Famous Mitts!

My last blog post I told a story about a year round client. This post will take us back to my happy go lucky days in Northeast Harbor.

It was early evening in August and the front desk at the inn where I was working told me a guest was coming in later that evening and requested a massage to be done after he arrived. I really didn’t feel like staying late and asked his name. The front desk told me he was some sort of a musical person and they were unsure of his name because the reservation was in his wife’s name.

The front desk manager told me he had done a few musicals and he thought his first name was something like Martin. I asked him if he thought his first name was Marvin? He told me yes. Then I asked is it is Marvin Hamlisch? He went on to tell me he thought that is who it was but was not sure. I told him Marvin Hamlisch is a brilliant composer. He wrote the music for A Chorus Line, The Sting, The Way We Were………just to name a few.

I decided to hang around and Marvin checked in later that evening. I ended up massaging him. He was a riot! He was friendly, down to earth and pleasant. As I was massaging his hands I felt him tense up a bit. I made a joke saying something like “Hey Marvin are you concerned about me massaging these famous mitts?” He got a real boot out of that. I massaged him a few more times during his stay that August. He told me he would be back for a concert here in Maine in October and told me I should come.

Later that year in October I did just that. Myself, my daughter, her best friend and her best friends mom all went to the concert. While we were being seated I bumped into a friend of mine who was a writer for the Bangor Daily News. She told me after the concert Marvin would exit the stage and then come back out for an interview with her on stage. So if I stuck around I would have a chance to speak to him. The concert ended, Marvin exited the stage and shortly after that he re-appeared. There were about 30 of us still in the concert hall. Most of the people were women over 50, and then the four of us. After the interview the women stormed the stage screaming for autographs.

As Marvin scanned the crowd he noticed my daughter and her friend. He went right over to them and asked what they were doing there and told them he doesn’t see many young teens at his performances. My daughter yelled out “my mom massaged you last summer”. Marvin asked where I was, my daughter pointed to me and Marvin yelled over to me “remember I told you about the awesome blueberry pie I had last August?” “Well that lovely woman sent one over to me and it is in my dressing room waiting for me.” Then he signed my daughters and her friends play bills and then exited the stage!

Barter; For Better or Worse!

You may be getting bored with my summer stories so I thought I would throw in a funny story about this one massage I did on a regular year round client back in the day. This was probably circa 1998. I was a single mom at the time raising and supporting my daughter by myself with no financial help.

On the way to the supermarket one day I noticed a sign for pottery classes. As luck would have it the pottery teacher loved massage and agreed to do a trade. Massage for pottery classes. The pottery teacher’s name was Byron and he was a riot. I had taken pottery in high school and had become fairly proficient with the pottery wheel. I attended classes every Wednesday morning. I enjoyed re-learning the skills I had acquired in that high school art class many moons ago. On this one day I was at Byron’s fulfilling my end of the deal with a massage.

I set my table up as I always had in the open area between the kitchen and the dining area, except this time for whatever reason it seemed like a good idea to place my plastic oil bottle on the stoked wood stove. As soon as the bottle hit the stove I knew I had trouble. The bottom melted right off the bottle leaking oil all over the hot stove. Then the oil started to smoke. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done. A stoked wood stove is way to hot to touch so we had to let the massage oil burn off. I felt and I believe I also looked like an idiot. Luckily Byron took it in stride and I went ahead and did the massage. Note to self………….stay away from the wood stove!

Stones In The Tub!

For those of you who have read my previous blogs, I have already set the stage for this next post. For those of you who have not here is the short version of where I am picking up this story.

I was working at a 5 star inn here in Maine in probably the wealthiest Maine town in the summer, Northeast Harbor. My massage room at one time was used to house the executive chef. It was probably 12 feet by 12 feet complete with a full bath that had a clawfoot tub. It was awesome. The room was a free standing building over the maintenance garage.

To reach my room you had to climb a set of windy wooden stairs. There was no AC just a few windows that overlooked the ocean. Those windows produced a lovely summer breeze that would blow in the salty sea air.

I practiced hot stone massage and it was always a “go to” massage treatment on those cold, damp, rainy Maine days. After a hot stone massage I would wash my stones in the claw foot tub. After one of these massages I placed the stones in the tub and forgot about them.

A week or so later I had a client who had just come off of a bike ride. He asked if he could take a quick shower. I showed him to the bathroom, provided him with a nice fluffy towel and went outside to get a little sun. After I had completed the massage he asked me about the shower. I thought he was remarking on the cool clawfoot tub. I responded telling him I love the shower and the tub. He finally told me that although he enjoyed the beach like effect with the stones he did find it a little difficult to maneuver in the shower with all those stones under foot! I cracked up and of course told him that was not what those stones were meant for.

Northeast Harbor Days

If you read my last blog, and I hope you did, I went back in time to the awesome job I had at a ski resort in Maine. Well, that was just my winter job. In the summer I served the wealthiest of the wealthy in Northeast Harbor Maine. For those of you not familiar with Maine’s Northeast Harbor, it is located on Mount Desert Isle, where Acadia National park is located.

During the winter of 1995 I massaged the man who was to become the new general manager of an old historic inn. He offered me an opportunity to work out some sort of arrangement to offer massage to the guests and to the public. In the spring I visited him at the inn and I worked out a sweet deal. I told him I was in for the long haul but it had to be worth my while. We negotiated a weekly salary and a small percentage for all the massages I would perform. In exchange while I was not in the massage room I would network in the town with the other inns, hotels, and businesses etc. in hopes of getting them to refer clients to us for massage services.

It worked out great. I got paid and I got plenty of work. I built up a clientèle that summer that allowed me to forgo the weekly salary and just work for a much larger percentage of the massage fee the following summer. I did not massage any big names in show biz I massaged the 3rd and 4th generation of people whose families came here to America over a hundred years ago with the wealth that funded our country. Paul Revere’s peeps!

Now I grew up blue collar middle class. We thought if your father was a doctor you had money. Doctors were bottom feeders in that town. I not only massaged at the inn but I did house calls. These houses were several million dollar homes that had been in these families for over a hundred years and sometimes more. I have so many humorous stories about those years I don’t even know where to start. But in the coming weeks my next several blogs will be about those good ole days.

Before we go I’ll tell just one of the many stories that are to come. It was every MT’s dream come true. It was the usual day at work, sunny, beautiful, and everyone at the inn is on vacation so everyone is happy. The front desk got a call from a local summer person who wanted me to make a house call, so I did. After the massage he paid me for the massage and then told me to hang on as he wanted to tip me. As he thumbed through his wad of cash (rich people always carry cash) he said “I can’t find a 20 so just take this” It was a 50 dollar bill. He didn’t even blink an eye. I said thanks and every time he needed a house call I was there! I had several funny moments with this particular person and in the weeks to come I’ll fill you all in.

Exploring Opportunities!

In 1994 I moved out of state to a state where no one had any money for massage! If someone had told me my career as an MT working with chiropractors was over prior to my move from Cape Cod to Maine I would have laughed at them. But it was true.

I moved to a small coastal town with 700 residents. I searched high and low for a position like the one I had on the Cape but it did not exist. There were no MT’s at the chiro offices in Maine. I tried to carve out a position for myself by meeting with several chiro’s in the area but nothing materialized. I was forced to take a waitress job to make ends meet. I had always waitressed in the past here and there but thought that was behind me. Apparently not. Luckily I got a job at local seasonal restaurant. Since I had moved to Maine early July 1994 it turned out to be a great job.

Winter arrived, as luck would have it I got a job at a local ski resort. I say local…..it was two and half hours from my home. So I rented a place and traveled there for a few days per week. That job ran from December to April and it was a blast. I met all kinds of new fun peeps and I even learned to ski. The perks that go along with working a ski resort are huge or at least they used to be. I worked at that job for the next fourteen years. I would ski in the morning and massage in the afternoon. Prior to that position I never saw myself as a seasonal worker but suddenly I had become one by default. We used our massage rooms as our own personal lockers. At one point management got aggravated with us because we all had our ski equipment hiding in plain site for the massage guests to see. I told them the guests love to see our equipment, it shows them were committed to the mountain and to our job. They bought that excuse stopped haunting us to remove it all before the start of our shifts.

I think what I’m trying to get across in this blog is this; don’t ever turn your back on an opportunity. At first I was leery of traveling two and half hours to work but thought to myself how can I make this work. I’m glad I did. My daughter grew up skiing and hanging out on weekends in the health club where I Worked. The PTA mom’s would sign up for weeknd’s over the course of the winter and depending on which mom was coming to the mountain that weekend they would pick all kids up from school on Friday and head my way. I usually left early Friday morning so I could I get a few runs in before my shift. It was a great life!

Embracing Education

I feel like I could write 20 more blogs about my 1st job as a massage therapist at that chiropractic office. So maybe I will! The staff ranged in ages from 21 to 35 years old. Literally there was no one over the age of 35. Except for two of the billing ladies. I believe they were 45 and 48. But they worked upstairs. All us kids worked downstairs on the floor. I treated upwards of 20 patients per week. I saw everything from whiplash to a medial collateral ligament strain to TMJ to a QL strain.

I remember thinking about 2 weeks after I started that job “I Don’t know anything”! I realized early on I was over my head. Way over my head. I had to figure out how do I increase my skill set and fast. I enrolled in Ben Benjamin’s injury massage program. It was a series of five four day workshops at his school in Cambridge Mass. Of course my good buddy and partner in crime at the office, Kimlyn enrolled as well. The training I received was priceless. It was exactly what I needed to excel at my position.

At that point in my life I had a 2 year old daughter, Lizzie. Kimlyn would pick us up at my house, we would drop Lizzie of at my Mom’s on the way and then proceed to the workshop. Most of the time we would bunk in with Kimlyn’s brother who had an apartment in Boston. So for me it was a mini vacation. I left the husband behind, dropped the kid at the grandmothers and I was free to learn and have a little fun as well. I threw myself into that training. I learned all Ben had to offer. Kimlyn and I were envied. We were the only MT’s participating in the workshop who saw injuries on a regular basis.

During the knee workshop one of the TA’s told us we so lucky because the chances of a knee injury walking into your office were slim but we saw them all the time. I’m glad I knew at the time how fortunate I was to have that job. Realizing I needed to hone my skill set was huge. I did not run from the challenge of that job I embraced it! So the next time a client walks into your office and you’re not quite sure which way to go, please do not be intimidated by the situation. But instead embrace it and find the training necessary to do what you need to do to make it work.

Lasting Inspiration

In my last post I talked about the people who assisted me with becoming the best massage therapist I could be. I mentioned my friend and colleague Kimlyn. To this day I still dearly miss her. I was truly fortunate to work with such a talented body worker. A body worker whom which I only felt camaraderie and never competition. We bounced ideas off each other, discussed patients and the appropriate protocols and if either of us felt we were not serving the patient in the best way possible we would gladly pass that patient off to other.

We had always conducted ourselves in this fashion and were shocked to hear that other body workers did feel competition with each other within the confines of their practices. We found this out when we were on our way home from an AMTA New England conference, circa 1989.

We were giving another massage therapist from Cape Cod a ride home. She was extremely interested in our positions at the chiropractic office and was curious about how we worked it all out. We told her the treating doctor would decide which one of us to schedule their patient with. And explained to her many times after we evaluated the patient if we felt the patient would benefit from the type of bodywork that the other provided we would transfer the patient. The massage therapist riding with us said very matter of factly so how do you handle the competition between you two. We were taken aback by this question and told her there is no competition. She didn’t believe us.

Competition is the rivalry that leads to supremacy. This should never be a factor in bodywork. Kimlyn and I were solid in our ability to treat patients and reach the end goal. Neither of us were shy about consulting with the other on tough cases. And many times after treating a patient the best way I knew how with little to no results I would consult with her on additional ways to treat and she would gladly show me. The same went for her. She was not shy about asking my advice as well. I believe as bodyworkers we need that camaraderie so as you go through your day if you happen to have a client cross your table and you need advice please reach out to another body worker.

Those Along the Way

I miss Kimlyn. After writing about her in my last post I started to think about all the peeps who helped me excel in my career through the years. The peeps who made it possible for me to be a great as I was. They consist of not only employers but patients. With that said I believe if you do not have a real passion for this work you will never excel. So what is passion? According to Webster’s it is a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity I think most of us would agree with that. So where does it come from. After doing some research the jury is still out. No one really knows.

According to www.creativitypost.com, “Passion might develop over time from a genetic advantage that gives rise to a superior physical or intellectual skill, which moreover provides an individual with a consistent source of gratification. In turn, this sense of satisfaction reinforces the individual’s willingness to continue to develop his or her skill. The combination of compulsive practice and passion leads to mastery and exceptional achievement”

Genetics? How can that be? Both my parents were laborers. Mom worked in factories during the depression, eventually became a nurses aid and went on to become a medical secretary. This was all without any schooling. Back then the hospital trained you for the nurses aid position and as for the medical secretary position it was also on the job training. My dad was a truck driver. Neither of them had any tolerance for anything that included “feelings, compassion, caring, yada, yada, yada. So I guess I have to think about why I became a massage therapist. What was in my head when I went to that massage school open house. If memory serves me I think I thought it would be a cool job! I did not really spend a whole lot of time thinking it through. Luckily it all worked it!

How could you not love this career?

I love my job. that is what I told another a guest at a wedding I was attending. My cousin’s wife said you tell everyone that. I can’t believe you love your job as much as you say you do. But I did. It was my first job fresh out of massage school. I was working at a busy chiropractic office. I had a patient of the owner for a few years when he found out I was attending massage school. He hired me on the spot. Now this was real life on the job training. It was a busy office with 3 practicing doc’s and a 4th doc that was our exam doc. This doc was usually an intern. The doc’s would send me everything from whiplash to medial collateral ligament strains. It was a young office with oldest employee being one of the billing ladies who was in her mid 40’s. About 1 year into my employment John (the boss) hired a myotherapist. We both worked part time sharing the same space. We became fast friends and sheared soft tissue techniques. Myotherapy is the treatment of trigger points. Unlike massage the client keeps their clothes and the therapist works over the clothing. This one time Bonnie (that’s not her real name i have changed her name to protect her identity because once this post goes viral everyone will want a piece of her) was covering for me while I was on vacation. She treated one my patients who had low had back pain. She worked on a series of trigger points over the clothing. As the patient was leaving he asked why does Jane make me take my clothes off? Luckily Kimlyn knew enough about massage and explained to him we perform two different types of therapy to same the end. Kimlyn got the biggest kick out of telling me that upon my return. Fast forward Kimlyn ended up becoming a massage therapist!

Massage School Back in the Day

As I look back on the last 28 years I have had a blast practicing massage. I have met many interesting people and heard many interesting things. My goal is to regale you, the reader every week with a new story about my experiences.

Ok………so that’s it for the first week. KIDDING…………here goes.

Massage School Back in the Day

I thought it only fitting for blog #1 to go back to the beginning.

I attended a massage school in Boston that was located on the top floor of the local YMCA. The program ran from early winter through the summer of 1987. There was no air conditioning and we used peanut oil as our lubricant of choice. There we were, on the day we would practice our hands on, partnered up and all slathered with peanut oil.

Looking back it must of been of a frightening sight. I do know the room smelled like a rancid peanut farm, still, we persevered. Practicing our massage strokes over and over again. After that experience I swore I would never eat another peanut again. The best part was the ride home. After class we would get dressed, exit into the oppressive Boston summer heat, hop in our hot cars and drive home covered in the peanut oil. I’m not even sure my car had AC. The best part about school was that is was fun. And we got a great education. We learned swedish massage, A & P and I think we did some tai chi. Massage was in its infancy and if you dare take a job at health club you were deemed a club rubber. No one wanted to be a club rubber. Spa’s existed only for the wealthy but taking a job at a spa was a sell out as well. No, we were all slated for self employment!

We had zero business courses but what we did have was the understanding we were learning an ancient art form of bodywork that would help people and we were the instrument that would deliver the soft tissue manipulation. Several of us in that room had a gift. In fact I believe we probably all had a gift. Our teachers focus was on showing us how to tap into that gift allowing us to become really great massage therapist ‘s.