Tag Archives: maturity

Talking To Your Sister Is Sometimes All the Therapy You Need –anon

My mother always stressed how important my sister and I are to each other. Whenever we fought, and, like all siblings do, we DID fight, she would remind us that sometimes, and perhaps someday, we would be all we had.  “When your friends are not there for you, or you have lost a love, anything, your sister will be there,” she would say, and how right she was.  She was an only child so I guess she felt the value of having a sister more than we did at the time.  As it happened, thankfully, our Uncle Howard, my father’s older brother, married my Aunt Helen who too was an only child.  Now, my mom literally grew up with my dad and his brothers because my grandmothers were best friends.  It naturally followed that Marilyn and Helen became “sisters” big-time.  They were pretty much inseparable for most of their lives.  Again, like siblings, they had their moments, but all was always forgiven in the end.

This is a plaque in my room.  A gift from my sweet sis’, it greets me every morning.  I smile.

I am so grateful to my mother, OUR mother for instilling this gratitude in us.  Our love and caring and support for each other have carried us through many an emotional trauma.  We’ve spent plenty of long sleepless nights on the phone or in person working through life’s challenges.  We both have wonderful friends, of course, who have shared their support through the ups and downs, but there is something beyond special about our sisterly relationship.

Losing Mom this spring and taking care of all that was necessary following her passing has been proof of that.  We cared for her right there at home, with the help of hospice, but it was just the two of us there for most of the last days and at the end.  Joan and I spent two and a half months together under the same roof, a true test indeed.  We hadn’t been together for more than a few days or a week, maybe, since childhood.  Oh, we did have a couple of skirmishes, but Mom’s words got us through.  We didn’t say it out loud, but I know we were both thinking it.  In a moment, one time, we did tell each other that we thought Mom would be proud of us.

If you have a sibling or siblings, I hope you are close like we are.  I have to say that Mom would often comment on how happy she was that we appreciate each other like we do.  She spoke of friends whose children didn’t even speak to each other — ever. I have friends like that. Very sad.

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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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.


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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Parenting Our Parents (Cont’d)

So… In the first segment of Parenting Our Parents back in January, I shared my mom’s often belligerent attitude toward me and her most assuredly depressing, nay, morbid feelings toward life itself. I wrote that we had “introduced her to the idea of a senior residence that seems absolutely fabulous. She now goes to a class there every Wednesday and admits (albeit reluctantly) that she enjoys it. Moving there is under consideration, but she’s ‘not ready for that yet.’” Well, I have an update and it is really good news!

Since April 15th, mom has been residing in that absolutely fabulous senior residence and, let me tell you, she is truly a different person. I mean, she has done a complete 180. I think I convinced her to try it by talking about having “kids her own age to play with.” I also had to promise that if she really didn’t like it, she could come home. My sister, Joan, is still living in the condo, of course, so it was easy to assure mom that the house would be there as she left it should she want to return. Thankfully, she trusted me enough to believe me.

So far, mom has not once mentioned going “home.” Nor has she talked about killing herself. Oh, sure, she says she’s tired and would still like to go to sleep and, well, you know, but she has made friends, goes to meals regularly, and even has a favorite pianist who visits the residence every couple of weeks. She plays bingo which “passes the time” (She’d rather play Poker, but hasn’t managed to get a game up yet. She’s working on it, though.), and roams the grounds in her power chair regularly. She’s getting a lot more fresh air because she can easily get in and out of the building herself and is eating better. The food isn’t always great, but they make “delicious soup” most of the time. If things aren’t up to par, you can bet she lets them know.

An intuitive article from the New England Geriatrics website, How Socialization Can Benefit the Elderly by Karen Mozzer, describes how important socialization is for the elderly.

No matter what age a person is, socialization is important and gives a person a sense of belonging and acceptance. The elderly are no different; they need contact with other people just as much as a child, teenager, young adult, and adults of all ages. People need socialization to thrive and enjoy fulfilling lives.

Socialization becomes more important as we get older, especially once we reach our senior years. A recent research study performed by Harvard University showed that elderly individuals, who had active social lives, were happier, healthier and more likely to live longer, than elderly people who did not have an active social life. Loneliness can deter an elderly person’s life, socializing can enrich it.

I, we, believe wholeheartedly that this is making the difference for mom. It has been totally life-changing for her. I joke that she’ll never admit it in my lifetime, but we think she is actually happy, much of the time anyway. Stay tuned.

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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Road Rage in the Age of Victimhood

Recently I was involved in a road rage incident while on my way home. It all began, as so often happens, with a passive aggressive driver who would speed up every time someone tried to pass him. Eventually he was stuck behind a plumber’s truck and a line of vehicles blew by him of which I was driving the last.

Apparently the driver was so enraged that he followed me into a nearby grocery store. If I had known a nut was chasing me I would have swung by the local police precinct instead. I became aware of him when he tried to block me against a deli case so that he could spew a stream of profanity-laced filth, wrapping up by calling me a fat c—t and a lesbian. (Why is it that inadequate frustrated men always call women lesbians?)

I have lots of friends in the gay community so being called a lesbian isn’t particularly insulting. I’ve also been called many vulgar names while doing collections work and I worked a factory job long ago where I learned to out-cuss a drunken sailor. This guy was a comparative amateur. I couldn’t help myself. I smiled; almost laughed.

That set him off again and he followed me for several minutes through the store spewing comments about my putative lesbian love life.  He didn’t scare me at the time. There were plenty of people around and it was obvious that the tubby little man wasn’t going to get physically violent. When I left the store, he didn’t follow me.

Later I couldn’t help thinking about the guy. In my experience, that kind of rage boils up from months, even years of frustrated ambitions and blighted expectations. In other words, the guy felt like a victim and he needed a target for his victimhood.

We live in an era of victimhood.  There are economic victims of globalization, job automation, and the financial industry meltdown caused by blatant greed of the global elite. There are racial victims, ethnic victims, sexual harassment victims, and religious intolerance victims.  All victims have suffered a grievance based on a valid and real injustice.

But populist politicians who lack any sense of morality and decency are cynically exploiting the sense of victimhood by promising that the perpetrators will pay.  The perpetrators are some hazy “other” group that is racially, ethnically, and religiously different from the victim.  For an alarmingly large number of men, who feel their status has comparatively dropped, the perpetrators are females.

Populist politicians use inflammatory language that encourages their audience to take action against the alleged perpetrators.  We’ve seen it in the rise of hate crimes.  It also might explain why an angry, chubby, balding man followed a woman into a grocery store to spew hate.  That’s when I started feeling scared. Thank God he didn’t have a gun.


About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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The Women’s Movement:  Still Work To Be Done


My greatest role model was my mother, a true woman of the 1950s.  She was, and remains for me, the smartest person I’ve ever known.  She was college educated, well traveled, cultured, the only child of a high profile, socially and politically active local power couple.  But when she expressed her desire to become a lawyer, her father, the judge, encouraged her to become a teacher.  Much more appropriate for a woman, he told her.  Women lawyers at the time were considered, in her words,  “mannish,” and not attractive as wives and mothers.  And so she became a teacher, married, raised a family, cared for elderly parents, volunteered and eventually, re-entered her profession.  She was a voracious reader and encouraged discourse during family dinners.  No topic was off limits.

During my childhood in the 1960s and ‘70s I had a front row seat to watch the women’s movement unfold, although I was too young to be an active participant.  Sometimes I feel like I fell between the cracks; too young to claim the struggle and too old to be a real beneficiary of my older sisters’ fight.  And so I began my adult life without a template, my bra a bit singed but still intact, my mother’s encouragement that I could be anything I wanted ringing in my ears, but still unsure of how to carve out a path.

Over the years, I’ve managed to raise kids, own a business, return to grad school twice and become a community leader.  I’ve watched my daughter grow into a strong, independent, free thinker whose life choices so far are very different from my own.  She and her generation are the real legacy of those that fought the good fight.

And yet, there is still work to be done.  A few years ago we were shopping for a family car.  At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom and the car was for me to drive while schlepping kids around.  At the dealership, the salesman continually addressed my husband with details about the car, despite the fact that I was the one asking the questions.  At one point my husband, God love him, looked the salesman straight in the eye and said, “You should talk to her.  She’s the one who will be driving the car and she’s making the decision.”

I am now about to open a new business and on a recent afternoon, meeting with a leasing agent for a space, my business partner and I were encouraged to “work our feminine wiles,” to get a good deal.  My partner, who is much younger than I am, blew it off.  I, however, am still seething.  This man, about my own age, objectified us and when I called him out for his sexist stereotyping of us, he defaulted to the old, “I’m just kidding,” response.  It was not funny to me.

So what’s next?  At this time in our nation’s history, I fear the progress my older sisters fought for will be rolled back.  A journalism professor of mine, who’d been a wartime reporter in Vietnam, wrote about the influence of birth control on women entering the workforce.  Armed with the ability to choose when, and if, to start a family, women had more control over their lives.  So, too, with Roe v. Wade, women can control their own health care decisions.  Will this all disappear?  The public discourse today sounds to me like an old newsreel from my childhood.  Sadly, it’s not.

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  And while it’s easy these days to give in to despair and fear, I am determined to remain hopeful and heartened.  I remind myself that everything changes and I can be a catalyst for positive change.  I also take heart as I watch my daughter embark on a career once reserved only for men, in the world of sports.  She has found a place in which to express her passion and talents and I hope she will also reach back into her history and know she stands on some very strong shoulders.

About Barbara Dab

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – It Just Happened    


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

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

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

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

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

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

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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The Other Side of the Couch – Books That Have Touched My Life


I really cannot remember a time when I could not read.  I know that my mother read to me, even as a baby.  A family story chronicles me at three reciting “The Night Before Christmas” in its entirety to my two year-old sister. I remember at six dancing down the hall of the house, having received a set of the Bobbsey Twins series for my birthday.  Later the Cherry Ames, Student Nurse Series and biographies of accomplished women took center stage.  Wherever I went I had a book.  I was called out in class for reading under the desk during other classes.  In the summer I stacked books beside my chair in the living room and read voraciously.

Books took me to other places, other stories, other lives.  Books took me away from my own lonely life in middle and high school, becoming the friends for whom I longed.  Books widened my world, taking me to ancient Rome (Great and Glorious Physician), to Renaissance Italy (The Agony and the Ecstasy), ancient England (The Mists of Avalon), to a romanticized South (Gone with the Wind).   I climbed the moors with Jane Eyre, rejected and then fell in love with Mr. Darcy.  Discovering theater, I reveled in Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies.

As a professional counselor a whole other genre of books has become significant.  The stories of people’s lives embodied in historical and other fiction have been amplified by the professional literature of a lifetime.  Out of all of the hundreds of books and articles I have read over thirty plus years, three stand out as especially life-changing.

The first is On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers, in which he elucidates the three core conditions required for transformational change in a client (empathy, authenticity, and unconditional positive regard).  These foundational principles have informed my work from its inception.  Second is the amazing leap into a new way of seeing power, articulated by Jean Baker Miller in her seminal work Toward a New Psychology of Women, in which she describes “power with” rather than “power over” as a way to understand the relational process of transformation.  Third is the slim volume called Focusing by Eugene Gendelin, a book that opened the door into the centrality of the body-based knowing that creates change, if it is given a chance.

Whether fiction, biography, or professional literature, what all of these stories and experiences have in common is an arc of change.  Characters grow, develop, learn.  People live through struggle, learn new ways of being.  Through my profession I have learned how to be part of and witness to that process of change, informed by the touchstones of presence and witness.

Does your life story have an arc?  Have you considered how your story could be created?  What if you were an author, considering a biography of the life you have led?  What would you see?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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Permission to Create

Big MagicWorking as a creative person, I identify when hearing other creatives’ experiences and struggles.  Elizabeth Gilbert is one such person.  Her book Eat, Pray, Love, which chronicled her adventure of travel to pursue the three things that she most wanted to feel and be immersed in, connected with millions of people.

Her latest book, Big Magic, was a good listen for me.  She went through all the funky negatives we tell ourselves that keep us from creating.  She also gave examples of beloved pieces of art where people carved out a few pieces of time a day to create them.  I like the way she encourages us to create, not for money, not for success, but just for our happiness.

People talk to me about my art like I have a special gift.  I see how people are moved when I tell them about my experience of taking a painting class for the first time, and how I embraced it and knew it was something I wanted to pursue.  I appreciate that people are moved and inspired, and I understand that I have an ability to do what I do, but I don’t believe that I have anymore of a gift than anyone else, except that I became willing to give myself permission.  And what that meant was giving myself the tools that I needed to adventure, hence the painting class.  It was a long time in pause and in the “I don’t know if I can,” or “I don’t think I would be good,” since I had my first drawing class in the mid-1990’s.  Before the class, I could not draw good stick people, but I just wasn’t ready to carve out the time, or venture further, for almost twenty years.

So Elizabeth’s book is another tool, of encouragement, of permission to continue exploring, working toward something I want to achieve.

I hope you will give yourself permission to explore your interests.

Renee Bates

August 1, 2016

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development.  Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, a 3rd generation business begun in 1932. Renee admires the fact that it was begun by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.  Renee’s art may be enjoyed from her website or followed on Facebook.

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

Too Late

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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The Other Side of the Couch – Memorial Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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