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It Was a Very Good Year

As I look back over 2011, it was a very good year. For the 8th year in a row, since I first opened my business, I am going to finish the year with a growth in sales and in my bottom line. That’s rather miraculous, considering the unemployment rate in my county has been between 14-16% for most of the year. Many businesses have closed. The foreclosure notices in the paper have far outweighed the job listings for the past couple of years. And still, we have thrived, and we had zero staff turnover. I’m very grateful to be blessed with such wonderful staff members and clients.

This year started out with a bang when we made a trip to Miami to participate in the Massage School Makeover organized by Angie Patrick of Massage Warehouse. What started as a little project of Angie’s snowballed into one of the most magnanimous displays of generosity throughout the massage world. The Educating Hands school ended up with over $80,000 worth of equipment and supplies donated by industry partners. As they were moving into a brand-new building at the time, it was just a fresh start for their well-respected school. It was a joy to participate in it and to see so many of my friends from the profession at the festivities. I also got to visit my youngest brother on that trip, and got to see a dear friend who used to live here in NC that I  hadn’t seen for several years. That one was bittersweet since her husband, who was also a friend and former business partner with Champ, had passed away suddenly a few months before, but it was a wonderful visit.

I was honored at the American Massage Conference this year as the Massage Therapist of the Year…and that wasn’t even the highlight of the conference. Getting up to play a few tunes with Errol N Schroeder at the dinner dance was the high point for me. I had a blast! Scott Dartnall and the rest of those Canadians came out of the gate running and made their first American event a resounding success.

Then the World Massage Festival came along and I was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, which I appreciated, but I was also awarded there for Government Relations, which I’d have to say meant even more to me. I’m no Sally Hacking–whom I greatly admire and who has been working in GR for several decades–I’m not able to go all over the country attending legislative sessions and even if I could, I certainly lack her expertise and experience; the award was for my efforts to keep the masses informed of what’s going on through my blog and social media. My politics aren’t popular with everyone, and that’s okay. I feel good about it if I am able to jolt even one person out of complacency to take up the fight against detrimental legislation. I got to play some music at that one, too. The Hinkles are just some of the nicest people in massage and I always enjoy the World Massage Festival, which I refer to as the Woodstock of massage. Leave your coat and tie at home, and just come and have a great time! The 2012 event will be in Las Vegas.

My annual trip to Ireland was one of the high points of the year. It always is. I enjoy teaching the students at the Obus School of Healing Therapies, hanging out with my Irish friends, visiting a few pubs 🙂 and in general, just breathing the Irish air.

I traveled a lot this year. I was invited by the NCBTMB to come to Chicago for a meeting with a lot of industry leaders to offer input on how they can improve the Approved Provider program. I in particular appreciated that meeting, because that’s where the seed was planted for the Massage Therapy Profession Leadership Summit that took place a few months ago, where for the first time, all of our national leaders came together for the common good. It was attended by the executive management and board chairs from the AFMTE, FSMTB, AMTA, ABMP, COMTA, NCBTMB, and the MTF. Speaking of the Massage Therapy Foundation, it was another red-letter day for me to be included on Rise and Shine, a CD of wonderful music donated by massage therapists to raise money for the Foundation. If you don’t have your copy yet, get on the ball! I am very honored to be in the company of such great musicians. It is truly a great compilation.

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education meeting in Charleston was one of the best events I’ve ever attended. The annual national convention of AMTA in Portland was probably the best one I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been going to those for quite a few years. Kudos to the Oregon Chapter and to President Glenath Moyle for putting on a heck of a good time in such a lovely city. I also got to make my first trip to New Orleans on behalf of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and it was a blast. I completed five years of service to that board this year, and while I miss the wonderful staff and friends I made at the board, I don’t miss that five-hour haul to Raleigh or having to participate in disciplinary hearings. I got to make my first trip to Los Angeles to attend the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards meeting, which was as usual, informative and a good time visiting with so many other board members from across the country.

Without dragging out my calendar, I can’t recall every place I got to teach in this year, but they were all fun and filled with beautiful people. One of the high points–literally–was the Take it to the Top Summit put on by Vivian Madison-Mahoney over in Gatlinburg, TN. The hotel was at the top of a mountain, we were on the 14th floor, and the view was just beautiful. That was one of the best education conferences ever, and Vivian and her husband John certainly know how to throw a great event. A lot of my buds were there–Lynda Solien-Wolfe, Michael McGillicuddy, Irene Diamond,  Mike Hinkle and his wife Cindy and a lot more, and a good time was just had by all. I got to play some music at that one, too. Vivian loaned me her limited edition Martin for the occasion since I came without a guitar. It was great.

I made my first site visit as a peer reviewer for COMTA a couple of months ago. I went to New Bedford, MA to review a community college massage program. It was a good learning experience for me, and the other reviewers were great companions. We had a good time. Our hotel was across from the harbor and a good seafood restaurant, so it was a good time.

I had some great classes at the office this year. Marjorie Brook came down from NY to teach a Scar Tissue Release seminar, and she was accompanied by my friend Allissa Haines. We had a good time visiting with them. Christine Courtney and her husband Colum came over from Ireland for Christine’s classes in Indian Head Massage and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and we always look forward to their visit as well.

On a personal level, lest I just sound like an effervescent fool who never has a bad moment, we’ve had some. My husband’s best friend Brent Stephens passed away this year…he was suffering, so it was a blessing for him to go, but it was still a great loss to both of us. Another dear friend died suddenly this year. Donna Metcalf was the picture of health when I saw her last, and three weeks later, she was gone…an unfortunate case of going to the hospital for a simple procedure that went very wrong. Donna was a force of nature, one of those women who dressed in sparkly clothes and a feather boa, and just lit up every room she ever entered. Her death was a shock. It was also a reinforcement that you ought to live every day like it’s your last. It just might be.

I’ve had some family trauma and drama this year…hasn’t everybody? But I’m pleased to say it seems to be on the upswing. My constant prayer is that those family members who need to forgive each other will just get on with it. One year at Christmas when there were some family divisions, my husband said “Well, we could have two dinners.” He was referring to the people who weren’t speaking to each other and the “I won’t be there if they’ll be there” situation, and my reply was “Hell no, we will not have two dinners. They can sit down and break bread with each other or they can go to McDonald’s.” My fond hope is that they’ll all come to the table. The people we resent feel good. Carrying around resentment is, as someone said, like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It isn’t hurting anyone except the person carrying it around.

One of the last great things to happen this year was my husband Champ passing the MBLEx. He is currently waiting for his North Carolina massage license to arrive. Champ is a builder by trade, and the economy here has been a sudden death to his business. There are so many foreclosed properties here, no one needs to build anything. You can buy a house that was on the market three years ago for a million bucks for less than $200,000. You can buy a perfectly livable house for less than $30,000. In fact, if you only need a small one with one or two bedrooms,  you can find some for less than $20,000. Still, I feel optimistic that things are looking up. Facebook has recently built a new data center in our town, and a couple of other manufacturing businesses have come in on their coattails. Hopefully, the economy is going to turn around and the residents in my county will see their circumstances improve. I certainly hope so.

Another great thing this year was what I have been referring to as The Grand Purge. I have been on a mission the past couple of months to clean out my house and my office. I keep watching the old video clip on youtube of George Carlin and his rant about “Stuff.” I have too much Stuff. Or rather, I had too much Stuff. A lot of it is gone…I’ve donated things, sold things, thrown out some things, burned some things…I’m getting rid of my Stuff. Stuff is like an albatross around your neck. My attitude is if I haven’t used it in a year, I’m not going to use it in another year.  I figured if I was going to move, and wouldn’t want to take it with me, then I don’t really need it. So goodbye, Stuff. It’s been very liberating.

I’ll remember this year. A lot of good things happened. A few bad things happened. That’s the way life goes. But all in all, it was a very good year.

Facebook: IMHO

It’s no secret that I’m a FB addict. Well, maybe that’s a strong word. I couldn’t run my business, write my blogs, teach my classes, take care of my home and husband and dog, and everything I do if I spent all day on FB. I usually sign on around 5 am every morning while I’m having my coffee and the house is quiet, and read what everybody’s been up to and make a few posts of my own. Then I check in for a minute whenever I need a break from paperwork or laundry throughout the day, and since I pop up frequently, it probably looks like I’m there more than I actually am. Okay, I’m in denial, I’m an addict 🙂

I get a kick out of FB. I also get a lot of benefits from it. I’ve gotten several teaching jobs on account of FB. Just today an editor of a physical therapy journal in another country asked me to write an article about massage for his publication. I have about 1700+ massage therapists on my page, and just recently started a public figure page for myself. I also have a page for THERA-SSAGE, my business. So, I do consider myself somewhat of a FB authority, and here’s a few things I’ve noticed:

People share the most personal things on FB. Their battles with cancer. The births, and deaths, and weddings in their families. Their divorces….I’ve seen several nasty ones play out for the FB world to see….the accusations of infidelity, the name-calling, the using of children as collateral. I saw that going on recently, and couldn’t keep from laughing when I saw the person getting offended at some of the comments people were making.

If you post something on FB, you should assume that you’re throwing it out there for public commentary, because you are. You are the one inviting advice, sympathy, or devil’s advocate when you moan that your wife left you or your husband is having an affair. You might as well take out an ad in the paper or put it on a television commercial, because that’s what FB is…it’s mass media, except it’s interactive.

Then there are the constant complainers. There are some folks, that every post they make is negative, about how bad they feel, or how their job sucks,  or how their relationship is bad or how they don’t have a relationship. These same people, when they are commenting on someone else’s posts, make negative comments to every one. They are self-appointed critics who will snark about whatever photograph, story, article, or status report they respond to. Never a kind or positive word. Their families are probably grateful that they now have FB to whine to…it’s probably cut down on some of the actual whining in their home.

There are the beautiful people on FB…those people who only share love and light and positive quotations and affirmations of health, wealth, and beauty. There are people who are selling something with every post. There are people who are sharing valuable information like news and research articles, and sharing jokes and cartoons, and having political rants. FB can be a powerful tool for activism, too.

Since I don’t play Farmville or any of the other games on FB, I’ll just give those a cursory mention, but if that’s your idea of entertainment, there it is.

There’s been a lot of griping this week about FB changing their pages yet again. And I was personally griping this morning about all the people posting that FB is about to start charging and that they saw it on the news. Not a one of them saw it on the news, because it wasn’t on the news, but that’s like a lot of other stuff on there that people share without checking on Snopes.com. I’ve seen the same prayer request for someone who was supposedly hurt yesterday going around for two years. Prayer isn’t ever a bad thing, but chances are pretty good that the person is dead or better by now.

IMHO, the good thing about FB is that you are in control. Yep, you really are. In fact, the past couple of days I’ve noticed Allissa Haines telling people why they’re about to be un-friended. You can’t tell sexist jokes and remain on her page. That’s her prerogative, and it’s yours. If you don’t like the content people post, one click of the mouse, and POOF! They’re gone! Don’t like people cussing? Don’t like people that advocate for gay marriage, or people that love/hate Obama and say so? Don’t want to see Mafia Wars or Flower Gifts or any of that other stuff on your page? CLICK, POOF, GONE!

Don’t want people to comment on your divorce, or answer honestly when you say “Do I look fat in this dress?” or “Should I marry the guy who doesn’t brush his teeth and still lives with his mother, or wait for the other one to get out of prison?” Don’t post it on there.

I’ll see you on FB. Be nice and like my page, please please please! And if you don’t like me anymore, CLICK, POOF, GONE!

Perspective

I always seem to get in the mode of reflection during the holidays…taking stock of my life, business, my accomplishments, my shortcomings, my failures, my plans that fell through, and those that exceeded my expectations. This past year has been one of ups and downs for me. On the upside, it’s been a good year for my business in spite of the recession. On the down side, my husband’s construction business has taken a huge hit for the past couple of years, and it’s affecting our finances and my attitude. I need a swift kick in the pants, because in the final analysis, it’s damn inconvenient, but it isn’t going to break us.

I spend a lot of time on social networking, mainly Facebook, and besides being good for building business relationships and keeping up with friends, it has provided a reality check for me on an almost daily basis.

I have a fair amount of followers on Twitter and a lot of FB friends, many of whom I’ve never met in person. Most are massage therapists who read my blog or have read my books, attended a class or listened to a webinar. I get little glimpses into their lives on Facebook. I see a lot of massage therapists struggling with their businesses and some who are jobless altogether. I see tragedies every day; somebody loses a loved one, or someone’s beloved pet dies. I see the posts of several who are battling cancer, and a couple with children that have cancer, and the positive attitude they keep amazes me. I read about the comings and goings to Afghanistan and Iraq, and sometimes about the deaths, of soldiers whose family members are my FB friends. I’ve seen people announcing their weddings and engagements, and I’ve seen a few divorces play out as well.  Facebook isn’t all about Farmville. It is a journal of the human collective.

I’ve also been obsessed recently with looking in our local paper to see how many job openings are listed vs. how many foreclosure notices are listed. Today it was one job opening, 6 foreclosures. It’s depressing, but it’s also a wake-up call for me. I’m not in any danger of losing my house. We can survive on my salary–I had to put the kibosh on collecting guitars and we might have to skip a vacation, but we’ll be fine.

In perspective, I don’t have any problems at all.

Peace on Earth, and may you all be blessed.

Report from AMTA National Convention

I attended the AMTA National Convention in Minneapolis this week and had a great time, catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and running all over the place. Minneapolis is a beautiful city; very clean and I felt safe on the street at night, and the people were very hospitable. Here are some of the high points:

Tuesday I attended the Board of Directors meeting. It was business as usual, until Ruth Werner took her place at the table to talk about the Massage Therapy Foundation. Since I’m known for being plain-spoken myself, I appreciate it whenever anyone lays it on the line, and that’s exactly what Ruth did. She stated that while the AMTA and the MTF are bound together in perpetuity, that in order to survive and thrive, the Foundation must seek additional partners for support. She also said that the rumblings about the MTF being ungrateful to AMTA are entirely false, and I agree. AMTA may be the biggest donor to the MTF (this year the donation exceed $500,000), but they’re not the only ones, and we need to be thankful to ABMP, the NCBTMB, Massage Warehouse, and all the other entities and individuals that step up to the plate. I’ve said before that the MTF transcends politics, and it certainly ought to. I personally think it’s the safest and best strategy to have many smaller donors; if there’s only one big one, and finances don’t allow for the usual donation, it could really hurt the Foundation. My own words–not Ruth’s–all the whiny people need to shut up, and that goes double if you’re not putting your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday night I attended the annual Lippincott author’s dinner. It was hosted by Kelley Squazzo, Shauna Kelly, and Linda Francis, my editor whom I hold in high regard. Present were Ralph Stephens, Pat Archer, Ruth Werner, Mary Beth Braun, Diana Thompson, Tracy Walton, Leslie Young Giase, Carole Osborne, and Les Sweeney. I hope I didn’t miss anybody. I’m always a little star-struck and very grateful to be a member of such an illustrious group of people. Lippincott has so many talented massage therapists in their stable of authors. These aren’t just people who decided to write a book. They are working massage therapists and educators and the cream of the crop. The restaurant, 112 Eatery, had an eclectic menu including house-made charcuterie. Leslie asked the waiter to describe the gruyere et mortadella sandwich, to which he replied “cheese and baloney.” HA! You can dress up anything if you list it in a foreign language. It was all good.

President Kathleen Miller-Read gave an opening speech about balance, the theme of this year’s meeting. The keynote speaker at the meeting was Dr. Loyd Frank Jarrell, a chiropractor, who carried on with the theme. While Jarrell didn’t say anything offensive, he was not what I would call a dynamic speaker, and I personally would have preferred to see a massage therapist doing the keynote speech. Some of our past keynote presenters have rocked the auditorium–Judith Aston comes to mind–and Jarrell was more of a big yawn. I also heard a little sniping about Miller-Read giving the President’s Award to her sister, Maureen Moon. To that I can just say boo-hoo; the President has the right to give it to anyone she chooses, and like Miller-Read, Moon has had almost 30 years of service to AMTA.

I attended a great class from the Research Track, Steps Toward Massage Therapy Guidelines: A First Report to the Profession. While it was a good class and well-presented, I personally signed up for it because Ravensara Travillian was listed as one of the teachers, and she wasn’t there. She was probably out digging up some invertebrates or something of that nature–she’s a very busy and multi-talented woman–but I was still disappointed that the class didn’t include her.

I also attended the COMTA training session for peer evaluators. Some of you may recall that I had a little snarkfest with COMTA earlier this year on my blog, and Kate Henrouille, the Executive Director, had personally invited me to attend the COMTA meeting, so I did. It was a good session and I’m glad I went.

The convention was Party Central this year, too. I attended the President’s Reception with Sally and Ed Hacking. Sally is the undisputed Queen of Government Relations in this profession and currently works with the FSMTB. I’m hoping for some of her knowledge to rub off on me.

I went to several chapter socials, but one of the biggest bangs was the Facebook Friends gathering at Brit’s Pub Thursday night. About 300 of us converged on the Pub and I don’t think they believed the organizers who had warned them that a big crowd was going to show up. The place was packed and I stood at the bar about 15 minutes waiting for a beer. It was a blast.

Friday night, I attended the Massage Envy party, the Massage Therapy Foundation reception, and the Massage Today party. All three were great fun. The highlight was Angie Patrick receiving the Bob and Kathy King Humanitarian Award at the Foundation event. Angie works tirelessly for this profession and it’s great that she was recognized for it.

I didn’t get the count on how many therapists attended this year. I think the economy probably kept it from being as well-attended as last year’s meeting. There were also less exhibitors in the vendor hall. Notably absent was the NCBTMB and the AFMTE. AMTA made the decision to deny both of those organizations a booth, which I personally think was a very poor choice and one that I hope is rescinded by next year’s meeting. I have stated that on this blog and I also wrote a letter of complaint about it to the recently-departed Executive Director, Liz Lucas, just before she left the organization a mere three weeks before the convention. Lucas’ service to AMTA was mentioned by Miller-Read during her opening speech, and also by acting Interim Director, Shelly Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson, I had several opportunities to talk to her this week, and I have decided to throw my support to her for the Executive Director position. No word yet on who else is in the running, but that’s irrelevant to me. Johnson has years of experience as the deputy in that position, and I think she deserves her shot. I hope the BOD will give it to her.

I also attended the Teacher’s Networking Luncheon on Friday and witnessed Melissa Wheeler being honored as the Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year. I later had the opportunity to speak with her. She was a good choice for the honor.

As is usually the case when I go to National, the high point for me was connecting with people. I was glad to see so many friends there, including a lot of our NC Posse, meet a lot of my FB friends and blog supporters in person, and as always, there’s something magical and awesome about being with over a thousand people who do what we do. Next year’s meeting will be in Portland, OR. I hope to see you there!

You can see all the pictures I took at the meeting here.