Tag Archives: Susan Hammonds-White

Going Home

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

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

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About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – The Path We All Must Take

Image result for Path we all must walk

Someone very close to me has received a diagnosis of cancer.  Neither the nature of the relationship nor the specifics of the diagnosis are significant here – what I am watching, as though from a distance, is my own set of responses.

I have been here before.  The shock of the information, the moment when everything goes still and you find yourself not breathing.  The deliberate focus on detail – who, what, when – what is the plan – what do you need – how can I help.  My method for coping with crisis is to become very organized and intentional.  I suppose that is about imposing some degree of order on a suddenly chaotic world.

That works for a limited amount of time.  It is the cushion that the psyche provides when events are too overwhelming to process all at once.  I find that it is useful.

What I have not done, and what I need to do, is to set aside time to feel the emotions that I am now deliberately avoiding.  I am afraid.  I am devastated. I am unbelieving and in shock.  I am so afraid that my time on this earth with this person is coming to an end.  I am dealing with loss.

I wish I had words to say that would make it better.  I wish it were not happening.  I wish I could go back to that blissful place of unknowing.  I wish so many things.

This event throws into perspective once again that truth – our days on this earth are numbered.  We will all follow the same path out of this world, and each and every moment we have together is a gift and a blessing.  I remember when I was a teenager and experienced the assassination of President Kennedy – my response that day was to gather all my siblings and to go home, to a place we could all be together.

My impulse today is the same, but we are widely scattered – thousands of miles apart.  So – metaphorically speaking I gather us all into love and light, I reach out and connect, I share my loved one’s story far and wide, because I believe that loving energy helps and supports healing. I do all I can.

And I take time to cry.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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VOTE

Your vote your vioce

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

About Barbara Dab

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

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It Happened Again…

stronger than hate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Barbara Dab

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

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Why the Time Change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro: Longer Evenings

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

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

Con: Doesn’t Save Energy

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

Pro: Less Artificial Light

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

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

Con: Can Make People Sick

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

Pro: Lighter = Safer

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

Con: Costs Money

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

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

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

About Jan Schim

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

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Big Mike

        

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Norma Shirk

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

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Reflections on the Family Dinner

family-dinner-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Barbara Dab

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

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An Immigrant Story

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Norma Shirk

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – Seventeen Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Seventeen Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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 – Scarcity or Abundance: You Choose

I ran across an article about three myths that keep us trapped in a belief system that is negative in so many ways.  Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, suggests that these myths are traps that stand between us and our own sense of abundance and security.

When you were a child, did you and your siblings ever argue over who was going to get the biggest piece of cake or the largest slice of watermelon?  I know we did – even though I do not remember a single time in my life, ever, when there was not enough cake or watermelon to go around.  Children live with a highly developed sense of fairness – in our Western culture we grow up being aware of who has how much of something.  We are unconsciously taught to believe that there may not be enough, and that having more is better.  In many instances we are also taught that there is nothing we can do to change any of that – in the case of a cake or a watermelon, there is indeed not an endless supply, but we tend to transfer those childhood feelings about scarcity and want to bigger-picture concepts like love.  Many adults fear that there is not enough love to go around, not realizing that the capacity of the heart to love is enlarged by the process of giving love.  Love does not thrive in a scarcity economy.

The three myths that we have been taught to believe are:

1. There’s not enough to go around.   2.  More is better.   3.  That’s just the way it is.

Believing that there is not enough causes us to live in fear. Believing that more is better leaves us perpetually unsatisfied. Believing that we have no way to change anything creates a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads us to abandon our own agency, our own initiative, our own ability to believe in and to hope for change.

This last belief, the belief that we can’t do anything to create change, is to me the most pernicious, and it is the one that is pervasive at this time as we confront a world that is essentially living in fear.  On a physical and organic level, fear causes a kind of tunnel-vision.  Focus narrows to the immediate and turns to survival.  Protectionism increases.

Friends, we have it within ourselves to choose differently – to focus on the good, the beautiful, the joyful; to remember the joys in our lives and to be grateful for the abundance that we do have.  Research has shown us that focusing on that for which we are grateful in an intentional and daily way results in positive changes in behavior.

Amy Morin published an article in Forbes Magazine in 2014 that listed seven different ways that gratitude improves our lives.  The link is below:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round 

Gratitude supports physical well-being, increases empathy and decreases aggression, improves psychological health, and improves sleep, among other benefits. Gratitude is free;  there is an endless supply of it; it is there for the taking!

Let’s counter the myths that trap us by choosing gratitude – you will be glad you did.

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 – What Have We Become  

The information is chilling.

Families seeking asylum at our southern border are being deliberately separated due to a zero-tolerance policy that makes all adults illegal, incarcerates the adults, and sends children, sometimes infants in arms who are breast-feeding, to a detention setting.

This is not just a number.  This is a living, breathing baby whose only source of nourishment is its mother.   The baby probably has no idea how to take a bottle.  Torn from its mother’s arms, it will cry uncontrollably, will be unable to eat, and could very likely die due to this kind of treatment.  This is a criminal act.

The Trump administration has said that this horrific policy is being undertaken to deter asylum seekers.

What have we become as a nation?  How is it possible that thousands are not gathered at the border to protest these policies.

These are CHILDREN – children who are brought to this country by desperate parents fleeing for their lives.

Children who are traumatized carry the results of these experiences in their own DNA.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences research study (www.acestudy.org ) has proved that these kinds of events have long-lasting effects on the physical and mental health of children long into their adulthoods.  Any competent mental health professional knows that the effects of attachment disruption is profound.

The United States is wrong.  The world is watching.  I will contact my representative and senators. I will protest this injustice.  I will support with donations organizations that are attempting to serve these children.

What will you do?

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.

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 – Home is Where the Cats Are

 

Thursday night – my husband and I returned home from work (home still being the extended-stay hotel where we have lived since December 14 due to a water heater failure in our new home).  I was checking phone messages when I noticed that one of our cats was nibbling the leaf of a plant that we brought home from church last Sunday.  It was an Easter Lily.

For some reason I thought to myself – I should check on that – I don’t know anything about lilies and cats.

I googled it – and discovered to my horror that Easter lilies are extremely toxic to cats, causing kidney failure and death.

We immediately called our vet.  We were referred to the Pet ASPCA. We learned that the Easter Lily is the most toxic of the lily family to cats; they both needed immediate treatment, involving 48 hours of IV fluids and repeated bloodwork to determine whether kidney values were going up.  If they were, there was little hope of survival.  If the cats had even had pollen from the lily on their coats and ingested it while grooming, the toxicity would still be significant.

Four days later – the cats survived.  We are out a significant amount of money.  Most importantly, we learned a huge lesson – and it is not that Easter Lilies are dangerous for cats.

The lesson I learned is that my animals, my companion animals, are a significant part of what has kept me in balance through the turmoil of the last several months.  Having that consistency of caring, snuggly fur babies has given me comfort and helped me make it through another day.  Needing to be there for them has made it easier to keep going.

I imagine that there are many people out there whose companion animals make life a little less challenging and a lot more satisfying.  When I was afraid that I would lose them – well, let’s just say that I didn’t like what was going on these last several days. Learning that they would be ok has lifted a huge cloud from my world. It has also asked me to examine my definition of “home”.

Robert Frost, in his famous poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”, juxtaposes two definitions of home –

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

From The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems, 1969

These two definitions have always troubled me – one exemplifies what I call an ethic of righteousness, focusing on merit and a kind of grudging acceptance of responsibility for someone who probably doesn’t deserve it but is taken in anyway.  The other focuses on an ethic of mercy or grace, recognizing that sometimes creatures just don’t deserve care, but receive it anyway out of grace or compassion.

What do my cats, or any companion animals, have to do with this story?  The cats, for me, are the carriers of grace.  We have a responsibility to the animals in our care, and they give us without condition the experience of unconditional love and acceptance.  The prospect of losing them brought home to me the significance of their living presence.  I am grateful, and wherever they are, is certainly home to me.

I wonder – what makes “home” for you?  I have found through all this that home has little to do with place, and a lot more to do with the connections with people and companion animals who surround me.  I will be very happy to return to our home – hopefully within the next two weeks.  However, I know that what makes it home has a lot more to do with my husband and my cats than with the place itself.

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.

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 – Losing a Friend

It all happened gradually – so gradually that until it had been going on for months, even years, it was hard to notice.  Taken individually, the changes could be explained.  Lost keys.  Forgotten purse.  Trouble with managing a smart phone.  Struggling with finding a word on occasion.  Each one of those experiences has happened to all of us at some time or another.

However, suddenly, all those things were significant, because more things began to happen, more often.

Someone who had been the most fastidious of people had hair that needed washing.  Someone who had always been full of ideas seemed to have lost her interest in others.  Someone who knew her city well began to be confused about how to get from one place to another.

When the day came when she tried to write a check and didn’t know how to do it – when she sat at lunch with us and forgot there was food on her plate – we knew.

We knew what we hadn’t wanted to know, that we had written off as depression, as Attention Deficit Disorder, as just growing older – we knew that our friend was facing progressive dementia.  Because of her family history, we also knew that this was most likely early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Our friend is fortunate in that she has a caring family who intervened, who helped her make the changes she needed to make.  She will be loved and safe.  Although she will no longer be in this city, she will be with people who love her.

Others who live alone and/or who have no family are not so fortunate.

We are facing an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and other dementias as our population ages.  What I have learned by going through this process with my friend is that it is all too easy to dismiss the visible signs of early dementia because we don’t want to know it is happening.  This denial does a disservice to the person who is suffering, because early detection and early use of the medications available that slow the process down are essential to preserving the functional parts of the brain.

This terrible illness that ultimately eradicates the person’s memory and ability to function can be treated (not cured, but treated).  If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.  Don’t wait; don’t live in denial.  If you see a friend struggling, speak up.  In the end it serves no one to pretend that all is well.

This link discusses some of the early signs of dementia.  It is worth reading. The Alzheimer’s Association is also a wonderful resource and support for caregivers.

https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/early-warning-signs

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 – The Gift of Waiting

Another month has passed – and we are still not back in our home after the twin disasters of mold in a wall (due to failure of roof flashings) and damaged hardwood floors (due to a water heater failure). Living in a hotel and eating most meals out is not glamorous in any way – and it is just not home.

What is taking so long? I wish I knew. In part it is due to timing (over the holidays), the weather (Arctic air mass that stopped work of any kind), Nashville’s booming construction industry (which makes finding contractors for relatively small jobs a challenge). However, in large part it is due to several entities having to sign off on what needs to be done and how much it will cost. These include the homeowner’s insurance agent and the adjuster, the moisture mitigation company, the contractors and their schedules, and the HOA (Homeowners Association). Throw into that mix the need for movers and packers (all the furniture has to come off of the damaged floors) – a lot of cooks are stirring this broth!

We wait with what patience we can muster. I am very clear that fretting and worrying will do nothing other than make my life harder and will do nothing to change the outcome of this process. I am trying to cultivate the practice of living in the present.

As I experience this time of waiting, I am aware of other times of waiting. I remember my father saying things like, “I can’t wait until she is old enough to…” – whatever the next milestone might have been. He had a hard time enjoying what was due to his anticipation of what would be. I remember waiting to graduate from high school, waiting to start a career, waiting to find a romantic partner, waiting for a child to be born. I am not sure that I waited with patience, nor am I sure that I ever had the wisdom to cultivate the practice of living in the present.

My guess is that I have missed a lot. This time of waiting has lessons that I need to learn. So I look around and am grateful for time spent with my daughter, who is awaiting her first child. I am grateful for the warmth of a space heater next to my feet as another round of Arctic air descends on Nashville. I am grateful for a new down coat that arrived just in time for the coldest days of winter. I am grateful that I am alive, here in this world, with eyes to see and ears to hear and a mind that works.

In the grand scheme of things problems with water heaters and walls are small compared to the grace of being alive in a world full of beauty and brokenness.
Perhaps you have worries that are fretting you. Perhaps you are spending too much time in the land of the future (the land of What If) or the past (the land of If Only) and not enough time in the land of Right Now. Let yourself enjoy it if possible or mourn it if necessary – but above all, be in it. It is all we really have.

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 – Waiting

 

The house seems so strange now.  Furniture is shunted into other areas – the rugs folded or removed.  A sheen of dust covers the shining surface of the dining room table, and the living room couch stands in solitary splendor against the wall where the sunrise picture used to be.  The floor, from which the buckled hardwood has been pried, is a minefield of unexpected nails waiting to slice unwary toes, even toes protected by shoes.

In the kitchen a section of hardwood remains isolated in the corner close to the adjoining wall of the condo next door.  Black discoloration stains it at the corner closest to the outside wall.  We think it is mold.  The adjuster found that the flashings on the roof were not properly attached, and water has been splashing into the wall for some time.  We are not sure for how long, but it is long enough for whiffs of mold to be apparent at times in the house.

This is going to be a long process.

We have been out of the house for twenty-two days.  We expect to be out for another month.  All this happened over the Christmas/New Year holiday season – so while adjusters have adjusted, and driers have kept the water damage from the water heater failure from extending to other areas of the house, no decisions have been made about what to do and when to do it.  We don’t expect that decision to be made until after the New Year holiday is over.

The familiar processes of living are truncated now.  Cooking?  Meal planning?  With one skillet and a hot plate, there is not much possibility.  Entertaining?  Tiny hotel suites don’t give much space for traditional New Year’s parties.  We had a little Christmas tree, because I couldn’t bear to have NOTHING that denoted the Christmas season – so our little artificial kitchen tree, decorated with angels and a tiny knitted creche, took the place of the tree that we had decorated so hopefully just after Thanksgiving.  That tree, deprived of all its familiar decorations, stood in the midst of the drying fans for days and turned into a brown shell much more rapidly than it should have.

We are waiting.

Waiting is not an easy process.  This kind of waiting increases feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.  Those experiences are not pleasant, and they can lead to ill-considered actions.  Impatient people sometimes don’t treat others well.  However, so far we have managed to remain civilized.  Rather than screaming at adjusters we have remained calm and collected. We laugh at the inconveniences and focus on gratitude rather than resentment.  Sometimes things happen that are just outside our control, and railing at the situation does no good.  We wait for good things to happen; we wait for news; we anticipate future events – the ability to wait and to reach into a possible future is both a blessing and a burden for human beings.  Seeing all those cats in the picture, who are indeed waiting for a possible future that includes eating fish, made me laugh about our long-term anticipations.  Living in the moment really is the best we can do.

I think of others who have lost more than a momentary loss of convenience. The situations of refugees, whose whole lives have been destroyed with no hope of return reminds me today of the grace that we are given.  We have a home to which we will return.  Surely we can endure a season of waiting.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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