Tag Archives: working women

A Continuum of Time

Photo by Robert Trull on Pexels.com

Despite the horror unfolding around us both in this country and other parts of the world, life has an uncanny way of just plodding along. It’s almost like a two-tiered continuum, one filled with pain, terror, loss, and sadness, and one that holds the everyday, regular stuff of life. At least that’s how it feels to me right now. My work as a news reporter and editor currently keeps me focused on war, antisemitism, underserved populations, and social justice challenges. But, I also cover lifecycle events, community happenings, profiles of people doing amazing things, and other upbeat topics. I’ve also recently been faced with some practical challenges that sometimes leave me questioning whether to stay in my job or leave to find greener pastures. And alternatively, I learned I won a prestigious journalism award. So, you see, two tiers of life happening at the same time.

What to make of all of this? My mom used to say that all of life is yin and yang. The good is necessitated by the bad, the joy is sweeter because of the pain. Honestly, I thought it was ridiculous at the time. I couldn’t comprehend what she meant. I railed against loss, frustration, and disappointment. I raged at injustice as a completely unnecessary evil. And I shut out the thought of ever losing someone I love, ever.

The thing is, no matter how hard we try to hang onto our youthful idealism, life keeps on happening. It changes us. And I don’t mean to suggest change is bad. On the contrary, I believe change is both good and necessary. That was also a lesson I learned from my mom. In order to stay afloat in the stormy seas of life, it’s important to be both anchored, and buffeted by the wind. So, I remain optimistic and hopeful in the face of tragedy, but I also hold onto the lessons and memories of those who anchored me and even in their absence, continue to be my anchors.

I recently learned about a nonprofit organization that is working to rescue people in the Eastern part of Ukraine and get them to the safer Western part of the country. The rescue efforts began with children who are orphaned or in foster care, and now has expanded. I heard stories of bravery and fear, pain and joy, loss, and excitement for the future. Again, two things happening at the same time. In another part of the country, the Mayor of L’viv is planning a fundraiser to create a hospital to care for, and help rehabilitate, civilians who have lost limbs in the war, and to provide prosthetics to those who need them. A fundraiser while war rages all around. I’ve heard that in some parts of the country, it’s even hard to tell war is happening, while in others, cities have been reduced to rubble.

As for the mass shootings that have happened since I last wrote for this blog, I actually have nothing that makes sense of that. During the last month, a childhood friend lost a child to an accidental drug overdose, and I lost a cousin to pancreatic cancer. All these losses feel unreal, random, senseless. And they are.

So, what’s the flip side of these tragedies? I don’t think there is one. They are just horrible things that happened. Much like my younger self, I am filled with sadness, rage, and disappointment. Right now, it’s hard to see the other side, but my mom’s voice keeps me anchored while the storm blows around me. That voice inside that tells me to keep going, keep loving, keep giving to the world, keep hoping. I’m still here, still learning, still growing, still changing. Maybe someday it will make some sense.

About Barbara Dab

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

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Oops, I did it Again!

My new raised bed garden

So, I did it again. I missed my deadline for this blog post! My apologies to my fellow HerSavvy blogmates. I’m not sure why the last couple of months have been so hard. Actually, that’s not true. I do know what has kept me distracted. Between family coming for the Passover holiday, stress over my husband returning to his office on a regular basis, and challenges at work, I just haven’t felt as centered as I like. Oh, and I planted my garden for the first time in two years, and I increased my fitness work. Phew!

Those last two things should really count as remedies rather than distractions. Working in the garden each Spring, watching it grow, enjoying the harvest as it comes, has always been so rewarding and fun. And this year, I have brand new beds that are pretty and practical (photos to follow). The added exercise comes in the form of more cardio and an extra strength training day. I’m starting to enjoy the increased strength and endorphins that come with the added sweat sessions.

Most significant, I think, is the challenge on the professional front. At this point in my working life, I don’t feel I should have to fight as hard as I have been, just to feel respected by my superior. Thanks to my network of fellow women professionals, I have learned to recognize my own worth and to advocate for myself. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. Disheartening, frustrating, disappointing, and sad. The past several years of negative rhetoric and disrespect for real journalists have left me exhausted, too. I also believe the culture of misinformation and talk about “fake news,” has contributed to a society that is genuinely ignorant about the value of a free press, and what life would look like if it disappeared. So, I push on, striving to do my best work, telling everyone who will listen why I believe in my work and the power of the press to unite communities and to shine a light on all that is both good and bad in our world.

And as a woman of a certain age, it also feels bad to have to fight for professional recognition. I have decades of experience in my field, not to mention life experience. Backed up by results, that should all be enough. And yet I must constantly remind my superior of my value, hammer home the feedback I get from our community, and restate my goals and plans for expanding my role to serve the greater good. It is wearing me out.

So, I head to the garden or to the gym, sometimes even turn on some guilty pleasure TV. I call a friend, cry, or vent to a trusted co-worker. And sometimes, I miss a deadline. Even superheroes get tired, and I’m no superhero.

About Barbara Dab

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – A Balanced Life

Bird Feeder

Today is the last day of the Great Back Yard Bird Count for 2022.  Sitting today at the computer I have a view of our bird feeders less than six feet away, and I have loved counting the familiar birds that appear.  Today house finches and mockingbirds have been the most frequent visitors, although an occasional pair of mourning doves have also consistently searched for spilled seed on the ground.  The mockingbird puffs up and acts like the king of the feeder, but the smaller house finches are fierce in their determination to reach the seeds despite his aggressive posturing.  Just now a Carolina wren has appeared – lovely rich brown with a yellow belly – so cheeky, and in love with the dried mealy worms.  The squirrels are in the mix as well, for though we have squirrel-proof feeders, those amazing acrobats have found several ways to defeat the trapping mechanism.  Oh well.  Squirrels must live, too.

The birds of the air live their lives according to the urges and instincts of their species, knowing when to eat, drink, find a mate, build a nest, raise a family, migrate or not.  I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a creature driven by instinct rather than by plan or intention.  I do not think birds plan, exactly, where to find seed or find a mate.  For them it is not “tomorrow morning I will check out the feeders at the Whites – if they are empty, I will go across the green space to the people on the other side.”  They just go.

I do not know a great deal about bird physiology, but I do not imagine that they experience stress in the way that humans do.

What do I know about managing stress?  I know that rest is essential.  I know that being present in the moment is helpful.  Any kind of creativity – drawing, painting, writing, playing the piano – all of these are calming.  Meditating, quiet music, warm baths, cuddly blankets – all help.  Anything that helps the body move out of fight or flight (the activation of the autonomic nervous system) and into calm (the activation of the para-sympathetic nervous system) helps the body calm down.  An essential tool in this process is breathing.  A breath in – a longer breath out – repeated at least three times – signals that vagal nerve system to move into PSN – and the body responds with letting go and calming down.

What I am recognizing about myself, however, is that I am not always aware of stress.  I live my life, I think, in such a way as to be always ready for and thinking ahead into the next thing.  For example, cleaning up the breakfast dishes – group tasks so that all is done most efficiently with least effort. Going to the bedroom?  Find objects that are out of place and need to be picked up on that trip. Errands to run? List the stops and plan the most productive route.  I accomplish a great deal by living this way.  My question to myself, however, is whether leaning into the future is creating a problem with balance in my life.

I do not plan time to stop.  I do not plan time to rest.  I seem to be almost driven to do.  And so, I ask myself, what am I driving toward or pushing away from?  If I stop and rest, if I let myself meander a bit, if I take the longer way to go just because I want to see what is there – if I stay in the present moment and take those breaths – what could happen?

As I pause here to feel into those questions, the answer that surfaces is not a surprise.  I will grieve.  I will experience the losses of these past years yet again.

So, to find my balance I need to re-balance – a time of experiencing being in the moment that will include more tears, and more journaling, and more just being quiet with the memories.  No “to-do” list on grief.  It takes the time it takes and follows its own song.

If you find yourself caught in the cycle of never-ending doing, perhaps watching birds as they live in the moment could be a reminder of the power of now.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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Nobody Wants to Work

We’re closed today because nobody wants to work, said the sign on the restaurant’s door.

This lament will be familiar to any restaurant or business owner in an industry that survives on a business model of low paying jobs.  Simply raising wages may not be sufficient to attract workers, even if it were financially feasible, which it usually isn’t.  Working conditions are also important.

So take another look at that statement from the perspective of the workers.  As someone whose been as a short-order cook, a gas station attendant (the only one not robbed in broad daylight by an armed nutjob) and a motel maid, that message is insulting. 

It says I showed up for every assigned shift, pulled double shifts when asked, dealt with horrible and rude customers, put up with unreasonable and demanding bosses, and all for a company that doesn’t value me as a person or an employee. 

Blue collar workers face job insecurity.  Millions lost their jobs during the pandemic and many of those jobs aren’t coming back.  Those still employed worry about losing their jobs even as they work extra hours due to a shortage of workers.   

Blue collar workers face housing insecurity.  Whether paying a mortgage or renting their homes, costs are going up.  Many blue collar workers never earn enough money to build a nest egg to protect them financially if they lose their jobs.  They are always a paycheck away from default and a possible eviction.    

Blue collar workers face food insecurity.  Inflation hits the poorest first and the hardest.  As more of a family’s earnings must go to pay for housing and utilities, there is less to pay for food.  Food pantries say they’ve been overwhelmed with the numbers needing food assistance.

Blue collar workers face a health crisis.  They often lack employer-sponsored health coverage, and even if it’s offered, they probably can’t afford the payroll deductions for their portion of the premium.  But they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, particularly in the states which refused for political reasons to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor.  As a result, treatable health conditions become life threatening.

All these insecurities pile up to emotional and physical burnout. Blue collar workers are exhausted.  They have spent decades working jobs that paid little and offered stingy benefits, while facing condescension and amused contempt from people who either never worked these types of jobs or have forgotten what it was like.

Blue collar workers are reacting to burnout exactly like their white collar counterparts. The Baby Boomers are retiring and those who can are switching to jobs with better pay, working conditions and employee benefits. That leaves some employers in a bind.  That bind won’t be fixed by accusing the potential workforce of not wanting to work.

About Norma Shirk

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

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The Other Side of the Couch – Goodbye and Hello

Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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2021 Review

This is my last column for the year. Without sounding cliché, or like another broken record…What a year it has been! In fact, sometimes it still feels like one loooooong 2020. Still, the needle has moved a bit in some ways, and I traditionally like to spend some time reflecting

Professionally, it’s been a pretty good year. I started my job as Editor of my community’s Jewish newspaper in January of 2020 and basically had about six weeks before the world changed forever. So last year was a big learning curve with a lot of fear and panic peppered in as I maneuvered through all the changes. This year I know I grew more in confidence and in proficiency. I’ve had some very nice feedback from my colleagues in the community. And most satisfying has been the response from the readers who say I’ve made some nice changes in tone and direction. My goal has always been to bring people together through news and information and to create a truly community-based paper. I think I’m moving in the right direction. And I also challenged myself to learn to build and maintain a new website. As someone of a certain generation, some of this computer stuff is a mystery. BUT I focused hard and dove in and realized, I CAN do hard things! And I actually enjoy adding content and photos to the website and feeling empowered over more of my job.

Personally, this year has been a roller coaster. I’ve said goodbye again to two of my adult children who spent much of the past couple of years living both in our house and nearby. It was a lot of fun and a comfort to have them around. Now, with the nest empty once again, we’re enjoying the peace, the freedom, and the privacy. Our food and water bills are smaller. Our liquor cabinet remains well stocked. And our co-dependent labradoodle, Bentley, is filling the void with lots of attention to us.

2021 also gave us the vaccines and booster shots that will, hopefully, keep us alive should we contract COVID19. We continue to wear masks in crowds and my hands are raw from so much washing. I am more than grateful that so far, none of my family has been infected or gotten sick. And I pray that trend continues. I am saddened by the illness and death of others, and worried about our overburdened healthcare workers. Those brave souls, hailed as heroes early on during this siege, now often bullied and tormented by many who just refuse to believe what is in front of their eyes.

We’ve done some traveling, something I always found exciting and now I’m just anxious to get to my destination. We work to avoid too much contact with strangers and keep to ourselves. We have had some memorable and enjoyable experiences, though, and I consider myself very fortunate.

I think the biggest takeaway from this past year for me is the painful realization that our world is divided, and the divide is getting bigger. My Jewish values teach me that it is both incumbent upon each of us to do whatever is necessary to save our own lives, and that we are all responsible for each other. It’s the idea that we first put on our own oxygen mask (no pun intended), and then help those around us. The idea is not uniquely Jewish. And it is not uniquely American. I believe it is uniquely human.

So as 2021 comes to an end, I know I am forever changed by what we’ve experienced. Traumatized, but also emboldened. I don’t want to waste one precious minute or one ounce of energy. I want to recover my enthusiasm and courage. I want to clear away the clutter that litters my mind and heart.

The famous Jewish scholar, Rabbi Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

Cheers to 2021 and bring on ’22!

About Barbara Dab

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

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Blurred Vision

Today we’re in the middle of the biggest culture war since the 1960’s. As with every culture war in American history, it’s a fight to shape the future.  Will everyone have a seat at the table regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and gender? Or will some people be more equal than others, to paraphrase George Orwell?

Since no one can see the future, most of us look to the past.  The past is usually interpreted nostalgically as we think about the good things that have happened.  But nostalgia is also a trap.  The past was never as idyllic as our rose colored glasses make it seem.

People of color, whether black, Hispanic, or American Indian, were enslaved by Europeans from the conquistadors to the old South. Then they were airbrushed out of the history books. Women were also airbrushed out of history.  They existed only as a wife, a mother, or a daughter; never as an adult person with an individual identity.

The blurred vision of nostalgia is easy to demonstrate.  Lots of people like to dress up in antebellum clothes and Confederate uniforms and imagine living at Tara.  Not one of them wants to put on rags and live in a cabin on slave row.   Lots of people have a dream-catcher dangling from the rear view mirror of their vehicle. Not one of them wants to be a child torn from their family and sent to an Indian school to be starved and beaten into forced assimilation.

Rather than distorting our vision with nostalgia, we should recognize that times change.  We’ve all learned to use computers and video conferencing.  Our parents and grandparents have too. The current pandemic is made bearable for many of us because we can buy everything we need over the internet and have it delivered to our doorstep.  Yet each new technological change caused fear until we learned to adapt to the change.

Rather than fighting the changes and trying to recreate a false past, we should embrace the fact that our culture has already changed. The proof of our new culture is in our food choices.  From soul food to sushi, tacos to corned beef, fry bread to matzos, and tapas to injera, Americans of all races, religions, ethnicities and gender are already seated at the table. That’s a brilliant future.

 

Norma Shirk is an author, speaker, business owner and an attorney. In 2011, she founded Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, LLC (www.complianceriskadvisor.com), a human resources consulting firm for small employers.

She writes a weekly blog that alternates between human resources issues (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) and history (History by Norma, www.normashirk.com).  She is also a founder and monthly contributor to the Her Savvy blog, www.hersavvy.com.   In 2018, she published, Psycho Bosses and Obnoxious Co-Workers, an amusing look at workplace behavior.

Ms. Shirk frequently speaks to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from human resources issues to historical events and persons.

She may be contacted at norma.shirk@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Image result for Civil discourse

Of course, everyone knew the outcome.  The conclusion was never in doubt.  Throughout all the testimony, all the witnesses, all the documents, all the hearings, all the news bites and media reports, all the constant talking of all the talking heads, the conclusion was inevitable.  Was it worth it, to go through all this?  Was it necessary?  Was it useful?  Did it make a difference?

We are so broken.  We only listen to what confirms our own beliefs.  We have lost faith in even the ability to know the truth, because truth is under attack from so many sides.  We even have people today who have created a Flat Earth Society and apparently genuinely believe that because the Earth looks and feels flat, it is flat.

Two events have gone a long way toward creating the situation in which we now flounder.  One of those is the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine.  The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was – in the FCC’s view – honest, equitable, and balanced.  The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987 and removed the rule that implemented it from the Federal Register in August 2011.  Although there have been repeated attempts to reinstitute this doctrine, none have been successful.  The result has been the proliferation of media that presents only one side of an issue; getting information that presents several sides of an issue is no longer required or easy to find.

The other decision that has overturned our ability to have civil discourse is the decision by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 to allow corporations (including certain non-profit corporations) and labor unions to expand their role in political campaigns.  This decision, along with a separate, lower court case – SpeechNow.org v. FEC – made possible the entities known as super PACS.  With Citizens United as a precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that theoretically independent spending groups could accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and even individuals with fat bankrolls.  This led to the creation of Super PACs that are legal because they do not “coordinate” with a particular campaign, as well as the creation of “social welfare” organizations that can function in the same way as super PACs as long as election activity is not their primary activity.  These groups are not required to report who funds them, thus allowing for so-called “dark money” to influence campaigns without transparency.

Taken together, these two decisions have had a chilling effect on civil discourse.  Because information is often presented with a clear skew in one direction or another with no provision of any other viewpoints, people are left in a situation in which they become increasingly skeptical of information in general.  When no information can be trusted, the institutions of civil democracy are in danger of breaking down.

So why can’t we all just get along?  The roots lie in the past – and if we don’t pay attention to history, we may be doomed to repeat it.  The only thing I can think of to do in the face of all this is to read widely, listen to more than one media source, and above all, VOTE!

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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Excess To Lessess

OK, so I’m a pack rat.  Yes, I am.  I admit it.  I don’t think I’m a hoarder, because everything I see on television about hoarders is about buying tons of things that they don’t need and stashing them just in case they might ever need them or they may never be available on the planet again, or for no particular reason they know.  For me, much of what I keep is sentimental; Reminders of the past.  I don’t go out and buy an excess of anything, but I do keep odds and ends for the “just in case I might need it someday.”  It’s a habit I’ve had forever it seems.  Interestingly, and I think my ex might say it’s true, every time I finally got rid of some of those odds and ends under pressure, sure enough, the day would come shortly thereafter where we needed a little something just like the little something that I just threw out…

My condo is FULL.  As if I didn’t have enough stuff to move, at the time my ex and I parted ways, I had already cleared some stuff out of the garage and into a “climate-controlled” storage unit.  Oh, I thought this was a fabulous idea.  Why hadn’t I thought of it sooner?  It wouldn’t be in the way and I could go through it at my convenience.  You see, by this time, I had taught at, been in administration for, and seen the doors close on five different massage programs. You know what it’s like to empty an office… especially for a pack rat.  And then there’s grandma’s china, miscellaneous tools, sound equipment (singer and songwriter me), and more.  Just the smallest unit, I packed it efficiently.  Then, one day, I received a phone call from the facility: “We are re-purposing the climate-controlled building.”  I had one day to empty my unit.  One major U-Haul truck trip and, to where?  Why my living room, of course!  And there it lives ever since.  It’s embarrassing to tell, but it’s now been over a year and most of it (I did manage to give some things away) is right where it landed.

In my defense, I had begun to suffer severe back pain developed over years and just couldn’t face the prospect of going through boxes.  Well the surgeon has fixed my back and I’ve been laid up at home amidst it all and I have promised myself that as soon as I am able to lift and move things again, I am going to tackle it.  All of it, and more!

I came upon the book you see above, “The Year of Less,” by Cait Flanders, and, while I’ve always thought I believed in the ideas she pursued, I sure can’t say I’ve lived them.  She challenged herself to stop drinking (Fortunately, I gave that up long ago.), stop buying anything that wasn’t on her “approved shopping list” for a year and begin giving away anything and everything that was not essential.  Being parked at home, I was painfully aware (pardon the pun) of the mess I had before me and apologized profusely to the dear friends and my wonderful sister who stayed with me when I first got home from the hospital.  But Ms. Flanders’ book inspired me and made it bearable.  My healing is slow, but sure and I’ve even returned to work on “transitional duty.”  One of her suggestions is, “Tell everyone what you’re doing.”  She says it helps create accountability. Well, I’m telling y’all, so I guess now I’m accountable.  Stay tuned.

About Jan Schim

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

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HOPE

My last post was pretty depressing, I know. The issue of plastic overtaking our environment, killing off wildlife, and affecting our health IS depressing. This post comes to you with hope for the future. As an ex-partner of mine would say, “Science created it and science can un-create it.” I’m counting on that.

Well, now, there is a lot out there about a “natural” remedy for the problem. Is it really possible that nature has provided “plastic-eating bacteria?”

“Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles,” a headline from The Guardian touts:

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

From another The Guardian post:

Nature has begun to fight back against the vast piles of filth dumped into its soils, rivers and oceans by evolving a plastic-eating bacteria – the first known to science.

In a report published in the journal Science, a team of Japanese researchers described a species of bacteria that can break the molecular bonds of one of the world’s most-used plastics – polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or polyester.

The Japanese research team sifted through hundreds of samples of PET pollution before finding a colony of organisms using the plastic as a food source. Further tests found the bacteria almost completely degraded low-quality plastic within six weeks. This was voracious when compared to other biological agents; including a related bacteria, leaf compost and a fungus enzyme recently found to have an appetite for PET.

Here in the U.S., Morgan Vague, Clinical Research Coordinator at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon, presents a TED Talk about her research. She talks realistically about the problem we face and how “my bacteria” can help.

How about the solution presented here in an article from Fast Company discussing the enzyme used by bacteria to digest plastic and how it can be developed?

Around the world, several research projects are exploring the potential of enzymes, the part of the microorganisms responsible for digesting the plastic, to help. In the U.K., scientists studying the Japanese bacteria accidentally created a version of the bacteria’s enzyme that worked even better, breaking down plastic bottles in days rather than weeks. At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S., scientists are also working on the enzyme—called PETase, because it can eat PET plastic—to make it work faster. Researchers in Germany studied the structure of PETase to optimize it. And in France, a startup called Carbios has developed its own enzyme, which can fully break down PET plastic so it can be recycled into new, consumer-grade plastic of the same quality as virgin PET. Major corporations including PepsiCo and Nestlé are now partnering with the company, which plans to begin building its first demonstration plant this fall.

Like some other new recycling technology, using enzymes has advantages over traditional methods of shredding up old products. The plastic doesn’t have to be clean, and can be broken down completely. “We take these plastics back down to some of their precursor components, and then they are maybe in a better position then to be reused and reincorporated into new materials,” Hallinan says. Creating precursors for making plastic, rather than recycling whole plastic into a lower-grade material, might incentivize more recycling because there’s a better market for the final product. “There might be more economic appetite, more industrial appetite, for those types of materials.”

Then, there are the two students, Jeanny Yao and Miranda Wang, who have been studying and have invented bacteria that “eat plastic from the ocean and turn it into water.” Seeing a headline with their work is what got me looking deeper in this possible “miracle” cure.

I’m certainly not convinced these bacteria are the silver bullet we need, but, combined with limiting plastic production, returning to the days of re-usable materials like glass, and the biodegradable, sustainable materials paper and cardboard, even recyclable aluminum, we may be able to get some control of the situation. At least, we can hope.

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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