Reopening

Guess what?  I’m reopening tomorrow!  Per Governor Scott and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s phased reopening, massage therapists can begin to see clients again.   I’m super excited about this because I’ve missed working so much.  I feel best when I’m helping – It’s why I was called to do this work in the first place.  To sit back and watch as my community struggles with the stress and uneasiness that COVID has brought to our lives and be unable to do anything about it has been torture.  I can’t wait to see you again and get back to doing what I’m good at (side note – overseeing my boys’ remote learning is not something I’m good at). 

Are you ready to get back on the table?  Read this first!

Massage is tricky my friends.  There’s no way around it.  You and I will be in a small room and my bare hands will touch your bare skin.  There is risk involved in engaging in this kind of work/self care and I cannot deny that.  I’ve decided to reopen with some new procedures in place that make sense to me.  If you read the link above to the ACCD’s phased reopening outline you will see that because I work alone, one-on-one with clients in a low traffic office, it’s quite easy for me to follow their guidelines on how to safely reopen.

 

  Here’s the nitty gritty of how things will go in my practice:

  • You will still book online here.   You may also email or text me for appointments, and I’ll respond as quickly as I’m able.  Note: Phone calls are not the best way to reach me quickly.  You’d have better luck with messenger pigeon than a phone call (don’t worry, this drives my mom nuts too).
  • I’ll see clients in my office as usual, but I ask that you not enter the building until you hear from me.  I’ll call or text you when I am ready, and then I will come downstairs to greet you and walk you up.  
  • I will sanitize all surfaces in between each client, including the restroom, door knobs, hand rails etc.  I’m leaving plenty of time between each client to do this.  Arriving on time and waiting outside until I let you in will ensure a safe, disinfected space for your massage.
  • I thoroughly wash my hands/arms before and after each client. (I mean, duh!  I do this anyway!)
  • I sanitize linens after each use.  (Again, this is standard procedure).
  • I will diffuse an antimicrobial, immune-stimulating essential oil blend for every client who wants it, NO CHARGE!  Please notify me if you are sensitive to essential oils.
  • I provide hand sanitizer.  
  • We will do a quick check in where I ask you about your exposure potential and health status.  You will answer me honestly, and understand if I feel it’s appropriate to postpone your session until a future date.
  • I will not come to work if I am feeling unwell (coughing, sneezing, fever etc) or if I know I’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I will cancel appointments as soon as I realize I’m unwell or exposed, but please understand this could be last minute.
  • I ask that you do not come to your appointment if you are feeling unwell (coughing, sneezing, fever etc) or know you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I understand that this could be a last minute decision, but ask you to give me as much notice as possible so I can fill your spot.

 

Some things I have decided not to do at this time, (but reserve the right to in the future) and why:

  • Taking your temperature:  I could purchase an instant read thermometer and take everyone’s temperature, but this puts more responsibility on me than I want to take.  If you aren’t sure if you have a fever, and rely on me (or any other non-medical professional) to monitor your health in order for you to make appropriate decisions about your actions and behaviors, you are giving me more power than I want.  It is your responsibility to monitor your own exposure risk, possible symptoms and health status, and act ethically based on what you know.  Did you spend the weekend at a crowded campground or attend a gathering with a bunch of people you don’t know?  Maybe Monday morning isn’t the time to book a massage.  I know you don’t want to get sick, and I know that even if you aren’t worried about getting sick, you won’t put me and my livelihood at risk by exposing me.  I guess what I’m saying is, I trust and empower you to be informed about this virus, make good decisions about where you go and with whom and act accordingly when it comes to showing up in my space.  I have children and parents in their 70’s.  Whatever risks you’re willing to take with your own health can impact me, mine and my family’s, and I believe you will take this into consideration before booking.
  • Making you wear a mask: I am completely fine with you wearing a mask, and I am happy to wear one as well, but I will not insist that you do so.  Again, this feels to me like a personal choice we each need to make, knowing that the homemade cloth masks do not protect us from contracting the virus, they just lessen the likelihood that we will transmit it if we do have it.  Here’s the deal; if you even suspect you have the virus (you show symptoms, you have been exposed etc) you need to stay home.  All you do is send me a message saying “I’m unsure of my status, let’s reschedule” and I’ll gladly rebook you for another time down the road, no charge.  It is simply not ok for either of us to show up to the session if we have any doubts about our health and hope that wearing a mask will mitigate our risk.  Again, I am more than happy to wear one, and I will discuss that with each client prior to their session.

 

 

A word on the ethics of reopening:

Are you shocked to learn I’ve thought a lot about whether it’s even ethical and safe to open up my massage practice?  Probably not, huh?  It is my personal choice to reopen at this time, but it wasn’t an easy one to make.  There is so much uncertainty around COVID-19 and the information available to us is widely varied, not to mention the spectrum of opinions on what is “really” going on, what should happen and how much fear is appropriate.  I’d be lying if I said I had much clarity about any of it.  The only things I do know are these;

 1) We have to take personal responsibility for our own health, not just as it relates to COVID, but to what we eat/drink, what activities we engage in, what things (chemicals, pathogens, information, ideas and attitudes) we expose ourselves to and how we care for our bodies.  If taking responsibility for your own health means evaluating your own risk factors and choosing to self-isolate, please do that.  If taking responsibility for your own health means stretching more, drinking more water and less booze and booking a massage to combat pain and stress, please do that.

2) We need to think beyond ourselves with our choices.  These are murky waters and it’s hard to know just how or when things will get back to “normal”, but simply wanting them to and therefore acting like they are probably isn’t the most appropriate course of action here.  You may feel it’s fine for you to get COVID, but you have to be prepared to act accordingly if you do, which means being ready to go into quarantine at any time.  We hope that everyone else will take responsibility for their own health, but we have to balance this with a sensible approach to life so that we can give our vulnerable populations a sense of safety.  

3) For me, reopening isn’t about money.  I’m as worried as the next person about the economic fallout of these shelter-in-place measures, and it’s been pretty dicey over here, but I’ll be fine (see number 4).  For me it’s about serving my community in the only way I really know how.  It was a long road for me to find a career that gives me a sense of purpose and allows me to help people; being without this outlet has been hard.  I’d like to say I’ve experienced all kinds of personal growth, but the reality is that things have been pretty hard at times.  My idle mind can find all kinds of unhelpful things to think about, but one of the more useful thoughts I had was “If I’m struggling to manage this stress right now, I bet some of my clients are too.”  But what can I do to help from the confines of my home?  My words only provide so much comfort, and even those became harder to access as my own mental health declined.  I’m repening because I have something to offer, and when I do, we all benefit.  

4) People are amazing.  When I had to close my practice back in March, I wasn’t sure how I would get by financially.  I knew the process for filing for unemployment was complicated for everyone at that time, and impossible for the self-employed.  The ONLY reason I managed to stay afloat during these past three months is because of the incredible generosity of a handful of clients, friends, family and even my landlord.  The kindness these people showed to me still brings tears to my eyes.  People paid for sessions they would have booked while I was closed, and refuse to accept credit for those sessions now that I’m open.  People prepaid for sessions they will use down the road.  People bought packages and gift certificates for massages that I know they’ll never use (because they live way too far away or just don’t get massages very often).  People brought me groceries, and even flowers, just to give me a boost.  People sent me poems and cards, and checked in on me with such dependability as I’ve never known.  I’ll never be able to express the level of gratitude I feel for these individuals who kept me out of the weeds (financially and emotionally).  To those who helped me (you know who you are), thank you, I love you.  Because of you, I have chosen to expand my free massage offering.  More on that to come!

Checking in and Bumming Out . . . Temporary/Mandatory Practice Closure

Good morning friend.

How are you? At this point that feels like a ridiculous question, but I really do want to know.  What has this last week been like for you?

I know for me it’s been a whirlwind of changes, disappointments, adaptations, beautiful connections, more changes, frustrations, more adaptations, fears, realizations and immense growth.  I’ve never been so humbled, so worried, so hopeful, so sure of myself and yet so unsure of everything else as I am right now. My priorities have shifted. The constructs of my life are crumbling.  And . . . I’m ok.

Know what else?  If you’re reading this, you’re ok too.  As long as we’re willing to adapt to the changes before us, and we have faith in ourselves and each other, maybe even faith in something more than us, we’re all going to be ok.  Somehow.  

In the meantime, I have some wicked bummer news . . . As of 8:00 p.m. Monday, March 23rd, I have to close my beloved practice.  I can’t even begin to tell you how painful this is for me. Not just because I am going to have no source of income for the foreseeable future, but because I have no idea how to cope with difficult times like these if I can’t be of service to others.  There were three things that were keeping me afloat during this past week; my spirituality (anyone else having some major breakthrough moments there?), my connections to my loves and my work. Finding this career just over four years ago saved me, and being without it for even a few weeks makes me so sad.  

Screen shot from my phone last night.

BUT . . . I still have my spirituality, so I look forward to diving in deeper with that.  And there’s Zoom, Messenger, iMessage, FaceTime, phone calls, emails and even sweet little hand written notes to keep me connected to my people, so I plan to make great use of all of them.  Not to mention that I get to be a stay at home mom again for the first time in 11 years! A homeschooling mom no less! Holy smokes . . . this is going to be wild! If you pray, please pray for me (or them),  But seriously, I’m going to consider this challenge an opportunity to grow and learn, and frankly, I can’t wait to see who I am on the other side of all this.

So what do I need you to know?

  • If you have an appointment on the books, I’ll cancel it and you’ll get an email notification.  When you do, PLEASE consider rebooking for after April 15th (which is the earliest I can book people again, and also subject to change, so bear that in mind).
  • If you don’t have an appointment on the books but would like one after April 15th, please do book.   
  • I can now accept credit cards, so if you want to pre-pay for your session or buy a gift certificate or package online now to be used once I’m back up and running, you have no idea how grateful I would be.  Seriously, it would make such a difference,
  • NOTE: in order to book an appointment online you will now need to enter a credit card number.  I will NEVER charge your card unless you a) authorize me to do so or b) fail to give me 24 hours notice of your cancelled appointment for the 2nd time (first time I give you a pass because life happens.  But after that it’s just rude, and I’m starting to see a bit more rudeness than I like).
  • I’m still here for chatting if that is in any way helpful.  You’re my client and you have helped make it possible for me to earn a living doing something that I absolutely love.  My family and I are eternally grateful that I have found this path, and I wouldn’t be walking it if it weren’t for you.  So . . . I want to give back. If you would like to book a call just to check in, here’s the link for that. If there’s any other way I can help you, please don’t hesitate to ask.  
  • Please stay connected.  If you read or watch something uplifting that you think I’d be interested in, please send it my way.  If you learn or think of a way I can help others, drop me a line. If you have any brilliant business ideas that will help me or others weather this storm, I’m all ears!  If there’s a blog topic you think I should cover, I would LOVE an excuse to write more.
  • Stay well!  Get plenty of sleep.  Drink water. Get outside.  Move your body. Laugh when you can.  Practice gratitude. Connect with your loves.  You don’t need me to tell you about hygiene, but if you want to hear about how I stay strong and healthy, I’m happy to chat about that.
  • Speaking of strong, if you have extra time on your hands, consider booking a class or a personal training session with Joey at R.E.P Fitness in Fairlee (joey_farley15@yahoo.com).  Or, check out one of Sheena’s (sunsheen@outlook.com) virtual yoga classes!  These, combined with lots of hiking, mountain biking and playing ball with my kids are what I’m going to do to keep active.  No atrophy for me!

Mmmm-kay, friend.  I guess this is it for now.  Thanks for your support and good vibes;  I’m sending them right back to ya! I’ll miss you, but we’ll get through this.  

Love, 

Abby

COVID-10 Info (Updates frequently)

**Updated Monday, March 16th @ 9:00p.m.**

I am still seeing clients! One-on-one sessions in a clean, controlled environment are safe for both of us.

Below is a copy of the email I sent out to clients this on Sunday morning 3/15/20. This post has been thrown together quickly and somewhat haphazardly, but I plan to revisit it often with updates regarding how COVID-19 impacts my practice, and wellness and massage in general. Please be patient.

I felt it was time for me to reach out to my clients regarding the COVID-19 virus and discuss what I’m doing to keep you and me safe, changes to my schedule and my personal reflections on what is evidently becoming a crisis in our world.

By now your inbox is flooded with messages from every company or newsletter who has your email address, all doing what I am here.  Because this situation is rapidly evolving and things are changing daily, I’m going to update this blog post as often as needed.  I will not send out constant updates, so please bookmark this page and check it often if you want to know what, if any changes or updates I’ve made.

Here’s what I’m doing to keep you and myself safe.  Many of these are just standard protocol for me (and should be for any other body worker), but I’m going to outline them here for quick, easy reading:

  • I disinfect my office between each client.  
  • I thoroughly wash my hands/arms before and after each client.
  • I sanitize linens after each use.
  • I diffuse an antimicrobial, immune-stimulating essential oil blend for every client who wants it, NO CHARGE!
  • I will not come to work if I am feeling unwell (coughing, sneezing, fever etc) or if I know I’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I will cancel appointments as soon as I realize I’m unwell or exposed, but please understand this could be last minute.
  • I ask that you do not come to your appointment if you are feeling unwell (coughing, sneezing, fever etc) or know you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I understand that this could be a last minute decision, but ask you to give me as much notice as possible so I can fill your spot.
  • Over the next few days I’ll be integrating a credit card processor on my site so you can have more payment options.  I still prefer cash, but for those of you who don’t want to handle it, I’ll make sure there’s another way. Venmo is also still an option.  Please just let me know if you’d like to pay with Venmo.

Recommendations for social distancing make sense, but can lead to isolation, especially since schools and businesses are closing and folks are in quarantine.  I want to improve efficiency and accessibility for people who are facing the challenge of social isolation. Here’s what I’m doing.

  • Offering phone and video calls for those who cannot come in. I am not a therapist or even remotely trained to talk to people about anything. And no, phone calls won’t feel like a massage at all. But, I am a human who cares; you probably know this because you have been on my table. If you need a friendly, familiar voice or face to listen to whatever is going on in your head, or to ask questions of someone who is still going out and about, I’m here. Click here to schedule a call. It’s free!
  • Increasing my hours.  I’ve opened up more hours in my schedule.  Because we work one-on-one and I adhere to a strict sanitation protocol, I feel that accessing body work is one way you can safely combat the stress of this pandemic.  As long as we’re both healthy (read above), this can be a lifeline to my clients, and I’m committed to serving them as long as I’m able.
  • Offering house calls again.  For anyone in quarantine or just too overwhelmed or afraid to go out, I will come to you (with sanitized equipment).  We’ll need to talk about your space, your driveway and your health status (and mine), but please don’t allow yourself to isolate too much.  I have increased my fee for this service because it takes a great deal of time and effort to coordinate a house call. I am aware this may present an accessibility challenge, and I encourage you to talk to me about that so we can discuss payment/barter options.  

Here are my personal reflections on all of this:

Things are rapidly evolving and changing.  Fear is becoming a major presence for everyone.  Some of us are afraid for our health, some of us are afraid for the health of people we love, some of us are afraid about the economic impact this is going to have on us and our community.  If you’re feeling fear, please try these things:

  • Start each day with some deep breathing and/or meditation.
  • Limit your media exposure
  • Read something inspirational
  • Give yourself time and space to process emotions
  • Connect with your loved ones
  • Focus on something to be grateful for every day
  • Give yourself and others grace and understanding
  • Be flexibe
  • Help where you can.  Being of service to others can make all the difference, to everyone. 

A word about your community and the small businesses that tenuously stitch it together.

I won’t lie, some of my fellow small business owners and I are worried. We don’t operate on huge margins. One lost “big” account, a couple cancelled appointments or a dip in foot traffic can hit hard. Here’s what some of my friends and I are doing to keep supporting the folks who don’t have much of a safety net.

  • Buying gift certificates. OK, so maybe you don’t want to go out to eat now, or shop at that store, or get your nails did. Fine, your choice. But you can buy a gift certificate or two and give them to someone (now or later) or you can just save them for a time when you feel more inclined (or desperate). Have you thought about making a bigger purchase or starting a project? Considering making a deposit, and taking delivery or getting started when things settle down again. My point is, cash flow is essential to keeping everyone employed and afloat.
  • Getting our self care on! If you suddenly have more downtime than usual because your workplace is closed, consider indulging in some self care. It’s very likely you’ll get antsy and bored, so why not combat that by doing something nice for yourself? Try out that personal trainer you’ve heard about (Joey Farley at R.E.P. Fitness is who I see ), go to the chiropractor (Marc Sinclair), get acupuncture (Glynn Pellagrino), visit a therapist (there are so many) . . . shoot, come see me! There are lots of ways to get out, support small businesses and treat yourself that don’t involve gathering in large groups or navigating busy places filled with strangers. I am personally doing most, if not all, of these things

What to do with all this energy?

For all my faithful readers who like my woo-woo ramblings, tomorrow I will be back to talk about some things I’m doing to deal with all this nervous energy around me. Cause lets be honest, things feel pretty unsettled right now and it’s not nice. But one of the best ways to deal with stress is to get plenty of sleep, so that’s what imma’bout to do.

Forgive my typos and non-sequetors.  Be well. I love you.

Hey friend,

I’m not sure how you feel about Valentine’s Day, but I think we should talk about it.

I mean, sure, it’s a woefully commercialized “holiday” that comes loaded with cheap candy and cheesy greeting cards.  And the pressure to get a date or give the perfect gift … ugh! It’s a celebration that provokes such loneliness for some, and feelings of inadequacy and disappointment for others.  I get headaches from rolling my eyes at all the jewelry commercials. Seriously, nothing says “I love you” like sparkly stones mined by child slaves in exploited third-world countries. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jaded and bitter about love.  On the contrary, I’m a huge fan of love, and that is what I really want to talk about. And, since I’m fond of bullet points, and not great at segues, I’m just going to jump right into the 11 things I have to say about Valentine’s Day and love.

Number one:

Number two: When I was six, some missionary friends of my wonderful grandparents visited for a week. I spent a lot of time with them. I can’t remember their faces, but I can distinctly recall the wind up musical teddy bear they gave me as they departed, and the tune it played. Years later I heard the same tune on the radio, this time with full vocals and melodies. The irony wasn’t lost on me that my grandparents’ elderly friends, who devoted their lives to spreading what they deeply believed was love (the Word of God), gave me a toy with this message: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”  And it’s still true! We need more love in this world. A lot more! Click here to hear Jackie DeShannon’s original recording of this gem!

Number three: I just learned that in Ancient Greek there are 8 different words for love.  I love this! (See what I did there? Two “loves,” two different meanings.)  Why do we have just one word for love? I mean, our word is so contextually dependent.  How many of us have ended a phone call or a brief encounter and casually said, “OK, bye. I love you!”?  How many of us have stood in front of a romantic partner and trembled nervously as we looked into their eyes and said “I love you” for the first time?  How many of us have sat with a dying loved one and, holding their hand, said “I love you. It’s OK”? How many of us have held a newborn, our hearts nearly bursting, knowing that “I love you” barely scratched the surface of our feelings?  There are so many different kinds of and ways to love, but sometimes it gets confusing, awkward and difficult to convey which one we mean. I wish we had more words for love. A lot more!

The scene from my kitchen Wednesday night . . . so much pink and purple!

Number four: I still make homemade Valentines with my kids.  None of us are particularly crafty, but to me there’s something so heartfelt about homemade Christmas ornaments and Valentines.  Plus, I want them to grow up thinking in terms of what they can make and do for others, not just what they can buy. I have no doubt that to some folks our homemade treasures seem embarrassingly simple and unpolished, but I bet many others can feel that when we sit down together and make these things, it is an act of love which they now hold.

Number five: Who you love is your business, not mine or anyone else’s.  We should never feel ashamed of who we love, whatever their gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, or social-economic status.  Love is a gift, never a curse, and we should all find a way to be happy for anyone lucky enough to share that gift with someone else.  

This is a great time for me to let you know that I am an Ally, and my studio is a safe space for everyone in the LGBTQ community.

Number six: And if we change our minds about who we love, that’s OK, too. It is possible, and may even be necessary, to disengage from romantic love to form another version of love; maybe the kind of love that’s built on respect and compassion for the other humans we share ourselves with. I’m not saying “let’s just be friends” is going to work (although sometimes it does – I actually am living proof), I’m just saying that love can change forms just as water turns from a vapor, to a liquid, to the solid we see a lot of these days (you know… snow and ice… cause it’s wicked cold out!)

Number seven: Let’s not forget about self love! Have you thought about what that means? What it REALLY means?  I’ve heard the term forever, and to be honest, I thought it was B.S. I imagined my job in life was to find a partner to love, have children to love and continue to love my friends and family.  They, in return, would love me and I’d feel really great about it all. I wouldn’t need self love, I’d “barter” my love for theirs and everything would be fine. So I thought, until one day in a massage school, a guest teacher/massage therapist mentioned purchasing a new piece of equipment. She said, “This will reduce wear and tear on my body. It was expensive, but I love myself and I want to do this work when I’m 70.”  Wait, I thought, making good choices about your career and future counts as self love? My mind was blown, and I suddenly started to see all kinds of choices and behaviors as acts of self love, or its opposite. This has led me on an odyssey: sometimes dark and scary, sometimes bright and beautiful, trying to look at my past and present behavior through the lens of self love. The hardest part, by far, has been realizing that it is not enough to simply give love to others so that you can live off the love they give back to you. You have to love yourself first because then you can give love to others with no expectation of an exchange. No bartering here. This is the freedom that leads to unconditional love, which is pretty much what we all need to give.

Number 8: I’m kind of a sucker for emo music. . . there’s this one song that I like, with these lines: “Slow down.  Look up. Stop acting so tough. Say I love you way too much. And if it kills you, so what?”  Maybe you’re not zooming through life, trying not to show your weakness, but I sure as heck am, and I like being given permission to chill out a bit . . . and to say “I love you”. Because as we’re dying, will we we regret letting someone know they are loved? Probably not. I think my 7 year old took these lyrics to heart because most days he tells me he loves me several times an hour. It seriously never gets old.

Number nine: Do you like Ted Talks? Me too! This one was so good, I just had to share. He echos a lot of my feelings on the topic of love, and has a great breakdown of the different kinds of loves we have in our lives. The Sun, the Lighthouse and the Disco Ball . . . So great!

Number ten: In my early 20s I was celebrating Valentine’s Day with a new boyfriend.  I had told him I liked chocolate covered caramels, so he gave me a box of turtles, pecans covered in caramel, dipped in chocolate. What did I do? I ate the chocolate and caramel off the pecans and threw the nuts out the car window as we drove down the road.  What a brat!! And now that you know what a disaster I am at romance, maybe you can lighten up about this holiday too?

Number eleven: You guessed it. I love you! So sue me!

OK, that’s what I have to say about Valentine’s Day.  Don’t forget that I’m also a massage therapist and if you want to gift yourself or someone else you love with a massage, I can make that happen.

Finally . . . my take on spiritual health

Sunrise from Bald Top Mountain on my 40th birthday.

It didn’t come easily, but I’ve finally made good on the spirituality post I promised back in August and again in October.  

Spirituality vs. Religion

The first thing I want to point out is that when I talk about spirituality I’m not referring to religion.  There’s a huge difference between the two. People way more articulate than I have explained it in books, periodicals and online, so you may already have your own thoughts on the difference. In my opinion spiritually is what you get when you take religion and remove ego and dogma.  Spirituality provides grounding and connection while religion adds structure and answers. Spirituality rests in the intuitive sense that there is something beyond ourselves; something big and good and powerful.  Meanwhile, religion seeks to define and categorize the good (and evil) and wield the power. Spirituality can exist within or outside an organized religion because it is the foundation upon which religions are built.  You can be spiritual without being religious. 

Some people would look at this photo and think of heaven. My six-year-old calls it “cotton candy sky”.

Why are we talking about this?

I guess this topic is relevant to me because I’m in the business of taking care of people, but most of us are still trying to figure out exactly what kind of care we need. Physical health seems the most straight-forward; something on your body hurts or doesn’t work so you see someone with some kind of training in medicine or healing modalities for help. Mental health falls way behind in that you can feel pretty out of sorts with all kinds of emotional AND physical symptoms, but because of the frustrating stigma around mental health treatment, you can ignore your symptoms and avoid seeking help. Furthermore, access to quality mental health services is woefully inadequate, particularly when it comes to treating trauma (in my opinion trauma is the biggest root of most mental health challenges). When it comes to spiritual health, not only is this sometimes the third leg of the wellness tripod, it’s often the least understood or valued. I’d like to help change that!

Sometimes words written by people much wiser than me will find and hit me like a ton of bricks. These did that not so long ago.

I guess another reason I’m interested in talking about spiritual health is because of the stage of life I’m in.  When I look around at folks my age it seems like a lot of us are coming up for air as our children are a bit older and it’s no longer all-hands-on-deck to keep the home/family running.  Things are starting to pay off career-wise and that car or that vacation we always wanted is finally within reach. We are starting to think about what self-care means for us; going to the gym or yoga class more regularly and giving a bit more attention to our diet, sleep and hopefully our mental health.  But a lot of us are also feeling a little flat. I’m not going to go into how it manifests because we all know how “flat” feels, or maybe how it looks when we see that friend who, in spite of “having it all” (on paper at least), just doesn’t seem to be thriving. That flatness, I think, means something is missing, and lately I’ve come to think maybe someone’s spiritual health needs a check up.

But what does “spiritual health” even mean?  

When I think of my own spiritual health, I guess what I mean is: how is my life aligning with my personal values?  Do I even know what my values are? Do I feel grounded or am I scattered? Do I feel connected or do I feel alone, even within my social circle?  Do I have a place, a practice or a group within which I can find guidance and refuge when things get hard?  Do I have a sense of purpose and place in this world? Our answers to these questions can reveal a lot about our spiritual health.

By talking about the importance of maintaining physical, mental and spiritual health, I mean to encourage folks to check in to see where they may feel flat. If it feels like there’s something deeper within them that needs attention, maybe it’s time to explore and attend to that.  As a massage therapist, I respect a person’s spiritual health because I understand that if someone is grappling with hard life stuff such as sickness, death, birth, money matters, career woes, changes in living arrangements, relationship challenges, this is the hard shit that defines being human.  I honor it, and I respect however you’re processing it, and, finally, I encourage you to tap into a spirituality practice to help you through it.  

So, what’s your spiritual practice, Abby?

*Gulp* I know you want to ask, so here’s my big, scary, vulnerable revelation. . .

The pillars of my own spirituality practice are gratitude and generosity. When I can access gratitude (I notice positive things around me and feel grateful for them) and when I am able to give to others (a smile, a prayer, a ride, a meal, a hug, a flower), I feel spiritually healthy.  When I get away from these foundations, because I get caught up in self-pity, overwork, too much socializing or other distractions, I start to feel ungrounded; I feel adrift.  (As an aside and absolutely zero judgment if you’re into it, but social media like SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram were a terrible suck hole for me, and getting off them has been so gratifying.  For me, SM is antithetical to spiritual health.)  

“This is a picture of perseverance.”

My holy place is nature.  Spirituality finds me when I stand and embrace a loved one in a cemetery while 10,000 “whirligigs” (the helicopter seed-pod thingies off of maple trees) descend around us.  It finds me on a granite ridge, 4000 feet up in the White Mountains, when a lone crow lands on a nearby rock and pauses a long while before taking flight again.  It finds me when I smell my sons’ hair as I greet them off the bus. It finds me in the sunrise on my 40th birthday next to my sister and father. It finds me as my children and I collect monarch caterpillars; watching them transition into chrysalis and then again into the distinguishable orange and black butterflies. It finds me in the volunteer petunia growing and even blooming from a crack in the asphalt on Main Street.

I sat down to stretch on the grass at soccer practice in October to find this fortune just under my nose.

But spirituality also finds me in music; those songs that seem to come on at just the right time to remind me what’s true.  It finds me in the objects or people that seem to appear just when I’m beginning to despair; the piece of lichen that makes me laugh, the pen that reminds me of my old friend who always told me to go easy on myself, the twig that looks like a crow’s foot (yes, I do have a thing for crows), the acquaintance on my walk to the post office who always has a cheerful greeting in spite of their own life struggles.  It finds me in the words, numbers and animals that grab my attention just when I’m starting to drift into overthinking. It finds me in the musisings and revelations of my clients who, without knowing it, shed light onto heavy topics I’m grappling with internally. These things appear to me far too consistently to be coincidences, and while it may seem woo-woo and out there to some, I’m comforted by them. 

How to?

You know what else I’m comforted by?  Kittens, puppies, wood stoves on cold nights, friends who check in on each other, my work, rice cakes, natural cleaning products that actually work, good snow tires, hot baths, great haircuts, really long hugs (from people I know and like – strangers, step off!), solitude, cast iron cookware and ridiculously robust houseplants.  

My boys and I hatched 7 of these beauties this fall!

Why the hell did I just list all that random stuff?  Remember how I told you that the pillars of my spirituality are gratitude and generosity?  Well, one way I practice is with a daily gratitude journal in which I list anything I can think of to be grateful for.  The above happens to be an excerpt of one such journal entry. If you’re interested in exploring the role of gratitude and how it can seriously shift your outlook and your entire life experience, I encourage you to keep a gratitude journal for a bit.  Start out with a three minute write every day for a month, and notice how it changes your outlook.

Regarding generosity, I don’t mean to project my values onto you, but I do think there’s something profoundly enriching about giving to others, and I’d like to gently encourage everyone to try it out.  I’m not talking about giving money or stuff to other people (although that’s certainly one very effective way to practice generosity). I’m more talking about paying careful attention to how you can “give” to others with your interactions. Can you give patience to the cashier who’s moving slower than you want them to?  Can you give grace to the child who’s melting down about not having the right sweatshirt to wear this morning? Can you give forgiveness to your partner for not holding up their end of the bargain? Can you give your presence to a friend who’s struggling with something so big that there’s absolutely nothing else you can possibly offer them?  When all else fails, can you just give a high five to a stranger you pass on the street? And can you do these “just because”, not as part of an exchange wherein you expect something from them first, or in return? 

Usually my clients don’t know it when something they say moves me. After all, the session is about them and what they may be moved to share. Recently, however, a client shared a parable that relates to the concept of giving. I loved it so much I asked him to repeat it. Here you go:

A young man and his father were walking along a street…and as they passed a homeless person, the father put some money into their cup.

The son said to his father, “why did you give that person money? They might just buy alcohol with it” 

The Father looked at his son and said “then that would be a reflection on their character, not my mine”

A precious summer evening in VT . . . so much to be thankful for in one little photograph.

See what I mean?! I’ve been working on writing about generosity and what it means to me (not to be judgy but to me it is a character thing) and then BAM! I client delivers this parable on a silver platter. I love how the universe works like this, and for me it confirms that there’s something cool, inexplicable and important beyond us.

So, there you have it.  Hope you made it through and that it inspired some reflection or conversation on your own spiritual health.  Or, if you’re not into that sort of thing, I hope I at least inspired you to get a darn massage. ‘Cause this blogging thing don’t pay the bills. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this, so please drop me a line or post in the comments.  

Love you!

A

October Greetings & Housekeeping

Pale ferns

Good afternoon, my friends.  As I watch October unfold before me I am reminded of the incredible transition our landscape is under.  How quickly the lush greens from those early days of September have faded into muted, earthy yellows and browns.  Even the occasional pops of crimson or amber are fewer and further between.  Gone are the roadside wildflower hold outs – the asters and Queen Anne’s lace – taken by hard frosts and heavy rains. The canopy above is brighter; more sparse.  Shadows are longer and days are shorter. My friends have cut back their perennials and harvested the last of their springtime promises.  The grass is still green but the earth is cold under my feet. I hear owls and coyotes at night, blue jays and crows by day. As I walk through the forest the musky aroma of mushrooms and fallen leaves is occasionally punctuated by the perky, sweet smell of a hemlock stand.  Things feel quieter than just a few weeks ago; life around us is slowing down.

How does the saying go? “As within, also without”  I think the inverse is true, too.

Dragonflies are said to symbolize change, transformation, adaptability, joy and lightness. This beauty visited on a sunny September afternoon as I enjoyed birthday tea with a dear old friend.

As I reflect on the transitions of our natural world, I also realize that transitions are afoot in my own life and business.  Wanna hear them? Thought so!

Transition #1 – I’m taking a few months off from my out-call service.  In order to be more efficient and structured with my time, I’m no longer seeing clients in their homes.  If you have never had this service, luckily you don’t know what you’re missing.  To my amazing and wonderful clients who did, “Ho’oponopono “ (a Hawaiian prayer of reconciliation which translates to; “Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry”,  cause I know it was the bomb).

Transition #2 – My hours are changing.  This is going to be a bit of a moving target as I fiddle around, trying to create a schedule that can meet your needs and also provide a healthy work-life balance for me.  I want to try to offer as many hours as I can, at times that work for normal people. (Wait a minute, what are “normal” people?) I’ll be tweaking things here and there, so please check my scheduler often, book when you see something that works and reach out if you don’t see something you want (because sometimes I can move stuff around for you).

Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until June 2020 to get a massage! I just liked this particular photo from the Bradford Conservation Commission’s fundraiser calendar. Want one of these for yourself? Ask me where to get them!

Oh, and on the topic of scheduling, I highly recommend getting on a regular schedule for massage (shocking, I know).  Whether it’s every week, every month or every 6 weeks, I find that my clients are happiest with their massages when they anticipate them on a regular basis.  Scheduling a few sessions in advance means you will engage in at least some self care in the future, which I find usually leads people to engage in even more self care in between massages.  It’s also a great way to ensure that you can get the slot you want (those evening and weekend slots fill up fast!).  

No matter what you do, be aware that I’m usually booking about a week out.  Some last-minute appointments are available, but not as many as there once were; yay for me, not-so-yay for you.

Transition #3 – “Back up!  Did she say something about weekends?!”  Yup, that’s right, I’m going to start keeping weekend hours!  This is going to be a bit of a moving target as well because, you know what? . . . If I am given tickets to see the Lumineers one weekend and my kid has a ski race the following weekend . . .  I’m going to the concert and then to the mountain and I’ll massage everyone another time.  We can still work together to create a regular-ish schedule for your massages, and I’m hoping this helps out those of you who have a tough time making it in during the week.  

Where do those socks all go?!

Transition #4 – No more PayPal.  You know how you’ll buy your family two dozen socks and then over the next six months, you end up with a laundry room full of “survivor” socks without mates?  Where do those missing socks end up? Is there a colony of single socks living in the attic with my purple glitter covered Converse All Stars that I wore to prom in 10th grade? (No,  because those sweet kicks are not in the attic – I STUPIDLY got rid of them when I was in college. Besides if I hadn’t, I clearly wouldn’t keep them in the attic; I’d be wearing them ALL the dang time.)  Anyway, every time someone pays me with PayPal there’s a sock that goes missing. Rather, a small fee which, while nominal, adds up to at least a pair of Darn Tough socks every couple months.  It’s annoying; I’m not into it. “How about paying you with a credit card?” you ask:  My friends, if you haven’t tried Venmo, I urge you to give it a spin.  So easy, so feeless. Let me know if you want my handle. I still accept checks, I love getting paid in cash and I occasionally like to barter. . . more on that in a bit.

Transition #5 – Hot stones anyone?  OK, OK, , this is a bit of a teaser because I am not offering hot stone massage just yet . . . but I’m gonna!  Be on the lookout for this on my menu of services.  In the meantime, I’m looking for a handful of existing clients to be my hot stone practice peeps.  If you meet the following criteria, let me know!

  • Are you one of my wonderful existing clients? – sorry no newbies for this offer.  I love you, but we’re just not there yet.  
  • Have you received hot stone massages from another massage therapist at least 3 (preferably more) times?
  • Are you comfortable giving me honest feedback? (I really dig honesty, even if it’s tough on my ego). 
Before I perform hot stone massage I require clients to recreate this exact sculpture. . . J.K.! That’d be absurd!

In exchange for your patience and feedback I’m offering a limited number of 90 minute sessions for $75 each (that’s $15 off the normal 90 minute rate).  Once I brush up on my protocol, I’ll offer the service to everyone else and let the warmth and relaxation begin!  

Not transitions, but important nonetheless:

Bartering
I’m not here to start a conversation about the merits or evils of eating meat, but as a conscientious meat-eater myself, it occurs to me that in this season of hunting and slaughtering, some folks may have more in their freezers than they need. I happen to have the opposite situation, so if you have humanely-raised (or hunted) pork, beef, chicken, turkey or venison and you like massage, let’s chat.

A rather bold young dear outside my kitchen window on a recent frosty morning. Perhaps too little to be freezer-bound, but maybe she has a friend?

Likewise, I’m looking for someone to plow my driveway. Know anyone who might like massage in exchange for this service? The person receiving massage doesn’t even have to be the person doing the plowing (but it’s not a bad idea as those long nights/days behind the wheel, turning around to see behind you, are rough on the back and neck). Bartering credits are certainly transferable to friends and family, so let me know if you’re interested or pass along word to your favorite plow person.

Timing
Sometimes people ask me how often they should come in for a massage, or how long of a massage to book. The simple answer I give is this; come as often as you like, for as long as you like. But that’s a pretty annoying answer, so I elaborate . . . The deal is that it really depends on what’s going on.

If you have an acute issue (muscle strain, ligament sprain, intense headaches or pretty much anything that came on suddenly and/or is unusual) I recommend coming a couple times within a week or two so that I can attend to the damaged tissue before it gets into bad habits or creates a cascade effect elsewhere in the body. Even if this means just a couple 1/2 hour sessions over 5 – 7 days, it’ll really help aid recovery and reduce pain.

If you have a more chronic issue going on (something that has been around weeks/months/years, or something that tends to come and go, isn’t causing a ton of pain but is annoying) it can make more sense to spread out your sessions to every other week or so.

If you’re using massage to manage stress, elevate your well being, help with sleep or just keep the aches and pains at bay, it’s completely up to you how often you come. A lot of my clients in this category come once a month.

As far as duration, I’ve had several clients opt for 90 minutes lately, and here’s why: If you have an area of concern (ie. an acute or chronic issue) it’s best if I can dedicate 20-30 minutes to that one area. In a 60-minute full-body massage this doesn’t leave as much time for all the other parts that deserve attention. If you have a couple issues going on, say, chronic lower back stuff and an acute calf strain, we really need a full 90 minutes to address everything and then tie it all together. Sure, I can totally get right down to business on the problem areas and then send you on your way, and sometimes that’s all people have time or money for. But when resources allow, 90 is better if there are “issues in your tissues” (as my massage teacher says). Pro tip: 5 and 10 session prepaid massage packages offer significant savings and are available for purchase on my website. Click here to purchase or book!

Regarding my relaxation clients (those who generally feel alright but like to get a tune up now and then), I think anything you can manage is great! Even a little bit of TLC will make a big impact. That said, if you’ve never been melted by a 90 minute massage, you should probably treat yourself at least once! Fun story: Long before I ever considered becoming a massage therapist I wished I could stay on the table and snooze a bit before I had to get up and function again. Now that I am one, I made it an actual thing! You can add an extra 10 minutes of hands-off, room-to-yourself time to any duration massage for just $5. The clients who take advantage of this love it!

Friendly reminder about Free Massage Fridays!
Don’t forget that I offer free 30 minute massages on Fridays! My clients often tip me (totally unnecessary, but much appreciated) which means I can offer a limited number of free massages each week. Folks can book these as stand-alone sessions or they can book them consecutively with other paid sessions to create a longer duration massage at a reduced rate. If you or anyone you know would like to take advantage of this, please pass on the word and reach out soon! Offering affordable massage is an important part of my mission; use this resource!

OK, I think that’s it for the housekeeping stuff. . . .  
In my last blog post, I brought up the importance of maintaining physical, mental AND spiritual health and eluded to a future post in which I would discuss the latter.  It’s no coincidence that it’s been a really long time since then.  Talk about putting my foot in my mouth; a teaser for a post I was wholly unprepared to write.  After all, I’m still trying to sort out what spirituality means to me and I’m pretty private when it comes to the topic anyway.  I didn’t really want to write it, but when I have resistance to something it usually means that’s where I should shine some light, soooooo. . .  I promise, next time I post it’ll be about spiritual health! 

Back to School

I picked you a late-August bouquet – sunflower, bee balm, bachelor button, cosmos, black-eyed Susan, golden rod and hosta.

Well hello there!

I just got back from the annual flag ceremony at my kids’ elementary school.  It’s a really sweet tradition where each class lines up in front of the school while the parents snap photos of their kiddos with all their buddies.  Sometimes a kindergartener or two cries (at least 10 parents of kindergarteners always do). Meanwhile, the sixth graders try to avoid their parents’ cameras.  It was fun.

Anyway . . . here comes the obligatory “how was your summer?” question.  So . . . . how was your summer? 

I actually do want to know, though.  And not just the typical superficial stuff about the weather, the yard work, the trips to the beach or the campground.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing about all the fun stuff you did, but if I ask you about your summer, your day or even your decade, please understand that what I’m really asking is:  “What’s this life been like for you?” However you want to answer my inquiry – I’m into it. 

I tell you this because when and if you end up in my office, there’s an open invitation to share what’s going on in your world.  In fact, processing the inner workings of your mind while having the outer workings of your body tended to is a great way to integrate these two important but too-often separated aspects of ourselves. And I’m intensely committed to practicing non-judgment when it comes to relating to others, which means I accept you for who you are and respect your humanity (unless you hate puppies – if you hate puppies we’re gonna have trouble).  More on the mind-body connection and healing the whole person (let’s not forget about the spirit) another time. . .  if you dig that stuff, stay tuned for a future blog post..

Fun Fact:  Are you kind of a private person?  Me too! But don’t worry, I take your privacy very seriously.  In fact just like your doctor, I’m bound by HIPPA. This means I NEVER share with anyone who has been on my massage table or what is said in my office without your written permission.  In short, I know how to keep a secret.  

80 degrees and colored leaves – late August in VT

Anyway, that was a long intro for what I intended to be a post about back-to-school time.  If you have kids, I know this can be a bittersweet transition. It’ll be nice to have your life return to more of a routine, but the days get hectic with earlier mornings, practice/games, homework and exhausted kids.  If you don’t have kids, I’m certain this time of year represents a shift nonetheless.  

Do you see the color creeping into the leaves?  The deeper blue of the sky by day, and the brighter stars by night?  Can you smell the fermenting apples as you drive past a craggy roadside apple tree; a tree that was no doubt inadvertently planted there long ago by a passing deer or partridge?  None of us can ignore the earlier sunsets or the chill that sets in just afterwards. I hope that no matter where you are, you get to witness a sunrise over a mountain, and then descend into a blanket of fog that covers the valley below.   

When I’m not massaging someone these days, you’re likely to find me on the sidewalk below. Sipping on a “chaider”, avoiding the laundry in that green bag. If you see me come sit a spell and let’s chat!

Professionally-speaking, my kids heading back to school represents a bit more time for me to see clients and to ramble in this blog.  If you dig it, let me know. I have turned off the comment option because I’m not yet brave enough to deal with the inevitable trolls that pass their time by criticizing even the, once-a-quarter bloggers like me, but I do like to hear feedback and I’m always looking for suggestions on what folks want to read about.  If you want to book a massage, click here.

However this late-August/early September lands for you – whether as a relief, a stress, a delight or a combination of all of these, I hope you’re able to notice the subtle shifts that are happening.  For me and some people I know, these are more than just visual cues that the seasons are changing; they are rich, sensory experiences of the rhythm that keeps time in a song we collectively call “Life in Vermont.”  

Yours in wellness,

Abby

Body Hair? Don’t Care!

Body fat?  Don’t sweat that!

Body fit?  Don’t give a  . . . you get the idea.

Today I want to talk about an important topic; body image (I will use the term “beauty” and body image almost interchangeably).  Specifically, I want to talk about your body as it relates to massage.  At least once a week I hear something like this:

“I’m sorry you have to touch my hairy legs, I forgot to shave today.”

or

“Oh hey Abby!  I really want to get a massage from you someday, I just want to lose a couple pounds first.”

Body Image ≠ Massage Worthiness

Boys and Girls, I’m here to tell you that your body hair and your body composition have nothing. . . like, zero to do with your worthiness of receiving or enjoying a massage!  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that your job, relationship status, whether you’re a good parent, if you paid your taxes, if you smoke or drink too much, your exercise regimen (or lack thereof), your bank account, your water intake, how many chicken wings you ate last night, your age, your sexual orientation . . . NONE of it has anything to do with whether you deserve a massage!  Why? Because massage is self care, and we all deserve self care . . . it’s actually super important for maintaining our emotional and physical health. If everyone deprived themselves of massage because of their body fat, body hair or any other superficial B.S. like that, let me tell you, I’d still be slinging egg sandwiches and mocha lattes! I, and many other massage therapists, have seen it all and we aren’t going to even notice or care.  We’re not in the business of judging people, we’re in the business of helping them!

I doubt this guy worries much about his back hair, and neither should you!

I mean seriously, most of my male clients have leg hair, so why on earth would I care if my female clients had full leg hair, much less a week’s worth of stubble?  I have clients who are so proud of the 70 pounds they lost to get under 250, why would I care about the extra 10 someone’s been carrying since the holidays? So please, don’t not (double negative – roll with it!) get a massage because you’re self conscious about these things.  Your health and well-being are far too important!

‘Tis the Season for Body Positivity

  Because we’re heading into that season where everyone starts to question their body image, I am here to tell you that all of the stuff I just listed above, that has nothing to do with whether or not you deserve to wear and do whatever the heck you want this summer.  Want to wear a bikini but have stretch marks? Wear that damn bikini; those are powerful reminders of the incredible thing your body did! Dude’s got a hairy back, so what? Rock that sweater vest at the beach! Are you fatter than a supermodel? Perfect! Most of us are. Let’s have a pool party!

Look at this Goddess! I don’t even know her and I’m so proud of her!

I’m so tired of hearing people trash on themselves for not being perfect!  We all have a friend who comments on her belly fat or stretch marks . . . I get it, she’s thinking about herself and not the other 3 of us she’s talking to, but the second she does that, we’re all thinking “Oh shoot, right.  We’re supposed to be more perfect than this. I hate my (insert body part here) and I feel self-conscious about that.” The whole self-flagellation thing is really destructive to ourselves and those we speak this nonsense to and it serves no purpose.

I’m even more pissed when people trash on other people.  Who gave any of us the right to comment on another person’s body?  That’s their effing body!  So what if it’s not perfect, it’s doing pretty much what it’s supposed to (breathing, moving blood around, taking care of stuff) leave it the eff alone!  And if you say crap about your or anyone else’s body around kids, I might have to pinch you (that’s as violent as I get).

Do it for the Kids!

Listen, kids don’t know anything about beauty or body image.  You know why? We’re not born judgemental. We’re hardwired to think our caregivers and loved ones are the most beautiful beings on the planet because babies still remember that beauty actually comes from within.  We get programmed by society to think ABC are beautiful and XYZ are not. True story; up until I was 11 I believed that my 5’1” mama with a belly covered in stretch marks and a funky foot that turned out to one side was the most beautiful woman in the world.  Then I learned about Seventeen Magazine (blegh) and Cindy Crawford edged her out. (For what it’s worth, 30 years down the road, I changed my mind again. Love you Mom, you’re beautiful!) When we pass judgment on our own or other people’s bodies in front of kids we are setting an example of judgment and body shaming, and you know what comes next?  They start doing it to themselves and each other. What is sadder than a nine year old child coming home from school, having been teased about their weight? Oh wait, I know, an eight year old child saying to their mom “I hate that picture of me, I look fat!” We have to change this!

Last summer my 10 year old niece asked me, “Why do you have long armpit hair?”  My response; “Because I reject the conventional standards of beauty established by the patriarchy that say the hair on my head should be long and the hair on my body should be non-existent.  If Grandpa/Uncle/Dad can have shaved heads and armpit hair, so can we!” Did you know that in 1915, during World War I in 1915, the Gillette Safety Razor Company introduced the first safety razor for women: the Milady Decolletée, as a means to increase razor sales?  They marketed it heavily to women who, up until that point, mostly went au natural. It seems a little silly that a couple generations later we are so programmed to believe being attractive means a woman must do something a man does not. Moreover, if a man DID shave his legs or pits, I’d wager that someone would take issue with that as well.  In my opinion, it’s especially important to offer girls different concepts of what is beautiful, and actually, to stop placing so much emphasis on a person’s physical attributes at all. When a little girl is told from a young age that she’s beautiful/pretty, instead of bright, powerful, whitty, interesting, imaginative, capable, a good athlete, creative or talented, she is conditioned to believe her identity and value lay in her physical appearance, when what we really want to do is empower our girls to be strong, independent and engaged in the world around them.

Recognize these beauties? They don’t have to shave their pits to be beautiful, and neither do you!

I want to live in a world where girls and boys are encouraged to find their own expression of beauty; to buck trends and dare to be different.  Because really, what’s more beautiful than confidence, individuality and open-mindedness? One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known would not be found on a magazine cover, but they are so generous, kind, loving, engaging, honest, funny, genuine, open-minded and pleasant to be around that they light up every room they walk into.  I want my – strike that – ALL kids to care about that kind of beauty, not what someone’s belly or armpits look like!  

I feel like this is an important time for me to make a couple points:

  1. We are all insecure, each and every one of us, about some aspect of our physical appearance.  One person’s insecurities are no more or less valid than another’s and we don’t get to decide who’s allowed to have theirs and who’s not.  It’s totally ok to be insecure, and totally necessary to battle those demons that tell us our flaws mean anything about our character.
  2. Character is everything.  Your beautiful hair, toned body, white teeth and perfect eye lashes mean nothing if you’re a crummy person.
  3. I’m not saying that you should feel bad if you care about your appearance.  I’m not saying you should stop shaving if you’re a woman or stop working out if you’re a man.  A person’s grooming choices and exercise regimen are none of my (or anyone else’s) business. The entire point is, you do you, leave other people alone.  Better yet, you love you, and encourage other people to love themselves!
Repeat after me:

So, tell me, are you ready to be a little more positive about your body?  If you need me to remind you, I will; you’re beautiful! And . . . you should get a massage if you want a massage.

The concept of body positivity has been around for a while, so if you’re interested in exploring it more, here are a few great resources:

https://www.thebodypositive.org/model – a great organization that provides training and resources on inclusion and body positivity

http://www.kaarelong.com/body-positive-is-easy-to-say-much-harder-to-do/ – this is a great blog, and this post in particular talks about walking the difficult walk of body positivity.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/norawhelan/body-positivity-101 a great article about the basics of body positivity

Oh, and because it’s almost Father’s Day, skip the tie or BBQ utensils and get him a massage gift certificate!  10% off now until Sunday! Use code ILOVEDAD at checkout.

My Take on Essential Oils

Hey friend!  

Let’s face it, you knew this was coming; a blog post about essential oils and aromatherapy.  After all, are there any wellness-related blogs in the blogosphere that don’t cover it at some point?  Doubtful! I will NOT, however, try to sell you essential oils! Multi-level marketing companies are not my thing, so you can sit back, relax and read along knowing there will be no pitch to buy/sell more essential oils – promise!  Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive in, shall we?

What is aromatherapy?

Essential Oil Distillation Apparatus

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve a person’s physical, emotional or spiritual health. Essential oils are the oils extracted from massive quantities of plant material (leaves, stems, flowers, rindes etc) through a variety of different, complex distillation processes that I have neither the ambition nor time to explain today.  (If you like to geek out on this stuff, here’s a great post by someone more patient than me).   These days it seems like every other Pinterest board or Facebook post is touting the benefits of certain oils or combinations thereof, but don’t be fooled!  Aromatherapy is an ancient and effective practice that’s been around for over 5000 years. Those oils they used to embalm and mummify the Pharaohs? You guessed it, essential oils.

Why aromatherapy?

If you are interested in natural remedies but don’t know where to start, aromatherapy and essential oils are a great way to make a shift in your health, wellness and cleaning regimens.  You can diffuse the oils into the air using an inexpensive ionic diffuser. This works double-time to scent the air (eliminating those chemical-laden room sprays or artificially-scented candles) and impart the therapeutic effects of the oils onto the people in your space.  Since there are dozens of oils that have antimicrobial properties, you can make your own simple cleaning products using essential oils instead of spraying sketchy, artificially-scented, petroleum-derived conventional cleaning products. For more advanced users, essential oils can be applied topically to enhance their health benefits, although you should certainly do plenty of research regarding the safety and contraindications of any essential oils you plan to put on your skin.  

Speaking of Skin

Aromatherapy massage is one way you can receive the benefits of both practices, and it just so happens that I know a thing or two about this!  I studied aromatherapy in massage school and I’ve been using essential oils in my massage practice since I opened almost two years ago. I find that my clients enjoy having a few options of lovely-smelling massage oils to choose from, and it’s a great way for me to increase the healing potential of the hands-on work I’m doing.  Here’s a quick list of some of the essential oils I’ve worked and had success with (hyperlinks redirect to an informational site where you can learn about the properties of each oil):

Lavender Lemon Neroli Black PepperPetitgrain Rose Lemon BalmClary SageGinger Lemongrass Ylang ylangClove Cinnamon Rosemary Peppermint Frankincense Rose GeraniumVetiver

Some of the above are especially great for reducing pain and inflammation when used topically, but most are actually said to improve emotional well-being and/or mental health.  In my opinion, creating a positive sensory experience for my clients is pretty much what it’s all about. I’m not just providing therapeutic touch or addressing structural problems in the muscles, ligaments and fascia, I’m also creating an atmosphere that looks, sounds and smells lovely to help people get into the parasympathetic mode of healing.  When our minds are less stressed, our bodies can repair – it’s that simple.

Where do I get my oils?

I thought you’d never ask!  There are lots of options for sourcing essential oils including chain supermarkets, health food stores, online retailers and a couple very successful network marketing companies.  Where you buy your oils doesn’t matter as much as how they are made. Because tons and tons of plant material are used to distill the oils, there’s an immense opportunity for pesticides, herbicides and other gunk to be concentrated in the final product.  Harsh solvents used in the extraction process can also be found in inferior essential oil products. Because the skin is the largest organ in our bodies it’s kind of important to be careful with what you put on your skin. For this reason I only use organic essential oils diluted in fractionated coconut oil in my massage practice.  There’s no way in H.E-Double-hockey-sticks that I’m going to rub concentrated toxic chemicals all over people all day. Not good for them. Not good for me.

I buy my oils from a wonderful Vermont-grown company called Lunaroma.  They’re located in Burlington, but have a fantastic website featuring their entire (vast) product line.  The reasons I work with Lunaroma are:

  1. It’s a woman-run company with a strong commitment to helping other female entrepreneurs.  I dig this.
  2. They have great sourcing transparency.
  3. Knowledgeable and trained aromatherapists create their formulas  . . . and if you go there, you can actually speak to them!
  4. There is an amazing brick and mortar store, in VT, that employs actual people with real faces.  I like faces . . . and brick and mortar stores!

Most of the time I purchase single essentials oils from Lunaroma and blend them myself into seasonally-inspired or condition-specific massage oils.  Once in awhile I purchase tried and true essential oil blends (my personal favorites are Protection, Allure and Sunburst) and make my massage oils using those.  Recently, however, I went a little wild and got a few pre-made massage oils . . .  now I need to get rid of them!

Don’t stop reading!  You’re almost there!

From now until the end of May book a massage of any duration and click the “Add-on” for “Aromatherapy Special”.  When you come to your appointment you can choose between Ginger Snap, Northern Comfort, Fresh and Insight massage oils*, and after your massage, the remainder of the bottle is yours to keep!   I only have about 16 bottles, so book soon!

Take your pick of Lunaroma Massage Oils while supplies last!

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all! Don’t think I forgot what’s coming up next weekend!!!  For this Mother’s Day, skip the outdoor accessories or corny jewelry and get her something that will improve her wellbeing – a gift certificate for a 60 or 90 minute massage!  Use coupon code MAMA at checkout and get 10% off. And give her a big hug, because moms are the best! Moms, don’t be ashamed to share this little blog with your kids – they’ll get the hint!

* supplies are limited so depending upon when your appointment is, not all options may be available.

What’s New Around Here?

Sunrise on a race day near Mt. Washington.

Ok, so I’ve been a little M.I.A. this winter. But let’s be honest, there is enough web content out there, from celebrity hijinx to political drama to global crises to self-help master classes . . . we’re all over-stimulated and nature deprived; I’m sure you survived just fine during my hibernation.

But in case you are in the .2% that likes my ramblings, here’s what has been going on in the massage therapy epicenter of the galactic universe;

I had a crazy fun time skiing this winter with my two boys! We went every Friday afternoon with the elementary school and I got to pretend that I know how to teach kids to ski. It’s fun because my own children are somehow really great skiers, and since I taught them to ski, everyone thinks I must know something. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone . . . I know almost nothing. At this point my 11 year old is teaching me and my 6 year old (and pretty much anyone else around him) how to “carve”. Look it up, I didn’t know either.

Apres ski at my house. I had a LOT of kids that day!

I also had the great privilege of taking my older boy and his 3 fabulous gal pal/teammates to ski practice every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at a ski area about an hour away. We built a killer playlist and rocked out the whole way down. On my rides back (thank GOD there are other parents in our carpool who do pick up!) I blissed out to the silence that only a sleeping kindergartener can make when he’s resting up for a ridiculously late bedtime, and often wetting his car seat for some extra fun. As a bonus, I was able to increase the number of miles on my new-to-me car (my Mother’s Day present to myself last year – yay self-employment!) by approximately 2200 in about a month and a half!

I spent most weekends at various ski mountains throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, watching my kid race and marveling at the variety of weather conditions that fall under the category of “Winter” in New England.

Requisite sugaring selfie.

The boys and I tapped our trees and our family is in the process of boiling! It’s been so fun to be able to just send them out to collect sap in the afternoons while I tend to things inside. I like to unplug my router and light an oil lamp and pretend we’re homesteaders for a while. (Just kidding, I don’t do either of those things!) But I do enjoy the process of converting wood to flame, sap to syrup. The smell of hardwood smoke and sweet steam filling our garage is one of the loveliest sensory experiences of the year, and I hope they remember this when I’m old and weird and ask them things like “why don’t they make manual transmissions on cars anymore?” (seriously though, why?).

Sometimes this winter, I also worked. Some of you may have even been able to catch me on a few of these occasions, while I suspect others of you had all but given up ever being able to find an opening in my schedule. Ahhhh, the struggles of striking that perfect work-life balance! If you fall into the latter category, you’ll be happy to learn that I’ve expanded my hours!

New Hours!

I now have hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, plus mid-day hours the rest of the week! Click here to check out my scheduler and find a nice little slot that works for you!

Happy Birthday!

Are you one of those people that have a birthday every year? If so, I’ve got something you’re gonna love! I’m approximately 6 months shy of a pretty big milestone . . . the big 4-0, and when I was thinking about all the things I’d like for my birthday, I realized that if everything I liked and wanted could just be a little cheaper in my honor, that would be swell. Soooooo, I created a BIRTHDAY discount code for my site. So, whether you already had a birthday in 2019 or you’re going to, please use code “BIRTHDAY2019” when you book yourself a massage. I’m not going to tell you you have to use it on or around your birthday, you do you. But I will tell you it’ll only work once . . . choose your redemption time wisely!

I think there might have been something else I wanted to share, but it’s 10:00 p.m. and it’s tax season (should probably get started on those) and it’s snowing and I’m not so great at the remembering game, so you’ll just have to stay tuned for my next burst of inspiration. I promise it’ll be sooner than 6 months from now, and I promise it’ll smell good. (That was foreshadowing, because maybe I actually do know what I’m gonna write about!)