Routine Maintenance for the Mind

By Patrick McNerthney 

I cleaned my gutters this past Sunday. Always a fun chore made more “joyous” by the heckling and cat-calls from my neighbors, many of whom do so simply because they’re retired, and therefore bored. For example, my neighbor Scott yelled the following at me from across the street during my work:

“Are you going to vacuum them too?”

Is your mother-in-law gonna inspect them and tell you where you missed a spot?”

“After you’re done washing them, are you gonna dry and spit polish them, and then show them off on Instagram?”

And so on and so forth. I can’t seem to do anything in life that doesn’t garner someone giving me a ton of grief. (Likely because I deserve it, but that’s beside the point.)   

In a new twist to this bi-annual event, my next-door neighbor Emily chimed in and hollered “What are you doing?” from her driveway, 20 or so feet below my position on the ladder.  

“I’m cleaning my gutters,” I said, and wondered if she’s in cahoots with Scott and “putting me on,” considering I’m reaching into each gutter and scooping out leaves, twigs, and the primordial slime that inevitably builds up every autumn. I.e., what does it look like I’m doing?

                                            (That’s kind of what the slime looks like.)

Yet as I examined her countenance for signs of mirth-filled mockery I realized the question spurred from the fact that it’s 9 a.m. Sunday morning, super gross out, she’s in her robe still half-asleep…and…oh my goodness…she doesn’t understand why gutters should even be kept clean

It was like a dream come true for middle-aged Dad Nerds: A free and clear opportunity to lecture an innocent bystander on the importance of routine maintenance. But I held back, and mercifully (after all, it was Sunday) explained in short-order that clean gutters mean clean downspouts which means water doesn’t end up inside one’s basement. 

I don’t think she cared. 

Nonetheless – ironically and despite my Dad-styled desire to inform – I realized there’s tons of stuff that I don’t maintain as I should. Here’s the list whittled down to my top three:

  • Furnace (that’s a big one, requiring an HVAC expert)
  • Computer (I sort of do that, or at least I remember to get Apple to do it for me)
  • Website (uh oh, I should hire a world-class pro for that one, it’s worth the investment!)

You’ll notice that all of these demand assistance from someone who is up-to-date, skilled, and hopefully both innovative and empathetic. If I tried to do it myself, I’d just stumble through the process and probably make things worse. And every item listed (including my gutters) is a tool designed to accomplish a very specific and important mission.

(The mission is everything.)

So the big question here is: who maintains our tools? Which tools can we fix ourselves, and which ones require a pro? It’s obvious that if we have mediocre tools, we can’t expect them to do the great work they are designed to do—work we need them to do.   

Back to you: What tools do you use in the service of your residents and loved ones? Probably quite a few. But I bet the ones you overlook are your own attitude, your approach to work, and how you look for possibility. Three attributes that are negatively impacted when you’re feeling hopeless because of isolation – the social isolation reflected on the faces of those you love, and the isolation you experience; knowing you’re doing important work– but all alone and never recognized.   

We’re all suffering from tools that need maintenance. Luckily attitude, approach to work, and seeing possibility are as easy to fix as my furnace; if only we ask for a pro’s help. 

That’s where Fine Art Miracles (FAM) comes in. They know a thing or two about opening doors to hearts and minds through creative expression. In fact, their Art Therapy, Music Therapy, ART2GO packages (a perfect holiday treat!) and other services create change in your residents and loved ones in real-time. Changes like re-connecting to the past, developing a sense of mastery, control, and relevance, increasing self-esteem, building feelings of community, and discovering possibility-in-action simply from the act of making

And the thing is, this goes for you, the elderly, children with challenges, people with varying abilities; everyone you care for. Everyone needs YOU to have the best-maintained attitude, approach, and vision of possibility to do your important work. As far as recognition goes…well, the funny thing is, when we’re doing our important work and seeing change happen for those we care about, that’s all the recognition we really need. 

So what are you waiting for? Give FAM a holler, or drop them a note, and get to work!

Speaking of which (exaggerated sigh) I see I didn’t bother to scrape the moss off my roof when I was up there for the gutters. The thing about moss is, it’s both unsightly and potentially damaging to the roof. But it actually depends on the slope…so…oh, never mind, you’re not listening to my Dad lecture anyway. Nobody ever does…back to the moss…now where’d I put that ladder…? 


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