Beating the Blues

What members of the SU community do to battle the blues

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by SU Archives
December 20, 2011

What people do to wriggle out of their woes and banish the winter blahs and blues says plenty about their creative strengths.
Just ask any number of Seattle University folks what they do when they’re fogged in by a funk. Inventive? Playful? You bet. Sometimes a little surprising, too.

Who would think a pair of ballerina slippers, a car radio, a load of clean clothes fresh from the dryer or a sketchpad might have the ability to lift one’s spirits? We asked several member of the campus community from faculty and staff to students what they do to bust the blues. Their responses were creative and useful, especially with the dark and chilly days of winter upon us.

Jackie Helfgott, who chairs the criminal justice department, seeks balance—and exercise—to beat the blues. She runs. A lot.
“… About 35-50 miles a week, marathons, usually two full marathons a year,” she says, including the Seattle Marathon and Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon.

“The other thing I like to do is draw,” Helfgott says. “I’m part of the Urban Sketchers of Seattle,” she says. “I try to go out sketching whenever I can. I love doing that.”

Rachael Steward, associate director for the Center for Service and Community Engagement, is also a runner. Six times a week, she’s up at 6 a.m. to hit the pavement.

“Then when I walk in the door at work, I’m ready for a great day,” she says. That’s not all. “And I love Gospel music,” she says. “That brightens my mood and gets me focused again.”

Men’s basketball coach Cameron Dollar counts his blessings when he’s feeling blue. “I literally make a list of all the things I can be thankful for,” he says. “That always works for me.”
And, he continues, “I’ll watch NFL football, because I love football.”

MPA student Adam Tousley, who is the president of SU Veterans’ Committee, says volunteering has been therapeutic for him.
“Much of my time in the military was spent overseas in countries with disadvantaged people. I continue to work with disadvantaged people by volunteering with the Coalition of Refugees from Burma,” he says. “It keeps me appreciative throughout the year.”

Jani Medeiros, administrative assistant at Albers who is pursuing a master’s in professional accounting, lifts her spirits in an unconventional way. All is right with her world when she follows a ritual of a little-known saint named Hunna, whose Saint Day happens to fall on her birthday.

“She is the patron saint of laundry workers,” Medeiros says. “She devoted herself to the poor of Strasbourg, France. She earned the title because she would lend a hand with any job—even doing laundry for the poor.”

With that as background, Medeiros shares her favorite way to discourage the doldrums. “I like to fold laundry. It relaxes me,” she says. “If I’m really stressed or upset, I’ve even had the urge to wash clean clothes, just so I could refold them. But I wouldn’t because it’s a waste of water, and besides, my husband would kill me.”

Seattle University Librarian John Popko escapes by, well, escaping.

“When I get the blues my first reaction is to pout and feel sorry for myself until it eventually goes away," he says. "Then I like to listen to a little Patsy Cline or George Jones. There's nothing like a heart-broken country song to help put one's own problems in perspective."

Kevin Maifeld, professor and director of the MFA Arts Leadership program, sticks with what he knows.

“I go see a play or a musical I know I’ll really like,” he says. “I try to get into the theater. It always works for me to take my mind off things.

Amy Lane, gift and data integrity coordinator for University Advancement, wears something blue to thwart the blues.

“After a rough day, I’ll take a moment to myself, let out a deep sigh of relief and put on my comfy blue slippers,” Lane says. “…They just have a way of making me feel better.”

Money is one of those topics that makes plenty of people fret, often for good reason. For Ivette Serna, director of university budgets, the half-hour walk she takes at 5:30 a.m. is a good stress reliever. She has another one, too.

“I sing along to the radio in my car,” Serna says. “All kinds of music—pop, alternative, rock, Broadway tunes.”

Erin Lane, ’12, president of the REDZONE, likes lattes.
“When I’m feeling the blues I like to whip myself up a latte on my espresso machine and get some tunes going on my surround sound and chill out, listen and sip away,” says Lane.

Blues-busting is physical—whether it’s yardwork or maybe refinishing furniture—for Curly McNamee, ’67, past president of the Alumni Board of Governors and a member of the Board of Regents. He once refinished an upright piano. He also likes trout fishing on Jameson Lake in Douglas County and Conconully Lake in Okanogan County.

“It’s very peaceful sitting in a boat, fishing, listening to birds and kicking back,” he says.

For wife Judy Bride McNamee, ’67, it’s a good book, preferably fiction and science fiction page-turners.

Sitting quietly intensifies being in the dumps for Sue Hogan, director of marketing and communications for the School of Theology and Ministry. The thought of Gene Kelly dancing around lampposts in a downpour and singing that 1950s classic “Singin’ in the Rain” prompts her to sing out loud when nobody’s around.

Jake Diaz, vice president for Student Development, has a bevy of tricks to ward off the blues, including reflecting on the many things he’s grateful for, listening to calming piano music, taking a walk and fishing.

For some, snuggling up with a cup of coffee—or a latte—chases the blues away.
If the winter weather and the blues have you feeling frosty, why not chill out with a nice warm pair of slippers, which cures the blues for SU staffer Amy Lane.
Who knew washing and folding laundry could be so therapeutic?