Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category


Happiness is two days in the mountains with Walt and my girls.

Shelby & Chaps in their carseats, ready to hit the road!
My grandfather helped build the hiking trails and roads in Cades Cove when he was a teenager working for the Civilian Conservation Corps around 1941.  I grew up visiting the Smoky Mountains at least once a year with both sets of grandparents, so this place is very special to me.
One of the many mountain streams


Chaps loves hiking…


...and Shelby wants to follow every trail.

 I always forget how beautiful this place is, even on a cloudy winter day.

In the higher elevations, at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line.


We drove to Cherokee, NC, which is almost unchanged in 35 years (with the exception of the casino nearby).
A small rain blew into the valley, bringing a rainbow!

Stormy skies

 A new friend gets in a few more bites before the rain starts.


 Taking the back roads…

Cades Cove

 Stopping to watch every waterfall for a while…

Under one of the stone bridges

Rising early for an incredible sunrise…

Gatlinburg, still sleepy

It was an amazing weekend.  And like these two turkeys…


 …we had an incredibly peaceful holiday.  For this I am truly thankful!

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This Too Shall Pass

My grandmother, Jewel, had the best sayings.  Some were borrowed: timeless phrases repeated for thousands of years, passed from generation to generation as the great, yet simple, lessons of life; and some were her own “Jewels” of wisdom.  I have these  indexed in my memories for easy access when I need direction.  They are stored among the many great pieces of advice given to me by family and friends in my 42 years here.

“This too shall pass” has been credited to King Solomon, as well as to a midieval Persian Sufi poet.  In both legends, a great king is humbled by these words, after asking for a ring with an inscription that can both make happy men sad, and make sad men happy. 

 The point is, all conditions, like all material things, are temporary. 

Four little words; but they have brought me comfort, and I know others who have made it through because of these words as well.  Why is it the simplest words tend to be the most profound?

For anyone who needs reminding this week, as I did: “This too shall pass.”

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Let me first qualify this post by stating that I would never be arrogant enough to compare anything I do with Mother Teresa.  I may be crazy, but I’m not completely impaired…yet 🙂

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I rescue dogs from situations of abandonment, neglect, and abuse.  Dogs, dogs, dogs.  After my full-time job ends, rescue is what I do with every spare moment, dime, thought and ounce of energy.  Rescuing dogs (and cats) is my “thing”, as my mother put it last week, when we were once again arguing about the toll rescue is taking on my life.  “I thought surely Walt’s health problems and your own would be a sign it’s time to slow down.”  Or as my dad said, “Why don’t you back off that rescue “thing” and let Walt have a normal life?  It’s killing y’all with all this stress.”   The “thing” is, they’re right.

The last several months have been hell.  I found myself in a very tearful place yesterday where the only emotion I could feel was failure: failure as a wife, employee, rescuer, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend.   The logical part of me knows this is temporary, a symptom of worse-than-usual burnout, yet my heart knows there is truth to it, and that something has to change.  The rescue that has always brought me joy and fed my soul now brings a sense of begrudging obligation, and I have found myself starting to resent anyone I know that is perky, happy, or lives with any degree of normalcy.  

In a nutshell, I’m freaking tired of being punished for doing good.

I once read that Mother Teresa, in sharp contrast to the tireless humanitarian she was painted to be, suffered severe bouts of depression; dark nights of the soul in which she found herself not only separated from God, but doubted His existence entirely because of the endless suffering she witnessed.  Since then, I have read a lot about her, hoping to glean insights into how she kept going, and where she found motivation to continue.  Mother Teresa said, in the context of feeding the poor, “I always fill my own bowl first.”  She was also quoted as saying, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.  What we need is to love without getting tired.” 

So yeah, she “got it” that you put yourself first, or you can’t help anybody else.  What Mother Teresa DIDN’T elaborate on is the HOW.  

So I have three questions for anyone who is up for a little deep thinking, questions for which I have sought answers for years and still not discovered a solution that works for me:

1.  How do you say NO when you know nobody else will do something but you?  Or that somebody else WILL do it, but you’ll be guilt-ridden and might as well do it yourself? 

2. Are we really obligated to give back here in our brief time on earth?  To what extent?  Why are those who work to end suffering punished and robbed of happiness, while those who call it a day after the 9 – 5 and family drama, those folks seem to have some pleasure in life?  Are we supposed to live in hell here, hoping for some relief  in the hereafter?

3. How do you REALLY find balance in life?  If you DO feel obligated to give back, and every day brings a request to which you CAN’T say NO without GUILT – where’s the balance?

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What a week!

Think I should run away as fast as I can?

Hit the open road?

Maybe I’ll stay in town, but wear a clever disguise…

…and hope there are enough hugs…

…and laughter…

…and planking

…and bar-b-que

…and libations…

…to make it all better.

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Goals for the weekend were to sleep late, make homemade lemonade, and swim.  Done, done, and done.

Sounds like a pretty soft weekend, huh?  Well, there were a lot of other things that had to be done that were not so pleasant – some are still undone.  But I’ve realized recently that if I don’t start forcing some happy into my life, I’m going to lose all sight of what it used to mean to be happy…and I do have a lot to be happy about!

So I slept late, under freshly washed sheets and blankets, and remembered how much i love my bed…

…which has these cool pillows our niece made…

…and is SO much greater when my bed buddies are snoozing late with me.  Here are Atticus Finch, Chaps, and Shelby – wondering why I don’t put the camera down and go to bed!

There was no time for swimming, but Walt and I made time Sunday afternoon – that’s the thing about these promises to the universe (aka the handful of people who read this blog).  Besides, it was steamy hot outside, and the water looked so inviting.

The lemonade almost didn’t happen, either, but I’m so glad it did.  I even used fresh mint from the garden, which usually grows there year to year untouched.

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.”
— Audrey Hepburn

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The past 10 days have been hard.  Why?  Too long and complicated to explain.  Let’s just say at the moment, I feel ripped to shreds, and I need some serious mending before I get back on track.

One of my new blogging friends at 365 Days, 365 Ways recently suggested listing the unhappies in your life in order to recognize them and start pushing them out.  I am working on that, but took it a little further.  I’m also making a list of happies, simple pleasures, that I need to put back into my life. 

I know me, and I need this accountability to keep me going – even for the stuff that should seem easy to accomplish.  So, I came up with 3 things I can do that will help me heal a little this weekend.  If I put this out there, if I say I do it, I will.  You guys hold me to it.

1.  I’m going to sleep late Saturday and Sunday.  Lazy, lazy, lazy.  It’s my favorite thing in the world, and I’m doing it this weekend.  I’m tired.  I’m sleeping in.

2. I’m going to make homemade lemonade, the real kind with real lemons and real sugar.  I’ve only had homemade lemonade once since I was a little girl, and even that time was 20 years ago.  Someone tell me how many lemons to buy, and how much sugar to put in, please.

3. I’m going to swim.  I live in the South, and it’s hotter than Hades right now.  I’m going to turn my phone off, hide our vehicles so it looks like nobody’s home, and get in my pool.  Swimming has been my all-time favorite activity since I was a little girl.  We’ve had a small pool at our home for 3 summers, and we’ve only been in it a handful of times.  I’m going to swim with Walt and some of my dogs, laze around on a float, drink lemonade, and listen to the call of the two BobWhites that have taken up residence on the farm.

I’ll be brand new Monday, back on the diet, back to organizing the chaos, back to the promises I’ve made to myself and to others.  But starting tomorrow at 5:00, Selfish Michelle’s coming for a visit, and Busy Michelle is being kicked to the curb for a couple of days. 

Y’all have a fabulous, healing weekend yourselves, now, ya hear?

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Since it was recently suggested to me by my doctor (and my mother) that I might be experiencing BURNOUT, I thought I’d better investigate.  There is a great deal on the internet about the differences between burnout and every-day, garden-variety stress.  Turns out, I’m a poster child for burnout.  The fact I threw my phone across my office yesterday should have been a clue.  The signs that adorn my closet-office, all given to me by friends over the past year, might have also provided insight…



It’s not that I don’t love my coworkers at Jackson Radiology; and the dog rescue work I do brings me immeasurable gratification.  But basically having two full-time jobs, one with negative income and its own built-in emotional rollercoaster, is taking its toll. 

There are hundreds of great tips online for preventing and recovering from burnout.  I’m going to do my darndest to implement a few of these daily until I’m ME again, and I hope you’ll do the same!  Today’s assignments are:  1) Practice Gratitude and 2) Make Work Fun!

It takes a LOT of practice to focus on the good in everyday life instead of the bad; it’s surprisingly hard when we’re stressed!  But when you actively practice gratitude, it seems as though more good things actually happen.  Today, our radiology group wanted to show appreciation for the CT department for always being so cooperative and helpful, so we bought them pizza for lunch as a tiny gesture.  An hour later, when we went to our accountant’s office to pick up our big mail basket with all the work we’d given her to do…

…look what we found inside underneath the manilla envelopes!

…a little bit of Easter heaven, complete with Peeps!  This from someone who 48 hours ago just finished the marathon of Income Tax season…yet she found the time to give someone else a little happy.  This inspired us to think of even more ways we can show our coworkers, clients, and patients appreciation!  Thanks, Angela, for making our day special :-).

We rounded out the day by reviving a ritual we haven’t done in a LONG time here at the clinic – the afternoon dance!  About 4:00 p.m., when we’re on the home-stretch, we put on a little great music and invite everyone walking by to join.  3 minutes of dancing provides a little cardio, a little stress release, a little shot of energy to increase productivity for the rest of the day – and a LOT OF HAPPY!

Mary, Mel, Zebo, Kimba, and Carla – part of the FUN team of people I work with! 

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