Tag Archives: Self Savvy

Finding Hope and Inspiration in a Life Well Lived

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These days it’s hard to feel inspired.  I wake up each morning worried and anxious about what new, manufactured, crisis was created while I slept.  I check the news outlets I believe are reliable so that I can try and anticipate what will come today, and I struggle not to panic and to keep focused on my personal goals.  It’s a challenge I’ve never faced, this difficulty feeling optimistic and inspired.

Last week’s New York Times published an Op-ed by David Leonhardt.  It was a eulogy of sorts for former PepsiCo executive Brenda Barnes.  Barnes made news 20 years ago when she quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom.  She died a couple of weeks ago, at the young age of 63, following a stroke.  After reading her story, I felt a spark of inspiration mixed with some hope.  You see, Barnes started the dialogue about work/life balance.  She was proof that it is possible to craft a meaningful life filled with work, parenting and personal growth.  She paved the way and while there is still much work to be done in the area of equal pay and workplace supported parenting, she elevated the topic.

To be fair, Barnes’ path was incredibly atypical.  After raising her kids, she was able to move back into the workforce as chief executive of Sara Lee.  Her legacy is carried through her middle child, 28-year-old daughter Erin.  She herself left a lucrative job a few years ago, so she could care for her ailing mother and today is pursuing a nursing career, one she finds more meaningful and adaptive to family life.  Erin acknowledges her mother’s unique opportunities, but the message remains the same.  At a family memorial for her mother, she implored everyone to remember her mother’s insistence that we not work too hard.

So why does Brenda Barnes’ life give me some hope and inspiration?  I also made life choices based on spending time with my children.  Sometimes I wonder, “what if,” but most of the time I’m happy with my choices.  Of course I’m just a few years younger than Barnes, so perhaps the path wasn’t as clear for me as it is for my daughter.  But therein lies my hope and inspiration.  I am hopeful that, thanks to women like Brenda Barnes, this next generation will move the needle farther.  Although women continue to pay a higher price for parenthood and making choices, I’m hopeful our voices are stronger and that we will continue to push harder.  I am inspired by Barnes’ story and of her lasting message that work isn’t everything, that life is precious and often too short, so it’s important to find meaning and purpose and, ultimately, love.

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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Was Duchamp Really An Artist?

 

duchamp2Marcel Duchamp is considered one of the brightest artists of the 20th century.  Not to me.  I pretty much hate everything he did and wouldn’t pay a plugged nickel for any of it.  But that’s okay because it’s my opinion.  Art is subjective. If a piece of art doesn’t “speak” to you emotionally, it’s not worth a plugged nickel.

I learned that lesson from an English professor who taught a class in Renaissance English poetry. (It was the only English class that fit my schedule that semester.)  At first, none of us wanted to voice our opinion on the poetry we were reading because we didn’t want to sound gauche or uninformed.  Then the professor told us that any work of art, regardless of the medium used, only has value if it speaks to us emotionally.  Without that emotional connection, art has no value.

Years later I was invited to a special exhibit in Dallas, Texas of the private collection of one of the city’s leading citizens.  The collection was a mishmash of Benin sculptures, Anasazi pots, Mayan knickknacks, some random Asian artefacts and so on.  It was a 30 or 40 year history lesson in art collecting based on what the avant-garde defined as “art.”  The owner of the collection had buckets of money but apparently collected only what everyone else collected.

That brings me back to Duchamp.  This guy is famous for displaying three panes of glass.  When one pane of glass was broken during transit, Duchamp claimed he liked the piece even more. It’s still on display somewhere with one cracked pane.

Most famously Duchamp put a urinal on display.  Viewers proclaimed that it had classic lines rather than pointing out that it was a bathroom fixture that should be returned to the men’s room down the hall.  No one wanted to be mocked by the avant-garde crowd for lacking artistic sensibilities.

It’s amazing how much guff and abuse we are willing to take to remain part of the “in” crowd.  Duchamp always reminds me of that human trait.  He not only convinced people that panes of glass and a urinal were “art,” he induced them to pay huge sums of money to own one of his pieces.  So I admire his chutzpah and think he was one of the greatest marketers of the 20th century.  But, in my opinion, Duchamp was not an artist.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help 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. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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The Other Side of the Couch – What’s in a Name?

my-name-is

A question on Facebook recently sparked my curiosity regarding names.  The question was:  Were you named after someone?  I answered that question easily because I have always known that my name reflected a generational struggle perpetuated in my family from the early days of my parents’ marriage.

I was named “Susan” after my maternal great-grandmother, Susan Crawford White, and “Elisabeth” after by paternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Wilson Mosier.  Please note the “s” in my name and the “z” in my great-grandmother’s name.  Because of that difference in spelling, my paternal grandmother rejected the idea that I was named after her mother.  The way she saw it was that my mother’s family had “won” some unnamed contest.

This “contest” reflected the merger of two different cultures – that of my mother’s family and my father’s family.  Mimi, my maternal grandmother, came from a Nashville family that had acquired some success.  Mimi’s younger brother, Weldon White, was an attorney who later became a Supreme Court justice in Tennessee.  Her family highly valued education; she graduated from Hume Fogg High School, and after her husband suffered financial reverses after WWI, she became the stable family breadwinner, teaching first grade in the Nashville public schools for forty years. A pioneer in her own way, she pursued her own college degree and graduated from Peabody College for Teachers at the advanced age of 47.  She was a life-long Democrat and supported the Equal rights Amendment when she was in her seventies.

Mam-ma, my dad’s mother, came from a different situation.  Her father moved his family repeatedly, always in search of a better situation.  Mam-ma left school after 8th grade, in part due to this constant moving.  She married at 20 to a young man who had ambition to get off the farm, and my grandfather won a position as a railroad mail clerk, moving the family to Nashville in 1924.   Mam-ma was very proud of her home and her homemaking skills; her home was her pride and joy.  A product of extreme poverty (her family never owned land and farmed for others), she believed in very traditional family values.  My grandfather was a staunch Republican, and she never questioned his positions.  However, they supported and were completely proud of my father’s college and medical school successes, and they made sure that their daughter also went to college.

So, what was the struggle?  These two strong women were jockeying for what they perceived as inclusion in the household that I entered as an infant.   Mimi was often present, always a helper, always looking for something to do that would be useful.  Mam-ma and Poppy visited often, but were the “fun” grandparents who brought us treats, took us to do fun things, but were not helpers in the way that Mimi was.  Mimi saw Mam-ma as overly frank, too direct, and a bit uncouth.  Mam-ma saw Mimi as a snob who was hypocritical.  My parents, and to some extent the children as well, were aware of navigating challenging waters between Mimi and Mam-ma.   Never overtly antagonistic, they nevertheless were cut from very different cloths and called each by their last names for all the years of my growing up.

One letter of the alphabet became emblematic of a much larger issue.  Who is included?  Who is on the outside?  How does a family navigate the choppy waters of extended family life?  How do mothers and mothers-in-law manage the tasks of allowing room for the new family to emerge?  It took these two women many years; I was an adult with a child of my own before they called each other by their first names.

The stories of my grandmothers seem to me to be emblematic of the divide that is roiling our country today.  One strand focuses on equal rights and embraces change; the other strand highly values continuity and traditional values.  I loved both of them dearly, and I celebrated the day they finally reconciled themselves to each other and to the family that my mother and father created.  Both were born at the tail-end of the 19th century; both lived to see changes that were unimaginable at their births.

The important part of this story is that they found a way to respect each other.  It was a process that was grounded in love.

What is the story of naming in your family?

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 – What Do You Do When Your Heart Is Broken?

broken-heart

November 8, 2016 started out as a day of hope for millions of United States citizens.  By November 9 that hope had been transformed into what felt and has continued to feel like a surreal nightmare.  As one young friend said to me that day, “This is not the country that I thought I lived in.”  Reminding one’s self that this election did not reflect the majority vote is helpful, but it does not change the fact that the person who triumphed in this race did so by unleashing the forces of bigotry and hate.

What can a person do who is struggling with what happened?  What do we tell our children, who in many cases have awoken to a totally unexpected world – a world in which bullies triumph and hate speech is condoned.  What do we tell our friends from other countries, whose skin color, accent, race or religion have been targeted?  What do we tell each other as women, whose ability to have control over our own bodies is in jeopardy?

I don’t have good answers to these questions.  I know that in this democracy power is passed peaceably.  I try not to believe that all the people who voted for him support these kinds of attitudes.  I have heard people say that they voted for him in spite of these attitudes because they are so desperate for change and felt so unheard.  Well, good luck with that.  You have unleased the genie, and putting all of this anger and hatred back in the bottle is going to be a hard job.

I know that he will be the 45th president.  I also know that I can’t give up and stop trying to effect change, be it at the most micro level by the way I talk to someone, listen to someone, write to someone, challenge someone.  I will hold my broken heart and sew it back together with words and actions that continue to support the values of caring and inclusion on which I have based my life.

What will you do?

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 Women’s Movement:  Still Work To Be Done

equality

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    

shoulder-photo

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

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

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To Partner, or Not to Partner:  That is the Question

partnership

Although the calendar year is winding down, for me it is also the beginning of the year 5777, the Jewish New Year.  This means I get a second crack at New Year’s resolutions, a head start on planning for 2017 and also, thanks to several weeks of holidays, a renewed spiritual energy.  And it’s a good thing, too, because I have a feeling 2017 is going to be filled with change.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let me explain.  I am in the process of developing three different major professional projects.  Two of them are solely my own, but one of them involves a potential partner.  That is perhaps the project that is the most daunting and also the one that is currently the most fun.

I have never had a business partner before.  Many years ago I owned a small franchise business and although I was part of a supportive network of owners, I was pretty much on my own.  I enjoyed all of the success, but also shouldered all of the burdens.  This time around, I’m planning to partner with a friend, something most people run from.  But I am confident we have a very specific division of responsibilities and a very clear vision for what we want to create.  And while I have some anxiety over sharing control, I believe for now that it’s a worthwhile trade off.

I want to offer some tips for partnering because whether it’s with a friend or someone who is just a business associate, there are some things that are universal.

  1. Before deciding to partner, figure out if it’s really necessary. That sounds obvious, but many people get carried away with the idea of going into business with their BFF and before you know it, things are out of control.  Conversely, some people lack the confidence to go it alone and default to having a partner.  So ask yourself, “What do I bring to the table, and what is missing?”  If the missing skills and talents are things you can learn on your own, by all means try it.  If there are specific skills you lack that cannot be readily acquired, consider a partner.  Also consider your financial resources.  Do you need to invest with someone, or can you take the risk yourself?
  1. Once you decide you require a partner, work on developing your business plan together. TAKE. YOUR. TIME.  Do not rush this part of the process.  It is critical to the success of the partnership that you learn how to communicate and get to know each other’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Even if you are friends, this is a new context for your relationship and it will take time to develop.
  1. Figure out how you will divide your responsibilities and financial resources. It is critical that you both have a clear sense of who is doing what.  Again, obvious maybe, but it’s amazing how quickly things can unravel in all the excitement and stress of setting up a new business.  This is a good time to consider consulting an attorney who can help you define the parameters of the partnership and it’s dissolution.  Kind of like a business pre-nup!
  1. Be patient! Setting up a business takes time.  Patience is definitely not one of my virtues, but I’ve been working at it.  It helps to make realistic goals and expectations.  Having a partner is beneficial for me because we keep each other in check and commiserate when things don’t go as planned.
  1. HAVE FUN! I know it’s business but really, why take the risk if you don’t believe in what you’re doing and it isn’t fun. Try to stay focused on your goals and find pleasure in the little things.  Finally getting a call back from a potential landlord after several attempts to connect, hearing potential clients tell you they can’t wait for your business to get going, finding out you can get a discount on some of your necessary materials.  Things like these add fuel to your dream.  Keep going, it’s worth it!

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 – Are You Sleeping?

I slept.

For the past five nights I have slept through the night (with minor interruptions which did not lead to staying awake, tossing and turning, or a complete inability to go back to sleep at all).  I wake up refreshed.  I have energy during the day and don’t find myself wanting to nod off around 2 in the afternoon.  The need for a nap is gone.

This experience – the experience of normal sleep – is elusive for millions of people in this country, and indeed around the world.  Somehow the idea that sleep is a luxury has taken hold, and some people even pride themselves on how little sleep they “need”.  Many young people routinely pull “all-nighters” to study for exams, and social engagements for many millennials often don’t even begin until 10.  Many people believe that they can “catch up” on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekend.

However, the real impact of lost sleep is a cumulative disaster.  Shift workers who are required to work at night, or worse, to change their shifts routinely, experience health-related illnesses at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the population.  Sleep experts recognize the essential process that sleep provides, which is a kind of sweeping of the brain, for lack of a better explanation.  When we sleep, our brains automatically use that time to clear the brain at a cellular level of elements that are unhealthy at a cellular level.  This has implications for many brain-related issues, and in fact may be significant in the problems with aging populations with dementia.  If sleep mechanisms stop working, it may be that toxins build up, causing damage that is unseen and invisible until a harmful process is far along.

Some of the basics of taking care of sleep involve steps that many people in our wired world may find challenging.  They include:

  1. Regular time to go to bed and wake up, even on the weekends
  2. Low or no light in the bedroom, and twilight light leading up to bedtime (an hour before)
  3. NO SCREENS an hour before bed, and no screens in the bedroom (sorry, TV addicts) – electronic devices emit a kind of light-wave that interferes with sleep processing
  4. No strenuous exercise at least two hours before bed

These basic steps make taking care of this basic need much more manageable.

Why am I excited about sleeping?  Because I haven’t!  It’s been a couple of months since I had surgery that made it difficult to breathe – the surgery was actually meant to help me breathe, but the recovery complicated that process.  These last few nights have shown me that the surgery did help, that I am close to fully recovered, and that sleep is going to be a lot easier!

Take it from me – sleep is a wonderful process that needs to be respected and preserved.  Do your level best to make it work as naturally as possible – your health depends on it.

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

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

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GETTING UNSTUCK

stuck

A couple of wise and savvy women gave me some advice not too long ago that has proven invaluable and I’d like to share it with all of you.  I presented the notion that, for me, it’s tough to decide on a path because choosing one direction always means saying “no,” to another.  And since I have many interests, I often feel stuck deciding which to pursue at any given moment.  But the advice these fab friends gave me has really helped me get “unstuck.”

The first piece of advice was very concrete, maybe a bit obvious but it had eluded me.  Make a list of choices and then just pick one.  The key is to give myself a timeline, six months, a year, whatever, to try something and see how it goes. The timeline helps me feel less panicky that I have to live with my plan forever and never have the chance to move on.  It also helps to alleviate the guilt I feel when I don’t complete something and gives me permission to change the plan.

The second piece of advice was more introspective, but nonetheless helpful.  For a creative type like myself, or for someone with lots of interests, choosing one thing (or two, or more) means living with loss.  Loss of the path not taken, of the possibilities not pursued.  Most people are okay with that type of loss, or just don’t see it as such.  For me, the fear of leaving something behind is paralyzing.  But allowing myself to feel the loss, to grieve the interests not pursued, actually helps keep my life in perspective.  Nobody can do everything she wants.  Whether because of lack of skill, talent, resources or opportunity, some dreams are just that: dreams that fuel our imagination and keep us excited about living.

So, how have I applied all of this sage advice?  As always, I am constantly bombarded by new and exciting ideas, new paths to consider.  Should I stay home and write?  Should I partner with a friend in a new business venture?  Should I find a more secure, stable job?  The list goes on.  But these days when my mind starts to whirl, I remember my muses and stop for a minute.  I put pen to paper to create my list of priorities, think about a timeline for each and contemplate what is a real possibility and what is merely a dream that fuels me.  I can give myself permission to take a chance, the time to keep some options open and also allow myself space to grieve the losses.

For now, I have chosen to both pursue a new business venture and continue my writing career.  For now.  Because as surely as the seasons are starting to change, so too will my interests change, and now I have some tools to work that through.  And by the way, I think my dream of singing on Broadway may just be a dream.  But…you never know…

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.

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

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

reading-baby

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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