THE GODWIN GIRLS

Subtitle

$ 200  AND A CREDIT CARD: THE COMPLEX WAS COMPLEX

  THE COMPLEX WAS COMPLEX (A Legacy Story)


The time had come to be bold and take a risk. My husband found out we were facing catastrophic health issues in his life just one month after he had elected to retire early . He had forfeited more than a year of accumulated sick days as he rarely missed a day of teaching in his entire career. Now he would not be reimbursed since he was retired.

He had looked forward to continuing his jogging which was a passion of many years; so we  now had a new retired racer to jog with. We  adopted a Dex, a brindle greyhound, just two days after he retired. Then "boom" out of the blue, the diagnosis came down when he went for a physical . All the stress he'd blamed on the job was actually a serious illness.


I had been semi-retired working part time as a massage therapist. Giving up nursing and going in to the massage therapy had been a long time goal and I was very content with it. I was practicing in my father's chiropractic clinic and assisted with the cares of my mother who had recently passed away after a life long battle with diabetes and heart problems.

With the realization that I might lose my husband I was totally in shock. He had continued to be the healthy one as we grew older. He was the runner and living proof a man can maintain his body in a youthful way by exercising. I on the other hand was the couch potato, diabetic, pamper myself person who would not have been surprised by a serious diagnosis as I already had some experience with precancerous breast biopsies. I had the multiple lumpectomy scars to prove it. So why not me?


A strong reality that we faced was that his health insurance would stop after his COBRA ran out. I knew I needed to return to work with benefits or find a health care solution. The only problem was, I had no money saved up to do anything creative and I knew the new doctor who had just bought my dad's practice planned to increase my rent unreasonably high. I knew I needed to leave and make a definite change.


I thought it wouldn't hurt to check out what it would cost to open and manage my own private massage practice. I made a modest plan for a private practice and how I would manage it. I looked in the paper for a location and happened upon one that seemed ideal. Just for fun, I decided to call about it.


                                                  I MEET "ANGELS UNAWARE"


Now it has long been my experience that when things are right and you're heading the direction God has in mind, things work out . If you have to manipulate and make things happen, then you best not proceed as I can guarantee it will not work out.

 

It turned out the people with the property were colleagues; friends and patients of my dad's. Dr. Patrick and Darlene Traynor. The couple were my dad's age. They had an antique store and some adjoining space for rent due to the sudden decision on the part of the massage therapist in the space, to leave. I went to visit and it was perfect with the exception of too much space (1400 sq. ft). A beauty shop with two beauticians went with it and more rent than I could hope to pay. Utilities weren't even included. 


I had to level with the sweet couple and tell them I was sorry, but I had really come on a wing and a prayer just to see the property. It was perfectly located and already laid out in rooms that accommodated a small gift shop, two massage rooms and a light therapy room and very inviting waiting area. My intention had been just to rent space as a therapist in my own practice. I told them I not only didn't have the rent , neither did I have the deposit money. I did have $200 and a credit card.


The Traynors wanted the building to continue as a health connection with massage and did not want the beauticians to be put out. They had bought the equipment from the therapist who was leaving and were willing to work with me . I counter-offered to be their "paid" therapist, or just rent a room to do massage since that was all I could afford. But at that moment, I found two angelic benefactors who believed in me and my dream. They wanted me to take over and buy the equipment from them and just continue it as my very own business. I was overwhelmed, and they were more than supportive.


I presented a five year business plan to them. Within the first month I was paying full rent and had paid the deposit. In two and a half years I reached the five year goal. But what I created became more than a business; it became a landmark in the business community. Many unbelievable things happened there. My dream was fulfilled , and I always said to everyone I told about the business my personal belief.


"Even if I might not have it long, having started the business at the age of 56, at least I had it." 


                               MY DREAM BECOMES A DREAM                                      


The Five Points Wellness Complex was beautiful. It had a wonderful waiting room which was personally decorated by me . Eclectic but not " new age". It was more of a English library room with books, an iron lion's head fountain, dark green walls with fourteen foot ceilings. It had comfortable stuffed chairs and a beautiful wood buffet stocked with fruits, juices, chocolate and various breaded offerings at any given time. There was  always a bowl of fresh roses or flowers of varying colors on the table to be enjoyed by clients. They were often allowed to take one or more home with them. Our florist across the road was always generous with discounts.


Patrons would often receive rose bouquets  on special occasions, but they were always welcome to the many juices, fruits, and treats.


Our Loving Greyhound "Dex" (adopted retired racer) became our mascot and was a frequent visitor, even being invited inside the massage room to lie under the table as I worked..


Men especially loved the waiting room. After the massage they would relax with the soft music, indirect lights and those who wished to relax and read used the antique reading lamps. They would make the comment that it was feminine, but also very male oriented They enjoyed sitting with hot cider in hand in the winter and cold juices in the summer. I have seen more than one chess game develop.


The aquarium had a star resident named "Ugly Bugly" (a huge apple snail) who lived many years) along with many special fish. Ugly Bugly truly seemed to have a personality and people came just to see him because friends had told them about him. We were even visited by class rooms of children from a near by grade school. When I closed the Complex, he came home with me to the delight of my grandchildren.


Among the other unique features was our welcoming host in our entry area, Gus. He was a beautiful blue and red beta who swam in his special vase with clear marbles at the bottom. He was among the celebrated features of our beautiful entry hall which had a white two feet high picket fence with artistic flowers the full length of the Complex hallway on both sides. It continued to the beauty shop. People were always "in a new place" the minute they entered. They truly loved it and frequently commented on "entering an enchanted place free from the cares of the outside world."


Our "family" grew as independent contractors became a part of the Complex to provide more services. 


A doctor came to the Complex part time to do Biofeedback therapy and there were light boxes for light therapy for those who needed help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. While these therapies were done to benefit the clients, they were also offered to provide more diversity in the wellness opportunities. They opened up a greater and more expansive dialogue about health care alternatives.


Five part time therapists worked with varying techniques to meet the demands of clients ranging in ages from five to 87. Male and female clients were about even in numbers and we had a large room where we could do couple massage, or group massage for special occasions; like wedding parties of the bride and bridesmaids.


The gift shop had unique items and one of a kind art and jewelry available. The beauty salon flourished and grew. The ladies were pleased when I added on their very own waiting room for their area with a play area for the children who came. When I named the salon, "A Beauty Within", I prayed it would be, and would always help the clients find their personal inward beauty. The results were told in many special stories from the clients.


Our gift shop hosted Calligraphy Artist Lynn Norton, daughter of famous water color artist, Paul Norton. We also carried his prints from the antique store.


We enjoyed a great open house and the refreshments and ice sculptures were gifts from staff , volunteers and patrons.


A special feature which constantly drew raves were the uncharacteristic bathrooms and their unusual paint decor. I couldn't take full credit as the painting was already done. I just added unusual items in the rooms to take them to a new level. People seemed to appreciate the restful atmosphere and never rushed in or out. The curiosities on the walls and countertops were always great conversation pieces,


All of this was an absolute answer to prayer. I had volunteers who came and acted as hostesses to serve the juices and visit with the clients before and after their massages. It became a place where you could drop in, even on days you weren't there for your massage or services.

 

The camaraderie and support that had developed was never so apparent as it was on 9/11.


I was not at the office when the planes hit.I did not have to wait for the second plane to realize what was taking place. I called the office and told my office manager to go out to the front five foot "sandwich" style sign board where we listed specials and take all the letters down. I instructed her to put up the red white and blue bows I had in the gift shop that were about a foot across and put them next to the letters on the board that would read, "God Bless America".  Little did I know this board would become an icon in the community during the early years of the war.


Later when I arrived the news was terrifying. People were in their homes glued to the sets. The large tv in our waiting room, normally used for special films for education and entertaining children who waited, was on first one news program then another. Slowly the room began to fill up with people who stopped by because they didn't want to be alone. We served juices and food and watched our country slowly go into shock.


I tried to go about my business and began a massage. I was interrupted by my office manager during the session, which was an absolute no no unless there was an emergency. Hearing the knock I thought, "Oh my god, what now? Another plane?"

One of the local tv stations had sent their anchor person down to interview me and those gathered in the Complex since I had put out the first sign and ribbons acknowledging the disaster. The station was familiar with me from past events and issues over the years. My client encouraged me to do the interview so I did (and gave the client a hefty discount for the interruption).


That began a daily ritual of me changing the sign to acknowledge whatever was going on with the world and our crisis with Bin Laden. It became personal to support our government and to champion our troops. Parents brought their kids by on the way to school, so they could try to figure out the cryptic messages I would put in only five lines. A reporter told me he loved it because it was like "Haiku". Others would call the office if they didn't understand the significance not having heard the news item.

People loved to stop by and have their pictures made with the sign.
A wife and fiance' stop by to have a picture made to send their servicemen at Gitmo.

 

Being located at a very busy five point intersection, I was in a very high traffic location and soon the signs I put up were used on news broadcast and for editorial purposes. I was known and written up in the paper as "The Sign Lady" and proudly felt that it was a "morale thing" I could do . I felt I was the American version of Tokyo Rose in the 21st century, only on the "good" side.


Every anniversary of three, then six months, then a year, the tv station would come to interview me again and get my take on the war. I began to do free massages for military soldiers and their wives when they came home from first Afghanistan, then Iraq. We had a military wall of pictures and letters of support in the long hallway I allowed some wives and sweethearts to put messages on the board then we'd take their pictures and send them overseas with them holding roses and a certificate good for when the guys who returned.


Politics always has to intrude into things and create a problem . A vendetta from a community person of influence who didn't want anything positive about the country, the war or the troops displayed, took issue with the signs. It became a media frenzy with papers, radio and others stirring the pot. The city council finally passed a resolution barring the sandwich signs for everyone in business just to get rid of mine. I answered back on the day the ruling came down by putting a six foot by twelve foot American flag suspended from the top of my building roof all across the front of my business.


After the "sidewalk" sign war was lost, I found the ever popular "loophole" and placed a regulation sign (much bigger than the sandwich sign) up against my building; it was legal

I added the huge flag above the door.


All in all the "Complex" years were the best years of my life, bar none. At least on a personal level. The clients were wonderful. We focused on making the complex, "about them".


                        THERE WERE AMAZING FEATS OF LOVE AND KINDNESS


  • There were joyous reunions of friends who were reunited when we learned they had known each other as children  and lost touch for fifty years. We arranged a surprise tea for them at the Complex.

  •  There were many times people just met and talked, and enjoyed socialization vs. isolation for many of them previously.

  • On one occasion a father and his estranged son were brought back togeher after fifteen years. Later, at Christmas, the son wheeled the father in his wheel chair, and we arranged for his father to have a brand new shipping hat like the one he wore as a trademark for so many years.The old hat had literally rotted from age and hair oil. We special ordered it from Boston as he had an unusually big head size. He wept from the joy of receiving the gift, and from the realization, he was "himself" again. Joseph had no idea Santa would be there for him.  Having Santa bring the hat was the epitome of Christmas and a shock to someone who thought that Christmas magic was long gone from his life.

  • We championed a young 12 year old girl when her school would not display her poster which won their patriotism school contest. She was told it was  because her poster contained the statement, "God Bless America." They told her if she would remove the God part , she could have her prize. She declined. When I read about it in the paper, we honored her with roses and a picture at the Complex with her own sign out front.

 

  • There were Christmas parties with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and gifts for every child. A photographer was present to take group and individual pictures to be presented to them later. Karaoke was a big hit as well. Sets of holiday elves and scenes were staged for pictures and with the Disney Castle backdrop the children could sit on Santa's lap and receive Christmas stockings filled with treats while receiving Mrs. Claus's hugs. We had so much food and fun, including the inflatable jumping games. There were from 200 people and more in attendance at the parties.
           
                                       OUR ANNIVERSARY PARTIES WERE STELLAR

 

The anniversary celebrations for the Complex were held at the local Comedy Club with invitations to all the families of all the employees and therapists. From the youngest children who sneaked up on stage before the start of the program and sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", to the oldest guests in their seventies, there was laughter and shared joy.


                                      A HEARTBREAKING AND IRONIC MISTAKE


In the end, tragedy would close the wonderful landmark place and it would be caused by the very field where I had worked for thirty years: the medical field.


 While caring for my sister in the hospital during her struggle fighting her breast cancer, I reinjured a long term shoulder condition. Following her funeral and a bout with double pneumonia, I finally bowed to my doctors wishes and concerns by going for tests to determine the state of the shoulder.


The radiologist made a terrible mistake injecting me with three times the amount of dye solution for the test and  failing to get into the joint. The results would be career ending for me but not until I had tried to hold the Complex together for almost another full year juggling physical therapy and pain management. Following a surgery, rehab, paying therapist to cover my clients, and enduring heartbreaking pain and determined effort, I realized a door was closing.

 

What had begun  three years before, on $200, a credit card, and a dream with the unrelenting belief of two mentors, had now mushroomed into a full time practice of 40 hours a week minimum of massage for me and the Complex supported five other part time therapists.The Beauty Shop was growing and I thought of selling it to the beauticians, but the my benefactors had retired and sold to a new owner. He refused to allow me to extend my lease with anyone else in charge other than me,  That forced me to move.


 I have to admit I was heartbroken, and no doubt suffered from true depression at the end of my dream. I was ill prepared as I was at the peak of my career. But, more than that was the loss of daily contact with dear friends, and friends yet to come. I have reconciled to memories as one does with the loss of a loved one, but I can honestly say I mourned the passing of the Complex as one of the most endearing and fulfilling times of my life.


In saluting this wonderful place, I have to salute so many whose names I can not risk omitting lest I forget one. I must say, however that they each know who they are and the important role they played. We achieved "community" at the core of it's meaning. We blended together, in love and respect, people of different religions, politics, cultures, races and belief systems. We pooled our positive energies and we brought about healing, hope and inspiration. And as I said so often during that time; "I may not have it long, but at least I had it." 


Thanks to all who shared it with me.

And to my mentors; thank you for allowing me to embody the lessons of my entrepreneur mother and utilize her fearless pursuit and risk taking to dare to dream, and to dare to "go for it". I was so proud that I could present to Darlene the Business Person of the year award through the local chapter of American Business Women's Association I had nominated her  


 Within months of closing my association with the Complex, I was gainfully employed as a Domestic Violence and Rape Sexual Assualt counselor. In a way, returning to my roots of serving others in need. 


I will always know, the Complex was God's gift to me. It was my oasis of peace giving me respite from years of serving terminal patients, championing the underdogs and reaching out to the poor and homeless. I think God had seen my pain and fatigue, and gave me that time to regroup and recharge.


I believe I built the Complex on the legacy of my mother's work ethic and belief in hard work and letting nothing hold you back. And that, is a legacy I hope I passed on. 


          

  

 

 

Entry to the Five Points Wellness Complex in Moline, Illinois.

One view of the waitng room which was decorated like an English Library with antique lamps, Iron Lion's head fountain, and many more features in art pieces, chess board, books, and conversation pieces.

Out door signs became a communication with the whole community when the war began. Haiku sayings were "famous" and people would drive by, sometimes bringing their children on the way to school so they would know what it said.

More views of the waiting room and evening atmosphere.

The building and the 6' by 12" foot flag I put up when the "city fathers" voted to make the sidewalk signs illegal. A woman of some apparent influence wanted mine down so the only way to do it was to change the sign ordinance for all businesses. Ironically, I found a "loophole" and put up a bigger sign and added the flag. LOL  The woman did not like the "patriotism and troop support" on the signs. I had become known as "The Sign Lady" and that just made it go even bigger with so much media frenzy.

Dex, our greyhound seen on the right end of the pictures, became a mascot at the Complex.  On the left you can see "Gus".


The aquarium had a star resident named "Ugly Bugly" (a huge apple snail) who lived many years) along with many special fish. Ugly Bugly truly seemed to have a personality and people came just to see him because friends had told them about him. We were even visited by class rooms of children from a near by grade school. When I closed the Complex, he came home with me to the delight of my grandchildren.


Among the other unique features was our welcoming host in our entry area, Gus. He was a beautiful blue and red beta who swam in his special vase with clear marbles at the bottom. He was among the celebrated features of our beautiful entry hall which had a white two feet high picket fence with artistic flowers the full length of the Complex hallway on both sides. It continued to the beauty shop. People were always "in a new place" the minute they entered. They truly loved it and frequently commented on "entering an enchanted place free from the cares of the outside world."

 

The Complex embraced everyone; Mrs. Santa was perfect and  she and Santa gave each child a gift and bag of goodies. Every child had a picture made free with Sant and Mrs. Claus (a professional photographer took them and everyone who wanted one or more got them). We had a DJ who also aided with the Karaoke and led games for the kids. Seen in the bottom right corner are "staff" and volunteers of the Complex. What an amazing and loving group they were. Believe, me, no one was ever blessed with a more wonderful group of folks that these.


And one thing we were never without was food; dessert tables, meat tables, and a long line of choices.

  • On one occasion a father and his estranged son were brought back together after fifteen years. Later, at Christmas, the son wheeled the father in his wheel chair to the Christmas party, and we arranged for his father to have a brand new shipping hat like the one he wore as a trademark for so many years. His other had literally rotted from age and hair oil. We special ordered it from Boston as he had an unusually big head size. He wept from the joy of receiving the gift, and from the realization, he was "himself" again.  He had no idea Santa would be there for him.  Having Santa bring the hat was the epitome of Christmas and a shock to someone who thought that Christmas magic was long gone from his life.

 

  • We championed a young 12 year old girl when her school would not display her poster which won their patriotism school contest. She was told it was  because her poster contained the statement, "God Bless America." They told her if she would remove the God part , she could have her prize. She declined. When I read about it in the paper, we honored her with roses and a picture at the Complex with her own sign out front.

We immediately put up a sign for the family of Mike Spann and we rented space on the Uptown sign saying: SOME GAVE ALL--NEVER FORGET


Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann was a paramilitary operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division. Spann was the first American killed in combat during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He died at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress in a Taliban prisoner uprising.… 


Being located at a very busy five point intersection, I was in a very high traffic location and soon the signs I put up were used on news broadcast and for editorial purposes. I was known and written up in the paper as "The Sign Lady" and proudly felt that it was a "morale thing" I could do . I felt I was the American version of Tokyo Rose in the 21st century, only on the "good" side.