Tag Archives: Hope

The Other Side of the Couch – Remembering Tallu

Pink Clouds

 

 Tallu Schuyler Quinn, minister, mother, wife, CEO, writer, poet, fighter for justice, maker of bread, raiser of chickens, lover of life, died two months ago of glioblastoma.  Today the book that gathers the many strands of her life into haunting and beautiful essays is being published.

The Parnassus bookstore website says about Tallu:

“Nonprofit leader and minister Tallu Schuyler Quinn spent her adult life working to alleviate hunger, systemic inequality, and food waste, first as a volunteer throughout the United States and abroad, and then as the founder of the Nashville Food Project, where she supported the vibrant community work of local food justice in Middle Tennessee. That all changed just after her fortieth birthday, when she was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer.

In What We Wish Were True, Quinn achingly grapples with the possibility of leaving behind the husband and children she adores, and what it means to live with a terminal diagnosis and still find meaning. “I think about how my purpose may be the same in death as it continues to be in life–surrendering to the hope that our weaknesses can be made strong, that what is broken can be made whole,” she writes.

Through gorgeous prose, Quinn masterfully weaves together the themes of life and death by integrating spiritually nourishing stories about family, identity, vocational call, beloved community, God’s wide welcome, and living with brain cancer. Taken together, these stunning essays are a piercing reminder to cherish each moment, whether heartbreaking or hilarious, and cast loose other concerns.

As a mother, a kindred spirit, and a dear friend, Tallu Schuyler Quinn looks into our eyes with well-earned tears in her own and tells us the bittersweet truth: We are all searching for what has already found us–present and boundless love. This love will deliver us and never let us go.”

Tallu’s love continues through this beautiful book.  I hope that you will buy it and read it and tell others about it – it is a book meant for giving.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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Groundhog Day

Tomorrow is the day a rodent named Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania peeks his head up from the snowy ground to find his shadow. If he sees his shadow, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter. Paradoxically (at least to me), if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

Groundhog Day is also the setting for the famous film featuring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman who visits Punxsutawney, only to get stuck in a time loop, reliving the day over and over until he figures out how to break the cycle. Sounds a little too real, right?

For the last couple of years, I, like many people, have felt stuck in a similar loop. Wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…and so on…and so on…Sprinkled in between, there are occasional errands to shop for groceries, doctor appointments, and other of life’s necessities. There have been brief periods where we’ve gone to restaurants and traveled, had glimpses of life beyond. But it seems even that is part of the Groundhog Day loop.

So here I am, on the brink of another year cycling round and round the pandemic. In the film, Bill Murray’s character decides that since he’s stuck, he might as well pass the time acquiring new skills. He takes piano lessons, he learns ice carving, among others. And in the end, he changes from an arrogant, cynical curmudgeon into a softer, more sensitive version of himself. With the realization that his actions have no long-term consequences, and the notion that this may be his fate forever, he is able to let go of the life he had and learn to live in the moment.

That lesson has been the hardest for me to learn. As a chronic planner I am most comfortable when I have things to look forward to and anticipate. I don’t think I’m a control freak, but I do like to have a goal. I can live in the moment only after I’ve planned for an executed the plan for the moment. So, it’s been a challenge to let go of plans, to reframe my goals, and to find pleasure in what is right outside my window. As for learning new skills, well, I started a new job in early 2020, doing something a bit different from what I’d done previously, so I’ve been learning as I go for the past two years. My husband and I have had to learn to navigate around each other as our house also became our shared “corporate headquarters.” We’ve had to set new types of boundaries, communicate differently, and manage new expectations.

Bill Murray’s weatherman finally breaks the cycle when the fates determine he’s learned enough, become a better version of himself, and can be open to the possibilities that are all around him. Obviously, a global pandemic is not a lighthearted romantic comedy, far from it. Hundreds of thousands have died, countless other lives have been irrevocably damaged, and our world will never be the same, regardless of the lessons learned. But perhaps there is a kernel of hope to be found in letting go of rigid expectations, learning things, living in the moment, embracing new ways of thinking, and being open to possibilities. I don’t know what Punxsutawney Phil will see, or not see, tomorrow. I always pray for a shorter winter. But either way, I’m good.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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The Other Side of the Couch – Goodbye and Hello

Sunset

The turning of the year is for many a time of reflection – what has this last year brought to us; what are we leaving behind; what are we welcoming in the year ahead.  As I write this post, we are experiencing yet another wave of COVID-19 distress as the Omicron variant has become the dominant disease vector; we do not yet know enough about this variant to predict much about it other than that it is more contagious than the two prior variants – we hope it is less lethal.

This year for me has been a year of facing loss and mortality.  My brother, brother-in-law, sister and aunt all died of cancer this year – I am the oldest of five siblings, and these losses have really brought into focus the essential question that life presents to all of us.  Our time here is limited.  What do we choose to do with that precious time?

COVID prevented me from spending the time I would have wished with my brother and sister.  We were barely able to see Glenn a few weeks before his death – he was fighting hard to get to another clinical trial that held out so much promise, but his cancer was too far advanced.  My daughter and I flew to San Francisco and spent two precious days with him – just being together, talking, remembering.  When we left, we still were hoping for more time – but it was not to be.

Lindsay’s situation turned so quickly.  She was diagnosed in November of 2020, had surgery, and the extensive tumor was identified and removed.  She joined a clinical trial that worked so well until suddenly it didn’t.  In early June of 2021 she was hospitalized, and scans finally revealed that the cancer was back in all her internal organs.

Because Hawaii was so strict regarding COVID, when we learned that her time was short, we still had to have COVID tests within 72 hours of travel.  The only place in Nashville that gave the tests approved by the Hawaiian government was finally identified, and we flew on July 3.  Arriving at 2 in the afternoon, Lindsay, by this time in hospice at home, recognized us, welcomed us, but was not able to converse.  We were just together. During the night she became unable to respond, and in the early morning hours I talked to her, sang to her, told her it was ok to go.  She left us at 8:45 on July 4.

Three weeks later we said hello to a beautiful new granddaughter – Cora Lindsay.   Named after my sister, her great-aunt, this child carries hope into the world as a legacy of love.

The thread that binds all these experiences together is that legacy.  I am a fortunate person in that I grew up in a family that was and is bound together by love.  Although we have certainly had our struggles – no families in my experience do not have struggles – we got along (for the most part) and valued kindness.  Whatever I can say about my time on this earth, I can at least say that I gave and received love.  That is no small thing.

May you find ways in your own life to love.  The gift will return to you a thousand-fold.

Happy New Year.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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Hope at a Time of Despair

We’re a few days away from Christmas and it’s difficult to see signs of hope. 

We’re heading into another covid winter as infections and deaths again rise.  More than 800,000 Americans have already died from the covid virus.  Vaccines are widely available and medical evidence indicates that the unvaccinated are the ones dying now.  But too many people claim they have a Constitutional right to their “freedom” to refuse the vaccination. 

This argument distorts the Constitution.  Constitutional freedoms extend only to the point where one person’s rights infringe on the freedoms of others.  By claiming a right to reject the vaccine, anti-vaxxers increase the risk of infecting others, thus infringing on the Constitutional rights of others to live virus-free.  Anti-vaxxers also increase the likelihood that we will never reach herd immunity and that the virus will mutate into a form that is vaccine resistant.  

Unfortunately, the political and social disputes about covid and the vaccine are just the latest symptom of the twin diseases of political intolerance and violence.  Our country has a violent history. Therefore, it is disturbing to learn from recent surveys that around a quarter of Republican Party supporters believe it is acceptable to use violence to win political disagreements.   Meanwhile, the leftist fringe infecting the Democratic Party screams a message of tolerance through an intolerant program of “wokeness”.  Significantly, these pampered pooches haven’t agreed to give up one iota of their privileged, coastal-elite existence to bring their utopia to fruition.

Since no one is listening to each other and the few voices of reason have been drowned out by a sea of intolerance, there is a mad scramble to impose intolerance through the capture of the political process.  Too many states are passing “secure voting” laws that are designed solely to suppress the votes of people who are deemed politically and socially undesirable and inferior.  Virtually all the states are racing to create gerrymandered districts that will distort the outcome of elections over the next ten years.  Our Constitution stands in grave danger of becoming more useful as toilet paper.

So where do we find hope in this time of despair? History teaches us that intolerance eventually burns itself out due to its own excesses.  The Inquisition eventually ran out of victims to torture and murder in the name of God.  The American Civil War ended when the “secesh” states ran out of people to fight and die on the battlefield.  The covid pandemic will end when the virus runs out of people to kill.

My hope is that our country will reject intolerance sooner rather than later. My despair is that we value our lives and the lives of others so cheaply that we are willing to watch so many people die before our intolerance finally burns out.  

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation 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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Finding Hope

An emergency polio ward in Boston in 1955 equipped with iron lungs. These pressurized respirators acted as breathing muscles for polio victims, often children, who were paralyzed. www.apimages.com

When I graduated from college in 1979, the commencement speaker was none other than Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. I don’t honestly remember much of what he said, but I do remember being in awe. You see my childhood and, for that matter, the childhood of my entire generation, was in large part defined by the polio epidemic. I recall hearing stories about children living in iron lungs. Former President Franklin Roosevelt used a wheelchair. And the father of one of my friends walked with a leg brace following a battle with the disease. A rite of passage was lining up with all the other pre-kindergartners and our parents and siblings to receive the oral polio vaccine in a sugar cube. I was excited to finally be ready for school. My mom cried because we would all finally be protected from the deadly virus.

Polio was finally declared eradicated in the United States in the 1990s. Still today’s children are vaccinated for polio along with mumps, measles, and rubella, among others. In most public-school districts, many summer camps, sports teams, and universities, proof of vaccination is a requirement for enrollment. Recent vaccine developments include meningitis and HPV which are recommended for teens and young adults heading off to college. I don’t recall anyone I know resisting these basic, preventative, yet miraculous scientific developments. I am aware there are some people who are fundamentally opposed to any and all vaccines for a variety of reasons. While I don’t agree with them and believe they are taking risks with their family’s health, I respect their conviction and support their decisions.

There have been many comparisons between the historic polio epidemic and the current COVID19 pandemic. Both are viruses, can be deadly, can lead to long term damage, and both can be eradicated by vaccine. So why is there so much confusion and controversy around the COVID19 vaccine? In an article in Discover Magazine, Carl Kurlander at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote, “Developing the vaccine was a collective effort, from national leadership by President Franklin Roosevelt to those who worked alongside Salk in the lab and the volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to be experimentally inoculated.” He goes on to add, “That was a time, said Salk’s oldest son, Dr. Peter Salk, in an interview for our film, when the public trusted the medical community and believed in each other. I believe that’s an idea we need to resurrect today.”

For the past year and a half, like many of us, I have felt the weight of so much pain and loss. I’ve been isolated, sad, lonely, disheartened, and disillusioned. When I was finally able to be vaccinated alongside my husband and two of my children, my daughter and I hugged each other and cried tears of relief and gratitude. I waited anxiously until my son in another state could be vaccinated. I continue to marvel at the rapid development of this life-saving vaccine and the ongoing development of treatments for the virus. But I am also angry. Angry at those who have turned the virus and the vaccine into a political cudgel, to be used on either side of the aisle. I am angry that in this time of unlimited potential for information sharing, there is so much misinformation being weaponized to further any agenda other than ending this scourge that continues to kill. In my darkest thoughts, I feel despair about what this means for the future of our country and of humankind, and I pray I am wrong.

I am not a pessimist. Most people who know me would say I am most definitely a cockeyed optimist, often not seeing the darkness in front of me. So, I will finish with something positive. Ann Frank famously said two things that give me hope.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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The Other Side of the Couch – What It Costs Us

The woman was talking to her son, age seven. He was in tears. “I’m sorry, Robbie, but you’re just going to have to learn to control yourself. You can’t dissolve into tears over every little thing.”

Two little boys were having an argument over a toy. One child hit the other one. A parent standing nearby said, “Hit him back, Johnny.”

The little boy had fallen and skinned his knee. He began to cry loudly. His peers, slightly older and already wise in the ways of the world, taunted him. “What a crybaby – he is a girl.”

The preceding stories are typical interactions that happen every day, every week, every month, every year in our society. They represent pervasive attitudes toward raising young boys to be men. The message goes something like this: “It is not good to let boys grow up to be too sensitive. They will be ridiculed: they will not have what it takes to succeed in a competitive world. It MAY be all right for them to express some feelings when they are very young, but they should not be coddled. The last thing anyone wants is a son who is a sissy.”

Sensitivity to the experience of others, the ability to feel with another person in his/her joy or pain, is often regarded as suspect when it is displayed by boys or men. This attitude presents a significant barrier to improved world community.

A central task that faces human beings is that of maintaining a balance between self and other. Human as we are, we can neither live alone nor together; we are caught in an ongoing tension between yearning for connection and affiliation and yearning for autonomy and independence. The experience of empathy – a process during which a person experiences the experience of another AS IF it were her own and AT THE SAME TIME is clearly aware of her own self – clearly mirrors that ultimate humanity.

The empathic process calls on the individual to perceive affective cues, both verbal and non-verbal, which serve as indicators of the other’s emotional state. The individual, perceiving these cues, takes the role of the other, experiencing the other’s feelings vicariously. Empathic ability is complex, requiring a clear self-concept, the ability to connect affectively, and flexible ego boundaries. Empathic ability has been posited to be a strong indicator of effective human functioning and maturity. A major component of effective parenting rests on parental ability to empathize. Inability to empathize, on the other hand, has been linked with a variety of antisocial behaviors (narcissism, in particular).

When empathy is broken down into its various components (perceptual, affective/cognitive, communicative) boys and girls do well on all aspects of tasks other than the motivation to attend or perceive. In other words, girls notice the non-verbal and verbal cues necessary to arouse empathy. They seem to be more perceptually attuned to pick up on these cues. Boys, when trained in research settings in doing this, were equally able on the other parts of the tasks. Differences in measured empathic ability diminished with direct teaching of perceptual skills to boys.

The implications of these findings are both heart-rending and hopeful. The ability to empathize is an essential human skill. Our culture encourages girls to have it because it fits with our definition of female. Boys, who need it just as much and who benefit from direct teaching of how to pick up on perceptual cues from others, are instead taught to deny their own feelings and to ignore the feelings of others.

Boys may require actual specific teaching of skills that girls acquire as part of their identity. Boys seem to be deliberately trained away from acquiring this set of skills because of well-intentioned parents’ fears for their future success in an out-of-balance society. Young boys are placed in an emotional
catch-22 by this process -subject to deep emotional arousal, yet not given the tools to understand it or to release it into altruism or prosocial behavior.

Our world is poorly served by this unfortunate situation. Something little boys and men need – full emotional, flexible responsiveness – is being withheld from them, through no fault of their own. Knowing that it can be and must be directly taught is essential information for our world’s future functioning.

Parent: “Johnny, you hit your friend. What is he doing? “
Johnny: “He is crying and holding his arm.”
Parent: “If someone hits you, how do you feel?”
Johnny: “I feel sad and mad.”
Parent: “How do you think your friend feels right now?”
Johnny: “Sad and mad.”
Parent: “What can you do to help?”
Johnny: “I can give him a hug and say I’m sorry.”
Parent: “Good job, Johnny – I am proud of you for noticing that your friend is sad and mad and needs help.”

This little scenario is an illustration of two-step perspective taking that helps a child understand the beginnings of empathic connection. It works! As we enter a New Year, as we leave behind a year fraught with pain and distress, may we all take heart from the good and decent men and women who are learning and teaching the lessons of empathy and care needed by all human beings.

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 .

Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Tagged as boysempathygirlsHopemasculinitymental healthnarcissimSusan Hammonds-White

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No Nukes!!!

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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