Massage in the Time of Covid-19 cont’d


I have made the decision to close the Stairway Healing Arts studio until further notice.

While this is clearly the right thing to do, it breaks my heart. With stress levels ratcheting up daily, I want to be of continued support to all of you.

With that in mind, please know that I am continuing to offer Distance Energy Healing sessions. As you know, in addition to being a NYS licensed Massage Therapist I am also a Reiki Master and Therapeutic Touch practitioner. A Distance Energy Healing session is a beautiful and effective way to receive the support and healing you love about massage while honoring the current necessity of social distancing. You might think of it as the Massage Therapist’s form of on-line therapy. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to switch your next massage or energy healing session to a distance session, please contact me. You can also read more about it on my website under “Distance Energy Healing.”  

I’m sending love to each of you. I can’t wait to be back in the studio together. Please take good care of yourselves. 


What Holds Us Back

via Pinterest

via Pinterest

Fear.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately and discussing it with clients and friends.  When is fear healthy?  When is it helpful?  And what about the rest of the time?  What I’ve come up with is that on its own fear is neither helpful nor particularly healthy.   Now, when fear is triggered by DANGER, that’s different.  It can save my life.  And yours too.  And that is indeed pretty darn healthy.  But on its own, fear just holds me back.  Because fear is in my head.  It resides inside of me and it isn’t real. It can’t actually cause me a speck of harm.   Danger, on the other hand, resides outside of me.  It does pose a threat to me.  It can cause me harm.  Danger is real.

So take my hike into rattle snake country the other day.  Several friends asked me why I went if I was so scared.   They know I’m really, really afraid of snakes.  Even those that are very small and non-poisonous.  Now, I’ve never had a dangerous encounter with a snake.  Nor have I personally known anyone who has. This fear lies completely in my head.  Of course in the case of the rattle snakes there was actually some real danger.  That’s why I called Ranger Mike.  I got the facts.  Had he told me that the Timber Rattlers of the Adirondacks were vicious and aggressive and had he listed the number of bites and related fatalities this season alone, I would have stayed right at home that day.  But the truth of the situation was that even though fairly large, poisonous snakes resided in the region I was headed into, they didn’t pose much of a threat to me at all.  According to my trusted and expert source, the situation rated pretty low on the danger scale.

My fears were big.  But the danger risk was small.  Very small.  So, with the facts in hand, I had a choice.  A few, in fact. I could have just listened to my scared-of-snakes self and stayed home.  Or, I could have gone on the hike and carried my fears with me, jumping at every winding root along the trail, keeping off the summit stones and not enjoying the expansive views.  To me, these choices weren’t very healthy because they would both be based on my irrational and oppressive fears.  But I had another option.  I could cradle my fears in the knowledge of the actual dangers.   I could let the facts dwarf the fears; compartmentalize them.  To me, that was the healthiest thing to do.  Certainly the most fun of the options.  With the knowledge of the dangers in hand, I chose expansive views, good conversation, fresh air, exercise, and Belgian chocolate over the slithering fears  in my head.

Trekking Past Fear

View from Fifth Peak, Tongue Range, Adirondack State Park

View from Fifth Peak, Tongue Range, Adirondack State Park

We giggled each time we referred to “the Summit” on our hike yesterday.  “It sounds like we’re hiking Everest when you say that,” my friend would chide me.  But what else do you call the top?  The end of the trail.  The mountain’s highest point where you enjoy the view.  The place you’ve been striving to reach.  Granted, our six mile trek didn’t stretch our physical boundaries.  There were no death-defying crevasses to traverse.  There were no potential avalanches, or rock falls. There were no Yeti.  None of the hazards of a Himalayan adventure.  (Nor were there Sherpas hefting our sandwiches, chocolate, and water.)

However, the area of our hike IS known for its Timber Rattlers.  And I am really scared of snakes.  They don’t just make me uncomfortable.  Their liquid-muscle movement shoots lightening fear through me every time.  I’m not proud to admit this, and I’ve worked on this fear for many years.  But it still lingers.  So when I learned that we were venturing into snake country on our hike, and large poisonous snake country at that, I considered reconsidering the hike.  “Damn,”  I thought.  So I picked-up the phone and I called my Forest Ranger neighbor to get his input.  He assured me that there are indeed plenty of Timber Rattlers in the Tongue Range and that it was likely I’d see one.  Particularly on the rocky summit where they’d be out warming themselves on this cool October day.  “Great,” I thought, “set my sandwich down right on the table of its coils.”   I began to reconsider the hike more seriously. But then he also assured me that these snakes are far from aggressive.  That I’d really have to provoke one for it to do me any harm.  He’d never heard of any snake bites in that area.  Then we discussed snakebite procedure.  

“The most important thing,” he said, “is to get to the hospital.  Whether you’re carried out or air-lifted.  Hike out if you have to.  Now, this will hurt like hell, but you’d have to do it.  The important thing is to get to the hospital.”  I breathed deeply, listening to his sage advice.  Trying to stay calm as I imagined myself in the situation:  Walking off the mountain, trailing three feet of rattler, its fangs imbedded in my blackening calf.  I began to giggle.  I suppose it would let go, right?

“But really, Mandy, consider yourself lucky if you see one.  Seriously.”  

Okay, I can’t ever imagine myself feeling lucky watching a three feet long, thick-as-your-wrist, poisonous snake slithering across my picnic spot.  But none the less, I felt comforted and reassured by his words.  I had the information I needed to go forth with our little trek and not feel scared.  I wasn’t going to be looking for Mr. Snake with every step.  I wasn’t going to be walking in fear, thinking every branch, twig, and root was going to begin slithering and rattling.   I knew what to look for, and where to be a little more aware or cautious.  I had a sense of what to do if I saw one.  So no, we  were in no way about to summit Everest.  But I was going to potentialy face one of my own little deamons on our outing.  That’s adventure enough for me.  

We had plenty of good conversation on our journey.  We breathed in the October crisp air.  At the summit, we drank in the vast, mountainous views.  We marveled at the shadows of clouds on the pewter-like skin of Lake George, far below.  We stretched out on the warm rocks and savored Belgian chocolate.  

If there were any snakes out that day, they kept themselves hidden.  Or I was just too oblivious enjoying myself.  Either way, I’m happy not to have encountered any.  And so, I would imagine, are they.  It was a glorious day.

The Unbearable Severing




I was meditating this morning and a favorite scene from a movie slipped into my mind.  The movie is “How to Make an American Quit,” from 1995.  In this particular scene, Ellen Burstyn’s character is relating a tale of love, betrayal, family, and friendship to her twenty-something granddaughter, played by Winona Ryder.  She begins by saying, “When the person you love begins to die, there’s this unbearable……….severing.”  I heard her words in my head.  And the tears began to run down my cheeks, drip off my chin, trickle under my shirt.  You see, it seems I’m experiencing an unbearable severing of my own.  Not the death of a loved one.  But the growing-up and moving-on of my beloveds.

It’s always just been the three of us.   And we’ve always loved it that way.  I’ve experienced and acknowledged the passing of phases, always with a degree of longing, sometimes sadness, but also always welcoming what was developing.  Happy about what was next.  My eighteen-month old draped over my pregnant belly.  The two-year-old rocking the baby’s cradle.  Two small bodies curled in my lap, their curly heads tucked beneath my chin.  The days of painting, drawing, making candles and play dough.  Elbows deep in flour, baking chocolate chip cookies.  Long walks on fall days, chasing milk weed seeds and gathering wooly bears.  Dancing with their long evening shadows and jumping in leaves.  Crawling into my bed for apples and cheese, warm milk with honey, and bed time stories on cold winter nights.  Singing in the car.  Dancing in the dining room.  Painting bedrooms.  Dinner discussions lasting long after the food was eaten.  Soccer games. Friendship struggles. Hair styles and skinny jeans.  Jersey swaps.  Social Studies grades.  Homecoming.  Boyfriends.  Prom.   Friends.

My girls and I are really close.  I think that comes from my not having had a partner in raising them.  In many ways they’ve nurtured me over the years at least as much as I have them.  We’ve been a tight trio.  A force to be reckoned with.  A solid front.  A family.  But this phase is different.  The most challenging for me yet.  Because this is the phase where they become more independent.  Where they draw away.  Where they develop their own lives.  Their own lives away from me.  Independent from me.  And that’s exactly what they should be doing.  It’s healthy.  It’s right.  Not to mention it’s completely necessary, or so I’m told anyway.  But, now more than ever, I want to stop the planet from turning.  I want to stope the clocks.  In fact, I want to turn the clocks back.  I want that 18-month old climbing into my lap with a book.  I want that girl falling asleep on my pillow.  I want that running leap into my arms.  I want the small hands peeling apples next to me.  And the voices asking me questions, and telling me their stories, and needing help with her zipper.  I want the sleep-overs and pancake breakfasts the next morning.  I even want the screaming two-year-old  kicking in a football hold walking through the mall to the car.

I was going to give this post the title “Sweet, Healthy Pain.”  But right now, there’s nothing sweet for me about it.  It just hurts. It feels like a severing.  An unbearable one.  And I know this will pass too.  I know I’ll adjust and simply be happy for all they’re doing.  Because they’re doing everything SO darn well.  They’re such great young women.  But really, that’s what makes this harder.  I miss them.  No, it’s not over yet.  They still have a couple years left of school.  But it’s like that slow tearing-off of the bandage.  They’re not my babies any more.  Not my little girls, either.  And I know this next phase and all that follow will bring multitudes of joys.  I know that with all my being.  But for now I’m just going to feel sad, for a little while at least, and long for what once was.  Maybe even feel a little melodramatic about it.  That’s what they’d tell me, anyway.  That I’m being melodramatic.  Pretty soon I’ll be glad for all this.  My life will take a turn as well.  It’s time for me to do more of my own things.  I don’t know exactly what those “things” are.  But I will.  But for now, I’m just going to feel a little sad, and long for what once was and no longer is.



When Life Fills Up via pinterest
via pinterest  US Space Station in front of the moon


Yesterday, I posted a photo from my morning hike.  Deb posted the response, “Thankfully it energized you so that you could return circulation to the right side of my body!  THANK YOU!”   Thank YOU, Deb.  That comment totally made my day.  It reminded me how the little things we do for ourselves really do make a difference.

You see, I’ve been really busy lately.  As a friend put it, I’ve “had my hands full.”  Which is terrific if you’re a massage therapist. It means you’re helping a lot of people, which is why you do what you do.  A full schedule also means you’re  paying your bills and your taxes and that you can join that CSA and that you’re actually going to be able to send your daughter to Costa Rica in the spring.  But a full schedule also means long days.  And that frequently means making sacrifices elsewhere.  Like not making it to your daughters’ soccer games.  And eating ramen noodles or cereal for dinner.   Like not discovering the vacuum had died until the dog hair and dust bunnies were thick in the corners.  Like being a little tired and preoccupied when your daughters are talking about an incident in biology and not really hearing them.

Thank goodness for small pleasures and blessings.  Morning walks in the woods.  Cooking potato latkes for breakfast with Delaney on her day off.  Watching the Space Station cross the night sky with friends.  Breakfast sandwiches at the river with a neighbor.  The smile on a client’s face when the pain is gone. Game night.  Pinterest.  Consumer Reports arriving in the mail with “Vacuums” as their headline.  Clear blue skies.  $.10 off on a gallon of gas.  FaceTime.  A cup of hot tea.  My meditation cushion.  Not needing to light the wood furnace even though it’s mid-October. These are the things that re-charge me, that fill me up, that nourish me.  Some I seek out.  Some are gifts.  This is the good stuff that keeps me going so that I can do the good stuff I need to do.  What fills you up in hectic times?  What keeps you going?

What Stands Us Up

via Pinterest

via Pinterest

So on yesterday’s Anatomy Quiz I asked you to tell me how many bones are in your spine. Perhaps more importantly, I asked you to take  some time through out your day to notice your spine:  how it moves, how it feels, any discomfort, what it looks like…  I’d really like to hear your observations.  Seriously.  Please.

So the question was a bit of a tricky one, mainly because I didn’t specify an age.  A-ha!

Are you intrigued even the slightest now?  Well, in case you actually are, I’m going to tell you that when you were born you had 32-34 vertebrae (bones) in your spine.  As an adult you have 26.  Does that sound odd?  I imagine so.  Let me back up a bit.  We were all born with 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae.  You may have heard of them referred to as C1-7.  You have 12 thoracic (chest) vertebrae:  T1-12, and 5 lumbar (lower back) vertebrae: L1-5.  These numbers are set.  The 7 cervicals connect your torso to your cranium, the 12 thoracics each articulate with a rib (or at least the cartilage  which attaches to a rib) and literally form the backbone of the structure that houses and protects your heart and lungs, and the 5 sturdy lumbar vertebrae form the foundational base of your spine.  All those vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, curving their way up the back of your torso, with a nice disc between each one for cushioning.  Your spinal cord runs from your amazing brain and down through the center of this curvy stack of strength, and your peripheral nervous system passes through these bones and feed their way to every aspect of your body, making everything you do in life possible.

But I haven’t mentioned all the vertebrae yet.  Here are the tricky two.  I mean 10.  I mean

8…  Your sacrum and your coccyx.  When you were born, your sacrum consisted of 5 bones.   Your sacrum is that inverted triangle that articulates with your lowest lumbar vertebra (L5) and your pelvis.  You may have heard of your sacroiliac joint?  Bingo.  That’s the place where your sacrum and ilium (the upper portion of your pelvis) meet.  Sometime between age 7 and puberty these 5 lumbar vertebrae fused into one.  Same thing happened with your coccyx, also frequently referred to as your “tail bone”.  This skinny little guy started out as 3, 4, or 5 separate bones.  The number differs from person to person, though 5 is the most common number.  Like the coccyx, it fused into one as your body matured.

So as an adult, you have a curvy stack of 26 bones forming your spine.  Because of the way it’s positioned with your pelvis and your cranium, it’s what keeps you upright.  Well, that and a great number of muscles all working together.  Taking care of your spine and your back is crucial to your healthy longevity.  So please, drink plenty of water.  Why?  Because your spinal discs (those cushions between each vertebra) actually absorb water each night while you rest, and that’s really important.  Good sleep and rest each night is also important, of course.  So is getting healthy nutrients from the food you eat.  Try counting nutrients, not calories and fat in the food you eat.  Stretching is also vitally healthy for your spine.  Stretching eases and prevents tension in the musculature that supports your spine.  Range of motion is key in your spine and in all the joints of your body.  So go ahead and sign up for that yoga class.  And GO to it too.  Please.  Chiropractic care and acupuncture are healthy interventions to keep your body and your back strong and healthy.  And of course my personal favorite, (drum roll please) Massage Therapy. It’s not a luxury, it’s good health care.

Your spine is a wonderful apparatus.  At least I think so.  Maybe you know a little more about it now.  Please, take good care of it.

Anatomy Quiz #2



Good Morning!  Thought we’d start the week with another Anatomy Quiz.  So here goes:

  • How many bones are in your spine?
  • Bonus:  Can you name the different regions of the spine and corresponding vertebra?  (Yes, Deb, I’m talking to you.)

If you haven’t a clue, that’s fine.  But why not just tune-in to your back today.  Notice how it moves.  Notice your back’s mobility and fluidity, or lack-there-of.  Do you have any tension or discomfort anywhere along your spine?  Where exactly?  What does it feel like?  Look at your spine in the mirror (using the double mirror thing to see behind you) or look at your partner’s spine.  What do you observe?  I’m not asking you to be critical. I just want you to get some sense of this wondrous part of your body.  I encourage you to investigate and experience your spine today.  Have fun!

Altered, cont’d

via Pinterest

via Pinterest


I’ve been noticing how I have been altered since John’s phone call the other morning.  My feelings of anxiety and apprehension around him have turned to compassion, concern, and support.  We live far removed from each other.  800 miles and many years separate us.  I’ve only met his family once, perhaps twice, and then only briefly.  Our lives have carried on without each other.  And yet, of course, with the news of the death of my former husband’s stepson, the estrangement falls away.  Rightly so.  I want to help.  I can’t begin to imagine what he and his family are experiencing with this tragedy.  They’re living the unthinkable;  the unimaginable.  Every parent’s worst nightmare.  This is their reality now.  And I want to send them support, love, comfort.  Small tokens.  Small, yet I believe that compounded with the hundreds of ways they’re being loved and supported by their family and friends at home it all adds up to something that will help to carry them through this time.  At least that is my wish for them.

Calling hours are this evening from 5-8pm.  We won’t be traveling to West Virginia for the services.  But tonight at 5pm Marleigh, Delaney, and I will be lighting two candles:  one for Ethan, who lost his life on the evening of September 30th, and another for those who love and were loved by him.  We will burn the candles for the duration of tonight’s service.  I invite you to join us in lighting a candle tonight.  In support of John and Susan and their family if you like, or in support of anyone else who is suffering and in great pain.  Please share your stories if you like.  I’m always grateful to hear them, because we’re all in this together, aren’t we.  And when it comes down to it, it’s the love and support we share that  help each other through it all.