Category - Mary L. Collins

Improving Heart Health, One Step at a Time
Fresh Garden Salsa
The Wellness Garden at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice
Bring On the New Year!
Ways of Healing
Angels Among Us
Mary Collins, Lamoille Home Health & Hospice and The Manor

Improving Heart Health, One Step at a Time

Keeping your heart healthy may seem like a big job, but even small changes in your daily habits can make a big difference. In fact, small changes are much easier to integrate into our lives than larger ones, so they’re more likely to become lasting habits.

In honor of American Heart Month, we asked our Live Well Lamoille bloggers to share one simple thing they do to keep their heart healthy. We hope this list provides inspiration for incorporating heart-healthy behaviors into your life.

Steve Ames: To be honest, I try to run up the stairs as often as possible, and skip elevators or so escalators whenever possible.

Mary L. Collins: I have begun a practice of going to sleep while listening to meditative music. It may seem an odd way to be heart healthy but for me, as I age, I find sleeping is one of the areas I can easily attenuate to be healthier.  So, I listen to music that helps me fall asleep. It softly plays on my nightstand at a very, very low volume.  I can barely hear it but it is just enough “there” so that I am soothed into sleep. Think of it as “Lullabies for Adults”.  Works for me and is completely natural.

Rebecca Copans: Each week I try to take a brisk walk on five days and go to at least one yoga or other exercise class. I find that if I set a goal of trying to eat 5 different colors of fruit and vegetables each day it helps me to eat more fresh foods.

Rorie Dunphey: I take a 30-minute walk during my lunch hour.

Caleb Magoon: I love to drink a cold beer or two once in a while. But boy those calories add up! I have a simple rule I follow: Sweat before you drink. I allow myself the indulgence, but only on days when I am sure to get a little exercise.

Todd Thomas: I religiously check my Fitbit each day to ensure that I get my steps in. I have always been told that 10,000 steps a day makes for an active and healthy lifestyle. My personal goal is to get to 14,000 steps a day. I chose to walk to and from work (and to and from the house for my lunch-break) to help meet my daily goal. If I achieve that daily goal, that gets me to 100,000 steps per week. My body always feels great when I achieve 100,000 steps weekly!

Nancy Wagner: I love to snowshoe with my dog. She’s right there waiting and ready when I get home from work. I have a headlamp and we go out back in the woods.

Michele Whitmore: I exercise regularly and play tennis three times a week. Playing tennis has many health benefits including increasing aerobic capacities. lowering resting heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, in 2016 there was a study done involving numerous exercises and sports that increase one’s lifespan, tennis was ranked in the top two. This research report also stated that playing a racquet sport, such as tennis, was linked to a 47% reduced risk of death. (More information here.)

Valerie Valcour: I do Tai Chi for 20-30 minutes five mornings a week. It helps ground me and gets my heart rate up just enough to get going.

What is one thing YOU do to be heart healthy?  Let us know in the comments section below!

Fresh Garden Salsa

Have you read Mary L. Collins’ blog post about Lamoille Home Health & Hospice’s Wellness Garden? Aside from providing an opportunity to support physical and mental wellness, gardens provide fresh, healthy produce that can be used in your favorite recipes.

Here’s a great summer recipe for Fresh Tomato Salsa, courtesy of Mary L. Collins and Lamoille Home Health & Hospice.

The Wellness Garden at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice

By: Mary L. Collins

It’s no secret that wellness among those who provide care to others can often suffer from neglect. While it may be benign neglect, the fact is, nurses, LNAs, PCAs, homemakers, therapists and others in the direct care field can often place themselves last on the list of health and wellness.

The American Nurses Association defines a healthy caregiver as:

“one who actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional wellbeing. A healthy caregiver lives life to the fullest capacity, across the wellness/illness continuum, as they become stronger role models, advocates, and educators, personally, for their families, their communities and work environments, and ultimately for their patients.”

So, how do our caregivers manage their own needs?

By choosing nutritious foods and an active lifestyle, managing stress, living tobacco-free, getting preventive immunizations and screenings, and choosing protective measures such as wearing sunscreen and bicycle helmets, health care professionals and providers can set an example of how to be, themselves, healthy.

Lamoille Home Health & Hospice is dedicated to supporting its staff’s wellness by encouraging physical activity. Office staff are often seen walking the few miles each day around the health care campus on Washington Hwy that includes Copley Hospital, The Manor nursing home and short term rehabilitation facility, Copley Terrace, Morrisville Family Practice, and LHH&H’s offices. Staff can easily complete a two mile walk just by circling the campus. Many have invested in Fitbits to track their steps and activity. Most have dropped a few pounds in the process.

It is not only a physical benefit; the mental health benefits are also noted. According to Director of Nursing, Jennifer Beebe, “Nurses and caregivers are fully dedicated to their work, so much so, that we sometimes neglect our own health and wellness as we care for others. Lamoille Home Health is dedicated to providing the tools and resources our staff needs in order to stay physically and mentally healthy. It’s essential that we do in order to be examples to ourselves and to our patients.”

LHH&H has also received a grant from the Vermont Department of Health to launch our first Wellness Garden to benefit staff and families. If you agree with the adage, “Your body is your temple,” it starts with what we ingest, or don’t. LHH&H sees the wellness garden as a collective benefit and example for its staff and volunteers. All are invited to participate in the maintenance and harvest.

How does the wellness garden work?

Four years ago, the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Community Garden Network, Gardener’s Supply Company, and Master Gardener, Charlie Nardozzi, started working together to create a way for small employers (under 100 people) to initiate a garden at their worksite. From that, the Green Thumbs at Work Program was born. Through it, cash grants are awarded to companies and nonprofit organizations through a competitive application process. The grants must be matched by the employer. Grantees also receive a gift certificate from Gardener’s Supply Company and technical assistance from the Vermont Community Garden Network and Nardozzi. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont provided more grant money to expand the program. To date, 26 employers in the state have started Green Thumbs at Work gardens. Eight more organizations were chosen to launch gardens in 2017. LHH&H is among those eight.

The LHH&H Garden will benefit staff, volunteers, and our clients. The support of the grant and donations from local organizations and businesses including the HA Manosh Corp., many community volunteers, and staff, including PCA, Peggy Sprague, who is donating ALL the starter plants from her own extensive home gardens, will help LHH&H to complete the garden and encourage good health habits among our employees.  A bimonthly newsletter will be shared among staff, volunteers and patients and will include gardening tips, healthy recipes, and the benefits of eating certain vegetables and herbs.

The LHH&H Wellness Garden will provide much needed physical activity as well as the bounty of fresh produce harvested throughout the growing season. For more information, contact, Mary L. Collins, Marketing Director, Lamoille Home Health & Hospice at (802) 888-4651 or, email her at

Mary L. Collins is the Marketing Director at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice. A 2014 Home Care Elite Top Agency, LHH&H is one of eleven VNAs of Vermont home health and hospice agencies serving Vermont. She also serves as Marketing Director at The Manor, a 4 star nursing home and short term rehabilitation facility in Morrisville, VT, and she chairs the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. 

Bring On the New Year!

By: Mary L. Collins

New Year's Resolutions

Resolutions. Dreaded, resolutions.

What will yours be for 2017?

More exercise? Better diet? Finally cleaning out that “catch-all” drawer in your kitchen?

How about – be a little kinder to yourself and less self-critical?

Statistically, less than 50% of people who make New Year’s resolutions (1 in 3 of us does) are still on track with their resolution 6 months later. Most crash and burn (54% to be exact) within the first month. And, as we age, our resolve to even suggest a resolution for the new year wanes.

So why do we do it?

One person called it, “A triumph of hope over experience.” It is our desire to do better and to achieve more that propels us forward into the “resolution zone.” And, in that thought, comes this idea of being kinder to and less critical of ourselves.

So how does that happen while we’re smack dab in the middle of the season of giving?

Hard to say. But let’s try.

I was told by a friend and colleague recently that, “Your compassion is your Achilles heel.” Interesting assessment! Yes, I do all that I can to consider others’ feelings and needs and to be kind. It’s how I was raised and it’s the way I want to conduct myself in the world. I truly think it is right to set the best example I can for myself, for my son, and for anyone in my ever-widening circle. But, perhaps, my friend was right. In my quest to do good and right things, am I reluctant to include the self-care that I need in order to function at my best? Do I rest on self-criticism because whatever I did or didn’t do in some particular situation wasn’t quite “up to standard,” not quite “good enough?” Yep, my friend may be right. I bet you do the same things and evaluate yourself almost exactly as I do. Hopeless self-sacrificers, aren’t we!

The fact is, among people within the healthcare field, it is our job to “care.” Caring, is, after all, our mission and mandate. Nurses, therapists, nursing assistants, hospice volunteers, personal care attendants and all others who serve have a responsibility to provide respectful, professional care to our patients and clients. To shirk this duty is not only acting out of integrity, it can also be an actionable offense.  Truly, I believe those who are in helping professions really do enjoy and gain deep satisfaction from helping and providing care. We just aren’t always as good at providing it in equal measure to ourselves.

Have you ever seen an overweight nurse? Met a therapist who smokes? Known a volunteer who looks tired or distracted? Might you be one of these people yourself? If so, I ask you to consider a thought that may make a huge difference in your wellbeing; and, perhaps, as a result, will present a stronger you to whoever you care for and about. It is this:

“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”

– Christopher Germer*

Easier said than done.  So, now, here’s where you need to make your list.

What are the 5, no, 10 things you do for others that you are reluctant to also do for yourself, if you even do them at all?

1 – 10
Now, go back and number that list in order of the item where you give the most to others and the least to yourself – in descending order. Let’s call it the:

1 – 10
So as not to sabotage your resolution success, circle the first three items on the list.





Copy and print these first three items and paste them on:

  • Your calendar
  • Your car visor
  • Your bathroom mirror
  • Wherever you are likely to see the list every day

Now, promise that you will resolve in 2017 to do, or, at least attempt to do these three things better for and toward yourself.  The world will manage. Trust me, it will.

Happy New Year!


* Christopher Germer, PhD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Arlington, Massachusetts, specializing in mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy. He is a founding member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and co-editor of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy and Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice. Dr. Germer lectures and conducts workshops internationally on the art and science of mindful self-compassion.

Mary L. Collins is the Marketing Director at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice. A 2014 Home Care Elite Top Agency, LHH&H is one of eleven VNAs of Vermont home health and hospice agencies serving Vermont. She also serves as Marketing Director at The Manor, a 4 star nursing home and short term rehabilitation facility in Morrisville, VT, and she chairs the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. 

Ways of Healing

By: Mary L. Collins


Healing is not always limited to what we might think it is or what we may have experienced. Within indigenous cultures, I have learned that much of healing evolves from spiritual practices, from symbols and rituals. While Western medicine is adept at the biology of illness, Western practitioners often stumble over the psycho-social benefits of healing that cannot always be measured in the ways we are accustomed. There is much more to healing than meets the eye. Here are a few questions that may help each of us get to the heart of it.

How do we measure elements of healing that matter most to us as individuals?

In what way do we, or others, evaluate our healing journey and progress?

What practices help us to create or restore wellness in ourselves and others?

How do we prepare, accept, and administer healing practices that go beyond surgical technique or pharmaceutical intervention?

I believe each of these questions can be answered by expanding our definition of healing. Or, if we, at least, remain open to the possibility, can we accept that there is more available to us than meets the eye? Here’s how.

Most everyone can relate to healing that comes from faith. Many people rely on their religious practices in times of joy, stress, or trauma. These worthy beliefs are founded in the practice of:

  • Compassion, As the recipient, “I now understand what it means to hurt or to be discouraged by a diagnosis.” Or, from the caregiver, “I want to know you as a person first; a patient second”
  • Gratitude, “What has my illness taught me and others?” and, “Thank you for allowing me (your physician, nurse, care attendant, hospice volunteer) to care for you. I have learned from the experience in ways that will help me help myself and others.”
  • Humility, “I am humbled by this disease; yet, as your physician/caregiver/loved one, I will do all that is within my power to restore you to health and wellness.”

How do we then weave these three aptitudes into our understanding and practice of health, wellness and healing?

Recently, I had conversations with seven care providers who work in different capacities within the Lamoille community; one is a hospice nurse with Lamoille Home Health & Hospice; another, a young Physical Therapy graduate student completing her clinical studies at Copley Hospital; the third is a service provider and client who works within the field of Traumatic Brain Injury services; the fourth, the Executive Director of a regional Recovery Center; the fifth, a Licensed Social Worker; the sixth a Reiki master; and lastly, a friend who recently completed a series of Writing Workshops where she learned a method of storytelling and coaching that has shown compelling results for people who have suffered some form of trauma. All seven women spoke of the unseen and often undocumented care provided through their work and interaction with patients, families, clients, and caregivers.

At The Manor, in Morrisville, Elena Robertson, a Life Enrichment provider and a Master Reiki practitioner, shares the Japanese practice with residents. This form of healing touch has been woven into care plans for residents as a natural alternative to relieving pain, anxiety, and other stressors. Staff and family who had never heard of the practice now sit up and take notice. A good example is the experience of one elderly woman who regularly receives reiki treatments as part of her ongoing care. As the woman relaxes in her wheelchair, her head gently bowed, eyes closed, Robertson places both hands just above the crown of the woman’s head. A slight smile grows on the elder’s face. She looks contented and comfortable. With slight, precise movements, Robinson focuses intently on the elderly woman as she concentrates on the movements that provide comfort, relaxation, and a sense of wellness. The senior says simply, “It makes me feel better.” She doesn’t quite know why but recognizes and welcomes the healing touch.

From Dawn Lefevre, a skilled and respected Hospice nurse with LHH&H, I learned that healing is a process of giving and receiving. From the deathbed of a patient, Dawn was able to provide clinical care to someone who was eased out of this world surrounded by their beloved dogs – all of which were snuggled close to their master on her bed as she breathed her last breath. The moment was peaceful, loving, and there was serenity in the room. All of it came from accepting and allowing that the best way onward was to know that to be embraced by the animals that were so beloved and connected to their person was the medicine she needed. Healing comes from love expressed.

From Paige Driver, a Physical Therapy graduate student enrolled at South College in Knoxville, TN, and currently completing her clinical studies at Copley Hospital, I learned that there are physicians who are working hard to break down medical practice habits and stereotypes in order to teach their students how to imbue their care with compassion toward the patient. Paige shared a story of a doctor who, rather than stand by the bedside of a patient diagnosed with terminal cancer, (standing in a queue around a patient’s bed is common in teaching hospitals), asked if he could sit next to her and hold her hand. That simple act of intimacy at a critical moment in the woman’s life allowed the doctor access to her healing process while it allowed the patient an opportunity to express her emotions and to be “heard” by the doctors who had gathered to break unfortunate news to her. Doctors can heal with compassion. Healing does not always mean an extension of life. It means being at peace with the diagnosis.

From Sonja Crowe, a Service Provider with Green Mountain Support Services, who works in the agency’s community-based Brain Injury Program, I learned that experience and observation can translate into providing better care and services to those who have had a traumatic or acquired brain injury. With intimate knowledge of what it means to live meaningfully with TBI, translating one’s own experience into the care and understanding of others can make a meaningful difference in that person’s healing journey. For Sonja, it comes from gratitude. When we turn something awful into a lesson and see it as a gift, it can be transformative for all.

From Deborah Miller, a mother, homeschooler and writer from Elmore, and from Stefani Capizzi, Executive Director of the North Central Vermont Recovery Center, I learned that efforts at creating a space for a person to tell their story and to be received with courtesy, attention, and dignity, opens up the opportunity to heal from past traumas or addictions. Humility is exhibited when we learn how to listen, rather than find it necessary to command the floor and express our opinions or knowledge at every opportunity. Listening is a practice of the very wisest and it is done all too rarely. Good caregivers listen. Listening heals.

And lastly, from Mary Ann Ginette, MSW, LICSW, who practices at The Manor and works with residents as well as staff to help them understand how they serve as a healer – no matter their position, education or experience. She said, “Our belief is that each individual working at The Manor is a healer being that they provide comfort, support and assistance to the residents and to each other.” The Manor understands that while healing is a requirement of good nursing home care, the wellbeing of the employees who provide that care also matters. This year, in addition to their Employee Assistance Program, The Manor added a monthly “Heal the Healers” program that encourages open and candid conversation. Mary Ann said, “Healing begins with understanding our own personal body, mind, emotional and spiritual connection to ourselves and others. Healing ourselves transforms into a healthy, happy work environment that flows into our care of residents. Balancing work, home, giving and receiving, brings compassion to our work as healers.” The program allows staff to explore their feelings and share their experiences in a supportive and nurturing environment, which translates to better care and understanding of residents.

In our quest to be exceptional care providers we must do these things well: We must possess the skills that heal the body. We must provide the services that ease a person’s suffering. And, we must connect on the most intimate level possible with compassion, gratitude and humility. Our patients are our teachers in healing and provide us the lessons of their illness, injury or infirmity. It is through their experience that we are made better caregivers and that we become true healers.

Mary L. Collins is the Marketing Director at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice. A 2014 Home Care Elite Top Agency, LHH&H is one of eleven VNAs of Vermont home health and hospice agencies serving Vermont. She also serves as Marketing Director at The Manor, a 4 star nursing home and short term rehabilitation facility in Morrisville, VT, and she chairs the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. 

Angels Among Us

By: Mary L. Collins

Angels Among Us

There’s nothing funny about thinking you may possibly be dying.

I am not a religious person, so don’t let the title of this blog fool you. I am, however, aware of things that may have special, even universal meaning; and so, let me tell you the story of waking up to an angel.

When I was 24, I was in a terrible car accident. Note to self: cute sports cars are no match for a massive SUV on icy roads. Let’s just say, if not for a seat belt, a more-than-healthy dose of luck, and a split second’s difference in where my head landed upon impact of one vehicle with another, I’d probably not be here. But my story isn’t about my accident; it’s about the relationship healthcare providers have with the person they care for after that person has suffered some kind of trauma.

Now, back to my story, my tangled car, and the gargantuan SUV that just hit me head on. Did you know that shock and trauma often catapult a person into another consciousness that is hard to explain unless you have also experienced it? I was completely unable to speak, and kind of, shall we say, “drifty”. I can recall being cold, bleeding, having trouble breathing (busted ribs) and knowing that my life was in someone else’s hands. Thankfully, I didn’t have to talk at all and was whisked off to my local hospital courtesy of the town’s volunteer EMT crew.

Upon arrival at the emergency room, I remember being surrounded by a team of doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians – you name the position, there was probably someone on the trauma team waiting to greet and care for me. However, shock really can do a number on a person. It particularly messes up one’s ability to communicate. I recall fading in and out of consciousness. I knew I was in the best possible hands. What was missing, however, was the one thing that surgery could not repair; and that was to help make a connection between my confused, semi-conscious self and someone who could tell me that I was going to be okay. All the while that doctors hovered over me assessing my external and possible internal injuries, no one talked with me. Admittedly, the ER staff had other, critical concerns to deal with. I wasn’t being ignored. Quite the contrary. There was a huge outpouring of expert medical care. Yet, during my few moments of clarity, I was desperately wondering if I was going to live or die. That level of panic made me feel strangely invisible to everyone. And, due to my traumatized state, I was not able to ask the question.

Soon thereafter, I was stabilized, wheeled out of the Emergency Room, onto an elevator, and in to surgery. “Was this it?” I thought. “Is this how life ends for me?” Dang! This wasn’t my plan at ALL!

Fast forward to the recovery room some hours later.

Groggily, I woke to soft beeping noises, low lights, a warm room and a comfortable bed. “So this is heaven?” I thought. Geez, is THIS a disappointment, or what?! You have to understand, the brain has a way of making sense of the most unbelievable things. I was sure I had died. And this was my reward: the deck of the Starship Enterprise.

And that’s when the angel appeared.

He arrived at my bedside, and whispered gently into my ear, “Mary, you are in recovery. You’re just waking up. You’re hooked to a few monitors, but you’ll be okay.”

Mind you, all this time I was convinced I had died. And so, my first thought was, “Seriously, THIS is heaven?” And this voice I was hearing, is the intake coordinator. Then he spoke again in that hushed, reassuring tone, “My name is Steve. You’ve been in an accident. I’ll be taking care of you.”

That’s it. Three sentences that sounded like a prayer. And an angel named “Steve”.

And then I realized, I hadn’t died at all. Steve was a nurse and I was in the post-operative recovery suite. That was my miracle. I had been alerted to where I was. It felt like a second chance at life – even though I was never in jeopardy of going anywhere. I was forever grateful.

What’s the lesson?

It’s this: When a person is injured or has fallen ill and is in need of medical care, it is not only important to care for the body, but to recognize that the mind and spirit of the person is very likely active and present. How you engage with that person can make all the difference in their recovery. Anyone can do this. No medical training is necessary. To say, “I’m right here by your side,” to a loved one who is in the emergency room; or, “You’ve got the very best care. Everything will be okay,” while a person you know is waiting for a prognosis, can make a huge difference in their sense of wellbeing – no matter what the outcome.

At the time of my accident I had never experienced real trauma. Afterward, I’ve made it a point to always be, whenever possible, the reassuring voice for someone at a time of need. Whether or not that person can communicate, in words, back to me or you, doesn’t matter. Just imagine what it is they NEED to hear and speak to it. “You’ll be okay.” “I’m right here with you.” “My name is Steve….I’ll be taking care of you.”

This is what our staff at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice does every day. Whether it is a nurse, a therapist, a personal care attendant or a homemaker; we let our patients know, “I’m right here with you. You’ll be okay.”

Words of an angel, indeed.

Mary L. Collins is the Marketing Director at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice. A 2014 Home Care Elite Top Agency, LHH&H is one of eleven VNAs of Vermont home health and hospice agencies serving Vermont. She also serves as Marketing Director at The Manor, a 4 star nursing home and short term rehabilitation facility in Morrisville, VT, and she chairs the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. 

Mary Collins, Lamoille Home Health & Hospice and The Manor

Mary CollinsMary L. Collins is the Marketing Director at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice and The Manor.

A 2014 Home Care Elite Top Agency, LHH&H is one of eleven VNAs of Vermont home health and hospice agencies serving Vermont.

Recognized as a 2013 Silver Award Recipient from the American Health Care Association, a 2011 Bronze Award Recipient from the AHCA, and as a Quality Nursing Home by the State of Vermont, The Manor provides residential and long-term care, short-term rehabilitation care, hospice, and respite care in Morrisville, VT.

In addition to her work in health care marketing, Mary serves on the Board of the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce, is founder of Lakota Tiny House Nation – an advocacy program for the Youth of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota – and operates Shine Communications. A 6th generation Vermonter, she is the mother of 1 son and lives with her partner, Dr. Donald Tobey, in Elmore, VT.