the original kStyle blog.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bye for Now

We take off for a holiday East Coast roadtrip tomorrow: Hartford for Christmas, DC for New Year's, Philly and NYC on the way back.

Happy Merry Jolly Yule to all! And a prosperous New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

My First Paid Singing Gig

At the office Christmas party (which really was quite nice), after speeches and eating and pass-the-present, the Emcee/HR director announced we would be doing something different this year. She offered cash to the first 10 people who got up to sing a verse of seasonal song in front of everyone. Naturally, I was first up to the podium. It was my first paid singing gig, $50 for a bit of "White Christmas." I was grateful for my high school musical theater days. Only 5 people sang for their suppers! Fifty smackers each, people! I wondered briefly if they would shell out if I got up again and did a few bars of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", but I decided to stop while I was ahead.

I have a musical theater voice: alto, not always totally precise with the notes, but I can sing with character and decent tone and phrasing. I am often forgiven a little liberty with hitting the "center" of the notes because of my other vocal virtues and a dash of stage presence. I have virtually no range because I'm out of practice, of course. Of the other brave/shameless chanteuses, two had clear, precise choral voices and did admirably with choral favorites: O Holy Night and Silent Night. (I asked later, and yes, they both had been in choruses at one time or another. I admired the range of the fellow who sang "O Holy Night". That song is waaay out of my league.) A third could not carry a tune in a basket, but did a game job of "Rudolph". The fourth got up to help save "Rudoph", making it a duet.

After the party, I went straight to an antiques shop and bought a beautiful paperweight for $48--$50.40 with tax, perfect. It's colorful and imperfect, but it makes up for its small chip with lots of character. Appropriate to win with my singing.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pah rum pah pah pum

That little drummer boy has it out for me. That song--it stays in my head, endless loops of pah-rum-ing, pah-rum-ing, pah-rum-ing, through day, night, sleep, meetings, eating, talking, piercing even through other music playing. Each breath, each heartbeat echoes with a PAH-RUM. I have no respite, no refuge.

After days of torture, by some miracle or whim the capricious demon drummer boy will leave me be, and the quiet falls like gentle snow, blanketing my wounded psyche...Then--WHAM!--The Song That Shall Not Be Named is playing on the radio, in the grocery store, on TV.

He leaves only to torture me more.


The Holy Family was truly holy not to beat the drummer boy with his own drumstick.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Work work work

With a big nod to the interesting discussions over at Narya's.

I'm in the odd position of having three jobs. Well, that's not the odd part, really. The odd part is that I am in an entirely different position at the three jobs, in terms of structure, and doing very different work, and receiving very different pay.

1. Day Job: I am a salaried employee with great benefits, including 401K with employer matching, health insurance, and paid time off. But I feel stapled to my desk and trapped.

2. My Business: L'Etat c'est moi. I do what I like exactly how I like. I do all the marketing, the business planning--and I get excited about that part (sometimes more excited than about the actual shiatsu). Am I making a dime? No. Do I have to do X hours of unpaid work to bring in one hour of paid work? Yes. And then, the money that comes in goes back out to rent and liability. But I have fun. And someday I will profit. (I did double my revenue since last year, and increased spending by only about a third, so we're closer...)

3. The Spa: I walked into the spa yesterday, my first day, and had three clients. One booked in advance; two were basically walk-ins. A fourth wanted an appointment when I was working on someone else, and didn't return.

3a. Spa v Day Job: For three hours of actual work at the spa I made what I make in one whole day at Day Job. But--1. I was there all day even when not working, in case someone else came in, and no pay for those hours. 2. No benefits, no paid time off.

The other gals--the aestheticians--had fewer clients than I, maybe one client each. But they also answered the phones, made appointments, sold gift certificates, and so forth. I think that they receive an hourly wage in addition to whatever they make working on clients. And yet, I may well have netted more money than they did, I don't know. I got to rest between clients, they got hourly pay. Which is better? I think that soon I won't have downtime between clients. Tiring, but more pay.

3b. Spa v My Business: At the spa, I walk in, see the clients they've booked for me, under the auspices of their marketing, and leave at the end of the day anticipating a paycheck. The spa takes 50% of what the client pays, but charges the clients 30-50% more than I do. (Clients are paying for the "spa experience", which requires much more infrastructure and many more niceties than my practice, and I am A-OK with this. If clients want the spa experience, with all the robes, fountains, aromatherapy, soft music, etc., that entails, they should pay more. If they want an artsy, fun environment, and shiatsu done more traditionally, they should come to my private practice in the yoga studio and pay less.) The spa clients often tip 20%, essentially making up the difference in pay. And then, I have no overhead to pay, so I can just take the money. In my private practice, any money coming in pays rent for the space first, then filters down to the marketing budget.

However, I greatly modify my way of practicing shiatsu for the spa. In my practice, I do shiatsu old-school: comfy futon on the floor, client fully clothed, balancing qi using principles of East Asian medicine. At the spa, clients are expecting "massage" and aromatherapy. The first thing all spa clients do is to take off street clothes and put on a robe and slippers in the locker room. I get it; it's nice. It lets them move into a different mental space, it's a ritual. So then I'm left doing shiatsu through a sheet instead of through clothes, which limits the supported stretches I can do and the positions I can place the client in. (How to work in side position with a naked person on a table? How to stretch a leg to the side on a naked person? These techniques work much better with a fully clothed client on a wide futon on the floor.) Working on the table is the hardest modification for me. I was trained to work on the floor, from a kneeling position. Now I stand and bend over, sending happy thoughts to my lower back. Different!

And then, these clients want their muscles worked out. I don't usually focus on muscles, but rather on qi. So there I am, leaning my forearms as deeply as they'll go onto three different sets of sore shoulders. I find it a little tiring to work this way, to be honest. In my own practice, if someone needs really deep pressure, I stand one one foot and use the other to leeeeaaaan my body weight in through my sole. This, again, works best on the floor. Oh also, they keep the spa room sweltering hot because the clients are nude and laying still, but I am fully-clothed and moving a lot, such that the heat rather depleted me.

I do like the aromatherapy, though, and may incorporate it into my own practice. Scent is very powerful. I mix up a carrier oil (jojoba) with a couple drops of an essential oil or two (I used rosemary and lavender together yesterday, yummy). Then I apply when working on head, neck, hands, arms, and feet. I could see my private clients liking this, and I could even add a couple bucks to the treatment fee.

To sum up Spa v My Business: I get actual money from working at the spa, but less satisfaction, and it's more tiring.

Conclusion. Which is best? I have no idea.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holy Crap YUM

Dried Bing cherries! Does everyone know about this? Why didn't anyone tell me??

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Nor'easter

My poor husband is stuck on the roads. I have the good fortune of being home today anyway, using my extra time off before it expires next week. The cats are sleeping. They are champions. I joined them, all drooling and snoring on the couch, but I only lasted about 45 minutes. They are way beyond my league, sleep-wise. It was kind of them to let me try.

Television choices: 10 channels of snow coverage (It's snowing! The traffic is bad! Let's go to a map! Let's go to a correspondent standing in the snow!), a documentary on Pittsburgh, a PBS interview with Steve Martin that makes the great comic seem boring, a cooking show rerun, and That 70s Show. No, really.

A few presents are prettily wrapped and unrefined gingerbread is in the oven.

Odd Scenes

1. A lady left me a message wanting to learn more about shiatsu. She had a whispery, childlike voice and a scattered way of speaking that make me think she is a young teen. I call her back. She tells me something unusual is going on, and she wonders if I can help. "You see, I'm an empath," she begins. I think, oh no, she can't turn off hearing voices or something. But it turns out that she meant that to be the normal part. She pauses, gathers her nerves, and adds, "And I think I have that seasonal affect." Winter depression? Seasonal Affective Disorder? That's the big revelation? I assure her that it is miserable, but perfectly normal, and that shiatsu can help. I offer to send her my latest newsletter, which is all about SAD. She doesn't currently have an email address, she explains, because the smutty ads just keep coming, and she thinks they are targeting her specifically. I explain that we all get those. She gives me someone else's email address, someone who won't mind receiving her email for her.

And then, in her scattered, rambling, crazy-laughing way, she keeps me on the phone for half an hour talking about whatever comes into her head. I gently try to return her to the topic at hand, repeatedly. I ask outright--and at last get her attention--whether she would like to make an appointment. I offer her giant chunks of time in which I'm available to give her shiatsu; in response, she asks for a time I did not offer: Next Friday night. I explain that I'll be at a Solstice event. She invites herself to the event. I explain that it's a private event. She begs me to get her in. I tell her about another, open event she can go to instead. She thanks me, but also says she would rather come to mine if I can possibly get her in.

She asks if I accept credit cards for shiatsu payment. I say no. She says this is a problem, even though she knows it's expensive for the practitioner to accept cards. I tell her I offer half-hour treatments at an affordable rate. She asks if she can get 40 minutes instead, because half an hour is not enough. Patience Meter on Empty, I pass my husband a note that reads, "10 Kinds of Crazy!!". He calls my phone so I can say, "Oh, call waiting!" and hang up on 10 Kinds of Crazy. She was clearly not, in fact, a teen, but a grown woman with issues.

If she ever gets it together to call me back to make an actual appointment, I have decided to refer her elsewhere.

2. The acupuncturist got drunk at the Christmas party. I went upstairs to use the bathroom. She opens the door, leans against the frame, smiles a silly smile and asks, "So how are you?"

"Good. How are you?"

She drops her eyeglasses off her head, bends over and fumbles to pick them up. She says, "I'm good, I'm good. I'm not sure how many martinis I had. Maybe 2...or 3...."

I ask if she wants a ride home. "Nah, I'll just wait here for a bit." I wish her luck navigating the stairs.

When I return downstairs, I find that she is curled up in the floor of an empty, dark room. She is talking to someone, but no one else is there. The hostess goes to check on the acupuncturist. It turns out she's talking to her boyfriend on the cell phone.

Only 3 other guests remain--me, G, another shiatsu practitioner. We leave. I wonder how the acupuncturist gets home.

The martinis were awfully good.

Friday, December 07, 2007

An Interesting Question

Someone asked me today: If you were handed a plane ticket and could write in any destination, where would you go?

Now I ask you.

Christmas Song

I think Larry's right. I think we should try to pen our own Christmas song. I've been mulling it over for a day or two, hoping to sneak up on some inspiration before it fled away. At first, all I got was some simple lyrics with a lovely, haunting melody:

Christmas time is heeeere
Happiness and cheeeer
Yuletide by the fireside....

Melancholic and beautiful, but certainly not new. It's from A Charlie Brown Christmas, which explains why animated children with giant heads were skating to the song in my mind's eye.

Then some great lyrics popped into my head:

Doorbells and sleighbells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings...

Damn, I remain a hack. No wonder those lyrics I channeled were way beyond my writing ability. The next line is, of course, "These are a few of my favorite things".

But I think I may have the beginnings of a chorus--really, truly new, as no melody sang through my mind--so help me find the lyrics that go with these. Or, help me out by making these better. Or we can ditch them, whatever, especially of I'm plagiarizing without knowing it.


Working title: A Christmas Lullaby for All Mankind

"And here's my Christmas wish for you

May love grow in your heart like a rose
May peace fly to your heart on a dove
Let kindness shine from your heart like a star
May your heart be light"

We could also/instead work in wisdom or charity, faith or trust...But they seem so serious.

And I can kind of hear the end of the song, lines alternating sung like church bells, fade out:

Good night
Sweet dreams
Good night
Sweet dreams
Good night

Maybe this is all very bad. Go easy if it is. In the spirit of Christmas charity and all.

PS Ann, you're a poet. Lend a hand?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bloggers, Did You Know?

I got in the car to drive home, turned on the All Day All Night Christmas Music Channel.

Now, I can be something a classicist, figuratively and literally. I majored in Greek philosophy in college, for goodness' sake. I want my holiday songs to be classics, be they the Alleuia chorus from Handel's Messiah or Andy Williams' shiny-as-a-new-penny Most Wonderful Time of the Year (what an arrangement! Bravo to whoever did that!).

And instead, the song that played when I switched on the radio...It was...It gave me belly laughs. Whooping belly laughs with tears in my eyes. I mean no disrespect to any Christian believers. It's the aesthetics of the song that really killed me. A gravelly voice crooned in a rock-pop-country way to Mary, asking, repeatedly, "Mary, did you know"--that your Son would walk on water, that the Son you delivered would deliver you, etc etc.

But, as LeVar Burton (my first crush) used to say on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it. Someone very thoughtfully made us a PowerPoint YouTube video.

PS. From the looks of it, this song I'd heretofore never heard of is quite popular, maybe in a different geographic region than the Deep Blue North.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I got a call on Friday. A spa in a wealthy area has a backlog of shiatsu clients, but their practitioner had to move suddenly to Florida because of a family emergency. I met the owner the next day at 9 AM, did an audition treatment, walked out with a black shirt to wear when I start work the 15th. This is a chance to make good money. I would like that. For years I've felt like I was working my ass off for every last penny, not compensated enough.

So, I'll just start with Saturdays; and if it works out, and if the p/t nonprofit job comes through, I'll be able to quit Day Job, work more than one day at the spa, and still have time for my own practice (heretofore unprofitable).

I'm reeling. I was exhausted from the upheaval and the interview yesterday. I was catatonic on the couch from 2 PM onward.

The prospect of working at an upscale spa has certainly brought up some of my "stuff". I look scruffy compared to the other employees and certainly the owner, the Most Polished Woman of All. I've always thought of myself as charmingly earthy, but I suspect I'll need to apply some serious makeup to bring in the tips from the wealthy ladies.

And, how do I feel about being the money-leech at the side of the wealthy wives? Not sure.

I also have some latent prejudices against the upper classes. Will I be treated like the "help"? Are they spoiled, self-involved people, and will my treatments be reinforcing those tendencies? Most of all, will I morph into a little clone of the wealthy ladies, not unlike Cady in Mean Girls becoming the queen of the clique she set out to bring low? Or Andy in The Devil Wears Prada?

Ah hell, I should just let it go and allow myself not to work so damn hard at a job I don't like, give myself permission to make some money and enjoy it.