Don’t Forget Your Neck!

Ah, the neck–so often covered up by scarves, turtlenecks, high collars and massive necklaces. If you are older as I am, you will need to pay good attention to your neck as well as your face. What do I mean by that? Just this: if you wash your face morning and night, also wash your neck morning and night. At night, after moisturizing your face, don’t forget to moisturize your neck as well. The same applies with sunscreen; put it on your face and neck; ears, too if your hair style doesn’t cover them up. Even on a cloudy day, you can get UV damage which can age your skin.

It’s a sad fact that our necks start to poop out a lot sooner than we’d like, so it’s important to treat the neck as nicely as possible. It doesn’t like getting older any more than you do. Neither does our upper chest; how many times have you seen wrinkled cleavage?

Speaking of things that should remain unseen, I find it a lot easier to cover up more; it’s easier on everyone.Where I used to wear shorts, I now wear capris or cropped pants. Where I used to wear low-cut tops, I now wear v-necks. Shoot, I don’t even wear ballet slippers anymore because 1) I need my Good Feet inserts, and 2) I don’t even like toe cleavage these days. And nobody sees my upper arms. Ever.

The older we get, the more we need to cover up the wrinkly bits. But since we can’t always wear scarves or turtlenecks or chokers, we can at least give the neck the same attention as our face. Another trick I use is to hold my head up as high as I can. (This way perhaps no one will notice my neck, but will appreciate my good posture!)  But we still need to give the neck its due morning and night. A decent cleanser, skin toner, moisturizer and sunscreen does wonders. Every so often, you can treat your face and neck to a good facial scrub prior to cleansing. If you enjoy *facials as I do (I generally give myself one once a month), you can use it on your face and neck, and they won’t cost you a dime (see below).

But I digress. Necks need attention as well as our faces because, let’s face it (no pun intended), it makes our faces look worse if our necks are neglected. It’s a lot like putting a really cute hat on a monkey–while you love the hat, it’s still a monkey wearing it.

*Here are my recipes for facials for both dry and oily skin:

For dry skin: Mix one egg yolk with two tablespoons of olive oil. Apply to face and neck for about 10 minutes or when it dries. The combination of the rich yolk and oil help lubricate dry skin. Wash off with mild soap and water, and follow with toner and moisturizer.

For oily skin: Apply one beaten egg white to face and neck for about 10 minutes or when it dries. The egg white acts as a drawing salve to pull out oils. Wash off with mild soap and water, and follow with toner and moisturizer.

 

I’m Not a Hair Product Expert, But I Played One Once

I used to test hair products for a hair care website years ago. I tested hair sprays, mousse, gel, paste, wax, shampoo, conditioner and temporary color (I once colored my bangs turquoise). During that time I found out that, except for a very few product lines, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in products.

In a nutshell, here’s what I found out:

  • Shampoo – you can list all the botanicals, herbs, oils, fairy wings and pixie dust on the bottle you like, but basically, shampoo is shampoo. Some may smell better than others, but basically it’s pretty much the same. If you have oily hair, get shampoo for oily hair. If you have dry hair, get shampoo for dry hair.
  • Conditioner – same deal applies. While conditioners will temporarily soften hair, it comes down to this: they are all about the same. After shampooing and rinsing, apply the conditioner, wash all your body parts (giving the conditioner time to do its thing), then rinse your hair so that it”squeaks” when you run your fingers through it, but doesn’t feel greasy. If it does, it’s going to weigh your hair down when it’s dry.
  • Hair spray – it all depends on what you want. Use a light hold (i.e., you can run your fingers through it without getting your fingers stuck) if you want your hair to move fairly naturally. Use a heavier spray if you want your hair to stay put–sort of like a helmet.
  • Mousse – again, it depends on what kind of look you want. If you like a tousled look, mousse can work for you. Just check the ingredients; if it’s too oily, you’ll weigh your hair down. Be aware that some mousses will work well until you touch it. Then you will have zillions of white flaky stuff throughout your hair–which will look exactly like dandruff.
  • Gel – this is nearly the same deal as with mousse; be careful not to touch it or you may get the flakes. In this case, I’ve found that the higher quality stuff really is worth it; you get a good look and a good hold and NO flakes.
  • Hair paste – this stuff looks and feels like real paste, but if applied lightly, you’ll get a pretty good look. You can go smooth and sleek, or the give yourself the still-popular “bed head” look (I wore it for years and loved it).
  • Hair wax – this is a lot like hair paste, but if overused can give you a wax-y finish (what a surprise, huh?). And if that isn’t bad enough, it tends to be sticky and attract airborne stuff like dist, lint, bugs, etc.
  • Temporary hair color – this is actually a lot of fun. I have tested hair mascara in various shades, and it looks pretty good–especially if you are going for a streaky look. It washes right out, so no permanent harm done.

Now, all that said, if you are lucky enough to have a fabulous stylist as I do (thank you, Tina!), LISTEN to her (or him). Since they work with your hair on a regular basis, they know what works for your hair type and what doesn’t. If they recommend a product, use it. Even though it’s your hair, they know best how to work with it.

All that said, remember that fancy packaging and expensive commercials do not an effective product make–the hair care folks need to make money as much as anyone else. So do your research, try out different brands, and most of all, consult with your hairdresser.

TIP: If you bought shampoo and didn’t like it, you can either return it (if the store allows) or use it to wash your undies by hand. This way it’s not a total loss……

 

 

 

 

Choose Your Mood!

Yes, it can be done–you can choose your mood! I know from experience that often when I’m having a pissy day, some stubborn little root inside my heart likes that pissy day, and doesn’t want to change it. It’s the kind of indulgence that feels great at the time; afterward, not so much. There is a perverse pleasure in being Crabby von Crabbenstein for a few minutes, hours, or days. It’s like eating potato chips and chocolate ice cream for two days straight–it’s fun for a while, but it isn’t sustainable.

Contrary to popular belief, bad moods don’t just drop down on us from the sky. Suffice to say that they exist and that we all have them from time to time. The hard part is deciding if we want to stay in that bad mood, or lift ourselves out of it.

For years I couldn’t understand how to do that; how to make myself happy, or at least less miserable. But it is surprisingly simple to make that change. The longer I live, the more I realize that our mental pain comes from fear or resentment or just plain loneliness; no one seems to want to be with us or appreciate us. That’s when it’s time to haul out the cheerleader pom-poms (and no–I never was a cheerleader in high school) and cheer for YOURSELF.

Ever since I had a lumpectomy for ductal carcinoma in situ in my right breast in the beginning of this month, I have felt physically low, with little energy, and doing anything seems to take a lot out of me. While I realize that this is part of the healing process, I still get impatient with myself, thinking that I am wasting time and not pulling my own weight. If I’m not careful, I can fall into the guilts and then start blaming myself.

So here’s what I’ve been doing to at least show myself that I am still somewhat on the ball: I make a list each day. By the end of the day, there may only be things on it such as “I made the bed,” “I emptied the dishwasher,” “I made a pitcher of iced tea,” “I did a load of laundry,” “I brushed my teeth,” and “I wrote and sent a letter to my uncle.” But they are accomplishments, little as they might be. That list cheers me up and lets me know that, even though I still don’t feel like my old pre-lumpectomy self, I am still in the game, and still doing something each day.

One of my favorite saying comes from the wonderful Scottish folk: “many a mickle makes a muckle.” This means that many little things add up to big things, and that’s GOOD.

Additionally, I have learned to talk myself out of bad moods. There is an amazing power to hearing your own voice say, “Now c’mon, that’s enough of being negative. Start thinking about all the many things in your life.” Then what starts out as a little trickle of goodness becomes a flood of good things. Another trick in my tool bag is saying out loud (and it works so much better when you DO say it out loud), “I am NOT going to be in this bad mood! I’m going to have a GREAT day, and nothing is going to stop me from having it!”

Oh sure, if you’re doing this while driving (which I often do), people will probably stare at you, but so what? You are the one who is going to have a great day, no matter what their day is going to be. When some impatient twerp behind me roars by and gets one car length ahead of me, I say (again, out loud), “Good–I’d a whole lot rather have you ahead of me than behind me!” Wish them well and go on with your day.

So can it be that simple to change moods? Yup–it is, it truly is that simple. And if a big old crabasaurus like me can do it, so can you.

Have a great day, everyone!

 

 

Take the High Road—Not Just for Others, but for You, Too

I am not the most reasonable person that ever walked this earth, and, as fond as I am of saying that I have a long fuse before I get angry–I really don’t. The littlest things can make me flame up like a marshmallow on a stick over a campfire. I can look at this two ways: 1) I am still a great big child and act like one, or 2) just as long as I don’t hurt anyone or break anything, I’m merely venting. (It goes without saying that I’d just as soon not have anyone see me vent…..it’s not pretty.)

It’s taken me years to figure this out, and here it is: you will never regret taking the high road when it comes to arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings, and the like. Life is just too short to hold grudges, plus holding them damages us inside. Staying angry at someone and letting that anger fester is not hurting the person who made you angry in the least. But it’s eating you up inside. As said before: keeping your anger burning about something someone said or did is like drinking poison to make that person sick. It just doesn’t work. They go on their merry little way, and you are the one suffering.

What works for me is forgiving out loud. I have a long commute to work and, the law of averages being what they are, I’ve seen some incredibly stupid, selfish and downright dangerous behavior. Like most of us, when I get scared, I go right from scared to angry. Scared because some idjit just put my life in danger and angry because some idjit just put my life in danger. Due to the fact that no one knows how someone will react to the one-finger salute, I don’t do that. Oh, I will certainly do it below the dashboard, but not where it can be seen.

We don’t know what another person may be going through. They may have just lost someone they loved, they may have been fired unjustly and have no idea how they are going to pay their mortgage, they may have been diagnosed with a fatal disease–and they are taking out their sorrow, angry, frustration and fear on the world around them. I don’t say this to excuse irresponsible behavior; I say it only because it helps me to dial down my own anger response.

Or then again, they just might be jerks who think they can do whatever they want whenever they feel like it. But either way, it makes life easier to blow off some harmless steam in the privacy of your vehicle, then say (or yell) “I forgive you–you JERK!” Funny how freeing that is.

We do so much harm to our bodies, minds and souls when we hold in anger or resentment. It poisons us and unfortunately can actually cause physical damage to our bodies over time. So swear all you want, throw things in the safety and privacy of your home; whatever it takes to free you up. But don’t hang on to anger—just forgive out loud and go on. Once you cool off, you can be comforted by the thought that you took the high road and did not make a big ugly scene or run someone off the road.

Years ago, I took a self-awareness course. They can get pretty intense, and to my dismay, I was chosen out of my class to sit up in front of everyone and have the instructor “work me over” verbally. Long story short, this is one of the techniques used to break through someone’s pent-up grief or anger and ultimately free up the person holding on to it. It’s hard–but it forces you to let go of the anger. The instructor described how hanging on to old hurts can become an unhealthy habit that keeps you from moving forward in your life. The way she put it was this:

“Holding on to old hurts and resentments is like dragging a sack of bricks around wherever you go. Say someone wants to know you better; maybe even start a meaningful relationship with you, but no–you show them your bag of bricks and say, ‘oh no, I can’t do that because I have to carry these and I don’t have room in my life for that and you, too.'”

It was a great visual of how we hurt ourselves over and over again by NOT letting go of past issues. If we can just deal with them one at a time, let each one go (because you really don’t need them, do you?), and forgive OUT LOUD–we can be free.

So, for you and for me, let’s just make a habit of taking the high road. It’s better, and there’s so little traffic.

 

 

Furious? Give It a Day

I’m not proud of the fact that I have a bad temper, which is sometimes accompanied by such charming activities as:

  • Throwing things
  • Yelling
  • Swearing
  • Feeling hugely sorry for poor old me
  • Making all my cats hide until I calm down

There–I told you I wasn’t proud of it. For all I trumpet about being a good sport and trying to understand the other person, well–I don’t always take my own advice.

So, after years of painful mistakes and cringe-worthy memories of things I have said and done in anger, I have learned the following:

  • Recognize the anger (well, duh)
  • Place the anger properly (i.e., don’t assume that everything that makes you mad is the other person’s fault)
  • Understand that other people make mistakes–just as we do
  • Resist the temptation to call or email the person with whom you are angry
  • Most of all, MOST importantly–give your feelings a day. One day.

If one day isn’t enough, give it another. Follow this until you can address the situation sanely and without anger. If it takes a week or more, then that’s how long it should be.

Case in point: I ordered the most gorgeous bracelet; I had it custom-made for me. I chose all the elements and left it up to the artist to put them together. Two days later, I received it. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning and ripped the package open.

There it was–an absolute perfection of silver chain, luminous moonstones, and glowing pearls. It was, in a word, magnificent. I put it on, and, because of its chunkiness, I wasn’t able to fasten it.

Well–I had already had a lousy day, and was so looking forward to this marvelous creation and wanted to wear it right then. I complained long and loud about it and was ready to send an angry email to the seller and give him a piece of my angry mind.

I even called a friend who also makes jewelry and complained to her. She listened and agreed how frustrating it is to look forward to something and then not be able to wear it. Then she asked me if I was still mad.

I replied that damn right I was still mad! I could hear the smile in her voice as she said, “Why don’t you give this a day or two? You’ve had a couple of bad days, and you may be lumping this together with your disappointment that you can’t wear the bracelet right away.”

I was gobstruck–she was absolutely right; what I needed to do was to give it a day (or more) before contacting the artist. Now you would think I’d have the brains to figure that out, wouldn’t you? I mean, I was angry, not stupid. (Well, stupid mad, anyway.)

So, that’s what I’m did. I gave myself two days to cool off, then I contacted the artist and explained my issue. All I needed was three more links to give the bracelet more play, for which of course I offered to pay. And guess what–the artist wrote back and said he would gladly send me three more links–no charge! How great is that?

Lesson learned–you certainly have the right to go bat-crap crazy about something; just don’t act on it right away. I needed those two day to get over myself and think clearly. Thanks to my dear friend who suggested it, I gained a calmer state of mind and was better able to communicate. AND I didn’t throw anything! So the furious-at-first-glance thing? I’m making it a rule from now on to just give something that frustrates or angers me a day. Just one day.

(And hey–I used part of my angry time to vacuum the house. I was in a bad mood anyway, so why not?)

When Paying More Doesn’t Make Sense – Makeup

Years ago, my mother and I launched our own campaign to find the perfect foundation makeup, concealer, lipstick, eye shadow, blush and eye liner. Our findings were pretty amazing–we found that we didn’t have to pay more to enjoy good products. Now, without naming names, we found out a good deal about choosing the right kinds of makeup.

We also found that most women think that you cannot return makeup once you’ve bought it and tried it. Many women won’t buy makeup because they think that they will be out the money if they don’t like it–not true! Of course I haven’t checked all stores’ policies on this, but as a general rule, this is correct. You may get some flack from the sales person, but if you politely ask to see the manager, they will let you return the goods you didn’t like. Looking at it from the store’s point of view, it doesn’t pay to alienate customers.

Cheapo Choices: check out drug stores and Dollar stores for lower-priced (and just as good in many cases) goods. You don’t always have to pay for the high-end stuff. In fact, the drug stores and Dollar stores especially often stock name brands.

If you don’t already know this, find out whether your skin tone is warm or cool. If you used the Color Me Beautiful (see http://www.colormebeautiful.com) method of determining this as many of I did years ago, you’ll know how to check. Knowing this will greatly help you choose the right shades of makeup.

Generally speaking, here’s the lowdown on makeup:

  • A little foundation makeup can work magic; it blends the different areas of your facial skin (blotchy spots, etc.) and gives the impression of a smooth ‘canvas’.
  • Concealer does just what it sounds like: it conceals those areas to which you don’t attention drawn.
  • Blush is absolute magic. Just a swoosh of it from temple to the apples of your cheeks gives your face a youthful glow and brightens your eyes. If you are older, choose a matte (rather than shiny) blush. It will give you a softer, more natural look.
  • Eye liner–not everyone likes it, but for me, it’s a subtle way to emphasize the eyes. You can wear it with or without eye shadow. The rule of thumb with eye liner is less is more. Also, be judicious when it comes to black eyeliner. If you’re young, you can pull it off and look fabulous. Older eyes generally look older with black eyeliner; it can be too harsh. Try using a subtle blue or green, or brown.
  • Mascara–again, not for everyone. My eyelashes are short and sparse, so I appreciate that mascara can make the most of every little lash I still have. A few words about mascara–black really makes the lashes stand out. Don’t think that, because you are blonde or have lighter skin, you need only wear brown mascara. You can also get your mascara in regular or waterproof. For me, waterproof is the only way to go–if I should leak tears of joy or sadness, at least I won’t have raccoon eyes.
  • Eye shadow–this is another makeup choice not everyone likes. If you’re young, you can go wild with all the great colors of eye shadow out there. Sparkly, shiny, bright–go for it! However, if you are older, eyelids tend to crease and the last thing you’ll want is to have eye shadow caked up in the creases. It can look too harsh. The older we get, the softer our makeup should be.
  • **Lipstick! This is another magic product that looks great on everyone. As with your skin, know your lip skin as well. If your lips tend to be dry, then choose a richer, moister lipstick. Whether or not you use lip liner is up to you. If you do, choose one close to the color of your lipstick. If you are older, often lipstick may “bleed” into the tiny lines around your mouth. In this case, a lipliner can give lips a more finished look.

The following list outlines what to I personally look for in a product. First and foremost, know your skin and know your skin sensitivities.

*Foundation Makeup: If your skin tends to be dry as mine is, look for a liquid makeup with an oil base. You’ll want something that’s creamy and has a moisturizer. If your skin tends to be oily, you’ll want makeup with a powder base; no oil. Take care to match your skin tone, too–compare the color of the makeup to the color of your skin on the inside of your arm near the wrist. In general, go for a shade lighter than your skin.

NOTE: Many women like to finish their foundation makeup with powder. I can no longer speak to this as I don’t use it any longer.

Concealer: When choosing a concealer, select a shade lighter than your foundation. Dab a tiny bit of it under eyes, on any skin discolorations, blotches, etc. Make sure you blend it well.

Blush: Select a blush that suits your skin tone. As a very general rule, keep it light. Younger skin can handle brighter colors as well as sparkly and shiny finishes. Older skin looks much better with softer, matte tones. Go easy on blush, too–you want to look healthy and vibrant, not like Nutzo the clown.

Eye Liner: You can choose from a pencil type eye liner (which I personally love because I can smudge it to be both eye shadow and eye liner), or a ‘magic marker’ pen-type which gives a more accurate line. If you choose the old-school type liquid liner, be careful–if applied badly, it will do more than age your eyes–it will make you look like an unearthed Egyptian mummy.

Mascara: Mascara does wonders for your eyes; it makes the lashes stand out. If you should smear some on your eye lids, just wet the end of a Q-tip and rub it off.

Eye Shadow: Eye shadow can go heavy or light, depending on your look. Generally speaking, keep it light for daytime and apply a bit more at night. As with anything else, less is usually more.

Lipstick: Again, knowing your skin tone is key. Also, if your lips tend to be dry, you may want to consider a tinted lip balm instead of lipstick. These days there are so many choices out thereagain, try them out and see what works best for you. Lipstick gives you a more put-together look, and used correctly, is very flattering.

If you are just starting out wearing makeup, or you want to make a change from what you’ve used in the past, you can always go to the mall and get advice from any of the excellent makeup consultants. However, that being said, if you’re going to take up their time, it’s only polite to buy something. It’s a good idea to update your look at least every 5-10 years–it may only be a matter of softening your look with more subtle makeup.

PLEASE do not make the all-too-common mistake of keeping up the look you had in high school. Nothing–and I mean NOTHING–dates you faster than that.

So, that’s my personal take on makeup. Take the time to shop around; you may be quite surprised to find that you can have a great look without spending a fortune.

*I have only ever used liquid makeup, so I can’t speak for the other types.

**You may want to smooth a bit of foundation on your lips to make the lipstick set better and keep your lipstick on longer.

The Crushing Weight of Everyone Else’s Stuff

What in the world do you do when someone you care for gives you something of theirs that they have cherished all their lives and want you to have because they know that you ‘will cherish it all your life as I have’??? And what if you hate it? Moreover, what if you just plain have no room for it?

Here’s the thing: we may love and adore those folks who want us to have some of their treasures–but we don’t necessarily love their treasures. As I am approaching the time when I start thinking I’d better start weeding out all our stuff, I wonder if my granddaughter will want some of my own treasures. The kid does love jewelry and I have plenty to leave her, so we’re square on that score.

But when it comes to things like my own grandmother’s beautiful old glass goblet from Ireland (the one that rings like bells when you pour red and white striped peppermints into it at Christmas) that I love–who will love it after me? The saying is that ‘you can’t take it with you,’ so as I go along I tend to gift things along the way to others who might like them. It’s the same way I feel about giving a gift to someone–once it passes from my hands to theirs, I no longer worry about it. The gift is the giftee’s now, and if they want to throw it up in the air and shoot it, it’s none of my business.

I have been reading about the recent trend of small houses lately. And by ‘small,’ I mean houses that are literally 250 square feet–and that’s one of the larger ones! I admire people who have adapted themselves to live in them. How did they ever escape the stuff their relatives and friends thrust upon them? I would think that, when all you own can fit inside a 250 square foot house (that no doubt includes a cat or dog or two), you really wouldn’t be interested in things that don’t have multiple purposes.

But back to the question: so what do we do with other people’s stuff? If we hate it but hang on to it because it was Aunt Mabel’s and we loved Aunt Mabel, then maybe we should keep the love but pass on the stuff. Love is so very convenient, and it fits any space. Not only that, but it seems that the human heart can hold a great deal of treasure and still have infinite room for more.

One of my goals this year is to clear the clutter, give what can be given, donate what I no longer need, gift where possible, and throw out what really needs to go. There are some treasures I will pass on when I’m ready to let them go, but I know that the love and memories of the people who owned these things will be stored up safely in my heart. And that, my friends, I can take with me.