the “heretics” who were considered political and religious subversives.  Christian and Jacob belonged to a religious minority that practiced pacifism.  As a result, they faced a constant threat of imprisonment, torture, and death.

They moved from place to place with their families trying to survive.  Eventually word spread through their community of a country where they could practice their religious beliefs without fear of persecution and support their families without fear of war.

Christian and Jacob chose to make the dangerous journey to the new country.  Healthy, unmarried young men are usually the first family members to emigrate because they are considered better able to take care of themselves and find jobs quickly.  After the young men are established, they can pay to bring other family members to safety.  Then as now women risked sexual exploitation, including rape, during their immigrant journey.

Christian and Jacob made their immigrant journey in the early 1730’s, landing at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They came for religious freedom and economic security.  Under today’s rules, they could be classified as either refugees or economic migrants.

Refugees fleeing religious or political persecution are eligible for asylum and eventual citizenship. Economic migrants are considered a threat to the existing workforce and so are returned to their country of origin as quickly as possible.

Christian and Jacob never learned English but that didn’t stop them from becoming productive citizens. I am forever grateful for their courage and energy in making the dangerous immigrant journey.  I am one of many descendants of Christian Rutt (maternal ancestor) and Jacob Schurch (paternal ancestor) who are now citizens of the U.S.

Every family living in the U.S. has a story like this whether they arrived centuries ago or just last week. To honor the memory of Christian and Jacob, I welcome all new immigrants.  They may seem different now but they’ll fit in quickly.

 

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 new 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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The Other Side of the Couch – Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago – two events took place.  The world knows all about one of those events.  The attack on the United States that began that morning culminated in the deaths of thousands, the desolation of the hearts of millions, and the eruption into world consciousness of religious fanaticism that was to go on to claim many more lives across these years.

The other event that took place that day was not marked by the world in any unusual fashion.  It passed quietly, was not newsworthy.  To me, however, this event paralleled the catastrophic loss of loved ones and of some sense of security in the world.

September 11, 2001 would have been my beloved father’s 81st birthday.

My dad, Dr. Glenn Hammonds, succumbed to a sudden illness on July 5, 2001.  He was taken ill, hospitalized, and died after two extensive surgeries that could not save his life.  A little more than two months later, the day of his birth, already a grief-filled marker, was forever joined with the national tragedy of the attack on our country.

My dad was a remarkable man – a young surgeon who served in WWII, a leader in his field, but most of all a beloved physician who is remembered to this day by patients he treated for his kind demeanor and listening ear.  I still encounter strangers who, on hearing my name, ask me if I am related to Dr. Hammonds and tell me stories of his care.

However, I am aware that the extraordinary amount of time and care that he gave to his patients sometimes made it difficult for him to be as available to his family as we wanted or as he wished.  This is a dilemma for all those who serve in care-giving roles.  As a child one knows that Daddy is doing something important, but one also knows that Daddy isn’t home and that when he is he is very tired.

I was blessed to have this caring, compassionate, intelligent man as a father.  I wish that I had had longer with him in his later years.  I wish that we had been able to talk about the role of being a care-giver, the toll it can take on personal relationships, and the great need for a focus on self-care.  On days like today, when I remember my dad with both sorrow and pride, I strengthen my own daily resolve to delight in this moment, to be grateful for the family, friends, and health that I enjoy.  So thank you, Dad, for the ongoing lessons and love that are forever a part of me – even the lessons that you probably didn’t know you were teaching.

Sometimes unintended lessons can be the most profound of all.  Do you have lessons that you didn’t know you were learning?  They could be ways in which you want to behave in a different way than that which you saw in your childhood home.  They could be experiences that cause you to wonder about your own choices?  Take a look – you may be surprised at what you find.

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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