Tag Archives: World Massage Festival

To every thing there is a season…

…and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

As Autumn approaches (and not a minute too soon for me, personally, North Carolina on those humid 100-degree days is not my favorite thing), I am reflecting back on all that has happened since this time last year. It will be a year ago in September that I got very sick with double pneumonia (just a year after my first bout with it), a urinary tract infection that went systemic into my bloodstream, and a diseased gall bladder. Last November, just as I was recovering from that, my soulmate and husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Let’s just say it was the winter of my discontent, and my distress, and my depression, and that’s putting it mildly. Spring rolled around and my life was consumed with doctor visits, constant battles with the insurance company, physically taking care of Champ while trying to keep my business running smoothly. Add that to the mundane chores of everyday living, like keeping the housekeeping and the laundry and the grocery shopping all done and the bills paid. While he was recovering from the cancer and the sheer exhaustion from treatments he underwent, he suffered an abdominal aneurysm. I was overwhelmed emotionally and physically and financially and every other way, suffering from fear and anxiety attacks and paranoid if I got so much as a sniffle, because I just couldn’t be sick while Champ was in the condition he was in. I had to cancel several trips, including my annual trip to Ireland to teach, and let go of a lot of things that just paled in importance.

None of us know the day or the hour that catastrophe might strike, and that some life-altering illness or other tragic event will take place. And we don’t know the why. Some believe that everything happens for a reason; some believe things happen without any rhyme or reason. It’s easiest, and human nature, to think that things happen to other people for a reason, but there’s no reason for it to happen to us. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people all the time. We have lost several good friends to cancer this year. I see people on my FB pages fighting that battle every day. I feel for them, and their caregivers, too.

Some great things have happened this summer. First and foremost, Champ was pronounced cancer-free. He still has to see the oncologist every three months for the next five years, but he’s getting better every day at the present time. He just eased himself back into doing massage for the first time since last November when he was diagnosed, and he had seven appointments this past week. I accepted a new full-time job with Soothing Touch as their Massage Division Director. That necessitated my hiring someone to run THERA-SSAGE, our chiropractic and massage clinic in Rutherfordton NC, something it was hard for my control-freak self to turn over to someone else, but it seems to be going well. I’m loving my new job and the great people that own and work for this company. I’ll be meeting those I haven’t met yet this week when I make my first trip out to the factory in New Mexico.

My new book is finished and will be released in October. I finished another manuscript, this one for the 3rd edition of the Plain & Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Examinations, and the publisher accepted the first draft. It will be out at the beginning of the year. We enjoyed our trip up to Indiana for the World Massage Festival, and also visiting with AMTA folks during weekends I was teaching in Greensboro and down on the NC Coast. I’ll be attending the National Convention in Pittsburgh to represent Soothing Touch. I’m participating in a new CE distance learning project with some other great educators that will be rolling out any day. While I was at the World Massage Festival, I got invited to teach a class in Trinidad next year, so I’m looking forward to that. I also got invited to speak at the 2016 Society for Oncology Massage gathering. Even Champ’s cancer had a few silver linings. We have always appreciated each other, but now we appreciate each other even more. We also appreciate all the kindnesses of family and friends and total strangers who supported us along the way, whether in thought or in deed.

I don’t know what the purpose was in all the stuff that happened to us, but I do know the lesson. and that’s just to hold on with everything you have to the time with loved ones you have, because no amount of money will buy any more of it. And now, for the rest of the verse. Peace & Prosperity to you.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Report from the World Massage Festival

Champ and I spent last week in Las Vegas at the World Massage Festival. This was our fifth year there, and the biggest and best one yet. Almost 700 people at this one…9 years ago when Mike Hinkle started the Festival, 20 people were in attendance.There were people from every state and 7 or 8 foreign countries. A whole contingent came from Trinidad.

The World Massage Festival is a unique event. Mike and Cindy bend over backwards to make the Festival affordable to everyone. Instead of a $189 hotel, we were in the Tuscany, an all-suite hotel, for the magnificent price of $59. And they are nice rooms! The staff at the Tuscany was very nice and helpful, the food was good, and in general it was just a good experience to stay there.

Over $50,000 in door prizes and scholarships were given away. I got to do a lot of the name-drawing and I had some real fun helping make people’s day with cash prizes, diamond jewelry, and other goodies.

On opening night, I was the keynote speaker. It was a humbling experience to look out at the room and see so many dedicated colleagues, many of whom have been doing massage for many more years than I have. During the awards ceremony, Irene Smith was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. I have to confess that I was not familiar with her work until Sunday night. She started the first project in the US to massage AIDS patients and has been doing Hospice work since the 1970s. Her entire career has been based on selfless giving. She is an example of the finest massage has to offer.

Since the beginning, one of the purposes of the Festival has been to recognize those who have made significant contributions to massage, through the Hall of Fame. Judi Calvert is always the host for this occasion and as usual did a beautiful job. I spent some time talking with several of this year’s inductees, all genuinely nice people who leave their ego at the door in spite of some of their amazing accomplishments. I spent an hour visiting with Mark Beck, who wrote the textbook I learned from in massage school, which was a real treat for me.

Lots of friends were in attendance at karaoke night, and we have got some talented singers in massage therapy. People had a blast singing and dancing.

Quality education, as always, was a highlight of the Festival. Champ took a class in Thai Massage from Mukti Michael Buck and really enjoyed it. I taught two classes, participated on a student panel, helped out with registration and karaoke night, and kept busy visiting with people. Glad to see Allissa Haines, Andrea Lipomi, Ryan Hoyme, Jake Flatt, Gina Smith, Thomas Liberto, Vivian Madison-Mahoney, Enid Whittaker, Michael McGillicuddy, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, Leena Guptha, and so many more. The WMF is always like a family reunion. I also got some great bodywork from Karen Kowal. Darcy Neibaur raised over $2000 in the Sweet Serenity booth to benefit the Greenville SC Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.

I also enjoyed having Sally Hacking and Mary O’Reilly of the FSMTB come into my student class and answer questions about the MBLEx for students.

Pualani Gillespie took Champ and I out for a fabulous dinner at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Carnevino, and we had a great visit with her.

Next year, the tenth anniversary, is going to be held in Michigan City, Indiana, and I expect it to be even better. I appreciate Mike and Cindy and everything they do. I hope to see you there!

Report from the World Massage Festival

Champ and I attended the World Massage Festival this past week, held on the Queen Mary. This grand old boat is permanently docked in Long Beach, CA. On our last day there, we got a glimpse of the captain giving a tour to the grandchildren of the original captain of the ship. The ship itself is a beautiful historical remnant from times gone by, and we really enjoyed our stay.

Once again, the Festival itself was a blast. I look forward to attending every year! We arrived on Saturday and spent the evening at a welcome party…met up with Elaine Stillerman, who is a force of nature, and a grand lady herself. I am going to share the story that Elaine has a 14-year old son who is a special needs child. After being told that he could not be in a young children’s room at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Elaine seized the bull by the horns, and is responsible for getting the museum to establish a Sensory Room for special needs children. You can read about it here. We also visited with Pamela Mucklow, my longtime FB friend from Arkansas by way of Yorkshire, England, and her childhood friend that she went 40 years without seeing…what a great reunion….and Judi Calvert, the historian of massage and owner of the Hands On Trade Association, who has given me several lovely gifts over the years, brought me a picture of a musician from the 1930s.

Sunday I helped at the registration desk all day with some other volunteers. I got to know Linda Wilson from ItWorks, who turned out to be a heck of a singer and a major performer at our karaoke night later in the week. Sunday night we had the keynote speech from Vivian Madison Mahoney, and some great entertainment from Quentin Flagg. Quentin is a hoot. I’d fall over on stage if I tried to bounce around like he does! His show is high energy and everyone enjoyed it. Champ was up dancing with all the ladies. We also had the Industry Awards ceremony, and I was honored with the Media Award…I wasn’t expecting that and hadn’t prepared anything to say, so I basically just said “Thank you.” I do appreciate it!

Monday I taught One Year to a Successful Massage Therapy Practice to a lovely group of people. I was shocked to have Sally Hacking from the FSMTB in my class…and Terry Norman, who has been doing massage for over 40 years. I don’t think either one of them need any help from me but it was great to have them there! Terry was one of this year’s inductees into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame. Sally is a past inductee. One of the perks of that is getting to attend all the classes you want for free at the WMF, so I thank both of them for choosing mine.

Tuesday I didn’t have any classes, so I spent a lot of time in the vendor hall, which was sold out, and visited with a lot of old acquaintances and made some new ones. Boris Prilutsky, another of this years HOF inductees, and someone that I have personally had many Internet arguments with on different forums, was attending his first massage convention ever. He worked on my aching shoulder and got me out of pain. Tuesday night was the Hall of Fame inductions for this year’s honorees, which included Elaine Stillerman, Terry Norman, Taya Countryman, CG Funk, Irene Diamond, my fellow North Carolinian (THE) Joel Tull, Ariana Vincent (those are just the ones I know) and quite a few others. That night, I hosted a talent show/karaoke night, and I think it was definitely one of the high points of the WMF…such a blast that we are already planning to make it an annual happening! Gina Smith can flat out sing…so can Linda Wilson, and John Evans! Elaine Stillerman sang a couple of Broadway tunes, and Ralph Stephens had the whole place rocking to the Banana Boat song. We had people lined up waiting to perform. It was really a fabulous night. I played a few songs on my guitar so now I have bragging rights that I’ve played on the Queen Mary 😀

Wednesday I taught The Educated Heart to a beautiful group that included Amber Robidoux, another longtime FB friend I was glad to finally meet in person. Wednesday night, we had a beautiful closing ceremony out on the Queen’s Deck. Vivian read a beautiful tribute prepared by Cindy Michaels….Cindy is Mike Hinkle’s wife and she is the one who, when Mike says (as he frequently does) “I’ve got a big idea!” makes those happen! After that, we had a lovely candlelight group singing of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” led by yours truly and Gina Smith. A magic moment with everyone in gratitude for another great year at the World Massage Festival.

I have often referred to the WMF as “the Woodstock of massage.” That is because of the LOVE that happens there and the laid-back atmosphere…no politics allowed…just great education opportunities with a group of wonderful teachers and students, no fancy dress required, just show up and have a good time. I will be there every year until they throw me out! I didn’t get a final count, but I’m also sure Darcy Neibaur raised quite a bit of money for Sweet Serenity, which helps the Shriner’s Children’s Hospitals, and there were about 150 stuffed animals collected for the Ronald McDonald House, too.

I hope to see you all next year at the Tuscany in Las Vegas, which is a fabulous place and the rooms are only $55 a night. You can register here. I’ll meet you in the casino!

Report from the World Massage Festival

I just returned from attending the World Massage Festival in Las Vegas, and what a blast! I’ve been attending this annual event for several years, and this was the best one yet. My husband, Champ, accompanied me, and we really had a fabulous time. This event is like a family reunion every year, so I really enjoyed seeing so many people I know and don’t get to see often. The Festival was held at the Tuscany Casino and Hotel, which turned out to be a wonderful place…I think my suite was as big as my house.

We arrived on Sunday and I spent the afternoon helping out at the registration desk with our fearless ringleader, Cindy Michaels. Cindy is Mike Hinkle’s better half; Mike cooks up all kinds of great ideas and Cindy puts them into action.  Jenny Ray and Janelle Lakman, the Sacred Stone Medicine ladies, were also working registration so we all had a big time visiting in between. Sunday night was the Hall of Fame ceremony, emceed by Judi Calvert, and it was very enjoyable. This year’s honorees are Cindy Ballis, Karina Braun, Eric Brown, James Charlesworth, Scott Dartnall, Robin Fann, Irene Gauthier, Sally Hacking, Ryan Hoyme, Andrea Kelly, David Kent, Mark Lamm, Paul Lewis, Rena Margulis, Karen Menehan, Angie Patrick, Donald Peterson, Sharon Puszko, Art Riggs, George Skaroulis, Kevin Snedden, Cherie Sohnen0Moe, Les Sweeney, and Ruth Werner.

Monday morning, I was honored to participate in a Student Day panel with Lynda Solien-Wolfe, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, David Kent, Joe Bob Smith, James Waslaski, David Otto, Ryan Hoyme, Michael McGillicuddy, and Angie Patrick. I hope I didn’t forget anyone! The students were so appreciative; all got a goody bag, there were lots of door prizes, and one lucky soul got a starter kit–massage table, massage chair, rolling stool, bolster, sheets, and all kinds of products.

Monday afternoon, I taught my Educated Heart ethics class, which was well-attended by a great bunch of therapists. Champ and I had dinner with Lynda Solien-Wolfe and Joe Bob Smith and we had a great time.

Most of the day Tuesday, I spent in the exhibit hall. I worked a little in the Sweet Serenity booth–speaking of which–I was determined to win the fabulous quilt so I bought 30 tickets. All the proceeds went to the Shriner’s Burn Center and over $1200 was raised, last time I got the count. Ryan Hoyme and I did a book signing of our new Manual for Massage Therapy Educators. I woke up with a crick in my neck, and James Waslaski and Bruce Baltz both worked on me. We had lunch with Bruce and Ryan and Yvette Hoyme. Tuesday night was the awards ceremony. David Kent was the keynote speaker and he did a fabulous job. David is an emotional speaker. Enid Whittaker jumped up on a massage table and did a Bonnie Prudden warmup and she was great! Vivian Madison-Mahoney received the Legislative Award. ABMP was honored as the Association of the Year (again!). The wonderful Michael McGillicuddy was named Teacher of the Year. I was personally surprised with receiving the Distinguished Service Award. After getting home at 1:30 this morning, I am going blank on the rest of the winners, but I’ll be sure to announce them on FB as my memory returns!

By Tuesday night I was feeling slightly under the weather. I slept in Wednesday morning, and Champ attended James Waslaski’s Pelvic class in my stead. He loved it. I ended up having a late breakfast with Judi Calvert, owner of Hands On Trade Association and the premier massage historian of the world. At noon, when all the classes broke for lunch, the drawings took place. One lucky winner received an Office Makeover package worth over $11,000–and I did indeed win the quilt! I was thrilled to death!

I would have to say that the highlight of my trip this year was meeting Mark Lamm of Bio Sync, and his beautiful wife Leah. Mark has been my FB buddy for several years, and I was shocked to find out that he is 84 years old. He looks at least 20 years younger than that and is just one of the most vibrant people on the planet. He did some work on my aching shoulder and it was amazing. HE is amazing. Leah and I snuck out to the restaurant for a little while and I felt as if I’d known her my whole life. They are both just beautiful people. Mark is committed to teaching at the Festival in 2015. I’ll be there!

Other highlights, and there are just too many to name, but I was glad to see my buds Scott Dartnall, Eric Brown, Christopher and Xerlan Deery, catch up with Lori Ohlman of the NCBTMB, Dari Lewis, Stephanie Beck, the totally awesome Judith Aston, and all the other folks I only get to see once or twice a year. The vendor hall was jumping this year…I got a few goodies myself! I also met a few of my FB buds: Andrea Lipomi, Bert Davich, Rob Flammia and saw some of my NC peeps, too, like Jake Flatt.

Wednesday night, I attended the Board meeting of the Massage Therapy Alliance of America. I’m not on the Board; I just take care of their website, but I love this group of dedicated people. They are stewards of the Hall of Fame and advocates for the rights of massage therapists. Then we had a late dinner with Mike and Cindy, Darcy Neibur and her husband Dennis, and Mike Hinkle’s parents, who are always helping at the Festival.

The World Massage Festival is come as you are. Leave your suit and tie behind and be casual. The instructors and class offerings are top notch, the price is as low as they can possibly keep it, and the atmosphere is all about family and friends. The 2013 Festival is being held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. I will definitely be there!

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.

The World Massage Festival: A Great Time!

Champ and I got home from the World Massage Festival this morning, and while I’m tired, I must say it’s that good, satisfying kind of tired, the kind you feel when you’ve really had a great time. We certainly did!

This year’s Festival was held on the beautiful campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, and as usual, it was like a family reunion! We got there on Wednesday, in time for me to take Ruth Werner‘s class on Teaching Research Literacy. That night, about 20 or so of us who were helping with the Festival went out to dinner together. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to Champ (his 59th). We sat around for a couple of hours just catching up.

Thursday, I spent the day helping with registrations while Champ helped people set up in the vendor hall. There were about 80+ vendors present and by the end of the weekend, quite a few of them had sold all their product and signed on for next year in Las Vegas. Lots of goodies were given away…and I even got some extras. AMTA National VP Nancy Porambo won a diamond charm bracelet and she gifted it to me (thank you, Nancy!). Champ is famous for winning raffles and he won a nice set of essential oils. Lynda Solien-Wolfe was there representing Performance Health/Biofreeze and she was giving away the goods everywhere! I love that company and all their products…I’ve been selling Biofreeze since day 1 at my office and it’s a best-seller.

Thursday night there was an awards ceremony. I was not expecting to get an award, and I was really worn out from working registration all day and I almost didn’t go. I’m glad I dragged myself there, because I received the Government Relations award. Of all the kudos I’ve ever gotten in my life, I have to say that one pleases me the most. I would have dressed up for the occasion if I had known I was going to have to go on stage, and I was slightly embarrassed to be getting an award in a pair of jeans and t-shirt…but hey, it was a special t-shirt that Cindy Michaels embroidered just for me! ABMP was recognized as the Association of the Year for the third year in a row. Ryan Hoyme, Pat Donahue, Darcy Neibur, Mike Hinkle Jr, and Vivian Madison-Mahoney and her husband John were also honored, and Ruth accepted an award for the Massage Therapy Foundation. I’m probably forgetting someone! Mike Hinkle and James Waslaski handed out the awards.

Friday morning I taught a class in Using Research to Market Your Massage Therapy Practice. Friday night, the amazing Lori Stegner entertained a big crowd, first as Patsy Cline and then as Tina Turner. I roped my favorite and very talented cousin Todd Rollins into playing a set with me in between Lori’s performances and then after the show, we led a jam session. Ruth Werner started things off by singing some Beatles’ tunes. Ralph Stephens had his washboard so we played a few bluegrass songs, too. Several other attendees got up and sang…kind of a live karaoke! We had a blast.

I spent Saturday in the vendor hall visiting with all kinds of people and doing massage in the Sweet Serenity booth. Sweet Serenity is a project started by Darcy Neibur to raise money for charity. The proceeds from this event went to the Shriner’s Burn Center and we raised $800. I not only gave, I received, and I got a great reflexology session from Travis Alligood. He saved the day for me.

Saturday night, I was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame along with my fellow North Carolinian Gloria Coppola, Leslie Young Giase, Editor of Massage & Bodywork Magazine, Richard Rossiter, Joseph Goldman, David Lauterstein, Michael McGillicuddy, and other hard-working souls. The ceremony was opened with a beautiful prayer from Medicine Woman Jenny Ray. Champ and I hung out with Jenny and her teaching partner Janelle Lakman every evening when we got back to the residence hall…we probably kept the whole place up with our story-telling and laughing.

Sunday was not only the high point of the Festival for me, I would have to say it was one of the high points of my entire massage career. I took a class in Thai on the Table from Mukti Michael Buck. It was the best hands-on class I have ever attended, and I have attended hundreds of hours of continuing education. Mukti is undoubtedly the most charismatic teacher on the planet. The bodywork was sensational. The whole class was in such a state of gratitude at the end of it, we were one big melting pot of thankfulness and grace. I would recommend it to anyone.

Sunday night, we wrapped up with a Facebook Friends party at O’Malley’s, an Irish pub (my kind of place, you know!) It was very well attended and we had a great time visiting with old friends, making new ones, and meeting FB friends in person for the first time.

The staff at WCU bent over backwards for us. The campus is gorgeous, the food in the cafeteria was good, the residence hall we stayed in was top-notch, and the staff and students were all as friendly as they could be. True Southern hospitality.

The Massage Therapy Alliance of America also seated its first Board of Directors. Pat Donahue is at the helm as President and her husband, Joe Ferguson, is 1st VP. Pat and Joe each have more than 40 years of experience in the massage profession. I’m excited to see them there! Tina Rivera is the 2nd VP. Darcy Neibur is the Treasurer; Leslie Lopez is the Secretary, and the Members at Large are Lynn Shell and Carrie Thompson. Thanks to all for serving.

Throughout the week, I saw so many friends it was like old home week…I wish I had more time that I could have visited with them all. I did get a few minutes to speak with the crew from the NCBTMB, the FSMTB, our state chapter of AMTA, and so many more. M.K. Brennan was there from the American Polarity Therapy Association. There were so many of my favorite folks in attendance…Michael McGillicuddy, the Massage Nerd, Sharon Puszko…I just couldn’t get around to everybody!

Mike and Cindy Hinkle are to be commended for all their hard work…Mike gets the big ideas and Cindy pulls it together. He knows what a jewel she is! We were joking last night at dinner and Cindy told Mike he couldn’t get any more ideas until after August…she needs a rest! It was a great time and I’m looking forward to next year in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there!

Here, There, and Everywhere

One of the greatest things about this profession to me is all the regional and national conventions and meetings.

I belong to AMTA and I am very active in my state chapter. I’m usually fortunate enough to get asked to teach a class at our meetings, but I’m going to be there either way. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I also attend the National Convention every year, and it’s just a blast. Being around a thousand or more people who do what you do is something you should experience, if you haven’t already.

This past year I attended the World Massage Festival in Kentucky and I participated in the awesome World Massage Conference, which is a totally virtual event…both events were highlights of my year. I also went to the inaugural meeting of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. I skipped the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards meeting last year due to some conflicts, but I’m hoping to hit that one this year, too. I just got back from attending the Massage School Makeover event in Miami. In 2011 I am also looking forward to the American Massage Conference in Atlanta, the World Massage Festival in Cullowhee, Vivian Madison-Mahoney’s Take it to the Top Summit in Gatlinburg, the AMTA National Convention in Portland, another World Massage Conference, and who knows what else is going to materialize! They are all great events, and they all have one thing in common: massage therapists!

I have in the past borrowed a favorite phrase from my friend and colleague Felicia Brown: collaborative competition. Normally I use that in the context of therapists themselves.  This time, I’m speaking of all these meetings. Many times at these meetings, I run into a lot of the same folks. It’s actually one of the nicest things about attending–besides seeing old friends, there’s also the added benefit of making new friends and potentially advantageous business contacts.

When it comes to these events, I take the same attitude that I do with massage in general, and that is there’s enough to go around. I’ve complained before about meetings that don’t welcome certain organizations to their events, and I will continue to do so.  I am not shy about expressing my opinion. Feel free to disagree with me if you want to. I’m not insulted by that. I wouldn’t be writing these blogs if I didn’t have a thick skin. I don’t like professional jealousy–I actually think of it as un-professional jealousy–when it comes to massage therapists, and I don’t like it any better when it comes to conventions and meetings. I think there’s enough to go around.

I think ALL events that are about massage therapy are a great thing. Each is unique in its own way.  Some cost more than others…some are geared at different purposes. I guess it’s the American way of marketing to claim that one is better than another. That’s not how I roll. To me, they are all great networking opportunities. Just like my opinion that no one organization is entitled to a monopoly, I’m happy that there’s more than one meeting. ABMP, which I am also a member of, doesn’t put on a national convention (although they do have a national school summit meeting every year.) One of the things I look forward to at AMTA National is seeing my friends from ABMP who attend.  Even though AMTA doesn’t allow them to have a booth in the exhibit hall, as they are a competing membership organization, lots of my ABMP friends are there. It’s not about them; it’s about massage. Networking, continuing education, product education, legislation and other information…it’s all valuable.

Sometimes at one meeting, I get invited to, or at least informed of, another meeting. Don’t forget attendance at these events is tax deductible, folks! I can’t afford to attend every single thing that comes around, but if I could, I’d be at all of them. So if you have something going on I don’t know about, post it in the comments. I like to be here, there, and everywhere, and maybe I’ll see you there!

Glad Tidings for Massage Therapists from the World Massage Festival

The World Massage Festival brought glad tidings to over 50 massage therapists yesterday when founder Mike Hinkle held the drawing for the Christmas in July contest, gifting all of them with free tuition to the 2011 Festival that will be held July 14-17 in at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.  That’s what I call “community service.” The $350-value tuition covers all the classes you can pack in over the course of the three days. The plan was to have a winner chosen from every state in the union, all the Canadian provinces, DC and the American territories; only 5 states didn’t have anyone enter the contest. There was also an international winner chosen, who was from Poland, and two winners chosen from Canadian provinces (the others didn’t have any entrants).

Mike Hinkle has one mission: to help as many massage therapists and industry supporters as he can. Recognizing that people want great continuing education at an affordable price, he started the World Massage Festival in 2006 as an alternative national event.  The WMF is not associated with any of the national organizations–who are ALL welcome to be there. Politics are not a part of the Festival; vendors are not excluded based on which organization competes with another and that kind of thing. All who wish to sponsor an event or have a vendor exhibit are welcomed with open arms. The Festival still needs sponsors for 2011, and I in particular urge those who have been turned down at other places due to politics to get on board.

There’s a vendor exhibit hall that anyone can enter at no charge, including members of the public who’d just like to know more about massage; there’s some very exciting live entertainment happening (I get to be the emcee), and the lineup of classes and instructors is nothing short of downright impressive. The 2011 theme of the conference is “Research and Education is Our Future.”  Over 40 instructors, including Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation; Nancy Porambo, AMTA National Vice-President; Dr. Ben Benjamin, and so many more will be presenting more than 285 hours of CE classes.

I cracked Mike up last year when I started touting the Festival as the “Woodstock of massage gatherings.” I called it that because it’s three days of peace and harmony…a big family reunion. I ran into so many friends at last year’s event in Berea, I couldn’t even spend time with them all. There was picking and grinning going on, too, as well as a number of free student events, social gatherings, and just a general good time. The Massage Nerd was there making free videos for anyone who wanted one. You couldn’t beat the whole thing with a stick.

Leave your coats and ties at home, and you don’t have to bring a pile of money. Accommodations and meals are available as low as $60 per day for those who wish to purchase a package. WCU has beautiful dorm rooms and a cafeteria that rivals most chain buffet restaurants, including vegetarian options. There are also a number of other food outlets and a convenience store on-campus. Transportation to and from the airport is available, and so is ride sharing and opportunities for room sharing to keep the cost as low as possible.

I’d really like to applaud the organizers for their generous gift. They don’t have a membership organization, they don’t collect dues or anything of that nature that would subsidize such a selfless act. Mike and Cindy’s generosity in giving this gift represents a personal cost to them of close to $20,000. A lot of this campaign was conducted over Facebook, and I noticed the comments immediately start rolling in from winning therapists as soon as they were announced.  People are so excited, and I’m excited for them. Merry Christmas to the winners, to the Hinkles, and to all of you. I hope to see everyone in Cullowhee.

It Takes a Village

This past weekend, I witnessed Mike Hinkle, Cindy Michaels, and just a few volunteers pull off the World Massage Festival, undoubtedly the best massage event I’ve ever attended.  Next year is going to be even bigger and better, and before this weekend was over, there were more volunteers signing up for next year. That’s a good thing.

While it’s true that the people at the top of AMTA get paid, that organization would never survive without the volunteers who serve on the boards of state chapters, or serve as delegates, unit coordinators, and/or committee members.

State boards are usually composed of volunteers. While it’s true that in my state our travel expenses to and from meetings is reimbursed and we get a per diem of 50. for a half-day/100 for a whole day, no one is getting rich off of that. It takes me over four hours to travel to a meeting and I have to pay someone to run my office while I’m gone. We’re limited to paying 62. a night for a hotel.  I’m not exactly living it up at the Ritz when I’m on board business. There is no per diem for the countless hours between meetings that we’re reading minutes and agendas, doing research on issues we are considering, or drafting committee reports.

The board members of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, as well as the delegates, and the numerous volunteers on all the committees of the NCBTMB, and the board members for the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education also get their travel covered, but until you’ve served an organization like this, you don’t realize how time-consuming it can be.

Every day, somewhere, massage therapists are out giving their time to Hospice, veterans, cancer patients, premature babies, benefits for cancer and other worthy causes.

All these people have a life, a job, families and pets to take care of, school and church and civic and social obligations, but somehow they make it work.

It really does take a village.

Peace and Prosperity,

Laura Allen