Tag - wellness

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Summer Means Free Outdoor Music Concerts
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Small Pleasures
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Sweet Dreams
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Sleep!
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A Little Touch of Spring
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From Flowers to Leaves
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Improving Heart Health, One Step at a Time
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Lamoille County Mental Health: 50 Years in the Making
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 The Shallowness of Sanity
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The Wellness Garden at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice

Summer Means Free Outdoor Music Concerts

By: Leah Hollenberger

Listening to music while hanging out with friends in the park is one of the best things about summer. The fact that we can do this on three nights every single week – for free – is amazing!

I am so grateful to all of the volunteers, musicians, and local sponsors who make these fun events happen. So pack up a picnic dinner or bring some cash, as most have local food vendors providing refreshments, and enjoy!

Here are some of the free local music festivals in the area. Click on the link for their concert line-up and details.

Gazebo Concerts, Stowe Free Library, Tuesdays at 6pm-7pm, July 23 – Aug. 13
https://www.stoweperformingarts.com/concerts/gazebo-concerts/

Tuesday Night Live in Johnson, Legion Field by the elementary school, 6pm-8pm-ish, July 9 – Aug. 27
https://www.facebook.com/johnsonvt05656/.

Wednesday Night Live, Oxbow Park in Morrisville, 5:30pm-7:30pm-ish, June 12 – Aug. 21
http://www.morristownvt.org/images/oxbow_schedule_final.jpg

Thursday Nights on the Lawn at the Alchemist in Stowe, 4pm-8pm, May 31 – Aug. 29
https://alchemistbeer.com/#events

If you can travel, Catamount Arts presents a free late Sunday afternoon concert. The Levitt AMP St. Johnsbury Music Series at Dog Mountain, Sundays at 4pm, July 14 – Sept. 22
https://concerts.levittamp.org/stjohnsbury

Do you know of other free concerts this summer? Which free music series is your favorite?


Leah Hollenberger is the Development and External Relations Officer for Northern Vermont University. She helped create the Live Well Lamoille Blog while serving as Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and spends her free time volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Small Pleasures

By: Dan Regan

It’s undoubtedly true, as we all know, that “the best things in life are free”—love, truth, beauty, honor, among them. Material things, however, do play a part in the quality and enjoyment of our lives. Our experience of the material world can contribute to a sense of satisfaction and hence of wellbeing. If you are among the many for whom this is true, I suggest that you freely indulge in small pleasures.

This message applies to people of all ages, but it is especially intended as a manifesto for older readers not enticed by calls to create a dramatic bucket list, go on a lavish cruise or round-the-world trip, or purchase a fancy automobile. I have no quarrel with those who are so compelled, but the advice about aging and retirement has overwhelmingly spoken to the true luxury-seekers among the older population. 

But what about those of us for whom joy and certainly contentment in advancing age is not found sitting in airport waiting lounges, scrambling to change planes? Or who don’t find ourselves in situations able to “get away,” perhaps because of responsibilities to kids, grandchildren, or parents? How do we find our retirement pleasure?

Of course, the “big” answer resides in deep relationships, meaningful activities, close community. But a partial – though no less compelling – response may reside in the more regular consumption of what I am calling “small pleasures.”

When you go to the supermarket, indulge a little. Purchase—and savor—that expensive chocolate instead of the cheaper variety. Or do the same with coffee. Or go to a bath and beauty store for high-quality soap. Such examples could be multiplied many times. Find your own favorite areas for occasionally foregoing your usual economy in favor of indulging in small pleasures.

The Jaguar that most of us will never own costs a little less than twice what our Toyota or Subaru does. So how do “small pleasures” compare to their more economical counterparts?

“Economy” Brand“Pleasure” Brand% Greater
Car$25,450 $44,800 76% 
Chocolate$1.99 $3.99100%
Coffee$4.35 $12.99 199%
Soap$1.65$7.99384%

As you can see, in percentage terms it’s actually more extravagant to purchase the “small pleasures.” Feel like a millionaire and enjoy all of them! You’ll still only be out a total of 25 bucks, as compared to $45,000.

So, indulge yourself a little, if you are able to do so. You deserve it.

Finally: Please remember that 68,000 Vermonters, 11.3 percent of the state’s population, live in poverty. At least 8,000 among them are Vermont senior citizens. For those below the poverty line, our neighbors among them, subsistence is the currently reachable goal, not—sadly—these small pleasures.


Dan Regan, a sociologist, is the former dean of academic affairs at Johnson State College and continues to work part-time for Northern Vermont University. He writes for a variety of publications about whatever interests him, including—recently—climate change, living with arthritis, the NFL players’ protests, and higher education.

Sweet Dreams

By: Julie Bomengen

While most of us have an intuitive drive and love for sleep, many of us don’t understand how a good night’s rest impacts our mental and emotional well-being. Today’s blog is going to unpack Sleep as a Pillar/Foundation for Mental Health. A compromised sleep-wake cycle alters brain activity and the neurochemicals that directly affect our mood and executive functioning (ie: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self-control), and undermines the processes intended to restore our minds and bodies to a normal, healthy baseline. Protecting the quality and quantity of our sleep is one of the most critical interventions we can do to improve overall mental, emotional, and physical functioning.

Our sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) Axis which controls cortisol production on a 24-hour Circadian Rhythm.  When our sleep-wake cycle is rhythmic, cortisol drops at night to help us fall asleep and increases in the early morning hours to help us wake up. Acute or chronic stress, unresolved trauma, drug and alcohol use, pain, blood-sugar dysregulation (hypoglycemia), misuse of caffeine, illness, and hormone imbalances, among other things, can all impact the level of cortisol in the body, affect our sleep patterns, and exacerbate symptoms of or lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, PMS, ADHD, dementia, and Bipolar disorder. Ongoing disruption of this essential psychological-biological rhythm reinforces mental distress and becomes a vicious cycle of symptoms that disrupt sleep patterns and sleep disturbances that often develop into mental health disorders.

Research has shown that sleep, and REM sleep or dream sleep, in particular, plays a major role in mood regulation and that increasing our time in REM sleep reduces depression. When we are sleeping, our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) gets a chance to be in Parasympathetic Mode – time to put the brakes on and rest, digest, relax, restore, renew, detoxify, and integrate information and experiences from the day. All important reasons to safeguard sleep.

Our use of technology exerts a considerable impact on both the quality and quantity of our sleep. The blue-green wavelength that screens emit depresses melatonin, the sleep hormone that is released when the sun goes down. For this reason, blue light acts as a stimulant to the brain, making it hard to feel relaxed, settle down, and fall asleep. Easily accessed devices create an all-too-easy and convenient distraction for most people, often leading to a disconnect from real-time experiences and relationships, misuse of time, and a disruption of the circadian rhythm. Behavioral habits of checking and rechecking our devices can often set a negative or anxious tone for the day, and as stress hormones are released, feelings of anxiety increase. Often, even before people are getting out of their beds in the mornings, they are tired, stressed, and irritable from their dysregulated sleep. Beginning the day with a deficit is no fun for anyone!

Ways to protect and improve your sleep and mental and emotional wellbeing:

  • Discontinue use of all technology at least 1 hour prior to going to bed and ideally, leave your device charging outside of your bedroom in order to reduce distractions, increase intimacy (by the way, snuggling releases oxytocin – the human bonding/relational hormone!), and protect the quality and quantity of your sleep.  Use blue light blocking glasses at night and consider installing the f.lux program onto your devices which makes the color of your computer screen adapt to the time of day, thereby modulating its stimulating impact.
  • Develop a relaxing bedtime ritual (we create them for our children, why not for ourselves?) which might include reading, showering, a magnesium-rich (the relaxing mineral) epsom salts bath 30 minutes before bed, gentle stretching, listening to music, drinking herbal tea, aromatherapy, massage, herbs such as valerian root tincture, hops, passionflower, or with the support of an experienced practitioner use supplements that support circadian rhythm which include melatonin, B12, and lithium orotate.
  • Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle 7 days a week, choosing your be-in-bed-by-time and your lights-out time. Doing your best to stick with this cycle every night will better support the 24-hour rhythm that will ensure healthy sleep patterns and improved mental, emotional and physical health. One of the reasons why it’s often difficult to get going on Monday mornings is because people change up their bedtime routines over the weekend which throws off the sleep-wake cycle and makes for a sluggish start to the week.
  • Consider pairing your dessert or alcohol (a.k.a. “liquid sugar” – more on this in a future blog) with food earlier in the evening or omit them altogether to help in eliminating the impact of blood-sugar dysregulation on your sleep patterns. When we consume sugars before bed, our blood sugar levels spike and then come down 2-4 hours later in the middle of the night, waking the individual up as a result of our body’s alarm sensing what it perceives as concerning or dangerously low blood sugar levels. Eliminating sugars and alcohol several hours before going to bed and/ or enjoying a protein or healthy fat snack before bed (ie: avocado, nuts, cheese, egg, turkey and other high tryptophan foods) will help individuals fall asleep and stay asleep more successfully.
  • Limit your use of caffeine to earlier in the day, remembering that caffeine (including energy drinks) that is consumed in the late afternoon for that pick-me-up boost often contributes to insomnia.
  • Because elevated stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine) can lead to memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders, work diligently to manage stressors by engaging in some form of relaxation, meditation, breath work, or progressive muscle relaxation exercises. Apps like Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace can be helpful aids for meditation and stress management. Another tip is to write down your worries or to-do’s on a piece of paper that you leave outside of your bedroom, creating a boundary between your “doing” self and your “being or sleeping” self.
  • Keep your bedroom dark (consider an eye mask and room darkening shades) and cool (60-67 degrees F, adjusted to personal preferences) to ensure a restful night’s sleep.
  • Limit the bedroom to sleeping or intimacy.  Your bedroom is not your office!
  • Daily, regular exercise, particularly high-intensity workouts, but ideally before 4 p.m. Physical activity helps relieve stress, reduces cortisol production and helps normalize sleep patterns.
  • Exposure to bright natural light or use of a full-spectrum lamp on a daily basis is helpful in supporting quality sleep patterns, particularly for people who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Getting outside every day helps – even when it’s cloudy, which Lamoille County often is!
  • Use habit-forming sleep medications as a last resort as they will further interfere with your body’s ability to restore a natural Circadian Rhythm.

Resources to Further your Education and Information:


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Sleep!

By: Emily Neilsen

Sleep has always been important to me.  I grew up in a house where everyone’s first question in the morning was, “How’d you sleep?” In our home, naps were regularly taken and rest was often prioritized over other needs or wants. As an adult, not much has changed for me. So I was not just a little surprised to learn that the sleep habits I had developed as an adult were to blame for my less-than-perfect sleep patterns through the night.

This all came to a head about 2 years ago, when I was six months into parenthood. I was exhausted. There was a depth to my tiredness that felt almost irreversible. Well-intentioned friends and family noticed and provided assurance and advice: Buy an espresso maker! Rest when the baby rests! Don’t worry: the baby will start sleeping much more soundly soon! But the truth was that the baby was a great sleeper, who was often down for 8- to 11-hour stretches. It was me who was tossing and turning.

Around this time, a friend suggested I start following a sleep hygiene routine. I had never heard the term before, but I quickly learned that if sleep was my goal, I had to do some research and face the problem intentionally. Along the way, I came across a book that provided a paradigm shift for me: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Ph.D.

Walker covers a host of topics related to sleep, but most powerfully for me, he speaks to the health consequences and risks of failing to sleep enough. In short, sleep impacts virtually every measurable health outcome. Failing to sleep enough (defined as 7 or more hours a night) doubles an individual’s risk of developing cancer, increases the incidence of Alzheimer’s, shortens one’s lifespan, increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and increases all psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Additionally, in recent years, drivers impaired by lack of sleep caused more vehicle accidents than those impaired by drugs and alcohol combined. For these reasons, along with others, the World Health Organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic in developed nations.

While I had known that sleep was important, I had never known that my survival was so dependent on getting so much sleep, consistently. Sleep, it was becoming clear to me, is incredibly serious business. So, how can we best ensure a good night’s rest? Experts recommend developing strong “sleep hygiene”, or habits that are conducive to regularly sleeping well.  Below is a list of behaviors that promote good sleep:

1. Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that interfere with sleep. Some resources recommend avoiding caffeine after noon and giving your body plenty of time to digest alcohol before going to sleep.

2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and head to bed around the same time every night (even on weekends).

3. Set boundaries around screen time and limit blue light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime.

4. Make your bedroom a place of rest – keep the bedroom dark and the temperature comfortable. Avoid doing work or watching TV in the bedroom.

5. Get outside and move during the day. Regular exposure to sunlight (even on cloudy days) and as little as 10 minutes a day of exercise positively impacts sleep cycles.

6. If you are a nighttime clock watcher or phone checker, take both out of the room.

7. Stay calm when you can’t sleep. Limit your awake time in bed to 10-20 minutes. If you can’t fall asleep (or back to sleep), do something else relaxing somewhere else in your house.

8. Experiment and be patient. Different approaches work for different people and finding the right mix of behavioral changes may take some time.  

Tips adapted from:


Emily Neilsen is a mother and educator, who loves asking big questions, digging in the soil, swimming in natural bodies of water, and playing outdoors. She is a 500-hour and Prenatal certified yoga instructor. Emily currently plans arts & cultural events and reading initiatives, and works with first-year students at Northern Vermont University-Johnson. She cares deeply about health and believes mental health, movement, and diet play essential roles in wellness. Emily lives with her husband and 2-year-old, as well as a husky and a calico cat in Hyde Park, VT.

A Little Touch of Spring

By: Valerie Valcour

The Vernal Equinox is March 20, 2019. Looking outside my window, I dare say there is more snow melting that needs to happen before it feels like spring. Every year I look forward to spring and getting my hands in the garden to tend my flowers. For me, caring for my flowers provides me solace and relaxation.

You can find several references regarding gardening as a source of mental health. Here is one such reference from Psychology Today. In this article, the author identifies gardening as a source of nurturing and being in the present moment.

The first flower that greets us in the spring is the Crocus. The Crocus is a brave yet delicate flower. It reminds me that having a little courage can help me push through the cold dormant ground of winter’s past. I hope you enjoy this poem by Frances Ellen Walkins Harper and think Spring!

The Crocuses

They heard the South wind sighing
    A murmur of the rain;
And they knew that Earth was longing
    To see them all again.
 
While the snow-drops still were sleeping
    Beneath the silent sod;
They felt their new life pulsing
    Within the dark, cold clod.
 
Not a daffodil nor daisy
    Had dared to raise its head;
Not a fairhaired dandelion
    Peeped timid from its bed;
 
Though a tremor of the winter
    Did shivering through them run;
Yet they lifted up their foreheads
    To greet the vernal sun.
 
And the sunbeams gave them welcome,
    As did the morning air—
And scattered o’er their simple robes
    Rich tints of beauty rare.
 
Soon a host of lovely flowers
    From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
    The crocuses were first.
 
First to weave for Earth a chaplet
    To crown her dear old head;
And to beauty the pathway
    Where winter still did tread.
 
And their loved and white-haired mother
    Smiled sweetly ’neath the touch,
When she knew her faithful children
    Were loving her so much

-Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1825 – 1911


Valerie Valcour is a Public Health Nurse and specializes in chronic disease prevention and emergency preparedness at the community level for the Department of Health in Morrisville. Valerie has lived in Lamoille County for most of her life. She graduated from People’s Academy in 1983 and worked as a nurse at Copley Hospital for several years. In addition to her work, she volunteers as a board member of both Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley and the Lamoille County Planning Commission.

From Flowers to Leaves

By: Michele Whitmore

Personally, I find it difficult to transition from summer mode to fall mode. I am sure some of this has to do with my career. Working in higher ed, the transition means much more than a wardrobe change. My lifestyle changes a bit. The work goes from planning to responding (sometimes reacting), from being able to binge watch the newest series on Netflix till the break of dawn, to making sure I am in bed by 9 so I can be in the office and prepared for that 8:30 am meeting.

I am sure many of you can relate to this transition as well. I absolutely love summertime and need to annually remind myself of the importance of appreciating those last summer days and being excited for what fall has to offer. Here are some tips that I use to help in this transition. For those who can relate, I invite you to give these a try:

Embrace the change: It’s going to happen whether you want it to or not, so let go and give yourself time to slowly transition your mindset.

Remember the highlights: Hoodies! Pumpkin Spice! Bonfires with flannel and hot cocoa! And don’t forget about the amazing colors of fall – especially in New England. We are very lucky to be surrounded by such beauty.

It’s not over: Summer fun can continue in the fall. You can continue to do many of your favorite summer activities in the fall. Like biking? Check out a spin class; enjoy fresh fruits and veggies? You can “can” almost anything and enjoy the taste of summer even in the fall. Enjoy picnicking with friends and family? A harvest dinner also brings friends and family together to enjoy a hearty meal.

Bucket List: In the spring, I always create a summer bucket list. This summer, I created one for fall. Maybe I’ll see you at a high school football game or at a haunted (but not *too* haunted) forest, the great corn maze in Dansville, or at the local church’s chicken and biscuit dinner.  There are many hidden gems to do in the fall. Look around, do some research and start your list now.

Lastly, be grateful that you are here, alive and able to enjoy the last days of summer and the upcoming fall adventures. In the fall, reminisce about the June outdoor concert you attended and be glad that you had the opportunity to experience it. And in the Winter, you can reminisce about the Fall Fest gathering at your friend’s house where everyone brought their signature dish to pass and beverage to share while sitting around a nice bonfire with your favorite flannel and jeans.

 

 …And all at once, Summer collapsed into Fall – Oliver Wilde

 


Michele Whitmore is the Associate Dean of Students at Johnson State College. She works closely with Student Service Departments within the College to provide purposeful events to students that will strengthen their professional leadership, personal growth, life skills development and social engagement. Thus far, the College has provided educational programs that cover LGBTQ issues, alcohol and drug use, sexual assault prevention, socio-economic struggles, and healthy choices related to eating well and being fit, to name a few.

Michele writes about the outreach and program opportunities that enhance the wellness of a campus community.

 

 

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!

Lamoille County Mental Health: 50 Years in the Making

By: Savi Van Sluytman, CEO, Lamoille County Mental Health Services

A half-century ago, Lamoille County Mental Health opened its doors to serve the community.  Like you, we know that our neighbors have good days and bad days, ups and downs. It is our commitment that when our neighbors need help, we will be there to reach out a hand.

In the 50 years that we have been serving the Lamoille Valley, the way we respond to the needs of our neighbors has drastically changed. Much of our work happens right in the communities where our consumers live—in their homes, in their schools, in their child care programs, in their jobs.  We know that the best path to health and wellness is the one that ensures a full, meaningful life. A steady job, success in school, strong relationships and good friends, good nutrition and healthy exercise, feeling the sun on our faces and clean, fresh air in our lungs.

Every day at Lamoille County Mental Health, we are taking steps to ensure that no one in our community falls through the cracks. We provide the safety net that so many Vermonters need at some point in their lives. Many of us live here because, yes, it’s a place of rare and often breathtaking beauty, but also because we hold common values: that when a neighbor slides off the road on a snowy afternoon, we stop to help. When someone is struggling with an internal battle, we reach out a hand. Every Vermonter should be able to live healthy, productive lives.

We provide the safety net that so many Vermonters need at some point in their lives. In a state such as this, no one should go hungry, which is why we have a food shelf that on any given week is stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and non-perishable items.

If someone is struggling with the confidence they need to get back to work, we bridge that gap, empowering them to find and keep a job. We help them with every step where they need a guiding hand, and when they are ready to take the next step alone, we step back—but not away.

When someone is struggling with homelessness, we fight fiercely to find housing for them.  When transportation is a barrier to work, our supported employment dispatch team ensures that they can get there. We combat isolation by bringing people together for music and yoga classes, lunch, Special Olympics teams and support groups. After a few athletes in our community expressed interest in creating a Special Olympics swim team this fall, we found a head coach and we are scouring the community for assistant coaches and swim partners to accompany athletes in the pool, as well as a sponsor to cover the cost of using the pool at Johnson State College—please reach out if you are interested!

As we look to 2018 and our 51st year, we are thrilled to bridge community partnerships as we work to implement a capital campaign to support community needs. Our 2018 capital campaign goals are to:

  • Build an Imagination Center to benefit children with autism, behavioral and learning disabilities, as well as for elders with dementia;
  • Fund the Tiny House Project. Build four independent living “tiny houses” for people with developmental disabilities on the Oasis House property;
  • Provide matching funds to support the creation of affordable housing for people at risk of homelessness in community centers where it does not currently exist.

With these efforts, we seek to better serve the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.  To learn more, visit www.lamoille.org.

 

 The Shallowness of Sanity

By: Mary L. Collins

From the frontispiece of Joan Didion’s book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” the writer chronicles the devastating illness and near death of her only child and of the loss of her husband of 40 years, the writer John Gregory Dunne, that same year. Didion speaks of the unspeakable; the “shallowness of sanity.”  She references that moment when we recognize we may be losing our grip on all that we know to be “normal.”  The balance we keep with what we consider our sanity is, Didion recognized, at best, tenuous.

So, what do we do when we feel at the edge of our capability to cope – as all of us do to some degree at various points in our lives?

This past weekend, I had the honor of spending time with a talented and dear artist who manages to maintain a sense of the magic and mystery of life just by the way he extracts himself from its noise. As a fine jeweler and photographer, Peter’s work takes him out of normal “seeing” every day. This is a person whose talent leaps outside the bounds of the normal. His work is extraordinary, indeed, magical. Within the work, Peter embodies a knowing that comes from wisdom, observation, patience, compassion, and humility. He lives these practices; and so, his knowledge grows as does his expression and artistry. I believe his sanity is derived from his dedication to expression. His method of expression, however, takes him to the edges of “normal” experience all the time.

I’ll attempt to explain.

Peter shared a story of a dream. In this dream he was given a vision of an object. That object was a deer toe rattle. As a fine jeweler, he understands the knowledge that is in his hands and translates that knowing into whatever piece he is making – be it a necklace with gemstones, or a deer toe rattle. He explained that the dream was extremely vivid, compelling, and insistent. He didn’t know why he was obliged to make the rattle. He just knew he was supposed to make it.

He told me, “I have come to trust that the reason for the rattle and me dreaming it would reveal itself in time.” And it did.

He explained further, “There was a young man I met at a Native American gathering who suffers from a form of muscular debility. Dancing at Pow Wows is part of this young man’s tradition; and so, he dances. He is amazingly powerful. Focused. Intense. Dedicated.” When you watch the young man dancing, which I, too, have witnessed; he is the ONLY person in the circle. His devotion to his craft is evident. His body contorts. He struggles to do all the steps. His balance is shaky. Still, he dances. And he is beautiful in his struggle and perseverance.

Peter said, “When I saw this young man dance, I knew it was he who I was to gift the deer toe rattle to.”

If you were ever given the opportunity to see Peter’s work, I am sure you would agree that it is breathtaking, museum quality art. If it were for sale, it would be extremely expensive to purchase. This was no superficial message or gift. To recognize the young dancer in this way, spoke volumes about both person’s dedication and understanding of what matters and what is truly of value. For the boy, it is dancing despite a debilitating handicap; for the artist, it is to listen to the messages, do the work, and honor the dream, even if the purpose is not always, at first, clear.

How does this relate to the quote from Didion’s book or to our understanding of wellness?

I believe the connections we make and honor keep us from “the shallowness of sanity.” When we separate from others, we risk becoming lost. It’s that simple. Connection can be anything from slowing down to watch birds fly south for the winter on your drive home from work. It can be to visit an elder in a nursing home or spend time with someone who is homebound and bring them the gift of your attention. It can be to walk barefoot and feel the earth under your feet. It can be to choose a different place to sit in the cafeteria with a student or co-worker whom you don’t normally socialize with – older, younger, shy, gregarious, popular, or not. It can be to listen without defense or pretense; or, to speak with confidence and courage. Or it can be the dream of a deer toe rattle designed, crafted, and gifted to a person you’ve never met.

The point is, find a way to connect. Our sanity is sometimes held securely with the deepening and meaningfulness of our connections to each other and to the many gifts freely provided to us – as long as we recognize them in our midst.

September was suicide awareness and prevention month. For more information about how you can advocate for those who may have become lost in some way, contact NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), Lamoille County Mental Health or your own physician, counselor, family or friends.  There are many ways to find help and support.


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. 

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 mcollins@lhha.org


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.