Time to Move On!

I’m going to keep this brief.

No, really. 400 words or less.

Five years ago I started this blog as a way to answer questions, mostly business and marketing questions asked by my local friends and colleagues.

I was immersed in volunteer activities with my state AMTA chapter and trying to make and keep my massage practice successful. (I know now that I was building a foundation of something, anything, to keep me anchored during my post-divorce loneliness and gypsy-phase of moving every 6 to 9 months. It worked.)

And this turned out pretty awesome. Thank you for that. THANK YOU.

We’ve got a great little community, I’ve made a ton of friends, and I know many of you connected with each other through this site, the Facebook page and across the internet in all kinds of ways. Yay!

But it’s time to move on. I haven’t blogged regularly here in ages and it’s something I alternately forget about, then beat myself up for. That’s energy best spent elsewhere. In a few weeks, I’m closing up the Writing a Blue Streak website.

Last month I moved the Free Marketing Content over to the new website, Massage Business Blueprint. (There will be some BIG stuff happening there in a few months. BIG. If you’re not already on that list, you can sign up here.)

The Facebook page will be around and active indefinitely, so you can find me there, too.

I’ll also get back to my regular blog posts over at The Young Thumbs.

(And I’ve got some amazing stuff happening at my massage practice, too, but I’m not ready to talk about that yet. I’m sure it’ll come up at the Blueprint.)

I know many of you are teachers and use some of the Blue Streak posts in your curriculum. If you ever need some info or the text from an old post, just email me and I’ll get you what you need. There’s a good chance you’ll see some of my more useful posts buffed up and re-purposed over at Massage Business Blueprint.

I am SO ready for the next phase. I am SO grateful to you for getting us there. Thank you.

road to nowhere

Well, hello 39.

birthdayIt’s my birthday. I had a pretty fantastic day. Michael called first thing (while I was eating my cinnamon bun pancakes. Yeah, that’s a thing.)

I read a whole book. Fiction, even. I played with great kids, I got to be mellow and chill with their mom.

Now I’ve got cupcakes and wine and the music of a 12th century nun rocking the house.

I did some really cool stuff in my 39th year. I’m totally cool with being a little self-indulgence (hey, it’s my blog, also I’m totally revamping this thing soon so you’ll be getting Extreme Marketing junk soon enough) so I thought back and whipped up my list of Stuff That Mattered to Me This Year.

I revisited the Birthday post of 2011. I marked off a few things that I’ve accomplished.  There are still plenty of adventures I haven’t enjoyed yet. I’m cool with that.

I started a thing. It’s gonna be a big thing.

In what I still think of as the best 2nd date ever, I saw rodrigo y gabriela in hot & sweaty House of Blues with a hot & sweaty super cute guy. He didn’t last, my affection for the duo did. (Seriously. I want to play uke the way she pays guitar.)

I got my heart bruised up good and hard. Thrice.

I ran away to find comfort with a friend, and some alpacas, and Hildegard of Bingen.

Then I let it go.

And I kept trying.

I fell back in love with my massage practice. Then I noticed my skills are stale. Whoops. That is being remedied.

I bit my tongue a few too many times. Then I didn’t. And it was good.

My office got Vader-ed.

I made fancy drinks for my bestie.

I saw a old college friend, now a new(ish) MT sing and tell stories and talk shop on stage.

When I was in a craptastic, humiliating, vulnerable position I said “I can’t get cold cocked again. I am entirely out of resilience.” And I meant it. I got the mercy I needed. I don’t miss my pride.

I got cozier with myself. 30 minutes before a first date I couldn’t find the concealer. The blemish was just going to be there. And it didn’t matter.

I gave some massage to my nieces and nephews. I don’t think they know how much that means to me.

I showed up for some people. I stopped showing up for others. All good decisions.

I got used to saying, “I have depression”.  Although I did catch myself averting my eyes a bit when I told someone new recently. Probably gotta work on that a bit still.

So all in all, it was a decent year. Reading the list over, I worry that I’ve harped on the negative. The reality is, it was a HARD year. I spent a lot of time under my metaphorical bed hiding. But I learned stuff under there.

I’m coming for ya, 40. You best be ready.

Why I’m Leaving the AMTA

broken heart chalkboard guyAfter 9 years of membership and volunteering, I’m leaving the AMTA. It’s been a long time coming and there are many, many reasons for this decision. I won’t bore you with the full list, but recent changes and my upcoming renewal deadline have prompted this decision. Many of you are members, many of you are volunteers in state and national leadership positions. I think we’re all getting hoodwinked, and I think you should know about it.

But let’s lay down some history. I joined as a student, because a few teachers were members and they suggested it. I went to my first conference in 2007 and immediately became a volunteer.

I love the state chapters. I love them. I love the people I’ve met and the volunteer work I’ve done. I love that my chapter has a host of benefits well beyond what national AMTA offers. Along with a lobbyist to help us fend off attacks from crappy legislation and other professions looking to limit our scope of practice, we’ve got a health insurance broker, financial planner, lawyer for work-related consults, and top notch continuing education for $50 a day.

As I became less enchanted with the policies and attitude from National, I’ve stayed a member because I love the local network and my chapter, (and all the New England chapters, really) is pretty great.

But AMTA has made some changes recently, and they matter. You can read the details about those changes here and some interesting discussion on Laura’s facebook posting here.

In a nutshell, they are eliminating the mandatory chapter fee a member pays as part of the membership dues and chapter budgets are taking the hit. 

In a series of conference call presentations, chapter leaders were told that changes were being made in order to be competitive in pricing with other organizations. Membership numbers have been decreasing and this is a concern.

Also, leaders were told that the varying chapter fees (each chapter determines its own fee and the membership votes on it regularly) were confusing to members and potential new members.

Further, some chapters do not spend all of their budgeted money every year, leading to a surplus of funds not being used, and instead being saved. This is an issue when trying to maintain a IRC 501(c)(6) status like the AMTA holds.

For those reasons, the mandatory chapter fee previously added to the $235 membership dues is being removed, and new and renewing members are being offered the opportunity to make a voluntary ‘donation’ to their state chapter (or any other state chapter) above and beyond that dues. ( added 1/27 9:30am: chapters will still receive a portion of dues, I believe about $32/member.)

So let’s be clear: after these changes are instituted, the amount of money that national receives from dues has not changed. Chapters are absorbing the loss.

Chapters will lose a huge chunk of their operating budgets. My chapter will lose about $90,000 a year. That money has been providing direct services to members. Services that we use. Daily.

I am not okay with this. Taking money away from state chapters is a crappy way to fix the problem of falling membership numbers. The chapters are the power behind the AMTA. The state chapter network is what differentiates the AMTA from other organizations and what makes a therapist pay more money for a membership when they could pay much less for just liability insurance elsewhere.

The best way to stay competitive with other organizations and insurance providers is not to drop the fee, it is to provide a better product. We all learn this in basic business skills: Don’t compete on price.

If varying chapter fees are a problem, the solution is not to eliminate the fee and punish the chapters. The appropriate solution would be to standardize the chapter fees.

If the amount of money in chapter reserves is problematic, AMTA could simply instruct their chapters to limit the amount of money in reserves to a three to six month operating budget and require that anything left not earmarked for a specific initiative such as licensing, etc., be donated to their favorite massage research organization, or to a smaller chapter, or returned to national AMTA, even. Instead, they are choosing to penalize all the chapters, not just those who are under-spending.

Nonetheless, this craptastic decision was made in executive session of the National Board of Directors last year and announced to chapter leaders this fall. ‘Executive session’ means the meeting is closed. No one outside the room is supposed to find out who introduced the idea, who said what, and how board members voted. And once the vote is taken, all board members must speak only the party line, and not express any dissenting opinion. (Which is a whole other issue. How am I supposed to decide who to vote for if I can never know what an incumbent candidate for national office actually thinks about any particular issue? Coupled with the ‘no campaigning’ policy, there is no way to place a truly educated voted. That’s just batshit.)

If AMTA staff was doing a stellar job of running the National office, making hardcore efforts to creating fantastic, useful training materials and real support for chapter leaders, making a genuine, educated effort to truly connect with massage therapists hustling at work every day, or representing us well in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, I could probably get on board. But they are doing none of those things.

AMTA is failing us. The National Staff is failing us. This Board of Directors failed us. Together they are failing the members, the volunteers, and the profession.

I decided that I cannot in good conscience be a professional member of the AMTA any longer. But I wasn’t ready to break up entirely. My plan was to get my liability insurance elsewhere, stay a supporting member of the AMTA ($95/year) and donate some money to my state chapter, hoping they still let me hang out at an occasional meeting. I was hoping that over the next year, AMTA would pull their crap together, and maybe I would want to go back. Sadly, that ain’t happening.

My membership is up for renewal at the end of this month. I called last week to change it to a supporting membership, and I was told that is not allowed. The supporting membership is only for retired or inactive massage therapists, or non-massage therapists. I cannot be a practicing massage therapist and be a supporting member of the AMTA. [Sidebar, I have unofficially been told that this is because the general public could be confused and think that I’ve got full membership and insurance when I don’t, and that could harm the reputation and credibility of professional members. That’s utter crap. Take my money, tell me I cannot display the logo on any promotional material or imply in any way that I am a Professional Member and call it a day. They already have rules and protocol for the display of the logo. This is neither complex nor earth-shattering. You can see the rules here, or checkout the screenshot here,  since you can’t see the rules without logging in to the site.]

So AMTA is now behaving like a petulant child. It’s all or nothing. They are shunning potential supporters (and their money) who choose to get their liability insurance elsewhere. Newsflash to the national staff and BoD: You are not an insurance company. You are a membership organization.

And on February 1, AMTA will have one less member. One less motivated member. One less volunteer. One less experienced, well-educated, well-spoken member who is respected in her own community as a massage practitioner. One less mentor and advocate and teacher.

You’ve got one less member. And I bet in the next year as renewal forms go out all over the country, AMTA will find there are many, many members right behind me.

Rules for comments: If I’m wrong, tell me why and how. If you identify with my experience, feel free to share. However, comments that involve a “one organization vs the other organization” attitude will be removed. You all know what I’m talking about here and I will moderate with reckless abandon to keep this conversation focussed. 

In which I took a class with Bob King.

bob king

I just learned that Bob King passed away. No doubt there will be many stories more prolific than mine, from people who knew him better. But here’s mine anyway.

When I was a very, very new therapist in my first year of practice I took a continuing education class, something about stretching, with Bob King. At the time I didn’t know who the guy was, except that Greg spoke well of him. I just knew that my stretching skills were lousy and I need some more learning.

The first half of the day did not go well. I had partnered with an old classmate from massage school. I quickly discovered she wasn’t really concerned with helping me learn the techniques, she just wanted to get worked on. So she wasn’t paying attention to the instructions as I worked on her and Bob guided us through the steps. Her feedback was nil, I was struggling with the techniques, and it seemed that the teaching assistants were everywhere but near my table. By the time Bob got to the third stretch I was in tears, with my partner’s head in my hands, still trying to figure out the second stretch, some occipital thing. An assistant finally came by, and I choked out, “I need help, I’m not getting the last one, and now I’m missing the next stretch.” Unfortunately, her response was, “Breathe. Just relax.”

Which, as we all know, is the least effective thing to say to a person with social anxiety issues who is frustrated, upset, and trying to hold their shit together in a crowded classroom. I don’t know what I replied, but she moved on to the next table, and I kept it together enough to fake it through the next hour. Just before lunch break, Bob walked by my table and saw that I was still fighting tears, my face having reached that subtle blotchy state, cemented into that solid look that happens just as you’re blocking everything out and going numb. I don’t remember what he said exactly, something like, “Stick around for a minute when break starts.”

So I did. And when the classroom emptied he asked me which move I was having trouble with. He got me on the table, put my head in his hands, his fingertips at the occiput, and BOOM. In a heartbeat, my neck did the thing it was supposed to do. He actually laughed and said, “You gave that right up, didn’t you? I thought you would be a tough one.” Right there. In a moment. My approach to learning changed. I understood the stretch because he showed it to me. My approach to trust changed, when I realized I could actually trust someone unconsciously, because my gut knew he was trustable, and let it go. He put my head in his hands and he changed me. As a practitioner and a person.

The rest of the day was much easier for me. I learned the stuff I was there to learn. I regretted not signing up for his other class the next day. I remember talking and joking a bit with Bob and Greg in the lobby of the school on my way out. Bob turned to Greg and said, “That one, she’s spunky.”

He really saw me. He saw me flail. He saw me recover. He saw more in me than I did at the time. And for that I am truly grateful. He stopped traveling and teaching soon after that, and except for a few emails we never interacted again.

May we all have such a moment, even just one, with a great teacher in our massage world.

Our People

Lovingly subtitled: I’m going soft.

Today started with such excitement for the Boston Marathon and the Massage Therapy Foundation Running for Research team. I got the text updates on our runners and posted all over, and it was crazy fun.

Until it wasn’t, when explosions occurred at the finish line. And I realized we had people there. Our People. I feel fortunate that I was able to quickly reach Ryan and Mary, and a few other friends. Within an hour we knew that all our runners and their families were okay, too. (I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing for the full 30 seconds between remembering that Greg was onsite and getting his reply to my text.) The love and concern for Our People throughout all our networks online was huge and heartwarming.

And in the texts and emails and posts that followed the explosion, we confirmed the safety of Our People. The ones running to fund our research, community service projects and education. The ones volunteering to work on thousands of runners. The leaders, like my friend Mary, who make wonderful things happen for massage therapists everywhere. Our People, saving the world, saving ourselves one little massage at a time.

One massage at a time we give people relief. From pain. Grief. Trauma. Insomnia. Anxiety. Noise. Or from the deafening and scary quiet in one’s psyche. We give touch and time, and our communities need us in increasing amounts. After tragedies like this one where nothing makes any sense. During times of bad (and even good) stress. We keep people, both bodies and minds, maintained and running smooth, or at the very least, give a brief period of peace.

I can’t pinpoint the moment I started to understand the power of our work. I don’t know exactly when I realized that our community was extraordinary and somehow different from many other vocations. I don’t know when I fell in love with you, but I did.

Go save the world, my friends. They need us. That probably means you just keep doing what you always do, giving touch and time. You’re all amazing to me, just for doing that. Thanks for being incredible role models to me, and letting me be one of Our People.

Special thanks to Melissa Finley of Anatomy in Motion for making this graphic and sharing it so generously.

Small client. Big honor

I’m too tired to be writing, but I’m scared if I don’t get the words down, I’ll forget what happened today. Which is absurd because I don’t think I could actually forget.

My friend Angela has a 6 year old son, B. A few years ago he was diagnosed as being ‘on the spectrum’. This wasn’t a huge surprise to Angela, who had already figured that out. (It wasn’t a surprise to the kid’s older brother, J, who happens to have Asperger’s.) I’ve been working with J for 7-ish years now, and we’ve had some great results. So when B came along, and especially when he got a diagnosis (such as it is) we started suggesting to B that he get a little massage time, too.

He was not impressed. For a while he would avoid me when I was at the house, or just completely ignore me. “Hey, B, do you want to try massage today?” was always answered with, “No.”  I would say, “Okay, maybe next time.” On his funnier days he would reply, “Probably not.”  B has watched his brother get massage, and last time he came to the office, he got on my table to feel it out.

Today he came in with the family and he walked right to my room, took his shoes off and started climbing on the table. (Angela, I almost forgot to tell you that J helped him up on the table. It was awesome.) He laid on his belly and let me rub his back. I tried light pressure and firmer pressure and asked him which he preferred. He answered, clearly. He let me rub his head, and he told me when he was done with the massage. He hopped off the table, gave me a high five when I asked for it, and left the room (it was super cute when he came back in for his shoes).

With my friends Angela & Laurie, after the Autism Speaks half marathon.

Later, after his brother and sister had their massages, when he left the office he said, “Goodbye, Allissa.” And he said it twice, thinking I didn’t hear the first time. And I swear he looked at me when he said it.

There’s so much more I could say about this. But I would ramble. And get weepy. But you understand, I know you get it. I know you’ve had these moments in your own work. I know these moments light you up, too.

Here’s to us, and the people (especially the small ones) who let us do this work.