Category Archives: mood

I Kid You Not, a Kangaroo?

On a lighter note–since a couple of readers commented that my last post was a bit dismal–picture me sitting at a stoplight in Manchester. Picture me bored with the usual scenery: McDonalds, Baskin-Robbins, Raceway, and glancing over at the trailer in the next lane. Picture me looking closer to see if there’s a horse inside.

Then picture this face sticking out, grass dripping from either side of a busily-chewing mouth.kangaThat, my friends, is a kangaroo. (Not my picture, sadly. I don’t take pictures while driving.)

Give me  a break, you’re saying. In Manchester? Sure it hosts Bonnaroo every June, and our quiet rural Tennessee is flooded with a lot of peculiar-(to us, anyway) looking people. But–a kangaroo?

Am I sure it wasn’t a llama? On first sight, no way. I’ve seen a number of llamas around farms in our area, and it didn’t look like that.

i.e. This:llamaExcept, yes, on further investigation, I have to admit they do look an awful lot alike.

So maybe it was just a llama, on its way to a new farm to do whatever llamas do best. Guard other livestock, apparently, or provide pricey fleece.

But I’ll stick with my original belief. Because it’s a time when I could use a moment of pure nonsense dropped my way (see last post). Perhaps you, too. And, apologies to any Australians, there are not a lot of animals more amusing-looking than a kangaroo.

kanga mother

So, a poll here, folks. Llama, or kangaroo?

And I won’t hold it against you if you vote against the latter.


Like a Stone

poolWhen my youngest brother was a toddler, he managed to fall into a swimming pool, diapers and all, and sink straight to the bottom where he sat (he claims today) eyes open wide, gazing around while he waited for our oldest brother to jump in and pull him out. (Which he did.)

Possibly, knowing Paul, while he was waiting he continued calmly pondering on with whatever deep philosophical problem he’d been preoccupied with when he tumbled in.

Leaving aside for now the question of why the grown-ups–our parents and the friend who owned the pool–didn’t notice, it’s the image of Paul at the bottom of the pool I want to talk about.

Because that’s me and always has been. Sitting at the bottom of the pool, in over my head, at times waiting not-so-patiently to be pulled out because I don’t have the life skills to rescue myself.

(The grownups–yes, those two–were too preoccupied with their own insanities to have taught those.)

Yet time after time, I did figure out a way to get myself afloat again. No matter which deep pool clueless-me got tossed into. And I was usually fairly clueless, indeed.  I learned I was leaving Tennessee at fifteen to go north to Exeter, for instance, when I came home from swimming (seems to be a theme here) and found an admissions rep in our living room. I sat on the piano bench, still in my wet swimsuit, and answered his questions without a clue what it was I was getting into. It’s a boarding school, I told my friends, like where girls go to learn to ride and dance. Which is what I’d gleaned from reading various British girls’ books.


But I figured out how to survive there, even to thrive.

A scenario repeated again and again.


So why so hard this time around to figure out how to navigate the deep waters of empty nest (to wildly mix metaphors) and ended (homeschooling) career?

Maybe because we’re less resilient with age? Maybe something to do with the peculiar situation of living in such isolation in our remote mountain cove? Or maybe I just haven’t been trying hard enough?

It doesn’t actually matter why. The point is I’ve got to figure out how better to push off the bottom.

Because big brothers aren’t usually around to pull us out.








How do you eat apples? Are you a peeler? Or, like me, do you eat every shred, skin and all, and feel cheated if some zealous hostess has removed it? (In a pinch, I’ve been known to eat carrots straight out of the bag, with a little hasty rinse. Confessions of a carrot addict: topic for another post.)

It takes effort to peel away skin, yes? Remember that gruesome description in Jan Karon’s first Father Tim novel about the woman in the burn unit whose scarring skin had to be sliced off, infinitesimal layer at a time, in a procedure known to make the staunchest nurse blanch?mitford book

That’s how hard I think it can be to correct depression on your own. Nearly impossible, that is, because that dark, “nothing-works-out, I’m-no-good, there’s-no-point” sensation can take over the veritable soul. Become one’s very being, and how hard it is to step outside that?

There are apparently apps that help you replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Hello? If it were that easy, don’t you think I’d be the Joan Rivers of the cove by now?

I guess that’s why they call depression a mental illness, with emphasis on the illness: you can’t talk yourself out of having a fever or a broken foot, either. Though I’ve tried the latter, walking around for a few days before a doc called back to say they’d misread the x-rays and to get off of it pronto.

But I don’t like that term. It still conjures up images of barred windows and wild-eyed patients. Of Bedlam. And if I, over-educated 21st century creature with plenty of experience of “soul sickness” still hear those echoes, is it any wonder there’s a stigma attached in society in general?

Time to end the shame. Time to help peel away the layers of shaming, discrimination and fear associated with having any sort of mental illness. So that we aren’t doubling the pain of those who are already suffering.




Surviving January

The view from my desk:
my desk

Hang on: is that a Starbucks sign up there?

Well, yes.  Confession time.

It’s January, and that doesn’t just mean dicey weather and post-Christmas doldrums. It’s the month this cup,starbucks cup

bought last month as a gift to, well, myself, gets me free coffee every single day. OK, not ‘free’ exactly, since I did pay for it up front. But the frequency of my visits mean I’ve more than made up for the original investment. Especially when you consider that at this, “my” Starbucks, refills are plentiful and courteously given.

Now, I can’t say enough about the friendliness of this particular store, so I’m going to save that for another post. Instead, back to that word, “investment.” Because this cup is one.

How so?

I’m really quoting my husband and a couple of friends on this, but–having this cup is one of my best tools for warding off winter weariness. A malady all-too-familiar for those  of us who work at home and/or deal with chronic illness and/or depression.

Because I bought it in the first place, my thrifty self wants to make having it worthwhile. Therefore, excuse, even encouragement to go to Starbucks! Which just happens to be close to the pool where I swim. So, encouragement to do those laps! (So I can reward myself with going to Starbucks.) Even when the temps are in the teens, as they were this week. Even when the pool heater is broken, as it’s been for the last couple of weeks. And–even when the outside doors to the pool are propped open because of other equipment issues, as they were yesterday when it was sleeting, snowing, and generally being less than optimal conditions for an ”outside” swim.

And regular exercise, you already know, is a key part of any battle against depression.

Finally, there’s the reality that being a regular at pool and coffee shop means I’ve built up community of sorts. Which means I get the added benefit of socializing: a real gift when you work alone at home and live in a remote mountain cove where the nearest neighbors are–trees and more trees.

Let me quickly add that I’m not here surfing the Net. I’m working–(writing, that is, and whether this is “real work” or not is a subject I could waffle on for days. And do)–. And something about having just enough background noise makes me concentrate in a way I sometimes can’t at home, where I fight the compulsion to tend to any number of more-tangible, “more necessary” tasks than writing seems to be.

Anyway, that’s my confession, and I’m sticking to it. At least until next week, when January ends. When I’m going to have to come up with a new excuse for frequenting my satellite office.

How do you get through January?


My Heart Bleeds Bright Orange

I wish I followed football. I really do. Then  New Year’s Day would have some sparkle to it. As it is, I’m riding on the energy of my Vols-fanatic family to ease the slow drain of joy as the holidays ebb away.


Hurrah for Epiphany next week, which at least means I can keep the tree up and the candles lit a little while longer.

But the cookie platter is down to one last piece of pound cake and a few crumbles of gingerbread.

And no reason to bake more since the house is emptying out, the kids preparing to go back to their lives.


So thank goodness for those solid banks of bright orange t-shirts as Vols fans cheer on their team in the Outback football

Never my favorite color, especially after growing up in Knoxville where it’s as prevalent as pink dogwood, today it brings a needed glow to this final day of the holidays when the temperature and my mood hover somewhere in the grey mid-30s.UTAs does the sight of the entire winning team swaying to the Pride of the Southland Band as it belts out the Tennessee Waltz.

45-6: I’d dance, too.

Perhaps that would warm life up?

What do you do to make this transition easier?


Beat the Bleak!

As you may already know, I’m not always the cheeriest person. In private, anyway. And winter, well, let’s just say it’s not my best season. The cold makes my Raynauds-inflicted fingers swell and crack and go completely numb, rather interfering with typing and peeling oranges, among other essential life tasks. Psoriatic arthritis-ridden joints become actively painful. And there’s the isolation issue: I have to evaluate the necessity of every public outing, from church to grocery shopping, because a compromised immune system and peak flu season are not a great combination.

Worst of all, my wardrobe vanishes because it’s hard (though not impossible!) to wear shorts!

It seems a very long time before I’ll see these in my yard again.



So this year, I have a new motto. “Beat the Bleak!” After the disaster which was last winter, I am determined that things are going to be different in 2015.

My weapons so far: Signing up for two physical challenges at the Manchester Rec Center. Before the end of the month, I’m going to swim the Seven Mile Bridge in FL, which, when built, was one of the longest bridges in existence


Because I already swim a mile most weekdays, I’m hoping to swim to the end and back again.  I’m not going to describe the agony of getting into the chilly pool in the morning. I’ll just say it’s worth it.

I also signed up to “walk to Deerfield, IL,” home of Walgreens.  It’s about 550 miles: for every mile we walk on the track or greenway, we count 5 miles. First finishers get Walgreens’ gift cards; the rest of us get a pharmacy goodie bag and the usual t-shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I love prizes. Even if they turn out to be pill boxes and toothpaste samples, I’ll have won something! That’s motivation to keep moving on those days when I’d rather not. And we all know that exercise is essential in mood control.

Another weapon, my lightbox. My doc keeps telling me there’s a lot of research to prove its effectiveness at keeping the bleak at bay. So I’m religiously using it this year: 30 minutes first thing in the morning, preferably before dawn, just a glance every few seconds as I’m getting ready to go to the gym (see above).


Then there’s Starbucks. If you buy one of their travel mugs in December, you get a free grande brewed coffee every day in January. This is a big deal to someone raised to never spend money, and it offers its own kind of competition to the obsessive among us: can I get to a Starbucks frequently enough to justify the $30 expense? No, there’s none close to our isolated cove, BUT—there IS one right close to the Rec Center. More motivation to swim and walk!

Later this month, the Manchester Library starts its Adult Reading Program: opportunity to win prizes for books read! A win-win competition for this compulsive reader. Plus a couple of the librarians, like my favorite lifeguard at the pool and my fellow swimmers, give me the chance to socialize with living beings, a challenge when you work at home.

A last essential weapon is GoodReads. I am moderator for an ongoing group, “House of LitnLife,” and right now, we’re reading War and Peace together. Which turns out to have a lot of hilarious moments in it. I love the people in my group. They’ve become, over the last two years, friends, intellectual companions, emotional encouragers. OK, so I may never actually meet them in person, but they are a vital part of my life.

That’s some of my ammunition to “beat the bleak.” You may not struggle with low mood during any season, but if you do, what are your strategies?