Category Archives: Community Stories

Massage and Life Learning

Massage Opportunities and Life Learning

Massage therapists have an excellent opportunity not only to meet extraordinary people but also to learn from them. I have met many, and they have taught me many things.
After 20 years in massage therapy, many of my wounds have healed through touch, and I have tried my best to listen and learn from my clients. They have given me many thousands of gifts I might have otherwise missed.buddhatree
I am very thankful for the opportunity to help people feel better through massage. We have had more than a few laughs and cries along the way.
Rarely, I am blessed with outright advice. A client celebrating his 103rd birthday told me “Never sell land.” We both had a laugh over that one. I practice in Orange County, CA, which in the past 60 years has gone from a stagecoach rut to an economic powerhouse with its own Riviera.
Early in my career I saved my money from massage and bought my own little patch of OC on the advice of another client. Good move. Wish I had bought two.
The visceral and the spiritual, of course. One client told me God inspired him to recite a psalm to me. “I don’t know why it is this one,” he said. “It just came to me.” (psalm 6. Boy was that one on the mark.)
Sometimes clients tell me exactly what is on my mind. Occasionally, I have told them. “This is grief,” I said to a client one day as I palpated the sternum at the 5th and 6th rib. It was as if I first heard the words as I said them. Where did that come from? It started her recovery from a long-suppressed tragedy.
When I worked at a big spa, a client asked me why I did not have my own shop. I admitted to being afraid of the nuts and bolts of business, such as books. “If you can add and subtract, you can do books,” she said. She was right.
How do we express gratitude to our clients? And how do our clients thank us? By being real people, present in the moment, sharing our journeys. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

Good Fences Make Good Massages…

The other day, whilst talking to massage therapist friends about the best and worst places to do massage, we came up with lots of candidates for best, but the worst won hands down: beauty salons.

Yes, it has happened to many massage therapists. It may have been a fill-in job during massage school or a way to circumvent crazy local regulations, or just a desperate attempt to pay the rent. We had all, at one time, worked in a beauty salon.

Going in, we all agreed it looked like a great opportunity. A room in the back of the place, a built-in foot traffic that might be interested in massage, and a few people hanging out there to talk to when it was slow.hairsalon

My friend said: My first day I got a lecture about why I had to wear make-up. I don’t know a lot of massage therapists that wear make-up because it slides off in the first 10 minutes of a session. I actually had to tell the salon owner that we sweat.

My other colleague stopped mid-sip in her Starbucks. She said: I got to wear a Minnie Mouse uniform with cap sleeves and a skirt. I felt like I was about to parade down Main Street. Our salon owner thought all the spa people should wear dresses so we looked cute. Meanwhile, everyone in the rest of the salon wore black jeans and T-shirts.

This brought back my own memories. It was a part-time job during massage school. The salon was a seething cauldron of drama. The stylists liked to unload about their unhappiness in the area where they mixed color – right outside the door of my massage room.

Asking people to hold it down or take their conversations elsewhere led to chaos. After more than a few jabs about being too quiet for a salon, I fled shortly after graduation from massage school. Much to my surprise, a few clients found me. One told me she just put up with the salon because she liked the massage.

I left salon world, happily, for better-designed spas and medical offices. My spa kept the hair stylists corralled in a separate room with a real door. No drama.

Much to my horror a client confessed to me one day that he was a salon owner and wanted to develop a spa-salon combination. Would I be interested?

Been there, done that I said. But a salon needs separation from a spa environment. How about a real door and a real wall across the back half of the salon? That way the sanctuary could be established.

He asked me to visit the place when it was remodeled. Yup, a real wall and a real door. It was very successful.



A Massage Therapist’s Top Ten

Debates roar among massage therapists about which are the best oils, the best draping, and the most effective techniques. Yet never have so many argued so passionately about this question: whether to start clients in the supine or prone position. O the polarity!

So many have crusaded with passionate arguments about breath patterns, face-cradle wrinkles, sinuses, etc. But we all know the real reasons to start up or down is exigency.

Let’s hope the clients never find out.

Sue’s Top Ten Reasons to Start Massage Clients Facedown:

(Guaranteed to be from actual experiences in the Wild Wacky World of Hurry Up and Relax!)

10. My neighbor upstairs likes to stomp on the way to and from her cradlesnatcherhourly cigarette break.

9. Whatever you had for lunch, I’m investing in a dab of peppermint under the face cradle.

8. Your assistant called ahead and asked me to put you in a coma.

7. I am hoping you won’t notice the sudden appearance of wet stains on the ceiling.

6. Your spouse made this appointment and asked me to keep you here for at least two hours so she can get in a nap.

5. We can’t get the flashing-light fire alarm to stay off. Perhaps it has to do with someone’s bright idea to dry body brushes in the microwave.

4. The rips in the sheets might not be as noticeable.

3. I don’t want to listen to the rest of your multi-level-marketing pitch.

2. I went to lunch at the taco joint – beans!

1. Is that a hernia?

Of course, there is always the competing Number One Reason to Start Massaging Clients Face-Up: I can’t find the face cradle.

A Degree from Massage University

My education in massage did not stop with graduation from a massage school. If anything, it intensified. Now a practicing therapist, I was learning every day from the most prolific of authors, the best logisticians, the brightest of the best.

It has been hard to keep up sometimes, but very rewarding. The classroom has been my therapy room, the teachers: my clients.     university     Lessons learned go from the obvious to the subtle.

Some favorites:

Don’t smack your hands together like humpy honeymooners to warm your oil. (Can we get that one on a billboard?)

Don’t breathe on your clients face while doing neck stretches. (Again, billboard?)

Do listen to a client without distractions when they are speaking to you, even if you are getting a text.

Do ask every client to return. A genuine invitation goes a long way in a society where millions of people don’t mean what they say.

I was pondering some of the big lessons I garnered from clients the other day, after I heard that a former client, a very prominent man, had died at age 91.

Sad, yes, for I was thinking he would reach 100. But I remembered what he taught me about massage. He was a connoisseur, having had massages all over the world for many years.

He told me he liked me because I did “real” massages. He never told me how many therapists he had interviewed, but one day the house manager let it slip that a parade of therapists had come, once, and gone before he picked me.

That was good for my ego, of course.

So what did I learn? These were big lessons and small.

He always apologized if he was late. Always.

It’s important to take time for oneself.

And always buy the best seat at the ballpark that you can afford. Otherwise why go to the game?

Hmmm. Is it April yet?



Zombies vs. Massage Therapists

One of my most fun massage therapy clients likes to update me on his activities and the connection between what he has been doing and what is going on in his neck, back, hands, etc.

I don’t get a laundry list of precarious Christmas lights installations or kneecaps wondering off by themselves on Audubon bird-sighting missions. He gets all of his angst from the mouse.

The past three years have been spent trying to write a non-fiction book. Ahhh, three years of the highs, the lows, the numbing tundras of white screens and spell-checks that cannot tell the difference between wet and whet.zombie

Sometimes it has been the mouse-side shoulder. Deltoids, pecs, infraspinatus and the dreaded Bermuda Triangle of the human body: posterior scalene/trapezius/levator scapula. Oh the pain.

The bulk of writing the book merely took a toll in terms of pain and stiffness. The editing process involved sweaty panic anticipation that flowed up the neck into the sub occipitals, parietals and jaw. Pop goes the tempo-mandibular joint.

Rewrite heck followed. If it is possible for a man to ever experience the pains of childbirth, this author did. I spent several sessions reminding him to breathe through the pain. At one point we even held hands while he practiced.

All told, he has now emerged from the haze and is undergoing the butterflies of seminars and speaking engagements. I am, too, a bit off to the sideline. Dare I say I feel his pain?

He often talked about ideas on solving structural problems in his book while I rubbed a forearm. Sometimes he found the solutions on the middle of the session, when he would slow-breathe like a sleeper, though awake enough to feel my touch and hear the I-Pod.

All told, he has now emerged from the haze and is undergoing the butterflies of seminars and speaking engagements. I am, too, a bit off to the sideline. Dare I say I feel his pain?

The subject of his book, by the way, is the result of a lot of experience and research in the field of education. I asked him to sum it up.

Don’t be a zombie, he said. Be human, care, do the best you can do to touch people’s lives. Stick your finger in the water. You do not know where the ripples will go but they will go far beyond where you will see.

I had to pause. That just might apply to massage, eh?

The Path to Progress

The footpath from the subway to my university led up the Boston Commons through the State House and down to the other side of Beacon Hill. I took the path often, going to the right side cut-through of the State House to avoid the somber figure sitting on a stone bench in front of the left wing.

It was just a statue: a pretty woman, dressed plainly, sitting on a bench. Sorrow and determination etched in her face; she leaned forward. The statue’s never-changing sadness gave me the creeps. Besides, when I took the right-wing entrance of the Massachusetts State House, I could grab a bagel before class.

Curiously, I never looked to see who the woman was. I was too busy getting an education and planning my career. For something that should have whetted my curiosity, I had none. It took me away from my goals.dyer6

I am a massage therapist now, and have been for almost 20 years. As such, I am a micro-business owner. I have dealt with snickers of people who viewed massage therapists as women offering something else. As my own boss, I am free to work plenty of overtime, nights, weekends, etc., if it takes that to be successful. Massage is largely an occupation of women, and it is one of the few businesses that can be started with little capital and much elbow grease.

Not that I took any of these things for granted, no, but I missed a few pieces of history along the way.

We took a trip to my hometown earlier this year. My spouse grew up in Los Angeles and was fascinated by the history and old buildings. We stayed a few nights in Salem, its damp streets dotted by witches museums and attractions. The lore of witchery in Salem is much more attractive than the reality. The local residents suspected devil’s work in everyday life. In the 1690s courts convicted several women of witchery and hanged them. The evidence? Friends and neighbors who claimed the witches flew through the air and cast spells.

At the home of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, we saw the family tree written on the wall. The Hawthorne’s surname was amended to avoid association with the hanging judge at the witches’ trials. The family was ashamed of that history.

In Boston, we took the open-air tourist trolley to avoid the stress of driving and parking. It stopped at the State House steps. Right in front of that darned statue.

Our tour guide/bus driver gave us the spiel: “That’s Mary Dyer, the Quaker hung from a tree near Boston Common for her heretical beliefs. The Pilgrims came here for religious freedom, but just for their own religious freedom. No one else was welcome. They wanted to make a Pilgrim Utopia so in 1660 they hung an innocent woman for being a Quaker.”

The state court had the statue erected in 1959 to remind lawmakers and judges of the folly of requiring every citizen to have the same beliefs. The early state of Massachusetts was a tyrannical state: Everyone had to support the ministers’ teachings or face court penalties. They were locked into stocks, whipped, had ears cut off, and banished. If they did not publicly repent, the government, one and the same as the church, took away rights to vote, own land, own businesses, and confiscated their weapons.

Mary Dyer had been sentenced to death a year before her hanging, and was saved from the gallows by her husband. He was still a Pilgrim, and though the family had moved to Rhode Island to get away from persecution he still had some influence with the court judge. He promised that she would stay away from Pilgrim settlements and took her home.

A year later Dyer returned and asked that the authorities reverse their unjust laws. Instead, they decided to enforce the sentence of death. She and two other Quakers who refused to be compliant with Pilgrim law were hanged on the same day. She held hands with the men as she walked to the hanging tree, and people in the crowd criticized her for touching unrelated men. Neither men nor women were free in the Utopian state of the New World.

Well, my education continues. I now see why Mary Dyer sits so sadly, and why so many of the Pilgrims descendants who crafted our Constitution vowed to separate church beliefs from state laws. I think those formative steps taken so many years ago have led to our freedoms today. To be free to touch others and to massage, to live, to educate our children and ourselves. Mary Dyer was a very brave woman, in deed.

(For more information about Mary Dyer’s life and death, and her influence in history, let me recommend Wikipedia’s listing. Also, “Mary Dyer: Biography of a Rebel Quaker” by Plimpton, Ruth, 1994.)dyer9

History at Your Hands

We had a wonderful time picking out decorations for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday party.

Pink table-covers, birthday lawn signs, a banner and bubble-making bottles, clean fun for all of us youngin’s. We’ll also be running around next weekend picking up a vanilla cake with white and pink frosting, tamales, sandwiches and the “Happy 90th” balloon. (Surprisingly popular, our cashier volunteered.)

All of which led me to ask Mom Mary the big question: To what to you attribute your long life?

Mom Mary looked at me quite surprised. “I have no idea. I’m just glad to be alive. I wish I felt better, though.”calm

Ooh-yaah. Hey, with a massage therapist in the family, many people would assume Mom Mary has the feel-good covered. Well, other than the occasional emergency neck or shoulder massage, Mom Mary has begged off the family discount. (Double for blood relatives and spouse, Mom Mary free.)

Yet thinking about it, I have had several older folks who come in for massage regularly. And I am impressed. My oldest client was 103, a World War I veteran. I have given massage services to many people aged 70s to upper 90s.

As a member of the second coddled generation, the lucky ones who grew up with food, dental care, schools and an expectation of college, I get a good sampling of how my elders got into their golden years.

Wars. Prison Camps. D-Day. Epidemics. No food, no heat. No air conditioning. Religious genocide. Ethnic genocide. Is longevity produced by adversity? Or, to put it another way, does that which does not kill you make you stronger?

It makes me wonder how my generation through the much-too-much millennials will fare. Will we prick our fingers on our computers and die? Could we ever be tough enough to skip a gluten-free meal?

I think a massage certificate for Mom Mary is in order, perhaps a pedicure as well. You should get some credit for living long, well and in good humor.

The story of how a stranger became at home in your world

Hi there Find Touchers!

I’m Mel. Or Melissa, depending on if you get emails from me. I thought that you might like to get to know me a little, and learn how I came to Find Touch, and how massage has changed my life.

find touch massage therapists community appreciation

I was born in San Diego, and moved up to Seattle when I was 10. Did a back and forth a few times, but I am here to stay, and couldn’t be happier. I’m a rainy day kind of girl! I’m married (two months to the day!) and a proud mama of a Siberian Corgi (Locke) and two wonderful cats (Eko and Jack). I’m a reader,baker, cook, penguin enthusiast, writer, chemistry enthusiast, and love a good whiskey.

The path to my career in massage started just over a year ago. I was a server, working at a popular restaurant just above Pike Place Market. For a few months, I had some minor knee pain, which only impeded my ability to walk a little. Nothing big, I certainly didn’t think twice about it. I’ve had knee problems in the past-but I loved my job.

But this pesky knee pain. It just kept getting worse. It got to the point where I was holding on to a counter to pull myself up with every ounce of strength in my arms, while my knees were screaming at me. Stairs became something I avoided at all costs. I could walk…but it was not the most fun activities I could think of. Getting in and out of cars was… a feat.

And then came my breaking point. Quite literally. I was on my way to a chemistry test (see, it really is one of my passions!) and my knee said no more. It gave out on me. I was sobbing in pain, on a bench, a hundred feet from my classroom. Yet, I sucked it up and hobbled (holding back the tears) to my course, and promptly failed the exam because my knee was in such pain. I quit my beloved serving job as I laid on my bed, writhing in pain, it hurting even when I wasn’t putting any pressure on it. It was a rough time, and I worried my fiancé and family so.

I was lost. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t work. Couldn’t finish the career path in which I had set myself on. I sat on my couch, hour after hour, just watching television. Until, I got a massage.

I don’t even wish I was kidding. I had one session, on my knee. And I could walk.

Granted, I wasn’t pain free. Not yet. But after another session, I could walk farther, and more often. And oh goodness…it felt so good. And so then, I started working with Find Touch. I had a new, amazing appreciation for massage therapy!

Since this pain began, its been a long journey. I’ve been through physical therapy, learned all the exercises, and yet, still, nothing worked for me quite like massage.

Which is why I love you guys. So much. Because of the healing work that you provide, I can walk again. I can take my dog, Monster (affectionately called) for a walk. I can mow my backyard, and go for hikes in the fantastic NW. I can go up the stairs to work to connect you with employers, Continuing Education, special deals and our blog.

I am so proud to work with the healers that you are. I learn more about you every day, and more about the healing that you provide. As a non massage therapist immersed in a massage driven community-I can’t thank you enough. I continue to be inspired by you daily, and am personally forever thankful to you. All. Of. You.


Massage with an Historic Difference

It is an old law school question: Would you be Hitler’s lawyer?

It is a tough one. All people regardless of their crimes are due a spirited defense, law students are taught. Yet what about the worst criminal in recent history? Would you be the one? Could you?

Here’s how the question could be posed to a massage therapist: Could you be Hitler’s massage therapist? Would you? Would it make Hitler more human? Or make him a more efficient Hitler?

Some thoughts to ponder. I have not found any evidence that Hitler ever got a massage, although the treatment was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century for many ills.

But I did find some history about a “doctor” of massage in western Europe who was tapped to be the therapist for Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi SS, the elite and brutal militia that perpetrated many atrocities against Jews and others on the hit list in the Nazi era.

Felix Kersten was a gifted therapist popular with the European elite who was “asked” to be Himmler’s personal masseur. He took the job, perhaps because it was an offer he could not refuse, and used his relationship with Himmler to spare some of the intended victims of the Third Reich.

The breadth of his exact contribution to saving lives is debatable. He got his client, who suffered from severe gastric problems relieved by massage, to sign documents sparing people from death. He also claimed to have softened the SS’s plans to kill subjugated civilians in Denmark and Finland.

Others disputed his claims to saving civilian populations, but his ability to entice Himmler spare some individuals is not in doubt.

If you would like to read more about Kersten and his times, I suggest:

The Kersten Memoirs, by Felix Kersten.

The Man with the Miraculous Hands, by Joseph Kessel.

Massages’Greatest Humanitarian, excerpt in Massage Magazine by Robert Noah Calvert, from The History of Massage.

The Devil’s Doctor, by John H. Waller.


Reward: Used Maroon Astra-Lite Table with Wheeled Black Carry Case….

Other than a rare bad check, my massage practice and business has never been ripped off – until last month. Armed with a pizza, the dog, my phone and laundry, I neglected to make sure all the doors were securely closed on my car that Sunday night.
Monday, after doing about 10 errands, I noticed things looked different in my car. The console was light on pennies, dimes and nickels; the papers usually on the glove box shelf were on the floor.  Where is my gum?

I stopped at the next errand and looked in the trunk. My massage table was gone. Along with a nice big bag of clean laundry (they left the bag of dirty sheets) and my coffee can full of pens, cheater glasses and odd bits.

“Aren’t you mad somebody ripped you off?” a friend said. “Don’t you feel violated?”
Well, actually I didn’t feel that way. I thought about putting a $100 bill in the middle of a bear trap in the driveway, but it seemed like it might create too much paperwork. I don’t look good in an orange jumpsuit. Who does?
Revenge takes too much effort. A cracked-open door with a wrapped birthday present on the front seat loaded with exploding skunk stink packs would be too elaborate. Plus, burglars and thieves injured on or by other folks property can sue their homeowner’s insurance and often win. Plus-plus, I can’t wrap presents very well.

Back to the $100 bill fantasy, this time coated with herpes simplex virus, itching powder and dog floop.

Things happen, especially when you don’t make sure to lock the car. I was thinking about a new table anyway.

Meanwhile, if someone tries to sell you a used maroon Astra-lite with wheeled black case….