Tag Archives: personal growth

The Other Side of the Couch – Time

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As a new decade begins many have an urge to both review the decade past and consider the decade ahead.   How do I view the past decade?  Did I meet my goals?  Did I even have goals?  Did I learn anything?  What am I taking with me into my life today and into the life I want to create in the next decade?

The last ten years have been a whirlwind of change – with time passing evermore rapidly.  My child graduated from college, married, had a child.  I became a grandmother.  I became an official senior by reaching the age for Medicare and Social Security.  I experienced some wonderful professional accomplishments – the opportunity to lead a national organization (the American Association of State Counseling Boards) as the profession grapples with the issues of portability and telehealth; the surprise of receiving a Legacy Award from both professional organizations in Tennessee, honoring my work over the years for professional counselors.  I took a fabulous trip to Hawaii to finally spend time with my sister who lives on Maui.  We downsized – what a process! I survived three surgeries – sinus, rotator cuff and knee replacement – yikes!  And finally, in the last year of the decade, I watched my husband, brother, and brother-in-law all struggle with life-threatening cancers.

Lesson One – Time really is elastic.  The experience of time passing shifts over a lifetime.  The older we grow, the more rapidly time seems to pass.  I remember as a child that summer was forever, and days were endless.  It is not that way anymore – in the blink of an eye a year, a decade is gone.

Lesson Two – Time is relentless.  Nothing we can do or say can control it.  Time is always moving, always changing.  We are never, ever in the same moment in time.  The river of change is constantly flowing and we are NEVER in the same moment again.

Lesson Three – Time is not promised.  Time is not something that is endless and can be counted on.  Time will not always be here.  Time will run out.

I know that today more of my life is lies behind me than ahead of me.  Many experiences and chapters, both joyful and sorrowful, are part of the days gone by.  If I have time and choice, what do I want to create in the possible days that lie ahead?

What I most long for is to be present to this life, this now, this moment.

At this moment as I am writing, I am also aware of the presence of my two feline companions, both attentive and watching me as I type.  I feel the breeze of a moving fan.  I shift in my chair to become a little more comfortable.  Outside I hear a car door slam. The only other sound right now is the hum of the computer and the peck-peck on the keys.  I look up and see my Dad smiling at me from the clouds in Alaska, my daughter at ten smiling at me, holding a baseball mitt.  I see a portrait of beloved Chance, another feline friend who left us a while ago. My childhood Teddy Bear, perched above my desk, holds space for more memories.  This is a small moment – but a crystal moment as I take the time to be present with what is.

The invitation to presence is always with us.  Only if we accept the invitation can we shift our relationship to time.  This moment in time is really all we have.  I invite you to delight in 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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Transitions 2020

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The new year is only a week old and already I’ve had two significant professional transitions.  The first is that after several years as a small business owner, I have sold my business.  The second is that I’ve returned to my journalism career as editor of a local newspaper.  It’s been a whirlwind of change and learning, and it’s been exhausting, but it’s also been exhilarating.

Life as a business owner was not new to me.  Thirty years ago, in the pre-internet era, I owned a franchise business.  It was fun and challenging and I loved being my own boss.  Most of all, I loved interacting with my clientele.  As an extrovert, I draw energy from interacting with others.  I also was a sole owner and, while the risk was solely mine, so was the reward.  I was also very young and had a growing family, so there were personal challenges as well.  Overall, I’d say it was a wonderful experience.

This time around, I had a partner and we built our business from the ground up.  No consultants to guide us, no corporation to hand us marketing materials and promotions.  Although the risk was greater without a corporate safety net, it’s been fun to see our business grow from an idea into something real and valuable.  A big challenge for me was spending most of my time in my home office.  I missed the client interactions and being alone was depressing at times.  The experience did teach me to be more mindful of self-care and to plan outings and lunches with friends and colleagues.  The partnership also taught me some valuable lessons about myself.  As someone who is a pleaser, I often yield too soon to others’ desires and opinions.  My drive to get along and be liked can be stronger than my need to stand up for what I think and what I know to be a good solution.  I look for compromise or, if there doesn’t appear to be a good one, I’m inclined to give in rather than push my agenda.  And while it’s good to choose one’s battles carefully, I too often choose to just walk away.

I’ve also learned that partnerships can be difficult and challenging, but the best ones are those where both parties feel heard and valued.  Differences of opinion can be a good growth opportunity and as long as there is trust and respect, those differences needn’t become make-or-break.  It is in the struggle that people can draw closer together.  And in the end, the reward was building something of value that we could successfully, and profitably, pass on to someone else.

So where am I now?  For most of my life I have been passionate about writing.  Words fascinate me with their power to move minds and hearts and to effect change.  These days, journalism gets a bad rap.  As with anything, there are bad apples that spoil the bunch.  But for most journalists, the responsibility and privilege to enlighten, engage, provoke, educate and entertain weighs heavy.  It may seem cliché but being a voice for those who have none and providing a check on the powerful in society and government is a calling.  I am excited to spend more time telling the stories of real people and events in my community.  I’m also thrilled to spend more time out in the world, observing and reflecting back what I see and hear.

I’ve been lucky to have several careers in my life.  Each one has led me to the other and each is a reflection of a part of myself.  Writing is the thread that has run through it all and the thing that feeds my soul.  It is the best expression of myself and the way I can best share myself with the world.  So, onward to the future.  I look forward to sharing more of this new chapter with all of you.  Happy New Year 2020!

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  A former small business owner, she is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville.  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 http://www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Hidden History

 

Long ago, a very obnoxious history teacher of mine insisted that we should look beyond the words on the page at the author.  Every author’s writing is based on the biases formed by the author’s social position, political beliefs and so on.  That was my introduction to hidden history.

History is the written record of human life and activities.  Of course, a nanosecond after writing was invented, people had to decide what was worthy of being recorded.  History is not a record of everything that people do; only what is deemed important to the people of the day.

In ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria), cuneiform tablets contain lists of livestock and grain that were bought and sold in an ancient version of our commodities markets.  A cuneiform tablet also contains the oldest known warranty by a jeweler to his customer, promising to repair a ring if it should break.

In medieval Europe, ordinary people had few legal rights or protections so their lives weren’t considered worthy by the few literate people.  That’s why Froissart’s account of the Hundred Years war recorded only what happened to kings and queens and the aristocracy.  About 500 years later after the creation of academic disciplines like sociology and psychology, Eileen Power’s Medieval People finally gave us the story of Bodo the Peasant.

The historical record also skimps on the lives of women and minorities. Margery Kempe dictated her autobiography in the 1430’s but it was never published and was eventually forgotten.   In 1934, the manuscript was discovered in an English country house by a researcher looking for unrelated materials.  Thanks to this accident, we can laugh at Margery’s adventures in Memoirs of a Medieval Woman, edited by Louise Collis.

Of course, memoirs may contain information that contradicts accepted wisdom, like the de la Pena diary which surfaced in the 1950’s.  Jose Enrique de la Pena was an officer in the Mexican Army that attacked the Alamo in 1836.  His diary says that David Crockett surrendered and was then shot.  Needless to say, the Texas version of the Alamo (a “shrine to Texas Independence”) story is that all the heroes died on the barricades.  Bitter fights continue around the efforts to authenticate the diary.

My old history teacher may have been obnoxious but I still remember his advice.  Look beyond the surface of the author’s words and find the hidden history.

 

About Norma Shirk

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

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Thanksgiving Reflections

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The house is finally quiet and empty.  Dishes are washed and put away, a load of laundry is in the wash and Bentley the Labradoodle is resting after a whirlwind visit from his humans.  I should be basking in the glow of a fun filled weekend with all of my family under one roof.  And while I am happy overall with the way things went, I admit I’m also a bit exhausted emotionally and physically.

This may be a surprise to those who know me well.  I pretty much wear my motherhood on my sleeve and long for those opportunities to spend time with my children.  But lately, I’ve come to realize that we’re all moving on in very different ways.  I still adore talking to my kids, in fact, they are the most interesting people I know.  I am constantly surprised and delighted to observe the way their lives are unfolding and to listen to their ideas about pretty much everything from politics to religion to sports, books, movies, etc.  We don’t always agree on things, but the exchange is always fun and often enlightening for me.  I learn from them and their experiences.

And yet, as exhilarating as it is to be together, the family dynamic in close quarters can leave me pretty wiped out.  Rather than a family of two parents and three children, we are now a family of five adults.  We have different habits when it comes to personal care, household chores and interpersonal relationships.  When we come together, we now bring baggage from our respective lives and try to blend during short, intense visits.  It’s easy to want to fall back into old roles, but we’ve all grown and changed and the old ways of being together don’t always work.  We have to re-learn how to interact and to be open and flexible with each other.  We also have to know when to give each other space.  It can be confusing and frustrating.

But there is one thing I know for certain, as I sit here unraveling the weekend: my family is worth the work.  And while it can be exhausting to navigate around each other, I am proud of the way my kids are living their dreams and changing the world around them.  I am inspired by their energy, enthusiasm and drive.  And frankly, they are a reminder that inside me is that newly formed adult bursting out into the future, eyes wide open and ready to go.  As I face the end of this year and look forward to the next one, I have only to look to them to feel myself renewed.  And I am so thankful for their presence in my life and for their journey passing through.

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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The Other Side of the Couch – When It Is Too Late

I heard the news from my brother.  One of our first cousins passed away.  He was sixty-three.  I had not seen him since he was a child when he and his sister came to our home at Christmas time to visit their mother, who at that time was living with my grandmother.  She had lost custody of the children due to issues with mental illness.

He was ten years my junior, and I lost track of him over the years.  I was closer to his sister and kept track of her.  I knew that he was himself suffering from some form of mental illness and that he had withdrawn from contact with any family, including his father and sister.

After we (the other family members) learned the news of his death, other details followed.  We learned that he had been an accomplished filmmaker, that he was known as a magician with theatrical lighting and design, that he had been a part of two unions, both connected to the theater.  We learned that he had made an award-winning film.  We learned that he had had a life, and people who cared for him.

On learning all of this, my own response is regret.  How very sad that none of us knew him!  How very sad that he had cut himself off from a group of like-minded people – the theater connection runs very strong in my family – and that we will never get to know him, or he, us.

I don’t know his story – I am only left to imagine that the scars of the childhood traumas ran very deep, and that he was not able to overcome the beliefs and perceptions about the family that were based on those experiences.

I regret that I never tried to reach out, and that now it is too late.

Cut-offs in families are painful and sometimes defy reconciliation – but death is the final cut-off.

Don’t wait to try until it is too late.

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 – Taking Care

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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

 

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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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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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Catching Up to Myself

The change was so gradual I didn’t see it happening. I’m still not sure that I believe the changes are real and will last.

For the past eight years I’ve been on a journey learning how to be a successful business owner.  The journey has been an emotional rollercoaster because I had no formal business training or sales and marketing experience. All I had was a desire to help others become successful. I chose to fulfill that desire by helping small businesses resolve their employee and human resources problems.

But there’s a vast difference between being an in-house lawyer explaining employment laws to senior managers and being a business consultant explaining employment laws to small business owners. Lawyers are trained to parse the details and focus on nuances in the law. Small business owners couldn’t care less. They want to know what’s in it for them and how much it’ll cost to comply with the law.  After years of practice, I’ve honed my client-centric approach to explaining things.

In the early years, every day was an exercise in overcoming fear of failure as I struggled to find paying clients before the money ran out.  To spread the word about my business on my shoestring budget, I began blogging.  I’ve been blogging weekly since 2014 and last year I converted some of my material into a book.

As my profile inched up, I was invited to do educational presentations. Although I was terrified of public speaking, I knew that recognition as a subject matter expert would be a great marketing tool for my business.  So I began presenting on human resources and employment law issues.  Later, I added history presentations. For the past couple of years, I’ve been averaging a presentation a month, including several television interviews on a local business program.  I still get stage fright but it seems easier to manage.

Recently, I was reminded that I am a successful lawyer, business owner, and author. Eight years ago, I could not have imagined being where I am today.  It’s been a long grind and I still obsess over real and perceived failures. The recent reminder of my achievements helped me understand that I’m struggling to catch up to my own success.

 

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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